Picture by me.
365 days ago I was hung over for the last time since then. (I hope so, can't say ever because I'm not a clairvoyant wizard.) It wasn't a remarkable hangover. That one happened on a scary day earlier in the week, the day I decided that this was the end, one way or the other, and as pointless as it felt at the time, I decided to give the better, less sad option a crack.
Today I woke up and read some stuff and went to see some people about some things, and I felt pretty good about it. I didn't feel good about much most Sunday mornings for a long time. Or Saturday mornings. Or your random Wednesday mornings. That's different today. That's good.
Yesterday I went back to the place I was on the last day I ever drank, in some kind of pilgrimage to a self I remember, very carefully and intentionally without dwelling on her, because it's important not to forget how wrecked this life was should I ever get any brilliant revisionist ideas about that. The whole past month and some change (because things really started to get bad from May on, after a years-long slide downward into terrible) has been a constant, evolving flashback, varying between fuzzy old-time newsreel and the kind of shift to relentless, vivid colors like Dorothy saw in Munchkinland post-Kansas. The dates, the holidays, the birthdays, the landscape melting from spring into summer has been really hard. Even as I'm focused on how much better things are today, there's a natural grieving process in my practiced, naturally negative (and also sentimental) mind for the simplest of things, like, say, lunch being over, so big life changes get them big time. This is getting better, but it's slow.
I'm amazed that I've been able to be productive at all, considering the time I've spent involuntarily remembering things I've forgotten about where I was last year, how I felt (that's the worst, yuck, feelings), how I spent every day in a place of self-loathing and terror, no longer able to physically tolerate the consumption of a substance that I thought I needed to live.
I am grateful for those feelings now, for that terrifying physical experience, because it was so bad that the memory of it and the knowledge of how quickly I'd crash back into it if I brought alcohol back into my life again as anything other than a respected adversary and a cautionary tale is the solitary thing that has kept a drink out of my hands for a day shy of a year. (I am not celebrating until it's actually the 14th. A year is a year.)
It's the fundamental conundrum of the addict. That which kills you also seems to sustain you, has in fact done that in some way for so long that the thought of living without it (even while you're dying, while it's kicking your ass into oblivion, yes, even the wine on the top shelf and the better IPAs) is unthinkable. If I hadn't been numbed out somehow for all of those years how would I have survived these feelings, right? How? I'm really not sure. This is the part that seems the hardest, in my experience, for normal people to understand. I've read some unfortunate internet comment sections and heard some sketchy comments in real life about the deaths of Cory Monteith and Philip Seymour Hoffman that show me just how much people don't get it, either can't or won't, depending. Drugs aren't part of my story, but I relate to those guys anyway. They got lucky for periods of time, too. They found some grace along the way, and then it went away, and that was that. I want longer. I want my full allotment. I'm only almost a year old.
So yesterday I went back to Annapolis and I went to the same teeny park on a corner that I sat in front of last year. I felt like a fool, but I did it anyway, and it turned out okay. I sat in a corner spot at the restaurant where I ate with a friend on Saturday last year, and I had a club soda (three, actually.) and a dozen oysters and some crab dip. And when I had satisfied whatever I needed to by being in that place on this particular day, I left. I walked by a wine store and I looked up and I realized that it was actually the last place I'd ever bought wine, ever, and I marveled that even as a woman came out of the shop saying "Guys! It's a free tasting!" that I felt only the oddest ancient twinge, that my feet had zero urge to follow her, because they know, as connected as they are to my brain and my heart at this point in the service of taking me to the places where I need to be to get me where I need to go, that there is nothing but destruction in there for me behind some beautifully-designed labels.
I went instead to see some friends who help to keep me on the path I'm on and then I went home and went to sleep. It was a really good day.
(I wrote this post on July 13, 2013 and just found it in my drafts. I guess it wasn't time to hit publish yet.)