Three years ago, I woke up.
I’m sober three years today, and quite frankly; I didn’t even think I would last out a year, let alone three of them…or 1,096 days (but who’s counting?). I look at that number and think and how much money I saved, never mind saving my liver! Well, there is that for which I am truly grateful; and outside of my teeth, I really didn’t screw up my health. All my internal organs check out fine (and have since then, although I’m due for one of those extremely uncomfortable procedures gentlemen get); the eyesight’s a bit worse, I’m now having to use reading glasses on top of my contact lenses and I have a set of eyeglasses with bi-focals as well; and I have two very cranky discs in my lower back that constantly give me pain and annoyance. And I managed to fix those teeth by getting a whole set of new ones. While I can eat a steak with great relish now, or tear into ribs with joyous abandon; I always carry a spare set of adhesive strips for my upper dentures, and make sure they’re well glued before we venture out. These are the little things you appreciate when you stop drinking to alcoholic excess and kill yourself slowly without knowing you are doing so.
Then there are the unquantifiables. How can I put a price tag on the respect my children now have for me? How can I truly say how much I love my wife, even though I may not necessarily show it all the time and I can be the biggest pain in the ass to live with? What do you say about a woman who stood by me in the darkest days, managed to deal with more crap than she ever bargained for when she signed up for this marriage thing, and keep the whole family together simultaneously at great cost to her own sanity? That, in and of itself, cannot even be put into words and somehow, “thank you” would seem more of an insult than a compliment.
I actually enjoy eating decent meals again, especially since I’m not falling face first in my mashed potatoes like I did one Thanksgiving. Cooking has become a great passion again, and that spiffy new kitchen we put in a few months ago has been getting quite a workout by both myself and eldest daughter Kate, who enjoys making a good meal as much as I do. That’s where her and I bond; she’s stirring the gravy constantly while I’m slicing up the roast (like we’ll be doing tonight); or I’m trying to pass on to her a recipe handed down to me by my mother that’s been passed on for generations; or I’ll have a germ of an idea and she’ll start adding things to it and before you know it, we have ourselves a new dish. (Now if I can only get her to clean up after herself in the kitchen…).
I like going out to small and quiet restaurants more so now that I’m not drinking, because I can actually appreciate the food (duh!). I can’t really deal with the Olive Gardens or TGI Friday’s of the world; just give me a nice quiet Chinese restaurant with a varied menu from all parts of China, but most especially Szechwan. Dear God, I love spicy Asian food! And I can actually taste and enjoy it again! On the other end of the spectrum, give me a nice small family run Italian Restaurant that serves the basics. A great Chicken Parmesan, a lovely Lasagna, a silky smooth Veal Marsalla…all hallmarks of the classic Italian establishment. A nice traditional sports bar/restaurant serving American classic fare is another great pit stop for my hunger. These types of places are sprinkled all over the Jersey Shore, and we have a few excellent places by us. One restaurant cuts its own steaks, and as a result the NY Strip is to DIE for.
Now, you think I’d be fatter than Oliver Hardy after reading all of that. I’m not; in fact, I’m quite the opposite…but I am now at the proper weight for my height for the first time in my life. I’ve always had a quick metabolism, and have never had a weight problem (unless you count being underweight as a problem). My two weaknesses are Coca Cola and cigarettes; hey, we all have our vices. Besides, quitting drugs and alcohol was easier than trying to quit smoking. I knew guys in rehab who were counselors and former heroin addicts, who said quitting smoking was harder than kicking smack. That’s pretty scary. So I simply choose not to be scared, that is until the prices become completely astronomical like they are in New York and California. The sad part about all those “sin taxes” that States build their budget on is when people really do stop smoking, their revenue stream goes down…so eventually everyone else gets taxed. Think about that one the next time they raise cigarette taxes in your State you ex-smokers and non-smokers; because you’re going to pay for it eventually!
