On January 3rd, I will celebrate thirteen years of continuous sobriety. In getting ready to publish my testimony in full, I wanted to share what ‘hitting bottom’ was for me. I need to remember these things, so I am not doomed to repeat the past.
And I need to share it with you – in case you have touched bottom yourself, or know someone who is there now.
“Bottom” is a terrible place to be, but it is the only place that gives you enough leverage to push off.’
Hitting bottom enabled me to anchor on the true Rock, instead of drowning in the dark abyss.
I am still – forever – an alcoholic, and still – forever – in need of Grace. It is only by the grace of a savior who is willing to crouch down on the bathroom floor with me that I am saved.
It is by His grace that I live now, one day at a time.
By: Jana Greene
My prayer was simple and desperate, my head spinning.
Crouched down against the unfamiliar toilet – in the home of the hostess for the Christmas party where I was employed.
How did this happen again? How did I let this happen again? I was so careful, careful with the first drink, nursing it politely while milling awkwardly about the crowd of coworkers. I wanted to gulp it down to ease my nerves. I was shaking when I arrived alone at the party, because I was sober then.
Sober always meant shaking.
The second drink went down a little quicker. But my hands slowly stopped quaking and with the warm fire of the drink came slight nausea. Ironic that I must drink every day now – even though my body was starting to reject alcohol vehemently.
In those days, the whites of my eyes yellowed and face bloated, every day ended with a violent vomiting session.
Every day ended with the words, “Please Jesus, please.”
Be careful, I reminded myself while I poured the third. But I was just starting to feel “normal”, laughing with the other partygoers…maybe even fitting in, just a little bit. For just a few moments…joviality. The warmest place. Then, just as always, the relaxation turned to spinning and whirling.
I worked for an elementary school that year – my coworkers were also my children’s teachers, principal and librarian. My daughters were in Kindergarten and second grade respectively. I had to be careful with the drinking on this occasion. I’d been able to hide the extent of my drinking to my coworkers, friends, husband – the world. Or so I earnestly believed. I passed off hangovers as stomach bugs and headaches as minor inconveniences. I thought I was such a clever girl.
It had been less than an hour since I’d arrived at the party, when I had my fourth drink. I was proud that I was pacing myself so well. But by the sixth (or seventh?) drink, I casually wove to the guest bathroom, taking care to lock the door behind me.
And then the sick. The warmest place filling my throat and choking me.
I hate myself, I thought, shaking with another retch. Vomit quietly!
How did I even let this happen?
I tried to asses the situation soberly, rationally. But I kept forgetting where I was. Worse, someone had gone in to the bathroom with me! I could feel the presence of another person, but I couldn’t focus enough to identify who it was. I wished they’d leave! Having someone see me at my weakest was my worst fear. I was not alone….that much I knew.
Through the door, I can tell that voices were rising over the holiday music in the living room.
Now, someone is knocking at the bathroom door! I am laying on the cold tile now, convulsing in dry-heaves, but I can still hear the knocking. I whisper to whoever is hunkered down in the bathroom with me, “Shhhh…please, don’t open it!” Pulling myself to my knees, I can see that the bathroom floor is a mess, the lovely white rug splattered with the evidence that I cannot control myself.
“Just a minute,” I say louder, trying to articulate the words.
Another knock, and then a woman’s voice. “Are you okay?”
It sounds like the school’s principal. Oh no.
“Yes,” I respond, but it sounds like “yesh.” Hot humiliation burns my face.
“Okay then….” the voice says, unconvincingly. “Okay.”
Get up, I tell myself, pulling myself up to the counter. Get up, damn you…. and fake sober!
I’d taken such care to prepare for this evening, having bought a new “little black” dress, curling my hair, and wearing just the right makeup. But my shoes are missing….where are my shoes?
If I could pull of looking okay on the outside world, I could still be okay on some level. And this night, while driving to the party, I had repeated a mantra: paceyourselfpaceyourselfpaceyourself….you can do it if you try!
This night, I promised I wouldn’t cross the line between “relaxed drunk” and obliterated, which is what always (every single day) “happened to me, in the privacy of my own home. As long as no other human being knew my secret, I was safe.
Insanity is thinking that you would be just fine, as long as nobody knew – and I could find my shoes.
Now, on the bathroom floor, I remembered it was not only my professional reputation at stake, but my children. The party-goers were same people in the first line of defense for children, my children. They would pity my beloved daughters at the very least, perhaps even … I cannot even imagine. Oh, my sweet girls – how I love them. How much better they deserve.
I raise my eyes up to the bathroom mirror, and my reflection paid homage to my dread. Eyes ringed in crimson, makeup sloughed off with sweat.
This is the mother of my beloved daughters.
I tried to wipe my face with a wad of toilet paper as best I could, and then kneeled back down to clean the floor. It was difficult with the room spinning.
I hear a strangled whimper rise from my own throat and it swells to an involuntary sob. I try to muffle it while I rummage around in the cabinet under the sink for air freshener to cover the stench of vomit, but it is not use. The only think under the sink is a small toilet plunger and a very old bottle of White Shoulders perfume, half-full and orange with age.
I still feel whoever is in the room with me when I am misting the perfume around the bathroom. He is crouched down on the floor with me, but I still cannot discern his identity. Whoever it is, I owe him an apology. “I’m sorry,” I cry in a whisper. “I’m so sorry.”
I stand up, wobbly, and smooth my hair.
I can make slight eye contact with myself in the bathroom mirror now and hold the sad, strange gaze. I am just beginning to feel like the un-numb version of myself again, the hiccup in my buzz was rapidly becoming the itch of sober reality, immediately uncomfortable. Never mind, I tell myself.
Opening the door, my boss and coworkers – my children’s teachers – are standing around casually, trying not to stare at the wreck that emerged from the bathroom.
And my thought process is simple and desperate in that moment of sickness. I have stopped politely imploring Jesus to help me, afraid that he might – and what that might mean.
Instead, I am thinking, “I need just one drink.” After all, I’m not the first person to get drunk at a company Christmas party. It’s practically expected. I will just pace myself.
I’ll just be extra-careful.
Clever, dying girl.