First off, who the hell am I?
I’ve tried to kill Roberta several times in the past 13 years but that sloppy lush is imperishable, downright indestructible. It’s all the liquor; she is both fermented and completely malleable. I’ve been there as she’s fallen off many a building, staircase and even the side of a cliff. Roberta is my alter ego and she is an abhorrent alcoholic. My best friend and I have joked many times about “killing” Roberta and burying her empty bottles in the backyard every time I’ve tried to give up drinking. Now that I am sober, I have come to realize that as long as I exist she will too. She may be resting in a coma-like state but should I ever miss her I know that 8 dollars and some ethanol can have her alert and pissing in a stranger’s pool within 90 minutes.
It’s hard to explain who I was for half my life or even who I am today. I like to think of my life from the ages of 15 to 28 as some sort of dedicated drunken performance art. That’s a lot easier than saying you were just a schmuck so enshrouded by your addiction that you entered a world of utter delusion. I spent most of those 13 years dry heaving on the floor, peeing in alleyways, passing out on sidewalks, having seizures walking to the water pitcher, swapping spit on tour buses, losing my keys in strange cities, waking up in hospital beds and gauging how many more shots it would take until this game was over for good. My life was zero to sixty all the time and there was no in between, no middle ground, just absolute chaos. When I decided to get sober and actually do the work, there was an aspect of the process that I wasn’t expecting. I had no idea who the hell I was. I hit puberty, immediately hit the sauce and never set it back down. Sure, I’d wanted to get sober many times but I never made it more than a few days or even long enough for the mental fog to clear so I could truly see.
Suddenly, I was waking up in this body and living inside this person that felt like a stranger to me. Did I enjoy activities that didn’t involve water bottles full of vodka? How did people get out of bed without three shots to level them out and calm the shakes before their morning espresso? Did I still l enjoy the same things, the same music? Turns out I don’t actually listen to that much Ja Rule. Phew. Ja was strictly reserved for coming home hammered at 2am, rolling around on the ground in front of my mirror and wrongly believing I was acting seductive for The Gram. I was not a good actress or seductive.
One thing I noticed was I was highly sensitive and easily overwhelmed. Turns out I quit solving all my problems when I was 15. I drank, then I drank some more, then a little more until one day I would wake up, it was 3 years later and the problem wasn’t a big a deal anymore. But now, years of drawbacks were all piling up on my doorstep, ready to be seen, unpacked, mended and properly stowed away. It was as if my ability for problem solving were that of a heartbroken teenage girl. A girl that just had her period in gym class and didn’t want her best friend to know she liked the way her hair smelled after she showered. Now that dimwit was supposed to fix my life for me? I felt frozen and once again weighed down. I was claustrophobic and didn’t know where to begin. My drunken inertia was my layer of protection, my armor. As long as I had a steady IV drip of booze then the pain could never really penetrate me. I never had to stare my enemies in the eye for too long. I always had my trusty portal to escape through when things started to look too grim.
Sobriety had me craving human connection but the weight of my current world felt heavy. I didn’t know how to keep conversations light and I got overwhelmed quickly and easily. Meeting people for the first time felt harrowing. I hadn’t met a new person sober since I was a child. Did I even still like my own friends sober? Would they still like me? Did we have anything in common? Would I even want to hang around someone that willingly chose to keep such a messy person in their circle? What does that say about them? This was the one question I didn’t need to wait long for the answer to. Most of these friends were in fact enablers in my life because Roberta helped them feel better about their own messy lives. They didn’t have much use for a person that was actively trying to do better. A select couple friends were real-life saints that stuck around after seeing glimpses of me through the cracks in my dehydrated life and chose to wait and see if Roberta might fade away one day. I hope they choose to procreate some day, they will make earth a more patient place. On the subject of procreating, I still don’t know what I’ll do when I’m ready to date. Roberta did all the dating for me. My first ever date was after a school dance, it involved alcohol poisoning and was my first introduction to Roberta.
At some point in the first couple months of sobriety I considered a coffee date with another sober person. Just the idea of this simple date caused so much anxiety that I eventually cancelled thinking I would have to drink just to make it to the shop. I was hit with the realization that this was essentially me preparing for my very first date at 28 years old. All my previous dates didn’t count since the liquor took care of all the legwork. My mind raced with what I would even talk about, I had no clue who or what I was! When it came to hobbies, music, food, sex, everything I had an opinion or preference on seemed to depend on which version of me you were talking to. I could just imagine this poor, unwary man asking me “So what do you like to do on your nights off?”. Of course, the only honest response I’d be able to muster is “Well usually I like to start off with a few shots of whiskey so I can take a bath because I’m too weak to stand in the shower most of the time. From there, I take a few more. Then I listen to some live music at a club. Take a few more. Occasionally, I make out with a stranger in the bathroom. Take a few more. Realize I’m very drunk in public. Get lost on the way home, then roll around in front of my mirror a couple hours. Drink a few more until I pass out on the floor. Oh, but I haven’t been doing that lately and I haven’t left the house at night because I don’t know if I can? Anyway, this was super lovely. I’ll excuse myself….you’re probably a better person than me. I clearly just hopped off the crazy train and I could hop back on at any moment”.
So, I’ve had to resort to dating myself to learn if I can be trusted. If I take myself out for tacos, is this Looney Tune going to be trashed off margaritas, try to walk home and fall asleep on the side of the road at 1pm? The answer was unclear for a little while. I must say the day I realized I broke that routine and had taken myself to a restaurant and didn’t think of ordering alcohol felt like a huge win. I felt like I’d earned a diploma on decency and the whole restaurant should’ve stopped eating and applauded as I walked in a perfect straight line out the door. Now, I’ve reached a point where I’m beginning to enjoy the process. Some days are mentally taxing when I have to recount the ugly past, there’s a lot of unceasing work that goes into not making the past a part of my future. I’m continuously being educated on how to cope and handle normal human emotions about a hundred times a day. Even happiness doesn’t arrive without my brain spazzing out and I must then question how it should process feeling good without the presence of substances. I’m in a battle with my urge to self sabotage every moment an emotion flows into another emotion too quickly. But honestly, I feel grateful. There’s a level of self awareness that comes from having to start over and completely build yourself back up from the hole you’re in. When you’re faced with losing everything you see flaws in the system you’ve built and flaws in your character that may have gone ignored had things not gotten so bad. We’ve all seen TV shows or movies where the character has a “fall from grace”, their life is now in shambles and they are forced to look inward and make changes. I’ve gone to hell and made a home there, I know my way around,I know the locals, I know how the inside of my stomach tastes after too many days on a vacation from reality. I also know how quickly I can find myself residing there again. I’ve been forced to become obsessed with something else. My obsession for destruction has been replaced with a desire to understand myself, a willingness to give others the benefit of the doubt and a busy job cleaning up the bad energy Roberta once released all over this world. I’m still not sure who I am but I can already tell I’m going to like myself a lot more.