Yesterday, one of our cats died. While we expected it–the kids not so much, but me and my wife–it was still hard. I’ll spare you the details except to say he died naturally, not from being hit by a car or anything like that. It wasn’t how I imagined a holiday morning to start, but it’s good that we were home. It would have been so much harder for me to return from work and find him dead on the dining room floor.
Anyway, as I was in the backyard digging his grave, my hands started to shake, and not from using the shovel. I really want a drink, I thought, but the thought didn’t last more than a few seconds. It was replaced by I’ll just drink extra coffee today. I turned to my wife and said, “Don’t be surprised if you see me guzzling coffee” (not that she would be, but still). My third thought was I need to go to a meeting.
About this time a year ago, we lost another cat, and I was an emotional wreck. I drank as I dug her grave and continue drinking that night. I would have been drinking anyway, but I figured I could also numb the pain. And I did. Sometimes, drinking made me more prone to crying or getting upset or yelling, other times it made me a “fun dad,” and more often than not, I just sat in my chair and babbled about questionable existence of God and recited random lines of poetry. Occasionally, it just shut off the bad feelings. As a wise friend pointed out, though, we don’t get to choose what to block out when we drink. If we shut off the bad, we also shut off the good, even if we tell ourselves otherwise.
This time, I met my emotions head-on. I cried when I kissed my cat and lowered him into the ground, and I wasn’t ashamed for my kids to see my grief. I treated myself to a root beer when we went out to lunch, the drink serving the dual purpose of being a reward and giving me the feel of holding something like a beer bottle in my hand. And I kept a lot of my feelings and thoughts to myself until I got to my meeting at 5:30 when I shared what had happened with my recovering brothers and sisters.
And–this is a big one–I actually hung around after the meeting to talk with people. I usually make a bee-line to the van when a meeting is over, convincing myself that I need to get home and help with the kids, when the truth is that my family can afford to have me away a little bit longer, especially if it helps me. I was nervous standing outside the meeting, even though I feel like I know the people who came out to smoke and talk. One woman hugged me and said she was sorry about my cat, and that made me feel better. Another guy told me he liked my Dark Crystal t-shirt, and I told him I liked his Mr. Bungle t-shirt. We talked about music for a while, and I thought, This is what normal human beings do. We talk and relate. After ten minutes, the conversations began to wind down and folks began drifting off. I told everyone goodbye, and then I drove home.
Ten minutes. That’s all it took to feel like I belonged in the Fellowship just a little bit more. I’m going to my home group on Wednesday and will try the same thing. Until then, it’s time to start my week.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you all have a good Tuesday.