Soon I’ll make the two-plus hour drive “home” to visit family while my husband flies across country for work. He’s flown to San Diego for Comicon all 17 years I’ve known him, yet I only joined him once. Too bad my memories of that trip are mostly gin-soaked afternoons at a generic hotel pool, evenings I don’t quite remember, followed by bloody marys at breakfast that were ordered in what I hoped was my casual voice but couldn’t possibly have been. Too bad I discovered red bull and vodkas that trip and why they’re called the blackout special. Too bad I discovered bad hangovers can induce mild agoraphobia and ruin a trip to one of the most beautiful spots in the country, probably the world. Too bad, so sad.
If my unease with the weekend ahead were only triggered by pickled regret, I could file it away for step 4 and move on. But I’m also kind of dreading going home, and this puzzles the hell out of me.
Many things get easier in sobriety. Driving, getting up in the morning, and doing the right thing all come to mind. Why does a visit with family feel so hard?
I realize how duh that last question sounds, but I should stress that my parents are not drinkers and have always been supportive of me. They’ve given me space and let me set the pace of how often I visit, which was roughly every other month until the last year or so. I’m not sure what changed in sobriety, but I realized the other day that I haven’t been down to visit with the kids since Christmas. They’ve been up a couple times for a school play or birthday, and the visits have gone great, so nothing happened to make me feel this way.
My parents know I’m sober, though that’s all they know. I told my (step) mom shortly after I stopped drinking that I was going to recovery meetings. Her brother has been in the program for decades, and she seemed surprised but happy for me in her usual level-headed, non-intrusive way. I told my sister, who was also supportive but tight-lipped. My dad knows, though not because I told him. I come from a long line of controlled people. My brother is the only one who wanted to talk sobriety with me, but more to tell me about this wonderful FDA-approved medication that cures alcoholism. Nevermind that he takes it with alcohol, which would be funny if it weren’t so sad. He suffers the same mysterious genetic curse that killed our grandfather and spared our mother to lie in wait. He is the connection that lets me say “see, I have this family disease” to anyone but my family.
Maybe the reason I’m sad about visiting my family is that I fear I’ve disappointed them. I always wanted to be perfect, and drunk mothers – even those in recovery – are far from perfect. Or maybe it’s that the honest, open approach I’m trying to take with my feelings doesn’t really fit with the way I’ve always dealt with my family. Feelings used to be thoughts that turned rotten and threatened to bloat and bubble to the surface. I feel a little out of practice and ill-suited to my old life. The good news is this visit isn’t about my old life or even me. My girls are crazy for their grandparents. The only thing I’m looking forward to in all of this is seeing that love, which is freer somehow between grandparents and grandkids.
Instead of ending on a sad note, I wanted to share that last night my husband told me this summer so far is the best he’s had in years. We’ve made it to the pool a lot as a family and oh what a difference a year and some potty training and swim lessons make in how much more we get to enjoy the pool as parents. At home, we’ve made s’mores and caught lightning bugs and played ghost in the graveyard and done all the same stuff we did years before to lesser effect. What’s different now? Well, I’m on my second summer sober, but I wouldn’t expect my husband to feel it as much as I do. Still, it’s there and I can’t help but think of that part in the Big Book where the doctor relates sobriety to getting a new pair of glasses and seeing everything around him come into focus. I’ll do well to keep this part in mind this weekend.
Acceptance is the answer to ALL of my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment … I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.