Return to site

Hip Sobriety School, Day 10

"I bless the thing that broke me."

· Uncovery

If ever a mantra was my truth, it's this one—except that my "thing" would be written in plural. And who could have guessed? The library of background images had one that looks for all the world like scorched earth.

Such haunting beauty in the midst of so much devastation, and we all know what follows. In the very midst of a raging inferno that's roaring through the branches of towering pines, birch and spruce, intense heat is popping open cones and releasing seeds that have been waiting to be set free for decades. Millions of them fall to a forest floor covered in nutrient-rich ash. And in less than a month, the scene has turned into a landscape of tiny seedlings—life not only renewed but transformed.

It was the time of my life that hurt the most - I mean OH MY GOD I was burning - but it was the time of my life that there was the most magic. —Holly Whitaker

Which brings me to Thursday night's fiery end and the seedlings that have sprung up from that total disaster. As unfathomable as it might seem to many (and totally relatable for others), the live phone call that night was the thing that set me off. A huge drag on this journey for me is having, as one of our tribe called it, a high bottom—which obviously does not relate to my ass.

Sticking to unwavering abstinence was so much easier when I was in deeper darker muck. This time around, the easy part is giving in to those voices that say "just take a night off and relax." And this is so much bigger than alcohol or sobriety. It's a lifelong pattern of indulging what feels like comfort or pleasure at the moment, giving myself what I want—even if it makes my body feel icky later. I also know how great it feels to trade self-indulgence for self-care including practices like yoga that feel more like work but end up in an explosion of long-lasting endorphins. But it's such a conscious, effort-full climb to get to that place after if I've slipped and slid back into my default. It's sticky down here.

So when we reached the point in the Thursday evening coaching session where someone asked about the definition of being "sober" and Holly gave her usual wise and open-ended answer, my fragile resolve short-circuited. She talked about how subjective that term is and mentioned people who claim sobriety in the middle of marijuana maintenance or folks who keep a solid sobriety date even though they had a drink or two since then. You define what sobriety means for you—which places the full burden on self-honesty. At which point my wiggy little brain had already clamped onto "had a drink or two" and stampeded right over the honesty piece.

So even though I had told Bill that I wanted to boycott our community restaurant (where everyone knows our name) for at least four months, I suggested a swan song dinner. The evening was falling into that magical sunset glow that deepens into twinkling lights, and we sat out on the patio drinking in the quiet beauty. I drank into too much bubbly as well but Bill reeled in his usual overindulgence. He's been reading Annie Grace's book and the health hazards are haunting him,

How the evening turned into a three-ring shit show is still somewhat of a mystery, but it started back home with Bill disappearing into his man cave and me noticing a couple of pieces of furniture that I could move back in place. Everything had been jammed together for tile cleaning and glazing, and we were going to tackle that job in the morning—but these two things, I have this. No problem. The first one was a cinch, but the tall skinny DVD case was far too unstable gliding across the saltillo ridges and fell flat on its back. BAM!

I'm picking up the few CDs that flew out in the crash when the bull elephant comes charging out of the man cave with a firestorm shooting out his nostrils. The rant had something to do with me not asking for or waiting for help, and I'd been drinking so I had no business even trying to do this, and from there it went into a pent-up accusation that I had been bragging about being a micro-manager and clean freak a few days ago. Bragging? I might have been openly admitting my faults, especially after writing an entire blog piece about them, but bragging? Like making myself miserable is a point of pride? I don't think so, Tim. (Has Home Improvement been off the air too long for that one?)

It's amazing in a way that the entire house, the entire evening, and everything about that night could turn into scorched earth in a New York minute. Maybe it would have unfolded just as it did without a drop of alcohol, but I'll never be convinced of that. Having a clear head and healthy emotional responses makes it so much easier to deal with life's ups and downs, disappointments and even tragedies. So much easier to navigate the rough water of misunderstanding and conflict that happens in any dynamic intimate relationship.

So many things broke that night beyond a section of the DVD case. I told Bill that I never wanted to go back to that restaurant, it has all the appeal of a place where a terrorist bomb went off during dinner. He's hoping I change my mind someday. Maybe, maybe not. The repaired DVD case went to the Kiwanis Club as a donation. I never want to lay eyes on that again. Bill's extreme remorse includes a resolve to let go of the different strengths we bring to the relationship and the guilt he feels when I'm working so hard, not to mention speaking up at the moment something sticks in his craw. It's not a matter of someone being right or wrong, it's a matter of keeping the air between us clean and clear. As we tell the little ones, "Use your words."

Lastly but oh-so-importantly, Bill has now joined the mission to lose the booze and allow his miraculous brain and body to recover and heal and revel in optimal health. Having him on my team is a huge plus. When we got married, Unity let us look over a series of ceremony scripts to select our favorite, mix and match, or do something original. It saved me, because I had come to see marriage "vows" as promising an unknown future and certainly counter to following our Spirit with every breath. Being able to write my truth was so very freeing. My favorite line of all goes like this: May you encourage each other in whatever you set out to achieve. May you trust one another and trust life. May you minimize each other’s weaknesses, be eager to praise one another’s strengths, and see each other through kind and patient eyes.

Amen. Through scorched earth and seedlings and all.