About three months after my wedding, lying in bed with the lights off, my husband rolled towards me and gently said, “I think you’re broken, and I don’t know how to fix you.”
At that moment I was silently crying to myself, I don’t remember about what. His words opened up the floodgates. I felt like I’d been punched in the chest. There was guilt, shame, hopelessness, fear, but most of all relief that someone had finally said it. I cried until my body shook while he held me in that dark room, not knowing what to do next, carried away by the emotions that I’d so long tried to hide. I was broken, and I didn’t know how to fix me either.
The next morning I had an emotional hangover and a knee-jerk reaction to just pretend like the whole thing hadn’t happened. Luckily, I married a very smart, very thoughtful, very persistent man who would not allow me to brush this one off. He suggested that we go up to my parents’ house for the day. The obvious implication was that we should talk with them about what was going on, and seek some sort of advice or guidance as to what to do next. I chose instead to go with the watch-tv-and-eat-snacks-while-talking-about-nothing-in-particular route. Once again he didn’t let it slide. When our visit was getting close to ending, he waited for a commercial break, muted the tv, and said bravely, “Sarah and I need to talk to you guys about some stuff.”
My memory is a little fuzzy about what came next, that happens to me sometimes when I get flooded emotionally. I know there was crying, concern expressed for how I spent my days and treated my body, lots of talk about how much and when I was drinking. At the end of the day, my mom sent me home with a couple of books about alcoholism and in her best Alanon voice said, “I can’t decide for you, but I think that you might be an alcoholic.”
Desperate for any sort of hope or suggestions on how to proceed, I immediately went home to read (reading is one thing I’m always capable of). I don’t even recall which book it was, but I do remember the feelings of relief as I found page after page describing my crippling self doubt and the constant desire to numb. Ok, I thought, I’m an alcoholic so now what?
Fortunately for me, addiction runs in the family, so I had some options of people to call who had to talk to me because they were related. The easiest one was my aunt and Godmother, who for many years lived and loved with an alcoholic who died sober. Even though she was the easiest one, that didn’t make it easy. When I finally screwed up my courage and called, I gave her the tried and true, “someone I know is trying to figure out what to do with the information that she’s probably alcoholic.” Once again, the people that love me knew me better than myself, and she replied, “oh honey, are we talking about you?”
I cried some more with my aunt and ended up with two phone numbers for complete strangers. It is an indication of my desperate condition that I actually called one of these women. I mean, my gods, I couldn’t even talk to my closest friends and family about the hole in my soul, how was I going to tell someone I’d never even met?!
The woman who answered was way to peppy and cheerful when I told her why I was calling. She said something along the lines of, “oh, this is so great! So exciting!” I was very confused and did not share her sentiments. But it was nice to hear that probably she was not going to be mean or judgey to me. We started talking. And talking. And almost 2 hours later I had told this complete stranger almost all of the things. I told her about the fear, and the regrets, and the bad decisions and the shitty voices telling me how not good enough I was. Not only did this stranger sit there listening to all of my things, she shared a bunch of her own things, similar things. And suddenly I wasn’t alone in my bullshit anymore.
It didn’t mean that I was suddenly healed or fixed, or even feeling better about myself necessarily, but those 48 hours of hard things opened doors and started me on a journey in a major way. People would say things about how great it was that I was staying sober, and good for me. But I just didn’t want to hurt anymore. The pain of doing these weird, new, difficult things was less than the pain of continuing to be completely alone even in a room filled with people who loved me.
At the time, it was miraculous and scary. And just the beginning.