Monday, November 16, 2009

so i can drink today, right? KIDDING...

One year ago today, I checked into a residential facility for the treatment of alcohol addiction.
Doesn't that sound dramatic!?!
I can assure you that it was. And so here, on the one-year anniversary of my sobriety, I’ll tell you about that day because quite frankly, you've earned it. 
I spent the night before at my parents’ house, a duffel bag at the foot of the bed and a glass of wine on the nightstand beside me. I’d had my last martinis with Hastings at Mill Valley’s Balboa CafĂ© and needless to say, I did not sleep a wink.
Very much like sleep-away camp, I was emailed a list of things to bring with me. A toothbrush? Yeah, I got it.
I’d gone to the Gap Body the day before and purchased what I deemed a “rehab outfit” of blacks and greys. I had lots of sweaters one could wrap around oneself as Sandra Bullock had done in the film, 28 Days. But as I got closer and closer to actually checking in, I didn’t care about the toothbrushes or the sweaters or the gigantic Queen size down comforter and coordinating pillows I got to take with me. I stopped caring about the fabulous magazines my friends had packed me and I didn’t care about the journals my family in Pennsylvania had mailed me, where I’d write down my funny stories and chronicle my courageous struggle.
On that morning, I really, really, really would have done anything not to go.
My parents and I got in the car at 11:30am and I don’t really remember if we talked that much on the hour and a half drive to St. Helena. It was horrible. Just imagine it. My parents had to drive their 30-year old daughter to fucking rehab. We finally got there and parked right in front. I think someone said, “Here we go.” It’s all a bit of a blur. Honestly, that drive and that moment of arrival were so painful, I kinda want to stop trying to remember.
I do remember walking up the stairs of St. Helena Hospital and to the front desk of the rehab unit, where we were met by my favorite counselor, Jim. “Well look who showed up!” He yelled at us.
My mother tried to laugh. I thought my father was going to have a heart attack. He didn’t know where to look or what to say. Jim kept talking. “I have worked here for 20 years and I have never seen anyone bring this much stuff. Leave it here. You need to go downstairs to the business office and register.”
Rehab, just like everything else in America, is a business. It costs as much as a Ford Escort. Jim called downstairs and assured us someone would be up in a moment to escort us. It is in moments like these that God always tries to make the situation a little bit worse, just to drive the point home. Much to my horror, the guy that came to escort us to the business center was gorgeous. He was just my age, preppy, cute and speaking very softly as he asked me about my emergency contacts and how I’d like to be paying. My emergency contacts peeked their heads into the business office and passed me a credit card.
“You guys can go back upstairs now.” He said. “Do you want me to walk you?”
“NO!” I screamed it more than I meant to, but no. I did not need Jim Halpert to see any more of me on the worst day of my life.
Back upstairs we went, to Jim at the front desk. “Okay, my dear. Paperwork is good.” He looked up at us and smiled. “Mom and Dad, let’s get this over with. We don’t like the family to hang out. We’re going to need you to leave.”
My mother, my father and I all started to pretend not to cry.
“She’ll be running this place before you know it.” Jim said. “You say your goodbyes and I’ll go rent a moving van to transport everything Beth owns.”
The moment before I had to hug my parents goodbye was worse than actually hugging them goodbye. But the entire experience was sad and horrific and emotional. We hugged, we cried and they left.
I have no idea how they handled their drive home, but I hope they went and got a drink.
The absolute first thing that happened, now that I was all alone and officially in rehab, was that Jim said, “Let’s take your picture!”
I thought he was kidding. But no, they take one’s picture as a means of keeping track of who’s who. So with tears streaming down my face and onto my Gap Body rehab ensemble, Jim made me stand next to elevators while he took a Polaroid.
Instinctively, I smiled.
Next, I went into this small, private office with Jim where he asked me a million questions. Like, how much I drink, what I drink, do I do drugs, what drugs… and he kept saying, “I’ve heard everything. You can’t shock me. Just tell me the truth.”
So I did. I was really honest about what I was drinking and how much, which was everything and constantly. And I managed to convince him that I wasn’t into drugs, which is true. I would much rather kill myself with a cocktail than anything else. Once we were done, a nurse came in and did a bunch of medical tests on me. They took my blood pressure (which was through the roof, I was so freaked out) and they gave me a blood test, where they apparently checked for “the works.” I was incredibly healthy, they said later, except for my liver. My liver was in really shitty shape.
Jim had asked me when I’d enjoyed my last drink (he may have put it differently) and as it was within 24 hours of my checking in, he decided I should head up to detox on the 4th Floor. I was told to hang out in the lobby for awhile and they’d let me know when my hospital room was ready.
I think I read magazines. The time seemed to fly because the next thing I knew, this big orderly had piled all of my luggage onto a wheelchair and instructed me to follow him. Detox is just like a regular part of the hospital. There were phones and TV’s, both of which were forbidden in rehab. I was given a hospital gown and told to watch TV until instructed otherwise. I was too much in shock and horror to really pay attention to anything. I remember I just kept thinking, “I’m not going to die.” I had to keep telling myself that (seriously, I really did) because I just could not imagine anything worse than where I was right then and I had no idea what would happen. I was absolutely terrified. 
Soon, a nurse came in and introduced herself.
“I need to go through your things, honey.”
Yeah. They really search your stuff for drugs and booze. And it’s not a half-assed search, either. Everything was unfolded and then shaken, as if tiny bottles of Absolut would tumble onto the bed and my jig would be up.
“Alright, we’re done. You have so much stuff!” She smiled at me. “We’re going to give you some Librium. It works much the way that alcohol does in that it’ll take the edge off.”
She immediately handed me two pills and a cup of water, a la One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I could not have been more delighted. “I’ll be here ‘till 8 and then Paul comes on for the overnight. We’ll give you Librium every 4 hours, but if you need more, just ask. I’m right down the hall. Here’s a menu. You can order whatever you want. Okay?”
I put my huge comforter over the bed and pulled the hospital gown over the Gap Body separates. I placed my magazines on the nightstand and called my brother from the bedside phone. I read him the hospital food menu and we decided I should order the chicken salad sandwich on a croissant, mainly because it came with couscous. I looked out the window and watched dusk hit the vineyards. (The Librium was kicking in.) I turned on the TV as my food arrived and sat on top of the bed, with one of those hospital dining table things in front of me and clicked the channels through to CNN.
Miraculously, I had managed to check into rehab on the 30th Anniversary of Jonestown. And CNN was giving this exciting and tragic mass suicide the full treatment.
That evening, in my own little hospital room, on what was a pretty goddamn horrible day, I slowly started to learn the first lesson of this journey.
Because I could not have been more thankful for CNN’s vintage coverage of Jonestown that night. Jackie Spear and her gunshot wounds discussing lying on a landing strip for 22 hours? Not only was this distraction fascinating, it kinda put my situation into perspective. And that was it. Day 1. November 16th, 2008. A year ago. Today…

