I was 28 when I got my first Ambien prescription. I'd just moved in with my boyfriend—the man that would eventually become my husband—and I sat in our bed one night holding half of the skinny peach-colored pill (I was too nervous to take the full one) in my palm. Both of us wondered what it would do. How long would it take to kick in? Would I remember falling asleep? Where would I go?
Since November 2015, I have completely changed my life. I’m nearly 3.5 years sober, I made the leap from my career in advertising to write and teach, I live in my dream location (basically, as close to the ocean as I can get without actually living on a boat), and I’m publishing my first book this September. My life is by no means perfect, but it is mine. It makes sense. It feels like home.
I mean, you know that commercial with the staples button that says "that was easy.” Getting sober is the hardest-best thing ever, but is there ever a time when you can hit cruise control and sit back and enjoy it? I know I'll never get to push that staples button, but can I at least get one that says, "It's getting easier?”
This is basically the reason I started to drink in the first place, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason people have drank since the beginning of time: to feel more comfortable in their skin. Now, they probably didn’t quite use that language while sitting around the fire or dinner table or watering hole (I’m sorry, I have to pause here: imagine Jesus saying to Luke, I don’t know, I just feel so…uncomfortable in my own skin sometimes, man.) but that’s why. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and smooths the chatter of our minds and some of our minds are really, really loud and mean.
To your grief: the losses are real. To tell you they’re not would be disingenuous and untrue. Addiction steals our time and our essence and our ability to receive love, among other things. Feel all the way into the pain of what you know you lost, and also the unknowable things. But. But. Hear this: you didn’t chase weed and people and cigarettes and shiny things because you’re just “that fucked up.” You did it because you’ve been looking for love, like Johnny Lee did, in all the wrong places.
Can we pause for one second before we crack open the Rosé and think, Where am I going with this? Closer to life or further away? Why? Is this what it means to be alive? Is there some kind of connection to this—the wine, the food, the sex, the 500th Netflix show, whatever—and the disconnection we’re seeing in the world? Maybe?