The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

A Life Less Liquid

The reasons for June 30th 2008 had been laid down over the course of decades, the planning for that day had begun 3 months prior.

I’d gotten up one morning in March, sick as usual, doing what I could to become normal enough to operate until the hangover passed enough to ignore, or I got off work and was able to treat it.

It was bad; mornings were getting worse. I couldn’t keep much of anything down for the first few hours anymore, though the coffee usually stayed put long enough to give me a slight buzz – if I drank enough fast enough.

Perhaps I should start considering a morning bracer. Being a beer drinker wouldn’t make that easy. My wife gets up at the same time I do. And I don’t stop after just the one, never have. So I’ll need to figure out how to carry a steady buzz throughout the day without overdoing it and being in full sail by noon. You can’t drink beer at work very discreetly, so booze of choice would have to change as well. Vodka? Ugh. If I have to…

Unfortunately however, I have rules. Those rules kept me a functional boozer for alotta years, and here I needed to figure out a way to actually repeal one. Certainly rules can get bent and folded and mutilated over the normal course of human events, but tossing one out, ending the moratorium against drinking before or during work hours, now that’s a major revision.

And if I screwed up and set sail at work then I was finished. Security gone. My family with it, eventually. I know how I drink better than anyone and there was a big risk I’d screw up, sooner rather than later probably.

You’re fortunate if you can recognize a crossroads when you come upon it. Even better when you can read the signs. Realization of how your own steps led you to this place is stark and clear. No matter which path you chose to walk from there, you will always remember standing at this one spot, the way the dust floated around your shoes, the birds or the harpies in the trees, whether a star or an alluring song informed your next step.

Aunt Bee just said “Ok.” when I told her I was going to stop drinking. She’d heard me say alot of things under sail. She believes it when she sees it.

Over the next few weeks I began to work through the system; Finding out my treatment options as I knew this wasn’t something I could just stop on my own, checking that insurance would cover it, that we had enough to cover what insurance would not, enough to cover unpaid time from work, discretely letting my boss know of my intentions so I could get the time off and have a job to return to, and then nailing it all down.

Aunt Bee began to believe.

The night before was probably the most difficult time of all. Not because I was counting down the last beers, or that I was busy retracing the steps I took to get to that place and the swath I’d lain about me in the process, but that I still had one last thing to do.

While my wife was by my side every step of the way, I hadn’t told my son I was doing this, telling him was that last thing. It’s not that he didn’t know I was an alcoholic, he understood it very well, he had a front row seat after all. I’d also made a point of talking to him about it frankly over the years since I’d realized that I was not a normal drinker. (average 15 beers a night on a 120lb frame doesn’t seem normal to me, at least) I laid out the genetics, biologies, and psychologies that could lead him down the path I’d taken and took pains to outline many of the issues it presented in my life when I could. I don’t think I really needed to explain it to him, but it probably made us both feel better, and that’s good enough all by itself. He did an amazing and mature job of mitigating my problems in our household.

I just hadn’t mentioned I was going to finally try and fix it in case I screwed it up and blew up on the launch pad. It shouldn’t have been so hard; I’d explained and philosophized over my boozing many times, how could telling him I was going to get help be so terrifying? Well, because if I came out of the other side and started swimming again it would be a failure of the first order. If I simply continued my current course the fall wouldn’t be from nearly so high – afterward though… I don’t recall what I told him in that conversation, but after he went back to his room Aunt Bee found me pressed into the corner of the kitchen.

Later that night I had the last beer. Nothing special. Perhaps some nostalgia, but the point of the evening was the same as all the other evenings; drink another beer. The next morning, June 30th 2008 at 10:30am I reported to a facility in Kirkland to dry out and learn how to stay that way.

Out of about 110 souls I was one of only a handful that were there by choice. It didn’t make me feel special. No, I felt bad for them, and perhaps a small measure of pity for those folks that were fighting so hard to continue to walk their path into pain. Many of them were back for their second, third, or maybe fourth time, and many would return again. It was hard enough for me to align my own stars enough to get me there, I didn’t want to be back.

Aunt Bee and my parents visited every visiting day and participated in the support and education programs. The kid visited when he wasn’t working.

28 days later my Dad drove the Seville to Kirkland and I tossed my bags into the trunk and slid into the driver’s seat. A sunny day, the car was fueled and waxed, my parents in the back seat and my Love sitting beside me. It was a good day.

Since then alot has happened; some of it I’ve already written of, some I may write of later, and some can only now be written of as I’ve opened this perspective to exploration. Living closer to the reality around me is no easier than before, and rather harder in many ways. I didn’t become the perfect father, son, or husband as some might assume would occur. I didn’t become less of a grump, less annoyed, or intellectually or philosophically robust. My health didn’t snap to, and my vim didn’t magically become vigorous. I’m still the same asshole I was, just not a drunken one.

Of all that’s happened over the last 2 years, one thing has not, and that’s what matters for today.

(there are several folks that helped me through the process and who continue to support and encourage me as my sober days stack up. thank you so very much, you have no idea what you’ve done for me and I haven’t the words to be able to tell you)


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