Day 90

I was in the middle of my dorveiller last night, awakening at midnight for a spell before retiring to second sleep. As it was 12 and yesterday a fade-away, I thought to the morning ahead before realizing the day’s significance, which is twofold.  There, wrapped in my Grandma’s quilt with my lemongrass tealights effusing their citrus, I remarked that this is my first Valentine’s Day in twenty-six years where Jenny is not (expressly) my valentine. It is also the ninetieth day of my third? fourth? but most successful attempt at sobriety. Alki wisdom says Day 90 is the bellwether day for continuing sobriety, the day we have it somewhat figured out. I don’t know about that, about having things figured out, but I do know what Valentine’s Day is. It remains, perhaps counterintuitively now, my favorite holiday.

 A cartoon this morning interpreted the arrow through the heart as a ‘vital organ being wounded’ and a bouquet for what it is: truncated and dying flowers. The comic IS accurate, perhaps cynical. One can also say that Valentine’s Day is the day that Captain Cook was stabbed in the heart and neck by Hawaiian tribesman, else the day that seven of George “Bugs” Moran’s made men were massacred in Chicago’s North Side.  I don’t celebrate those things, though Cook was an Imperialist and the Capone-killed mafiosos were murdering criminals. This is the dark side of the holiday; the holiday is about love. Before the protestations of commercialism  with its glut of red-sequin candy boxes, before the trite aphorism ‘Everyday is Valentine’s Day’ gets uttered (which I happen to believe), may it be realized that February 14 is earmarked to celebrate the greatest human emotion of all; that we red-letter such a day is no less than a grand acknowledgment of our synaptic firings and coursing bloods and breathless esprits acting in great concordance.

There are seven types of love (according to the Greeks), so Valentine’s Day is necessarily a multifaceted celebration. I’ve written about them before but to recount: there is philitia, intimate and authentic love; eros, romantic and/or sexual love; ludus, flirtatious or playful love; pragma, committed and compassionate love; philautia, self-love; storge, unconditional and familial love; and—most importantly—agape love, which is love of everybody.  May you have experienced all seven at some point, or aspire to. I have, of course—and through the span of twenty-six years—shared most these with Jenny. I usually bar philautia love, for it is love of self, but today, the ninetieth day of my sobriety, I change my perspective: to engage in philautia love is to engender all the rest.

In January, I admitted to Jenny that my thoughts had grown explicably dark, that suddenly alone, I had morbid ideations. I know how much drink it would take to kill a person, and I had a loathsome and terminal thirst. This is not to say I was suffering from cravings—haven’t had but one in ninety days—but rather that I was abstracting my death by Erlenmeyer milliliter. I figured it would take four fifths of vodka and, if need be, a saccharin chaser of ethyl glycol. Thankfully—and though any therapist worth their mettle would raise a flag and an eyebrow at me having elaborated the ‘hows’ of my undoing—the thoughts were fleeting, if specific. I later told Jenny that I was failing the Mirror Test—the ability to still love oneself in the mirror—and that I was necessarily going through a self-loathing phase, that I had lost touch with anything philautia. “Does it get better?” I asked her, and she assured me, yes, it does. She had a head start on the grieving cycle, so, as I do, I chose to believe her.

Time will heal, the cliché says, but what the cliché doesn’t elaborate is the outright Hell one has to go through before a wound begins its hemostasis. Blood seeps, sometimes flows, and without seeming remedy. Add alcohol to the mix, rather the sudden lack of it, and Hell is realized in its iciness, like in Dante Alighieri’s ‘Inferno’: one is like ‘a straw in glass’, frozen and refractively distorted. For me, I thawed sometime in late January, after a spate of false starts, but I was finally able to pass the Mirror Test again. I wrote and cooked my way out of it, doing two things I truly love to do, so as to fill the hours and melt the ice till it became flow. Ice cubes liquesced in glass; right angles softened. A turning point: I offered my friend Billie, who I have great philitia love for, a plate of food after some failed attempts, and he finally accepted. “Know why I didn’t take food from you until now?” he asked. I mumbled something about being ships passing in the night, but he replied, “No—I couldn’t take your food because your heart wasn’t in it.”  Billie is a keen reader of the spirit. “Game sees game,” he famously says. It should be said, Billie was also the one who preemptively warned me of the Hell to come in late December. I believed him then as I believed Jenny in January.

