Next time I’ll be more specific.

I’m going to make Cortez wear a helmet, naturally.

For me, one of the challenges of early sobriety was finding other things that I enjoy doing besides getting black-out drunk.  When you take booze out of the equation, you suddenly find yourself with a LOT of time on your hands – at least I did. Now, there were a bunch of activities and/or hobbies I enjoyed WHILE drinking that didn’t really go together well.  Like reading. I cannot tell you how many times I have read the first paragraph of The Girl on the Train. Every single time I would pass out or immediately forget what I had read, and then would attempt to re-read it, yet again. I don’t think she ever got ON the damn train in the scope of my “reading”.* Now,  I also enjoy knitting, as I’ve mentioned before, but often drinking + knitting = my throwing a tangled skein of yard across the living room in drunken frustration and blaming it on Law and Order SVU and not the liter of vodka that preceded my attempt at being crafty in the first place.

Now, my husband enjoys his sports ball, of course, and he’s an avid reader himself. We both enjoy hiking but rarely find ourselves with the time or energy to hit the trails on the weekends these days, if the weather even cooperates.  We were a boozy couple so that factored in to a lot of our free time activities, before. A few weeks ago, while we were making dinner, I got a wee bit dramatic and  started complaining about the lack of time we spend together. I had become frightened that besides happy hour, maybe we didn’t have much in common after all. Of course this is grand hyperbole on my part, but it is what it is. We drunks like to obsess and spin and repeat things in our heads and make them even more miserable and apocalyptic, if at all possible. I could envision us as an elderly couple at our breakfast table years from now, silently digesting our morning meal with literally nothing left to say to each other. The prospect terrified me.

He listened to my concerns, and immediately reassured me that I’ll outlive him by decades anyway, so really, I shouldn’t fret. While that made me feel a little better, I still felt uncertain. Fast forward to my fiftieth birthday, last week. We were getting ready to go to dinner and my husband brought out some gorgeous flowers and a card. As I opened my card, I could tell he was visibly nervous. Now, let me interject here that my sweet husband swept me away last weekend for a getaway in the mountains that included a hot tub in our room and a Yacht Rock cover band so I had already HAD a wonderful birthday, for sure. I glanced up at him and smiled. I was 100% sure that envelope held another ridiculous surprise, I mean, come on, it IS my 50th birthday.

Well, I was correct. It was indeed a surprise, and indeed it was ridiculous.

What that envelope contained was thus: a sweet card and heartfelt written note from my husband that put a lump in my throat as I read it, a 3-hour cooking class featuring tamales, and (separately) a course in CURLING.  YES, CURLING.  You know, that sport happening RIGHT NOW in the Olympics that no one knows anything about?  That shuffleboard-on-ice shit?

Yes, that shuffleboard on ice shit. Now, these are for us as a couple, not just myself alone, so that makes it even more outlandish. My husband often refers to himself as The Great Indoorsman and you could say his athletic days are mostly behind him. I enjoy recreation but we are typically NOT that couple.  You know that couple. The couple that strolls around your neighborhood holding hands? Not us. That couple that jogs together in matching North Face jackets and heads for a kale smoothie after?  NOT US. The neighbors that get drunk and blast Neil Diamond while shooting off a BB gun in the back yard in their pajamas? THIS IS US.

When the shock and confusion of it all faded away, I saw my presents for what they were; the gifts of a sweet husband only wanting to make his wife happy. A husband who is trying to listen and do the next right thing. A man that is willing to risk looking like a circus bear on ice, just for me.  I also see that they are somewhat self-serving, I mean, the man LOVES his tamales.

I know nothing about Curling. Well, not yet anyway. So stay tuned and give me a few weeks and I promise to report back, hopefully with pictures. Probably from the local emergency room. What I do know is that I have a guy at home that is trying. And so am I.  And that, my friends, is totally worth sobering up for.

 

*When I finally did complete reading The Girl on the Train post sobriety, I found it amusing and somewhat ironic that the Girl, herself, was an alcoholic. Figures.

