Pomp and Circumstance

Nine in ten alcoholics will never recover. With Swenny’s latest relapse, I feel this fraction is forever turned against us. One in ten? No. That will never be us.

While there is never a good time to relapse, few are worse than Swenny’s most recent. As our son prepared for his high school graduation, Swenny’s drinking escalated following nearly four months of sobriety. While trying to do everything I could to ensure it didn’t compromise the celebration at hand, my thoughts continually returned to our daughter’s graduation just three years earlier. Reminded always by pictures that caught unfocused eyes, once-in-a-lifetime conversations that will never be  remembered and renewed pleas to get help, I wondered if this narrative will ever change.

Within days of our son’s graduation, I left for California to attend my niece’s. One day after arriving, I read in a text from my son that his father’s relapse continued. Looking for old pictures, he opened a box to find a bottle of vodka. He confronted Swenny who responded with a lie, claiming it was an old bottle. Knowing the truth, our son concluded the conversation, but not before making known to his father his disappointment. Yet again.

I arrived home a few days later to pick up where they left off. Easily done after finding another bottle, large and almost empty, laying atop our Christmas decorations. Calculating nearly two liters drank within a few days, I realized the narrative has changed. This is no longer a quest for sobriety but one for survival.

In the season of graduations, I found lessons in the words of the young people addressing their peers. From Wisconsin to California, the messages were the same. Built on hope for the future, and belief that anything is possible, they acknowledged their gifts, and claimed expectation for failure among their successes.

One speaker in particular, though, captured my attention unlike any of the others. My son. A class officer, his role was less speaker and more emcee. But when he took the stage and introduced himself, I heard him say his name loudly, clearly and with pride. I was struck. At that moment, with my daughter sitting beside me and Swenny on the other side, I realized the narrative has not only changed, it’s no longer in my voice only. It’s now also in the voices of our children.

As they get louder, stronger and clearer, I hope that Swenny will listen closely to what they are saying. Stop drinking. Before it is too late.