I got on a bus in Laguna Beach, CA New Year’s Eve 1982 and hopped off in downtown Boston at the Park Street station four days and 96 hours later. A guy named Bob was there to pick me up and take me back to his apartment in Medford for what I hoped would be an extended stay. Couch surfing. The thing was, I was placed in a room with lots of baby decorations, the nursery, and exactly two days later Bob took me aside and gently said “You gotta go. The baby’s coming.”
Fortunately for me my little sister lived about four miles away in Somerville – just outside Boston – and a phone call to her produced a couch for me, graciously and with sweet welcome I might add. I said I’d like to crash for just a little while. I left in August. By then I’d found a job with kids and gotten sober and found an apartment in Somerville to call my own. My little sister had saved my ass, giving me time and space to begin to ‘get it together’.
About four weeks ago, actually the day was April 16th, I called both my sisters – who love my wife – and told them about the divorce word, and they both expressed deep sadness for me and – here’s the thing – my little sister, now living back in our hometown of Wareham, she said she had an extra bedroom and if I could handle her dogs I was welcome to it.
The same old song – 38 years later.
I know it’s 38, without doing any math, because the day after the divorce word I celebrated 38 years without a drink or drug, and I began that journey a few months into the time on my sister’s couch. Back in those early days I would on occasion run into the don’t-drink-just-one-day crowd and some of them would talk to me, give advice even, and one of the things they told me repeatedly was that you may hear a lot of things from us, but there’s only one guarantee – “If you don’t pick up the first drink you can’t get drunk.” They guaranteed that,
They did not guarantee that all the packies (liquor stores, cherished Massachusetts word) and bars would close to aid me in my sober quest. They did not guarantee I’d hit the Megabucks or that little children would run before me in the street, tossing flower petals over their shoulders to welcome my way. They said it would be “A life second to none” but they did not guarantee that meant no troubles, no pain, no failures – no heartbreaks. They did say the life second to none would be filled with joys and wonders I wasn’t capable of imagining the days they told me of it, that life. Yes, I may find the girl of my dreams, they said, and find we were soulmates. They did not, though, guarantee that girl would love me always. Or not send me away. Just don’t pick up the first drink, they said, and you won’t get drunk. That we guarantee.
Just a smidge over 38 years later my sister was once again offering me shelter from the storm. This time, a week or so after the offer, I graciously (I hope – the grace thing feels most important now), I graciously said thank you but no thanks. I think I’ll try something else. See what else this life second to none – which I have indeed had and have to this very Friday morning – see what else there’s planned for me.
Just suit up and show up. They said that too.