It would be so easy.

It’s been years, after all, and the whole notion of counting days hasn’t really panned out because there have been other substances and no one in the Hi-My-Name-Is rooms would condone the use of, say, edibles, and let’s just be real, I am an addict. I always have been and I always will be. I have abused nearly everything including (especially?) food and while I have found a kind of peace here in my mid-forties it feels a lot like the lyric from an AWOLNATION song: I’ma make a deal with the bad wolf / So the bad wolf don’t bite no more

Or the Lumineers song,

There we will be, like an old enemy / Like the salt and the sea

Songs say it better than I can, I guess. Me and my disease, we are intertwined so deeply it feels weird to even talk about it, because it’s so much of who I am. I used to battle against the label, the shaming nature of it — just the word addict is such a grimy brushstroke, it paints me in a way I don’t like to be seen. I’d rather you see me for everything I try so hard to be: a loving, attentive mother. A fit and healthy woman. A loving wife, a loyal friend, a generous and caring person.

I hide my struggles and it wouldn’t be hard to hide my eagerness to finish the bottle. It would be nice to order something other than Diet Coke for once. There are so many craft beers now! Hard seltzer is a thing! Why not a glass of wine with dinner, or a cocktail with a friend? Why even bother drawing lines in the sand, at this point?

It would be so easy. My husband’s half-finished beer, left on the kitchen counter.

What’s one more bad choice among so many?

But.

This I know: it’s never just one. It’s never anything remotely like the uplifting images some forever-stealthy part of my brain presents me, a series of sensory-fueled pictures served clickity-clack like a pre-movie ad reel: NOW SHOWING the cooling citrus swallow of a gin and tonic on a hot summer day! The rich embrace of a red wine with a steak dinner! The melting foam from a deliciously biting IPA! All this and more could be coming to a beverage glass near you! It’s maybe that for a minute and then it’s vodka in the fucking hamper. It’s pounding, soul-crushing headaches, it’s embarrassing behavior that veers from hysterical laughter to fits of weeping, it’s entire swaths of time lost to the black.

Alcohol and I parted ways in the summer of 2013, after a hideously shameful binge that ended with me falling down drunk in front of my children and in-laws. Before that, it had been years of sneaky drinking, pretending to be sober for weeks and months at a time but chasing oblivion whenever I could. Before that, it had been daily drinking, the kind where the bottle wholly consumes you from the painful moment you wake up until you pass out at the end of the day.

I’m left with no shortage of bad memories to remind me that I cannot moderate when it comes to booze, and if I falter — if NOW SHOWING appears and attempts to downplay what used to be — I can all too clearly imagine what could be, today. How about showing up to my school library shift reeking of Skyy? How about seeing my kids’ faces as they warily assess my level of intoxication each day? How about weaving across the middle line with both my children in the car? How about visiting a hospice patient and not remembering a single thing I said or did?

How about a life in which only one thing is truly important, and that is when the next drink is coming?

I don’t have to imagine that last one, actually. I remember it just fine.

It would be so easy, because my old enemy never gives up. But I will not falter in this. I don’t always make the right choices but I will stay strong on this one. I will not drink, not today and not tomorrow. I carry the salt within me, but I am the sea: I am the holder, I am not held.

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It’s getting to be that special time of year, when you either 1) descend into a sparkle-light-filled state of holiday bliss because your life is a precious snow globe of wonder and joy or 2) begin to freak the fuck out because November is just one long pressure cooker simmer until the hellish flop-sweat panic of December when you’re inevitably paying out the ass for last-minute shipping fees and wishing you could deck that smug matching-pajamas family along with the walls.

Ha ha, of course I am just kidding, the holidays are always AMAZING and not at all a teeth-grinding endurance challenge featuring a depressing spiral into rabid commercialism and culminating in a series of offensive dinner table jokes. Ha ha!

Okay, I really do love Christmas, but I also acknowledge the less-pleasant side of things, which is why I’m sharing a few gift ideas that have been successful for me in the past. I don’t have the easiest list to shop for and who knows, maybe something here will alleviate a tiny bit of holiday-induced stress for one or two of you.

For the person who is IMPOSSIBLE to buy for:
This bag from LL Bean, monogrammed with their initials. My mother-in-law loves the bag I got her and uses it all the time while traveling.

For the person who likes to bake:
This cute stamp customized with their name, which can accompany bags of cookies and treats and whatnot. My sister-in-law, who makes unbelievable cakes, was very charmed with her stamp.

For the person who likes to entertain:
A pretty cutting board, customized with their name. Another gift for my sister-in-law, who’s much better at hosting dinners and things than I will ever be.

For the person who likes to grill:
They probably have a lot of grill tools, but do they have a fancy Himalayan salt plate? I got this for my brother-in-law and he seemed pretty excited to try it out.

For the person who likes to write, or at least likes to reminisce:
A subscription to Storyworth. This is not a slam-dunk gift, it was a giant fail for both John and his dad (I gifted to him, he gifted to his dad) in that neither felt they had the time/attention to write every week, so the questions piled up or the answers were very brief. But the reason I will keep recommending this forever is because my mom treated her subscription like a true creative prompt and sent SO many wonderful, amazing, illuminating stories that are absolutely priceless to me. I will soon have a printed book of all her essays and it will be one of those rescue-from-the-house-fire items, just an unbelievably wonderful experience and a lovely way to preserve her memories for my boys and even their children.

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