Thirty cans of kidney beans and tuna fish stocked my basement shelves. Gallons of water and pounds of rice brightened all things tinned.
It was New Years’ Eve, 1999.
Newscasters whipped the world into a frenzy by questioning if computers could handle the digit change from 1999 to 2000. Grid systems could fail, many reported. The stock markets would crash. Airplanes might fall out of the sky. Store up a month’s worth of food, many encouraged. Hell in a Y2K handbasket it was.
Going a step farther than network counsel, I bought two bottles of champagne I couldn’t afford, and cheap beer I could. On the Night the World Might End, I invited my neighbors over for snacks and a buzz. Their kids and mine witnessed our demise from sober to drunk, while venturing in for FiddleFaddle and M&Ms every now and then.
“The ball dropped, Mom.”
“It’s midnight?” Questions had raged whether the main attraction at Times Square would occur. But it had.
“It’s one. Can we watch “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?”
I checked the clock. “No, you may not watch….” I slurred my ‘ch’ sound with the ‘sh’ one in reference to the movie.
“That’s a bad word!”
My child’s exclamation snapped me to attention. The world hadn’t ended. The electric grid transitioned to the new millennium. Sanity slapped my face. Why had I allowed this madness? Why hadn’t I put my children to bed yet?
“Time for sleep.” I shuffled my kids to their rooms, ignoring their sugar-coated teeth and sweaty clothes.
In my kitchen, I grasped plates and glasses from the neighbors’ hands. “It’s late.”
“Got anything stronger?” The wife tilted toward my husband. Her son rested his head on the kitchen table. The oldest donned her coat.
“It’s nearly two.” I climbed a chair to get to the hard stuff I never drank over the frig, and poured Schnapps in two plastic to-go cups. “Talk tomorrow.”
“Aren’t you some part Cherokee?” Swishing the drink around the cup, the wife horse-grinned at my husband.
“Your kids.” I touched her son’s head. “Time for bed.”
“Bed.” She echoed the word adding one syllable too many.
Hoping they’d follow my cue, I ushered her children next door to their house, tucking them in. Upon my return, I glared at her husband, the sane one. “Your kids are home.”
The night had ended for me. My neighbor’s had just begun. “You’re a fine man.” She held her cup to my husband’s lips.
“That’s it.” Her husband snatched the drink from his wife and yanked her to standing. I stepped on her heels to the foyer and locked the door on my last great drunk.
As I double checked the latch’s steadfastness, I questioned the necessity of alcohol in my life for the first time. Was it worth this chaos?
How could this be? On this New Year’s Eve, my relationship with a bottle preceded the one with my children, whom I love with an everlasting love. I ignored a historical, once-in-a-thousand-year millennium event. The possibilities of the night were cheapened and lost. My drinking had done this.
Yet could I do life without it? Alcohol smothered the haunting questions at night. What happens when I die? Where do I go? Do I really become dust in the wind?
For 24 years, I’d maintain a drinking career that started at fourteen, cycling through countless blackouts, hangovers and words best left unspoken. It was more than habit. I’d drank alcohol straight into my DNA. Still, something deeper called. I started to pray the impossible. “Please, God, take this desire to drink away.”
One early morning, the quiet voice of my higher power, Jesus Christ, answered my prayer. “That’s enough, Renee. Stop.” The words watered my drunken soul, and gave power to my flesh. I’ve been sobered ever since August 1, 2001.
The last 19 years of my life, although the hardest, have been the most gracious and joy-filled ones ever. This doesn’t make sense. Yet, it’s true. Even in this season of wait and weight, as our nation hopes for better days, as personal issues rampage, grand moments pepper my life. Great conversations and healthy relationships–all things alcohol seemed to brighten, yet eventually destroy–are the normal now.
To be clear, addictions range from the expected chemical ones, to the lesser suspects, such as cyber affairs, compulsive shopping and cleaning, and social media. They all have commonality though in leaving us thirsty to imitate that first-time high, ever out of our reach.
If my story resonates with you, and it’s time for freedom, seek out someone who won’t tell you what you want to hear, but what you need. Find a recovery group. Journal. Pray. Speak.
How This Helps:
- I have not found it necessary to take a drink again, even when the tree fell on my house, my parents passed away, a familial relationship ended, or a lockdown occurred.
- I have found it necessary to engage in life-giving activities. My dogs walk me regularly. My bees kiss my nose on occasion. My weeds wage battle on my vegetables, and I war back. I sing and dance in my kitchen as I cook. Working on spiritual and mental well-being clears the path for sobriety and joy.
- I model a changed life to my generations and community. Not a perfect life, but a life pointing to something, someone, greater.
To Him be the Glory, forever and ever.
Hello, I’m Renee, a recovering alcoholic, who struggles with world worrying and dream slaying. Thanks for letting me share.
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