Seventeen years. I need to think about that for a second.
In my entire life, there is nothing else I have done (except breathe) for seventeen straight years.
I was 22, and I could drink anyone I met under the table. I started most days with a glass of scotch. Good scotch - let it not be said that I was a cheap drunk. I thought I was all that and a bag of chips.
|A Good Glass of Scotch by Ray Toth - from flickr|
One day I took a good look around. I saw that the crowd I was hanging around with were all considerably older than me. I saw that while I was having a good time - a great time, to be honest - I wasn't really moving forward with my life, wasn't really accomplishing anything I could be proud of long-term. And I knew that alcohol was a factor - the factor - that was holding me back.
And I knew, without thinking about it too much, that I would not be able to simply cut down on the amount I was drinking. In love, in friendships, in life, I have always been all or nothing. Why would drinking be any different? I looked around, and I saw the future, and it was Not Good.
So one fine August day in 1992, I didn't have a glass of scotch for breakfast. After ten months of not drinking, I went to my first AA meeting, between sets at a Grateful Dead show in Seattle. (True story.) About a year after that, I went to my last AA meeting, unless you count the time a couple of years later that I talked an addict/alcoholic on the street in the downtown eastside out of attacking me by commiserating with him about how hard it is to stay sober. (Another true story. I was scared shitless but made a snap decision to treat him with dignity instead of fear, and the story had a happy ending.) (For me, anyway.)
I don't know what makes me a person who can't have just one drink and makes you a person who can. I've been sober much, much longer than I was ever drunk; so long that I don't even think about it anymore, it's just my life. And now I have a lot more money for shoes.
|Ah, bonjour Monsieur Louboutin! Comment allez-vous?|
So why am I thinking about it now?
I work from home, and the factory here in Vancouver that makes Chill Monkeys clothing is on the other side of the most tragic neighbourhood in the country. I've had to drive through it a few times this week. Not the first time, far from it, but it really affects me differently now that I'm a parent.
I see The Imp, and all his energy, and his optimism, his excitement about learning and trying new things, and all the electricity of potential that his little body is almost bursting with every minute.
And I know that all children start out with that kind of potential.
And somehow, some of them get lost along the way. It breaks my heart, shatters it into more pieces than I can count. I can't not see these broken people wandering through their tombstone-eyed existence on the streets of my city. I can't not see that they were once somebody's child full of potential. I can't forget that I was heading down a similar path at one time in my life, that I could have been one of them.
And I don't know why I can't drink, or why they can't stop harming themselves, and why you can.
And I live in mind-numbing terror that The Imp, my Imp, my beautiful joyous boy, will inherit something from me and become one of the Lost Children I see gathered along East Hastings Street.
And I don't know how to make sure that doesn't happen.
And the not knowing is killing me.