day 180: shoulder company

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat
‘Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me
— Florence And The Machine

Six months today.

At the end of a four hour drive home this morning, after spending the weekend with friends in St Paul, I pulled into the neighborhood of the place I got sober. Spring is still trying to come in but there was an overcast with a cold breeze today that made the 43° cut to the bone. I slowly pulled up to the driveway, hoping no one was there, and breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled in and parked my car alongside the small cottage on the lake. I felt the neighbor’s eyes on me. Even reminding myself it was just paranoia, the weight of intruding wouldn’t go away.

A new plastic gray fence had been put up between the main house and the small converted garage where I stayed, replacing the wooden one that I couldn’t recall anything particularly wrong with. This fence may have been a few inches higher and had much smaller spaces between the slats, offering some more privacy I suppose. The boat dock had been pulled out of the water and placed beside the garage as well. Other than that the same peace and quiet I remember from September remained. With the snow melted the only difference was that the lake was frozen over, but the ducks were arriving by the dozen and walking on top of the ice, reminding me of their early morning and late evening squabbles the autumn before.

My plan was to sit on the porch and meditate for a while. Go through an exercise of listing the things I was grateful for. Maybe write a few things down. But instead I got back into my car. The memories were still there, and were actually pretty good; putting the kayak into the water the first time, building the small car models at the window and the smell of paint thinner, the thunderstorms that lit up the sky, the small charcoal grill I bought on day 1 and used to cook so many meals, learning yoga on the hardwood floor, the taste of that last bottle of whiskey on my breath the morning after. But this place wasn’t mine anymore. I didn’t belong there and was so uncomfortable I couldn’t bear to stay more than five minutes. So I left and drove straight home.

Getting to my house, after being away for only the second time since I’d moved here, was basically walking into a laundry list of to-do items. I had to take inventory of, and cleanup, mouse traps, move all the seedlings from windows back to the growing shelves, water a million different things, bring in wood and start the wood stove, deal with a whole lost planting tray due to mold, get some food prepped and on the stove for lunch at some point, unpack, start laundry, and go through the mail. It took me nearly two hours to sit down and acknowledge that I was finally home and that it was time to relax and try and write down the significance of 180 days.

But I am tired and ill-inspired.

Earlier this week on Instagram there was a picture of a girl celebrating one year, posing next to a gold mylar balloon, the ones in the shape of numbers, I’ve learned commonly used for signifying how long a person has been dry. She had a half-hearted smile and tired eyes, and every inch of her body language screamed that she didn’t want to be there. Her face has been on my mind since seeing it because it perfectly portrayed how I had been feeling about this upcoming anniversary. Now that the day is here the picture is still an apt representation of how I feel. And what it means. It’s just a number, and I don’t feel like celebrating.

Instead I’ve been trying to figure out why a relapse seems so imminent. Why I can’t appreciate how bad things got and how far I’ve come. What reasons I actually have not to get drunk again and admit how bad it would really be. Someone asked me if I was depressed last week and I scoffed, explaining how much control I had over my emotions right now, but at the end of the day I think I may be in a funk and this lack of joy for the occasion is due to it. Even so, I feel like this monster is closer than usual. And so much of it is because for the first time in six months things are slowing down, are becoming comfortable, are becoming normal. And the devil on my shoulder is screaming into my ear, “burn it all down!” It sure as hell has been asking me “What have you done?” and “What next?” for the last few weeks. If this annoying notion of imminent doom is more than the usual self destructive habit kicking in when things get good, I can only guess it’s next question is “Just one more?”

I want to be inspirational about sobriety, and grateful for six months without drinking, and positive about a future without booze. But more than that I want to be honest when I sit down to write. I know if I went to more AA meetings I’d feel better that everyone else’s alcoholism is a shadow that just won’t go away, and it would be far less haunting. I know I need to go. One day.

This isn’t what I meant to write. And there isn’t an ending to it that means anything. But it’s something I can look back on to remember this day by. Maybe in the summer when nine months rolls around and the sun is out I will be able to decipher the good in all this.