I don't talk about it much. I was so young, it was so long ago. It is an undeniable truth, though. I was an addict. I still am.
I grew up around it, everyone drank. It meant family to me, the smell of whiskey on my father's breath, the smell of beer when my cousin tossed me in the air. Irish drinking songs, The Downtown Club with my father. I loved the way it tasted, the way it smelled, the sound of ice in the glasses. Laughter downstairs when I had gone to bed.
After awhile it wasn't all fun, though. My father was angry much the time, and my cousin scared me when he was drunk. Waiting outside in the car when my father was in the bar. Somehow no one cared what I wanted or needed unless they were drunk, and then I was pretty and sweet and special.
My first boyfriend got me high. It was the most beautiful feeling, ever. I was thirteen and he was older, blond, and beautiful, and cared what I had to say. He gave me pills, we smoked dope, I drank vodka from a 7-Up bottle, hid little airplane bottles in my backpack. When I was fourteen, I needed to drink in the morning or my hands shook. My parents were horrified at my relationships, my behavior, my grades. I wondered how they could say I was ruining my life. They were miserable, and drank more than I did. My boyfriend got kicked out of our boarding school and he was gone. I was all alone.
One night I lined up all the pills I could find in my father's medicine cabinet. Darvon, Tylenol 3, Valium.
I swallowed all of them with gin.
Apparently I called my girlfriend to tell her what I had done. I have no memory of that. She called my mother. I threw up on the way to the hospital. My mother screamed at me for messing up her new car.
So long ago. I have everything I ever wanted now. A husband, a family, a church, a purpose. I am not the girl in the denim jacket hitch hiking, getting as far out of town as I could until the cops brought me back, over and over again. I have been clean since 1989, and only once did I drink or get high from 1986 until then. I begged God to help me, and He did. From that day, it was never the same.
Sometimes it whispers my name. After my third child was born the drugs they gave me felt so good I thought about them every day for a year. I ate myself into a stupor trying to pretend my kids weren't sick. When I don't eat, when I am sober. I feel things. Sometimes that is a bitch. The pain of not being able to help my son when he is screaming, confused, and the pain of almost losing him, and no way to numb it, that has almost undone me this year. I stood on the beach, looking at the water, wondering how much longer I could hang on, how much more I could take.
When Jude was in the hospital last week I told my friend I wanted to get high. She has walked this herself, and looked me in the eye, and said, "Of course you do."
The comfort of being known. The gift of feeling pain. The mercy to never, ever have to go back. I can take those things and be okay today. Just one more day. I can do that, and start again tomorrow morning. Because I might be broken, but I am not alone, and I have been found, and I am known. That is enough for me, and I can feel it, all mixed in with pain and sorrow and things I wish I could forget. I don't have to be strong, I just have to be still, and know what is true.
Forget brave. Just show up and be loved.
That I can manage, just for today.