Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Monster of the Deep

(Based on the Brothers' Grimm tale, “The Water-Nixie”)

Michele was tired. She shouldn’t have had the 3rd (4th?) glass of wine. She curled up on the couch and closed her eyes. Saturday night and she couldn’t even make it to 9 pm?

The next morning, struggling to conceal her dark circles with make-up, Michele re-composed her old resolve. No more drinking. Or maybe, no more than 1-2 drinks? (That might be more do-able). She took three more aspirin and drove to church, full of self-hatred and vows to improve.

When she was honest with herself (after the DUI), Michele saw the escalation of her drinking. Weekend wine with dinner had evolved into daily shots (hidden in fresh orange juice) starting as early as noon. She blamed her job—she was now expected to do the work of three people. She needed an escape hatch from her daily grind. Some light-headed sleepiness—was that too much to ask for after a 10-hour day?

Then, in early September, Michele missed an important meeting. Hung-over, she had mixed up her dates. Later that same week, she lost some sensitive paperwork and forgot three conference calls she’d arranged. She scrambled for excuses and began blaming her co-workers. Finally, the CEO told Michele to take a week off and “get herself together.”

Monday morning she went to Mass, but by evening Michele had convinced herself that one drink “wasn’t a problem—she just had to limit herself to one—to take the edge off.” By Thursday, she was back to two (large) glasses. Saturday night she called the CEO at home. She was going to check into a clinic for a month.

The staff discussed Michele’s resistance during the first week. She complained about the meetings and sat silent during individual sessions. She denied her feelings and refused all the “psycho-babble.” She was bored.

Then, during the third week, Michele started to cry. She cried during the meetings and private sessions. The staff called it a “breakthrough.” But would the crying stop? Could she return to work? And why was she crying? It had something to do with her mother (they said). But she knew there was so much more to discover. She’d opened the dike of her craziness and now they wanted her to go home? Couldn’t she stay another month?

“No.” The staff knew how she felt, this was normal, she shouldn’t feel dependent on them, blah, blah blah. They wanted her to go back to work, go to her AA meetings, and do her phone check-ins faithfully.

Another Saturday night. Surrounded by cups of different herbal teas, Michele is looking into her mirror, crying. She couldn’t go back to work. She was ugly, and there was nothing she could do about it. She was ugly.

During the last week, when they’d done the “mirror exercise,” her therapists and group-members had assured her that she was not ugly. They had all laughed together through her tears at the ridiculous notion. But tonight it was clearer than ever—she was terribly ugly. She had to accept that. Maybe if she accepted it? Her crying slowed down. She looked at herself in the mirror. She noticed every flaw and concentrated on it. Could she accept this ugliness? Could she accept that this is what others saw when they looked at her? Michele took a deep breath. She could. She could accept it. She was ugly (in some ways). That was her lot in life. She’d have to accept it and others would too.

The following Saturday, Michele had dinner with some of her co-workers. They toasted her week’s sobriety with Cokes and a tomato juice. They noted her new energy and “glow.” It was true, Michele had never felt so good. When her mother’s scolding voice spoke in her mind, reminding her of her flaws, Michele quietly said “yes.” “Yes, she was flawed, broken, ugly. Yes.”

As they sat around the table Michele’s friends wondered what new lotion or makeup she was using. They each privately envied her “new look ” and her flawless complexion.

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