Twenty-two years ago if given a choice between sobriety or death, I would have gotten back to you with my answer. Today I fit right in with the Women’s Temperance Movement … you know those babes from the prohibition days, banging tambourines, threatening, “lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours.”
Please hear me out before snagging the tambourine from my enthusiastic hand.
Mornings I sit at my keyboard writing the story of a woman whose picture belongs in the A.A. dictionary under the definition of insanity… repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results. I know how the drunken escapades end because I am said woman in the story. Some days I wonder if I’ll ever get to the chapter with my “last drunk. ” You can’t look at your past under a microscope without pointing your finger, screaming, “Hey stupid, look out, there’s a bus coming!”
By removing one ingredient, alcohol, the course of my life changed from a raft heading over the falls to one that even on my worst of days, still floats. I’m not pushing mandatory sobriety for all. I’m aware of the OTHERS who live happy, productive lives, sipping cocktails with an occasional occurrence of over indulging. If you’re one of those freaks, stop reading, now. But if you have ever measured the cause and effect syndrome of inebriation, yours or others, asking how a good time turned sour, keep reading.
Take any event… say family camping. I have fond memories, especially the days of Eight Mile Creek in eastern Washington. The first day we’d set up camp, digging steps in the dirt leading to the creek, preparing wash stations with soap savers hanging in trees, and choosing river rocks that served as weights for checkered plastic tablecloths. Once camp was secure and comfy, it was a day of popsicles and butterflies… the worst threat, a bite on the rump by a giant horse fly while wading the creek. Evenings we’d gather round the campfire with guitars and whiskey, singing, “Red River Valley, You are my Sunshine and my favorite, Sioux City Sue. “ We were hokey like Roy Rogers, as hillbilly as the songs we sang. A sweet and safe place. But then… someone (like Uncle Roy) stumbled drunk into the fire and we’d have to roll him in the dirt to put him out.
Or how about a simple Sunday visit? You’re greeted by loved ones so pleased to see you. Fed, loved on and joked with. But then… someone (let’s say June) gets soused, sparking old jealousy. The visit ends when June backs into a tree with husband hanging out of the hood attempting to rip out the distributor cap.
There’s always the picture perfect Thanksgiving with Eau de turkey teasing from the oven since dawn, gravy taste tested by the toughest critics, pies, spuds, rolls… the works. After the feast, stuffed bodies sprawl sofas, spill out on the floor, snoring, waking only to fumble that top pants button loose. Whispering and laughter carries on in card games with poker chips and raisenettes. But then… someone (usually all of us) screams. Screaming is an antidote raising the amino acid tryptophan victims from death. Uncle Elden is chasing Aunt Nell with a butcher knife, again. He’s been on the wagon for six months, but toppled off earlier with good intentions of only having one short toddy. And who left the knife out? Now we have to wrestle him to the floor and take it away.
There are recent memory spoilers, but I can’t tell you much because the details are gone along with some friendships and respect. The sad truth? You must get sober before you can see the benefits. Typically drinkers hang with other drinkers. That way you have less chance being the one who stumbles into the campfire, a safety in numbers thing. Usually the only sober people who stick around long, are children who don’t have a choice. Many of us have not clocked much time in a sober environment… sleep and work do not count. We’re ignorant of what it might look like, leading our imaginations to pictures of dim rooms with lethargic people listening to chamber music. Here’s a news flash rarely broadcasted… sober people laugh, carry on… the difference, is it’s a conscious choice.
I’m grateful to have found this alternative lifestyle. My hope and prayer for others is that when all good intentions to drink responsibly fail, they realize there’s another option and it’s not the sentence to a hell of boredom that you might believe. Yes, some friends may change and yes, the dynamics of some relationships will certainly change (my bet is for the better). One of the many cool benefits of sobriety is that you have a lesser chance the proverbial lightening will strike you down.
I have five grandsons who’ve never seen me puke, slobber or fall down drunk. I may embarrass them with a big public kiss on the cheek, but I do it in all soberness and I not only remember it but even share the picture on Facebook. So yes, I’m banging my tambourine in celebration of a sober life and in hopes that if drinking is causing unwanted havoc in your life that you might consider a rarely talked about option – abstaining.