I thought my rock bottom would look like it once did— over a toilet, missing yet another get together, a bleeding throat, topped off with a pack of cigarettes. It’s hard to believe that that’s what my reality looked a mere five years ago. So I’m back in a complicated relationship with another addiction and so I thought— I have to get something great out of ten years of bulimia. Wisdom. An open third eye. A resurrection. And I did, a bit. But I misheard the voice for a while. The tiny little whisper that let me know that alcohol could lead to the same path. I wrote about it. I was open about it. Real cute on the whole matter. “I haven’t hit rock bottom yet, but I know I could, so this is all preventative!”
I thought rock bottom would look like lots of missed phones calls from my closest friends, waking up in strange beds, wrecking my relationship, calling home to cry to my estranged brother at 4AM in the morning. I thought rock bottom would mean showing up to the Writers’ Room with two bottles of champagne in my belly, looking forward to the third when we let out. So I thought I just hadn’t. Hit rock bottom, that is. I don’t do that. So I must still be fine. This is fine! I’m fine. Totally in control.
For the past three months I’ve been getting home at 4AM, almost three times a week, smelling like rancid wine and tequila. I drink water. I oil-pull. I brush my teeth. I snuggle up to my sober boyfriend. Every time, I wake up. Try hard to release whatever shameful conversation I partook in the night before and I think, this is all part of learning how to let go of shame. Something that’s born in me to feel even for just smiling the wrong way. I feel shame and I feel it often. Growing up in a household that honors intelligence and grace above all, where even a toddler dropping his frozen grape on the ground at snack time is side-eyed, shame comes easy. So I convince myself that these nights are a good way for me to learn about release. About not apologizing exactly for who I am and how I choose to spend my life.
But is it who I am? The days catch up to me and suddenly, I spend hours starring at the ceiling questioning what exactly it is that I am doing, figuring out the next step, feeling a small death when I can’t come up with it. But then we head to the theater, we take our notes, the show goes on, and we’re out all over again. And I am beautiful, I am strong, confident, a little cocky, a little bombastic, but intoxicating. And the conversation drives me, sets my belly on fire, and we touch hands like you do when you first learn what touching hands is. And then I realize, I’m almost always one of the last ones standing. And I blame it on the gig, on my need to socialize like I’ll die tomorrow and everyone I’ve ever “networked” with will show up at my funeral.
I wake up one morning after crying for hours the night before— I mean heaving, the kind of tears that come when you first get on an airplane as a child and look back to see your parents wave goodbye. The kind of crying that empties you and drowns you, all at the same time. I look at my guy and I say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” And he does something he’s never done, he stands his ground in my life, on the ground we’ve decided to build and share, takes a deep breath and “I don’t want you to do this, anymore.”
The drinking is certainly a part of it. But the reason I came home exhausting tears like the ground beneath me was in draught frightened me. It shook me. My priorities are all wrong, right now. My actions don’t match up to them and if we are how we walk through the world, who the fuck am I creating? “Why do you have to stay until 4AM?” He asks, trying, carefully, not to superimpose his opinions on something we don’t completely share, yet. And I answer the same thing I realized the night before on the cab home— I do because that’s when the small recognitions happen. When the guards come down and people can tell you how incredible you are. When the lines start to blur and in that moment, you are “seen.” And it’s a drug. It’s the little girl inside of me that craves a pat on the head because she never dropped her grapes and if she did, she needs to hear that it’s okay. It’s the teenager who wanted to fit both the impossible Colombian standards of beauty and also live up to the household of brain surgeons she was raised in. I need the approval.
Jesus. The day goes on. Terrified at the cliché I’ve become. But an epiphany does come. I realize that my fears about my career, my writing, my skills, have led me to depend on my social agility and charisma as my main course. Subconsciously hoping that if I am impressive enough, beautiful enough, witty enough, enchanting enough, my writing won’t be questioned, my career left alone, and I would be off the hook for one more day. Until I could charm all over again and leave my pages untouched. Because they terrify me. And I remember all the rooms I was in as a child, one of few females, overhearing the macho commentary, promising myself that I would never depend on my looks and well trained social fluency to get by. Because sometimes I didn’t think I had either. Because beneath them, there I was. Strong. Intellectual. Smart as hell. Cutting. Loving. Hungry. Anything else was just Icing.
Then I realize. This is what my rock bottom looks like. Today. Needing approval and being hungry for attention that only goes skin deep, and making that my life? Even if just for a few months, it’s too much. Too much of the completely wrong thing. I’m so afraid of being mediocre, I’ve masked my work behind a pretty face and a witty tongue, and because of it, mediocre is exactly what I’ve become. I’m not afraid I’ll stay here. I know rock bottoms. And Addiction doesn’t always look like toilets and blackouts— addiction can look like a simple drink, the unimportant surroundings of which become your life and drive. Again. And again. It’s not always the amount. It’s never been the amount. For me. It’s the fact that the time we drink becomes everything. It becomes my playing field. And I get good at it. Just like I once was great at hiding behind all 87 pounds of me and counting every calorie. Good at hiding in my toilet. Until it broke my heart: it’s so absolutely below anything I’ve ever dreamt of or worked for. And so my dreams and drinking can’t coexist. Otherwise, it’s a rock bottom. A fancy, shiny, decadent one, but still a rock bottom.
I thought a bit about not posting this. Of letting it be filed away in some private folder, where people who care about their decorum leave these sorts of things. Or perhaps thinking that I get to keep this one. That this one gets to be mine. But see, that was the problem with this dynamic, it was all mine. My little secret to keep, until it bottomed out.