Prologue to Dina’s Best-Selling book “Madly Chasing Peace”

I want to want to stop.

I don’t want to stop; I can’t stop. It is the only barrier that I have left to protect me from the world, from my dark emotions, from myself. I am caught in a tornado that I have a vague sense may have been stoppable sometime back but now has me in a full downward spiral. I wish I was dead. Every night as I go to sleep, as others say their prayers for health and happiness, my only prayer is that I will not wake up in the morning.

Every morning is excruciating. My body is made of lead; my head is pounding; my skin is itchy; dread permeates my entire being; my anxiety is off the charts. How can I get out of bed and face another day? What is wrong with me? There are people out there with real problems – homeless, jobless, crippled … and me, I just can’t stop drinking?!?!

My mind is spinning wildly. Please, Dina. Get a hold of yourself! You’ve powered your way through everything in the past until now and it’s only made you stronger. You can DO this. Don’t let the craving take you. You are tougher than that.

But in this moment I need relief. The darkness is overwhelming and unbearable. To get out of bed I know I need my secret friend, my drink.

And so the cycle starts one more day…

It is Sunday night. I have done many things I thought I would never do over the past few years … slowly selling out to the lure of the high, the secret relief that makes it bearable to get through another day. I cannot forgive myself for too many things to count. I have to drink even when it is most important that I don’t. I’m not an alcoholic; I am a weak pitiful human being with no self control, no willpower. This Saturday I will take my life and leave everyone to their peace. I can see no other way, than just being out of this world altogether, to ease the unbearable pain, shame, and self-hatred I am feeling. I am so, so, so sick of myself, my life, and everything about everything. I need just a few days to get all my crap together. Then, finally, I will be free.

It is early Monday morning. The sun isn’t even up yet. I have barely slept. My anxiety and self-loathing have me shaking and sweating and I am wailing crying in my apartment alone, thinking of my suicide plan. My orange juice spiked with vodka is the only thing soothing me this morning, as I sit on my floor hugging my knees, surrounded by my used tissues. I have no other way out and the way I’m going now, things will only get worse. Maybe sometime ago I might have been able to straighten myself out but I crossed that line a long time back. I can’t do this anymore and I don’t want anyone to try and help me. I have made my decision. I feel physically sick and kind of crazy. I don’t know how I am going to make it through these next six days.

I think about calling a suicide hotline just to talk to someone, but those people are trained to talk me out of it and that is not what I’m looking for. I really just need a little bit of relief. I have no one in my life that will understand. I can’t even bring myself to call Daddy, sober 17 years; I don’t want to worry him; for him to know the pain I feel, or to think I have a problem with alcohol. I don’t want him to be upset, or ashamed of me.

Maybe it would make me feel better to see what real drunks are like, to see other people whose drinking is way worse than mine. There is an addiction recovery center up the street. I’ll see if they have times when outsiders can sit in on one of their meetings. If I don’t like them, if all their ideas are worthless, at least I’ll still have Saturday. Then it will all be over anyway.

I find the number online and call. There is a nightly meeting at 6:00. I ask where to find it. The guy who answers my questions laughs and says, “you can’t miss it; just look for the crowd of people walking in from the parking lot.” A crowd of people? I am not expecting this. I thought it might be ten people or so. Whatever. It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m not going there to make friends. I am going there to wake myself up and see how bad it could be, to put my own drinking in perspective. I know deep down that I am not like them. I am not like anyone at this point.

It is Monday night. I get to the meeting a few minutes early. I feel that weird sensation of being detached, in a dream, walking through a cloud or a fog. I decide that I won’t give my real name, because my name is kind of unique and what if someone knows my boss’s client or my neighbor’s boyfriend or whatever. I have no intention of talking to the people there; I really just want to sit quietly in the back and listen. If anyone asks I’ll just tell them my name is Lisa.

There is a woman outside the door greeting everyone. She smiles, sticks out her hand to me and says, “Welcome, I’m Lisa.” This completely throws me off that her real name is my fake name. I give my real name without thinking. Oh well. I’ll just make sure I don’t talk to anyone else and just lay low in the back row.

People start coming in, hugging each other, taking seats. There are so many of them! I can’t believe how many there are. And why are they all happy, smiling, laughing? There is no doubt in my mind that there must be vodka in their travel coffee mugs. If they come to this recovery center, their drinking surely must be way worse than mine so there is no way they would quit; there is no way they would be at ease with each other without a drink. This place is weird. Lying, hiding alcohol and sickly sweet happy chatter. In my world there is no possibility of laughter without the warm protective buzz of alcohol. As soon as it’s over, I leave the weird meeting without talking to anyone and buy my usual red wine on the way home.

It is Tuesday night. I barely made it through work today, trying to keep up my happy-lala-everything’s-great facade. I debate inwardly about going to that meeting at the recovery center. Screw it, I think. Why go? It will all be over Saturday anyway. Besides I have too much wine left over from last night. I’m headed home to find oblivion until I fall into the usual horrifically restless sleep.

