Go fast enough and something or someone will slow you down.
The past few months, I’ve found that detaching from my chaos comes with it’s own discomfort. Without mayhem to cling to, I find that I’m helplessly lost. I’m unaccustomed to ease. And, letting go of heartache is, in itself, a melancholy practice. My mind goes static. I forget why I’m here. I long for whiskey. So, seeking solace, I return to my war stories — reminders that ease is a gift, not a punishment.
A year before I got sober, I sat across from Kevin, a friend and fellow drunk. We passed a 1.5 liter bottle of shitty chardonnay back and forth. It was a wet, cold night. The wine was warm. I remember the black and yellow label, peeling up from the bottle at its edges. Kevin’s apartment felt eerie — haunted. The air was musty and stale. Every table, counter, and bookshelf was littered with wine bottles, beer cans, and children’s toys.
We sat there, without pretense, miserable in our cups. I mourned my failed relationship, and he, the collapse of his family. The sorrow was palpable. There was nothing to say to each other. So, we drank.
When the wine was gone, we sulked out into the rain. We walked to a local bar that had Friday night karaoke and found a table with some fair-weather friends. We drank whiskey until we couldn’t see. I remember belting out Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” at the top of my lungs, doubling over after the the final note, unsure if I was going to cry or be sick.
When the bartender announced last call, Kevin and I shared a familiar glance — the well was dry. We shuffled with sunken shoulders to the door, too drunk to walk. I tripped over my own soggy boots. Kevin stumbled beside me, in an attempt to keep me upright. The rain fell hard on us both and I remember my jacket felt heavier with each clumsy step.
Half way home, I tripped and fell over a raised speed bump in the middle of a quiet street. My hands hit the asphalt hard. I rolled onto my back and let my spine arch over the raised curve in the road. The rain fell down in fat drops, each one drawing a straight line from the sky to my face. Kevin, now feet ahead, doubled back to help me.
“Just leave me here. I want to die.” — I remember how the words felt inside my mouth before they escaped my lips like black vapor. I had been too drunk to be dramatic — I meant it.
“Come on Sarah, get up.” Kevin’s voice echoed in my head as if we were inside a tunnel. He pulled at my arms. No use — I was dead weight. The world slowed, and then, it went dark.
The next morning I woke, strewn across my bed. My hands were bloody and scraped. My jeans clung to my legs, filthy and wet. In the mirror, my arms were freckled with red and purple bruises. Kevin had dragged me home. I walked into my living room, every bone and muscle — pulled and sore. Kevin slept, with a peaceful expression, on the couch under my blue afghan. His face was soft and still and, for a moment I likened him to an angel — then, I walked into my bathroom to find he had vomited in my sink, on my floor, and in my bathtub.
When I first got sober, I thought about Kevin a lot. Before I went to rehab, we’d grown apart. Our messes were too big to coexist together. I worried for him. I often entertained the idea of leaving a 12-Step pamphlet in his mailbox. But, I never did.
A few months back, while flicking through photos on Instagram, I was greeted by Kevin’s face. Bright eyes replaced his sunken ones. His skin shone bright and pink, not the sickly, sallow yellow I remembered. He smiled, an honest smile, unlike any we’d exchanged between chugs of wine. He held his beautiful, blonde son close to his chest. Content. Happy. In the next photo — his “6 Month” 12-Step sobriety chip was proudly displayed.
Sometimes, I see Kevin in the supermarket with his son. We don’t say hello — we just smile. There were no words back then, and so it remains. It is unspoken. We both know something now that we hadn’t back then — Ease.
There will always be speed bumps. Sometimes you will trip, sometimes you will get up on your own, and sometimes you will be dragged home by the arms. But, there is a lesson in the delay. A chance to lay there with your back on the asphalt and your eyes to the sky.
It is on our darkest road that we are called to order. Listen for it. On the hard days, I can still hear him — “Come on Sarah. Get up.”