“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.” ~ Joan Didion
Two days ago, I sat at a dining room table in a beautiful but unfamiliar home. To my left was Swenny, and across from us were two men. One the house manager and the other the owner of a sober house we had just toured. It was big, well cared for, and the final stop on a road paved with ultimatums.
The view outside was of a park in a neighborhood not far from the sober house Swenny called home in the summer of 2015. The conversation was small as we talked about alcoholism, house rules, meetings and the formica table of the same vintage as my grandmother’s. I kept my focus on the table because nothing else that was said mattered.
Swenny failed a breathalyzer test, and wouldn’t be moving in.
As the men sought to alarm Swenny of what the future holds for him while wanting to assure him that he could still have one, I considered how we got here. To a place where his drinking had again escalated beyond what he can manage; to where his best judgment left him with a blood alcohol content high enough to betray him during an important meeting held almost a full day after his last drink; to where it is left to strangers to tell him the rest of his story based on the worst endings they have known.
While Swenny listened as if they were talking about someone other than him, I decided to pick this as the place from which I walk away. From where the latitude is lies and the longitude is denial. From where in sickness and in health feels like a sentence I have served for too long. From where alcohol presides.
I hope that Swenny, too, picks this as the place from where he walks away. And turns instead toward an ending unlike the one for which he is heading.