Creative Nonfiction Drama Teens & Young Adult

Caution. This story is about an alcoholic and her struggles.

Exactly when it began in 2023, I can't remember. My dear wee cat Socks went missing on October 5th. This happened first.

I posted pictures and details around the neighborhood for someone to contact me if they found him dead or alive. No one replied or knew anything. I coped well at the time, but after several weeks of waiting for him to turn up, I accepted that he couldn't, or wouldn't, be coming home.

I missed him. I gave away his non-perishable food to neighbors who have cats. Maybe I should have had Socks neutered before? Male cats do wander, though he had never done so. His devotion had filled a void in my life. I had felt happy with my feline friend, a black tuxedo cat with a white front and socks.

This was the start.

October 28th

 I heard from my younger brother in another city. He had been diagnosed with cancer. He sounded optimistic. This didn't last. After his operation and while receiving Chemotherapy to hopefully irradicate any residual cancer cells, he had suffered. He rang several times and told me of his progress. His words were optimistic, but he felt ill and couldn't talk long.

I reflected on his situation. He has a loving wife and two children. He has done well for himself, having always been a diligent and kind young man. I, on the other hand, had been a source of grief to my family and friends, primarily to my mother and brother. My brother did not deserve to suffer. What I had done, on the other hand, merited extreme punishment. I had put them through hell.

My father had died in a hit-and-run accident when I was young. The worst tragedy is that he had been the drunk one behind the wheel of his car, who killed those in the oncoming vehicle. He paid for his crimes but had dragged innocent ones down with him. My Mother grieved for our father but more for the fact that his alcoholism had ruined his life, and so many others, for so long. She said it was a blessing he had died. Mother had always worked hard with nothing to show for it. She continued working, but now we had better food, and the home seemed brighter and happier.

As for me, I was so often in an alcohol-induced stupor I didn't feel the same anger and sorrow that my mother and brother felt over my father's demise. My aggressiveness and mood swings were blamed on grief over my father. Amazingly, they had my back and gradually assisted me to give up the bottle. They convinced me to go to the AA for help. I finally overcame my addiction and reclaimed my life. I vowed to never return to drink.

On October 29th, my mother rang me in tears. She had also heard about my brother's state of health. No mother ever wants a child to suffer in this way. I felt helpless. What could I say to her, except we hoped his treatment would be enough to cure him?

But it happened . . . I veered down the wrong road again. I can verbally blame it on my runaway cat and my brother's diagnosis, followed by my mother's despair. In my heart, I know the only one to blame is myself. I stopped the positive thinking, which kept me from wallowing in misery; I chose not to seek assistance; I bought the alcohol, I bought the tomato juice, I took it home, and combined and drank it. What is my poison? Vodka and tomato juice.

I'll explain how this happened. As a teen, I had already discovered how much better life felt when I used alcohol to deaden my feelings. I kept it a secret back then, even though I couldn't do without it. It helped me feel on top of things, but afterward, I'd end up more depressed than ever. I convinced an older girl to buy me the bottles of vodka, which I paid for out of carefully saved pocket and chore money. I carefully hid it in the back of my wardrobe. Smuggling the bottles inside and disposing of them outside became a careful ritual. I chose tomato juice because it's great in combination with vodka. Tomato juice is considered healthy. I spoke about how much I loved tomato juice, sauce, and anything with tomatoes. Pizzas, salads and sandwiches. My Mother thought nothing of me taking a glass and bottle of tomato juice into my room. She'd even buy me the odd bottle. My problem continued undetected for years.

After I left school, I stopped trying to hide my addiction. Eventually, I couldn't function until drunk, and by then, I had lost all ability to function at all. I'd sleep it off. My life became a complete waste.

Despite how I had slid down this slippery slope, I also felt remorse and shame. Yet the return of this daily life felt familiar, like a feeling of getting into a warm, fluffy bed. So comfortable. I could sleep away my sorrows without regret. I understood, in recent years, the brain chemistry behind it. My brain had been signaled to make more neurotransmitter receptors to maintain balance during my past binges to stimulate my central nervous system. Sounds exciting. However, when I stop drinking, I'm withdrawing from all of the past and more recent receptors, the very thing that stimulates them. This leads to an overactive nervous system. I then suffer a variety of symptoms I remember so well. It puts me off stopping. It should stop me from starting down this track each time. That's what I tell myself. Unfortunately, I forget the misery.

A.E. Houseman summed it up this way, "Ale man, ales the stuff to drink for fellows whom it hurts to think. Stare into the pewter pot to see the world as the world is not." I read this on the box of a pewter beer mug in a shop. I drink neither ale nor beer. But the sentiment is the same.

Another thing that didn't prevent me from ending up in this well-worn state of despair is the time of year. You'd have to be an addict to understand. People party in December. They overeat and drink vast quantities. Advertising is ramped up to show how a sparkling party atmosphere is achieved with alcoholic beverages.

The piles of empties accumulate. You walk past rubbish or recycle bins, and stale wine and beer odor assails the nostrils. Many are merry and tipsy. You can quickly feel lulled into the same spirit. No pun intended. Later, you arrive home to solitude . . . loneliness.

