I used to love, I mean really love- with a deep passionate longing of envy- novels about woman who were tragically off their rocker’s. The Bell Jar, Prozac Nation, Girl Interrupted… I looked up to the characters in these twisted and haunting novels. They were multidimensional, imprisoned in their minds, misunderstood, on the outside looking in… and on a quest to find a way out of their pain. All on an unstoppable collision course with death and in seeking- no needing- that one last moment of exhilarating life before the peace and quiet of eternity enveloped them. In these stories, I found myself and my path. I was going to go out in a blaze of pill-induced, drug-altering glory, or find peace trying. And, of course, I was going to document it all the way to the end. My book, my story, would be the envy of young girls wearing the very same lonely and tragic shoes that I had worn before them.
For hours, I would sit under the palm tree at the coffee shop across the street from my stuccoed apartment building. The wind blowing over my head, feet tucked into the table railing in front of me, note book on my knees. I twisted far into my pain, squeezing the wounds to bleed out words. Surrounded by people who saw me every day but didn’t even know my name, I would light cigarette after cigarette, puffing away on my Marlboro’s, only picking my pen up off the paper long enough to tap the ash off of my 100. Furiously, I would scribble away, falling in love with the way that my pen caressed the paper, gliding across its smooth surface, tickling the lines, vibrating the pages as it moved.
I was drawn to the mental illness that all of these women lived with, and I was jelous of it in so many ways. They felt pain and they knew why. They were flawed. Their brains were broken. They had a clinical diagnosis to explain the aching sadness that travelled with them every single day. They were never going to be better and that was OK. They knew that they were sick and they accepted their sentence- with unequal parts class and punk rock rebellion.
I walked around every day with the weight of a million oceans sloshing around in my heart. I was a ghost in a human body. I looked right at people and they stared directly through me. I screamed at the top of my lungs and no one ever turned around. Yet I had no mental illness, no reason to feel the way that I did. What I had… I didn’t know. So, based on all that I had read, I deduced that my way out, my ticket to relief from this debilitating anchor of pain, was to develop a mental illness, in the form of an addiction.
Which lead to a failed attempt at alcoholism.
Never mind that the taste of alcohal made me sick or that I couldn’t hold down more than two Coors Lights. I needed help and suspected that an AA meeting might be just the place to find it.
“I’m Gina, and I’m an alcoholic,” I announced to a packed room of folk parked on metal folding chairs, all clutching steaming hot cups of coffee.
Liar, the voice in my head screamed.
Fuck you! I whispered back. I might be.
The thing about proclaiming your alcoholism is that you suddenly have a pack of woebegones that want to help you travel the road of sobriety. They sponsor your success. They give you a path to better days, a road map to your sober success. They call you daily and reward you for making it a day, a week, a month, a year, without succumbing to the beast inside you. They help you to heal and love you through the process. They are a family, a motley crew of a family, but the best family that many people ever have the priveledge of enjoying.
I didn’t care that I wasn’t really an alcoholic. I needed these people.