textiles · exploration · misadventure


Answerable: Why Was It the Last Drink?

San Francisco Mission mural
Dear Asher—

I hope these letters aren’t overwhelming you. We haven’t heard from you since I started sending them. I hope everything’s ok!

Nothing new to report on our end. Matt’s doing a volunteer gig this weekend in Livermore with a group he was introduced to by Rez, and at which several bike hobos plan to make an appearance, put in a few hard days work building park trails, and behave as good PR agents for hobo bike enthusiasts everywhere.

Spring Ride is just back in town. We wondered how it went this year; without you there, they seem to be missing such a crucial element. Not sure if you would have chosen to go this year, given the strains of last year…

I’ll be in Chico with family. My sister is moving from her 20 acres in the canyons to a small house in city limits, and we’re all heartbroken. She just can’t afford to stay anymore, since she got a divorce from her (alcoholic and c.r.a.z.y) husband. My niece, Lizzie, who I don’t think you’ve met, is 17, already taking college courses, and soon to be independent. My sister just doesn’t have any need for a 4-bedroom house and that much land. It’s been home to me since my mom sold the house I grew up in, ten years ago.

Matt and I have gone to Wendy’s frequently on Thanksgiving; we actually have an official camping spot where we pitch our tent. Everyone always looks at us like we’re crazy, but personally we’d rather sleep with the sound of the rain on the tent than on the couch listening to 10 other people snore through drywall. Go figure. (Wendy totally gets it.)

We sleep out underneath the oaks, in a spot that’s soft from years of falling leaves. By now we’ve (found the hard way and) removed all the rocks, and leveled every dip and bump. We bring our matching thermarests, flannel sheets, and a down blanket. We call it The Nest.

My last trip to Wendy’s coincides with my 16th year sobriety anniversary. I spend these differently each year, and this year I get to spend it in a place I love, with two of the people I love most dearly.

I’m trying to figure out where to pick up my story.

Holey cats! I just got your letter in the middle of writing this! I’m going to finish it, and address your letter next.

I’ve thought a lot about what happened the morning of my last drink. I’d been to AA meetings and seen myself thoroughly outlined, and was starting to understand sobriety wasn’t the horror show I was afraid of. I’d also been thinking heavily about the choices I was making.

I’d made ten thousand promises to myself, and broken all of them, never mind that all of them were the same promise: “I will never do this again.” I’d chosen, over and over, to lie to myself and let myself down to the point where I didn’t believe myself anymore. Near the end I remember thinking, “This will never happen again,” and then thinking, “Who am I kidding? That’s a bunch of crap.” I was starting to see reality.

My alcoholism had progressed fast after my dad (and all four grandparents, and an uncle, and a dearly beloved family friend) died and I had all that grief and guilt and anger to submerge. Then there was the ex, with whom I was deeply in love, admittedly (now) for stupid reasons. (Wouldn’t touch him now if I was a ten foot pole.) Every year or so, some part had just fallen off of me, and I became more and more of a junker.

But that breakup finished the wrecking job all the deaths in my family had started, and my spirit just broke. By the time I fucked the best friend of the ex, I was already teetering on an edge, and although I was unaware, I was ripe for a major paradigm shift. I didn’t know it, but I already had the help I would need to make that shift.

I’d considered the question, “What does alcohol do FOR me?” and realized the euphoria of the first drink contained promises and fantasies of a better life, a happier, more successful, more exciting life where I reached for and found my potential.

I felt powerful when I drank, but it was an illusion. Nothing magic and real ever resulted from that. When I realized that the euphoria and power I experienced when drinking was illusory, I lost my last crutch holding up my denial.

It became clear to me that the whole time I was struggling to control my drinking, by getting more exercise, learning how to “motivate” myself, trying to be creative, trying to be ambitious, or whatever other kind of defect I could find within myself, what I was really doing was struggling towards that potential and that better life that I wanted so much.

And I wanted it. I wanted desperately to be better. I wanted to be a better person, a more worthy person, to strive and have something actually result from that. As long as I drank I was incapable of pursuing anything that would make those dreams come true. The very thing promising them was taking them away.

I think all the AA, the analysis with my therapist, and all this thinking came crashing down on me that morning when I was so hungover that all my defenses were down. And I called my sister and got the support I needed. I felt answerable to her, and somehow I felt like that protected me from myself.

I’m practically writing a book here, so I’m going to stop. More soon, and I promise to get to the early sobriety part.

Take care, my very dear. It’s been awesome digging into your satisfying letter, and I promise to respond to it soon.


(For the rest of my Letters to Asher series, click here.)