Throughout these months, one thing was constant aside from my imperishable love and equally keening sense of loss: the calendar page. At Amethyst, the manager strikes each day off the calendar with a pen, veritably erasing another twenty-four. Or, to look at it in a different way—if we’re to twist the kaleidoscope—to mark the GAIN of another twenty-four. Another day of sobriety, which is the point of being in a sober living residence, or, to use a more dated term, a ‘halfway house’. I’ve always disliked the term ‘halfway house’—halfway to what? Are we half-people? Half-dead? Maybe, but in sobriety we choose to act contrary to our diagnoses, our proclivities, which would otherwise have us–and have had us–acting contrary to our values.  The point of the Twelve Steps  (and I still don’t know in what capacity I will work them if formally) is to recognize one’s defects, work with a Higher Power to innervate personal growth (and, trust me, a Higher Power can just be mathematical as in yourself plus one [a friend, the Book, the Spirit, God, whatever]), and to make amends where amends are due. To, lastly, practice these principles in all our affairs. That’s it. You don’t have to be a Believer, though it’s hotly contested in some circles of Twelve Step programs (of which there are many: I belong to two groups—it’s not just AA we’re talking about). This is all to say, a sober living residence is, if anything a SAFE place, to engender the process of returning to full self from some halfway, else rock-bottom, point. The return to self through acceptance and contrition–the Lazarus miracle coupled with some Psalm 51 (David forever the poet)—is the ultimate act of philautia love.

Philautia love, you’ll remember, is what I claim to be the engenderer of all other types of love. It’s a prosaism that ‘before one can love others, one has to first love themselves.’ Not inequitably, mind you—one can teeter into narcissistic gandering at one’s own reflection—still the Mirror Test must be passed. I remember staring hard at myself in the full-length looking glass of my spartan room, come late January, taking inventory both literal and figurative. Like an Alice, I almost wanted to pass through the mirror toward something Wonderland, where a backwards me existed, else something temporally distorted and prior to October 14th, the day Jenny left. But though glass is technically a slow-moving liquid, it resisted my touch—I couldn’t find passage–and I rested against it with an arm outstretched. I was very in the now; I looked myself in the eye and accepted it—whatever IT is–the way one does the fact of water, the product of melted ice, and felt thaw. Blood flowed, but not out. The spirit—which comes from the word sprit, or breath—saw rise, and my thoughts of glycol and firewater dissipated. There was something self-love in the moment; I didn’t forgive myself—not then, not yet—but I felt half-alive on my side of the mirror and not half-dead. And, though she wasn’t in the room, I felt great tenderness for Jenny. I have told her she did the right thing by leaving me, and that was really fucking hard to say, but for her it was an act of both storge and philautia love: it saved everyone involved, everyone including me.

Tenderness and time begets a timely tenderness. Jenny and I are at a Pax Hofmana as I call it, a time of no war, no strife. We’re in each other’s’ lives—there are the necessary boundaries—but there doesn’t exist stalagmites of ice separating us, nor hoarfrost decorating the underleaves. Aside from my early and ill-conceived resentments at having been abandoned—resentments I realized were ultimately deflective and undeserved, mea culpa—the fact of us has been what in November Jenny called our ‘time of being alone, together’. It’s as if we share one space while simultaneously standing at two physically disjoint points: a near Lynchian paradox of geography and self. I visit her apartment a few times a week. Sometimes I relieve her to parent the boys for a few hours, other time she’s stayed. I made her a fillet and a tartiflette for what could’ve been a Valentine’s dinner; we enjoyed the Super Bowl together yesterday with the kids and Jenny’s (and my) longtime friend Aurelia (Gidget). We remarked—the lot of us—that this was just like family. Correction, as Jenny said: “This is family.” Storges love. Jenny and I sat side by side on the couch and I was very aware of her presence though I didn’t upset things by wrapping an arm around her as she did Gidge. It didn’t matter: you know how you feel when there are electrons positively charged in between two peoples despite being inches apart? I felt that. It reminded me of when Jenny first visited me in my first detox. I wrote in ‘Bridge Over Dry Waters’:

