Let me tell you about New Year’s Eve. I was drinking again, or trying to drink, this time like a normal person after convincing myself it was a good idea to give up on my most recent run at sobriety after only 46 days. I explained the reasoning behind the experiment like this: in November, I’d decided to take a hiatus from Mormonism. Around that same time I’d realized that not drinking was really, really hard. I’d been trying and failing at it for a long time. I figured, if I was going to need to actually work a recovery program (rather than just magically staying sober), I deserved to know whether I was really an alcoholic. I thought there was a chance that my issues with alcohol were all wound up with my religious guilt and that if I could shed the latter, maybe the former would work itself out. Of course, the real reason for the experiment was this: I wanted to get fucked up. Of course, the timing has nothing to do with the party we were attending with all our neighbours and friends where the champagne would be flowing freely. Or course not. That was just a convenient coincidence.
That first night of drinking did not go well. I felt like I hermit crab in a terrarium, everybody was watching me trepadatiously. I felt like I had to sip slowly so as not to sound any alarm bells, to ask for permission to help myself to another drink. After downing a few potent ciders and a disgusting glass of alcohol-free champagne thoughtfully provided by my friend–a week earlier I would have been touched by the gesture, but now that I was drinking again it just pissed me off that I had to waste precious drinking minutes gratefully choking down a glass of the stuff just to be polite–I found myself anxious for more and unsure how to go about getting it. Midnight had come and gone and people were slowing down and nobody was offering me anything. I figured I was going to have to take matters into my own hands if I wanted to get properly trashed. I started popping back to my house (just next door) under the pretense of checking on my daughter and taking swigs from a bottle in the liquor cabinet. Back at the party, I started wandering the kitchen gulping down half-finished drinks that other guests had abandoned. I felt seized by a gnawing hunger, a dark claw pressing down on my heart. By the end of the night I was in the bathroom, faucet running to muffle the sound of me digging around beneath the sink. I knew that my friend had broken her ribs a few months back. I didn’t hit the jackpot, but did find a full bottle of Vicodin–the equivalent of scoring a few bucks on a scratcher lottery ticket. I couldn’t justify taking much, not while I was trying to prove I didn’t have a problem, but at the same time couldn’t bear to leave the bathroom empty handed, so I pocketed a single pill, taking comfort in the fact that I knew where to come if I needed more.
The party wound down around three or four am. I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t want to stop drinking but nobody else seemed interested in prolonging the festivities, probably because they all have kids who would be waking up in a matter of hours. The thought of my own kid stirring at seven or eight seemed strangely irrelevant.
I went home with my husband and we shared a pot of tea before bed. He asked me how I thought the evening had gone, drinking-wise. “It wasn’t perfect,” I confessed. “I had some cravings for more after I started drinking, but I’m proud I didn’t act on them, and I think they will go away as I get used to drinking again.” I knew that first part was a bald-faced lie, but I hoped to God that the last part was true.