I woke at 5, brewed the coffee, and lit a candle. Maybe the first morning in two years I’d woken without any alcohol the night before. I’d done a dry January enough times now, I’d developed some nostalgia with it. You can make anything better in hindsight with nostalgia.

In the past, I let myself believe I didn’t feel any better in the mornings without drinking the night before. And likely because I was counting the days until February. But this morning I felt refreshed, like I could do anything. I turned the heat up, put the music on, and sat on the edge of our sofa journaling.

Why do I drink? Lily said it has to do with my pain, she said that when we went camping. I didn’t want to talk about it any more with my 13-year-old, but maybe I should have. There are a hundred reasons why I drink that together form a reality but alone, don’t make much sense. We broke it down with our friends Chris and Kelly, and a lot of it comes down to letting go, trying to relax at the end of the day. You can make a similar argument about needing coffee to wake up though, you really don’t.

Brad and I took a last walk to the lake before he left, and he asked if I’d ever made leaf people. The salal was good for that—he snatched one off a shrub, folded it in half, then punched out two eyes and a mouth with his thumbnail. I told him how much I loved the ponderosa pines in our back yard, by the hammock: but he said that’s odd, to have ponderosas in western Washington…so I asked him to take a look, and he explained the pattern in the bark isn’t ponderosa because it’s contiguous—not like ponderosa, which is more like puzzle pieces. And of course I’d never noticed that before, right here in our back yard.

On New Year’s day I went back up Cougar Mountain for the first time in a few months, to Shy Bear Pass, then down the Nawang Gombu cliffs trail, named after a sherpa friend of Jim Whittaker, the climber from Seattle. There was a wooden bench with a small registry at the top, and a plaque with a quote reading ‘may you find inner peace, tranquility, and safety on the trails.’

In the last dream before I awoke, I imagined one of the leaf people Brad made for me spoke, I saw the mouth moving like a puppet mouth, but it spoke in a language I couldn’t understand, and I wondered what it meant.

Categories: Memoir, writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. Good to feel clear headed, to feel less sluggish. Why do any of us do the things we know are bad? Self medicating is one reason, the chemical responses that make us feel better for a while before the drop and feeling rotten kicks in. A January purge is good, cold and clean. The mention of salal made me smile – we use it in the flower shop, though it’s often nibbled by bugs, a frilly browned edge where it’s been eaten. I’ll think of those leaf faces when I use it now

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we drink because that’s what we’re taught to do. But a lot of what we’re taught doesn’t make sense so we need to unlearn it. Society is a moron.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh, makes me consider if that’s exactly what I’m teaching my kids. Thought about you yesterday and your blog moniker, which is still the absolute best I’ve ever seen.


  3. Why do I drink? Because I love beer. And because I’m addicted to the stuff. It’s a part of the routine. It’s medication. It’s comfort. I’ve battled it over the last three or four years, knowing I need to stop, to figure out a way to control it. I’ve noticed, too, that I feel better the mornings after days when I didn’t have any beer. I keep trying to hold on to that realization to make better decisions when late afternoon rolls around. I’m successful with that less often than I’d like. But, dammit, I love beer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. yah, i think drinking or other escapes are what we grow up with. i’m not a big drinker, (just have low tolerance), but i have my own escapes and i try to keep them healthy. helps me to keep life on an even keel.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When there are plant people in my dreams, I believe they’re saying, take a leaf out of my book, and get outside more – absorption is for water, nutrients, sunshine, not self.
    If it’s mushrooms talking, then it’s a different message of course. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just finished reading Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing. She wrote about smoking and writing and when she quit, worrying about how it would effect her ability. She figured out that smoking gave her just about the right amount of time to daydream, before jumping back in.

    Maybe any “vice” is just giving ourselves permission to pause. I quit smoking 20 years ago and I still miss it, but thinking about this idea of a necessary pause and figuring out how to take, as she says, “ritualized dream time”, without the negative side effects, is an interesting thought.

    Happy new year, Bill!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy new year to you too, Michelle! Permission to pause, that’s an interesting thought. Good this time of year to step back and take stock, feeling it more this year than years passed. Have been enjoying your reflections too. Packed in with snow I bet it’s hard not to go there, this time of year. Be well. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I guess I look at drinking as a kind of ceremonial wind-down time, and since I’m a creature of habit, I like the ritual. A drink, a book, some music, then dinner. It’s a pretty nice ritual.

    Balance is the thing, right? You don’t want to get blotto every time you drink. And now there’s legal cannabis too … heh heh.

    Godspeed to you in your dry January!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Godspeed to you too Kevin, wherever 2019 takes you! I know the ritual you describe and I’m habitual too. Maybe vanity will save me (the need to lose some weight). There’s that…
      Be well!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve probably said enough on this topic, so I won’t add anything. Just wanted to pop in and say Happy January, dry or otherwise, and Happy 2019. Going back now to the Jeff Tweedy memoir I got for Christmas. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh god. First, that innocent question “Why do I drink?” Next thing you know, three years of sobriety. Happy new year. Don’t think too much.


    • Hi Jeff, happy new year to you too. And thanks for the advice, I like it. Those words appeared to me and I was afraid to ask, figured it was worth putting out there. Cheers to you and yours! Bill

      Liked by 1 person

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