Clean

Last night, the spouse and I continued our Thanksgiving moviefest, which has so far consisted of His Girl Friday (love it), The Thin Man (never seen it, got distracted in the middle, will catch up to it another time), Sullivan’s Travels (first time I’ve seen it, really liked it), and last night, My Favorite Wife (don’t understand why the spouse loves it so much, but it wasn’t unpleasant), and then, because I couldn’t take any more black and white witty repartee, Barry Lyndon.

“I’ve never seen this,” I said.

“Yes, you have,” quoth spouse.

“Really?”

“Yeah. You were really drunk and you got really mad at me about something.”

“Oh. One of those.”

The spouse wrote a nice, if romanticized, paean to alcohol wisdom over on his blog the other day, but I certainly never had any. I didn’t really start drinking to escape until Karl died, my self-destruction kicking in to high gear, but two pregnancies put the brakes on serious boozing. But after Henry became about 6 months old, weekends were for drinking.

I was able to convince myself that I wasn’t a real drunk because I had so many rules around drinking: only on weekends, unless somebody broke out some wine on a week night (basically I only paid for wine on weekends), only white wine or champagne unless the only thing available was red wine. I guess it wasn’t that many rules, but I really meant them.

The last 6 months I was drinking, things were definitely escalating. Me, the spouse, and enough alcohol was a perfect storm, and we said horrible things to each other over the years. If I could do one thing, it would be to go back and erase what the kids heard and saw. But I can’t.

So I did the next best thing, got my ass to AA 3 and a half years ago and stopped drinking.

While the spouse’s profiled drunk is profound – I’m hopefully not bursting any bubbles here – the guy would be just as profound without the booze. Stupid people are stupid drunks, and have nothing of interest to say sober or trashed. Alcohol just dissolves filters, which generally are in place for a reason. Even though I used to think alcohol was helping me get to some glorious artistic place, I’ve realized that I think basically the same exact things that I thought when I was in the bag. I just have the sense not to say all of them. Alcohol provides a great escape, and once you get into escape mode, it’s very hard to stop escaping and face your demons. But I’m deeply grateful that I’ve started to face them. You need to be sober to beat those bastards.

It’s always interesting to me that these little reminders of what I left behind come up right when I need them. Thanksgiving made me really want a good big glass of wine. I used to love big holiday cooking marathons because I’d just uncork the wine at 11 in the morning and keep it flowing all day. After all, I needed it to deglaze the pans, didn’t I? I had just been contemplating, not seriously but somewhat, whether one glass of wine on Christmas would really be so bad.

Thanks to Barry Lyndon, I’m not feeling the desire quite so acutely. I’ve definitely gotten to a point in my sobriety where I can say that, yes, I miss drinking (for the first couple of years, I was lucky in that the thought of wine gave me an adverse physical reaction; it looked like body fluid to me, especially red wine). But I’m not going back. And if I can’t achieve profundity without booze – well, it reminds me of the way Karl used to the close the bars he tended: “Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re not gettin’ laid yet, it ain’t gonna happen.”

I don’t know how many drunken fights I’ve avoided with the spouse in the last 3 and 1/2 years, but I do know that it was really nice to cuddle up together and watch Barry Lyndon stone cold sober last night. I think, unfortunately, we’ll always have fights; we are married, after all. But I least I can remember them.

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