“ I sat in my hospital bed regretting what I’d said to Jenn that morning. That I didn’t want to fucking be sober. We had sat in the courtyard on a bench next to the penniless fountain, the geometric fountain with its recycled water and white noise. It was a hands folded visit, though secretly we were both pawing the air as if testing the elements, deciphering the wind’s direction and the air’s particular viscosity. Still, we had a practiced geometry, and our bodies were touching in align, shoulder to knee, and again recombining at the feet. ‘I don’t want to fucking be sober’ was my way of saying, ‘I can handle this.’ The fountain with its lack of currency, the plastic wristband I wore, said otherwise. But it’s like the song says, before I die I want to make one lie come true.”

Jenn may have looked crestfallen as I expressed my great ambivalence; I didn’t check to see. I instead felt our bodies touch as once they did the night we almost kissed on the Spruce St. suspension bridge. I’ve since securely fastened my padlock to the bridge’s cable (author’s note: like the love locks at the Pont des Art), figuratively stenciled our initials, but bridgefall is always the threat. Cables can snap and pediments can fall.”

That was five years ago. In that time, we still have a practiced geometry, even if not touching at shoulders, hips, and feet; and—yes–we did have bridgefall. Still, the lovelock remains fastened, even as the suspension cables swing over the precipice of divorce. My tune has changed, too. I DO want to fucking be sober. Before I die may that one truth remain true.

And I texted Jenny this morning to wish her a Happy Valentine’s Day, that she was still my valentine despite everything. How can she not be? To be a valentine is to be a participant in any of the various forms of love, and she has my love in a multiplicity of ways. We are family, we are friends, we are a lot of things. Yesterday Jenn put her arms around me while I was making a bisque in her kitchen, and she said, ‘Thank you. This feels so normal,’ and I could only smile over the celeriac. We kissed politely and my heart felt pragma: COMmitted and COMpassionate love, ‘com-‘ being the prefix meaning—very importantly– ‘together’.

Why Valentine’s Day remains my favorite holiday.


Day 86

I am not my diagnoses AND I am responsible for my recovery and amends (to use the word ‘but’ vs. ‘and’ would diminish both the right-hand and the left-hand clause of this sentence). I contend there is something essential at my core, which is beautiful and diffusive, like the stamen of an autumn crocus–the saffron flower–and I also contend that said stamen can be plucked mercilessly before harvest. I can be an impotent blossom.

Jenny knows my core, which is why we were married for so long. And I have also had my core hidden when wracked with illness and substance. I metaphorized it as such in ‘Amethyskos’, a piece I wrote at year’s beginning:

“And joie de vivre is what I maintain at the core, though the core is necessarily hidden by an ever-shifting mantle—it sometimes takes a keen and dedicated geologist to know that the core even exists. People in my life have tired of the constant need for excavation. Wouldn’t you be? By my wife’s admission, she didn’t know who she was going to get on any given day. Manic one day, at the bottom of a glass the next. This does not make for a solid foundation, the mantle doing its tectonic shifts while the frustrated geologist tries to keep a read on the core. At some point the geologist has to run for shelter lest the ground give way. Pack up base camp, we’re out.”

In this metaphor, it is obvious that said geologists are my loved ones and familiars–the tired excavators–many who I’ve sadly lost in the past year as the event of my unraveling. The core can be decimated by virtue of eruption. To wit:

“The core can be explosive, too: just ask a volcano. Better yet, ask Pliny the Elder, the famous Vesuvian victim of whom Plinian volcanic eruptions are named. According to Brittanica:

In this type of eruption [Plinian], gases boiling out of gas-rich magma generate enormous and nearly continuous jetting blasts that core out the magma conduit and rip it apart. The uprushing gases and volcanic fragments resemble a gigantic rocket blast directed vertically upward. Plinian eruption clouds can rise into the stratosphere and are sometimes continuously produced for several hours. Lightning strikes caused by a buildup of static electricity are common close to Plinian ash clouds, adding one more element of terror to the eruption.”

