Saturday, April 24, 2010

Snapshots from Before ~ Going Home

"I'm not ready," I tell my counselor.  I am sitting in her office, and it is so comforting, so familiar now.    I have been at the rehab center for 31 days.   My husband and kids will be here any minute to pick me up.  I'm sitting in her office, wiping tears away, my dented suitcase sits dejectedly at my feet.   "I'm terrified."

"I'm glad to hear it," she says, peering at me over her glasses.  "That means it's time to go."

"How does that make sense?"  I ask.

"If you're scared, it means that you understand that left to your own resources, you'll probably drink.   That's a big step.  It means you have surrendered," she replies.

I press my face into my hands.   

"So you'll go to a meeting tonight?  You'll raise your hand and ask for help?"

I nod.    Tonight is a million years away.   I can't bear to think about it.

There is a soft knock at the door, and the assistant director pokes her head in.   "They're here," she says.

I look up at my counselor, my eyes pleading.   I want her to tell me I don't have to go.   She smiles.

"Go hug your kids," she says.  "Good luck."

I stand up and grab my suitcase.  "Thank you,"  I say.  The words feel so small.

I take a deep breath, and step out of her office.   I peer down a long corridor, and see my husband standing at the other end.  He's holding Finn, who looks impossibly big.    Greta is shuffling her feet, staring at the floor.   I clear my throat, and she looks up.   "MAMA!" she screams, and runs down the hall towards me, her arms flung open wide, her hair in little pink barrettes.   I wonder if Steve has mastered barrettes while I have been gone, or if she has learned to put them in herself, and my heart bursts into a thousand pieces.

I kneel and wrap my arms tightly around her little shoulders.   She buries her face in my shirt.   We rock for a minute, clinging to each other.

Steve and Finn approach more slowly.  Finn is looking at me uncertainly.   He is almost two, just starting to talk.    He gives me a shy smile and rests his head on Steve's shoulder.   

I finally make eye contact with Steve, and my stomach flips.    I have no idea what to say, where to begin.  "Thanks for picking me up," I say softly.   He looks at me, a thousand unspoken words flying between us,   and then nods his head, once.

Finn reaches out for me, and I pull him into my arms.   "Hey, big guy," I say, fighting back tears.  I'm here, I think to myself.  Mama's finally here.

We stand there quietly for a moment, the four of us.   The four of us.   I push back a wave of guilt so powerful my throat closes and my hands start to shake.   

Steve pushes open the door and we step outside into the bright sunshine.   Greta is chatting away at my feet, something about a stuffed animal.  I'm still holding Finn, who is silent and clutching my shirt with his little fists.   My heart is pounding.  I want to scream, cry, beg for forgiveness.

"I missed you guys," I say instead.

"Are you all better now?" Greta asks, looking up at me.

I glance at Steve, and he looks away.   "Yes, honey, I'm all better now," I choke, hoping with all my heart that this isn't a lie.

"Good," she says, firmly.   "Can we play a game when we get home?  We have a new game!  We got it while you were at the hopspital."   She can't say hospital correctly, and I feel another wave of shame.  She had to learn that word because of me, I think.

And there we are, stumbling across the hot parking lot, this little family that has endured so much in the past months.  Because of me.   Because I'm an alcoholic.    An alcoholic in recovery, I correct myself. 

Steve buckles Finn into his car seat, and I make a mental note of how quickly he can do that now.   I click Greta's seat belt into place, around a new booster seat, one I haven't seen before.   There is so much I don't know about, so much to learn.   And re-learn.  

Steve and I slide into the front seats, and shut the car doors.   He sighs, and looks at me.   "Well, here we go," he says.

"Let's go HOME!" Greta shouts.

Home, I think.  God help me, let's go home.


  1. When I was 19 years sober I nearly relapsed. Quitting drinking and being in recovery are two different things I soon learned. After I got my butt back to an AA meeting I realized how hooped I was so I went to rehab. After 20 days and a piece of paper that said I could go home now I was filled with dread. I did not want to go home. I felt like I hadn't had enough time to practice all that I'd learned. I drove past the rehab place for 3 months before I could finally look at it and not miss being there. Today, by the grace of God, I get my 22 year medallion.

  2. Hope - 22 years. Wow. Congratulations! You are such an important part of my journey, thank you for your support, honesty and beautiful writing. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

  3. What an incredible story. Thank you for being strong enough to share it. The guilt that comes from simply not being there for your family is crushing, in my own way I've been there too. I'm still there at times. It gets better though. I don't know if it will ever go way, but it improves. You're such an inspiration Ellie. xo

  4. Oh such a great story. Thank you Ellie. Your story brought tears to my eyes. I was in the same place, the feelings of guilt and fear, were mine as well. Three cheers to that chapter being closed, the current, healthy chapter going on and on. :)

  5. What an incredible story indeed. Having 2 kids myself, I relate exactly to the guilt, the love, the feeling leftout, the mother instinct that jumps right back in. This is such a big stepping block to the next chapter in life, huh? Thanks for sharing.

  6. I've got tears in my eyes Ellie. You manage to put so much emotion in your writing, especially this one. I was never in rehab, but have felt so many of the same feelings. Big sighs and deep breaths from over here...

  7. You brought tears to my eyes too Ellie. Thanks for sharing your story, and your words, both of them amazing!

  8. jeez, i'm crying over here. my mom was in treatment, but i don't remember it. not at all, as i was too young. reading this makes me realize it's something she probably will never ever forget.

  9. My husband recently relapsed after 14 years of being clean and sober. Today, we have two girls, ages 6 and 9. I have been so angry at him for so long now, but your post helped to show me a different perspective of this whole thing, his. Thank you for reminding me that this is probably hard on him too, sometimes I can forget that. You are a wonderful woman and you should be very proud of everything you have accomplished so far. Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. Almost 55 years ago I had it out with my Dad and he promised to quit drinking. The next day, he stopped by our football practice. I was so excited to see him that I ran over to the car---big smile on my face. One look and I could tell he had been drinking. I remember saying, "Aw Dad, youv'e had something to drink!!!" He looked at me and said" Two glasses of port--that's all!" Then he slammed the car into drive and roared off. When I got home he was drunk.
    All these years I have wished I had been smarter---or had the right words to say---or something.
    His drinking eventually killed him---and I have never stopped wishing I could change that one instant.
    Thanks for your story