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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Renken

Going Stag

Booze and pills seemed like the ideal dates until I realized that made me a fool and a liar.

My two regular dates.

One, the comfortable companion that was always welcomed among friends and business associates, no matter how much it humiliated me. The other, a clandestine partner that actually had a bigger piece of my heart, but one I kept out of sight because of the judgment that would ensue if our relationship were to become public.

You won't find many people who would tell you that they knew I had a drinking problem. In fact, I'm fairly confident that you would find more people who would say that my self-diagnosis of alcoholism is an overreaction to a few bad experiences.

They would tell you that I can't be an alcoholic because booze never cost me a job. In fact, they would point out that I have had great success at all of my jobs. (Except waiting tables--I apologize to everyone who's still waiting on a salad.)

I never put my child at risk. (Never mind the number of times I put other people's children at risk when I was driving home after a drink or ten.)

None of my relationships ever ended on account of the bottle. (Let's not discuss the relationships that never started on account of the bottle, thanks to my first-date performances.)

And by all (okay, most) outward appearances, I didn't have a problem. I simply "let loose" when I went out. I was the poster child for working hard and playing hard--and besides, isn't that what lawyers are known for?

My behavior wasn't all that different from that of a lot of the people I kept company with. I was a fun-loving girl with fun-loving friends.

I heard all of the reassurances--and would repeat them to myself every time I woke up sweating regret and self-loathing.

But what those people don't understand is this: I didn't want to let loose. I didn't want to play hard. You're talking about someone who has spent her entire life trying to get people to love and respect her. I would never intentionally sabotage those efforts.

The last thing I want is for someone to see me out of control.

No doubt the first couple of drinks were to loosen up, but anything after that was always--always--a source of regret.

The night that my friends had to shower me after they found me lying in my own vomit? I just wanted to start the night with a glass of wine and a bath before my date picked me up. A bottle of Chianti later, he got to my house and we left to officially start the New Year's celebration. No part of me was okay with my friend's husband having to lift me out of the shower at the end of the night. I had no intention of letting loose that night.

That time I woke up the morning after my boss's holiday party with no recollection of anything that happened after I got to his house? It started with a pre-party drink to get comfortable before heading into a room full of people whose respect I craved.

Mission not accomplished.

So while my friends and acquaintances welcomed the alcohol and (usually) weren't offended by what it did to me, I was offended by it. I was offended that I couldn't stop once I started. I hurt every time I woke up with only a fuzzy recollection of the night before. I hated me for my lack of control--even if they didn't.

Because alcohol is the beloved. How many times have I said that you can't trust someone who doesn't drink?

Vicodin, however, was an entirely different story. People who pop pills are never just cutting loose. People who abuse narcotics have serious issues.

So Vicodin was my dirty little secret.

No one even knew when it was there.

Not at client functions (it made me more engaging in a crowd).

Not at Disney World (it made happy times even happier).

And certainly not when I met with my AA sponsor (an incredible help in opening up about my alcohol).

The beauty of it was in its discretion. Just a quick slight-of-hand followed by a sip of tea, and it was there. Invisible to everyone but me.

But while booze made an ass out of me, Vicodin made me a liar. And a thief.

It made me lie to doctors about my (supposed) pain. It made me lie to my husband about how much I was taking. It made me lie to myself about why I was taking it.

Secrecy breeds dishonesty.

No one's prescription was safe. If there was a bottle narcotics within reach, the pills were fair game. I would find a way to get them, and it was never by asking for permission.

My two regular dates. My two partners. Two well-deserved break-ups.

Going stag from here on out.


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