About a month after I took my last drink, my somewhat confusing outpatient recovery program behind me, things fell apart. I was dating the mechanic/bodybuilder/stand-up comedian who had supported me through this process and I had just started a new job.
The job was perfect…on paper. I loved their work, they loved me. The interview process was a great, big love fest. We finished each other’s sentences, shared the same hopes and dreams. When I asked the standard question of Where do your employees go when they leave here?, the response was inspiring, They don’t quit; they just love working here.
On my first day, I was given the tour of the offices, including the room in which I was to punch in. Wait. What?
When you arrive in the morning, hit 5-2-3-in; and when you leave, hit 5-2-3-out.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen! I was in a salaried position, just a step down from the president and CEO of the company, and I was back to punching in my hours like I was 14 and working at Ye Olde Rockville Camera Shop. I therefore should not have been surprised to learn that our work space resembled a travel agent’s office (many desks, no divisions, no privacy), that the number of times I went to the ladies room was being closely monitored, and that our fearless leader managed employees much the way Henry VIII managed his wives.
Help me, Jesus, I’m in hell!
Three weeks into my sentence, I mean my job, my boyfriend went missing. Not flyer-on-telephone-pole missing, but I-left-my-phone-in-my-car-and-was-home-sick-for-5-days missing.
Once he re-emerged, we actually managed to patch things up for about 3 weeks before he broke up with me one Sunday morning…right before Valentine’s Day…in bed.
I awoke one late-February morning to the Regina Spektor song, Field Below:
I wish I’d see a field below
I wish I’d hear a rooster crow
But there are none who live downtown
And so the day starts out so slow
Again the sun was never called
And darkness spreads over the snow
Like ancient bruises
I’m awake and feel the ache
I was awake, and I felt the ache.
Had I the option of checking out with a bottle (or two) every night, I would have embraced that approach like a starving dog setting upon a scrap of meat. I could easily have spent much of the 10 months of my job from hell in a hazy stupor.
Had I the option to drink, however, I might not have learned something important about myself. I found out that I’m stronger than I thought. I felt all the pain, confusion, heartbreak, and uncertainty – without ever taking the edge off – and I didn’t die. Who knew?