Sitting at the lunch counter with Mase I twirled a straw wrapper between my fingertips and tried not to meet his eyes. “So, I, uh, so I… I relapsed.” He was the first I told in person. The weight of it on my shoulders was released, then quickly replaced as tears came to my eyes and shame moved in. It’d been 36 hours since I sat in an old friend’s apartment with a bottle of bourbon, but I was still having trouble believing it happened.
He didn’t ask me why. He knew why I drank after over three years of sobriety. The only reason anyone ever relapses, I couldn’t find a reason why it mattered if I stayed sober anymore. I couldn’t find it and I didn’t go looking. I didn’t make phone calls. I didn’t go to a meeting. I just gave up and I drank. Another split-second decision that I’d have to pay for.
I didn’t keep drinking. I went to a meeting as soon as I could. I earned my 24 hour chip and then sat in my car sobbing. Not for the things I’d lost, but for the things I am. For the places I keep coming back to. For the selfish, self-serving, and stupid things I find myself doing over and over again. For my carelessness. For my apathy. For my lack of patience. For my passion and stubbornness. For my hurtfulness. For how pointless and hopeless this all feels. For all the things sorrys and sobbing won’t change.
Yet I continue forward. Despite my current inability to see why. Though I feel I don’t deserve it and it doesn’t matter anyway. I climb back up and I put one foot in front of the other and I go looking.
Go looking for something–for anything–that makes this feel a little more manageable. That reminds me I am someone worthy of love and compassion and forgiveness. Which proves I can change and grow. Something that will tell me it doesn’t always come back to this. That I can keep looking. That I will find the reasons and learn to keep them close.
I go around and around with this one.
Nicotine patches, toothpicks, gum.
“May I please get a pack of Newports?”
Tell myself it’s better than
As if I absolutely must be
smoking, drinking, or dead.
Smells revolting. Tastes disgusting.
But it grounds me.
I’m solid. I’m standing.
I’m safe. I’m free.
Logically I know it’s a rationalization for
doing something I want to do that’s
bad for me.
But standing in the rain,
cigarette between my fingertips,
I catch myself thinking at
least I found something to
make my mind peaceful.
Photo courtesy of Cameron Kirby.
They’re coming. Due dates and anniversaries. Reminders of where we were this time last year. What changes. What doesn’t. I ask Tanya to talk me down and she refuses. Tells me that I can’t shy away from the person I am anymore. It’s time.
She tells me I’ve been trying to squash it out. Ignore it. Pretend it doesn’t wrap itself around my heart and squeeze. Tells me she’s been hearing the words between the lines for years now and she’s tired of me not listening. I’m reminded of the time Chuck asked me if I ever had maternal instincts and I flinched, held my breath, gave the answer I felt was right, even though it wasn’t honest. “No. Never.”
And I leave the room when they’re talking about babies. Ignore the swelling bellies of those closest to me and work hard to build up excitement instead of jealousy. I think about holding my nephews. Burying my face in the smell of them and knowing they’re mine even though they’re not. Tell myself being close is enough. I get this part of life by proxy and that has to be okay. Things are different than I thought they’d be, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t all beautiful and lovely. It’s not that I’m not happy, it’s that there is an ache in the bittersweet.
I think about the year spent planning to get pregnant. About the appointments with a midwife and giving up caffeine. Therapy and tracking everything. I try to not resent Mason for leaving me. Try to be glad I’m not bound to him eternally by a child he wasn’t ready for or maybe just didn’t want in all honesty.
My mother drove me to my first therapy appointment after Mason and I split up. I don’t remember if it was before or after he’d officially asked me for a divorce, but it doesn’t matter. I knew on the winter solstice of 2015 that my marriage was over. In the car my mom started talking about family friends and their new baby. I thought about the life he promised then denied me. Thought about how hard I’d tried to convince myself I didn’t want it anyway. I’d rather travel, write, keep my freedom. Keep my marriage happy. Keep everything the way it was. Hold on to anything. But in a moment of clarity I realized it was all bullshit. That I do want to be a mother. The world calls me. So I sobbed. In my mom’s car with her staring wide-eyed at me. The only time I ever showed any of myself honestly during the course of my divorce. Transparent heartache for the life I’d no longer be living. Not out of missing Mason, but out of missing what I thought the two of us would make together. A life. A family.
But the strings I tied to him are coming back to me. And I get to tie them to whoever I want. I have the option to tie them to nobody. The bell that called is still calling me. And I don’t have to be dishonest or feel guilty. I’m still dreaming the same dreams and now all I’m counting on is me.
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Garcia Marengo.