Thursday, January 5, 2012
A State of Grace
On her way out the door this morning, Chelle called, "Be back late tonight!"
I called back, "I'll be here!" Pause. "And, I'll be sober!"
She said, "I know"; the door closed, and she was on her way.
There's a game tonight, so Chelle works late.
These were the nights I used to get drunk. Towards the end of my drinking career, we'd fight about it. She'd plead with me, before leaving for work, to not drink. I'd promise, fully meaning it. Later in the day, I'd start feeling anxious. I need a drink. Now is the time to drink, when Chelle can't see how much I'm actually consuming. But I'd promised. But I need a drink. I'd feel resentful. My anxiety would rise even more. Okay, take a drink or two, but don't get drunk.
I'd wind up drunk. On better days, I'd just have a good buzz going and be in a good mood. On my worst days, I'd be incoherent, slurring, repeating myself, and stumbling around the house. Chelle always called before leaving work and heading home. Sometimes she'd be sad; sometimes she'd be angry. What I wasn't able to hear in her voice was the worry.
She worried that one night she'd come home and find me dead, from a fall or from passing out and choking on my own vomit or from a suicide. Sometimes, in tears, I'd threaten to shoot off my head. In drunken moments of clarity when I knew I couldn't stop, I could see no other way out.
There were nights she worked when I drank and I didn't even want to. I felt like I had to. It was my night and she'd be off the next few days. It was now or don't. And I couldn't go a handful of days without getting totally hammered.
So I'd drink.
I'd try to make it better by cleaning the house or carrying down the trash or doing laundry or preparing the next day's meals. I'd ride the recumbent bike with a bottle of Corona in the water bottle holder. Sometimes I'd start out a drinking session doing lesson plans, knowing it was time to stop when my scribbling got too manic.
"What do you do when you sit here and drink all night?" would be one question, and I couldn't answer it. After about six or seven or eight drinks, I'd keep going in a blackout and out of the fog, all I can recollect are vague snapshots of me talking to myself. Sometimes I put in headphones and listened to music. Sometimes, it was the same song, over and over. Often, the same song would put me in a happy reverie during one playing and then collapse me into tears, devastated, on the next.
Before she got home, I'd do a few quick shots, just to get as much booze in me as I could before she could take it away.
Writing this recaptures for me the emotions, the sickness of that place. I don't know how to describe it other than to say it was a living hell. And then you get so used to the hellishness you don't even know you're in hell.
Until you are, blessedly, mercifully, out of it.
My daily life--however mundane to some, however sacrilegious to others--is, to me, a continual state of grace.
What a blessed thing to be able to say, "I'll be sober," and to hear Chelle say, "I know," without giving it a second thought.