Yesterday I had lunch with my uncle. You may be saying, well, THAT surely wouldn’t drive you to want to drink, and you would be wrong. I’m sure you’re right about many, many things, but not this.
It caught me very completely off guard. He’s a lovely fellow (if socially awkward in some way that doesn’t have a name). I hadn’t seen him in 13 years (since he sold me this triplex and after the closing turned and walked away in that no-name awkward way, which I didn’t handle very well internally at the time). I had emailed him a question about this building, and in the conversation that ensued we said we should have lunch some time when you’re in the neighborhood. So we did. I thought it’d be nice to see him.
It was, and it also kind of knocked me off my rocker. My mom (his sister) is dead and so is his other sister. (My mom died of cancer 15 years ago, when I was 38.) As are, not surprisingly, my/his grand/parents. Seeing him, hearing him talk, brought. them. all. back. Viscerally. Ten minutes into the lunch I was seized by the desire for a drink. Overtaken by the need. This is too much, not what I expected, can’t take it, too much grief.
I’m slowly moving out of the apartment I’ve lived in for the past 13 years. With every wall and ceiling and cabinet and door trim, I watch my tattered years of “high functioning” drinking get covered with gleaming fresh paint. Probably any time a person lives alone in one place for many years, some degree of clutter and, oh, scuz (flaking paint, general grim in the corners of closets) accumulates, but the presence of daily drinking, and the cloudiness and vague stuckness of that lifestyle, makes it worse.
Likely no one else would even notice. And it’s not like there were holes in the walls. But I am acutely aware of the dysfunctional stasis of the subtle parts of my life and functioning that pervaded life here. The unfinished projects (partially painted walls, as part of me attempted in fits and starts to change the walls to something more me, sometimes a new color (half green living room), sometimes collections of colors (a gaudy section of the living room wall that was, until Tuesday, a patchwork of orange, red, blue, etc. squares), and sometimes just white-ish, where I started repainting the hallway one day years ago). Though it’s not the main thing I remember, I was probably some level of tipsy while doing all of that. Covering it mostly with cream-colored paint is beautiful.
A pile of days.
I am acutely aware of the healing needed from a decade of abusing alcohol, and of the healing of the tender parts of myself that I smothered with alcohol.
Life is glorious.
I am parched and exhausted this morning.
But on track to be a 40-year-sober 94-year-old woman.
I went to the state fair last night and had a hideous time. Some combination, no doubt, of it being my first sober fair and the fact that attendance was sparse. In the more central areas it was crowded but in the farther flung parts where I like to hang out, the streets were at 25% of normal and the buildings even less. That’s good in a virus-safety sort of way, but lousy for the morale.
It makes me realize that almost all of my challenges and adjustments in this sober life are internal. I don’t have a lot of social event “firsts” to learn how to get through sober. I don’t live in a world of drunken birthday parties, thanksgivings, new years eves, fourth of Julys. My friends don’t hardly drink. Make that, we don’t make it a centerpiece of our time together (although, of my close friends, one has quit (I suspect (though don’t know for sure) because he had been drinking when he had a horrific accident a couple of years ago (fell off the roof)), one drinks probably daily and has asked me repeatedly about my quitting alcohol and I’m guessing has an alcohol problem similar to mine, another one probably has some dependence, and another one had some dependence in the past and I’m guessing does again) — my three go-out-for-beers friends). So I’m not in the position of missing social drinking. My struggle is with sober time all alone.
I’m sitting at a picnic table in a city park that I discovered during the family gathering I recently survived. Been waking up early lately, and since the sunrise is getting later I can catch it. This is how I always used to live, as a teenager, getting up during the quiet, real hours before the world starts impinging. It’s a little hard to manage/coordinate at the moment because it clashes with one of my other pleasures which is watching 22 or 33 minutes of a Netflix show with my partner and my cat at night. But it’s okay, and it’s giving me a bit of additional anchor in my days these days.
Happy nine months sober to me on August 13. I’d been feeling super squirrelly about beer for a few weeks, seemingly prompted by an upcoming event that used to be a highlight of the year and have beer as an intrinsic element: the Minnesota State Fair. I’ve typed about this before. I love that thing, immersing myself in the flow of several hundred thousand human beings, viewing the beautiful vegetables, seeing what flower species is in the flower room that day (hoping for orchids), admiring the line-up of honey jars and trying to find the queen in the observation hives (I have bees but almost never see the queens), looking to see what objects Minnesota has knitted, baked, spun, quilted, canned, sewn, painted, crocheted, sculpted, embroidered, or seed-arted. And getting progressively more tipsy as the evening wears on, stopping at my familiar beer dispensaries all along the way. (Did you used to be able to drink a pint of craft beer while meandering the fair? I don’t think you used to be able to drink a pint of craft beer while meandering the fair. This whole alcohol-everywhere trend started just in time for me to fall into it.)
