How I Got Sober: Sevasti

How I Got Sober: Sevasti

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This post was originally published on July 2, 2015.

By the end of my drinking, I more than hit rock bottom. I felt like I was buried alive.

I lived alone in a foreclosed house in Palmdale. The homeowner had moved out. I filed for bankruptcy so I could live there for free. There I resided, living the life. My family consisted of my dogs and me. The house had lot of mice. The mice amused me when I drank. I stared at them as they boldly ventured onto the kitchen counter. I laughed as the mice danced as if they were cast members of the film All That Jazz. Sometimes I blasted music, ranging from Madonna to Alice in Chains, on an old boom box that a friend had given me, and I twirled around the living room, singing, “Jesus Christ, deny your maker!” before I stumbled and crashed on the floor.

My dogs, all 13 of them, were afraid of the mice, and a little afraid of me when I drank. I was a walking Greek chorus, full of gloom and doom.

I talked to myself too, in Greek, in English and sometimes a little Arabic, usually when I listened to belly dancing music.

When I was drunk, I put water in mini doggy bowls out for the mice, just big enough so that they could sip and not drown. If I found a dead mouse, I cried.

I was so broke that I recycled metal for food, dog food, wine and cigarettes. I was on food stamps, too. It pissed me off that I could not buy alcohol with food stamps.

I was pathetic.

So was my life.

My parents were dead, my sister and the rest of my relatives were back in the Bronx. The last time I had talked to my brother, it had ended with an argument and him saying, “You are a drunk!” Then he hung up. To this day, I have not heard from him. I think he is somewhere in Long Island.

My son, who lived with his dad in the Hollywood Hills, barely knew me. My dreams of acting and writing had fallen apart.

While I used to believe that drinking helped my creativity, the truth is that the only writing I did was during blackouts and that included a scathing letter to a married man I slept with when I was drunk and an abominable poem called “Revenge.” I submitted “Revenge” to Poetry.com (also during a blackout). The poem was about my ex-boyfriend, revenge and dog euthanasia. To this day, should I Google my name, that horrible poem pops up like a wart. I cringe when I see it.

After I realized that drinking did not help me as a writer or an actor or even a human being, I began to look for help.

I tried Christian counseling, and I was not even a Christian. The counselor, Jane gave me a book to read, called Addictions: A Banquet to the Grave, a self-help book that describes addiction as a “worship disorder.” The book was very anti-AA.

Jane, whose addiction was eating too much chocolate—I kid you not—met with me once a week inside the Christian chapel’s conference room in Lancaster. The cold, dark room reminded me of the morgue. Towards the end of my drinking, I had started thinking a lot about death.

Jane and I poured over the Bible. I believe it was the New Living Translation.

“Okay Sevasti, let’s turn to Ephesians 5:18,” she said one day.

“Okay, sure,” I responded, trying to hide my shaking hands. “I just need to find my reading glasses.”

“Would you like to use mine?”

Ugh. No.

“Sure, why not?”

After I put on her steel-rimmed reading glasses, Jane waited patiently as I tried to find Ephesians in my Bible. When I found it, I felt like I’d scored the jackpot.

“Read it out loud,” she said.

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,” I read, in a monotone voice, feeling like I wanted to faint, I was so hung over.

Despite my foggy mind, I got the gist. According to Jane, drinking was a sin, and I would go to hell.

“Didn’t Jesus drink wine?” I asked.

“Yes, but he had a reason,” she said. “Back then there was a lot of bacteria in the water, and wine killed the germs.”

How the hell did she know all this? Was she the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene? Oh, wait she didn’t believe in reincarnation, that was against the Born Again religion.

I stopped seeing Jane because my shakes were getting very bad and our meetings made me crave alcohol even more.

Since I was becoming preoccupied with death, I made an appointment with Father Gus at a Greek Orthodox Church for a confession. In case I croaked, I figured, at least I had a clean slate.

After a preliminary interview in which I told Father Gus that I drank two bottles of wine a night, we went into the main sanctuary.

I got on my knees in front of the icons. I could not stop shaking and started crying. I thought about my dead parents, and how they would not be too thrilled to see me in the state that I was in. Of course, they were dead, but what if their ghosts were hovering around the Church? Can ghosts fly 3,000 miles from the Bronx to the Antelope Valley?

“I am more concerned about your drinking than your confession.” Father Gus interrupted my thoughts. “Have you thought about going to AA?”

“Should I?” I asked.

He nodded.

I went to the Palmdale group on August 15th of 2011. I suffered serious withdrawals for three days. Instead of seeking medical help, I endured the shakes. Then I relapsed in October after going to a Tuesday night book study where they were reading a chapter called “For The Wives,” which really pissed me off.

“This book is so archaic,” I said, during my share. “How can anyone take it seriously? What if you are not a wife?”

I think I got upset that I wasn’t a wife. I felt very alone, despite the fact that a lot of people welcomed me. I went out on Merlot.

Relapsing was awful. Instead of filling the void, the wine contributed to my feelings of despair.

Finally, Thanksgiving Day weekend came around.

I was in self-proclaimed exile. I didn’t eat anything for Thanksgiving Day, but I had my wine and cigs. I hung out with the dogs and the mice.

By this point, I did not want to listen to music, let alone Alice in Chains. I was truly depressed.

On Black Friday, I went to Wal-Mart to replenish my alcohol supply. I bought the last season of Six Feet Under. Although I had not watched the first four seasons, I was mesmerized by the opening sequence of this show, and fantasized that I was the body on the gurney.

I wondered if my sister would have my body shipped back to the funeral home in the Bronx or if I’d be cremated pro bono by the Neptune Society under the name “Greek-American Drunk” and stuffed into a Folger’s can. It happened to Donny’s ashes in The Big Lebowski, after all.

At least, I then thought, Donny had friends like Walter and The Dude who went to Ralph’s to purchase the coffee can. If I died, chances are that “Greek-American Drunk” would not even be cremated, just dumped in a pauper’s grave like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At least Mozart had accomplished something in his lifetime! Look at me, an absolute failure! With only an awful poem called “Revenge” to my name!

I poured myself some white wine. It looked like and tasted like pee. Then I threw up. Shit. Double shit. I poured more wine and popped some Vicodin, got a slight buzz and made about 100 humiliating phone calls to my ex-boyfriend (he is the subject of “Revenge”). After that awful fiasco, I threw up again. I got on my hands and knees and with my dogs in tow.

On November 28, 2011, I walked into the Palmdale group and have been sober ever since.

It has not been easy.

While I have not wanted to drink, there are times when I wanted a way out.

There was too much wreckage to deal with.

Way too much.

I continue to move forward in life even though sometimes it feels like one step forward, followed by two steps backwards. But I keep on trudging.

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About Author

Sevasti Iyama is a recovering alcoholic, writer and photographer from the Bronx and LA. She has written a novel, From Bel Air to Welfare, and is currently penning her second one, The Holy Face Medal and Other Stories.