This is Rehab Day 15:
And I’m sitting on the Renfrew community couch writing a letter when Lilly comes in and lays down beside me.
“I’m bored,” she mumbles – her limp hair falling in her face.
“Got a book?” I ask, barely looking over.
“Read them all.”
“Wanna play Bananagrams?”
“God no,” she makes a face. “But I do wanna get drunk.”
“Like stupid drunk,” she says. “Like blow some shit up drunk.”
I put down the letter. “Okay, well that escalated,” I pause. “But yes, I’d love a Pinot Noir.”
She scoffs. “You and your rich girl sorority shit.” She sticks out her pinky and pretends to hold a champagne flute. “Oh yes sir,” she mimics. “I’ll have a touch of the Rosé if you could ever be so kind.”
I smile. “It’s not really like that, you know. I drink the same way you do, Lil.”
“Out of a bag?”
I snort. “Not anymore. But it’s happened.”
I think back to college frat parties, slapping Franzia bags.
“It’s all the same,” I say. “Everyone just trying to reach some place they can forget.”
She waves her hand at this. “You just don’t really strike me as the type to get all that drunk.”
“You’d be surprised,” I admit. “Got myself a DWI a few years ago. Bet ya didn’t know that?”
Her eyebrows raise. “That’s actually pretty shocking, yeah.”
“Was for my parents too.”
“So you’re a drunk then?”
“No,” I pause. “Not conventionally anyway.”
“Ah – more like a desperate housewife?”
“Something like that.”
“One too many glasses of wine a night?”
“A medicinal drunk, I’d call it. I don’t really need it; just prefer it.”
“A medicinal drunk. Nice,” she grins lazily. “I’ll use that in our next AA.”
“Go for it,” I say. “I’m taking a break from it once I’m out anyway.”
“From AA,” she asks. “Or alcohol?”
“Both, I think,” I say as I scratch my head, readily confirming my suspicions that this couch has lice.
“I need to anyway,” I continue – trying to forget about the lice. “I often drink to not eat so it’s not really something I should keep doing.”
She rolls her eyes. “Yeah – alright then,” she says- plopping her hairy legs in my lap.
I look down. “Have they literally not let you shave since you got here?”
“Three months,” she says. “But yeah, we’ll see about that no alcohol thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m just saying it’s hard,” she pauses. “I’ve been in and out of treatment more times than I can count and it’s hard to give up all your vices. You’re already dealing with your eating shit,” she says. “And you’re doing a good job with that- so just go with it.”
“And I’m not smoking,” I add smugly.
“Yeah well,” she pauses. “Don’t get pentecostal.” She lays her head back on a pillow- her tangled headphones on her chest. “I just think it’s harder than you know, to be back in the world and sober.” She nestles one of the earbuds in her ear. “Even if you are some yuppy bitch from Texas, you’ll want to go out with your friends.”
I smile. “Thanks for the advice.”
But she’s already lost in her world of Wu Tang Clan.
Leaning my head against the wall that day, I wonder if she’s right.
I wonder if I even mean what I’ve said:
It takes me 2 years to realize, I didn’t.
The Truth About Being A Millennial Drunk:
Keen on drinking to suppress my hunger cues, Drunkorexia- over the years- became a way of life in the same way that running 12 miles a day or binge eating a box of cereal did.
I said last year that I was working on it.
I probably wasn’t.
Recently, I had an article run publicly of myself in a bikini on the beach. It was liberating for my eating disorder, but it was also scrutinized.
Plastic cup in hand, wine sloshing down my arm as I stripped from that button down shirt to my bare skin, I was tipsy as I did it and I knew it; the world blurry at the edges-
I was called out.
Someone wrote under the article “Lindsey, although I applaud your writing about the ED journey, I also remember that you wrote about drinking and eating disorders. I have noticed that the last few times you have posted pictures of yourself in a swimsuit, it looks like you are drinking wine. Am I mistaken? If so, while it is admirable to post the pictures, I think the drinking makes it easier to let inhibitions go.“
They’re (annoyingly) right.
I posted the pictures drunkenly, fumbling over the keys, and I laid my head on my girlfriend’s shoulder on the A-train back home and let the whirl of the subway silence out the little voice inside my head that whispered:
This isn’t the recovery you pictured.
It’s taken me nearly 2 years to get to this point, but the truth is that I can’t go on writing about recovery and pretending that alcohol isn’t affecting it.
I have a drinking problem. It’s that simple.
It has been one of those things that sits in the back of my brain but I’ve been unwilling to face until now.
They don’t tell you the reality of life after rehab; that when you’re out, you’re free. When you’re done – and you’ve committed to beating this eating disorder – no one warns you about the boredom.
Why would they? It’s not something anyone wants to hear.
The truth, however, is that I’m nearly 2 years in and I’ve continued to use alcohol the same way I used my eating disorder in order to blur out the discomforts in my life. I use it as a coping mechanism and I use it medicinally when things are hard.
I drink when I am lonely and on my couch. I drink when I am happy in a group of people and want to feel heightened euphoria. I drink when my body is bothering me and I can’t stop feeling the acne bump on my chin. I drink when I’m on a date and too nervous to be myself, and I drink when I’m bored and anxious at being just that.
Weddings, Funerals, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Work parties, Dates, Reunions, Travel:
I have likely been tipsy for more than 75% of events I’ve deemed “the most important” since turning 21. (Lies. Like 18.)
