For the third first time in my life, I sat in a room of strangers and nervously uttered those words, knowing at least what the next two I heard would be.
I’d been sober for 24 hours, and I’d been here before, as I said, twice.
The first time, I was going through my first divorce. I was on staff at a wonderful church, but my life was very confusing, and I was grasping at any clarity I could find. I went to one meeting, decided I wasn’t an alcoholic, just really stressed, and never went back. I enjoyed a comfortable relationship with alcohol for the next two years until I got married again. (By comfortable, I mean that after I went back to school and became a therapist, I drank every night, sometimes through the entire weekend if my kids weren’t with me, and at one point had a bottle of bourbon in my filing cabinet in my office. At least two of my clients saw me hungover on a regular basis, and one ran into me drunk, standing on the sidewalk, in a kilt, on Saint Patrick’s Day. “Comfortable” in this case means “unapologetic.”)
The second time, during my second marriage, my wife and I had just had a big argument. I may have even passed out in the middle of the discussion, but the drinking was clearly a factor. The next day, I went to a meeting, cleared my house of all the alcohol I had, and was stone cold sober for six months. I went to meetings at least weekly, and I didn’t miss drinking at all. My marriage started to seem more like the friendship it once had been. We talked every day about deep, heart issues, and it started to feel like healing. My wife and I went for a walk the day I’d been sober six months, and she told me two things. First, that she had decided she didn’t want to give up on our marriage, and second, that she wanted me to start drinking again, because I was more fun and because she wanted to be able to drink and not feel weird around me when she did. “I don’t want you to get drunk. I want us to just have one or two and do so in moderation, and not stockpile it in the house.” I enthusiastically agreed, because I loved craft beer. I filed for divorce about a year and a half later – not because I of alcohol, but partly because of some of the control issues that all of the above should at least begin to illustrate. On April 15th, 2016, when she told me she was leaving me, my work friends took me out to Brit’s Pub and got me ridiculously drunk in an effort to be supportive. The day I served her with papers in June, I met a friend at the Surly brewery, and daily drinking again became part of my life.
That was the beginning.
I moved to a quiet suburb that has one brewery, but it’s one of the best in the state, and made so many frequent appearances that I often ended up not paying for much of anything. I met and unsuccessfully attempted to have a relationship with a girl who worked at two breweries, and spent most of the time I was with her drinking or drunk. I got a part time job at a liquor store for about a month and spent nearly every dime I earned there on craft beer. I got incredibly drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day this year and did some regrettable things.
And then one day it all fell apart, and I knew I was done.
Today is my twelfth day sober, and more than anything else, I have a sense of gratitude and undeserved peace. I am thankful for every moment that I get to participate in life with a clarity I haven’t had in nearly twenty years.
And with that, I’ll pass for now.