I used to spend a lot of time drinking alone in bars. On a daily basis. I told myself that only sad alcoholics drink alone at home. This somehow made my addiction feel slightly less pathetic. I would sometimes rotate locations on different days of the week so as not to arouse suspicion. I would spend hours pretending I was working hard on my computer because I was going to solve human trafficking. I was going to end world hunger. Me. News flash ... I wasn’t working.
I was watching So You Think You Can Dance.
I snacked on copious amounts of free peanuts and downed my long islands and Pabst Blue Ribbons, because if I was going to be an alcoholic at least I was going to be a classy one. I would stare into my computer and dream about the life I could be living. The life I should be living. If only I weren’t me.
People go to the bar for a myriad of reasons. Mine were fairly obvious in hindsight: 1. I was lonely. 2. I was hurting. 3. I needed both to stop. And this seemed to be the best and most immediate solution to both problems.
So it became my second home. A family of complete strangers. My sanctuary. The place where I watched other people live their lives. And I lived vicariously through them. College students getting plastered, obsessed sports fans following their teams to victory or defeat, scantily clad bachelorettes enjoying a final night of unwedded bliss, people past their prime celebrating high school reunions and local regulars coming to drown their daily sorrows. And in some strange way it was the only place I felt comfortable. Accepted.
I recognize now that it wasn’t actually real. But at the time it was as real as I could get. I knew the bar tenders and the servers. I even knew a few of the other regulars. But I didn’t really talk to them. To them, I was a local girl with a lot of work and studying to do. Not a lot of time to chat. And besides, in my mind I was better than them. They sat at the bar. I sat in a booth. I had convinced myself this difference in geography somehow mattered.
I needed room for my computer and all my books if I was going to save the world.
I needed room for my pride. My massive ego. My denial.
I drank so much that my tolerance was that of a football line backer. I could drink a Frat boy under the table. And to my eternal shame, I would drive home like it was just any old week night. Because for me, it was. And that is why we are called functioning alcoholics. We look normal.
We are not normal. We are far from normal.
People drink to drown their sorrows. Numb the pain. Dull the senses. And while it does work that way, in many regards, drinking is a lot like administering truth serum. It lowers your inhibitions. Usually by the time I got home I was inebriated and would fall asleep sobbing. Crying out to God. And the irony is that, without the alcohol, I would probably be dead. It was a self medication that saved my life. A crutch.
It always, always, always, ended with me on my knees before the Lord. Just me and God.
So somehow, in all that time, even though I was alone, I was not alone. I was never really alone. As I was drowning in the misery of my life, God was there too, gently reminding me. I have always been acutely aware of his hand in my life. His overwhelming presence.
Especially in the darkness.
If you have spent any time reading the Psalms or studying King David you would know that this man was flawed. Seriously flawed. And I’m fairly certain bi-polar. In the space of one paragraph he could raise the heavens and then burn an entire kingdom to the ground. And yet he was “a man after God’s own heart.” My take? He had conversations with God like they were sitting in a bar doing shots. But the only thing on the menu was truth. He chased after him in absolutely every aspect of his life. Not just when things were going his way.
I don’t drink anymore but God is still the best drinking buddy I ever had. Our hang time just looks a little different now. And what have I learned? I am not him. I am me. I am human. Fallible. And I am learning when to give myself a break. For his beautiful grace that resides in me to do its work. For the Holy Spirit to make me whole again. Where alcohol could not.
And yes, I still watch So You Think You Can Dance.
*picture above taken in 2008 at bar referenced in blog.