June 9, 2009 has a very special meaning to me. It is the day which I finally admitted to myself that I was powerless over alcohol, and in particular, Jameson Irish Whiskey. In the wee hours of June 9, 2009, while completely pie-eyed, I began to take stock of my life. It was like being a kid, carefully eyeing the Christmas edition of the J.C. Penney Catalog; looking at each item and imagining the "what-ifs". What if I had not taken the first drink? What if I'd faced my addiction 25 years earlier? What if this, What if that - 100 what ifs - all with no answer.
Later that morning, I took a walk with a friend Kris, who was on the verge of her birthday and ill. We began our walk up Spring Creek and suddenly I found myself spilling my proverbial whiskey rocks on her. I came out of my Irish Whiskey closet and 'fessed up that I had a serious addiction to alcohol. Of all the people in the world, it was my uber-liberal, bike riding, environmentalist, friend who I felt most comfortable confessing my sins to. Go figure!
The epitome of healthy living, dear Kris found out in 2009 that she was ill. When I realized I was throwing my own life away on booze, I felt complete shame. Being in Kris' presence on June 9, 2009 made me feel inadequate, small, trivial, but oddly enough - brave. Brave in that of all the people I know, it was Kris that I wanted to tell about my inefficiencies
As we walked up Spring Creek, she listened. She could have turned away, she could have ignored me or made light of such a confession, but she opened her heart to me, listened and in the end gave me powerful praise for admitting my addiction.
When times have been troubling, or I have faced challenges and even recently when I was so unjustly dismissed from a job I was good at, it has been Kris who keeps me on the path - the SOBER path. Her constant and heart felt concern in my sobriety is, I believe, tantamount to my success.
In my yet, unpublished book, Red Dirt Dancing, I weave the story of a man who wakes up once day and realizes that he has almost thrown his entire life away because of the bottle. He was once a dashingly handsome and very athletic. He had it all - although if you dug just below the surface you could find the truth. Jim was an alcoholic.His entire life was simply a facade to what his constant reality was. Drunkard.
The story continues that Jim meets Amy, a steadfast friend who he calls to bail him out of jail after getting a DUI. Together they hatch a plan where Jim will face his biggest of battles - get sober in the red dirt of southeast Utah - Moab, Arches, Canyonlands - places of stark beauty, overwhelmingly breathtaking vistas of the La Sal Mountains and red rock geography that once you loose yourself its like you are on another planet. The deserts can truly bring salvation, if you are willing to surrender yourself to her. God had some seriously awesome brush strokes when he dabbled his creation paint brush down here in this desert utopia of red dirt.
After I finished writing the book, I realized that in many ways, the book was my life story as well. While certainly not a gifted athlete, nor stunningly beautiful or even some sort of Ernest Hemmingway, I did have an epiphany that a good portion of my life had been destroyed by alcohol. Who knows what might have occurred if I wasn't living a lie by pretending that I was a sport drinker rather than a full fledged alcoholic.
The funny thing about being an alcoholic is that we're always the last to know. Well, in most cases. I've never taken a vote among friends to ask whether or not they saw me as anything other than Annie Mac, who likes Irish Whiskey.
I knew that I had encountered my fair share of despair over drinking, but never was approached by anyone who said, "hey, you've got a problem". Maybe I was good at hiding it.
The first 2 weeks were brutal. I quit cold turkey. No AA, no interventions. Nothing. I did it alone. I wanted a drink so bad. In fact, even today I can still vividly recall the petey aroma of whiskey. I truly enjoyed the taste. I can still recall my last trip home to Ireland in 2007, and drinking so much that I actually fell out of a pub in Louth and broke my ankle. What might have been mortifying under sober conditions was like a momentary lapse in graceful ballet movements followed by the realization that I was face down in the street, with my cousins all around me, laughing, as any good Gartlan cousin would do. Of course, the next morning revealed an immensely purple left ankle. A few years later I faced surgery because I'd completely destroyed all the ligaments that created stability to the joint.
I did make some serious mistakes along the road to recovery. Some are small but the two most important people in my life - my children - my gifts from God are those that suffered due to my careless addiction. Eryn and Bryan...oh how do I begin to even say I am sorry? Bryan has forgiven me, and I love him so much. When he has every reason to tell me to go to hell, he forgave me and told me he loves me. I am so proud of him! My daughter Eryn is not so happy about it. I don't blame her. She has some stuff to work out and perhaps the impending birth of her first baby this October will soften her heart and she will be able to forgive her old mom. Even in the throws of my addiction I never stopped loving my children. I just could not love myself. I did not have an ounce of forgiveness for me. I felt like a big failure and completely worthless.
For whatever reason, GOD put Kris, on my path and I could not help but see the irony in someone fighting to stay alive through illness, and I was so selfish as to callously throw my own soul away for a drink.
So, here on the 2 year anniversary of my re-birth as a non-pickled, yet still opinionated, right wing, sarcastic victor over the bottle, I say thank you to those of you who continue to support me, encourage me and most importantly, tolerate me.
A Sober Annie Mac