The other day I heard someone say: “I didn’t come to AA because of the consequences. I came because the party was over.”
Last night, at a meeting, the speaker said that her rock bottom wasn’t blacking out every night. The bottom was blacking out without even feeling drunk first – when alcohol stopped doing what it once did. Stopped protecting and empowering her.
When I took my first drink, I was 19. I was in college. I had 3 shots of Bacardi Vanila and they went down smooth and tasted better than I could have guessed. My roommates were proud of me. Until that moment, I had been crazy. I cleaned every speck of my room many times a day. I was committed to keeping my life perfect and clean. I got nosebleeds from stress. I looked in the mirror and told myself to never do anything wrong again. I prayed to God to change me. I hated myself. Out there, though, in the kitchen, after the shots of rum, I was free. I liked myself. I took off my clothes and danced around. The first drink and there was this: I belonged.
The man for whom the party was over also said that he was a consequences-handling machine. I see that I was, too. I could minimize and rationalize and forget anything. I could lower the bar.
I’ve been talking a lot about the consequences. About dark nights. About hitting the center divider on the freeway. About making lists of what I could do to be ok: donate my car, drink only beer, don’t go to work parties. I see now that there’s something else to remember: it stopped working. I stopped feeling warm and excited and like I belonged. I felt desperate and resentful and confused. I felt hollow. Drinking now would not only bring me to the consequences, but it would do nothing else.