Wasted Days and Wasted Nights
WARNING: If you are looking for funny Pamelot, she took the day off to commemorate a serious anniversary.
Seven years ago today I made a decision that changed my life. For the better. Forever.
Seven years and one day ago, I drank alone for the last time. Seven years and one day ago, I drank too much, alone, and damaged my relationships and myself for the last time.
The catalyst? My son. Clark the ADHD Wonder Kid, at the age of eight, told his teacher that he was worried about his mother. Now, see, I’ve gone and made myself cry already when I’d barely started writing this story! Sheesh. I hate it when I do that.
Anyway, Clark’s words stopped me cold. I knew what he meant. I knew I drank too much and too often, and that it had started years and years before. I knew my face had puffed up, that I woke up hung-over over frequently, that I cut out of work early to drink, that I acted awful when I was drunk, that I no longer exercised. I knew that and a lot more. But all of that was about me. And I didn’t care enough about me to do anything about it. I tried, sure, I tried cutting back any number of times. For all the good it did.
But for Clark or my other kids I would do almost anything.
So I told my boss I would see him in ten days. He didn’t ask why. I boarded a plane for St. Lucia and I checked into a Mind and Body spa. I planned a week of rejuvenation while I “dried out.”
So what did I really do?
Got drunk by myself in a panicked sobbing frenzy on night one, so drunk that I woke up the next morning and didn’t remember falling asleep in the bathtub with the TV on. Congratulations, Pamela. You go, girl.
I didn’t think I could get lower than I had been after I heard Clark’s words. But I did. The morning after the last time I drank alcohol was the lowest point of my life, including my divorce, the bloody aftermath, and the ensuing custody battle.
I despised myself. Not for the first time, I wished I were selfish enough to kill myself. It seemed like that would be so much easier. For me. But this was not about me.
It was about my kids.
So, I picked myself up and put on my too-tight stretchy exercise clothes that used to fit and marched with gritted teeth up 7,000 steps in the heat to the Mind and Body center. I spent six days instead of the planned seven alone in my mind (my version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s full year of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, I guess). I sweated. I cried. I felt like absolute crap. I walked the beaches until my feet were as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
And then I came home.
It was hard. So very, very hard. My ex-husband, to whom I was still married, drank quite a lot at the time, and he did not slow down for me. The bad marriage I had drowned in booze became impossible to tolerate without anesthetic, adding to my urge to drink. Most of my friends were heavy drinkers, too, and they looked at my decision to stop drinking as a personal indictment of their choices. They gave themselves too much importance. Because, who was this about?
Right. My kids. I kept going.
I counted the days out painfully, one by one. I rejected the idea of joining a group, like AA, out of fear for the impact on my high profile career in a small community. I did it alone, with only one real friend aware and still “with me” (thanks, Nat!), in the middle of an alcohol-rich island environment.
Years later, three months had passed. Alcohol-abstinence started getting easier. Not a lot easier, but easier. And I felt better, I looked better. I lost weight. I acted nicer. I became more energetic and productive, crisper. I started running again.
Clark quit worrying about me. (Tiny little sob again, but I’ve got it under control, no worries.)
I am now married to a man who gave up alcohol on our first date. Of course, this is the same date on which he told me I stopped his heart. Bubba-mon/Eric/@trimon29 — whatever name you know him by — wasted (pardon the pun) no time in showing me he meant to be my hero. And he is, for more by far than putting up with me writing about his Ironman underwear.
People ask me how I “do it all.” A drunken Pamela could not have run five marathons and written two novels in one year. And it’s not just the productivity alcohol drained away from me. I have more money for what I need to do as well. I refuse to tally how much I’ve saved. It would be too humiliating. But I am so grateful that when I needed to watch every penny over the last few years, I wasn’t battling myself for alcohol money.
I know alcohol doesn’t affect most people the way it does me. Most people can drink in moderation and still thrive and achieve. I am happy for them, and envious. My non-drinking is not a judgment of what I think others should do, it is what I must do.
I’d love to say that after seven years — SEVEN YEARS — I never think about drinking, but that is not true. Four nights ago, I woke up with the sweats, dreaming that I had “fallen off the wagon.” I had an intense desire to search the house for a bottle of comfort in the middle of the night. Every time I travel, the urge strikes, because I used to drink alone in hotel rooms. Now I lay awake all night, surfing the net to distract myself, and praying for the day I never travel alone again.
What I can say is that I don’t want to waste another day or night of my life. I want to be the best me I can be 24/7, for my kids, my husband, and, finally, for myself. I know only one way to do this. So I will stay true.
One day at a time. Seven years at a time. For the rest of my life.
Happy Seven Years to me.
p.s. This is the first time I have told my story except to a select few, so writing this and clicking publish was a stomach-churning, second-guessing, nail-biting experience. But many correctly guessed that Leaving Annalise contained an autobiographical element, or, rather several autobiographical elements. This is one of them.