July 23rd, 2017 is a day that will go down in infamy for me. It was a beautiful, sunny day. My youngest daughter and her then boyfriend had bought me and his mom tickets to see Elvis Costello up in Vermont at some outdoor, uber-cool venue for Mother’s Day. I’ve always been a huge fan of Elvis Costello–in fact my daughter was named after his 1977 uncharted single, “Alison”. Hence, the reason she bought tickets for all of us.
The four of us piled in the car around 9am to begin our adventure of thrift store shopping and exploring Burlington before heading to the show. Jack’s mom is apparently a big thrifter–as am I–and although we didn’t know each other well we knew we had three things in common: our taste in post-punk music, our children, and thrifting. It was going to be a good day.
My daughter and her bf smoke pot. She’s been honest with me about it and as much as it makes me a bit uncomfortable, she is an adult so I don’t have much pull there. They’ve been responsible in that they don’t drive high or do other drugs, so I guess I’m ok with it? I guess I should be thankful that she doesn’t like alcohol.
We got to Burlington and tooled around several shops marveling at the quaint college town in all its splendor. Stopped for a late lunch at a pub where the beer was flowing like the crystal clear waterfall across the street. Two beers down for me and the other mom, we decided to head toward the venue. The concert was on the property of a beautiful conservation area. The sunset was gorgeous. I already had a buzz so everything looked just fine. The line was forever to get in so once we placed our blanket, I was off to the beer tent in an effort to avoid a hangover from lunch.
Choices: IPA or regular draft. Hmmm…I’ve never had an IPA before and it’s local so, yeah. Support local beer. That’s what I did. In fact, I was very supportive.
I do not know how many beers I had that night but enough to make me lose all inhibitions and return to my 18 year old drunk self. I was even smoking cigarettes which I had quit 25 years earlier and I didn’t care one bit. This was fun. I was here with my child and her boyfriend and his mother. We were rockin’ to Elvis! And when he finally played ‘Alison’ my heart burst open with joy so I grabbed my daughter for a slow dance. This was magical. I was in my element and sharing it with my child! What could be better?
What could be worse?
The concert ended. Instead of facing the reality of a 4 hour drive, Jack’s mom and I decided we needed more beer. “Beer and BUTTS!”, I was screaming out the car window as my daughter’s boyfriend pulled out of the parking lot. We convinced our two sober children that we needed to stop at a packie for more alcohol and cigarettes. I remember stumbling into that store, slurring my words to the cashier, and cracking open a cold one once we got in the car. IN THE CAR. With my child and her bf in the front seat. With OPEN containers. Four hours from home. What the actual fuck was I thinking?
The next four hours are a bit of a blur, with the exception of having one of those conversations you wake up the next day and go, “SHIT. WHAT HAVE I DONE. WHAT DID I SAY??!!” Slowly, in the cold, harsh reality of morning it flooded back to me. I had revealed some “colorful” transgressions to two people I don’t know well and my 20 year old daughter. Poured my guts out. It wasn’t pretty. It was horrifying. My daughter was appalled and kept saying, “MOM, really???!! REALLY?” I let it flow…everything. Detail after detail. I actually planned to go into detail here, but I stopped short when I thought about my wife and the lives of others who would be affected if they knew. Someday I will write about it, I will need to. For now, trust me when I tell you I was a total ass and it will take years to put it all behind me. My child is still weirded out by it.
I quit drinking for 30 days after that episode last July. But come September I was back at it. Drinking my nightly chardonnay and nursing hangovers daily. It took me another 10 months to realize I was spiraling slowly down the abyss before I decided once and for all to say goodbye to alcohol. I started with podcasts. Laura McKowen, The Bubble Hour, Recovery 2.0 to name a few. I also started going to AA.
I’m beginning to see how much my ego has been in my way of not only true recovery but my true self. I’m starting from scratch. Opening the door. There’s a lot of work ahead of me, yes. But all I have to do is take a peek at the Elvis Costello shirt I bought that fated night and realize it was divine intervention. The big, bold red letters stare me in the face every time I do laundry: Less Than Zero. I don’t ever want to be there again.