Staring down the barrel

December 1, 2018 § 13 Comments

Every year about now I get an email from a friend, a nice “attaboy” for my whatever-th year of sobriety. The friend has been on the straight and narrow for 34 years; I’m still on the freshly paved and lightly trodden fourth, now entering the fifth.

One of the bad things about ‘fessing up that you have a drinking problem is that even when you quit, it follows you. Of course as the years pass fewer people know about it and so it becomes more like a secret about your past, and the last thing you want to do is bring it up because, heck, many/most of your new friends will never even know it was a thing, and some of them, when they find out, will think you are ____________ (add pejorative here).

I dislike talking about sobriety, actually, but not because I’m afraid of what people might think about my character. I’m mostly afraid that it sounds preachy. Fact is, I don’t care if you drink, smoke, or whatever.

I’m also afraid that it sounds fake. What is four years compared to thirty-four? I’m well aware that the line between sobriety and drunkenness is no wider than the edge of a beer glass, and how’s it gonna look if I post a fancy “LOOK AT MY AWESOME SOBER SELF YO!” today, and wind up in the gutter tomorrow?

Not too good, that’s how.

Knowing other drunks who have sobered up, I also know that I got off easy. One buddy listened to my story and raised an eyebrow. “Dude,” he said. “you were a fuckin’ Cat 5, if that. More like a cruiser bike with a coaster brake.”

But then I think about the friend who takes the time to send me those annual emails. She doesn’t praise me or tell me I’m awesome or congratulate me for being special. She just says, “Hey, I notice, and good job, wanker.” Or something like that.

If it weren’t for the people like her, and they mostly know who they are, I never would have quit. They never preached but they never hid the story, no matter how many decades ago they sobered up.

And then I think about the tiny handful of people who have reached out to me in the last four years and confessed that they too are drunks, and that because of something I’ve said or done they too have decided to sober up, sometimes for a few months, sometimes for good. And THEN I think that for every one of those people, maybe there are one or two others who say nothing but, after reading this blog or listening to me blather, simply get their shit together.

Even one person kicking this bad habit is worth opening up this old wound, which isn’t old at all; in fact, it still oozes every time I pass a bar, smell beer, or walk down the liquor aisle in the supermarket … which, sorry to admit, I do. Destruction and salvation are such close neighbors.

To top it off, I hate anniversaries, especially this one, because a year doesn’t have any more significance than a day, today, which is pretty much the only day I’ve got. And unless I have it completely wrong, that’s the only day you have, too.

END

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