The family gathering went okay! People didn’t drink much. I really think it’s true that a lot of people (probably all of us) morph somewhat into the context. One family unit in particular I suspect get a bit more rowdy when they’re gathered with their own kids, for example.
Beer-wise, I ended up buying some middle-of-the-road IPA for the two beer-drinkers after realizing that’s what they go for. None of my very creatively purchased beer got drunk (which says that a total of six bottles of beer were drunk over the whole two days). I sent it home with my dad and his wife, who will drink it over the next, oh, six months.
It’s over, my introvert was stunned but not harmed in the process, and the time together was frankly magical. People really gelled, and got to know eachother. It occurred to me more than once that had I been drinking I would have been sneaking alcohol the whole time. And would have been the only person actually tipsy (or worse).
Today eight immediate family members of mine and my partner’s descend on our little town. It’s a two-year-post-non-wedding gathering, designed to have our siblings/parent meet one another. We got married in my best friend from college’s kitchen, with him (renegade pastor) being the official signer and two other close college friends of mine co-signing, followed by
dinner with them and two other dear friends from that life moment — all of whom sort of raised their kids together. It was lovely and perfect, among a precious group of people (and no “words,” no having to smile for days straight, very cheap!, no planning!). But it meant our families didn’t meet, and we wanted to have that happen. Hence the horror of this coming weekend.
I did my drive from South Home to North Home a few days ago and had a whole series of ones on the I-want-a-drink scale of 1 to 10. I had previously been appreciating simply my ability to name the ones, as that seems to be very effective at zeroing them out and not going on to twos, etc. (This is a much nicer route than getting gripped by a 7 and crashing into a pint of beer.)
But seeing this little parade of ones as I sat still with relatively little to do became informative. I had already been seeing that I could get information about what my gut/soul is pushing for by noticing what was going on in my life/body/mind when a 1 out of 10 popped up, but the parade of ones created more of a picture.
How strange. I’ve been wanting to pick up pen and start thinking out loud again about sobriety, and at the end of March checked back in here to see when my last post was — to discover that it was last March and I was at day 136. I was on day 135 then. Apparently mid-November is a good time for quitting alcohol! Day 146 now.
History says I have a hard time getting past a few months, with one exception a while back. Except it’s not a “hard time” so much as unsuccessful. It’s all pretty fine, until it isn’t. In a nanosecond flash. Suddenly everything’s different and excruciatingly uncomfortable and I desperately freak out in the direction of alcohol. But I’ve learned some things (including that those flashes will always potentially exist, even when it seems they’re gone for good), and I aim to keep on trudging. “Trudging” might sound … grudging? … but what I mean to convey is a good kind of heaviness and regularity, day by day. “Heaviness” is a welcome weight, of feet falling to the ground, one after the other. Steady, landing on the ground each time.
Gonna have to spiffy things up around here. Maybe a new banner. Something botanical. Maybe a new font, too. Different but not too fancy.
Keep the serif or lose the serif?
Been awhile! Eh?!!?
Looking back at this I see that I quit writing last June, just after day 365. Continue reading
I closed the loop. Went from having a big bigger bigger number, 200, 300, 360, 365 …. to a little one: 1 year. But it’s a little one that feels very solid to sit on.
I have a circle now, the snake swallowed its tail, and I get to start retracing the circle again.
Oh how Continue reading
I hit 11 months a couple of days ago.
Not sure what to say. My unsettledness of the past few months has faded, which I’ll take for as long as it cares to stay. I am amazed at how long this journey is. My first few Continue reading
Three hundred days, my people.
Spring is springing here (southern Iowa), with frogs squeaking in the pond, the first great blue heron (but just once, maybe only passing through?), first kingfisher, bees out and about on sunny days, rain and fog, redwing blackbirds staking out their reeds.
I’ve been mid-sober-stint twice before in the spring Continue reading
Well, hi. I’ve been wanting to poke my head up here but, you know, there’s not much to say. It’s February, unseasonably snowy and cold, my workshop-in-process is just COLD, despite the solar air collectors (ceiling insulation would help). But a lime glowing green light shines inside me and life is good.
I’m mucking around in my eighth month Continue reading
Day 228. A couple of months into new territory, never having mosied past five or so months sober before. I noticed in month maybe three or four that I was wanting … chapters of some sort. Sobriety seemed, oh, featureless. Monotonous? If it’s monotonous (which it could be. after all, what is it, really?), okay. I’ll take it as monotonous. But I like rhythm, or signposts, or texture, or phases, weather, seasons.
Somewhere back there I forgot Continue reading