Alcoholism and recovery lack exactness. The symptoms of drinking that are crowding us again can be measured in frequency, depth and effect, but the reasons behind them remain undetermined. And as long as the why lacks definition, Swenny and I will exist in a state of inexactly.
Two weeks ago, in the transfer of a basket of laundry from my arms to his, I was struck by the smell of booze. Like earlier this month, Swenny confirmed with little hesitation that he had been drinking with co-workers. But this time, he closed his confession with a shrug.
Where once I could balance escalations in his drinking with some regard for my expectations of sobriety, Swenny’s newfound boldness to drink out loud has introduced an indifference that I can’t counter. So I enter into forgotten conversations as if we are having them for the first time, overlook the signs of drinking that follow him home, and walk away from moments that once positioned me for confrontation.
The recklessness with which he is managing the disease that has cost us so much is heavy. And while my response of lightness isn’t perfect, it is appropriate. For now. Because not every battle needs to be fought; and not every misstep needs to take you to your knees.
As Swenny takes chances with his drinking, I’m reconsidering the standards of progress I’ve used until now, electing to measure against a pattern of peace. His battle is not mine to fight. His indifference is not of my making.
So instead of anticipating the time when catching him translates into an ultimatum to which he might respond, I’ll prepare instead for the moment when catching him means breaking his fall. Cushioned by some indifference of my own.