To the friends and family who have witnessed my eruption in real time and who have strategically relocated base camp: I don’t blame you. It is in everyone’s Bill of Rights to think and feel in the manner that they do; it is none of my business what you believe is me. In the sturm und drang of my Plinian self, you may have thought—or you may think—Jenny has been too kind, that I am a lightning-charged ash cloud in need of dissipation. That the terror just need subside. It hurts knowing all of this—I’m only human and have a keening fear of abandonment—but it is what it is. I can only say my sorries, and turn my ash into rain-wet fertilizer.

The good news is that I still have my family, to whom reparations are due. They have radically accepted me and continue to love me despite all. Both Jenny and I look forward to Chapter Two, knowing that we’re always going to be each others’ plus-ones. Where ever I go in life, she is a necessary part of me, and vice-versa.

Yesterday we lunched at Brockton Villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean—an early haunt of ours–then retired to a sun-spoilt blanket for THE conversation, the entire gamut of emotion being on display in the company of water and lawns and seabirds. It was brutiful (to quote Glennon Doyle), intimate, tear-stained, smile-some, endearing.

We are good. That is what is important.

Many people ask if there is hope of reconciliation after half our lives being spent together. The answer is ‘no’—we agreed amicably to the terms of our divorce—but most importantly we understand each other and do not carry around anchor-some buckets of resentment. That is testament to the foundation of communication and compassion we have laid down over the past two decades. I have acted against my virtues, so this is of no small feat. I carry with me much shame—it is my burden—but I’m on a heroes’ journey of redemption and transformation. A return to the core, a return to the essential me. Thank you to those who have stuck around. Much love.

Day 86 of sobriety.


Day 78

I have a paper crane on my nightstand. Within its folds is written a poem. Though I penned the poem, it will never be re-read, not even by me. The crane will remain folded, wings out in a clumsy curl, and shall sit sentry in the shade of a peperomia left of my Iris statuette. I know what the poem says, and that is enough.

Jenny delivered the terms of our impending divorce while we waited in line at a Mexican drive-thru. I took pause; I agreed to nothing. There was a white building façade across the way and the sound of boleros playing through the window, a syncopation of utensils on the flat top. I wanted a cigarette.

My friend Sarah sent me a post: “It is tempting to construct a poetic list of all we’ve watched slip through our hands, but what’s the point? We already know it and we grieve it daily. Even if we speak of a future when “things will go back to normal,” our cautiously hopeful tones belie reality. Inertia has propelled us forwards, there is no going back, there is no “back” to go back to. Normal means something different now.”

Jenny remarked the canciones, noting what absurd things we’re going to remember at times like these. The lyrics of boleros often reflect themes of bittersweet, unrequited, betrayed, or eternal love. A Mexican accordion wind-bagged its lament while we waited. ‘Tink-tink’ continued the aluminum spatulas.

“¿Qué me dirá la noche si no sueño contigo?

¿Qué me dirá la lluvia si no tengo tu abrigo?

¿Qué me dirán las horas de esta madrugada si tú no estás aquí?3

¿Cómo le explico al alma que sin tus besos se puede vivir?

Pero, ¿que me dirá la luna cuando salga a buscarte

y no encuentre en mis ojos la misma claridad?

¿Cómo le explico al aire lo que no puedo explicar?”

She says, “We’ll still love each other—it’ll just look different now. It’s time for us to be apart together.”

And, from the post Sarah sent, “That said, melancholia is oft amplified by circumstance and the circumstances of my year have been harsh and punishing. I find myself asking, “when will I feel normal?” but in reality I recognize that the normal from before has expired; “normal” is an impossibility, there is only “new.”

‘Expire’ is to breathe out, generally one’s last breath. I’ve witnessed things give up their spirit, accompanied by the telltale death rattle. The new that follows is an immutable and ineffable stillness, a transformation indetectable.  The curtains that hang over my heart—they are still. They do not billow outwards like the bellies of sleeping cats. My bed discounts even me. It’s empty of paired weight.

