A steady stream of blood-red beet juice oozed out of the juicer's crevices and created what looked like a crime scene on my honey-colored wooden countertops. I instantly summoned a great big FUCK! from my gut and loudly released it onto the pooling mess of liquid vegetables that was quickly staining everything in its wake.
This was NOT how I wanted to start this day.
Today was supposed to be all about quiet reflection and thinking about how I haven't taken a sip of alcohol in exactly seven months. These thoughts and musings have been omnipresent in my life the past few days, weeks.
Last month, on my six month milestone, I summited Mt. Lassen with my closest friend and our kids. We celebrated at an altitude of 10,457 feet with a hot pink glittered banner that told everyone I ROCK, along with a sparkly tiara that I sported atop my head as I floated down the worn trail that zig-zagged to our car. It was a party up there on that mountain. Today? It was definitely not starting out like any kind of party I wanted to attend.
The aftermath of the beet juice fiasco was full of normal everyday stuff; feeding the dog; packing lunches; and getting the kid to school on time. I apologized for my profanity-fueled start to the day and my kid and husband nodded their acknowledgement, but stayed out of my way. I was over the mess, but something about how this day had started struck me as odd and left me unsettled for the remainder of the day.
You see, if this kind of major mess would have happened before I quit drinking, I most likely would have been hungover in the morning. That simple fact alone would have created a landslide of mishaps and left me with a general pissed off attitude for the rest of the day. Pissed off at myself. Pissed off at the Jack LaLanne juicer (yes, really - I have a Jack LaLanne juicer). And most definitely pissed off at the world. My wrath would rearrange the particles in the room, the overall mood to the start of our day would be altered - for all of us, not just me.
Before I quit drinking, I felt like a raw nerve most of the time. Almost anything could put me in a funk and my family took the brunt of those moody outbursts. I've been so busy analyzing ME, ME, ME that I haven't taken the time to think about them too much in this equation. Mostly, because it's painful to verbalize or write about. Sure, I talk to my husband about the Tammi from before and the Tammi who is now, but not as much as I'd like to. I'm careful about how much of my journey to share with him, as he bore the brunt of my shenanigans for so many years. It's like I'm protecting him from me, the ME from now, when I know full well he can totally handle this better, more stable version of me.
I've kept to myself so much over these past seven months and really retreated from many of my friends and relationships. I haven't thrown a dinner party since January or entertained on any large (or medium) scale. I just haven't felt up to it. And to be quite honest, it's been a great comfort to come home to just my husband and son after a long day, put dinner together and hole-up for the night with a hot cup of tea and a good book or movie and my thoughts. My, oh, my how things have changed.
Every once in awhile I get these overwhelming feelings of gratitude or gratefulness for this life. Time feels so finite and important now that I'm sober. I'm constantly thinking about how I don't want to waste anymore of it (time, that is) on nights where I don't remember how they end. I don't want to settle for accounting for only part of my days; I want all 24 hours to be at the ready and available in my memory bank.
And I want to be clear about my drinking. I've struggled these past seven months and done a careful dance around not calling myself an alcoholic. I'm not sure exactly why, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's because I don't want that label. Calling myself an alcoholic would put a great big label on me that I'm not sure I want to wear for the rest of my life.
That word seems ugly and shameful to me. As hard as that sentence is to type, it's 100% true and indicative of how I really feel. The truth of it is, I've got enough of that ugly and shameful thing going on in my head just thinking about my past transgressions and unhealthy patterns. I just don't feel comfortable calling myself an alcoholic.
I thought all of these feelings would eventually go away and that after I hit that six month mark I could shrug off my old ways and move on without talking about this drinking thing for much longer. The opposite seems to be true. After I summited Mt. Lassen last month, I felt like I was a balloon - bright red, fully stretched and floating way up high in the sky. Ever since that climb, I felt like my balloon had been poked with a safety pin and I've been slowly losing air ever since - the balloon's color fading, deflated, wrinkled and unappealing.
You see, I think I was a functioning alcoholic. I was never one to drink in the morning or have a liquid lunch. Four o'clock in the afternoon was when I heard the let's have a drink call and I usually answered it by pouring myself a drink. I always wanted to loosen up from the day of trying to keep it all together. Dinner prep or getting together with a girlfriend always seemed more attractive to me if I did it while sipping on a glass of white wine or a freshly shaken ice-cold martini. But you see, once I started, I couldn't or wouldn't stop. I wanted to drink up until the end of the evening, many of which, sadly, I can't remember.
It makes me feel gloomy to write this, but I feel like it must be said. I kept my shit together on a daily basis and then quietly let it all hang out after dinner. My general demeanor slowly morphing into an animated storyteller and then into the woman who wanted to discuss all the things she wasn't brave enough to talk about during the daylight hours. I'd wake up the next day unsure of where things were left with my husband (and/or my friends) - Did we finish that argument? Did we finish that movie? What did I disclose that I'd been keeping inside of me buried deep and dark? What do I have to apologize for today? And then anxiety would sweep in and sidle up next to my hangover and say - well, I guess we better start this new day, eh? And I'd lumber out of bed and pretend to NOT have a hangover.
And so the cycle would continue. The mornings awkward and conversations stilted; small annoyances magnified by my hungover state; and self-loathing would come crashing in like a rogue wave, hitting me harder and harder as time went on. THIS is how I would start every single day for years.
That's an alcoholic.
So, I struggle with the word but I feel like I need to own it in order to move on. I've quit drinking without the assistance of AA, but all of a sudden I feel a need to go to a meeting. I've been resisting that call because I was afraid of the label.
I'm not afraid anymore.
Okay, maybe just a little.