You Can Lead A Drunk To Water

Photo May 21, 9 50 33 AM

When you’re a drunk, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to realize that you’re a drunk. — Trust me.

But, it won’t be opportunity that makes you willing to change.

The day I realized I was alcoholic, I gave no fucks. I wasn’t in the wake of severe sickness or a heinous hangover. I didn’t have a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I recall it, what was ostensibly the most dramatic day of my life, was not very dramatic — at all.

On the contrary. My haphazard self-discovery occurred in the midst of what was an otherwise arbitrary moment. Completely ordinary. It was as though I had already made room for the information, as if I had been expecting it to arrive. And, in most ways, it felt as if nothing had happened at all. Except — something had happened.

On the day of my revelation, I was still enrolled in a state sanctioned outpatient rehab program as part of my sentence for DUI, which I’d been charged with earlier in the year. As was part of the routine, I’d been drug tested the Friday before — which meant I was in the clear to drink for several weeks before I’d be tested again.

I’d been living my life this way for months. And, even as I neared the end of my first stint in drug and alcohol treatment, I worked around it, diligently, continuing to drink when I knew I had enough time to detox before being tested again. Yes, I fucked the system. And, I fancied myself clever and rebellious for doing so. The majority of my rehab group was behaving in the same way. But, I remember feeling so above them all. I imagined that I was the only one who was truly “managing” my problem. Because, after all, I didn’t really have a problem. I’d just been caught in a low moment. Who hasn’t?

I ignored the warning from Jim, our rehab group leader, — “I know what you’re up to, Sarah. I can’t prove it, because you’re testing clean, but, this will catch up with you. Maybe it’ll be while you’re working with us in here, or, maybe it’ll be when you get back out there into the real world. Tread lightly, sweetheart.”  But, I knew better. Stupid, fucking Jim, I thought, he didn’t even know that I’d never left my “real world.”

Except — he totally knew. And, that’s what he was trying to tell me.

Of course, Jim was right. Everything would catch up with me. But, when it did, I would have no Willingness to change, whatsoever. And, that’s how it goes. We sometimes discover our truth in a moment when we have absolutely nothing to gain from it. — No hope. No momentum.

On the day of my revelation, I walked by my local pub and I stopped to peer in through the big, glass window. My fair-weather-friends sat ponied up to the bar, laughing. Amelia, one of my favorite bartenders, mixed her signature Sunday-Bloody-Mary in a pint glass. My small little world waited for me inside — a tall glass of infused vodka and tomato juice, topped with an excessive vegetable garnish — and all that sloppy, smarmy camaraderie. My only happiness, just feet away.

I was inclined to walk in, then and there. But, as soon as the thought entered my head, I knew I couldn’t. — I had errands to run. Several that involved the use of my car. And, between the breathalyzer I’d have to blow into to start the engine and the other adult-like tasks that needed doing, — I knew I couldn’t have that Sunday-Bloody-Mary. Not yet.

And, that was the moment. — The singularly unspectacular moment when I realized I was a drunk. I knew that if I had just one of Amelia’s Goddamned Sunday-Bloody-Mary’s, that my day was shot. — I’d be at that bar until it closed or until I was cut off and kicked out — whichever came first. And so, I scheduled my errands around the absolute certainty that once I was seated at that bar — I wasn’t getting up again until I was good and shitfaced.

This is the definition of alcoholism.

You would think discovering that my life revolved around something so meaningless, so empty, would lead me to some sort of existential reckoning. A reckoning that would get me some Willingness. A reckoning that would usher me out of my small, shitty life and into the bigger, better pastures for which I was destined. But, it didn’t.

The day I realized I was an alcoholic, I did what any good alcoholic would — I got the bullshit tasks I needed to get done, done. And then, I marched right back to that pub and I got down to business. — And, I drank to blackout.

Willingness is not born to those who acknowledge its necessity. Willingness is born to those who are ready to ask for help. And, help is the one thing that every drunk will need.

Sometimes, help will stand right in front of you. Like Jim did, for me. But, if you’re a real drunk — you’ll likely ignore the many life rafts that float up along side you while you’re sipping your beverage du jour, floating downstream.

Jim was just my warning sign. A marker scratched into the door frame that documents my alcoholism’s many growing pains.

Willingness is that invisible hand for which, eventually, we reach out when there is nothing left for us to hold on to. It is the last notch we’ll gauge in the doorway. But how and when we decide to do these things, is still a mystery. But, be assured that someone, like Jim, will lead you to the water. And, maybe, on that day, you’ll gulp it down. But, if you’re like me, the chances are better that you’ll run from the oasis the first time you come upon it.

But, on some other day, you will find yourself with Willingness. Jim will be long gone. You’ll be staring through the glass window of the pub and you’ll decide — you don’t have to drink that day. And, you’ll think of Jim as you pass by door, whispering to yourself:

“Tread lightly, sweetheart.”

