We're on day ten of vacation out at the remote beach camp.
We're suntanned, grubby and everything is coated in sand, but we're relaxed and happy.
I haven't been out here with the kids for such a long stretch, well, ever. I'm surprised and amazed at how well it is going. Ten days with no television, no computer (for the kids, HA!) or Nintendo DS and we're all still getting along. Days seems to fly by; we've established a pattern of breakfast, games or reading, beach, barbeque, more games and then bed.
One other unexpected blessing for me is that I haven't really thought about drinking at all, with the exception of one evening when I was fixing dinner and a black mood hit me out of the blue. I was cranky, edgy and irritable, and it took me a few minutes to figure out I was angry. Angry that I couldn't drink or eat like a normal person, couldn't sit on the deck and watch the sun go down while nursing a cold glass of Chardonnay and indulging in chips and dip. But mostly I was mad that I couldn't drink.
The feeling passed. I went up to the lighthouse, breathed in the salt air, felt the wind on my face, and waited. After about half an hour I was fine.
The fact that ten days have passed with only one bad moment is a blessing, for sure, but also kind of a curse.
I have only been to two meetings in two weeks. Usually I go to about three (sometimes four) a week.
Those niggling thoughts start creeping into my head - maybe I'm okay? Maybe I don't need meetings? Maybe - gasp - I'm cured?
I don't mean cured like I'm no longer an alcoholic. I mean cured like maybe I don't need to go to so many meetings, maybe I can do this just fine without them.
I don't usually talk about meetings (when I say 'meetings' I'm talking about that international organization that has helped hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - of people get and stay sober. If you don't know what I'm talking about, email me), and for good reason. I'm not here to promote or endorse any particular way of getting or staying sober. I'm very open minded about recovery - I think any way that gets you sober and keeps you sober is a good way.
It's important to note that when I talk about going to meetings, I'm talking about how I do it. I'm talking about me here, and only me.
I love meetings. I love the camaraderie, safety and acceptance I feel there. When I go to meetings consistently I feel level, balanced. At meetings I know I'm part of something miraculous, not stuck on the outside of the world, nose pressed to the glass, watching all the 'normal' people drink.
Meetings let me get out of myself for an hour or two, as I listen to other peoples' struggles and victories. Many times I'll raise my hand to speak at a meeting and what I say surprises me. More often than not, there is something lurking inside me that needs to get out, and I didn't even know it was there.
It is difficult to balance going to meetings with the demands of a young family. Especially in early sobriety, after I had put the family through so much, it felt selfish to ask to be out of the house most evenings. My husband's schedule is demanding, too, and having to be home three times a week puts additional pressure on him. He doesn't complain, but the guilt I feel about it is there nonetheless.
I don't know why meetings work for me, and I don't care. All I know is I feel better when I'm going, and when I'm not I feel edgy.
Until the past couple of weeks. I thought I'd go nuts being away from meetings, but truth be told it has been kind of nice. Nice to not have to rush around getting the kids ready for bed before I run out the door. Nice to not feel that tug of guilt that my husband has to come home early.
And I'm stunned that being on vacation, not going to meetings and not drinking has been, well, easy. I went to a meeting a few days ago, and for the first time I felt kind of awkward. Like being away from the group for a while has somehow put me on the outside.
Last night I was sitting, watching the sun go down, listening to the kids playing in the yard, and the thought came out of nowhere: maybe I don't need to go to so many meetings. Or at all.
My gut clenched. This is how it happens, I thought. I have heard it over and over - people get away from meetings, start feeling like they are okay without them, and days, weeks or months (sometimes years) later they think they can drink in safety. Sometime after that, they drag themselves back in, beaten and broken, and say how it all started by getting away from meetings. I've heard it - literally - dozens of times.
I'm having thoughts like this because I'm not at meetings to hear why thoughts like this are dangerous. Thankfully, I'm still tapped in. I still speak to people in recovery daily - even on vacation. I know that the first thing I have to do is tell on myself. So that's what I'm doing.
And as soon as we're back, no matter what my brain tells me, I'm getting right back into the fold.
It's a disease that tells you that you don't have a disease. It's always out there, waiting for you to let your guard down.
It used to bother me when people spoke about alcoholism like it's some monster in a closet, like it doesn't come from inside them.
Now I know better, though. It whispers in my ear without my permission. There isn't such a thing as more sober, but I work hard at my recovery. I'd like to think that couldn't happen to me.
That's just what it wants me to think. Meetings, for me, are the only way I can combat the siren call of the disease. The force field of love and support I get from other people in recovery is the biggest part of what keeps me sober.
I find that love and support at meetings.
For me, getting sober without going to meetings would be like dieting without counting calories. It just doesn't work any other way. There aren't any shortcuts or miracle cures, no matter how badly I wish there were.
And I only wish for the miracle cure when I'm away from meetings, away from that group of incredible, strong, funny, compassionate people who make me grateful - yes, actually grateful - that I'm a recovering alcoholic.