Today is your anniversary. On this day last year, I was on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, caught in a sweltering summer, finally exhaling as I read the email from the detox centre confirming that you had been admitted. This was after you relapsed so dramatically the day after Rosie and I left for Canada. After you had ignored my calls and refused to speak to me, forcing me to ring my friend in London daily to ask her to drive down to our place simply to check that you were still alive. In the end, she did more than that. She drove you to the detox centre.
This was after you’d promised me you would check yourself into the rehab centre I’d arranged for you with your mother. Ten days later (once your detox was complete), you went there – and remained there for several months.
On this day last year, you realised that things really did need to change.
On this day last year, you understood that alcohol was not going to save you.
On this day last year, you remembered your daughter.
On this day last year, you left our home and never returned.
I wonder… how does it feel being sober for this long? Two days ago, I remembered your anniversary. I wanted us to celebrate this achievement – for make no mistake, this is a real accomplishment for someone who has spent his whole life drinking. But I have been overwhelmed by life-changing decisions. I have been worrying about leaving you, all the while knowing you are already gone. So I didn’t organise a big do. All I could manage was a meal out somewhere for just the three of us.
You didn’t want to come. You forgot what today was. And when I reminded you – by text, not in person or by phone – you wrote that this year isn’t something to celebrate. That being a dry drunk is not much of an achievement. And that it’s just another year of waiting to die.
For someone who has been living in sobriety for the last 365 days, you are remarkably underwhelmed by the new life you’ve worked so hard to have. Yet every day you work to remain there. These are not the actions of a nihilist.
You should be proud of where you are now. The job will come. A home will come. All these things will come in time. Right now you are sober. And the longer you live without drink, the better chance you have of not picking up another one. You are building a new habit. Considering that alcoholism is hardwired into your genes (your mother, father, grandfathers, uncles, cousins – all of them unable to manage their drinking), you have done the near impossible.
Even if you don’t care, I do. Even if you’re not proud or can’t bother to be, I am. And so is Rosie.
You often lament the fact that you are alone, that no one rings you or cares to ask how you are. What you won’t admit is that you are difficult to know or do anything for. You erase yourself in company, disappear into the background because you prefer it that way.
Tomorrow is day 1 of your second year of sobriety. Seize it.
ps. I know you’ll never read this letter. Even if you did, you wouldn’t reply. I think it is the futility of the act of writing you that compelled me to post this on my blog rather than send it to you. At least here, someone will reply, acknowledging these thoughts with a comment.