Monday, December 7, 2009

So long ago; so late & so far away

Tomorrow (Dec 8th) will be the 20th anniversary since I quit drinking. It's also the day John Lennon was murdered. I didn't have anything to do with that, drunk or sober. Throughout the past months, I've had low-grade tremors of 'Hey, it's been 20 years since...' and some random memory of late '89 will pop into my head. Hard fall leading into a fierce winter, leading (briefly) to Boston then to Chattanooga, then to Mpls via a summer in NYC.

I'd left DC post-graduation & summer teaching with an acute awareness that I needed/wanted to stop drinking--that I couldn't sustain the amount of besottedness I'd been achieving for month after month, steadily gaining momentum since I was young. I saw a future for myself of teaching, being a drunk, waiting for something to happen. Something bad, stupid, unnecessary, self-fulling/sabotaging. I saw it, as I saw it happen to many of my mentors. No mystery to our bad decisions.

I tried to stop, heading west after more silliness in that heart of whiteness, Ohio. Made it a week, then resumed. Did a loop of the Southwest & California w/ Talal, Slyder, warm beer and warm, cheap tequila. A fortuitous accident in Gilroy (not so lucky for the poor dog) caused us to miss the Northridge earthquake; we had literally just walked in the door at Bucky's place at Stanford when the foundations started shaking. We drove through a decimated SF three days later. Ended up back in Colorado, hooked up with Will Wilson. T ditched. Will & I were low rent ski bums for the winter. I decided to stop drinking--told myself I'd drag myself to rehab if I took another drink. And I didn't. We played foosball for hours, read big famous books, were misanthropic wage-workers in Vail's retail center, spent hours and hours on the mountains.

I didn't know what was coming next, but I didn't want what I had. Will was a prince. Fortunately, he--like most people--preferred me sober to drunk, so he supported my change enthusiastically.

During my rambles in California, I went to lunch on the Santa Monica pier w/ my dear aunt Lindsay. We didn't know each other very well, but there was an affinity. It was that connection, truly, that gave my compass the swing toward true north. I connected with her, and she said, in passing, some minor observation that resonated profoundly. Gave me disproportionate quantities of clarity.

And from there, as dear dead Ray Carver said, the rest was gravy.
Except it wasn't, of course.

Chattanooga 1990-1994... I thank Hank Lewis, Paco & Ann Watkins, & Dave Feldman for dealing with me, being good friends, living through it. Then I say (as they might, were they reading this): 'Holy fucking shit! That's twenty years ago?' Times makes a monkey of us all.

Steve B has been there for it all, providing constant enthusiasm (if only to make me pissy) and true support.

Once I cleaned up and started to figure things out for myself, I've felt so lucky that it's silly. I miss drinking, the taste and experience. I miss being drunk, I suppose. The rawness that propelled my through my youth has been relieved of its urgency. I've figured out some stuff. I still don't think it's a bad thing that I'm sober.

Seeing cats who're still on the sauce, the crackups, fuckups, messups and sorrows--I don't miss it. I have my family and that is every reason/reward for living clean. There is no mystery to drunk dialing, drunk driving, drunk fighting/fucking. I am amply expansive and verbal without liquor to loosen my tongue...

Twenty years ago, my adult life began. Ten years ago, my true life unfolded. The decade I've had w/Annie & the girls has been everything & then some.

I am grateful.

1 comment:

  1. Chattanooga. It seems like a lifetime ago. What a strange, intense time. I've never been back. I don't think about Chattanooga that often, but sometimes when I don't expect it, powerful memories sneak up on me. I know that my time in Chattanooga helped to form me, for ill and mostly for better. The latter is due in large part to your friendship and comradeship.

    Congratulations on twenty years, my friend.