Alcoholism is made of extremes. Its highs and lows are well-documented, and of what its stories are made. Its tales, though, are in the everyday. Between the fallout of wavering expectations and evitable consequences, life goes on.
For Swenny and me, the cost of alcoholism has been significant. We have lost friends, and of others we let go. Family members are unsure about how to spend time with us, and us with them. Even within our family of four, years of wear-and-tear have left us threadbare.
With peaks that have become ever less distinguishable from valleys, our range of movement has become limited. Each ultimatum has left us with fewer steps to take, and with nowhere else to go. Somehow, though, we have found room to take the stakes higher. And are now living in the aftermath of the latest ultimatum: a collection of final offers in a decade-long negotiation that has found us here.
It was almost two years ago when Swenny and I sat together at a sober house being told that he could not move in until he sought recovery. His physical condition, combined with a positive breathalyzer taken during a tour, confirmed that he needed more help than they could provide. We discussed a course of action in which he would be welcome there that included twenty-eight days at an inpatient rehabilitation center. Swenny considered this carefully. As I pushed for him to go – to do the hard work of recovery that he hadn’t yet – he pushed back, finding a friend in recovery to stay with while he worked on his sobriety.
Despite trying, he continued to drink. Since living apart wasn’t consequence enough, I filed for separation in a gesture intended to catch his attention. In answer, he continued to drink. In what was becoming a battle of wills, fate delivered the next blow: a diagnosis of advanced liver disease. To cope, he continued to drink. As scopes and scans measured time, he continued to drink. As our date of separation approached, he continued to drink. Cirrhotic ascites upped the ante, and he continued to drink.
Given a list of recovery programs by his doctor in August, he continued to drink, procrastinating any move to ensure that day-to-day he would be present. For getaways, birthdays, and walks with the dog. For our son’s graduation and Christmas Day.
His insistence on the everyday, though, has been costly. Five months have been spent further damaging his liver. And our already precarious marriage by denying that he is drinking, even as his carefully procured alcohol waits for him on ice in his closet a block away. Our separation continuing indefinitely; our life’s equity somehow still intact.
And while the joy of the everyday is undeniable, it doesn’t compare to what’s possible when the highs and lows are allowed to arc in the direction of hope. Building each day toward a story worth telling.
Tomorrow, Swenny is following that arc. With a grand gesture of his own, he is moving to a sober house. Neither a peak nor a valley, it is simply necessary. A decision he arrived to alone. A step toward recovery. And a chance to recapture everything in between.
I just want you to know that this is me trying. At least I’m trying. ~ Taylor Swift