When the melodious clang of my alarm jolts me awake each morning, I get on my knees to pray—with an iPhone 6 firmly sandwiched between my postured hands. Approximately three seconds later, I check my Facebook. I wish I could say it stopped there, but then I’d be a liar and there is nothing less sexy than a liar.
I regulate my social media obsession in the following checking order: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Gmail. I scroll, I tweet, I “like.” I also gawk at pictures. I obsessively check what others are doing in their lives because it gives me some comfort seeing people live in what appears to be the most exciting ways.
Call me crazy—I have been called worse—but Facebook is the one I use as my basis for reality. Between getting sober and moving back in with my mother, I have a lot of free time on my hands because most of my sober friends are back in Los Angeles. I read articles people post and find memes that will make my friends IRL (In Real Life) laugh. I spend enough time now in front of a computer that social media has become my alternative to a social life.
I admit to being an alcoholic “in full flight from reality,” as the Big Book of AA says. I think it’s kind of amusing that I went from socializing the fuck out of Los Angeles in sobriety to frequenting Fresh Markets with my mother in Richmond, Virginia—often the most exciting part of my week. I spend my time writing at home, which is my dream come true. The other 30 to 40 percent of my day is spent trolling the Internet like a cyber-junkie. I find a lot of garbage online, but I also discover new music. Alas, I’d be remiss if I didn’t confess my penchant for less-cute Etsy spending. I can’t resist the urge to blow $27 on personalized coffee mugs, so the fuck what.
In many ways, I’ve adapted to my new lifestyle as the ever-present companion of a 65-year-old woman. I’ve even started listening to Patsy Cline and watching Blue Bloods marathons like a fucking boss. The thing is, I’m cool with all of that. What drives me to the brink of near-insanity is that Facebook is a maze of mixed messages for an alcoholic like me.
As a person in recovery, I mostly have my shit together. That is, until I see a college friend post about the wedding she went to with our fellow alumni, many of whom I drank (heavily) with for years. When I scroll through my newsfeed, I am caught off-guard by the people who appear to drink with impunity. I don’t get flustered like this when I see people I don’t know drink on TV because that’s not real life. Those people are actors who get paid. I don’t have real-life memories with them like I do with my Facebook friends. So why do I give a fuck—much less a multitude of fucks—when the people who are drinking in real life are now as distant to me as those actors?
I need to get some things straight, Facebook. The woman I pounded tequila shots on the regular with graduated summa cum laude, got a full-time job then married her college boyfriend? And my fuck-buddy who helped me chop up lines of cocaine while we listened to rap just bought a house? What gets me is the absence of consequences. The hitting of the life benchmarks. The total lack of shame in their game. How did they emerge from such heavy substance abuse without becoming addicts?
I consider myself a shame-drinker. In fact, I have shamed myself often and with great relish. My shame enabled me to drink as much as I wanted to drink, which was always a metric fuck-ton. I tried hard not to let on how I was feeling, because I assumed that would make me look pathetic. I recall a picture I posted about two months before I got sober holding a co-worker’s baby. People who saw it thought the child was mine and wrote comments under the picture to tell me so. I replied to them, joking that there was no fucking way that I would have a baby. But in the back of my mind, I looked at the picture and said, “If that were my child, she would have a drunk for a mommy.”
The truth is, I still feel a twinge of regret when I see my peers with husbands, babies and mortgages. Those people could have been me. Me, if I weren’t a drunk. That’s what they call “compare and despair” in AA and it’s one of the major things that drives alcoholics like me to drink. When we see things as we want to see them—not as they are (or we are)—we fall into a euphoric recall of the good times we had while drinking. That causes relapses. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I had very few good times toward the end. That is, unless railing lines of cocaine by yourself at 8 am after an all-night alcoholic binge gives you a nostalgic hard-on. Those charming coked-out pictures of me never made it onto my Facebook wall.
But recovery did. And, ironically, I have Facebook to thank for my sobriety.
When I drank, I spent most of my free time getting wasted, not keeping up to date with social media. This is why it’s extraordinary that as I hit rock bottom, I became suddenly intoxicated by things my sober friend posted about her life as a recovering alcoholic. She seemed so…happy. All of her pictures showed a bright, smiling woman surfing or hiking. A woman who cooked and baked for her friends. A woman who seemed so content with her life as a sober person. I wanted what she appeared to have: self-confidence, self-love, a bangin’ bod and a full-blown acceptance of her alcoholism. To think, I got all of that from her social media posts.
And that’s why I felt compelled to reach out to her, in spite of my shame. I told her I thought I was an alcoholic. Could she help me? And help me, she did. She invited me to her 13-year-sober dinner in Santa Monica. I drank throughout our exchange of messages, but I showed up to that dinner sober as the day is long. She took me to my first AA meeting. She invited me on a 15-mile hike with her friend. We took pictures of us together, smiling like the happy, sober women we are.
So, thank you, Facebook.