When I decided to get sober forever on 17 March 2007, I had no idea that thousands around the world were glugging down green beer and wearing leprechaun hats. But here I am at five years and I’m not sure how I got here.
Except that I have had so much support, encouragement and insight from all my friends, especially those on the same journey of recovery. Thanks to every one of you who takes the time to read this blog and comment or email me.
The gratitude for this ordinary undramatic life I have now is unfaltering. I doubt the fear of financial insecurity will ever leave me because I don’t live in a prosperous country and there are few economic miracles for the poor and destitute amongst whom I live. There is generosity and dignity though, the difference between authentic and spurious suffering. And simplicity is a way of life that beats consumerism hands down.
For lunch I am making crostini with a tuna tapenade, from a handwritten recipe I found at the back of a cookbook. Just canned tuna with a little sour cream, chopped olives and capers, salted anchovies, fresh thyme leaves and chopped Italian parsley, all mixed up or blended with lemon juice and ground black pepper, heaped onto toasted slices from a baguette. We get delicious bread here and the housemate is a good baker too. This time of year cured and salted olives are brought into grocers and farmers’ markets from the Karoo, so we will have tubs of glistening green or black olives in brine to eat with winter lemons and limes.
We don’t have the custom of giving chips or medallions out here and it isn’t necessary. Sobriety is its own reward. I have never once in five years woken up and wished I had drunk alcohol the night before, never felt that getting sober was a waste of time. And on the whole staying sober has not been hard because I did not and do not want to go back to where I found myself in early March 2007.
And, oddly, looking back I don’t regret the lost years, their chaos and misery. Without those decades I might never have found compassion and kindness in such abundance, within myself and in others.
By Dorianne Laux
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.