All of these simple things (and more) were made possible by faith in the Universe unfolding as it should (sometimes); hence the sub-title of this blog. Writing has kept me sober more than any AA Meeting did in the two and a half years than I regularly attended them. That’s what works for me; for others it’s AA; and still for others it’s something else. The bottom line is you accept you have a problem, and you deal with it and live with it the best you can. It’s not God that will save your sorry ass, it’s YOU. You and a lot of love and support from friends and family. I couldn’t have gotten this far without my family; my two beloved daughters alone are enough to want me not to have a drink (even though they will drive you to drink sometimes!). Gracie, who is starting to get to know her Daddy better, as I am starting to get to know her better. She was the neglected one in all of this mess, because she was born August 12, 2001; just a month before all hell broke loose in my world (and the rest of the world too). She’s never really had a Daddy that’s been stable, until the past two years at best. I say two years because the first year of sobriety is as much a haze as your last year, because you’re learning how to live your life and do things again without a drink in one hand. So I’m trying to be more attentive to her and pay more attention to her than I have in the past; because I’ll be damned if I rob another child of their childhood.
Then we come to my rock of faith, my oldest daughter Kate. I cannot even begin to tell you how much this child has kept me on course; and during my darkest days, pretty much kept me functioning. She played mother hen around here when my wife went back to work in 2005, and kept things going…at the expense of her childhood. She had to grow up more than she should have; but this is what alcoholism does to families. I cannot repay her enough in this lifetime for her unfailing faith in me as a sober man, and as a grateful father who always had a cup of coffee ready for me to start the day. The kid was 8 years old at the time the house of cards collapsed and I started on the pathway to recovery. A special kid, that is for certain; and if it’s at all possible, I love her even more today than ever.
Then we come to my wife; Keeper of The Flame, Vanquisher of Demons, awesome mother, breadwinner, and simply an amazing human being. After what she has gone through over the past eight years, she should write her own book to be a companion piece to the one I’m writing now. She watched two buildings collapse knowing that her husband worked two blocks away, as she was holding a one month old daughter with a 4 year old daughter who was trying to make sense out of the whole thing. She had to deal with a husband who had PTSD, was later diagnosed as being bi-polar, and was a raging alcoholic all while trying to hold down the fort when I was still working. Now, being the primary source of income (thank God she is a Registered Nurse) she is dealing with having to work when she’d much rather be at home as a Mom. This role reversal is not to her liking, to put it mildly. Yet she goes on, and on the days when she’s not being a Mom she is out helping Humanity. I would have left me a long time ago if I had to deal with what she did. She stayed. She didn’t abandon her life partner, even though he deserved to be left in the dust. We both take our wedding vows seriously, and these past few years have tested every single one of them. But there is no one on the planet who I love more, and would rather be in a foxhole with.
This is what alcoholism and recovery looks like.
I started this piece ostensibly to be one with some philosophy behind it; and it wound up veering off into great steaks, cigarette taxes, and thanking the people who made today possible. This is as much about them as it is for me. It’s about living in the now and being so lucky to have just that single moment; just like the one I am having now writing this post. This moment will never come again, there will be some like it, but never THIS moment. It’s a way of life…life in moments and scenes and pictures on a wall somewhere in the back of your mind. THIS moment IS the future and the past all rolled into one. The sooner you realize that all you have it what you are living in; you kind of have a different outlook on things.
All because for this moment, I chose not to drink. I choose to imprison my malady rather than have it imprison me. I can’t tell you that I’m never going to have a drink again; any alcoholic who says that is either full of it or doesn’t understand exactly what the issues are. But for now, I choose not to drink; no Group is going to help me; God isn’t going to help me (because if there is a Supreme Being, She created all this and left it to its own devices); books aren’t going to help me. Not even my friends and family can do that; all they can do is be there when it counts and when I need them. And it all comes down to one simple thing:
Living in the moment, understanding that it will never pass this way again, so make sure it’s a damned good moment. Then you will never have regrets about your past, and you can accept your future with eyes wide open.
“He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sun rise.” – William Blake