Vodka and Victims: On Personal Responsibility

A lovely little Sunday afternoon: sunshine, cool autumn breezes, Dexter on the tube getting his hands bloody and me, drunk.  So drunk in fact that I was insisting, insisting to my husband, “Dude, I think I’m dying.  Seriously.  You need to call the coroner right away.  Right away!  I’m dying.  Everybody knows it.  Woah, I can’t feel my hands.”

“Seems like you had a couple of screwdrivers and you screwed yourself a bit too tight,” my husband laughed.

I stared into a glass empty save for a coating of orange juice and a pool of melted ice on the bottom.  The vodka was gone.  “I’m dying,” I said to the room, “I can’t breathe.”

Did I mention I am not a drinker?  I have the occasional glass of wine with dinner, and once a year when I feel like playing the pitiful artist, I’ll kill half a bottle while listening to Sarah McLachlan over and over and over again.  But liquor?  Rarely.  One drink usually begins to haze the room; two drinks and I am an opened brain poked at by a surgeon.  I split in two: part of me is aware of the reaction my body is having and another part of me is casting a fishing pole over my tongue desperately trying to reel in that reaction.  I become a mess and not an enjoyable one.

Why then, would I pollute my lovely little Sunday afternoon with vodka?  Honestly?  The wine was gone…and in the millions of thoughts that danced through my head, my mind focused on three: I am no good.  I am a fraud.  I am a waste of space.  If I had been in a healthy place, those thoughts would have been Bruce Lee’d through the fricking window.

I wasn’t healthy.  My husband was getting ready to go out of town and I faced a week alone, just me and the cats, not knowing what step I should take next.  And given my recent business dealings with my workshop series, not believing that I even should be putting myself out there again.  Not trusting myself to trust the right people.  My confidence in my abilities and most importantly, in listening to my gut when it screamed Run away! had slipped so far into an abyss it seemed I should just let myself die in hopes of being reborn into a better life with better luck in which I made better decisions.

I drank because I was a victim.

Victim.  God, I abhor that word.  Yes, every one of us on this planet is a victim at one time or another.  Victims of abuse.  Poverty.  Rape.  Cruelty.  The System.  The Man.  Bigotry. Jealousy.  Illness.  Fire.  Flood.  Hurricane.  Terrorism.  Crime.  Lies. 

Hell, all of us are victims many times during the course of our lives.  And many of us wear our victimhood like sick badges of honor.  We let it infuse our minds and souls and vocabularies with words like I can’t.  Or: I am no good.  I am a fraud.  I am a waste of space.  We let it color the next step we should be taking.  We let it blind ourselves to forgiveness that is necessary for no one but our own souls.  We let it hold us in stasis so that all meaning, all experience, all joy and love that bookends the moments in which we are victims shrinks in importance and sometimes, disappears completely.  By being victims, we cease to live; we hand the responsibility for our own happiness to the person or event that changed our lives.

That’s the part that pisses me off the most about being a victim: no personal responsibility. I’m not saying that the truly heinous people who spread evil in the world should not be held accountable or even punished for their deeds.  I’m not saying that after something traumatic happens that there shouldn’t be a natural period of grief and healing.  What I mean by personal responsibility is that when time has passed, the perpetrator has gone, the wreckage has been cleaned, what remains is a choice: to have been a victim and to learn and find grace in the experience or to have been a victim and remained victimized.

That’s what pissed me off the most about myself on that lovely little Sunday afternoon: I chose to remain victimized.  My encounter with a less-than-ethical individual who shook my self-trust and confidence to the core had already lain cold for a month.  I had already been angry.  I had already grieved.  I had already drunk all of the wine.  But on that Sunday, faced with a week of being alone and not knowing what to do, I mixed my victimhood with vodka and chugged it down.  Twice.

Thank God, really, for those screwdrivers, for screwing myself a bit too tight: once the haze cleared, a headache spread worse than all of those simpering words with which my victimhood had taunted me.  Physically, I felt so awful that I became distracted enough to fall asleep.  Peacefully.

The next morning was a choice.  I forgave myself for everything: for not listening to my gut; for bathing myself in the basest emotions; for allowing my mind to run around on a track, dark and threadbare; and finally, for handing my sense of self and happiness to the past; in essence, allowing myself to be screwed again.  Yes, I had been a victim.  Then, I chose to surrender.  I chose for that part of me to die.

Which made it so much easier recognizing what step to take next.

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