I wasn't going to say anything about this until June, when the three-year marker of my sobriety comes around, but then I remembered that deciding to stop drinking has been one of the few things I can point to in my life that brings me happiness every single day of the year, though I don't much like the word, "sober" because of all the really dull sentiments associated with it: solemn, staid, dispassionate. There's a whole list of really yucky words in the thesaurusical pool that don't even come close to describing how fucking great life is without booze.
Three years ago...well, actually...in the many months leading up to that time, my marriage to Richard was in a state of slow-motion unraveling. Like a sweater that had once been chic and comfy, our marriage no longer fit and was coming apart thread by tattered thread. And because I am not one to creep through this world quietly, I threw gasoline on that hellfire by drinking. A lot and on a very regular basis. I had already been divorced once; it was beyond my ability to imagine how we could reconfigure our lives so that the boys would not suffer the ravages of another marital meltdown. Or so I thought. I drank and drank and drank -- really good stuff! We always had great booze in our house, not that I tasted any of it -- hoping all of my problems would magically evaporate. And they did, for the hours when I was focused on finishing my bottle of wine. And then they reappeared when I woke up in the morning. Or what passed for waking up in the morning back then.
This morning I am waking up in my parents' house in southern Vermont. For me this place is the definition of heaven. The only sounds I hear are birds chirping and the stream that runs down at the bottom of the hill, through the woods out back. And today, the rain falling on the widow in the roof that affords me a view of the mountains in the distance. Soon, I'll bet, my mom will get up and make coffee for everyone. She'll put out the mug I like and the half and half only I use. My parents built this house together, Dad pounding and measuring and spackling, Mom sweeping, painting, tidying up. Here is the truth: if I had woken up in this house three-and-a-half years ago, in the condition in which I awoke many mornings back then, none of this would have meant anything to me. I would have had to do that mental inventory thing: what did I do last night, where was I, did I offend anyone...And usually the answer to that last question was yes because when I was drinking I was an asshole. A mean asshole. All of the anger I had stored up around all of the things I couldn't get a grip on in my life came pouring out, the channels lubricated by my favorite truth serum, red wine.
I had tried going to AA meetings for a while. I stopped drinking once for about 7 months, and then on the night we celebrated the opening of our sweet little shop, Abel & Lovely, I had a glass of wine. What they say held true for me...once I started up again it was 0 to 60 in record time. In the days following that happy event, I was neither able nor lovely; I was a drinking asshole again, a woman who couldn't get a grip on the massive shifts happening in her Real Life and who was going in the entirely wrong direction with her efforts.
Fortunately God sent me precisely the person I needed early in the spring of 2011. Roll your eyes all you want, but it went like this: I was in Alaska visiting my sister. We were staying in little cabins in the most, and I mean THE most majestic place I had ever been: Hatcher Pass. It snowed nonstop -- blinding snow -- for 24 hours straight, and I woke up on Saint Patrick's Day with the memory of the dream I had had. In the dream, a man was standing in the doorway of a little cabin. Wearing a backpack and glasses, he came toward me and gave me an enormous hug. It was Kris-jon Klopstock, whom I had known as a kid and through high school. It didn't make much sense, as I hadn't seen him since we were in our early 20s. So I wrote to his sister who sent my email to him; he wrote back to me, we went for a hike up a hill called Sleeping Beauty, we saw an owl, we kissed and the spell was cast. As fate would have it, he had been sober for almost twenty years. The relationship didn't last but the sobriety did, and for that I will always say Amen.
So, you see, that's why I mention God.
I have not had a drink now for one thousand thirty eight days. With the exception of the day I was celebrating the one-year anniversary of my sobriety when Kris-jon and I were having dinner at the Inn at Shelburne Farms. I ordered a virgin mojito and they mistakenly served me one loaded with rum. When I took a big gulp it knocked me off my non-alcoholic moorings for the moment, but in the end it was a funny story and the mortified staff comped us the entire delicious meal.
Being booze-free is fourth in line behind the births of my three children as the best things that have happened to me in this life. It doesn't feel at all solemn or staid or dispassionate. When I stopped filling all of the cracks and crevices of me with wine and tequila, space opened up for the juices of life to flow. Today and every day, life and I meet head-on with no magic elixir between us to muddle the experience. Rain is falling on the window, Daisy dog sleeping beside me is breathing quietly, the smell of coffee is wafting through the house. Amen.