So here’s the thing: I’ve always been an alcoholic. But not in the sense that you may be thinking. I didn’t pop out of the womb and demand a scotch on the rocks, but ever since I can remember I’ve had an insatiable desire to be anywhere other than where my feet have carried me to. It’s as if my body is walking at a steady pace, my mind skips around in circles and my heart wanders aimlessly; all the while I am wondering what in God’s name my so called “purpose” is.
When I was little I tore through books faster than my parents could afford. Upon starting kindergarten, my father made a bet with me, that I couldn’t read a stack of books taller than myself before the school year was up. A trip to the water park was on the line, so to a five-year-old this was serious business. I won the bet within a month.
Unfortunately, water parks are almost non-existent mid-October, so my five-year-old self threw a nine month temper tantrum because Miss Princess wasn’t rewarded instantly. That right there is exactly how I know that I’ve always been an alcoholic: instant gratification and a physical NEED to get away from my own thoughts.
So yes, I’ve always been an alcoholic… but I haven’t always been a writer.
For a very long time, I wrongfully blamed my alcoholism on my older brother. Richard was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was six. Mom and Pops were quickly overwhelmed by my brother’s medical bills, doctors’ appointments, prescription medications (or on bad days, self-medication), and behavioral issues. I made it my personal goal in life to go unnoticed, and to never be a burden to them.
I did the whole “gold star reading group” and varsity starter thing all the way up until my senior year in high school. By this time my thoughts had graduated from, “I will never follow in my brother’s footsteps”, to “Wait, just what exactly am I missing out on?” My story would be much different if at this point I picked up a journal, but instead I picked up a Vicodin and took the fast track to the hardcore stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you, the exhilarating, terrifying and mind numbing world of heroin and crystal meth.
I know, definitely not my best look. Six years of using got me down to a whopping 83 pounds, living on a diet of pop tarts and Pedialyte. My job was a disgrace to my self-worth. I lived in dirty hotel rooms. I had been kidnapped, picked up multiple felonies, and more than a couple times I was technically ….well, I was dead. I’m the type of alcoholic who continues driving when all four tires are popped, the engine is smoking, there’s no gas in the car and I got 4 cops on my tail, because the dope boy is right around the corner and, “I BET I CAN TOTALLY MAKE IT!”
But alas, I had reached a road block. There was nowhere left for me to go. With all my resources tapped, I was exhausted and alone. I did what every good alcoholic does, and I called Mommy and Daddy.
You still with me? I hope so because we have finally arrived at the good part. This is the part where I picked up a pen. I found myself an unwilling prisoner at a detox center that could probably be considered a five star hotel. There, a therapist handed me a notebook and a pen and said “Fine. You don’t wanna talk? I don’t really care. Write.” She left the room and for the first time since I had arrived two weeks prior, l was alone. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I was alone.
Here was an empty page, waiting to listen. An empty page begging for ink, soaking up fallen tears, and matching my fears with faith that regardless of what was happening outside the tiny cluttered office, I was safe. I carried a notebook with me every second of every day. I didn’t speak much but I wrote. I filled notebooks and took up all of the space on my phone with words that I had no control over.
I firmly believe that something much bigger than me puts these words inside my thoughts and all I have to do is pick up a pen and be guided by the answers I am given. Writing is the only way I have found to connect with a higher power and quiet the obsession of my mind.
Today I know how to match calamity with serenity. I may be an alcoholic, but as long as I write, at least for today, my alcoholism won’t win.