Six

I had my last drink six years ago yesterday.  What a weird feeling, weird thing to say.  It feels weird.  I wonder if that’s how it just…feels.  Like the further you get away from feeling like you need that drink, the more foreign even saying “I don’t drink” feels.  It’s not like it feels wrong to say, it is just a part of me, a habit/non-habit that I don’t really think about that much.  Which seems ungrateful to say.  Like I should be getting down on my alcoholic knees and praising the day I found whatever led me to that 5 seconds of clarity that said, “you are kind of done doing this.”

And I am.  I do.  I am grateful.  There were a lot of hands that helped me through whatever was my initial fog.  My initial inability to feel feelings; to name them.  One in particular – my first and only sponsor, who now has 12 years.  I remember when she had 6 years and I was brand new, and six years felt like…forever.  I don’t take any of the help I received then for granted, even if I haven’t kept in touch with all the people who helped me.  I know a common refrain is that I did not come to this decision on my own – that there was a force that guided me.  That is true in my case.  My god is not your god, which is also a common refrain, and I used to not feel ok saying that out loud.  I don’t even like to say “god” – even now.  I will say force.  I will say universal power.  I will say unnamed source.  Whatever it is, it was the voice that said, “You don’t need this.  It is just a story you tell yourself.”

There are times when I drive down a street with a bunch of bars on it – cool bars, hip places that advertise fun, old-fashioned drinks and craft cocktails.  For a second, my brain will whisper, “oh shit girl that sounds nice, sipping a fancy drank in this beautiful scenery that is San Diego, feeling the cool breeze and looking at a sunset.”  Except.  Except except except.

That is not how I drink.

I drink Target box wine.  I drink Cutty Sark scotch because that’s what’s around.  You can even read posts here on this very site that will tell you exactly the ways in which I drink.  I drink to not think about why life is hard.

I now don’t drink in order to make sure I think about exactly why life is hard.

What a difference six years makes.  The ways – all the ways – have been opened for me.  And I keep trying to live like I really believe that.
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Dogs. Death. Drinks. Devotion.

You can never know when you wake up that this will be the day you have to put your dog to sleep.  Millions of paragraphs have been written about losing those that we love, but nothing will seem to resonate with you on this day.  No one else can possibly understand what the pit of your stomach feels like as you make all the motions you have to make:  The decision, the comforting of your friend, the doctor as she listens for the stillness of the heart.  And your heart fucking drops at the same exact time.  Except you’re still moving around.

You walk away and immediately duck into the first bathroom and bawl as silently (or not) as possible.  You wipe your tears with the world’s roughest toilet paper and walk out into the all-too-bright February sunlight, knowing that doing the right thing sucks so much that you just want to lay down in the middle of the parking lot.

You drive on auto-pilot.

You go to your house and your friend is not there to greet you with a wag and a kiss, but all of your friend’s stuff is still there.  Like he was just going to the groomer or something.  You wander around the house.  You pick up the toys.  You gather beds.  You gather treats and food to give to someone you love.  And you sob.  Uncontrollably.  Ugly crying.  Unashamed crying.  You don’t know when it will stop.

This was my morning.  February 4, 2016.  Today marks my second year of sobriety.  Today is a day that has been horrible, and yet amazing, because it has forced me to do something I could not do when I drank – I have been forced to feel.  While it has absolutely been one of the most heart-wrenching days of my life, I could have never felt this over 2 years ago.  I would have drowned all this out.  And surprise – I wouldn’t go back to that place for all the money or happiness in the world.  No one is more surprised than I am.

I would never be able to feel the absolute gratitude I have for this little dog that came into our lives 9 years ago.  I had no idea how much he had given me.  He comforted me through so many hard days and celebrated with me on days filled with joy.  He gave me his absolute and complete devotion and love.  He gave me his trust.  He had a full life, and I am so thankful that we were able to give him that.

Sobriety to some may seem like a long list of “nevers” that you have to tick off.  But for me, sobriety is a never-ending book full of “always.”  I will always have the memory of knowing that I was there for him in his last moment.  I will always have an abundant circle of friends and family around me to comfort me when I am in need.  And I will always, always marvel at this magic fucking universe that gives so freely of itself, and fills up my short life with the wonder and size of the love that is within it.

 

The dog, thus far, has only learned how to look cute.  No coffee skills at all.

For Mister William Wallace.  Chase those frogs, buddy.

 

My Garage: Metaphor for Life

Disclaimer:  If you usually come here looking for laughs, you might find a few in this post, but you might find it more poignant.  If you hate poignant, you might want to just roll out now.  I can’t give you everything.

