Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 7
A guest post by Dana Bowman
There is glitter in my biscuits. I realize this sounds like Southern code for some sort of personality disorder, but actually, there really ARE speckles of glitter in my biscuit dough. There is also glitter on the cat, and I am pretty sure I spotted some in the commode earlier. I didn’t investigate too closely on that one.
My life is messy. But, if one is going to for mess, at least glitter is festive-messy. Mess with flair.
There was a time when this glitter incident would have sent me spinning. I think we could safely say that time was yesterday, sometime around 5 pm.
But I have evolved a lot since then.
You see, my brother died. It’s been over two months now, but still, I am saying this to myself because I forget. Or I remember all day. This might be some sort of party foul – the dead brother card can only be used for one month and then it expires, and then you are politely asked to sit on the bench and think about unicorns and bunnies. And perhaps, glitter.
But I miss him. I miss that he doesn’t answer the phone when I call my dad’s office. I miss his voice. I miss how he would call me “Snagglepuss” and how he seemed so Big and Big Brotherish. In a good, non-1984 way.
And I just miss him.
He died because he couldn’t stop drinking. He took his liver past its point of “I’ll heal if you will please stop.” He just kept going from there. And I can’t for the life of me understand how he could do it.
Except, every day at about 5 pm.
Because there is catch.
I am an alcoholic.
No – I don’t drink too much sometimes, or have a problem with drinking, or need to cut back, or have issues, or sometimes seem to party just a little too hard. I am a straight up, no chaser, strong and no ice, please, alcoholic.
Just like my brother.
That is the story I have not given you, for all these posts for all these months. It’s the hollow part of me. I am working on filling it.
When I first stopped drinking, I filled it with prayer about every 20 seconds, and a lot of tears, and non-stop whining, and numerous meetings with other people like me, and endless bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups.
And now, almost two years later, I fill my hollow with prayer about every 39 seconds, and some tears, but tears that wash away pain and rough edges. And yes, still snarf too many of those Reese’s cups. The Easter egg ones are out, and if you eat one while you read Matthew 28, you WILL transcend a bit. I tell you. At least long enough before one of your toddlers comes and pushes his jelly-breath up against your face and bleats, “What eatin? Can I have sum?”
Share your Reese’s. It’s What Jesus Would Do.
I started drinking in the least imaginative way possible – in college. I partied, but I also loved school, did well, and had, I thought, a “handle” on the drinking. “I am smarter than this,” I thought. “I got straight A’s, even in chemistry. I got this.” And on it went. Drinking gave me a kind of magic shell that I could wear that would frost over all the sharp edges I felt.
But there were red flags, hiccups on the way, about the booze. In my twenties, my sweet roommate once came home to me, a nearly empty bottle of wine, and the clacking T.V. “Why are you drinking alone?” she asked amazed. “That’s not healthy. You know that, don’t you?”
I don’t remember my answer, but I filed her comment away. And for twenty some years I would pull it out and think about what she said, then put it away, and continue working steadily on my relationship with alcohol. Recently, I gave her a call and thanked her. Long ago she spoke up and I listened. I’m slow, but I finally listened.
My affair with alcohol hit its lowest point when I had children. And this is a common story, I think, amongst moms. The monotony, the chaos, the mess – a glass of wine smoothed all that out and tucked my babies in just fine.
Until, of course, it didn’t anymore. And I was trapped.
So now, here I am. I am no longer a hollow. I am a follower of Jesus. I am a wife. A mom. A daughter. A sister. A friend. I go to sleep at night and say, “Thank you for this day.” I wake up, and ask, “Please.” I could try to tell you, in this one post, the hows and whys of why I drank too much and who I am now that I don’t drink at all, but it would be a book, ya’ll. A HUGE book, like, Gone With the Wind huge, – a lot of drama, and a lot of petulant behavior, and a lot of hurt, without the foo-foo dresses. I do think, at some point, I did shout, “As God is my witness, I will never drink boxed wine again!” There was real recovery there. And hard truth. But no southern accent.
In short, I drank too much because I had one hell of a civil war going on inside my own head. I didn’t like me, but I also thought I was the most important person to breathe air. That kind of crazy stuff. I couldn’t ever get over wanting more of everything. To fill up the less-ness that was my dried-out soul. I didn’t want to walk around inside of me anymore. Vodka fixed that. For a while. I had hooked myself up to an IV of constant numb. And so I lived my coma-life, for years and years.
But mainly? I drank too much because I am an alcoholic.
The broken things in me are mending. Sometimes I have to sit with pain a lot longer than I think is nice. But, I sit with it now. Sometimes I feel other things like anger, or intense irritation, or even, joy. I slowly click through feelings and I actually survive. Even when I miss my brother.
The most when I miss my brother.
And so, now, when my life becomes messy and chaotic or there’s a glitter tsunami, and something inside me starts ticking, ticking, I can do two things:
1. Rage against the glitter.
2. Laugh. And use the cat as a duster.
For right now, I am having some tea and slathering some butter on my shiny biscuit. I should start a rockabilly band called The Glitter Biscuits. I can thwack a mean tambourine, and I can sing really, really loud, with no concept of key. It will be epic.
Why in the world I waited until I was 45 to face this, I don’t know. But when I look back at the canyon of my past, I don’t feel sorry. I take a deep breath and shout at it. Know why? I get an echo back, and the echo roars that I am here, on the other side, with a big fat voice. When I look back at that sad and empty landscape, I can only shout and wait to hear back:
“I AM STILL HERE.”
This is for my sons. They will read it one day and tell me sorry about the glitter. And I will tell them sorry about the drinking.
Dana Bowman is a wife, a mother, a teacher, a writer, and a runner, all simultaneously. This is only possible because her family donates loads of material. She has been published in Substance.com, The Huffington Post, Today’s Christian Woman, Covenant Home Companion, and is the proud author of Momsieblog.com. She feels that most parenting books would be vastly improved by reading aloud paired with interpretive dance. You can also find Dana on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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