We returned from our vacation to a difficult reality: my husband’s father has entered into the final stages of a terminal illness. He won’t be with us much longer, and it hasn’t seemed right to post all the happy photos from our trip while our family is so heavy with sadness.
We drove through a hailstorm to visit him on Sunday. My new car took a beating – cracked windshield and hail damage to the body – but it was worth it to see him, to be where we needed to be and where we were needed. A car is nothing. Family is everything.
I returned home last night and tried to go through the motions of normal life today.
I was shampooing carpets at one of our rentals when the machine made a strange noise and began to spew smoke. With the receipt for this new machine in my wallet, I decided to load it all into my car and return it to the store. Backing up, something didn’t seem right. I stopped and ran around the car. Apparently, I’d only set the box of parts behind my car, not IN it, and backed over the damn thing. The good news, however, is that I was able to return it anyway.
A phone call came in on my cell. My mom’s condo building was on fire. She made it out safely and was staying with a friend a few blocks away. I drove by, so much destruction. Her unit was untouched by there is no doubt smoke damage to her belongings. No one was hurt, that’s all that matters.
On the way home I picked up a stir fry for supper. It flipped over inside the bag and the contents came out of the container. Teriyaki chicken and rice smoosh.
My car is damaged but I am safe.
My mom is displaced from her home but it’s only temporary.
My carpet shampooer blew up and then I drove over it but the store still gave me a refund.
My dinner dumped all over the bag but I poured it on a plate and ate it anyway.
Is this fucking day over yet?
No, it’s not. It’s messy and it sucks but it’s life and I’m living it.
My heart feels like it’s going to drop into my feet with dread and grief. I don’t want my sweet, funny father-in-law to go. I don’t want to think about the world without him in it. And at the same time I wish him a gentle end.
We can do hard things. It would sure be nice if we didn’t have to do it all at once, though.
It seemed easier to talk about sobriety and grief than write about it so I recorded this episode of The Bubble Hour, including insightful comments and messages from readers of this blog. Heartfelt thanks to all who have commented about your own experiences with grief and alcohol – good or bad. I have learned so much from you and taken strength from your honesty and kindness.
We pretty much all go through this eventually and we can all learn so much from one another.
Please have a listen.
On Monday I celebrated six years of life without alcohol. How is it that the days became years?
The past few months went from trying to taxing to gruelling. I kept my chin up after breaking my leg and spent January indoors. Meanwhile we were preparing to move to a new house, and I paced myself for the challenges of this transition. Being non-weight-bearing on crutches meant giving up a significant amount of my cherished control. Then, just before the move my dad was hospitalized and began a final month-long decline. He passed away earlier this month.
I got through it all, as we do. It so happens that a dear friend of mine went through an eerily parallel experience just a few weeks ahead of me – a cast and crutches, the death of a parent – and she seemed so strong and capable. I resist comparing my insides to her outsides, instead following her lead for getting things done and moving forward.
My leg is slowly healing, my heart is mending, but my mind is dull. I feel kicked and drained. I have nothing left to give at this moment, I need time to fill up again.
I will be back with more podcasts and posts, but I need some time. I read your comments and messages, and they make me smile. I feel behind on responding, but I try not to pressure myself too much. Expectations and resentments, and all that you know.
Six years sober, but these past few weeks were not so easy. It occurred to me on the night my dad died that I had good reason to drink, though I chose not to drink. Drinking dreams have returned, vivid and unsettling – a sign that something needs attention.
Six years of learning, lessons, tribe building, clarity and growth have come to this, prepared me for this. I will gather it all around me like a soft blanket and wrap up in the safety of my recovery to get me through and fill me up, until I have enough reserves to begin sharing and giving again.
Imagining the worst case scenario comes easily to us anxious types. I regularly remind myself to stay in the moment and dispel runaway thoughts. I’ve learned to say, “Nevermind the worst that can happen. I trust I will handle it as it comes.”
Last week, I had to face a dreaded worst.
One of my little dogs was mauled to death by a large dog that wandered onto our lake property, and I had the misfortune to witness the attack. I reacted appropriately in the moment: I was strong and brave as I ran towards the scene and called for the brute to stop and drop my dog. I quickly assessed the horrific damage – death was imminent – and focused on comforting my little friend as he passed. I whispered “thank you Copper, you’ve been a good dog” over and over so the last thing he heard on this earth was my gratitude, and I silently thanked God that all the kids had already gone home. No one else had to witness this terrible, heartbreaking sight.
I am shaken, but I am strong.
This sad story has a purpose as it relates to recovery. I have often told myself that abstinence would serve me well in life’s most horrible moments. I was right. Not only did I have the clarity and focus I needed to deal with the traumatic ordeal, but I was spared the temptation to numb out.
I am feeling the feelings, processing the pain, and moving through. No numbing with booze – that’s just a pause button that drags out the heartache indefinitely.
Some of you wonder if abstinence is necessary in recovery. My belief is that abstinence is a best practice because it closes the door on the possibility of drinking my way through grief and misery. Perhaps moderation might actually be possible for me under everyday circumstances, but in crisis I am greatly relieved that drinking is simply not an option. Because, let’s face it, eventually the shit hits the fan and we have to deal with the tragic, the bloody, the messy, the unwanted. Life is only smooth sailing for so long.
They say that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. I don’t know that I am tough, but I feel thankfully equipped to get through. Considering that there was I time when I could not endure any emotion – good or bad – without alcohol, this sad event has shown me how far I have come as a result of working my way through recovery.
RIP, little Copper. We’ll take good care of Scout for you – your sister and partner in crime.