Sunday, August 28, 2011

A room with a view.

Oh. My. Fucking.God. Where to begin?

We're in Chicago, having delivered our kid to college yesterday. College.  We left first thing Friday morning, driving north with my kid's dad -- my ex of 24 years -- and arrived about 12 hours later.

That would be a lot right there. But there's so much more.

I was lucky enough to get into an incredible law school, and while I knew it wouldn't be cost-efficient from a monetary standpoint, the experience of being a part of that community -- the professors, the resources, the students themselves -- was worth more than money could buy. That's why, when my kid got into the Harvard of art schools, affiliated with the second largest museum in the nation, I was loathe to say no despite the truly frightening financial commitment it will require.

The school did not disappoint. 

Okay. I am trying to draw out the drama here, using my fabulously fantabulous surgical-precision skills as a wordsmith to create a scene, to paint a mood, before I pop out with just how freaking cool this is.

Well, fuck it. So: here is the view from my daughter's dorm room:

 Yep. The Chicago Theatre, the famous one, built in 1921. And do you see the gray building to the right of it? That, dear readers, is the Joffrey Ballet. With huge windows. So she can watch them dance. 

I mean, is that oh-my-fucking-god cool, or what?

And so far, every bit of this experience has been similarly amazing. Including Chicago itself, which is even more wonderful than I remembered.

My kid is in seventh heaven, and so am I. If ever I doubted whether this was the right decision -- you know, sending her to a private-and-incredibly expensive school of choice rather than the practical-but-pedestrian state college -- it is gone, gone, gone. Sure, she'd survive Kennesaw State or GSU. But here in Chicago, she will soar.

Today we're going to parent orientation, held in the modern wing of the school's museum. If it's anything like yesterday, I imagine I will be positively breathless by the end of the day.

Tonight, we will say goodbye. In the meantime, I am reveling in the now, watching my kid spread her wings for the first time  -- so engaged, so joyous!  I am too excited for her to feel sadness. At least, not yet.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

One day at a time.

So a couple weeks ago, I celebrated thirty (count 'em!) years of sobriety.

I sobered up the year Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. The year IBM rolled out its first personal computer with a price tag of $5,000. The year MTV debuted as the first around-the-clock music video station.

I took my last drink just 32 days after the New York Times reported on a rare cancer that had been diagnosed in 41 gay men.

In short, it was lifetimes ago.

I drank for just seven years, but I drank daily from the beginning. Mostly, I drank wine. Lots and lots and lots of it, mostly Gallo and Carlo Rossi, my subsistence ration for the times when I was broke, which - surprise! - was most of the time. But when I could, I liked the harder stuff. Serially monogamous, I would order the same thing night after night until I was seduced by some new concoction. Stingers. Kahlua and cream. 151 Rum and Tab.

I can still feel the warmth of the first drink, that delicious bloom, that surge through my arms and down into my fingers as the alcohol hits. I can still taste the stuff, still feel what it did for me.

Throughout my sobriety, I have struggled with the first step -- accepting that I'm powerless over alcohol. Some people say it's the one step you have to work perfectly. Not me! Truth is, part of me still doesn't believe I'm an alcoholic. It's one of the hazards of having a "high bottom." It's also one more thing I don't need to drink over today. And I'm guessing that social drinkers don't wax all nostalgic about the buzz they copped 30 years ago.

Besides, there are those other memories: Pawning the ten-dollar gold coin my mom gave me so I could buy alcohol. Getting drunk nearly every day, even while I was trying to get pregnant; and then spending interminable nights anguishing about fetal alcohol syndrome. Pulling the covers over my face at night, leaving just one small breathing hole, so I wouldn't see or feel something in the dark that shouldn't be there. Sleeping countless nights with one foot on the floor in a vain attempt to make the room stop spinning. My last drunk, throwing up in front of a bowling alley and riding home miserable, my long hair wet and still dripping with vomit.

I quit drinking about the time I started getting the shakes in the morning. I've had them, occasionally, ever since.

It's small stuff compared to what others went through. I know this. But I hold fast to one of the first things I heard in the rooms: "I'd rather spend the rest of my life sober, thinking I'm an alcoholic, than to spend the rest of my life drunk, thinking I'm not."

Which seems like reason enough to stay away from the first drink for another day. At least until I get this all figured out.