Ten--a big round number for my sobriety. When my journey started, I didn’t think I could go a day, a week, a month and certainly not a year. Alcohol and drugs were all the life I knew. Now, I know life differently. I can get through today, get to midnight, and do it again without the physical and mental dependence on a substance.
Generally, 2020 was not an easy year for people in sobriety. It certainly wasn’t an easy year for me. In, July of 2019, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. One week later I celebrated my ninth anniversary of sobriety, she went for a cancer treatment, and fell upon entering her ride there. Unable to stand, she went to the ER instead of Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where they ran tests and admitted her to South Shore Hospital. She was moved to hospice care shortly after, and would never go home again. She died on Christmas night. Gratefully, I could wake up on December 26 still sober.
After her passing, my father’s condition decompensated at a quick rate. My mother and father were married for over sixty-five years. They relied on each other, and each picked up the slack in the skills the other lacked. Before being hospitalized, my mother had to care more and more for my father, as his short term memory had begun to falter a bit. My brother, sisters, and I knew he would not be able to live independently anymore. He decided to move to Maryland, into an assisted-living facility close to my brother, Fred, and his family.
Then, the pandemic started. My dad left Massachusetts in late February, just before Covid-19 restrictions occurred. By March, when visitation at his new place was no longer allowed, my brother and his family generously took him into their home “temporarily” until restrictions were eased. As of November 2020, he was still living there, and his symptoms have worsened. My brilliant father, an engineering genius who worked on radar defense systems for the government, was losing much of his cognitive ability. To say that my family has lost my father as well as my mother in the past year is a fair and painful assessment. I miss both of them every day. Some days are fine, but as the seasons moved to autumn, they triggered emotions of this past year: memories of seeing my mom in hospice daily, and spending that extra time with dad, the possibility of which I no longer have.
Lately, the days are difficult. I am sorry that my brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and nephews will have difficult memories of my father not being the man we knew. Still, I find strength and faith through the work I’ve done in the last ten years not to have a drink over any of this.
In the world outside of mine, I didn’t drink over our divided country, especially in terms of the dishonesty we are shown and have come to expect as citizens. We have taken backwards steps regarding racial justice, women’s rights, and support for LBGTQIA+ community. We have forgone a healthy and safe earth—and made Twitter feeds or conspiracies more important than science. From the top down, we are rotting as if we are in a vegetable drawer that is stuck closed.
In 2020, loved ones got sick and died, and communities shut down for safety. Many jobs/businesses failed because of Covid-19. I began to work from home and left my house just a few times per week. I am still living without much human contact, but have been able to adapt because of who I have become. I am lucky to have a special person in my life, and we try to see each other once per week. She has encouraged me to re-start my Dire Literary Series as a Zoom event, and to play guitar again. We even have band practice-all play, and no work. Being sober has allowed me to have all of this.
As for virtual life, Zoom has been a wonderful tool. It allows me to attend meetings to maintain my sobriety, and to attend meetings for work. It allows me to run a literary series with an open mic-that gives others, as well as myself, something to look forward to every Friday. This year has been described as the worst by many, but I still have a lot of gratitude.
GRATITUDE LIST FOR NOVEMBER 2019-2020
1. For my family, who mobilized as a team that has worked together for years, and for having the skills to work together through my mother’s death and my father’s illness. I cannot put into words the amount of gratitude I have for my family, especially for my brother and his family who daily take care of my father.
2. For my children, who turned out as well as any parent could hope. The decisions they have made are responsible and realistic. I have learned a lot about living life from being their father.
3. Spending the last six weeks of my mother’s life daily with her was something I’ll always be grateful for. I appreciate the people I work with, especially my supervisor, Eric S., and Area Director, Joan T., for allowing me time to do this without pressure to return. I am grateful that my good overall health, helped me be able to accumulate sick time. State policies for time-off in crisis situations proved essential.
4. For continued health in 2020, and for those who have done what they must to keep others safe. Without others’ sacrifices, I may have become sick, but as of now, I am healthy, and have avoided Covid-19.
5. For Sarah, who has had her own situations to walk through, yet continues to give me support and joy. (also for her influence in my discovery of Bon Iver).
6. I have gratitude for my writing groups and that I continue to write, and am grateful for those who still find what I write worthy of being published.
7. I am grateful for enough life experiences to produce this book.
8. For a home that I love. It makes staying home easier.
9. For a job I enjoy.
10. For food to eat.
11. For my pets.
Lastly but most important--because, without this, I might not have nothing on this list:
12. I am forever grateful for the people who helped me to get sober ten years ago. Today, it’s the people who help me to stay sober and teach me through their experience, strength and hope who help me continue my journey. I have been shown a spiritual Higher Power which is no longer myself. I have people, MY people, whom I talk to every day. I have learned to experience and live life today like I’ve never done before because of them. They have taught me humility, when before I didn’t even know what that word meant. They have made me a better person. I love so many of them, very much. Each year is better than the last regarding my sense of true-self and my ability to love. I thank them for the last ten years.