Once my son started kindergarten, we posted a calendar on the refrigerator. I knew from years of reading women’s magazines and trying to figure out how to be the perfect mother, wife, teacher that a calendar would someday be a necessity. When I was drinking, I would use a calendar sporadically. I would sit down with the calendar and a glass of wine and fill in everything I was going to accomplish: trips we were planning, meals with friends, projects around the house ~ everything a responsible, successful, happy woman should do.
If I were to go back in any given week to look over the days, they would be filled with shame, remorse, guilt, unmet responsibilities, embarrassing moments, forgotten evenings.
The trip to the beach? Sure – I sent postcards to our family of the beautiful scenery. I came back with a healthy tan, evidence of a fun-filled vacation. Inside I carried the memory of coming to in the hotel room, my husband downstairs eating dinner alone. Rather than the carefree, relaxing vacation I desperately needed, that week was filled with the exhausting obsession with alcohol. Were we close enough to a convenience store to walk? How could I drink more without my husband catching on? How could I maintain my buzz throughout the day and still go out in the evening. I wasn’t interested in touring Ernest Hemingway’s house – take me to the bar! He spent more time there himself didn’t he? A walk down the beach? Let’s find a beachside bar so we can stop and have a drink.
Dinner at a friend’s house? I agonized for a week over the perfect hostess gift or recipe for a potluck dish. How could I show that I knew what to do in social situations? That I wasn’t the imposter I believed myself to be? Of course, dinner out required much preparation. A few drinks before while getting ready to ensure the perfect level of intoxication. Then I would only need one or two drinks during dinner and I would be “fine.” Once at their house, I needed to assess the alcohol situation. Did they have the bottles of wine out on the counter for guests to serve themselves? Could I sneak in the kitchen to help myself from the refrigerator? I needed to maintain the right level in my glass, making sure no one would notice how much I was drinking. Then, the concentration required to not appear to be drunk (because of course I had more than the two I had planned). Listening closely to people talking, careful not to interrupt in my drunken enthusiasm to be part of the conversation. These dinner invitations ultimately led to guilt-ridden mornings spent piecing together events of the night. Did I “bob and weave” while eating dinner? Who did I talk with? What did I say? And then snuggling with my husband to gage his reaction. Had I embarrassed him yet again?
Household projects? Yet another opportunity for guilt and shame. Another weekend gone without cleaning the house. Oh sure, I spent lots of time that weekend under the pretense of cleaning, but really I was just going in circles. As productive as I thought I was (I was certainly tired enough!), I never got around to the “normal” stuff. Washing the windows would be much more fun with a cold beer. Or two. Or six. Then I would convince myself that I had worked much too hard during the week to spend my weekends washing windows. They looked good enough. I would lie on the chaise lounge with a book and yet another beer. Or by now a glass of wine – plastic tumbler so I wouldn’t break the glass on the deck. Hours later, I would come to on the deck. The sun already behind the house. Another week of looking through those dirty windows. Constant reminders of how I didn’t quite measure up.
Today my calendar is still the same, full of activities and obligations, but the outcome is much different. The month of May was crazy for us. In Georgia, schools get out on May 21st, so we were slammed with end of the year activities. Field days, teacher gifts, Cub Scout banquets. As a teacher, I was deluged with creating finals, grading papers, completing paperwork. As my husband says, if we put it down on paper, it would be impossible to get done. But we did it. Every single one – maybe not. Did we do them perfectly? Absolutely not. But not one day brings back an ounce of guilt. Or remorse. Or shame. Or uncertainty. How did we get through May? One day at a time. Just like they tell me to do. Progress not perfection. Stay in the moment. This too shall pass. Even though, thankfully, my obsession to drink has been lifted, I live by these simple statements. Because if I don’t, a drink is waiting for me right around the corner. My disease is doing push-ups, just waiting for me to come back. He will attack me with a vengeance. And if I give him that opportunity, my calendar will be blank.