Sobriety is a different forest, and one I am picking my way through carefully. The level of commitment that AA seems to require is daunting, as is the god issue. But I have seen people speak there that moved and affected me in a way that was more beneficial than any serenity prayer. Balancing cynicism and nihilism with the all-to-clear possibility of death, I’ve relapsed this month but I’m trying to embrace the program without losing myself. When I relapsed, my wife yelled at me to give her the rest of the bottle of vodka, and all I could say was, “I want something to myself, that is mine.” I gave her the bottle. I want to believe I have other things to hold onto, but the glacial heft of a glass bottle is a hand held.
There becomes that very annoying factor of that being all I can talk about for the initial few months. There becomes the need for endless step work and the sense that in rote, in ritual, one can find some peace. Or at least stay busy. I have been so busy that my usual patterns of housework and writing are disrupted. For someone with a surplus of free time, there still is not enough.
I am working on a poetry collection that deals with my time in the hospital and after. It may just join the ranks of trite sin and redemption narratives. I resist that paradigm, and I don’t want to see this as “once I walked in sin, now I walk in the light.” It is not that way. It is more complex than that, and I feel like AA tries to simplify everything down to this, finding god and god saving you from your addiction. There is no one who will save me but myself. And the solidarity of others, friends, sometimes people in the program but also without, my wife, her love and affection grow as I stay sober.
It seemed clearer, walking out of the hospital after detox, than it does now. People who don’t drink say to me, “Why don’t you just stop drinking, why don’t you just have a glass of milk.” Even if I weren’t lactose intolerant, the naïve reductionism of this haunts me. “Why don’t you just talk yourself out of being depressed,” “Why don’t you just change things in your life instead of taking all those pills.” It is never that easy. It is never that smooth.
People tell me that it gets better, that one’s life starts to fall into place. I am waiting. I am waiting for my life to gel again. Now I’m in a tenuous place. I drink guava juice at four am and stare into the internet like it will cohere into a truth. I stare out the window at the red brake lights of cars on the freeway streaming like liquid glass. I wait. Books stack, dishes stack, the bunny spews hay and shit across the floor. I grab both hands onto the one thing I must do, and wait to enjoy the clarity it promises.