Roughly seven years ago I started a tradition with this column in which I talk about being an alcoholic. On Oct. 1, 2023 I will celebrate eight years of sobriety. This is how I got here:
I didn’t drink until I was almost 21. I went to a cast party at the close of a show for the Mars Hill College theater department. There was a bowl of grape juice and some unknown combination of liquor at an off-campus apartment. Mars Hill College was a Southern Baptist institution in a dry county so it was definitely a risk getting wasted. Maybe that added to the thrill of it all.
I don’t remember the whole evening but it stands out to me that a group of students were watching “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” I kept yelling, “Has the fat girl turned blue?” and that seemed to crack people up. I remember feeling like I was hilarious and the life of the party. That began my love affair with alcohol.
For some reason after college, I became incredibly shy. I had a great group of friends but they were way more popular than I was. They loved to go out and dance and they knew everybody, or so it seemed. I was the opposite. Drinking seemed to fix me. It was like a best friend that built me up and gave me courage.
I drank a lot in my early 20’s but I don’t think it was of a concern until I moved to New York City. Everything in New York involved drinking. Didn’t know what to do that night? Go to the bar and talk about it. Before long that just became what we did at night.
As I sit here writing this it is Sept. 11. I remember that day in 2001 so vividly. I was working as an assistant to the producer of “The Lion King” on Broadway, as well as the travel coordinator. We had the show creators in the air that day because of an opening in Hamburg and auditions for the national tour being held in L.A. I was hungover, late for work and ill-prepared for the level of concern for employee safety I was about to encounter.
It wasn’t unusual for me to be late to work because I was out late drinking, but I wasn’t concerned. It was normal and no one really questioned it.
When I moved to Orlando I had hoped I would slow the drinking down somewhat, but the more active I got in the community the more I needed my best friend to help me be social.
Alcoholism is a progressive. What starts out as a couple of beers turns into a couple of more, and then a couple of more. It sneaks up on you and you don’t realize. By the time someone questions how much you drink, you are already in the thick of it. For me, I was too entrenched in drinking to realize I had a real problem when I was asked if I was an alcoholic.
If I was in a bar, I was drinking whether it was a work event or not. When I got drunk, I didn’t stop. Responsibility meant nothing to me at that point. I would drink until I was done — aka passed out. If I was late for work I would take a box of bagels to make up for it. This happened so often that it was just normal.
I didn’t think anything of it until I was arrested. I was lucky that I never hurt anyone making my way home from a bar. I was also lucky that my headlights burned out resulting in my getting pulled over. The police officer was not in the mood to cut me any slack and I was hauled into booking under the suspicion of a DUI.
That was the beginning of a better life for me. I often contemplate tracking down my arresting officer to thank him. I was given an opportunity to have all charges dropped by attending counseling and 12-step meetings. That’s when I started to open my eyes to the idea that I had a problem. The further I got away from drinking the more I realized how deep my drinking problem was. I didn’t always get into trouble when I drank, but every time I did get into trouble I was drinking.
Writing this affords me the opportunity to remember what my life was like, giving me a better chance of staying away from it. Thank you for indulging me in this journey.
Our lives seem to be engrained in drinking. “I really need a drink!” “Drink up. The more you drink the funnier I am.” “Wine makes all things possible.” As if drinking was the only way to have fun.
If you like to drink and you have it under control, then drink up! If you feel like alcohol has a negative impact on your life, know that you can escape it. It’s not easy. It’s like losing a best friend, but it is possible. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.
We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.