I went to bed the night of July 13, 2019, with a sense of unease. Too many issues and feelings swirling around in this sometimes-tortured mind of mine: Mom had passed away a little over a year prior, I recently had a falling out with my brother, in May I found myself having to scurry to find a new office space, and my dad’s birthday was the next day, July 14.
Dad died in 2005. During the last handful of years of his life, he and I seemed to find a sweet spot. Some forgiveness, some understanding, and a lot of vodka martinis. He seemed most relaxed and open during those Tito times. And hell, so did I.
I am my father’s son. High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, alcohol dependence, and that depressive gene. Unlike, him, however, I am valiantly fighting to combat my heritage and attempting to re-write the script as a very engaged, communicative and authentic dad/husband/human.
That’s an interesting word, heritage. When I think of heritage, I think of a history that is set in stone. When I went to bed that evening of July 13, 2019, the prospect of that frightened me. I tossed and turned for a while, but eventually moved myself to the guest room, so as not to disturb Will. That room has always been a soothing place. Brightly decorated, family photos, our cat, Bella, sleeps there, as did my mom when she would come to stay. Sweet and calming. What I was searching for that evening.
My dad was on my mind that night. And although he never made it to our current home, he was around. I was thinking of his latter years when he still smoked and drank despite his doctors’ and his wife’s encouragement to quit. The smoking stopped when the emphysema took over and the oxygen tank became the latest piece of furniture. But the drinking? Let’s keep going!
I think he had all but given up hope that his life would improve, so he did what he wanted. Live for today, I suppose. The empty Tito’s bottles would rapidly collect in the blue bins in their carport.
I followed that mantra for years, “You want another? Have another! I can do what I want!” And it was a lot of fun …until it wasn’t.
I am one of the lucky ones. I never drank during the day. I never did my work under the influence. But I did upset some relationships, and the one I was most concerned about that night of July 13, was my relationship with my daughter. She was well aware of my struggle in recent years. She deserved so much better. She asked as much.
After a half-fitful night sleep, I woke up on July 14, 2019, what would have been my dad’s 85th birthday. That was my first day without a drink. Assuming I post this in a few hours, it will have been 491 days.
When people ask me how I quit after decades of overdoing it, I really don’t have a clear answer. I knew that I did not want to die as a sick, probably bitter, old man. I did not want to die with a fractured relationship with my daughter.
But there’s more. I just wanted to be healthy again. I didn’t want to wake up feeling like shit, and then after my morning black coffee having to ingest my mountain of pills because I have this heritage I need to be loyal to.
I did not go to AA. I have nothing against the organization. They help and have helped millions. I belong to a couple of private Facebook groups, listen to podcasts and have my meditation apps. I have thrown myself into exercise, my practice, and reading.
I’m fortunate to be stubborn. My health is my top priority. If I fall, the family falls. This is my responsibility to myself and to them. It is always one day at a time, but my resolve is clear. I have been feeling pretty good for 491 days, despite the crap that is going on around us, and I do not want to go back.
It is not always easy. Whenever I am in the market and going down the condiment aisle, my mouth begins to water as I see the various olives that used to seductively lay ready for me at the bottom of that iced martini glass. Anchovy-stuffed olives were always my favorite. But the only olives I consume now are the ones I put in my tuna fish salad.
Relationships develop (and often erode) with our substances. And my relationship with vodka was one for the books. Sensuous, sultry, hot, with those incredible mouth-watering anchovy-stuffed olives and a teensy splash of dry vermouth in an ice-chilled glass. It was a good run.
Until it wasn’t. And while I was in bed the night of July 13, 2019, the time rolled over to the following day and while the unease was still there, a resolve and a new life was building.