April MARCH 28, I woke up with the realization that I needed to quit drinking for good.
For the subsequent 28 days, I felt sick, tired, achy, angry, dizzy, confused, melancholy, hopeless, useless, moody, drowsy and restless, anxious, disinterested, dejected, disoriented, unfocused, scared, and completely lost.
I had hoped for ebullience, euphoria and boundless energy, but was sorely mistaken. Only now, 28 days later, do I feel mostly human and nearly whole. My spirits also lifted by the birth of Everett who joins Beckett and Lilly and David as lights out of the darkness.
Despite the wretched feelings, I never once lost my resolve. When things were at their worst, I rested my body and head as best I could. Stepping out of work to sit in the shade and enjoy the desert breeze. Drinking as much water as I could. Letting myself drift in and out of the awful brain-fog as if it were time travel instead of a hellish reality.
One early morning, I was sipping my beloved coffee, and watching a CNN report about the last male white rhino on the planet. THE LAST ONE. He is guarded by armed soldiers in central Kenya. He has two female companions nearby and two others live elsewhere. A total of five left in the whole world.
I drifted back to 1987 when I was drinking big lukewarm Tusker beers on the lawn at the White Rhino Hotel in Nyeri. How did I get from rural Kenya to downtown Abu Dhabi?
Twenty-eight years of beers.
I was on the verge of extinction too.
Making my own comeback has been exhausting to say the least. I had a headache that lasted five days, heart palpitations that nearly sent me to the hospital, crying jags that hurt my eyeballs, and a desperate need for chocolate bars. I can’t concentrate on anything anyone is saying. I even told my boss that “his words made my ears full.” Fortunately, he thought it was funny.
The scariest thing of all, though, is that I haven’t felt like writing. Unfortunately, for a lot of writers, drinking is part of the package. Alcohol used to take me to another head space where I could roam untethered for a while. Cocktails were also a nice end to a long day of writing, or heck, any day — all of which were long.
Now my days don’t stop at 5 o’clock, they just flow one after another. They also seem to pass faster. I think waiting all day for a drink makes the day drag on and on. I will admit that it’s a lot harder to fall asleep now, though. I turn over about 48 times and sweat from every pore and sometimes cry, but once I finally drift off I don’t snore anymore!
I still worry a lot. Maybe even more. I used to be able to count on at least 4 hours of numbness before bedtime. Oh well. I feel braver, though. In fact, I feel quite tough. Better equiped to deal with my worries. I’m not entirely sure what I’m worried about — other than the death and suffering of those I love and even those I don’t know. Instead of making ongoing donations to Napa Valley, I’m giving a little of the money I’m saving by not drinking to the life-saving organization known as Doctors Without Borders.
I have to say that Allan and David have been amazing even though I have been the snappiest and grouchiest lady in their lives lately. Allan quietly removed all our booze and gave it to his pals. In the evenings, he sips club soda and lime with me. Almost daily, he brings flowers and little gifts home to lift my spirits. A few days ago, apropos of nothing, David told me how proud he was of me for not drinking. He also pointed out that my pants are looser.
And since my announcement post, 21 days ago, I’ve received some wonderful emails of support and a few letters from folks in the same boat. Those pieces of correspondence have gone a long way in helping me cope.
Since I’m not going out much, I’ve only had one instance of social discomfort. I was at a BBQ at the home of David’s friend. I didn’t know her parents or the other guests, who were all very nice and from all over the world. One of the women asked me if I’d like a beer and I declined. I think I told her that I stopped drinking or that I didn’t like it. I’m not sure what came out of my mouth exactly. Maybe it wasn’t English.
“Poor you,” she said.
Nope. Lucky me, I thought. I’m free. No longer self-medicated. No longer addicted. No longer in a losing battle.
But it took every single second in a 28-day battle to get this far. And the payoff is finally in my sights.
I’m excited about the next 28 days and the 28 after that: watching my son participate in events like the Gulf International Model United Nations, as he is this weekend; giving India a second chance to let me into the country, in May; hugging the grandchildren, in mid June; writing a book about being Middle Aged in the Middle East, whenever and wherever I feel like it.