Friday, December 5, 2014

Almost Two Years

"The rain is over; what we're left with is the life that follows the weather."
Ann Patchett

At this time two years ago tomorrow will be the last time I got wasted. I can't remember if I drank on the 5th of December 2012, but I know for sure I did on the 6th. (Did I ever.) I remember lots of wine, and then eating these coconut oil pot cookie things a friend made for me, sitting out on the porch chain smoking even though I'm betting it was cold. It wasn't a terribly unusual amount for me, it wasn't especially worse than the other nights I drank. It was the same as always, a lot.

I remember waking up on December 7, 2012, my children next to my side of the bed, their hair rumpled, their faces expectant and sleepy. I'm sure they were both in their underwear. I had promised French toast and spelling words for breakfast- my oldest had his class spelling bee that morning so we were going to have his favorite breakfast and go over his words one last time. My oldest was eight- to be nine in a week. My youngest was four.

I was so hungover I could not get out of bed.

The enormity of that really strikes me as I write it. I drank so much that I couldn't get up the next day. It makes me feel small and tight like a walnut. Ashamed. Cringe-worthy. I can picture myself as I can always picture me when I was drunk: eyes half closed certain that I'm with it, that I'm fine. Certain that one more drink won't hurt, certain that I can handle that awful hangover I'll have tomorrow because haven't I done it so many times that I'm like some kind of evil hangover expert genius? The picture I have is a physical one and a spirit one: I can feel what I felt like when I drank, when I was a glass or two in, a bottle in, a blackout in. I can easily dredge up the sick anxiety I felt the next morning: my brain can start the guilt tapes over with no problem. "How could you? It's OK, you know you need to quit. It's OK, you can quit...TODAY! Then everything will be fine. I suck." I was a two-faced finger pointer cheerleader. Both worried and relieved because what did I do and I was quitting today anyway so it didn't matter. But until December 7, 2012 I always drank again.

I didn't really even mean to quit that day. I meant to quit every day, but that day stuck for me. It was the day my oldest was due to be born in 2004 and my reasoning was it was a day marked for a new life, it just wasn't his, it was mine. It was my lowest point as a mother: bedridden while my children held out the plate of French toast they'd made with their dad and I couldn't take it so they just whispered "We'll leave it right here mommy" and they put it on the bookshelf next to my side of the bed and tiptoed away. The fat sad tears that slid down my face as I knew the truth about myself deep deep down: I had a problem. A serious problem.

I'd had this problem for years. I always knew I drank differently from other people. I was always glad to find another person who drank like me. I did most of my drinking by myself though- none of that pesky sharing to worry about. I knew, even in my teens, that I shouldn't drink, that my family history basically screamed out NEVER DRINK ALCOHOL!!!! and I chose to ignore it. Between four of my grandparents three were raging alcoholics. Two committed suicide. The deck was very obviously stacked against me. Odds totally in favor of me being another raging alcoholic. But I hurt too much to care.

That hurt carried me through years of drunks, years of mistakes. It piled it all up until by laws of balance and toppling it had to fall. I had to fall. So I fell- my years of free fall finally touched down with a resounding thump and I knew I could get up again. Not that I had to, but that I could.

Sobriety happens in all different ways. It worked for me to blog a lot at first, to have a pen pal. A sober therapy group worked for a while. I never went to AA. I don't really have a lot of sober support except for what I make for myself which is true for everyone I guess. I've learned along the way how to nurture and care for myself and for me that doesn't involve a lot of other people. I look back at the beginning of my sobriety and marvel at the fact that I stopped drinking and smoking by getting up early every day and emailing my pen pal (endless gratitude Belle) and having my own one woman free yoga class in my living room. To this day I am still jealous of people who get to go to rehab: what would that have been like? To free myself from my life for thirty days and get it together without having to do my life and get sober all at once? I probably romanticize it too much. It was harder for me to manage AA meetings than it was to cobble together my own "meetings" by reading other sober bloggers. I plodded through my first days clutching my wineglass full of seltzer and fresh grapefruit juice at dinner time and putting us all in our pajamas and in my bed at 7:00. It was safe up there.

I discovered something amazing: I was really good at being sober. Being good at it didn't mean it wasn't hard, sometimes heartbreakingly so, but I keep practicing and so I keep getting better and better. Being sober makes my life livable. It makes it so I could deal with the things that happen on a daily basis that threaten my sanity. I've learned to recognize when I need a minute or a weekend to hibernate and shake myself back out. It's given me the patience and courage to rebuild my relationship with my husband and my parents. It's taught me who I was, who I really am, and then it taught me to be just fine with that. It gave me my love story of a life time. Mine + Me.

So this morning I am sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the hum of the dishwasher. It's spelling bee time again. My oldest will be ten (ten!) in ten days. We all had scrambled eggs and pears this morning, argued about crazy eights cards and no one wanted to put their shoes on. My life has gone on even though at first I thought I could never ever ever make it without wine. I have made it and put two years of consistent sobriety together on my own. I have something I only dreamed of: an alive life. I am what I never thought I was: capable. Honest. Sober.