This was nearly my life.
A ghost town of the amazing spectacle that it once was.
Thankfully, the above is merely an echo of what could have been.
Full disclosure: I have for years struggled with an addiction to alcohol. I am an alcoholic. I’d never use the term “recovering alcoholic”, as that denotes that I am some how mastering or moving past my problem. Have I stopped drinking? Yes. Have I stopped drinking before? Yep. I cannot prove that this time is any different through some magic combination of words. All that I can do is make a promise to myself and my loved ones and keep that promise for the rest of all our lives.
Most of the illusion I had about myself is gone. The image I had tried so hard to project has faded, as it should have long ago. Can I still be a funny person? Yes. Can I still be a caring person and a nice guy? Sure. Can I still do these while drinking? Probably.
But, Allison and Jack. Oh, Jack. Can I be the man my wife loves and the father my son deserves while drinking? No. Not a chance.
My sister told me a story about a man from our small New Jersey town. He drank and he drank and, while never mean or abusive, he slowly morphed into a different person. See, that is one big misconception a lot of people have about alcoholics. We rarely get drunk and beat our wives. Hell, we rarely get ACTUALLY drunk. At least not in the sense that most people do. We don’t stumble around or slur our speech like some cartoon wino character. We just DRINK, and we keep on drinking.
So, anyway, after numerous attempts at quitting and falling this man’s wife confronted him one night. She put a can of beer on one side of the table and a photograph of their family on the other side. “Choose.” she said.
Choose a short life of fleeting, poisoned self-indulgence or the prospect of showering in a long existence. A life filled with smiles, tears, happy and sad faces and a universe of emotion and experience that you help to create. He chose and so did I.
So, now, like the prosecution the burden of proof is mine. If the alternative is an empty room where I cannot hear my son laugh or a cold dinner table where I can’t make my wife smile…there is no choice. I don’t care anymore what that burden weighs. It’s mine to carry, and I’ll do so gladly with the love and support of these people that mean more to me than I can ever adequately express other than not letting them carry more than their share. I thank them.
Jack is standing now. Standing! The cliches are all so true. It goes by so fast. He pulls himself up, his little legs shake, and he steadies himself and there’s my boy: standing. He stands and, sometimes, he falls down. Then he gets back up.
And, once again, my son showed me what to do.