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”
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.
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.