Last weekend Dylan turned nine and I did not make him a homemade cake. Whew! There, I said it. It came from Dairy Queen, okay? Someone else made it out of likely-dubious ingredients and frosted my son’s name into the top and the only way I contributed was by clicking some buttons on a web form and it was DELICIOUS.
In fact, I haven’t made a birthday cake in years. I used to — my go-to recipe was a no-pecan version of Pioneer Woman’s sheet cake — but somewhere along the line both my kids gravitated towards the process of paging through bakery design books and picking out exactly what they wanted, and frankly, I am thrilled that the cake part of their birthday celebration is now a relatively small problem I can throw money at. The evening before the big day, I may be knee-deep in incompatible decorating logistics (for instance, this year Dylan said he wanted a “theme” of his three very favorite things, which are currently Roald Dahl, basketball, and … Arnold Schwarzenegger) but I am by-god not fretting over whether or not I will screw up the cake.
Of course, I’ve pretty much just swapped Cake Anxiety for Cake Guilt, because even though my kids love their store confections some family member inevitably asks in front of the whole group if I made it myself which is like being forced into Cersei’s naked walk of atonement. “Well, no. (SHAME!) I mean, it IS in a Safeway box and features a professionally-rendered Oregon Ducks logo so it seems like that was a bit obvious. (SHAME!) But thanks for this opportunity to publicly confirm it’s made with high fructose corn syrup instead of a mother’s undying love! (Dingle ding ding SHAME!)”
Anyway, Dylan had a lovely birthday, DQ is the bomb, and there’s no denying it, these boys are growing up. Nine is awfully close to a full decade and Riley’s going to be in middle school (!) this fall and my gosh, it’s like every year the pages just go flipping by faster and faster and faster.
90 days of sobriety, as of today. On the one hand, hey! 90 days. Way to go, me. On the other, I’ve been here before, so … you know, there’s that.
I’ve slogged my way through anhedonia, a seemingly endless swamp of shame and self-loathing, and a months-long sugar binge. Triggers were intense at first but have receded. I feel a bit more settled in my skin, able to walk with my head up.
I completed outpatient treatment yesterday and will move on to a less-intensive recovery support group. It is the outpatient ritual to coin a person out on their last day, meaning a graduation coin gets passed around the room and each person says a few words and puts something — strength, hope, resilience, that kind of thing — in the coin. It’s an extremely nice gesture but it’s the nature of the process that by the time you graduate, the group members you’ve been with for weeks have moved on, and new people have taken their place. There’s a lot of “Um, I’ve only known you for two hours, but …”
Awkward, but fitting. ALL of this is awkward. Talking about feelings is awkward. Sitting in a room with strangers is awkward. Being open about being an addict is awkward. Doing things sober when you used to do them not-sober is awkward. Having certain people say, “So how are you doing?” and there’s all kinds of awkwardness in what’s unsaid in that question, which is awkward.
The terrain is uncomfortable but familiar; I’ve spent most of my life feeling awkward. Man, I’ve hated that about myself for so long. Somewhere along the line I decided awkwardness was a terrible character flaw, something to be medicated into oblivion. I lost sight of the fact that everyone struggles with feeling out of place and vulnerable.
So here I am, 90 days out: messy, awkward, uncertain. Naked and weird and a thousand miles south of perfect. In other words, human.