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Queen Of Tides

Photo Oct 01, 6 43 09 AM

The tide goes out.

Fucking planetary shifts. Everything feels like it’s moving but, in truth, it all remains the same.

I’ve been toggling between complete abandon and steadfast rigidity. Even in my sobriety, there is lack of balance. I make subtle shifts in an attempt to adjust, but, I’m still unsure if I’m putting my weight on the right foot. I only know one thing for sure: I cannot keep standing still.

Change is like pulling teeth. Gritty, bloody, then sore. I’m the Queen of Comfortable. I like knowing what’s next. Guarded. Predictable. Safe. But I’m finding, these days, that I’ve started to lose interest in safety. Being stationary — a statue in status quo — has never been my forte. But, moving in a different direction is scary. There are only certain people and things I can count on — what if they don’t move when I do?

I ask myself, should I listen to my mother? Or God? Or my heart? — Are they all the same? Is the crazy, homeless guy outside my apartment window my guru? — Probably not, a friend tells me. So who’s the expert? Is it me? Maybe that little voice going off inside me isn’t wrong. Starting over is hard. Starting from scratch is harder. I try to remember that I’ve become skilled at wading through the changing tides.

I wonder how many things I’ll change my mind about this week. Which dreams I’ll abandon — And what I’ll exchange them for.

I sometimes think about what I’m missing while I’m busy giving myself lectures on why things can’t and won’t turn out well. Being careful, playing my cards right, waiting until the iron is hot, then striking — it’s all a satin bow on my rotting pile of procrastination. I’m tired of waiting. For a long time it was someone else who held my strings in place. Now, I’ve no one to blame but myself.

I lay quietly in the dark — I allow myself to hear the sad thoughts that make my heart turn to glop. It’s the stillness, not the mayhem, that draws the tide back in — gravity. The water glides with such ease, when it’s finally pulled back into the well at the ocean’s core, it leaves behind soft lines in the sand — they wait under the waves until the water peels back like wrapping paper.

The moon is up. And, I think — maybe I’ll do something crazy.

Everything is different. Gravity.

The tide comes in.

 

The 25th Renewal

shhhh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, I have $8.75 in library fees.

During the obligatory-vacay-inbox-check, I was greeted by a friendly email reminder from the Multnomah County Library — I need to renew a book I checked out over a year and a half ago, for the 25th time.

Yes. The 25th time.

I’ve already read the book, twice. I just haven’t gotten around to returning it. And, with modern conveniences, like online renewal, I’ve put it off. It’s not wait listed. There are plenty of copies. Why not keep it? No one suffers and I save myself a trip.

But, for some reason, amidst the joys of vacation, I decided to over think the general concept of renewal — and the art of putting it off. While I lay in the luscious, summer sun of upstate New York, big green leaves fanning me with the East Coast breeze, I got the distinct feeling that you probably shouldn’t set your own renewal on autopilot. Renewal is something special. Invigorating. You can’t just go somewhere to return and reset — it’s a process of internalizing and letting go. It’s something intricate. A little thought. A micro-decision. Lilliputian, really. Something so miniscule that we don’t realize it’s happened until we are renewed. And, while the action of renewal is undetectable, its aftermath — sheer glory.

It’s sort of like vacation — I knew I needed one, but, I didn’t know how badly until I got back home. I lay in my own bed, jet lagged, took a few deep breaths, and for the first time in months I finally felt the oxygen in my lungs. Even in a state of total exhaustion there was a sense of relief. There is a certain pleasure in returning home, to my adult life, after being transported back to a strange version of my childhood for a week and a half.

My first day back to work, I woke up with the alarm at 4:45AM. My body didn’t complain or resist. The dark of morning cast a sweet spell over the streets of Southeast Portland, and the world felt easy and comfortable. As I jogged down the hill on Steele street, the wakening sky hung behind the West Hills like a new canvas. All one color. A clean slate. And, there, I felt it — my renewal. I smiled, alone in the dark.

It’s a worthy practice to appreciate old things seeming new, even if they aren’t. To take yourself away from your default condition is a spiritual experience — an opportunity to return to center with different eyes. And, while we may not be better or worse for our time away, we are undeniably changed. Renewal is just a synonym for gratitude.

This week, my renewal was advanced to me without having to visit the Multnomah County Library website. So, with appreciation, I dig out my library book, a year and a half later. Sigh. It’s time. This book cries out for a new place on a different shelf. I walk to my local library branch and I drop the dusty tome into the big-metal-slot for some other book worm. Yes, please, check this out —  it’s an old book, but, after moving from shelf to shelf, there’s something new and special with the turn of each page — a secret every library card holder knows.

The book sounds a heavy thud as it hits the bottom of the return bin. We had a good run. But, we are not meant to hold on to things forever. And, by letting go, we are reunited with the genuine delight of returning to things that are truly our own.

Stay saucy,

Sarah