The month of April signals two milestones for me: Eight years of sobriety and One year of blogging here at On Becoming Maria.
My Drinking Journey- Part 2
(You can read Part 1 here)
A little over a year after I began attending Alcoholics Anonymous, while sitting in a meeting, I listened to a man with more than fifteen years of sobriety at the time, during his share with the group, remark, it takes at least five years for an alcoholic’s normal brain function to return. And the angry voices in my head immediately screamed: Bullshit!
Yup, he triggered me with those words. Because back then, up until that point in life, I often thought of myself as the smartest person in any room I was in. I deflected most discomforting situations with my intellect, suited up everyday with bravado, my body figuratively armored for constant war, not much was getting in. I was leading with my mind and my heart was guarded like Fort Knox. It took astute brainpower to keep a machine like me going (or so I thought).
So how dare this dried up drunk suggest that my brain was compromised, that I wasn’t as smart as he or anyone else in that room with five-plus years of sobriety?! He must be out of his fuckin mind! Ooooh! Those voices of mine were feverish with indignations, delirious in their delusion and irrational in their rage.
And what was ironic about that moment was I had been carrying a plethora of shameful secrets which seemed to be growing exponentially as I accrued more and more sober days under my belt, some of them about my failing intellect. My mind was a garden of secrets growing like out of control weeds, choking the life out of any fledgling, healthy idea which dared to sprout. In that moment, as I sat listening, pretending to be unfazed by such a crazy declaration, I chose to forget a particular secret which had been bothering me. Of course, I remember it now.
I had been working at my office job a few months, so I was still getting to know the co-workers and customers. No one knew I was attending AA meetings; the job and AA meetings were both new to me. It was as if I was living a double life, meetings in the evenings and on weekends, work during the week days. There were absolutely no intersecting offerings from me in conversations with the co-workers about how life was going for me in new sobriety. I stuck with their dull water-cooler topics, pretended to be riveted by discussions that made me want to claw my own eyes out. I was in hiding. At AA meetings most of us were extra friendly, and effusive with relieved joy to be around our own kind, fellow alcoholics in recovery, able to speak openly and honestly with people who understood us. In the office I was tightly buttoned up, reserved, professional, guarded with my friendliness.
So imagine my surprise when, while grocery shopping on a Saturday, a male stranger startled me with his extra friendly greeting. I can remember thinking, Hmmm …. I know you, yes. But where do I know you FROM? My vodka-brain had still been drying, the synapses were slow in their signals. All I could manage was to stand there grinning, feeling lost and terrified. One inner-voice screamed: Hug him! He’s one of us! But another voice murmured, Noooo! Don’t you dare! My arms flinched, ready to embrace, but instincts kept them pinned to my sides. We exchanged vague, friendly chatter about the weather and our kids. It took less than two minutes, and then we said goodbye and walked off.
When next I saw him, it was in the office. I sat at my desk, while he sat in the customer chair across from me as we reviewed his account in my office. I nearly wept with relief after he left. Holy shit! I almost pulled a customer into my embrace! I thought we knew each other from AA, but he was from my work life.
With chagrin, I will always remember what the AA old-timer said about it taking five years to regain brain function. It took at least that many and a little more to get me here, to this place where I can finally speak it out loud and write about it. The voices in my head are still yammering, but I’ve gotten better about receiving the truth, whilst keeping the voice clatter turned down to a low din.
Happy 8th Birthday to my sobriety! I am quite proud of the journey thus far. 🙂
And then …. one year ago last week, I started a WordPress blog. After nearly a decade of blogging, I decided I would become transparent on this one, something I lacked courage to do consistently on previous blogs. I had no idea where it would lead me, I just felt it was time for me to stop hiding. And to further up the ante, I insisted on selfies because as with most women in this society, I had been conditioned to be ashamed of my physical appearance.
This blog was a way for me to begin to move out of my comfort zone. For the first six months I thought I had lost my fuckin mind. Seriously. I thought I was being too much. Too much truth. Too many selfies. Too much soul-baring. But then, slowly, slowly …. and then, with increased certainty, I began to feel a shift in my outlook.
Son of gun! An epiphany. I had been brainwashed. I realized my brain needed reprogramming. For years, repeated someones and repeated situations had intentionally steered me away from my own self. I wasn’t ever supposed to behold my own potential. I believed everything the world was telling me, until I was telling these untruths to myself like a zombie. Beauty doesn’t look like you. Ok, maybe you’re considered cute in some circles, but show GINORMOUS humility dammit. I was too light-skinned for numerous others of my own kind. And yet, a blight of darkness among some of the mainstream populace, especially among former co-workers in an otherwise homogenous office.
It wasn’t enough for this crazy, mixed up world that a formerly broken little girl was ashamed of her past. I was also meant to be ashamed of my beauty! So I played along. I played small, I shrunk, I whispered, and tamped down my voice. And then I waited. I waited for some kind of payback for going along to get along, thinking I might get a pat on my head or a “good job” or a “well done.” Because, humility, right? Me attractive? Nope! Did I say that loud enough? Demuring compliments, lowering my expectations, feeling apologetic.
Hello?! Anybody? All those years of blogging whilst renouncing navel-gazing, narcissism and selfies. Panting for a pet! …. what? ….. no pet? Surprise surprise! The world plastered their directives all over my psyche via social and other media outlets, and then went on with their lives without so much as a backward glance in my apologetic direction.
Hmphff. Well, shit. I may as well try life as myself then.
Now here I am. Thankfully I followed my heart. My heart said, Blog! My heart said, Sing! My heart said, Angels are flanking you and they won’t let you fall! My heart said, I love you, Maria! You got this! I love you? I spent the first twenty-one years of my life never hearing those three life-giving words from either of my parents. Not once. Add to that, no hugging and no touching. I was ripe for a world that would crush my psyche repeatedly.
Whoda thunk starting a blog about getting to know my authentic self— developing an online journal of all things!— would have led me to this place today? With readers, no less?! Yah! I know– crazy town.
Oh, you beautiful, amazing and wonderful reader, thank you for being here. I have needed courage, courage which I have drawn from many wonderful books, from podcasting spiritual coaches, and numerous other creatives. But I have also drawn courage from YOU and your reading-along eyes. Stay with me, the best is still yet to come!
Happy Anniversary to the blog! Woo-hooooo!!! I love it and I love YOU!
Pictured: Me, at four and a half, pre-American-life & me, at fifty, post-nine-to-five life.
P.S. Check out Episode #20 on the podcast to hear A Little Something Extra.
P.P.S. In celebration, just for this anniversary post, comments are open 🙂