On May, 17, 2008, I turned 40. At that time, I heard from so many people that goofy saying, “life begins at 40.” On more than one occasion my not-so-sincere response was, “I hope you’re right.” Turns out they were right, only there were no fireworks, there was no Prince Charming and no magic Forty Fairy that showed up to make it all happen. My actual birthday and the months that surrounded it were not especially happy for me, really. The beginning for me came not on May 17th, but rather three weeks ago. For my beginning to happen, something had to end.
A few months ago I made an appointment with a counselor because I knew that there was something going on with me that needed fixing but I wasn’t ready to admit what. In my mind, everything that was wrong with me was because of someone else, some other thing that happened, and I just knew that I had been wronged in so many ways. I wanted the counselor to tell me that my husband’s death, my job or my ex-boyfriend were the reasons that I was now this unhappy, angry and sad person. Surely this trained professional would see that I had plenty of reasons to feel sorry for myself, right? Not only no but hell no. By the end of our first session it was suggested to me that I check myself into rehab. In that session was the first time that I was able to admit that I have a problem. I had no intention or desire to go to rehab, but I agreed to go from the counselor’s office to the rehab center for a consultation, but not because I thought I needed help. I was looking for a second—hopefully opposing—opinion. I just knew they would see something different! Not only did that person recommend that I go to rehab, but they were ready to check me in that night, right then and there, and it scared the ever-loving shit out of me because that meant I was no longer (in my mind) in control. The idea of being away from my life and my son for three weeks with total strangers just was not acceptable to me at all. I’m not one of those people, am I?
Yes. I am. I am an alcoholic.
The first thing I did when I left the rehab center’s office was go home and drink a beer. Two, actually. (It would have been more right away but that was all I had in the house). Later there would be more. The next night there would be even more, still. I wasn’t ready to give up what had become my one true love and my only interest in life.
The more that I replayed the events and conversations of that Friday in my head, the more my problem slapped me in the face. It was time for me to grow a pair, face the facts and answer the tough questions: Yes, I drank every day. Yes, drinking had affected all of my personal relationships. Yes, it had affected my job. Yes, I drank alone. Yes, I had suffered financially because of it. Yes, I had isolated myself from my friends and loved ones.
With all that said, though, it was not until a friend of mine urged me to go to AA that I could see clearly for the first time that this is what I had become. “Just go and listen,” they said. “Please,” they said. So I did. That was three weeks ago. The moment I walked in the door to that first meeting I knew why I was there: To get better. I also knew that my friend had saved my life.
In the last twenty one days I have felt better, slept better, laughed more, had more money in my pocket and more honest conversations with the people that I love than I have in years and years and good god almighty it feels wonderful and I am so thankful: For my family, for my friends and for my life. I have so much and so many and I was about to piss it all away because I was too busy having a love affair with alcohol to see how good I really have it. No one or no thing can fix me but me. No other person and no amount of stuff is going to make me happy, because I have to be happy and at peace with myself. No one or no thing is to blame for my alcoholism.
I realize, too, that this is just the beginning of a very long and challenging process. Each and every day will mean something new and different. Some days will be fine. Some days will be terrible. But that’s life, isn’t it? One day at a time.
So this is where I begin, my friends, at 40--just like you said. I love you all. Thank you for loving me back.