Fear of Addiction and the Fall Into Alcoholism

My mother was an addict. From my oldest memories, I remember the distinctive smell of weed. People say you can’t get addicted to pot, but I can’t believe that she wasn’t. In later years, she would become a severe alcoholic. Add to this her mental illnesses – too many to list – and her frequent physical and mental abuse of me and her three other children, and it’s easy to see why I’m not fond of resembling her in any way.

When I was doing some of my early research into transition, reading about Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS), a frequently repeated statement was that you will usually end up looking like your mother or your sister. That single statement terrified me far more than any point yet, including the fact that I may well end up a statistic because some person decides that they despise trans women. My revulsion to my mother is so strong that, well, even saying “my mother” was a very difficult statement to make for many years – I only called her Sue from when I was freed of her, and until around two years ago. I intend to take a picture of my mother in her younger years (as I’ve been told she more closely resembles Emperor Palpatine now) when I consult my surgeon and say “Make me look like anything but this.”

Anyway, until I was probably 20, I never really drank much of anything. I did inherit a love of wine from her, though she would probably prefer the kind that your average cheap whore would, while I have taken a distinct pleasure in the variety and the finer wines. When I was younger, I’d have a half a glass or so of wine at family parties, but never drank heavier than that.  In college – SUNY Oneonta no less, a well known party school! – I only drank one time, when a senior named Dicky offered me some of his signature drink, Dicky Mix. Imagine every alcohol you can get your hands on, mixed with a packet of Kool-Aid, in a Big Gulp cup, mostly filled. It tasted great, actually, but that was because I couldn’t taste the alcohol. I just had a sip, thanked him, and he went back to his room.

My first experience drinking beer (well, aside from the time my mother’s brother gave me a drink when I was like five telling me it was soda – I spit it back out on him) was at a neighbor’s party when I was 20 or so. Up until that point,  I’d never had a beer, and didn’t even like the smell of it. Over the next year and a half of knowing him, I found an affinity for beer, in relatively limited quantities, anyway. A few of them per party wasn’t really an issue, and it helped me relax enough to be made fun of by his Mexican family and not feel too self conscious (pre-transition – I was just the gringo at the party and got initiated into the ways of everything from drinking to dominoes). Mostly dominoes, though.

Anyway, as I grew and moved on in life, alcohol never troubled me much, except that I would now drink two or more glasses of wine at family parties. Eventually I would drink up to 7 beers in around an hour and a half at an underground comedy show in NYC where the beer was included in the price of admission. I realized very early on that I was decidedly an I Love You drunk, but this ended up being only a precursor to realizing that, in fact, I was simply an emotional drunk. I remember once sobbing my eyes out at a bar with a friend about the space shuttle, Challenger, and the loss of the Columbia.

Ok, so, I was a VERY emotional drunk. And still a very very geeky one. Mind you, I was not three when the Challenger was lost, and Columbia was a few years before this particular story. Despite incidents like this, I would issue forth no greater resolution than the typical “I need to quit drinking” as I shambled back to the subway. I meant nothing of it, and I didn’t need to as far as I knew.

Fast forward a few years. I was beginning my transition, and my girlfriend had dumped me as a result of that. I wasn’t out to a lot of people, and because of that, and many other things, I was getting gradually more depressed, and I was starting to drink at home, alone.  Often, I went straight for liquor, skipping the beer entirely. Southern Comfort indeed provided some, and Jack was always willing to listen to my troubles. Despite these obvious warning signs, I ignored the problem and continued to drink.

On one side, my life bloomed rather remarkably. I was quickly becoming a very adept trans woman, and nothing in my life had felt so right up until that time. I learned quickly how to dress and do makeup. I had modified my stride almost from the beginning, having watched the subtleties of the movements of women for years. Buried deep in my recollection, under mountains of the ruins of the man I pretended to be, I can remember walking down empty hallways, practicing swinging my hips, and putting on my best feminine stride.

On the other hand, my life self-destructed so rapidly, I couldn’t catch my breath. I watched as my family members increasingly looked at me sidelong, having said something remarkably stupid at a party, and their anger or shock about my behavior grew. To counter this, my already very egotistical projected persona grew only more self-assured and thoroughly insufferable. Rather than trying to explain, or change, or even just talk, I fed the monster I’d become, and buried my face in a wine glass.

Most nights, I’d drink, and many of those nights, I’d end up drinking myself to sleep. I was lucky – I rarely drank more than a few shots or beers, so I think my liver came out of it relatively OK, but it didn’t matter, I was doing myself far more harm than good. By day, I was relatively able to keep up appearances, while inside I was falling apart. Torn between the woman I knew I was and wanted to show the world, and the man I’d shown them for so long, it was like watching your own reflection in a shattering mirror.

Eventually, I sought help in the form of my one time LCSW, and he started doing some work with me. It wasn’t enough, and I knew that. Figuring it was only a matter of time until things imploded, I reached out in desperation to a friend. I was terrified to scare her, because though she is a psychiatrist, she’s also my friend, and had accepted me into her home. Knowing she wouldn’t take me as her patient as a friend, I asked her to help me find someone to talk to. A few days later, she came back with a recommendation.

I started as a client in serious therapy with the psychiatrist she recommended to me a few weeks after initially becoming a client with him. He helped me to begin the long process of healing, and with the gradual process of titrating my medications, I began to feel OK at the end of the day. Less and less I needed or even wanted the alcohol.

I was far from perfect now, but I was also much better. Over the period of a year or so, I would slip every so often, but eventually, the lessons sank in. My final serious brush with alcoholism was the night of the Super Bowl this year. My roommate was out at a party, and I was home alone. Our TV hadn’t been set up yet, so I couldn’t even watch the game. What I heard instead was the sounds of a party going on next door, listening to the shouts and cheers, and all it said to me was that this was another party I wasn’t invited to or welcome at.

Nobody wanted to be with me, nobody liked me, and I was an outcast, plain and simple. Going to my cabinet, I found a bottle of liquor I’d still held onto for some reason. My roommate kept soda in the fridge all the time, so I took a bottle of it, and I began to mix it with my liquor. Quickly, I went through three or four of these drinks, all doubtless much stronger than a typical mixed drink. In virtually record time, I was wasted, and more depressed than I started.

I was a coward, in addition to my depression, as well as remarkably vain about my appearance.  Finally, it was time to finish this properly. Going back to my room, I cried for probably half an hour, and decided on my course of action. I took a needle I had from my estrogen injections, and I disposed of the syringe attached to it. Calmly, I inserted it into a vein on my left wrist, and unlike the first time I tried this, I pushed through the pain and the fear and found the vein. Blood quickly filled the top of the needle’s Luer-Lok, and then just dribbled out the side, rather unremarkably.

When it occurred to me that my attempt wasn’t going to work, horror rapidly set in as I realized what I was doing. I pulled the needle out, tossing it in my sharps container, and wrapping my wrist in a wad of paper towel. Stopping the bleeding, my wrist began to swell and turn a deep purple as my blood filled my skin, leaving an awful bruise. I bandaged it, and then took some time to lie down and collect myself. I cried more, and slowly came to a realization – I didn’t want to die, and I didn’t want to drink anymore, either.

I put that empty bottle of liquor on my kitchen counter the next morning, and told my roommate that it needed to remain there. It was my reminder of that horrible night, and what alcohol does to me. Today, I’m much healthier – I drink exceedingly rarely, and for about four months was completely sober. I still toy with the idea of going completely sober, and maybe I will yet. And believe me, I am still alive.

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