The inside of the paper crane: its stomach is a lyric written in pen while I was languoring in Residence. I like to write things indelibly; the paper cannot by itself digest my words. Protected from the sun, the words will not see erasure, erasure being something I fear the most. A pencil line robbed of its essence while yet in a communicative mode. Made into mere palimpsest.

Jenny has one photograph of me left in her apartment that I know of, and it’s a fitting one. The picture has me poised over a notebook writing what I know to be a letter to her. I was coming back from an exhilarating trip to the Arizona Canyonlands where my friend Ryan and I had been fearless minotaurs, yawping our way through labyrinthian gorges and gullies. We were still in the afternoon of our youth, before the sun hit its meridian, before sex and rust and drink and the idling tea meal of mid-life had yet to be realized. I was penning my joie d’vivre. I was writing about how Ryan and I had turned on a footlamp and danced in front of it come nighttime, casting giant Peter Pan shadows on red rock faces. I was writing about the purple-bruise rainclouds and lightning. I was writing about a water that used to buoy me. I floated once–I did–before charged waters, their ice cubes with right angles, took me.

 I signed the letter ‘Love, Thom.’ It was twenty-five pages long. Twenty-five years later, I would still sign the letter exactly the same because it is a fact I love Jenny. But twenty-five years later, my last lyric to Jenny remains an unread scrawl secreted in a Yoshizawa fold, lost forever to her eyes. Ryan, who I fear I’ve lost too, did tell me I was going to lose everything.

The crane base—it’s a preliminary fold with both the front and the back sides petal-folded upward. At some point it must be turned inside-out in order to resemble something new.

“There is only new” as the Sarah post said. Change is inevitable, even if unwanted. I didn’t want the terms of divorce delivered with my bean and cheese. Again, I said nothing in response. Didn’t want to. I wanted a cigarette for my corrupted lungs to expire. The Mexican accordion, it just wheezed:

What will the night tell me if I don’t dream you?

What will the rain tell me if I don’t have your shelter?

What will the hours of this early morning tell me if you’re not here?

How do I explain to the soul that without your kisses it can live?

But, what will the moon tell me when it goes to fetch you

and doesn’t find in my eyes the same brightness?

How do I explain to the wind what I cannot explain?

“We’ll still love each other, it’ll just look different.” That is “the new” and without my kisses Jenny’s soul can surely live, though in my hopeless romanticism I’m sometimes loathe to say so; I don’t know if she dreams about me. She is her own person with her own head and heart, and what orchestrations they compose belong to her. I can only say and write ‘Love, Thom’ and still mean it. I told her ‘she’s free now’ and I meant that, too.

I used to think I was unlovable, that people only love that I love them—and overwhelmingly– not that they actually love ME. It’s faulty thinking. I don’t need to elaborate about my past, or how I’ve acted when feeling unloved; the empty-hearted acts and the way I’ve performed in my pretend theatre of one. I just realize that I have acted selfishly sometimes, and without fear of recompense. I existed solipsistically not taking cue from the as-sentient players sharing the stage. (I hope that makes sense).

My “new” is less solipsistic. By necessity it is more peopled than before if you consider the fact that I now live in a landing with twenty-odd occupants. Sometimes we pass like ghosts in the night through the common areas, but regardless we are community. We have commonalities, albeit different manners in which we ‘trudge the road of happy destiny’. Some fouetté, some slog as the word ‘trudge’ suggests. I’m in between, a minister of funny walks. I’m recovering from substance abuse; managing otherwise and myriad diagnoses and traumas, while simultaneously mourning a marriage lost. My walk is inconsistent, sometimes painful. And there is no medication to kill all the pain: one hot piss and I’m out on the street. Which is fine—“there is no “back” to go back to.” There’s only ‘now’, which is only one letter away from ‘new’.

