Swallow It

That first Christmas being back in Portland with my family was my first time being sober through the holidays since I was a teenager. It was raining Christmas, that distinct Pacific Northwest drizzle that is less than rain but more than mist, much like in the Scottish Highlands but without the romance, and we ate Christmas dinner at my brother-in-law’s parents’ house. It was an extended gathering of his family and my sister’s. I knew everyone, but not well enough not to be uncomfortable when the banter faltered. I don’t follow sports, not even the local U of O Ducks, but if I had the evening would’ve been a breeze. This was the fallback topic when there was no interest in the other person, easy conversation for people halfway through their second jumbo box of Gallo’s finest. Continue reading “Swallow It”

Meeting My Past

Some insights are so clear to me today
that I accept them as truths.
But only a few years ago
I would’ve hesitated
to consider them at all.
If I met my old self on the street
and we talked over a meal,
I’d consider him problematic
and be concerned for his future.
I’d have no desire to be pals
and would walk away after our meal,
relieved to be free of him,
and he’d probably feel the same.
His addictions would make him uneasy.
My sobriety would remind him
of the demons nipping at his heels
that he would soon have to face.
But he’d come up with another reason
to avoid that thought.
He’d say to himself,
that guy is quiet, that guy is dull,
and his impatience to lift his next drink
would write me off.

The Ride Down the Hill

As a kid of six or eight,
my favorite time of day
was the car ride with my dad
down the hill to the liquor store
where he was always in a good mood
pulling into that parking lot.
I didn’t know why back then,
But I did when I grew up
and learned to drink too.
The trip to the liquor store
was the turning point of my day.
Getting oiled for the evening’s clubbing.
Girls in painted on clothes.
But as my thirst grew with each year
and drinking was no longer a choice,
but kept the anxiety at bay,
the trip to the liquor store was filled with relief.
Pulling into the parking lot,
I completely surrendered to the thirst,
gave up the fight to quit that plagued me.
Not today, maybe tomorrow.
Maybe when I’m forced to.
Until then, just ride it to the edge.
“Hi,” I’d say to the cashier,
always at my friendliest with a cold twelve pack
on the counter in front of me,
my fingers tapping out a rhythm on its sides.
It was the closest to happy I would get,
just like my dad.

Triggers and Cravings

Ray woke in an agitated mood and couldn’t shake it. By noon he wished he still drank, but knew if he touched the stuff he’d pick up right where he’d left it eight years ago and quickly flush everything he’d built since quitting right down the toilet. But the drink always dulled the edge on agitated moods, and he missed the recklessness.

He mostly frowned on that behavior now. He was living the suburban high life where every step was thought through and planned, but on days like this it felt more like treading aimlessly on a hamster wheel and his ranch house was his cage, stifling with frustration of a monotonous routine. Up in the morning and off to work five times a week. Exercise four times a week. Eat multiple servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Avoid cholesterol, avoid sugar. No booze, no cigarette, limit caffeine. Go to bed early and get plenty of rest. What was the point? Continue reading “Triggers and Cravings”


Dave parked his car in the far corner of the liquor store lot and sat behind the wheel with the wipers on intermittent. Since being in recovery, he went there to put his life in perspective, where he’d been, where he was, where he might go. As he sat in the warm car watching the wipers push the rain around his windshield, his girlfriend’s car turned into the lot and parked in front of the neon Budweiser sign. What was she doing here? he wondered as his stomach knotted. Continue reading “Cheating”