The G word

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I recently googled “should i get” [none of the above] and got the above autocomplete suggestions. It’s not that I haven’t considered and even opted for a few of them, but I never looked at Google as a kind of personal Magic Eight Ball.

For starters, the search would probably take you to a forum post from 2009. You’d find at least 5 conflicting answers, 2 from some guy named Dan whose avatar is a pixelated wizard. Not that I would know.

Are we so uncomfortable with uncertainty that we’re willing to turn important decisions over to confused wizards?

Or are we just in the age where the internet is ripe with information, and there’s no such thing as too much? God knows I’ve found help online staying sober that I couldn’t imagine finding anywhere else.

When it comes to tough questions, I prefer to mull them over in my head for too long. Maybe I’ll journal it, which is like a longhand, long winded prayer to the universe. Or I might email someone I feel close to. The next step might be to state the question out loud in the car or to a sleepy cat that blinks and yawns in response.

Maybe the autocomplete questions are like a first draft to a really tough question. Maybe Dan the wizard would advise them to go with bangs because they’ll make them look younger, but know they’ll take at least 6 months to grow out. If they can’t stand the idea of a 6 month commitment, definitely skip the dog, divorce and tattoo. I’d add they should have gotten their flu shot months ago, but I’m not sure they work anyway, and now I’m going to google tiny images of wizards (said at least 50 people today already).

Garbage

I stepped outside this morning for a run and found two trash bags ripped and strewn about the road. As I picked it up like a pissed off Yosemite Sam, I realized this was no ordinary garbage.

A dozen cans of Keystone Light…a cheap looking bottle of Tangerine Vodka…a half-drunk, capped half gallon of OJ (would you like a sugar coma with that blackout?)… plus – most puzzling of all – an empty box of Townhouse Crackers.

I could play all high and mighty, but the sight of a flattened can of Keystone Light took me back here. 

Disclaimer: though the above picture is actually me at age 19, I am not actually pregnant. I have a pillow up my dress and did not look this cute while carrying actual human beings inside my uterus. I faked pregnancy in order to confuse a gas station clerk long enough to buy two six-packs of Keystone Light at the beach. It worked. This was far from the most desperate thing I did in the name of alcohol. I’m so glad camera phones weren’t around in the 90s. 

I like to think the Keystone Light-Tangerine Blackout party I picked up after this morning was from teenagers. Drunk teens might be more likely to throw empties out the window of a moving car. But would teenagers have the forethought to pack drawstring trashbags? What about the townhouse crackers? Can somebody please explain the townhouse crackers?

The split rail fence was already here when we moved in years ago.

“It’ll be perfect if we get a dog,” one of us said. Still no dog, though we haven’t given up on the idea. We’ve also never treated the fence and so watched it silver and soften and thicken with lichen.

Lichen are not one organism but a fungus and an algae growing together in a symbiotic relationship. On Saturday morning, I tackled the fence with a paint scraper, carefully prying up each one in what felt satisfying in a mindless, meditative way. I also felt a bit like a monster destroying tiny, perfect worlds.

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british soldier lichen on a rail

Nature abhors a vacuum, which is never more evident than on an old rotting fence. Take away one thing and another fills in. I scraped and thought how true this is for vices. Love is the only thing that truly fills, but even love isn’t without pitfalls.

After the fence scraping and lunch, I scrapped plans to run on a trail by myself and brought my littlest kid along. In June, I’d like her to come along on a 5K I’m planning to do with a couple sober bloggers. I wanted to see if 3 miles is doable for pint-sized legs.

We were full speed ahead for the first mile. The second mile saw more breaks to rest upon benches, peer down ominous looking grates, pet a giant poodle, and stare in fascinated horror at one long-dead deer that appeared to be melting back into the ground.

The third mile is when we both got covered in tar. Tar! One second we were leaning over a bridge to get a better look at trout wiggling in neat rows in the stream below and the next my little girl said uh-oh and raised her chubby arm to show it was coated in shiny brown tar.

I decided it would be best to wash it off in the creek, which is really code for “here, you can’t keep all that tar for yourself – let me smear some on my hands so they’ll stick to the steering wheel!” Not only was I unable to clean off any tar, I sunk my new running shoes into a thick stew of mud.

On the rest of the walk back, my little girl held her tar arm behind her back when we passed others. “What if it never comes off?” she asked. In her mind, she had already graduated kindergarten and gotten married and raised a brood of babies, all with a gummy coat of tar on her good arm.

“We’ll get it off,” I said and smiled to show her I meant it.

“But what if you can’t?” she asked, already wise to the fact that parents can’t fix everything, especially ones with muddy shoes and sticky tar all over their driving hands.

We made it back to the car and a canister of wet naps, which occupied her until we reached home and warm, soapy water and a good scrub brush.

Now, if I’d just gone those 3 miles on my own like I’d planned before scraping lichen, I guarantee I wouldn’t have come home covered in tar. I also wouldn’t have noticed the melting deer or pet a giant poodle with my little girl. Relationships are messy, and we are richer for having them and letting our hands get dirty.

