When booze stopped working, she felt more alienated than ever
Two weeks before Christmas, I was called into my bosses’ office and given the standard, “You’re not a great fit and we have to let you go.” Wonderful! Could this year have gotten any better?
I just could not believe this was happening. I had been with the company for four months and “not a good fit” was simply a shabby reason to be let go, especially two weeks before Christmas.This whole horrible episode happened, I believe, because I was not liked by one of the bosses and for speaking up about our hours being cut. They had sliced about $600 per month from our paychecks and I was the only one who spoke up about it. Did they just expect us to be silent and acquiesce? Of course they did. There were other reasons, I’m sure, that this happened, but nothing I could come up with seemed to assuage my broken, hurt feelings, my panic and fear or that general sickly sensation about how I could possibly celebrate the upcoming Christmas season knowing I had no job to go back to.
According to a review I had experienced less than one month before, I was doing an excellent job. This, it seemed, was the story of my life: I was not a good fit.
Never in my life have I ever really felt like the right fit. I have never had that experience of things falling into place like they are supposed to, not anywhere, not ever, not even close. I’ve always stood on the fringes, on the outside, looking in. To this day, I remain single while everyone around me has gotten married and had children. Things have never gone according to plan. My life has never fit into one of those neat packages wrapped up for Christmas with a lovely bow on top.
In the fourth grade, I ran from the classroom and hid in the washroom. Math was not the right fit (not in the least). This resulted in being tutored by my harsher-than-harsh policeman father, which was about as pleasant as a root canal.
In junior high, I was a prime target for bullies. Some even tried to fight me in a yard across from the school grounds, to the general delight of all those who were watching. It was a terrifying experience, intensifying my feelings of being different. To this day I don’t know why they disliked me so. But there it was again, I was not the right fit, and the girls in my school made sure I knew it.
This pattern of not fitting in happened again in high school and it hurt just as much as it did in elementary school and junior high. It was turning into the story of my life and I had absolutely no way to deal with it.
In high school, however, I discovered the magic balm of alcohol and drugs, the most miraculous cure-all I had ever come across.
I don’t remember exactly what night or specifically where it happened, but I do remember discovering alcohol at a Hall Party. By the time it was finished discovering me, I was lying face down in the dog dish at my parent’s house. That first time was a blackout experience, which maybe should have filled me with a sense of foreboding and dread. For a normal adult, it probably would have. But for a child like myself who never fit in, it was nothing but a tiny blip on my radar … and it was the most wonderful blip I had ever felt. I remember how I felt when the alcohol touched my lips and poured into my mouth, a sweet, delicious feeling. The instant it started running down my throat, I began to feel warm, cozy and snuggly. Other good feelings came on in a rush, all swimming together as the liquid raced to my stomach. When the waves settled and the process of absorption began, warmth crept up my entire body. The feeling was like slipping your hand into a perfectly-shaped glove, customized to fit perfectly.
My alcohol abuse continued, for the most part, out of control for the next 16 years. Whenever I had a moment of that old “not a great fit” feeling, I simply imbibed the wonderful elixir that made all those horrible feelings fade away into the sunset. It was like magic. I could not believe my luck. Finally, I could fit anywhere I wanted to. I was the happiest drinker around … until I wasn’t.
After a number of years perfecting my drinking, I finally became a seasoned, talented professional. I had tried quitting, twice by this time, but figured if I could stop for three months, then I could go right back to drinking again.
As my drinking went on, the magic was not working so well anymore. The places where I used to fit in so expertly, were no longer so easy to fit into. It got to the point where it was like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. I was beside myself, confounded as to why this wonderful potion was not working so wonderfully anymore.
The morning came when I no longer fit into life at all. I had lost all semblance of normalcy and each day was drowned in a drunken stupor of not feeling, not caring, not remembering and not being human. That was the day I tried to end my life. The alcohol had not done it for me, so I tried, rather weakly, to do it myself.
I had the definite sense that I was suddenly not alone. There was another presence with me, telling me that I must make a decision right then to finally try to fit into my life, once and for all, as a sober person. Either that or I would die.
A friend picked me up that morning and took me to the detox center downtown and, for the next four miserable days, I tried to fit into my new life. I tried my hardest even though I wasn’t able to eat, see, read or concentrate. The simplest thing like going to the washroom was an impossibility. I couldn’t sleep. I was paranoid, petrified, and worn out. Every time they took my blood pressure, I was sure it would be off the charts. In reality, it was so low they couldn’t believe it. I experienced panic attack after panic attack, so relentless that I prayed and wailed to God that I just get some relief.
I was never as happy to see my surly father than the day he picked me up from detox and took me home. My mother cried when she saw me. I had lost almost 30 pounds and turned into a tiny waif who probably would have blown over in a slight wind. My mother fed me and took care of me. My father looked at me sternly, but also with concern. I know my parents must have had a real awakening that day. They finally saw me as the vulnerable child who never, ever fit in. It was a sad realization. But here, now, was a new beginning—a wonderful, tender, delicate opportunity.
I endured a month-long stint at a wonderful rehabilitation center about an hour from home. Set high in the hills, it looked down upon the land below, a beautiful, peaceful place where I fit in.
I began to find, little by little, that I was learning to fit into my life more each day. Attending AA meetings regularly and practicing the AA principles in all of my affairs began to work. Slowly but surely, my life began to make sense. All those feelings that I thought I had squashed forever, like all the colors in a rainbow, fit into my psyche like they were supposed to.
This time, I did not try to stop them. When I was happy, I laughed and felt joy. When I was sad, I felt anguish and shed tears. I learned how to live in a manner befitting a normal human being. It was wondrous.
Of course, there were problems to overcome. But I had AA to help me deal with these new and sometimes difficult emotions. I fit into AA and was a part of something wonderful and healing.
My 15-year drinking career had been the most successful career of my life, the one I had paid the most attention to. Despite being left out in the cold again by being told I was just not the right fit at this crazy job, I knew, deep down, that they were wrong. I was a great fit, just not for them. I would always fit in at AA and never had to worry about whether I would be discarded like I had just been at my former job.
It was a terrible blow when it happened. But, that night, I went to a meeting and talked about my devastated feelings. I talked about how I was scared out of my skin that I would not be able to pay my bills, and how I felt, once again, like I did not fit into my life.
The difference today is that I know how to deal with feelings of not fitting in, and, with the help of my friends in AA, I know how to heal myself. By simply going to a meeting and sharing my story and the day’s events with others at the meeting, I would, once again, feel like I fit.
This was not, of course, a magic answer to the real problems I was now facing, the loss of my income, dignity and self-respect. These problems were still there, and there was no running from them. They hurt like hell, and it was going to take some healing on my part.
I did not have to worry about who did and who did not like me when I walked into the rooms of AA, who didn’t see me as a good puzzle piece. I was in a place that was immune from those kinds of judgments and I felt safe and at home.
This is still very fresh for me, a terribly disappointing and hurtful time. I still have no solutions. I still don’t know when I’m going to be working again, when I will be able to feel safe and comfortable with a steady source of income.
The one thing I know is that two weeks ago, the night I was let go from my job, after I left that AA meeting, I did feel like I was a good fit. What happened to me was truly terrible, but I was not going to have to take a drink that night. For me, then and at this very moment, that’s all that matters.