Drinking stops, but thinking does not. As you learn to live all over again—taking baby steps—the world around you continues.
Thirty years of steady alcohol intake trains the body and brain. You don’t notice the aches. The pain. When you’re frustrated, you drink. If you’re tired, you drink. Happy, you drink. Sad, you drink.
Drinking goes with everything.
“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”
When it stops, much of what you were pushing down comes up. At first, this makes it harder to cope. You can’t turn toward your old friend—The Little Monster—for help. And so, you’re more frustrated than ever. You’ve never gone to anyone before. You haven’t had to think through the process of feeling.
Relearning the art of reason is a bitch.
Your kids don’t get it. Your wife doesn’t get it. If they do, their understanding and any leeway they give you is only for the first few weeks of your sobriety. And that’s fine, what else can you ask of them? They’ve already put up with enough of your shit. Life keeps moving and sure as hell doesn’t wait for you to get better, think clearly, and be happy. So, you suffer in silence. Take your licks. Realize that this return to the world you left so long ago is providing regular doses of punishment that you have earned. The selfishness, bad decisions, and years of pissing away time are all in line, waiting. Day after day, for as long as it takes, to hammer and shape you. To knock you down. Over and over and over again.
Do your best every day to get up, stay up, and reason through the day. You’re going to make poor decisions. That’s part of being human. You still have wants and needs. Probably more now than you did when you were drinking. The thing is, many of those wants will be left unfulfilled. Your needs will go unmet. You can’t focus on the disappointments. Simply recognize them and move on. Celebrate the small moments that feel so big.
Like boiling water for coffee after a morning walk with your wife. One that was shorter than usual and filled with forced silence because even after a dozen years of marriage, you’re new to this. Knowing what to say. What to do. Trying to stop yourself from wanting what you want. So, to fulfill your part of compromise, you shut up. Focus on the ants building homes in sidewalk cracks. Kick pine cones. Wonder why there are so many older men out alone so early in the morning. Walking. Biking. Driving. And you keep one dog moving forward while the other one nudges your calf, softly. Pushing you along. Encouraging you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When you realize this, you bend over. Pet her. And the nudging stops.
You knew you could pull out of it. That the anxiety and unknown would pass. You’d make it home. Grind coffee while water boiled. Take your I LOVE MY DAD mug out of the cupboard. Then stand and stare at the walls of the big old house around you, considering all the living yet to be done in the undetermined number of days you have left.
The pot hisses. Nearly screams, as you remove it from the heat to mix liquid with grounds in the glass decanter. You push the plunger. Take a deep breath. Sigh.
Four minutes later. At your writing desk. You pour coffee. Lift to drink. And quietly celebrate that you’ve made it this far.