I already felt down. Even the superficial happiness of others did nothing to lighten my negative thoughts. I say 'superficial' because I know that the smiles on people's faces leading to Christmas can be a farce covering how they feel the rest of the year. Especially in January, when the bills and bank statements start coming in, some individuals are more or less destitute due to the greed and pressures of the very thing that made them happy. I knew what would cheer me up . . . even though I would also end up cent-less and senseless as a result of my excesses.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2024

A new year means a new me. I have made up my mind. 2024 is going to be better. My brother just rang to say his cancer is in remission. Thanks to God. I have made a clean sweep and thrown out all my bottles, full or empty. I scheduled an appointment with my doctor, who gave me a prescription for Gabapentin to carry me through the worst discomfort to come. I called on my mentor, Julia, to come over to check on me regularly. She had a key to get in. I hoped I wouldn't end up in rehab again. My fridge is stocked up with bottled water. I spent the day washing, cleaning, and airing my flat to distract myself. It smelt fresh and looked great. By that stage, I felt too nauseous to care.

Wednesday 2nd January

I am determined.

I feel 'tired' off and on but will rest without drugging myself. 'Tired' is what I tell people. The reality is far from this. The first three to four days are awful. I won't have the energy to map my progress in my diary. But I want to have a record to remember this. I don't want to descend this futile path to self-destruction again.

3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th of January. Written on January 6th.

During this time, I had anxiety, crankiness (just as well I live alone), nausea, palpitations, shakes, and sweats. When I felt overly hot, I sipped cold water frequently and held onto ice packs from my freezer. When I could, I slept. But dark thoughts filled my mind, and I woke up in a frenzy. I often lay awake, unable to sleep, dissolving in sweat.

Sunday 7th January

I am feeling much better. How could I have got myself into such a state again?

Monday, January 8th

Light nourishing foods are on the menu. I craved sweets, but they were no good for me. Neither is salt or fat at this time.

I shopped carefully, as my budget only allowed for a little variety. But I did eat chicken, fish, scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast, vegetables (even splashed out on asparagus, which I know is great for a detox), bananas, sunflower seeds, and berries. I ate small quantities of porridge topped with berries, for my breakfast. As I live in the Southern Hemisphere, Summer berries are prolific at this time of year. Yum.

Friday, January 12th

My friend Jasmin texted me. I had ignored her earlier texts. I'll ring her back tomorrow.

Saturday, January 13th

I rang Jasmin and apologized for not returning her earlier messages. She explained that she had rung my mentor, Julia, to confirm if I was well. Julia told her I had been dealing with some issues and she had patiently awaited my reply. She also said she needed my unit number. She hadn't been able to visit because I live in an extensive village of high-rise apartments in various buildings. The bell to alert me is at the gate, and one has to know which number to press. I replied that I wouldn't have answered and confessed to her what had happened. It felt good to express myself to someone else who has never judged me. I promised to see her soon and gave her my unit number so she could visit me. I need to be honest and include others in my life.

"You know we love you, Serenity. You are never alone. You only have to call on me when you need to talk. I appreciate your telling me the truth. I know you can do this," she said.

With friends like the ones I have, I know I can succeed. 2024 will be a great year. My diary, a lapse record, will remind me to follow a different path. It's just not worth it. Julia will ring me every day for the rest of this month to reassure me not to return to my vice. It's a crucial time for me.

A series of facts I will reflect on that will help stop my temptation as I observe the 'joy' of others at Christmas time is what their excesses do to the planet. There's a lot of talk about carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions. The excesses of Christmas are crippling our world for the year ahead, for our future survival.

Disposal of tons of fir trees tally up a substantial worldwide carbon footprint. Those who use artificial plastic trees need to use them for at least a decade to make up for the carbon footprint resulting from their manufacture. What about the dumping of tons of non-recyclable gift wrapping? Many toys given to children at Christmas are made of materials containing toxic chemicals. Many are discarded. They are often found still wrapped at the dump or in a recycling depot. Much of the festive food, provided in excess, is thrown out after a couple of days. Shops stock too much and later dump the leftover stock. Tons and tons of waste. The massive amount of extra travel of individuals and families going home to another part of the world at this time results in congestion and a vast excess of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation fuel. Christmas is a very un-merry time for our planet.

We should all make New Year's resolutions to care for our earth by making wise decisions all year. Wise choices about consumption and disposal of our acquisitions. Especially ones that perpetrate the damage to our planetary home.

I won't dwell on this to grind me down. It is food for thought and a reminder that happiness does not come from an alcoholic beverage or material goods. I will reflect on all the positive things in my life, including my friends. I am resolute.

January 19, 2024 04:45

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22:05 Jan 20, 2024

LOL. I wrote it that way so that the initial reaction of a reader is, oh dear, her father died and we can feel sorry for him. It's a case of making it seem like one thing but then the next sentence changes everything about it. Sorry to confuse. But the accident was his fault and he killed others. He figuratively ran away because he was also dead and didn't have to face his crime. Maybe I should put the phrase hit and run with ' '. Thanks for reading.


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Mary Bendickson
11:44 Jan 19, 2024

I am trying to understand how someone can die in a hit and run when he was behind the wheel that killed the occupants in the other vehicle? Who ran? Anyway a journey of self- discovery and healing. Painful to share so thank you for doing so. Thanks for liking my 'Too-cute Mix-up' and 'Match-Up'


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