If you’re around the City and County of San Francisco this evening, my (amazing, incredible, stunning and brilliant) friends will be helping me celebrate my Soberversary at Rye from 6-9. And I think I'm going to read a story (at around 7) about the night in treatment I had a total meltdown and tried to punch a hole in the wall! You are more than welcome to swing by and join us. In a bar. Gasp. 

*Also, THIS is the official song of my Soberversary. And yes, funny you should ask. It IS from Queer as Folk. 


Be_Devine said...

And 28 days later, a new, even more gorgeous, vivacious, and funny Beth walked out the doors. . . So, so proud of you!

Melissa said...

I love that we can sit at brunch and laugh about how hilariously horrifying it would be if you fell of the wagon at your Soberversary party.

Greg said...

I can't make it as we're in league mode for trivia, and my team is 1 person short so I can't bail. But I'll be there in spirit and think you are way totally awesome, as always.

Evan said...

Weird how Senator Mark Leno can make your very special Soberversary but N Judah is too busy with Pub Quiz. Thanks for letting us all know Greg!

I kid, I kid.
I'll be there, Spotswood. And I love you and am so fuckin' proud.

Natalie said...

What an inspiring person you are to share your story. Thank you.

Amused said...

I am so impressed with the sharing of your story this past year. Congrats on your courage and here's to your continued success!

LilSass said...

Dollface, I've been reading you for ages and I am so happy you shared this with us today. (Did I just speak on behalf of the internets?) ....
At any rate, I am toasting to you tonight. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Sooo proud of you, Beth. XOXOXOXO

-Uncle Ted.

Anonymous said...

Super applause for your soberversary - but also, also, also - I cannot wait to read what you have to say about the Nathan Ballard resignation! Yay.

Mousqueton said...

You go girl!!!

Did I mention that in the jungle there is indigenous root completely safe and natural that makes water taste like a martini but has no alcohol?

Just kidding... if there was such a root I would be selling it like hot cakes.

You are one tough cookie and make all of us who follow you very proud.


Clair said...

Happy Soberversary! I couldn't make it to Rye, but I'm hoping I can soon buy the book.

HappyRachael said...

Congratulations! Hope tonight went well and was a celebration of all things Beth!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and for sharing your story with such humor and honesty...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and for sharing your story with such humor and honesty...

Anonymous said...

Yay Beth! Congrats! I look forward to reading more of your fascinating story. You're my #1 blog read each day. You never disappoint. Keep on truckin'!

Anonymous said...

Beth, your performance tonight was incredible. To look around that bar and see famous bloggers and Senators and socialites all giving you a standing ovation was so exciting. That you for inviting me to share in your extraordinary life.
And I got to meet Bevan!

Cat O'Mara said...

Congratulations on one year! That is an amazing accomplishment and very inspirational! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

go Beth! totally inspirational and hysterical, as usual.

all the best.

tenderloinstew said...

If rehab worked for you, great. But for the benefit of anyone still struggling, I just wanted to mention that you don't have to spend a fortune to get sober. Just go to the meetings, put a buck or two in the basket (if you can spare it) and do what they tell you to do. If you're ready and sincere, you'll make it.

Happy birthday!