‘Now’ is necessarily my crane base; I just need to do some novel folding in order to transform. Jenny (and Bill and my aunt and my Residence counselor and sundry others and and and) have told me two things: 1) stop living in the ‘back’—you know exactly why you hurt and can identify it in great detail—and start with the now, the ‘new’; and 2) stop trying to resolve things in your head. I should listen: my past trespassers and trespasses are just that—past. They will inform the ‘now’ but they are not the now. I contend that the past informs the present but as Jenny has said—and not flippantly—“your parents, your childhood, Jason Ponder, your brother, your work, Delaney. We get it. What about this moment forwards? Start there.”  Ever the approval seeker, I’ve always wanted to be seen and heard, to be validated. Thing is I’m also the steadfast ruminator and even when things are acknowledged, even given validation, I go back to chewing my cud in bovine retreat. Cows: they are comfortable until they get the shock rod to the skull, and goddamn if I don’t love being comfortable.

As to my head: it is a fine one, but disconnected sometimes from my heart. I seek to fill the gap in between the two—the ‘hole’—in search of a ‘whole’. Thing is, you can’t solve matters of the heart with the synaptic orchestrations of the brain. I’ve been told I “sound fucking ridiculous” when attempting to do so. And my Residence counselor—she said, “You hide behind your words and stories. I’m not hearing ‘you’.  We poets famously do use words to describe other words, and remark things that are like other things. We can also get wrapped up in metaphor—inexact language—as easily we can use too exact and disaffecting a language. Kerouac has said, ‘Someday I’ll find the right words and they will be simple.’ That’s a worthy goal. I’ll add it to my ‘new’ list.

The words to the poem in the belly of the crane, even if petal-folded into invisibility—they are ‘new’, too, and simple.  Maybe because they were the first last words I wrote to Jenny, whereas ‘Love, Thom’ were the last of the first. Either way, questions remain. From the Sarah post: “How does one digest grief [in a manner opposite the way my words remain undigested in the paper bird]? How do we metabolize trauma, collective and individual? How precisely do we sit with, in order to move through?” The post goes on to offer suggestions. “We throw plates just to watch them break; we make things with our hands.” Opposite but not exclusive actions. And that is what’s  the new if not inexplicable normal.  As Marta Gomez sang: Como lo explico al aire lo que no puedo explicar?”  I don’t know, but I’ll certainly try.

Love, as always, to Jenny. Day 78 of sobriety.


Day 60

Day 60, but there are no laurels for the resting. Truth is, it’s harder today than ever. The only self-congratulations I can muster is that I’m dry and not looking for the next drink. To be dry, however, is not to be sober: there’s a qualitative difference, just as there is a difference between ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’, ‘anger’ and resentment.’ Shame and resentment are fossilized things; anger and guilt are their precursors. Anger is actually useful, as is guilt. To wield anger properly can result in the construction of healthy boundaries. It can also foment a call to action: change the situation in which you are hurting and being hurt.

I’m not good at this.

I’ve always had a bovine and ruminative streak, a tendency to let anger ossify into bone. I wish I could be more…plastic, a skeleton made from softer things. As is, I’m prone to resentment, sometimes unmerited, and this doesn’t help anybody, especially me. It makes me unlovable—to others and to myself—and if there is anything ANYTHING I want in this world, it is to be loved. I think we’re all alike in this sentiment.

I had a girl. If you have not already figured out, or if I have not told you, I do not any longer. And the words ‘I had’ are already problematic: they suggest I once owned something, and love is not about ownership. It is about a beautiful and willing togetherness, of which there is no greater thing. It is being tender at the bone, of sharing soft kisses and soft vulnerabilities, of delighting in the other person’s person-ness. And I love Jenny. As relentless as life can be in its erasure of things, Jenny remains—and will always remain—the ineffable and better part of me. For this I twist the kaleidoscope on my newfound and devastating loneliness to say, “Jenny still resides here”; I am forever an ark to her everything. She will always be with me, the twenty-six years of our togetherness compounded to an eternity in my otherwise wretched, wretched heart.

