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Published February 2015.

Lucy Amongst the Stars

She came back down to earth in Los Angeles one dawn after a night of drinking

As a teenager, I vehemently condemned drinking, smoking, and drugging. I was a high-achieving academic honoree; I participated in all the afterschool activities my schedule would permit—in short, I was a model student. To the outside world, I was a well-rounded and morally upstanding kid; inside, I was felt alienated from my peers and critical of everything I said or did.

I thought of my different personas in theatrical terms. Stars and understudies. My first role as The Real Lucy came during a weekend away visiting my then-boyfriend's older brother at college. Maybe it was being away the theater of my usual life that gave me the courage or freedom to drink the way I drank that weekend. Or maybe it was all up to the Booze Fates; maybe I was meant to get nice and toasted that weekend.

I drank my first beer, and followed it up with five or six more in the tight span of an hour. I lit up inside. It was as though I had regained consciousness after a long sleep after a terrible accident. I loved it. The innumerable cups of jungle juice that followed did not quite bring that same warm fuzzy glow: I blacked out; flirted with frat boys in front of my boyfriend; and in conclusion, wretched all over our host's apartment.

Alcohol wasn't working for me from the first day, but in my perfectionism, I thought I could improve upon it just as I had everything else in my life.

I pulled my first of a dozen geographics when I went to college several states away from home. The distance gave me the security and comfort to spend my evenings ripping shots of vodka and hanging out with the party-throwing seniors. While I was drunk, I could talk to guys and persuade them to like me. As a habitué of those parties, I inadvertently stumbled into the "hook-up" scene on campus. The first night I spent with a man was after one of those parties. Each morning after a concerted effort to party myself into another dimension, I would be filled with shame at the previous night's dalliances. Throughout the years, my drinking became inextricably bound to my unhealthy behavior with men.

Meanwhile, amidst all of this party shame, I created a pattern of advancing and retreating at each new place I went to. I transferred to the college where my twin sister was a student in the hope that I could start anew and lessen the loneliness I felt.

In the years after college, I hit a few major cities trying to get right with myself. I practiced my scorched earth policy in New York City, Orlando, Richmond, Tampa and LA. As soon as I arrived, I'd waste no time making myself the center of the local bar scene. But then, I'd quickly grow tired of whatever political campaign I was working on that brought me to that city; of whomever I was dating; and of whatever group of friends I had infiltrated as a drunken imposter. My restlessness would fuel me, and I'd leave these places, people, and things like a thief in the night, stealing away without a goodbye. I was so full of the romance of my own life that I felt like a bright comet lighting up the skies of these cities—burning too brightly to come down anywhere, for anyone.

My leap to the west coast would prove to be more "spectacular" than any other move before. I rocketed myself right to the bottom. It's almost as if my higher power led me to Los Angeles, a city sparkling with starlets, dreamers, vagrants and an inordinate amount of booze and drugs.

I hit bottom one night when my drinking brought on a massive and debilitating anxiety attack. I stayed up until the wee hours of morning drinking alone and listening to maudlin music, as was my custom. I had grown used to navigating the circuitous routes of lies I would map for my bosses the next day.

Ususally, I was able to suffer through all-day staff meetings, canvasses or trainings. That night, seemingly like so many others, ushered me into a new kind of agony I had never experienced. It was the eve of an important work event, and I broke down and uttered the words I had never knew I needed to say: "I cannot do this anymore."

At the time, I had no idea what I was even referring to. The next day, having slept through multiple alarms, calls from coworkers, and a friend's failed attempts to shake me awake, I knew I had crossed into complete loss of control.

Two nights after my supernova breakdown, I called a friend who was about to celebrate her thirteenth year of sobriety and spoke a set of words whose truthfulness I barely understood: "I am an alcoholic."

I drank for two more days saying goodbye to what I thought had brought me closer to being a star.

A couple of days later, that friend took me to my first AA meeting in Santa Monica, where I was welcomed with open (and very tanned) arms. Today, I am four months and a few days sober. I practice rigorous honesty. I listen to my sponsor and follow her direction. I let faith guide me when I cannot see a clear path ahead. I practice being of service at every meeting I can. I work the Steps and I call people with less time than I.

And, I have been introduced to my higher power, one whom I picture in the likeness, style and voice of David Bowie. I am grateful to that higher power for continuing to set me free from perfection.

 

-- Lucy M.

Los Angeles, California

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