Last night I went somewhere I didn’t want to go and sat in a room full of people I don’t know and did a thing I did not want to do.
I felt afraid and out of place. I had to park in an adjacent parking lot in a questionable part of town and walk next door in the twilight, carrying my enormous (high-quality, fake) Louis Vuitton, angry at myself for not remembering to switch purses. My eyes nervously scanned the uneven parking lot as I crunched through gravel in Converse sneakers, grateful I’d at least had the wherewithal to put on appropriate footwear before leaving the house.
Walking into a detox center alone on a Tuesday night is not high on my list of fun things to do. I’m probably supposed to say that I love being around the newly or not-yet-sober, but the truth is, few things make me more uncomfortable. I can smell the vodka and stale cigarettes and what bothers me isn’t the smell of those things but the fact that I miss them so much that admitting that right now is making my mouth water.
I walked in like I’d been there a thousand times before — pretty ironic considering the last time I was there, I swore I’d never go back — and while I outwardly appeared unbothered, on the inside I was a wreck. I wanted nothing more than to run back to my car, go home, crawl under the covers, and ghost everyone who would inevitably call, asking what happened. I wondered if it would be a better idea to flake out and just go back to drinking. Somehow that idea sounded a lot easier than my current situation, if only for a moment.
I’m not sharing this with you to generate praise for forcing myself to follow through with my commitment to show up to a place I did not want to be, to sit among other alcoholics and tearfully tell a tiny part of my story in front of what felt like a thousand strangers while fighting back anger over the fact that I — we — have this disease.
I’m telling my story to help people understand what living with alcoholism or drug addiction is like. The amount of strength and courage that sobriety requires is far beyond what I am or will ever be able to do on my own. I can’t take credit for anything other than willingness, and even that is fleeting.
Last night, I got myself there via car, and an unseen force put my ass in a chair. If left to my own devices, I would be high right now. That’s just how it is.
Sometimes I find it hard to genuinely share my thoughts, because they just seem so dark and serious and I’m ashamed of the depth of that darkness. Like whoa — no wonder I used to drink. I’m ashamed that I am always one breath away from a rehab facility, ashamed that I could easily be one poor decision from imprisonment or some other form of embarrassment or despair — but the truth is, we all are. It’s just that when I come face to face with people who are literally living my worst nightmare, I am forced to face myself.
Maybe that constant reminder of my own fragility is a gift.