She

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By Tammi VanBuskirk

Awake again. Her eyelids slowly drag across the sandpaper orbs beneath them known as eyeballs. She also has a matching sandpaper tongue that carries with it the strong smell of fermented grapes. She lays there for a moment, and then realizing it’s still dark outside, she hastily glances at the clock on the dresser: 2:15 again. Fortunately, the vomiting and tremors have not yet begun for the day; however the empty bottles and the recent contents of her stomach that have filled the garbage container next to the bed assure her that it won’t be long before it starts again. Another quick glance to the nightstand confirms a large, half-empty bottle of chardonnay, along with a tall kitchen glass that was still more than half full from the night before. It’s always a surprise to her how much is left, because by the end of the night she’s already swam into the oblivion of the blackout. Maybe if she drinks enough of what’s left, she can pass out and sleep a few more hours before starting her day in earnest. But then, she promises herself she won’t drink anymore for the day and actually get some real housework done.

There is enough to do the job and she dozes in and out of a fitful sleep for another hour or so. If there’s no wine left to help her back to sleep, she’ll just have to lie there until the alarm goes off and it’s time to make coffee. She just needs to wait a couple of hours. And if there IS any left after the pre-dawn gluttony, she’ll finish that while she makes his lunch and helps him get ready for work. He knows she’s already drinking before 6, sometimes 5 in the morning, but he also knows about the withdrawals, so he’d rather she be passed out safely in bed than stumbling, shaking, vomiting, possibly falling and injuring herself. If he has any cash on him, he’ll give it to her for the convenience store across the parking lot. They know her well, so if there’s not enough cash or change (which she counts as soon as he leaves), she knows they’ll let her have one on credit until he comes home and pays for it while he’s buying “essentials” for the evening.

None of her self-promises come true. She’s lost most of her friends and family, and she hasn’t left the house without coaxing in months, mostly because she’s afraid she might run into someone she knows who’ll take one look at her and know what she’s been up to again. She sleeps most of the day.

By the time she finally shakes it off enough to check the clock, she realizes that her husband will be home in less than an hour, and she’s done nothing for dinner, not even the dishes. She quickly straightens up the messy living room and kitchen, and throws the comforter and pillows on the bed. By now she’s panicking. Not because her husband will be angry (because he never is), but because sometimes he forgets to pick up the wine and she’s not sure she’ll have enough for the night, and by now the side effects are kicking in. First comes the shaking hands and legs, and by the time he gets home she can barely walk. She can barely write, let alone hold a pen. She is afraid to prepare dinner because she’s not sure she can hold a knife without hurting herself. It’s hard for her to finish sentences. The next side effect isn’t far off: The vomiting.  Sometimes the convulsions are so strong she’s certain her eyes are going to pop right out of her face. It’s embarrassing for her because her husband stands right by her side and helps her in anyway he can. This means being helped to the bathroom and in the shower. She feels like an invalid.

Right now. Right, now. This is when she remembers again how hard it is to recover each time this happens. Each time, it happens for longer periods – more days of recovery. And she has to again make a choice: Is she drinking today? Or can she survive another attempt at quitting? Because they are getting harder. It’s easier and less painful if she just succumbs. And so she does.
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This is what it’s like for someone in active alcoholism. At least from my own personal experience. I’ve heard many times that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. The above shows that cycle in action. This is nothing short of a deadly disease.

Fun fact: Healthcare professionals are in agreement that you can safely (though maybe not comfortably) withdraw from many substances without much physical harm. They also agree that withdrawing from alcohol (and benzodiazepines) by quitting cold turkey can prove deadly. So when you’re wondering why someone just can’t seem to stop, remember that it’s not necessarily a weakness of the mind. It’s also a life threatening physical “re-boot” that really should be medically supervised when the decision is made to quit. www.aa.org is a great place to start if you’re ready to make a change.
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Awake again. Her eyelids slowly drag across the sandpaper orbs beneath them known as eyeballs. She also has a matching sandpaper tongue that carries with it the strong smell of fermented grapes. She lays there for a moment, and then realizing it’s still dark outside, she hastily glances at the clock on the dresser: 2:15 again.

Maybe things will be different today. She knows what to do, and knows she’s been on the other side of this, even though it wasn’t easy. She knows she needs to live life, and not the other way around. If she fails, she tries again. Today, she vows again to persevere which is a victory in itself. And she remembers that to be successful, she must be respectful. Because she knows that she’s always just one drink away from tumbling right back into the bottle.

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