Some days are easier than others. I have less harder days now, but there are still days when I just want to grab a shot glass, pour some Powers into it, and drink, one shot, one pour, after another. It’s been six years now since I had my last drink, but sobriety will always be a work in progress. Sometimes I hear a little voice in the back of my head telling me that just one won’t hurt, a little reminder of the warmth of whiskey spreading to my fingertips, but I know full well that it’s a lie. Those days have become few and far between, but they still pop up out of nowhere, and they still take me by surprise. I started a new job recently, and after an intense first day I suddenly imagined myself with a perfectly poured Guinness in one hand and a Marlboro Light in the other. I could practically feel the taste of both beer and cigarette together, hammering home how close I always am to hovering on a precipice that I know I never want to fall into again. And that is the reality of sobriety: once you get past the “hard” part most people assume it’s just smooth sailing onwards. This is completely untrue, I have to live with the same demons, the same anxiety and the same fears: I have just learnt healthier coping skills to deal with them.
Six years ago I decided that I was going to be a better person to myself in order to be the best mother I could be to my future child(ren). And I will never, ever regret that. I sometimes miss the wildness of those days where my impulsive nature took over, sweeping my responsible side to the curb, because they sometimes led to memorable and important happenings (like meeting my best friend or finding the love of my life), but I remember the bad days just as well as those memorable times. I’m too tired and too old nowadays to deal with the ups and downs of my life with booze, and too reflective on the past to even take a step back. I move forward now, and while I cannot lay the past to rest, I am making it into stories and then leaving it be. One of my strengths has always been my willpower, and it will crush temptation with the tiniest of pushes.
Up until a few years ago I could only really talk about my dad, and the pain that his death caused me when I was drunk. I needed to feel like I was talking about someone else before I found the strength to talk about myself. It’s still hard for me to talk about myself, my feelings, my worries, my childhood, my future, but I am opening up my heart to those I know I can trust more over time. And nowadays I feel like I can talk about my father without bursting into tears and/or being worried about making the other person feel bad for talking about suicide. My memories of my father are softer around the edges now, 31 years after his death, but I still remember his face so clearly, his voice at times too, and his eyes. I see him in all of my children too, while nearly everyone says how much they all look like their father, I know how much they also look like their grandfather. Both of their grandfathers, maybe. They will never meet either of their grandfathers as both committed suicide when me and their father were young children. My eldest sometimes asks me where her grandfather is, and I just say that he isn’t here anymore, but that somehow somewhere he is watching her grow. I’m not religious and I don’t particularly believe in a god, but I do believe in spirits and presences, and I know my dad is out there somewhere. But while comforting, that thought also makes me sad. Because somewhere isn’t here, now.
And then… So many of my favorite artists growing up are dead now, via suicide or because their paths were self-destructive enough to lead to early death. Kurt Cobain, Layne Stacey, Chris Cornell, Peter Steele, Scott Weiland, Dolores O’Riordan... People who were only 10 or so years older than me, whose voices touched my little big teenage heart so much, whose words lifted me up and made me feel like I belonged, because otherwise I never felt like I did anywhere. I grew up feeling displaced, never fitting in however much I tried, and that displacement grew as my brain expanded and my heart searched for understanding. Music in the early 90’s was explosive, and I clung to these bands, these musicians who effectively changed and saved my life many a time. Yes, I still have my Cure and my Cave, but I often wonder why we lost so many great talents to suicide. I always will. And I also mourn a newer but equally profound inspiration and talent, the amazing Anthony Bourdain. Amongst the array of screaming, stuck up, turn your nose up chef-judged cooking competitions and shows I miss the quiet inclusivity, knowledge and love of food that Tony gave us. His honest approach to life, love, food, and the world. Who else has taken us to Burma, West Texas, and Armenia, and so many other places? Who else has sampled the craziest of cuisines, and eaten street food all over the world, bringing it to our homes? Who else has sat at tables with everyday normal locals in so many different countries to chat about food, history, culture, and politics? Who else asked real questions without fear? Kamau Bell does an amazing job at this too (and I love his show), but I miss Tony, his half smile, his broad need to experience, and his love to educate himself and others. I don’t want to wake up to another death by suicide, but I also know that that is an impossible wish to have.
The world is often a giant cesspool of darkness, and while the optimist in me wishes I could help each and every one of us see the light in everything, I know that it just isn’t possible. Every day we make choices in order to survive, and suicide is a personal choice with different reasons that we will never understand. That also doesn’t have to mean we accept it, but it does mean that we can’t let the choice of another block us from moving ahead. I wish I had been able to tell myself that in my teens and my 20’s, because it would have changed how I looked at myself and my life, but at the same time, my personal journey has also taught me that maybe the most important part of my life is now, when I can reflect fully and raise my children away from the clutches of addiction and suicide. Who knows? All I know today is that I’m going to stick around for my family and my friends for as long as my body will let me, and in order for that to happen I must remain sober, and I must also talk about my feelings, my anger, my pain, my happiness, and my thoughts.
So I raise a cup of strong, sweet, milky coffee to my father, my dead idols, to my little family and to all of you who I love with all my heart, as nowadays my strength lies not my within my glass but within my heart.
I am participating in the annual Out of the Darkness walk here in Sacramento in September with my family and would be very grateful if you could donate towards raising suicide awareness and fighting for suicide prevention. My page is right HERE.