I’m sitting on a backporch in Garland, Texas. I’m visiting Dallas for a wedding tomorrow. It is the first time I have been back since in six years.
When I left Dallas I was running. Running from events I was afraid I could never deal with. Running from a truth it would take me 3 more years to face.
I was nervous about his trip. Nervous to miss work, nervous to spend money I should be saving. Nervous that I wouldn’t feel welcome. As my plane descended I must of had a look of longing on my face, because the woman next to me asked me if I was from Texas. I told her no, but that I had lived here for a lot of good years.
It would be so easy to be nostalgic. There was nothing for me to be nervous about. I have had only joy so far in reconnecting with old friends, meeting their many children, and getting sunburnt in the shade. I even got a few semi-offers if new employment at a party tonight. I sense the stillness of a life I loved very much surrounding me. Enveloped in the comfort of people who didn’t give up on me, I can see myself romaticising a place and forgetting the person.
The time between my leaving Dallas and my entering AA is what we lovingly call the “lost years.” It is not a term that does the reality justice, but it is the best we can do now. One day maybe I will be able to have a phrase that captures what I was really like. I know now I was already an alcoholic when I was still living in Dallas, but I was for the most part a functional one. For the 3 years that followed I wasn’t even that. There was a terror inside of me that I could not escape; an absence that I could not express. I assumed it was circumstance. Everyone I knew had gotten married and started families, a future I was determined to be denied. The literature that had brought me such solace was a burden of truth I could no longer carry. My crosses felt like curses, divine retribution for once voicing a desire to be loved.
It wasn’t about a guy, but it was easy to say it was. It wasn’t about grad school, but I couldn’t finish, so I didn’t correct people when they talked about “burn out.” It was about God. Isn’t it always?
God was never going to be able to repay me for all the shit he put me through. I never thought of it as anger. After all, what was the point of being angry with the omnipotent creator of the universe? What a waste of time? No, it was anger. It was simple balance. How could he make up for years of death, for a heart so often broken, for a lifetime of giving to others by taking from me? He couldn’t. His love for me was a love of brutal demand and forced sacrifice. And I wanted no part of it. I could not stay, could not live amoung those whose path was set and set with kindness and generocity, know without doubt that I would forever be their foil.
3 years of sobriety eases many hurts, and sheads light upon many misconceptions. The great misconception would be to tell myself it would have been different if I’d stayed, to trick myself into believing that there would have been no “lost years” if I hadn’t picked up stakes in the middle of the night and fled like a bat out of hell. For many years I had a happy life here, but that life turned sour when my heart turned from others and toward myself.
Selfishness is a funny thing. We tell ourselves that we are so giving, so concerned with others, a fountain of love taken for granted by the very people who should cherish us. We tell a lie that lives in our souls; a winding vine choking our freedom, from which we can only escape with the grace of God. The grace to see that we are not owed. The grace to be as helpless as we truely are in the face of our own redemption. The grace to admit we fear God does not really love us.
I landed here without a heart of fear. Not because my life in DC is perfect and I have no regrets about my choices amoung the endless track housing beneath the wide sky. I will always be sorry. I will always be sorry that given the opportunity to be loved by God I chose to be unloving. I will always be sorry that when given my freedom I chose to be shackled. I will always be sorry that I took from so many when I thought I was giving. I will always be sorry for the “lost years.”
But that sorrow no longer cripples me. I can feel it as a part of myself, but not all that I am. It is simply a piece of a heart that has held so much. One element of a woman who is deeply loved.
(3 Years and 6 Days Sober)