The following is an edited version of a post originally published February 11, 2017.
I’m Marsha, and I’m not an alcoholic. On the face of it, this is my story.
When I got together with Pat, he had 10 years of sobriety. I was in love, and in the space of a heartbeat, I decided to become a non-drinker. I had never been much of a consumer of alcohol. The few times I had actually gotten drunk were the result of youthful inexperience, not deliberate intention. Drinking for me had been mostly a social activity. In my late teens I was running with a mostly older group of friends, getting into bars with the expired drivers license of a friend whom I only vaguely resembled. Those were different times. By the time I could drink legally, I rarely had more than a drink. I stopped drinking during my pregnancy, which seemed to permanently change my tolerance for alcohol. After the birth of my son, even one drink made me feel sluggish and mildly hung over the next morning. Drinking hardly seemed worth it.
So it was actually somewhat of a relief when Pat came along and I could just give it up altogether. At some point, I realized that I loved sobriety, and for all the obvious reasons. I was supporting Pat in his recovery. I was going through life without the haze of alcohol, waking up clear-headed every morning. And, not least, I could add up all the money I wasn’t spending on alcohol at the grocery store or when we went out to eat. It was all good.
But recently I’ve become aware of other, deeper reasons for why I love sobriety. They have to do with my grandfather, my two grandmothers, and a sacred legacy. By all accounts, my grandpa Fred adored my younger sister and me, and I adored him back. I remember him as a kind, gentle man. He was a stone mason by trade, a skilled builder and masonry contractor who built some of the finest homes and buildings in Oklahoma City during his time, many of which feature his precise and elegant stone carvings. He and my grandmother weathered the depression with their young son, my father, managing somehow to keep their family housed and fed during a period when no one was building anything. In the depths of the depression, he showed up on Christmas day with what my father remembers as the biggest orange he had ever seen. It would be my father’s only Christmas gift that year, but he recalls feeling only excitement and happiness about that amazing orange, and no sense of deprivation. Grandpa’s love for my grandmother was the stuff of legend in stories she loved to repeat to my sister and me. I was seven when he died.
My grandfather was also an alcoholic. I did not understand this until sometime in my teens, and in the ensuing years I learned things from my father that told another story about grandpa. As a child, my dad would not bring friends home for fear that his father might be drunk. My dad worked for his father in the summers during high school and college, and recalled having to fill in on work sites to supervise the crews when his father was on a bender. He also remembers hearing his parents quarrel over his father’s drinking, and thinking that maybe his dad would be able to stop if only his mother wouldn’t be so angry about it. The fantasies of a child in an alcoholic home. Alcohol killed Grandpa at age 59 when he bled to death from a stomach ulcerated by drinking.
Both of my grandmothers, by contrast, were non-drinkers. Both were Methodists, and most Methodists in those days were “teetotalers.” We never discussed alcohol, but this is how I think of them on that score. Neither drank. One had a home and a life free of alcohol. The other lived with the heartache of a husband who was powerless to stop drinking and never found recovery, a good man whom she clearly and demonstrably loved. It must have been a source of great anguish.
It has been a privilege to share a life with Pat and to witness his journey in recovery each day. I have come to regard our home and our life together as safe and sacred space. I think of my dear grandmother and wonder if I have been given a gift she never had, the gift of a life partner who is an alcoholic in recovery, living sober every day. I believe this would please her greatly. I think of my beloved grandfather and realize that, whatever demons I may have, and whatever genetic material we have in common, I have not been subject to the disease of alcoholism. I feel certain this would make him happy. I think of my other grandmother and know that she would recognize much of herself in me. I loved them all, and through them, and through my life with Pat, sobriety has become a sacred legacy.
Just a thought…
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