The original F-word

Inside: Happy Birthday from your best friend.

Today I am fifty years old.  FIFTY.

And, just as my high school yearbook predicted, I’m an unemployed alcoholic.

I KID. Well, it’s halfway true.  I have returned to temping while I wait for someone to pay me for being awesome. Too bad I couldn’t have just been a temporary alcoholic, huh?

The card up there was given to me by my best friend Ben twenty-five years ago, today.  Ben died from complications of his alcoholism last May and it has left a dark and abysmal chasm in my heart.  I have no idea how I’ve kept up with that stained and tattered beaten-up yellow thing for all these years. (Ben, I am still talking about your birthday card, you jackass) This will be the first time in over 25 years that I haven’t received my annual snarky birthday message. I find myself absently glancing at my phone to see if I’ve missed his call. It’s been almost a year and his absence still, at times, takes me off guard. I mentioned this to a sweet and wise friend and she replied, “good days can be when we miss them most“.  The simplicity of this truth surprised me. Of course I’m going to miss him today. We’ve celebrated half of my life together.

I’ve had grand birthdays, and lonely birthdays. My high school birthdays usually revolved around ice cream, scary movies, and me and my girlfriends agonizing over some terrible quiz in Cosmo. By my early twenties my birthdays usually involved hitting the bars in Hollywood full force with my posse and then ending with someone trying to pry my drunk ass off the back of a stranger’s Harley. Of course, that was pretty commonplace at the time, anyway.  I’ve spent many birthdays at the lake laughing through the night with dear friends, and even spent a birthday on Alcatraz. Ten years ago today there was an epic surprise party thrown for me at my favorite dive bar of all time and I’m surprised I’m not still nursing that hangover all these years later.  Now, before you balk and get all Ralph Furley on me with your “stop whining for the love of god, you’re still a young whippersnapper”, remember, I almost didn’t make it to 48.  I arrived at 48 much like the space shuttle when it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere – shaking violently with shrapnel flying everywhere and trying not to shit my pants.

Now, I’m not going to get all morose and somber on you, but I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that this birthday has a bittersweet ring to it. The joy in this occasion is obvious but what else is glaringly obvious to me is how much time I’ve wasted in those fifty years. Maybe it would be better reworded; how much time I spent wasted. This, I know, is a game I cannot win and it would behoove me not to play it at all.

Yet I do. It’s usually in the wee hours of the morning when the shitty committee comes out in my head and runs a reel-to-reel film featuring all of my mistakes, discarded opportunities and regrets. Often, it’s a double-feature.

Does everyone get reflective with introspective bullshit when they approach a milestone birthday or it is just me obsessing? Sometimes while driving I muse  about what could have been. What I could have done. Who I could have been. What could I have accomplished in all those years while I was so raptly and selfishly engrossed with my reckless and audacious lifestyle? I overheard someone once in a meeting say “getting sober is basically growing up in public”. One could concur that I, too, have a lot of growing up to do. So, I look at the past fifty years. What I’ve done, where I’ve been, and who I’ve become.  And here’s the thing, don’t get me wrong; I’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun – too much, you might argue. Memories dance through my brain like an out-of-focus montage. I’m ashamed of a lot, proud of a little and lucky as hell. So that begs the question; what’s next?

Well, I’m glad you asked. I can’t dwell on the past. Like I’ve said before, I’m really good at tripping over things that are behind me. No more. I have to forgive, starting with myself. I am not the same person I was and sometimes the best apology is changed behavior. I am determined to make up for lost time, and if I can’t do that, I guess I’ll just try to live every day forward trying to be grateful, humble and authentic.  If I can help someone, I will.  I mentioned when Ben died last year that I feel like now I have to make my life count twice as much, like somehow I have to live enough for us both, as if I haven’t already. I still feel that way.

So here’s to the next fifty years.  I promise you, Ben – we’re just getting warmed up.