I miss the labels. I loved walking among the shelves filled with bottles of wine, looking at all the labels. I loved how they changed over the years, growing more interesting, more graphically pleasing. I loved noticing which ones I was drawn to: the clean lines, the clever names. I loved the way a cluster of wine bottles looked on my green marble countertop, like a little art installation in my kitchen.
But I loved too much what was inside the bottles, and not enough myself, my life, all of my treasure.
It's funny how a person who has stopped drinking remembers precisely the last day, probably even the last moment they had a drink. The same way you remember a catastrophic event: when the Towers fell, the tsunami in Thailand, the day John Kennedy Jr.'s plane fell out of the sky. Most things are foggy now, but some events are like a slate roof, a platinum ring, a Patagonia jacket inside my head: they will never wear-out.
I drank too much that day, which was pretty much like every other day back then. And then I was mean to the man I loved. I lashed out at him for the things I didn't like about his life. But he had stopped drinking a few decades earlier and knew the drill. He was kind and forgiving, sturdy. He gave me a little brass bell and told me to ring it whenever I needed him, told me he would be there for me, that if I chose to stop drinking, he would be my greatest ally.
He was; it was the truth. I have not had a drink since. Except the night we celebrated my first year of sobriety when the waitress served me an alcoholic mojito by mistake. It wasn't funny at the time, because that first year is kind of everything, but it's funny now. It's a good story now.
Six years is a long time. Five years was a milestone, but after six years a thing really settles into your bones. Six years and you graduate from kindergarten and move on to the big time.
My kids have walked with me every step of the way, insisting, when I have joked about having a drink, that I shouldn't. Kids, it turns out, prefer that their parents are not jerks, like it when their parents have their act together, show up and don't slur their words.
I miss the person I was when I could drink just a little and then read a book or go to bed. A glass of wine with spaghetti or a beer with a burger. I miss that person. I wish I had not let her get away from me.
But she did. She is gone; I'm here. "I like you better this way," Coco tells me.
Better is enough. Better is plenty.
And if you are reading this today and booze is kicking your ass, I have a bell for you. My struggles, your treasure. Amen.
Please subscribe here so six years from now I can write about how I overcame my Facebook addiction. Thanks!