The Clearance Aisle

It was February 14, 2017.

One year ago today.

Valentine's Day.

For the first time in my life I had finally stepped up and admitted I had a drinking problem, and that I needed help.

Talk about romantic.

Okay. It wasn't as simple or romantic as is sounds. The idea of admitting my failures and flaws made me sick to my stomach and broke me down like a wrecking ball.

I knew in my gut that this was something I couldn't do on my own.

Clawing my way out of abysmal chaos wasn't exactly something I had a lot of experience at. But diving straight into it? Absolutely.

It's eye-opening when your doctor recommends that any alcohol detox be done under medical supervision, because, well, poison leaving your system hurts more than when it goes in.

I was so far gone, I needed a mountain of valium and a chaperone to hold my hand while the alcohol left my system.

How terrifying and embarrassing.

I trusted myself so little, I knew I had to be quarantined somewhere without any access to alcohol if I was going to make this work.

So off to rehab I went.

Reading my post from exactly 1 year ago today, the sickened self-hatred and loathing I had for myself and the wasteful, painful situation I put myself (and Hubs) in feels as familiar as if it were yesterday.

Probably because just 12 days ago I was right back where I started.

Here's what I wrote:

February 14, 2017. "6 Days of Drinking"

This.

This is what I’ve drank in the last 6 days.

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19 litres of wine. $300 (Canadian) in wine. In less than a week.

And most are the big bottles.

2 of them a day, I’d say. (That's 4 normal bottles at least).

Hubs says I’m missing some, because he took some out already.

The empties just pile up like regrets.

FUCK.

The families I could feed with that money. The bills I could pay off.

The life I could live without the regrets.

The shit I could get done without the hangovers. But honestly, I barely get hungover anymore. My body is just…nope. Perhaps I’m in a constant cycle of drunk/hungover and I can’t tell the difference anymore.

6 days. 19 Litres. 

Most people don’t drink that in a year or more.

I’m just placing this here so I can look back one day, and realize where I came from.

Because looking at this photo makes me sick.

Counting down the hours until I go to rehab.

Because I can’t do this anymore.

---

It's fair to say I was in a pretty broke-down state, feeling as pathetic as possible.

At rehab, they tried to write us into the pages of The Big Book, casting us alongside every other alcoholic: inherently broken, flawed, and absolutely powerless.

We were explained that we were there because of an "allergy" we had to alcohol, and if we remained on our own we'd also remain absolutely hopeless. The only possible outcomes for us, we were told, were jail, institutions, or death.

I felt generalized, as though all of us there were just 12 Step minions, one no different from the other, connected by the simple fact that we were all intrinsically broken and incurable.

So there I was, thinking,"Well this sucks."

I was already about as low as I've ever been. 40 years old, in rehab, and absolutely out of control. I felt I belonged in the clearance aisle with a big sign reading: "BROKEN! But still works!"

Sort of.

The AA approach, thankfully, made me start questioning everything. Because somewhere deep inside me I knew I wasn't inherently flawed. I knew I had a good heart, despite my misgivings, mistakes or any hurts I had caused.

You have a good heart, Nicholas. That doesn’t change.

– Delilah, Everything Must Go (Will Farrell Movie)

Maybe there wasn't actually something wrong with me.

Maybe I had just done something wrong?

I refused to sit there, pushed to the back of the shelf in the clearance aisle – flawed and chipped.

Forever discounted.

Their approach was to blame the cracks in the pitcher, instead of the gravity that broke it. I was being taught that I was the problem. And, for a little while at least, I bought into it.

That is until I reached the point where I started to become angry at the alcohol and the culture that sold me on it's necessary allure.

You need it. Your life is better with it. You're a better version of yourself when you're drunk.

I was NOT okay at the back of the shelf anymore, discounting my worth because there was something wrong with me. Maybe there was something wrong with the poison I had been drinking? Or the encouragement from every media outlet and public place to keep drinking it...because it's a reward I deserve for how hard I work!

Maybe there was actually something wrong with everything else?

It's so easy to get caught in the guilt-trap, beating ourselves up because we react differently to things than others do. Situations, ideas, drugs.

What is wrong with me? Why do I have this problem when other people don't?

It also doesn't help getting kicked when you're down, being told that trying to glue yourself together is going to be the hardest thing you've ever done – and it won't stick – because you're not like everyone else. You're broken beyond repair.

Well, thanks AA. That's helpful.

Maybe I just became very addicted to a very addictive drug that I was told I needed in my life.

Maybe it's as simple as that.

With the help of Annie Grace's This Naked Mind it just recently became obvious that it's time to start questioning everything.

And, for the record, there is something wrong with me.

My beliefs about alcohol, and myself.

With each false truth I strip away about how alcohol benefits me (there are no benefits for the record) another part of me gets put back together. Each new actual truth is a bead of glue, binding all my broken parts back together stronger than they were before.

Kintsugi for the soul.

I'm ready to move to the top shelf, where the light can reach me.

I no longer believe I deserve to be discounted and pushed to the back of the clearance aisle.

I am not my addiction, and I refuse to let anyone tell – or try to teach me – that I am.

Especially myself.

I'm ready to move to the Top Shelf, marked up and with a great big sign screaming "New and Improved."

Sober, alcohol free recovery blogger.

Photographer. Writer. Ex-Blackout Artist.

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