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lichen love

 

He drinks and that’s cool, though it might also be the jean jacket

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This is my husband, Joe, and me. We’re sitting at a table meant for children and I’m wearing my oldest kid’s jacket, but I think we both look pretty cool. I look 85% cooler in sunglasses. All my husband needs is a jean jacket, though his glasses are pretty sharp too. I put this picture up on facebook and people all of a sudden started noticing Joe looks like Keith Olbermann. I always thought Joe looked angry in pictures because he never smiles, but now I see it could also be interpreted as quiet thoughtfulness or a  dedication to cutting edge journalism. This is the longest caption I’ve ever written but it’s too late to back down now.

 

In early recovery, I secretly worried I was doing everything wrong. I worried I wasn’t going to enough meetings or I wasn’t going to the right kinds of meetings. I worried because I wasn’t working with a sponsor and then worried I’d rushed into one too soon. I worried when I wasn’t working steps, and finally started working them only to worry I was doing them all wrong.

I then worried when I quit going to meetings and dropped my sponsor and stopped working steps. This makes all those other worries seem moot, but there is one worry I’ve carried consistently and I don’t write about it much because it involves another person.

I worry what it means to be married to a drinker and have access to a fully stocked bar in the kitchen. It may not be ideal to be around alcohol all the time and, in fact, it might be a terrible idea for some people trying to quit drinking. But it can be done. It can feel really challenging at times. It isn’t black and white. The real stuff never is.

The reason I’m writing about this is because two things popped up this weekend.

The first thing was we had lunch as a family in this lovely indoor picnic spot, which probably sounds strange but spring is still more lion than lamb in these parts. We almost had the place to ourselves except for an older couple lingering over lunch and a big bottle of wine. They noticed the specialty beer Joe was drinking and the guy even walked over for a closer look at his bottle.

Would anyone even do this over food? It’s a secret language, this shared love of craft brews and fine wine. I used to speak it and still understand, though I sat sipping coke zero from a plastic cup almost wishing it was a sissy juice box. Go ahead, make fun and I will cut you. Seeing older couples enjoy a big bottle of wine together is a trigger for me, apparently. I am mourning a future Joe and I have not had, nor will we ever if I’m lucky.

When the kids are grown, we’ll never get to tour wine country or swill beers from matching steins in Germany or linger over a big bottle of wine in an indoor picnic house. I blew it and that’s a fact and a blessing and, well, because it’s both it feels complicated.

But the fact is I don’t mourn anything about my decision to get sober 2.75 years ago. And Joe and I get along better than we have in years. I find more patience and joy in the little things and the best kept secret about sobriety is that everything is just as fun without alcohol. Even moreso without the hangovers and guilt. Some of you are nodding your head in agreement and some have it cocked to an odd angle because maybe you’re not there yet, but you’ll see too if you hang in there. I had to see it to believe it.

The other thing that popped up this weekend is a friend who is newly sober told me she shared with her boyfriend that she wants to start going to recovery meetings and was touched and maybe even a little surprised by his support. He still drinks. Oh man, do I get this.

When I told Joe I wanted – no, I probably said needed – to stop drinking, he looked surprised and/or skeptical, but he didn’t try to talk me out of it. He has been my strongest pillar of support aside from the overwhelming belief deep in my core that I am doing this for a reason that matters more than I can possibly understand.

Joe used to rush home from work on Tuesday nights when I wanted to make a certain recovery meeting. He still makes it work when I want to go on longer runs on the weekend. He buys fancy schmancy waters and green teas and copious amounts of jelly beans because he gets that enabling my other addictions might very well save me from the one that could kill me, or, worse yet, kill what we have now.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I hate that he still drinks sometimes. In that same picnic house, I could smell his beer and hated how good it smelled. I wish the smell made me sick or, better yet, did nothing for me at all. But I have to imagine if I’d given up chocolate for the last 2.75 years, it still would smell pretty fucking good. If I have to look for a silver lining in being around it constantly, it is that it reminds me how powerless I still am and will always be. It still smells just as good and I would still fall sideways into drinking if I tried moderating just one more time. Nothing has changed.

Most days when he drinks I only notice that he is drinking. I usually don’t pay mind to what beer or cocktail or how many. My brain has made alcohol invisible or at the very least translucent as a kind of coping mechanism. When he’s hungover and crabby and impatient, I know the cure for that. But I also know sobriety is a very individual choice and it’s a gift that not everyone gets or it’s a choice not everyone takes. I feel lucky I got the gift and took that choice, and I wonder if Joe took it, would he also threaten to dump clothes out the window like I did that time in early recovery when I was stuck in the seemingly insurmountable swamp of sorting out our youngest’s closet? Recovery is hard work, yo.

Not my gift to give, not my decision to make anyway. We might make another 17 years with him still sipping beer and me whatever zippy name the future calls diet soda. Today I am oh so grateful for the subtle ways sobriety has smoothed out my rough edges and the layered effects it’s had on our marriage.

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