What is hardest—and there are many things here that are hard, the least of which is waking up—is that I am at fault. We have default mechanisms we employ to muddle through, to avoid the executioner’s hood, and were I to continue manipulating things as I have been taught, have—worse yet—refused to unlearn, then I could paint a less grisly portrait of myself. But I am forty-four years old. Certainly, I am an adult child, but it’s time to do away with childish things. I have to be at fault; I *am*at fault. When I was left by my lonesome in the house, I cocooned myself in resentment, that ugliest and most useless of emotions. I sat in the remaining orange leather chair, spun records, and drank with impunity. I pitied the fact that I had been made a corpse when—truth be told—I had already been one for years. Corpses are to be mourned and mine had already been bewailed. And grievers they need move on, which tidily they had.

I came to my senses in Residence. Not to say I had some great epiphanous moment–I just gave up on most my resentments. Resentment is an emotion, just the wrong one to have. I mean, what’s the point? I replaced resentment with numbness, sought out tenderness where I could (another default mechanism of mine), and wholly frustrated the counselors with evasive and non-emotive language. “You’re hiding” they said. “Your walls are up.” All true. I had lost everything and couldn’t shed the necessary tear. I really wanted to, but dead men don’t cry. And poets, especially dead ones, we use words to describe other words, one of the many ways in which to appease. To avoid. To hide.

One thing I can’t hide from. I am an alcoholic.  As I told my Dad, my alcoholism is not a moral failing and certainly not a choice—this in answer to the question ‘why?’. I have asked myself ‘why?’ aplenty—still do on the daily. I can explain things in terms of acetaldehydes and amygdalas, preorbital frontal cortices and dopamine: I know every neurochemical reaction that takes place the second alcohol passes my lips. But to reduce things to just ’bad chemicals’ is not sufficient. Am I composite of trauma? Absolutely, the major trauma being emotional neglect; my inner child is not well-attached. But I refuse to excuse my behaviors wholly on trauma, just as I refuse to solely blame them on pathology. I am left with the ‘why?’, the needling questions of free will, the want to just be a normie and goddamnit why can’t I be? The better question, of course, is why can’t I, and couldn’t I have, accepted my lot and just put down the drink when there was so so much at stake.

I n the end I don’t and can’t blame anyone for asking ‘why?’ to a question I myself can’t answer. What people think of me, what anger they harbor, is none of my business though it hurts like hell to still knowingly be the object of resentment. And though it was and is my greatest fear in life to be abandoned, a fear which has been realized, I cannot be angry at anyone except myself. I said being at fault is the hardest thing in the world for me, and I fucking meant it.

Sixty days in, wrapped in my grandmother’s quilt and typing, I am left with this nagging thought: There’s something which I am either willfully or unintentionally missing and why recovery is so hard. It’s all about FEAR: Fuck Everything and Run, else Face Everything and Recover. This is what I learned at Casa Palmera. And there’s a lot I have to—and will—face. It’s hard to muster the resolve, though—I need purposefully sprain an ankle to keep myself from running. At least I am abstinent—that’s one thing I can be thankful for. That and the fact that I am not white-knuckling my recovery this go-round. It’s been remarkably easy to just not drink, else look forward to a time that maybe I can. We junkies have a way of saying, ‘This time is different’ when asked about re-discovered sobriety; we after all–and as the Big Book says–are necessarily ‘liars, cheaters, and thieves” when it comes to our disease.  It’s no wonder when people don’t believe us, else say “I’ve heard that one before” with rolled eyes when a “THIS time” is proclaimed.  Sad truth. Every ‘this time’ has potential of becoming an even worse ‘next time.’ Me? I’m a chronic relapser. There have been many ‘next times’, never so far a last time.

I’m sorry. Actually, with Jenny I say ‘I’m contrite’. It’s a stronger phrase, more penitent, more expressive of guilt. At the beginning of this confession, I mentioned guilt can be helpful. It can help us move in a different direction. I’m tired of slowly and surely sinking downwards. I’ve found that rock-bottom is not rock-bottom really—there’s always a rock bottomer—and I gotta reverse my direction for fear of going underground. I can’t lose more than I already have. Wearing my wedding ring on my right hand is symbol and constant reminder of that. It’s gotta stop. Please God, make it stop.   

Forwards to Day 61.