It is in the shelter of each other that people live. ~ Irish proverb

I am superstitious. I collect lucky pennies, avoid cracks in the sidewalk, and when a clock reads 11:11 or 1:11, I make a wish. Which is why I rarely share when things are going well. Because when I do, it is followed shortly by a post that either hints at relapse or describes one in full.

So it is with a tempt of fate that I share: things are going well. No longer does that need to mean, though, that Swenny is sober. It reflects instead a new frame of mind. One with right angles squared by the experiences and support of others.

In an effort to not borrow too heavily from the future, I have been immersing myself in each day and dunking Swenny along with me. Which is partly why last week found us boarding a plane – together – to visit family. My last three trips I took alone, only to return to relapses that were difficult and damaging. So with me he came.

A few days in, shaky hands revealed withdrawal. Where my sister saw the positive in their signal that he wasn’t drinking, to me it meant only that he had been. Until he couldn’t. Because consecutive twenty-four hour stretches spent with me ensured that he wouldn’t. It took just one day home, though, at a distance kept safely from me, to steady him.

And the community with which I have surrounded myself has steadied me. Among family and friends, favorite writers and even readers of swennyandcher is where I live. Where some provide advice and others bring support. Where still others reach generously and sometimes painfully into their own experiences with alcoholism to help me see through. Swenny, I hope, is living likewise in his own shelter of others…family, friends, co-workers past and present, and the sober communities with which he is engaged.

So it has become that even though the address we write in the upper lefthand corner of an envelope might be the same, Swenny and I live in different places. In the shelter of distinct groups of others and each other all at once. My broadened frame of mind accepts this as perfectly okay. Because wherever it is we live, it is the right place…or places. For us. For now.



war…and peace

The other day, Swenny returned home from a meeting and greeted me with a truce. No longer, he said, will he treat me as the enemy. Caught in a moment that presented the last many years as a three-sided war, he offered to fight now alongside me.

Where I had considered us comrades, he thought us to be enemies. Because anyone that comes between him and alcohol is the enemy. Swenny the alcoholic claims this truth. The husband, father, brother, son and friend in him deny it, but alcoholism renders them irrelevant at best, hostile and destructive at worst.

Unsure where it leaves me, I listened to his explanation. And what I heard was a promise. Not a promise to stop drinking, but a promise that when I extend my hand, he will take it. That before I am prompted to  search for bottles, he will acknowledge the strength of the opponent we face with evidence of a retreat not taken. That he trusts I am motivated by what is best for him while understanding that others hurt, too. And that the next time I return to the front, I will do so armed with his willingness to consider resources left yet un-enlisted.

Most importantly, I heard a promise that never again will I find him behind enemy lines battling against me. And my promise to him? To keep fighting.



The Bend in the River

Long ago, I removed from my hope chest the dream of a house at the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow. It was a concept borne of cowboy swagger, and it wasn’t for me.

There was a time, though, when I believed that it was. Until the line marking the whiskey bottle was drown by the water used to refill it, determining a different path completely. A path that took me from walking our kids to school and organizing play dates to answering to moms on the playground about where I spent my days, to family questioning my judgment in placing my children in the care of strangers, and to neighbors who tracked my hours and travel schedule, asking me if it was worth it. As the lone witness to Swenny’s increasing struggle with alcoholism, I knew that it was.

Those who enjoyed shelter beneath roofs provided for by someone else thought my only expense was the price of a mortgage and groceries. But those were simply wages well-allocated and never missed. The absence I felt was of what I never had: someone with whom to share hardship. Someone to take the reins on days when I couldn’t, or take the lead when I couldn’t find my way. Someone to place a window at just my height so I could see more clearly what was out there.

Someone to take me to the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow. Because while I had once convinced myself that such a thing was not for me, I admit now that it could have been.