1 Year Sober, 1 Year Healthier: Crohn’s and Alcohol Do Not Mix
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In two weeks, I will celebrate my one-year anniversary of sobriety. I liked drinking, and I don’t consider myself an alcoholic, but as a person living with Crohn’s Disease, I simply decided that my health was more important than those nights of drunken play.
I was always the life of the party when I was drinking. Loud, obnoxious, dancing so vibrantly, I’d pay for it in aches and pains the next morning. I didn’t drink often, but when I did, let’s just say I did not do so in moderation. Rather, I would gulp down four martinis at my favorite Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen and then bounce up Broadway photo-bombing tourists, bumming cigarettes from the dude dressed like Mickey Mouse, and singing show tunes at the top of my lungs until I passed out in my bed. Life of the party, I tell ya.
I never drank to escape my problems. I drank to loosen up and enjoy myself every once in a while. I drank because I was finally 21 and legally allowed to drink. But right before my 22ndbirthday it hit me: I was running out of money, and my liver hated me.
Picture this: it’s early February, 2013, and I’m at a lavish party at West 57th Street and Central Park West for the most recent Medal Of Honor recipient. My friend told me she was going to play matchmaker that evening by introducing me to a very cute Navy Physicist who was my age. Naturally, I wore the cocktail dress I’d purchased for my NYC Off-Broadway, debut show. It had pockets, it showed off my legs, it was from Anthropologie, and it matched my bottle-red hair. Sign, sealed, delivered, I’m yours, Mr. Navy man!
Once again, I was the life of the party, in the classiest of ways. I used the excuse of the open bar to gulp down all the tequila I could get my hands on before switching to my usual, Jameson and ginger. I had about four of those—I started to realize four’s my limit—until I caught myself talking too much and not being a good listener when I was introduced to Mr. Navy Physicist. He was charming, we hit it off, he invited me to join him at the after party, and I regrettably declined because I was trying to play the cool card, which was really me just being too drunk and tired and wanting to go home.
I got into bed, wrote a cheesy, ironic social media status about how my life was looking up because I was interested in a military man, and blacked out. I woke up three hours later vomiting. I’d been drinking on an empty stomach that night, so it made sense that I would be throwing up bile at first, but after this hell hit hour two, I recognized it for what it was: ATTACK OF THE CROHN’S.
I called my matchmaker friend in a blind panic. She and her husband picked me up and drove me to the ER. I was in the ICU for thirteen hours, projectile vomiting for half of it, in an ICU room stuffed beyond capacity with four other patients. Of course my Crohn’s flare-up would happen on a crowded holiday weekend.
I was in the hospital for six days. Before this episode, I had maintained my chronic illness for three years, without any of my meds or hospital visits. The doctors were impressed but told me I needed to go back on the medication, effective immediately.
This, I told them, was easier said than done.
“Do you have insurance?” they asked.
“No” I said.
“Do you have family members who can help you out” they asked,
“No” I said.
“Let us see what we can do.”
Two doctors returned to say they could offer a generic brand of my flare up meds, the cheapest they could find: only 0 a bottle, and I’d need two bottles a month. Um, what?
When they left the room, I cried hysterically. What was I going to do? Move to Canada? But soon I calmed down, and I knew what had to be done. I had to put on my big girl panties and deal with the underlying cause rather than the solution.
I took my meds the first week I was released. And then I went home, made some art, meditated, and cleaned out the skeletons and negative energy from my closet. If was I going to return to my ritual of living with Crohn’s meds-free, the only thing hindering me from keeping my illness in check was alcohol.
Quitting alcohol was easier than I thought, and now a year has gone by, and I can still turn down a beer, even though I know I’ll be jonesing for one during the Super Bowl. I lost some friends when I became sober, but clearly none of them was worth keeping if they only wanted a drunk version of me. These days, I find my fun at parties making a game out of listening to people to guess why I won’t pick up an alcoholic beverage at a shindig. Is she pregnant? Is she Morman? Is she a loser?
No, she’s not a loser, thank you very much. She’s just a person with Crohn’s who has but one body to live in, and she’s determined to make it count.
I might drink again someday, but that will be only when I have insurance and a body that can handle it. Until then, you’ll catch me still trying out new dance moves while . With extra cherries. Namaste.
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