So rather than hide from what everyone already knows about, I figured I may as well relate my experience to those who (a) don't understand alcoholics, (b) those who feel they may be one, or (c) those who have accepted their disease and understand what I'm about to say.
I've been here before: this fairly new and small rehab center with the girls' house located in Dana Point, two blocks from the beach. The house is nice and clean, the house manager and her fiancée adore me, and I like the other girls in the house (for the most part at least — there's always a bitch or two). The counselors, especially the ex-11-year meth addict and former employee of Anheuser-Busch, are incredibly inspiring and give me an enormous amount of hope for my future. Hell, if they can make it, so can I.
There are about five times the number of guys compared to the amount of girls in the program, and I find myself in group sessions with two older married mothers and about 12 20-something parolees. The boys seem sweet and quiet, hardly the type that would be guilty of grand theft auto, trafficking meth from Canada to New York, shooting heroin in the bathroom at work, or crashing two cars in one week. But they all have their incredibly twisted stories, ones that make me look like I'm walking around with a halo over my head. Their narratives are sad and heart-wrenching; I've been guilty of tearing up a few times in group. I'm the only one who gets sappy, but I can't help it — I hate to see others in pain. I find my own anguish much easier to distance myself from than the sorrow of others.
"So what's your story?" I'm asked.
"I drank a lot."
I feel as if I don't have much else to say — no stories worth even the slightest gasp from my hardened audience. No DUIs, no arrests; I haven't lost any friends, I haven't crashed my car, I haven't lost my home, I'm still financially secure, my family loves and supports me, and my career is actually going better than ever. So why do I have a problem?
I don't know. I have no great excuse — which I suppose is exactly what makes me an alcoholic. The fact is that I can be perfectly happy and content with the way things are going, and suddenly this demon takes over my body and demands that I destroy everything I've worked so hard for. I'm an anxious passenger as it drives me to the liquor store; I'm desperately trying to persuade myself to stop as it buys wine and vodka; I'm grasping at its sleeves as it pours the burning liquid down my throat; and I'm crying as it stumbles, drunk and blacked out, back to the kitchen for more.
That demon is me, which only drives the guilt and shame deeper. I ask myself why I cannot control the hands that pour the drink, why I cannot control the throat that swallows the drink and why I cannot control the destructive urges that break the hearts of my friends and family.
What I do know is I want to change. I want happiness, fulfillment, love and one day a family — things I cannot find in the bottom of a vodka bottle. It's a lonely, sickly and miserable existence when a simple glass of liquid is capable of controlling your life. I often stared at that indifferent bottle sitting on the counter — an immobile receptacle, just an object, really — and wondered how it managed to take over. But to blame the alcohol itself isn't the answer, as they say; drinking is simply a symptom of a problem that lies much deeper. I just never wanted to face that problem, whatever it was.
So I suppose that's why I'm here: 30 days to face my demons, 30 days to clear my head, 30 days of sobriety under my belt so I can go home physically purified and ready to face life on life's terms. Rehab is the easy part. It's going home, getting back to work and dealing with all the triggers that made me drink in the first place — that's the real test. But I cannot live life in a bubble; I have to rely on my inner strength and the support of others to keep me sober. It will be a difficult and lifelong path, but it is the road to the life I was supposed to have, the life I truly want to have, and I am determined to follow it.