I decided that after years of neglect and basically just throwing all things I wanted to avoid into our garage, it would be a good idea to rethink that philosophy and try to get in there and clean it.  I thought about this for 8 years.  That’s right.  EIGHT.

This was, undeniably, a task I did not want to tackle.  It seemed insurmountable.  I mean, I had successfully avoided the Garage Issue for a long time.  Because honestly, as soon as we moved into this house we immediately turned the garage into The Land That Time Forgot.  You could technically move around in there, but not well or without difficulty.  It was filled with useless stuff.  Oh, did you need a double vanity with a granite top?  What about a power washer?  Perhaps I can interest you in a smoke machine?  It was a cornucopia of shit on which we could have made a fortune on Craigslist.

But as I said, this shit was daunting, and it wasn’t just a bunch of big weird stuff, there was plenty small stuff as well.  SO MANY NUTS AND BOLTS.  Just strewn everywhere.  So messy and dust-laden and spider-filled.  “Let me in there,” my spirit called out.  “Fuck you,” answered my weary heart.  Until one day.  One beautiful day in a Texas July like no other July.  We had a streak of cool weather (and I mean waaaaay cooler than normal) and I just bit the bullet, opened the garage door, and stared at things.

I think I stared at everything for 10 minutes.  Then something in my brain said, well, nothing’s going to happen if you just keep staring at it.  And thus, I began.

It really amounted to throwing almost all of it away.  And by “away”, I mean I set all that shit out on the curb.  I started, and then my husband joined me later that weekend in Project Free Prizes for Neighbors.  We had people there looking through our stuff as soon as we set it out.  And honestly, that made me happier than any amount of money Craigslist could have ever brought me.  1)  It was gone RIGHT THEN and 2) someone wanted it, they got it.  For free.  That’s great for them, and all we had to do was walk down the driveway with it.  I gathered and organized much of the nut-screw-bolt situation we had going on, placed it on shelves that made sense.  I organized the boxes of Yule decorations I wanted to keep.  Shit was clean-ish, y’all!  I felt a huge sense of not just accomplishment, but a true sense of weight being lifted.  I declared to anyone who would listen that it was perhaps the greatest thing I have ever done.  It felt THAT GOOD.

I have been successfully parking in my garage ever since, and while there’s still work to be done, it’s leaps and bounds better than it was.

It’s not hard for any of you to read between the lines of metaphor.  But for those of you who are musing to yourselves “ok your garage is clean, welcome to being an adult and not living like a fucking hoarder” I say:  It’s bigger than that.  Way.  It’s taken 8 years for me to deal with the crippling obstacle that was my garage.  That doesn’t seem like very long when you compare it with the lifetime of other shit I had successfully (or not) avoided in LIFE.  I avoided it at an extremely functional level as far as your little eyes could perceive.  The twisted beauty of a garage is that as long as you keep the door closed, no one really has any idea of what kind of mess is behind it.  I treated my own person much like that garage:  Just a void where I pushed away anything I thought didn’t matter.  What a shocker when I realized that it actually mattered very much.  I avoided by drinking.  I numbed by taking meds because they helped me be “even.”  I comforted myself with the all-encompassing fuzzy blanket sewn with the Love of Other People’s Problems.  I CREATED A LIFE AROUND ALL OF THIS.  And I woke up every day with my first utterances being angry, hate-filled, woe-is-me-isms.  Good times, y’all.  Good fucking times.

Fast forward, and skipping all the therapy and delving and soul-searching (because hey, that shit never ends, we can talk about that ANY time):

It has been over 6 months since I’ve had a drink.

It has been over 8 months since I’ve taken prescription medication.

I AM NOT LOOKING FOR YOUR PRAISE.  This is what has worked for me.  It is my experience.  It is not everyone’s.  And while I can be proud of myself, I’m not special.  I am just like everyone else, with my own issues and ways of dealing with them.  But that’s just it, isn’t it:  I’m dealing with them.  Not just pushing it into a hidden space.

I wish I could say they have been the BEST MONTHS OF MY LIFE EVER, and while they have been infinitely better than many times in my life, I’ve been raw, vulnerable, and without any door to fucking hide behind.  It is uncomfortable.  It is sometimes painful.  It is, at all times, awkward and surprising and immobilizing and unfathomable,  and a giant dichotomy inside my brain that I mostly don’t have any way to resolve.  And that is why two words are the only ones that can make any sense to me most of the time:

LET GO.

Because hanging on is for suckers.

I guess now everyone gets to find out who I really am without that door hiding the mess.  Including me.

Should be fun, and I’m really not saying that sarcastically at all.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.  And, more than anything, I am completely cognizant that it took all the other experiences to get here.  I am grateful for every single minute that has led me to where I am, for a garage that I’m not scared to be in, and a door that’s open for perhaps the first time.

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