Thursday, September 07, 2006

You Called?

Alcohol was the all-purpose friend who I turned to when I wanted to celebrate; when I wanted to mourn; when I was sad; when I was happy; when I was lonely; when I was surrounded by many; when it was Tuesday. Knowing that a relationship can be based purely on a mutual appreciation of alcohol and its hollow promise is infinitely frustrating and sad. That I blindly and naïvely denied this for years is even sadder.

In the long run, that’s okay. A few bumps, but then the road really evens out. Goals slide into focus, decisions become easier to make, and relationships change and evolve. Some just fall away. Some slowly disintegrate, like a lone Cheerio left in a bowl of milk. The relationship retains its shape for a while; but then you touch it and its gone.

Not everyone is happy when someone stops drinking. It’s preposterous to think that my own realizations could send minor shockwaves into some people’s worlds. But isn’t that what propelled me in the first place to make my own leap? Isn’t it more preposterous to assume that we aren’t all connected to each other—in good and bad— in some minor but powerful way?

That which remains after the tide goes back out and everything settles down is much sweeter than I ever thought could exist; truly more fulfilling than any drink, cliché as that is. There is a certain clarity that slowly evolves, which, someone told me once, is just as addictive. She’s right. And that clarity forces me to look at life in the harsh and sometimes unforgiving spotlight of truth. No more fuzzy filter. It’s amazing what you see.

In movies, endings and good-byes are dramatic and harsh clean breaks, sometimes with one side confidently striding away from the wreckage while the victim reels in confusion. But it’s not like that. Real-life endings are drawn-out debacles that can take years. They are messy, with tentacles of connections inevitable left behind. There’s unfinished history and certain bound-to-be-awkward future interactions. And then there are moments of false hope, when you think (or pretend) that everything is really fine. But it’s not. And when one person can’t hide behind a drink (or a lie or a shared history or a fantasy future) anymore, it all starts to unravel. The question is, who will realize this first?

We can stop pretending. It will be okay.

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