Monday, December 29, 2008

When the Party Ends.

I feel compelled to write this morning as I can no longer ignore the newspapers, TV, on-line blurbs about twenty-something-drink-touting celebrities gone wild without jumping on my soapbox in some fashion.

Though life in NY is a lot less glamorous than Hollywood, and my life in particular, can't hold a torch to celebrity hob nobbing, my party days still haunt me on many levels.

When I was young, I realized that I was a gregarious type, singing chords of Annie to anyone who could stand my repeatedly bad version of "The Sun will Come Out". I was an attention seeker probably from the moment I was born. Yet, weaving in some family tragedies and the angst I felt being outwardly social and inwardly a mess, being a party girl held many advantages.

I built my social reputation on drinking, getting drunk and acting as wild as I could handle. I was perceived as spontaneous, wildly irresponsible and willing to do anything for a serious buzz. Shots? Loved them. Beer Pong? Martinis? Wines by the bottles? All my mantra during my late teens, early twenties.

During this period, I was running around with trendy crowds in NYC and Washington DC. According to myself at the time, I was fabulous and unstoppable. I did not know one single person in any of my social groups that did not drink. I stumbled around Manhattan at 3am, crashing wherever, with whoever. And getting into cars with strangers? Never a problem when you had the camaraderie of a drinking partner.

And during this period, I now recall, there were few and futile efforts to slow myself down. People would casually mention that perhaps I was drinking too much. I found myself constantly apologizing for drunken mishaps, hangovers or blatant irresponsibility. I would blow off any member of a non-drinking circle, family included, because they simply did not fit my lifestyle. I was entirely too stubborn and too convinced that drinking was acceptable and respected.

Never once during these years did I think about actually stopping. That would have been sacrilege. I would have suddenly lost rank on some self-conjured social scale. I would have no one to party with, no friends and no life. Not only was I able to bury serious emotional issues, but socially, I could hide behind the fact that I deemed myself life of the party. It simply became easier to modify every other aspect of life to fit my need to be this girl. It is a way of life that so many people in their early adulthood are now faced with.

As I write this, I still have a pang of guilt for getting on a soapbox. I truly believed that life did not exist without drinking. It had been etched into my social psychology for so long, the words "alcoholic" or "drinking problem" were reserved for those people who were weak and unable to handle the drinking life.

And as I write this, I am laughing at how utterly, absolutely, undeniably wrong I was.

I never believed that "alcoholic" would happen to me. But, it did...and fast. My life went from being twenty something with a penchant for partying to a young adult with a serious issue. The party was over and I was desperately drowning issues long pent. I was trying to live in a time that no longer was. Trying to draw attention as a beautiful, stay out all night, sophisticated imbiber. In fact, I was turning into a socially miserable drunk. I would turn belligerent. I would miss work. I was spiraling out of control and I was in such incredible denial, that I almost took it too far too many times.

Yet, my denial perpetuated my actions. I became even more wild. I was lying. I was making excuses. Anything to make sure that my life as fabulous party girl remain untarnished. Ha, I think now, if I had looked in the mirror then, I might have realized that my image had been tarnished years before.

And then, one day, after some bouts with "hitting bottom", I decided it was time to stop.
I had gone too far. My romance with being a party girl had ended and my parties had become drinking at a bar with anyone I could find. After 14 years, it was the most painful "break-up" I have ever experienced (I don't think my divorce came close).

I have now been sober for seven years. I will say that my life as the party girl no longer exists as I knew it. As I work in the illustrious world of advertising agencies, I am still surrounded by the notion of partying all the time. I am still immersed in a world of drinking versus not drinking. And it's not easy. I frequently find myself longing for home on the rare occasion I am out and about. I have become a member of the non-drinking club and still have to remind myself that membership has its privileges. The friends I had during all those years of partying have either moved on to other party friends or simply dropped me because I chose something so socially foreign in young adulthood today.

But, there is never a day that I am not thankful that I made the choice to change my life. It was my decision to make, and I made it with grace and acceptance. I still mourn my old life at times, but I know that I've gained the ability to be responsible and true to myself. I really never thought that I would have gone so far in my sober life, but I have and I continue to live each day with strength and pride.

And in an ironic twist, in December 2004, I made my debut as a sober woman in the pages of Glamour Magazine. Picture, article...the works. It was a defining moment for me as I had always dreamed of being in a magazine as someone famous or notoriously wild. Never did I realize that anyone would actually want to read the story of a woman who gave up all those notions in exchange for a quieter, emotionally responsible life. Life as a sober woman on a soapbox.

So, twenty somethings, take heed. Perhaps when every one who is famous keeps hitting bottom, it will finally be trendy to be sober.


shinyruby2 said...

thanks for this post, it has put into words parts of my own story that I've had trouble finding. x

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I am 28 and recently sober 35 days. Everything you said has resonated in me, it seems so familiar, as alcoholics our stories while unique are the same. Congrats on five years.

The Juice said...

I just found your blog and I love it. Thanks for keeping us updated on your sobriety journey. I'm coming up on five years myself, and it's incredible. Thanks again for this great resource!

Anne said...

Congratulations on your continuing recovery. your words about how fast one descends into alcoholism hit home with me. At the age of 34, finding myself newly divorced and on my own, it was with a mixture of excitement and adventure and FEAR that I began to drink to cover up my fear and make myself more socially enabled. But it did not take long before I, like you, became confrontational and not fun to be around at all. With women, I understand the change often comes swiftly due to biological differences between ourselves and males. Thankfully I did manage to get off that fast train to hell but I think i have an addictive personality and that I am always going to be subject to finding a quick fix for a long term problem.

Anyway, you brought back memories. It has been nearly 20 years since I quit but I always know I could slip back again.

Good luck to you and thanks for reading this rambling monologue but its meant to say I wish you, a sister in a sisterhood few if any are eager to join, I wish you well.

Witching Hour said...

Hi - Your blog is very inspiring and I love reading the posts. I can very much relate as well, I am 39 and sober for 30 days (today!). Your post reminds of my 20's too. :-)