Just Write One Sentence: The Beginning of My Sobriety Story
Sobriety / / Feb 01, 2018
The same way that any alcoholic can list the multitude of methods they have attempted to quit drinking, I could write a book on the various and absurd ways I have tried to cure my writer’s block. I would take drugs and then go to church, I would deprive myself of sleep for extended periods of time, I would hitchhike half way across the country on a whim, I would talk to inanimate objects in hopes that they would tell me their stories; probably the most sane thing that I ever tried was writing the words “just write one sentence” over and over again until I fell asleep. I found myself trying to live a life that I felt was worth writing about.
If I tell you a story from my childhood that contains any shred of truth in it, it was probably relayed to me by my mother. I have spent my adult life desperately wracking my brain for possible explanations as to how and why I became the way that I am. I wanted to stuff my memories into filing cabinets and when people asked why I was an alcoholic I could hand them one single file and say “Right here. This is the moment that made me.”
One could argue that my substance abuse began earlier than most alcoholics and addicts. It started when I climbed onto my mother’s bedside table and proceeded to drink a full bottle of Dimetapp and a full bottle of Tylenol. It wasn’t long before I covered my mom’s favorite Oriental rug in purple vomit. My mother rushed me to the emergency room and the doctors had to force feed me charcoal to prevent severe damage to my liver. I was 18 months old. This is one of the many reasons that I now believe I was born an alcoholic. Had I been born a different gender or ethnicity, in a different time period or to a different family, I believe that I still would have been an alcoholic. I believe that my alcoholism is a part of my idiosyncratic self.
Around the time that I turned 7 or 8 years old, my parents began to grow concerned by the intensity with which I cared about what other people said or thought about me. One afternoon, I was sitting on the side of the soccer field, and one of the moms looked over and exclaimed, “Oh my God, your feet are huge! What size shoe do you wear?” And in that moment of embarrassment and humiliation, I vowed that I would never let it happen again. From then on, I refused to wear shoes that weren’t at least 3 sizes too small for my feet. For months I played soccer, basketball and softball, comforted by the thought of how dainty I must look with my toes crunching into the ends of my shoes.
After a period of time, my parents were legitimately worried about the permanent damage I might be doing to my feet, so one night my father confronted me and sternly told me that he had had enough, we were going to the store and we were going to buy a pair of shoes that fit me properly. Instantly, I hurled myself onto the family room floor, shrieking at the top of my lungs and clinging for dear life to my shoes that might have fit a large doll as my parents looked on in confusion and dismay, wondering what they possibly could have done to deserve such an eloquently expressive child. I am loath to report that my self-consciousness only grew more extreme with time, and it was with this same desperation that I searched for purpose and approval in my life.
The first time I drank alcohol, I got alcohol poisoning. I threw up all over myself, was taken out on the driveway and hosed off and then left dry heaving on the bathroom floor. When I woke up the next morning, these are not the things I chose to dwell on. Instead, I remembered the freedom from fear, judgement and rejection. I fixated on the liberating apathy towards anything outside of me getting exactly what I wanted at any given moment. From that day forward, I stopped living my life for the approval of others and I effusively dedicated all of my energies into living for myself. I am confident that every alcoholic knows the place of incomprehensible demoralization that this road leads to.
I thought that when I got sober, I would naturally become a better person and my problems would melt away with ease. But to my surprise, I found that while the external manageability of my life improved (such as being able to shower with more regularity), what little ability I previously had to regulate and control my emotions was now gone. At 27 years old, I was catapulted back into the temper tantrum I had thrown 20 years earlier when I saw that life wasn’t going my way; when I realized that people didn’t perceive me the way that I wanted them to; the first time I was told that my internal peace and serenity would depend on my ability to accept people, places and things exactly as they were.
After establishing my physical sobriety for a period of time, I have started to gain a painful awareness of the qualities that exist within me that cause harm to myself and the people around me; these are the inaccurate beliefs that I maintain in order to justify my behavior when I act out in selfishness or dishonesty. The truth is that I only got sober because drugs and alcohol had stopped working for me, I had unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide and for the first time I woke up strapped to a hospital bed without a single idea to call my own. As I resentfully pointed out to my sponsor, at no point did I agree to try and be a better person. However, I have reached a point where I have no choice but to acknowledge that living for others left me lost, living for myself left me empty, and there is only one option left: to live for something greater than myself. In seven short months, my life has completely transformed, and this radical evolution lacks the patented emblem of my handiwork.
My name is Kimberly, and I am an alcoholic. I have 212 days sober from drugs and alcohol. I have 2 days clean from naps. And I have about 8 minutes free from crippling insecurity. My life has been given to me through one miracle after another by a power greater than myself that continuously reveals an abundance of grace and inspiration. Today, rather than worrying about living a life that is worth writing about, I find myself immersed in indescribable relief and peace. I feel like I belong – not just to a fellowship of authentic and like-minded people who are striving to better themselves, but to an incredibly orchestrated purpose that is more beautiful than anything I could have imagined.
For the first time in my life I feel like I am supposed to be alive, and that is something worth writing about.