How do you define “rock bottom?” I haven’t had a drink since October 5, 1985. Actually, since the 4th. Because I count the 5th as my first day sober. Of course, that doesn’t mean I was sober on that day. Even AA has to have some date guidelines, so they go with date of last drink. Hmmmm…..I wonder how long it took the alcohol to actually escape from my body. But before I bore you to death, I promise that this gets funnier.
I was a nerd-drinker. No one thought I was cool when I was drinking. In college I would drive my roommates insane trying to conjugate verbs in languages I didn’t know (Russian seemed important to me at the time). And then cry when I couldn’t do it. And I would fall asleep with my eyes open, scaring my roommates to death. Graduating from college ended that behavior. But speaking of embarrassing and naive, nerdy behavior, my first blackout was at my brother’s wedding. I had just turned 16 and had no clue that the drinks my brother and his friends were giving me had alcohol in them. They weren’t straight whiskey so I didn’t recognize the drink. They were some desserty-tasting thing. So there I was, a bridesmaid, sitting at the head table. It was time for pictures. I remember placing my hands on the table and about 1/2 way into the standing-up position I blacked out. So just think!! My first blackout is memorialized in my brother’s entire wedding album!! I actually have my mouth hanging open in some photos. OMG. Something I’ve been embarrassed about for over 40 years. Of course, that didn’t mean I had a drinking problem, it meant I had to avoid that silly drink. Later there were a lot of silly drinks I had to avoid. Was that rock bottom? No.
So fast-forward 15 years or so from the wedding and I knew I was in deep trouble. My mother was an alcoholic who had massive strokes because she wasn’t able to stop drinking, and therefore couldn’t take blood pressure pills. The night of the 4th I dragged myself to bed feeling numbness in my left side. I was turning into my mother. In the morning, I made the decision to get help. I opened up my wallet and the AA help line phone number was there. In my handwriting. Written in a blackout. Geesh. Then this woman told me to dump all the liquor I had down the drain. Just get through this one day. I screamed at her..WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT I’M A DRUNK???? Even at the time I thought that was insane. Was that rock bottom? No.
I never lost a job, lost custody of my children, lost my home, stole, sold my body, slept on the street, or did many other things that have caused people to stumble into the “rooms” of AA. But even worse, I lost myself. I think the insidiousness of this disease slapped me one day when I was washing my face. As I straightened up to reach the towel, I saw myself in the mirror. I mean I really SAW myself. It was appalling. Lank hair, sallow face…..awful. And I was young…..early 30s, but looked older and so unhealthy. That was the beginning of the journey that I definitely won’t bore you with. But thanks to the mirror, my obsession with Grace Slick (who was sober), randomly watching Phil Donahue (special show on sobriety) and mostly with the power of prayer, I ended up calling the AA helpline. That must be rock bottom.
So although I thought my rock bottom wasn’t nearly as bad as people who had lost things I had not, I would have been upset if anyone suggested that I was arrogant or thought I was better than someone else because I had not had the above mentioned reasons to seek out sobriety. I mean, really, I thought I was going to die. But I guess some smugness had set in. At a meeting, I had just given a pithy remark which I was sure would hit home with others. Then a woman said what made her feel hopeful was that she wasn’t alone, nor as bad off as others. She told me privately, that we she saw me and heard my story, she thought “There but for the grace of God go I.” That was my rock bottom.
I was horrified. HORRIFIED. I’m such a nerd that my rock bottom happened in sobriety. What a lesson in humility. Bumpy as the road has been, with all of my mistakes and shortcomings, and with my belief in my higher power, I hope that there but with the grace of God, go I.