In the final months of my addiction, I allowed myself the despaired luxury of actually admitting I was an alcoholic. I came to terms with it. And then, I decided that I would simply manage my alcoholism along with everything else in my life. This seemed rational to me at the time because I figured despair, lying, and an aching liver could be maintained. Anything was better than not drinking.
Addiction is insanity, and attempting to “manage it” is like swimming with sharks and trying to talk them out of becoming their lunch. Sharks don’t bargain; they just eat. And addiction doesn’t do “management.” It just devours, as well.
Maintaining my addiction became very time consuming, and it definitely cut into my work. I am a teacher, and most of my early mornings meant loud bells, chaos, and seventh graders. These things do not sit well with hangovers.
Nothing sits well with hangovers. But, in my case, I tried to carry on. Each morning, I would sleep as late as I could, and then find myself trying to fit my bloated body into something reasonably professional. Everything ached, most of all my heart. I fed my two children, repeatedly begged, yelled, and blackmailed them to get out the door on time, grabbed my satchel which was stuffed with hastily graded papers, and headed out.
I was always on time. I didn’t allow lateness because that would show a crack in the veneer. People might see. Even though my appearance was becoming increasingly rumpled and haggard, I did not want to be observed. In fact, at work and everywhere else, I just wanted to be invisible.
It is hard to be invisible when your job entails standing in front of twenty twelve-year-olds. The good news is that these kids didn’t have very high standards. I leaned heavily on recycled lesson plans. I passed out reams of worksheets. I embraced the glorious end-of-the-week movie. I became as mediocre as possible, doing just enough to get by.
A shift had happened in my addiction. Early on, I always pushed myself to achieve perfection. I had a great career; had been loaded with accolades and Teacher of the Year awards. I loved my job and pursued it with vigor. I prided myself on being a Super Teacher, all the time. This label paired well with Super Wife and Super Mom and Super Cute and any other smiley-face sticker I chose for myself. As I frantically tried to keep up with all my shiny expectations, I drank all the more. It was a well deserved reward after hard day of being perfect.
But, after a time, my life slowly sank under all the bottles of wine, and my interest in other things faded. And then, before I realized, I had slowly swung on my pendulum of addiction over to Way Past Caring.
Outwardly, my slow decline jutted up against my normal perfectionistic behaviors. But no one else at work mentioned it, or interfered. This makes sense, because society is taught not to interfere or question the red flags, because that might be rude.
In our small town, we live in a hundred year-old old house, with creaky doors that don’t quite fit, and floorboards that tilt. Our kitchen, in fact, tilts so extremely that if a grape or tomato falls, it immediately rolls under the kitchen table, much to my annoyance. But, as we have lived in the house over ten years now, I no longer notice the slant. Even the errant olive or two doesn’t provoke me much. I had lived with it for so long, in our wonky, well-traveled room, that it didn’t even register.
This is how addiction also operates. You might notice someone rolling about, all askew, but you’re busy or tired, and you don’t want to offend. And then, before you know it, it’s just part of the scenery.
Meanwhile, my scenery was becoming more and more wretched. I remember looking over some graded papers and gaping at the red inked scrawls on them. I could barely understand my own comments. My scribbles were terse, like each paper was a nuisance and a bother.
I had graded the pile of papers the night before with my trusty glass of wine sitting nearby. This was normal, wasn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a glass of wine while you graded papers? I mean, this was sixty papers authored by pre-teens about the life of Edgar Allen Poe. Wouldn’t anyone need a drink for this?
Didn’t everyone feel the need to pour another glass, or two, with the onslaught of work and children and bills and husbands? How else do you do it?
There was now a fear, itching at the back of my brain, telling me that life without wine would be impossible. It might mean a conversation with my boss, and leaves of absence, and other impossible things. These thoughts would flare up at me, and I would pour more wine to subdue them.
And that is how I became an alcoholic at work. And at home. And everywhere in between.
And it would not be long until I would no longer be able to manage it.
Dana Bowman is a wife, a mother, a teacher, a writer, a speaker, and a runner, all simultaneously. The writing is only possible because her family donates loads of material. An English teacher for over twenty years, she decided to take up a writing career while mothering two babies, because she had so much free time. Her writing has been awarded first prize from both the Evangelical Press Association and the Associated Church Press. Her book was selected as a Kansas Notable book in 2016. She was thrilled to be asked by Central Recovery Press to write a book about moms in recovery. Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery, available now on Amazon, took exactly nine months to write. It is her third baby. It is much less demanding.