Drinking was my catharsis—releasing me from my thoughts and allowing me to move through my emotions. Alcohol allowed me to forget my debilitating insecurities and feel “whole.” When I quit drinking, I sought food and exercise to fill that void. I needed some external purpose. I craved a rush and I couldn’t conquer the day without some form of gratification. Obsessing over my physical appearance distracted me from my alcoholism and provided me with that purpose.
I took the picture on the left hours before I fell off the wagon. For two months, I was clutching the wagon, barely hanging on. Physically sober, but mentally ill, I struggled with depression and an eating disorder. My external composure was in direct opposition to the chaos inside me. I lived for the pride garnered from obsessive control over my physique.
I was dry. In my mind, no drinking meant no problems. I failed to recognize drinking was the solution and the problem was my thinking. Without the bottle, the solution, the problems remained.
The word “purpose” plagued me. What was I doing with my life? I couldn’t even stay sober for two consecutive months. Obtaining a career, a husband and a white picket fence was not on my short list. Although I despised the idealized, superficial perfection symbolized by white picket fences, I was holding onto my own version of this fantasy. I perused social media and wondered: are these people actually happy? I was miserable but tried damn hard to make others believe I was happy.
On Instagram, I fixated on other people’s accomplishments—buying homes, popping out kids and traveling the world. I couldn’t even afford a pair of Nikes. I compared myself to complete strangers not even knowing if they were happy or not. According to my Instagram, I was a jet-setting, home-owning, gym rat. I rocked my Brother Jimmy’s tee and snapped this selfie. In reality, I was 25 years old and barely staying afloat. I was living large when my bank account maxed out at four digits.
After work, I planned to walk to the grocery store to get ingredients for dinner. My spirits were high because I had the following few days off. As I walked past the liquor store, a little voice whispered in my ear, “What if I got a little bottle?” I fantasized sipping wine and channeling Chef Brittany. I could “wine down” and emulate my friends on social media. In that split-second I forgot about my alcoholism. By the time I caught my delusion, I was in too deep: I was in the liquor store, romanticizing the stale-cardboard smell and carpet must. I craved the escape and yearned for detachment.
I couldn’t wait. The pint of Smirnoff was burning a hole in the bag. I took a swig right before I entered the grocery store. My anxiety transformed into carefree bliss. I trotted down the aisles feeling peppy and light. In that moment, I didn’t care how much I weighed or how much money I made. My future didn’t phase me, I was instantly gratified.
I drank the entire (long) weekend. Sobriety blown, it was all or nothing. By day four I was alone in my dark room. I woke up with a puffy face, deep bags under my eyes, and scaling, dry skin. My body couldn’t handle any more alcohol; my mind couldn’t handle any more reality. It was a tortuous cycle.
The picture on the right illustrates this withdrawal. The proof is in the photo, I was miserable. Every high was accompanied by a low. This realization was difficult to digest.
Behind the smile is a girl feeling inadequate. Her body is a veneer masking inner pain. Instead of finding herself, she finds Instagram. She compares herself to people who seemingly “have it all.” She acknowledges social media is an illusion, yet perceives this fantasy as reality.