Today marks my seventh month of sobriety, and I can’t sleep for the life of me, so I’m blogging while my family sleeps and recovers from our vacation to Callaway Gardens, GA. The vacation was 99 percent a success, and while I’m not letting the “unsuccessful” (that’s not even the correct word…it’s more complicated than that) one percent drag me down, it’s certainly one reason I’m awake.
For much of my childhood, Callaway Gardens was a wonderful place my grandparents took me and my brother. I have fantastic memories of splashing around in Robin Lake, going to the circus, and playing mini-golf. Every memory’s good save one: the time my mother came along and I got lost.
I remember it vividly. I was five or so. One moment, I was building a sandcastle, and the next, I looked up to find myself surrounded by only strangers. I looked around in panic and didn’t see my mom, brother, or grandparents. My mom tells me I wandered off, and I’m sure that’s true, but that isn’t how I recall it.
I didn’t know what to do, so I began to walk. I got as far as the parking lot, found my grandparents car, and sat down and cried. A nice couple asked if I was lost, and I said yes. They took me to the beach pavilion, where someone announced my name over the PA.
I remember my mother running up and grabbing me. When she tells the story today, she says, “I’ve never been more terrified in my life. I don’t think I put you down the rest of the day.”
I’ve told my children the story several times, and they wanted me to show them where I was lost. I was looking forward to getting in the water with them and having fun. I had nothing but positive feelings as we parked and walked toward Robin Lake and beach.
My wife and children got in the water immediately, but I hesitated. I walked to the water’s edge and stopped. I couldn’t move forward. My family waved for me to come in, but I shook my head. In the end, I trudged back to the grass overlooking the beach and sat down, incredibly depressed and confused.
My eyes were continually drawn to the spot where I found myself lost. I thought about my grandparents, both dead. I thought about my brother and our estranged relationship, about my mother, my biological father whom I haven’t seen in 37 years (my mom thought he had taken the day she couldn’t find me). Memories and past pain swirled around me and in me, and I felt like I was suffocating.
I looked back at the pavilion, the same place the couple took me, and saw the giant billboard announcing overpriced beers and drinks. I ached to escape the thoughts and pain, but I breathed and stayed with my emotions. I didn’t hide from them, and I didn’t understand them. I told myself something I read months ago: pain is not a punishment and pleasure is not a reward.
I breathed easier when my family got out if the water that I now viewed as tainted. As we drove away, I felt better. I said to myself, I never want to return here.
I didn’t share this experience with the kids, and they chalked it up to Dad just being Dad (they know I have a deep fear of water). We had dinner, went out for dessert, and lounged around hotel until bedtime.
I woke with a lesser form of unease in my spirit, but I still was glad to leave. Even though I’m restless tonight, I’m sober and in my own bed.
I’m not lost, even though I feel like I am.
Today, I celebrate seven months of no alcohol.
And now I’ll try to sleep, and tomorrow I’ll wrangle with these emotions once more without drinking.