Rehab warns you of the epidemic of swapping addictions, but when I discharged 2 years ago I certainly wasn’t ready to face the entirety of my life ed-free AND sober.
Who would I go out with? What would I even do? I am NOT going to be that sober girl sitting there judging everyone.
In fact, I’ve always hated “that girl.” The one who reminds you that it’s a Monday while you’re sipping your second glass of wine.
Oh piss off Francesca, you want to snarl. I’ve seen you shit-faced too.
No, I discharged from rehab and went right home and poured myself a glass of wine.
Hell, I thought to myself. This is the life I was meant to have before I started counting calories in gum. I took a sip. Now I can socialize and go out and do all the other things young adults my age are doing.
In retrospect, regulating has never been my strong suit. I should’ve known better. Alas, ’tis life.
I’ve had little desire to change until now. Maybe it has been in defiance of my eating disorder- or maybe it’s just because I’ve been too scared to be completely without a vice, but all I understand is that my recovery has become progressively unmanageable because of my alcohol habits, and I’m finally strong enough to do something about it.
While I rarely have more than 2 glasses of wine at any given time, I am still forming trends, and over 6 years I’ve observed these habits evolve from weekend nights with friends to weekday happy hours with coworkers, to mid-day vino with clients to all of the above.
I have drank quietly nearly every day of the week for the past 2 years. I mask it with Happy Hours, client meetings and dates, but this is my reality.
I’ve been lightly saying I’d do something about it, but there’s always an excuse to not change your habits.
There’s a happy hour to go to. A new date to be nervous around. A concert to attend. A client to meet at a bar. A plane ride to mull life over with a glass of wine.
I have not had some life-altering breaking point. If I had had one, it would’ve been 5 years ago when I was 21 and arrested for a DWI.
But that, even that, has not stopped me from progressing through life in a constant state of buzzed anticipation.
No, I have no pressing reason why now; I am just tired of living like this. The habits I’m creating are not working- and I want more out of recovery than happy hour.
3 weeks ago, I woke up hungover and dry-mouthed and I simply (almost serenely) thought to myself “This is it.”
I faced reality.
Sitting down at my computer, I asked myself: “How much do I actually spend on alcohol?”
Given that I live in the most expensive city in the country, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but little did I realize that in 6 weeks, I’d spent close to 800$ on alcohol and coffee. (Damn you, Dunkin Donuts)
For someone who does not binge drink, this was my first shocking revelation. Doing the math, I have been spending close to 20$ a day on alcohol.
Lindsey, I wrote in my journal, what do you do other than work and drink?
My page stared back, icily blank.
My blog, I wrote. Freelancing.
Ah yes, your blog, my brain replied sarcastically- which you often post on half-drunk. Your security blanket from admitting that you really don’t do anything else.
Sitting in the kitchen, I thought about the things I used to enjoy before my eating disorder: the piano competitions, the pride I felt when I sat down and my fingers stroked those keys.
I thought about my books. About tennis. About writing – and how I’d always loved history but no longer could remember even simple events.
I thought about cooking and how much I enjoy the feeling of feeding someone else and the comfort of listening to something steam; the things I used to be interested in learning about that I no longer invested time into after I got sick.
I have let a lot of my interests slip away due to both my eating disorder and our cultural prevalence of alcohol, and I’m no closer to recapturing them than before.
Part of me feels ashamed writing this post; part of me doesn’t. We’ve had a good run – wine and me. I’ve had a lot of blurry laughs, meaningful conversations, and tears behind those glasses of vino.
In fact, this is not the end of my relationship with alcohol. But, we need a break. A big Ross-and-Rachel break.
We aren’t healthy – this codependency Malbec and I have.
It’s been 3 weeks, and so far I’ve braved a wedding, a baby shower, an office party, a bar, and soon: a date.
I’m enjoying it. I’m hating it. I’m restless. I’m sleeping better. I’m socially awkward. I’m calm. I’m learning how to interact sober again:
Desiring hobbies that can keep me entertained, I begged my mother for an early Christmas present, and she complied and a keyboard came in the mail. It’s simple, 88-key weighted, and it is my love-child.
I play it daily. I’m starting to feel talented again. I’m cooking dinner. I’m grocery shopping.
I’m making my bed- not because I need to be perfect but because I deserve to have a clean bed to crawl into.
I’m remembering to put on night cream because it makes my skin feel better and it helps moderate my hormone acne on my chin.
I’ve bought a pottery class.
I went apple-picking, and salivated at the wine stations. (What I wouldn’t give for a glass of wine up here in the mountains, I thought before turning away)
Is it hard so far? Yeah. It’s like having your security blanket ripped from you.
I miss the comfort of wine. I miss the edge it removes. I miss the haziness of writing these posts and losing the vulnerability of them through liquid courage.
But, it’s also a learning experience- and there’s just simply no turning back right now. I don’t regret this decision-
I’m not regretting being sober in a drunk generation. It’s giving me clarity to think again.
For the first time in 2 years I’m not running around the streets of New York in a half-gaze. I’m not stumbling into bed with stained red lips, wondering if this is what “being free” is supposed to feel like.
I’m not giving my number to strangers I meet in bars, or flirting aimlessly for the sake of validation.
I’m respecting myself right now in the way that I envisioned in rehab, and it feels gentle.
The truth is I’m not recovering from an eating disorder anymore- I’m recovering from a lifetime of bad habits.
I’m recovering from a lifestyle:
And I’m halfway there- now it’s time to tackle ‘dat other stuff.