From Beginning to End

“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.”

                                         Joan Didion

I remember the beginning – the moment I met Swenny – like it was yesterday. Sitting in a large lecture hall on the first day of class second semester of my sophomore year, I fell nearly head over heels down the stepped aisle to catch him when class let out. By the time we reached the door, we had plans for the weekend. As the semester went along, I fell harder. And before classes let out for summer, I was in love.

And continued to be through a marriage that has held more joy than not. Alcoholism, though, has eclipsed what was best about us. Even with the end on the horizon, I chose to believe that what I was seeing was a future free from alcoholism.

Over time, relapse after relapse blurred that end. As I explored sober houses and recovery programs, Swenny became more determined to manage alone, justifying his inaction with promises as empty as my threats. Using harmony as currency to buy time toward an ending preceded by happy, I lost my way.

So I circled. Taking comfort in my own patterns of searching for bottles and lost conversations, I tracked the scent of relapse. Time and again, my instincts made true what I suspected. Which is why I found myself last night, with nothing more than a hunch, confronting Swenny about his drinking. As he stood in denial, I pulled on my boots as if leaving for the drugstore to purchase a breathalyzer test. Before calling my bluff, he turned away from me in tears.

He told me that his relapse in November has left him feeling alone. Charging me with giving up on him, he has been taking comfort in beers shared with co-workers in a meat cooler after work. Where for them it is a nightcap before heading home, for Swenny it is a way to leave no trace. A way to leave me searching for proof of which I need none. A way to tell me just what he thinks of me and my expectations for his sobriety.

A way to make clear the ending that I have lacked the courage to see through. Until now. With this, Swenny has given me closure.




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