It is Wednesday morning. I feel, as usual, like crap. I am hung over and out of booze. How on earth am I going to make it through the day? On lunch break, I re-stock so I can get rid of this awful headache and nausea. Food matters little. The buzz puts space around what would normally drive me out of my mind. Everything, especially at work, is much more pleasant and less important.

On Wednesday evening, I can’t bear to go straight home, to my depressingly lonely apartment. I stop by that meeting after work. Everyone is warm and friendly, again. It is maddening that they are so damn happy. What is there to be happy about?! I remind myself it will all be over on Saturday and I get comfort from that thought. Just a couple more days of suffering through my life.

I happen to sit next to an older annoyingly friendly guy at the meeting named Larry. He asks me if I ever drink in the mornings. I guardedly say, “maybe.” He invites me to meet him tomorrow for an early meeting. He offers, “instead of drinking tomorrow morning, meet me here at seven.” I agree to meet him without really wanting to but feeling bad that this poor old man is kind of lonely. And I really am a nice person, deep down, so I will help him out. I leave the meeting and get a bottle of wine on the way home.

Usually I try to buy wine at different times and places so it’s not obvious how much I’m buying, but tonight I don’t care. I just need it and I need it now. I go to my usual grocery store and pick up one bottle of wine. The line at the check out is ridiculously long and the cashier is taking his sweet ol’ time, chatting with each customer. Rage boils in me just below the surface. I need to get this drink inside of me. I hold myself together, though, and act friendly and pleasant. I wonder if anyone here keeps tabs on how much alcohol I buy, I wonder to myself. I never buy more than one bottle at a time for two reasons. One is so I don’t look suspicious to anyone who might be noticing what I’m buying, and two is because only alcoholics ever buy tons of alcohol at a time. I don’t do that. I am not one of them.

It is Thursday morning. I wake up restless and hung over. Nothing different from the way I have woken up pretty much every morning for the past couple years. I ransack my brain for what I have left over from last night. Not even enough wine left to take the bite out of this monster headache. Then I remember poor old Larry. He is lonely and will be waiting for me at the stupid center for the meeting. I just do not want to go. But I feel bad for him so I drag myself out of bed and get dressed. I meet Larry there on time. He immediately introduces me to two women who take my hands and offer me a seat.

Why is everyone being so nice to me? I’m wondering, a little suspiciously. I can’t figure it out. The two women that took my hands are probably in their 50s, dressed professionally, one is wearing a suit. They are so put-together. There is no way these women were ever hard drinkers. I don’t want to trust them, but I can’t fight the way I feel with them holding my hands.

There is clarity and love in their eyes. I am at my breaking point. For the first time in my entire life I am completely honest with these women about the extent of my drinking and the depth of my despair. I don’t tell them about Saturday. I cry and cry and cry and talk and talk and talk. And they listen and bring me tissues. And they promise me that they do understand. They tell me they have been where I have been, have felt how I am feeling. They tell me it gets better. And they ask if I plan to go to the meeting here at the recovery center tonight. I tell them yes I can do that. And they say, “do you think you can not drink just for today, just until you get to that meeting?” And I get the smallest, faintest, feeling of hope, and a feeling of vague relief that I was not expecting. It feels good just not to have the secret anymore. I tell them yes I can do that. If they will let me drink tomorrow then I won’t drink today. And they tell me, “yes, you only have today. Only make a promise for today.”

It is Thursday night. I go to the meeting at the recovery center after work. I have kept my promise. My body feels excruciatingly sick and sweaty and yucky and weak without the usual alcohol in my bloodstream. I am physically shaking. The tears from this morning well up once more and I cry uncontrollably at the meeting. A couple of women I haven’t met before pull me over to sit by them. One is a crotchety old lady. I don’t like her. She tells me, “just don’t drink between meetings!” and I think, ah ha! That is your brainwashing secret! You tell people not to drink between meetings and then tell them to go to two meetings a day. Well if I do that forever and ever then I can’t ever drink! Screw that. I am out of here. I buy my wine on the way home.

It is Friday morning. I am at the recovery center again. Those same nice women from yesterday morning hold my hands again and sit next to me and listen to me. They tell me, “keep coming back. It gets better.” I let myself hear what they are saying. I look around the room. There are more than 50 people in here and they are all alcoholics or addicts of some kind. How on earth did all of them stop drinking?! I can’t see it, I don’t get it. But on the edge of my mind there is a whisper of an idea that maybe, just maybe there is something I can learn from this room, from these people who have done it.

It is Friday night. I did not drink today. It is torture. I am in hell. I pull my car into the turning lane to buy my red wine and cry and cry and cry until I force myself to pull my car out of the lane and go home instead. I cry and I wail and I weep inconsolably for hours alone at home. Am I going to do this thing tomorrow? Am I really going through with it? I tell myself if those nice women aren’t at the recovery meeting in the morning then that will be a sign that I should do it, get out of here, escape.

I can’t tell up from down anymore … and I am no longer sure whether I want to see them tomorrow morning or not.