Happy anniversary, Ben

The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, India – a giant sundial. source: flicker.com

Dear Ben

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. 

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21 thoughts on “Happy anniversary, Ben

  1. I will reply. Wow. A year. That is a great accomplishment and a gift to himself and to your daughter. My ex is now sober for 3 months because he’s wearing an ankle bracelet that reports to central station if he drinks, and then he’ll go to jail. I expect he will drink when it comes off. For Ben, it sounds like he has done it with a lot of hard work. I hope he comes to appreciate how far he has come and what he has done for those who love him, and maybe one day that lot will include himself.

      • He had his 2nd DWI and was on 5 years probation, violated that by drinking and winding up in hospital, then he got the bracelet. Apparently avoiding jail is a big motivator.

      • Ah! Yes, it always comes down to things like that. My therapist told me that addicts behave this way. Loss of family/friends/children/partners – these are nothing to the addict. But homelessness or jail – these are motivating factors. That’s how small their world becomes. You’re well out of it. And yet, you never are, are you? Because he’s the father of your children, so you always have to have some kind of contact – some kind of relationship. So frustrating.

  2. Beautiful. So proud of your tenacity and ability to see past the pain to all of the possibilities and beauty. What a great gift you are to him with your ability to see things as they are but continue to hope for great things for him. Alcohol dulls the senses, and Ben’s reading your inspiring words might just paint a vibrant picture of what he HaS already accomplished in this past year and what he can accomplish in the future. More than that, your words tell a story of a woman who is courageous and compassionate. Ben truly does have a great deal to celebrate.

    • Thank you, dear. Ben doesn’t know about this blog. The sad part of all of this is that we really don’t talk to each other. We’re co-parents. I call him my husband, but really, that’s long gone. I think we both know that. It’s just taking some time to make it real. More about that in later posts, I guess. But thank you – such kind and encouraging words from you.

  3. Both your strength and pain are palpable. My anniversary gift for you is that you keep practicing loving detachment and enormous self care. Your heart may be hurting right now, but in this process you have expanded it’s size tenfold. Imagine the enormity of the love you are about to receive in the future.I am excited for you and your future.

  4. I think the hardest thing about being around alcoholism is learning to let go. Though Ben has made it a year, what you are doing- living without him- is also significant. You are getting a life back and so is your daughter. I hope you keep focusing on yourself as you go forward, and realize all those great talents and gifts you possess. Keep bringing them to the surface and tell yourself you are deserving. xo Joanne

  5. Even if he never reads this, he’ll feel the sentiment of it the next time he’s with you and Rosie. Congratulations to Ben and to you.

  6. Being a dry drunk is a concern – he’s not learning to live his life sober – he’s simply existing without alcohol. I hope he figures out the difference, and I hope he chooses to change his perspective.
    Whatever Ben does or doesn’t do – congratulations to you and Rosie for hanging on through this journey. Its not easy, and you’ve done so much with such grace and compassion, she is lucky to have you as her mom.

    • Thank you, dear. I don’t know why he chose the phrase “dry drunk”. He isn’t really. Because he is adamant that he doesn’t actually think about drinking. I guess he just means he will be an alcoholic forever. Because once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic (how many times can I say “alcoholic” in the space of a few lines? – woops, there, I said it again). I think that’s what he meant, anyway. I’m not really that graceful or compassionate. I’ve plumbed the depths of my very dark heart. It ain’t pretty down there. 🙂

  7. A year is big deal. In a way though, I can “kind of” understand your husband, because it really is just another day. What comes after a year? A year and a day. I think some of us feel like to make a big deal about it, is to jinx it. I know that probably doesn’t make sense. We often have a lot of shame about our past, and sometimes we don’t want to look back, only forward, because looking back hurts. i speak only for myself though, since I don’t know Ben, and I’m still pretty new to your blog. You’ve been though a lot together… I’m happy that you’ve had a drunk-free year. *That* is a big deal! ~ christy

    • Actually, I do understand that. I was paranoid about writing that post cos I was afraid of jinxing it, too! I spent the next 48 hrs being certain he’d relapse. In fact, it was his friend who ended up relapsing. And my husband talks about guilt a lot, too, so I think you’re quite right.

  8. Pingback: Note to Self: Sobriety Is Cause for Celebration | Running On Sober

  9. Tough stuff… I hop Ben moves on to feel better in his sobriety.

    My first anniversary is a long time ago now but I remember some of it vividly. Firstly I was on a bit of a high, the first 9 months of holding on gripping to being dry every day was going day by day I wasn’t bothered by not drinking and I was feel better about a lot of it all. My local home AA group gave me a 1 year medallion – I was so pleased to receive it and I was the chosen speaker at the meeting that week to talk about my 12 months of sobriety – I gave a drunkalog no doubt as I was still barely started “trudging the road to happy destiny”.

    My AA birthday is still important to me – 14 May. I took my last drink 14 May 2004 at about 10 to seven that evening. So precise, so important, I can see the bar, the person I was drinking with (who was pissing me right off!) and the drink itself. Then came the row, the argument to end all, the shouting the tears, the pain I felt, the quiet words “We can’t go on like this you need to sort yourself out, I can’t take it any more” and then the resolution to do something… I didn’t know what but rehab, AA, sobriety and recovery were all there just around the corner.

    I hope deeply that Ben can see the point to staying “dry” and that it does lead to a more fulfilling recovery, it is out there people like me have been there and have found it

    • Thanks furtheron. Am amazed you remember your last drink to the minute. I’m curious to know what other moments in your life are as vivid in your memory. I think every partner of an addict has said the same words: I can’t take it anymore. We say it many times, each time thinking we’ve reached the end, only to repeat the same phrase like some perverse mantra. So glad you are in recovery.

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