Think for a moment of a child you love. Or a beloved pet. Picture them stepping into the path of an oncoming car.

There. You feel it? Your heart leaping in your chest? The rush of adrenaline and the urge to move quickly, to rescue.

It takes a while to dissipate, even when the reaction is only imagined.

6 nights ago I sat listening to a motivational speaker at a fundraiser enthusiastically ask the audience, “What’s your GOAL?! What do you want to ACCOMPLISH??! Let’s talk about HOW you can take some STEPS everyday to ACCOMPLISH your GOAL!!!”

So naturally I turned my thought towards a goal.  I expected Machu Picchu to come to mind, as exploring the ancient ruins tops my bucket list.  But no, five other words came first, complete with the urge to move quickly and rescue from danger: I need to quit drinking.

Machu Picchu was no where in sight, and the words rang again: I need to quit drinking.

I ignored those words, as usual, because there was still half a bottle of wine on the table to share with my friends, and another half waiting for me in the fridge at home.

But that pounding in my chest would not stop, not at the table, not on the ride home. It startled me, this new twist.  It ached like a longing and pulled like an urge.

What the hell…..? So I did what any high functioning heavy drinker would do. I went home and shut that voice up with two big glasses of wine.

The next day it reemerged and I looked at it closely in the light of day. I know this feeling, I thought. This is the pull of the heart my children learned to walk, to ride a bike, and I feared constantly for their safety. And oh, that first time they drove alone, new license in hand, taillights disappearing down the road on that first adventure. “Danger! Danger!” clangs a mother’s heart.

Seriously, what the hell? Am I in danger?

I had to drink red wine that night, because all the white was gone from the night before.  The next day was beautiful and bright and full of sunshine-y spring promise. I awoke with a headache from the red wine but I’d made plans to go hiking with a friend so I pressed on. (I always press on, anyway. Most days start with coffee and tylenol.)

I felt a sourness in my belly that seemed to be growing, like a stink I could feel.  I’d been noticing it more and more. I recalled a commercial against drinking and driving in which an ER doctor says how disgusting the insides of a drunk smell when you cut them open for surgery.  It always bothered me to think I might repulse some handsome ER doctor in an emergency situation. I’d added “stinky inside” to the list of things I didn’t like about myself, right next to arm waddle and bunions.

But the stink was no longer just a notion. It was real. I could feel it, taste it. I was pretty sure I could even smell it myself, and you know you really stink when you can smell it yourself.

I had to quit, I knew it.

And so on that hike, I told my friend. I’ve told other friends on other occasions that I wanted to stop drinking, but they always pooh-pooh’ed it because, as far as they knew, it wasn’t that bad.  This time was different because this time I told the truth and entrusted my dear friend with my dearest secret. She agreed – “you need to change this” –  and also understood my reasons for privacy.  (more on that in the next post)

And that was that. We hiked, we went on to talk about other things, and the ache in my chest continues.  I’m not out of danger yet.

But I am on my way.