About alcohol…

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The wedding (photo by Amy Balbirer Windham)

The alcohol question.

I think about this question often. What is my relationship with alcohol now? What will it be in the future?

It’s difficult to separate alcohol from Adam’s addiction and illness. Certainly, alcohol destroyed his liver. But equally as certain, so many of my best memories with Adam involve alcohol. Was alcohol the center of these memories? No. But we enjoyed sitting on the beach with a beer; wine tasting; finding new breweries; tasting crazy concoctions. We liked a lazy Sunday morning on a downtown porch, talking about politics, gossiping, people-watching and eating breakfast with coffee, a mimosa and a Bloody Mary. Certainly, here in Texas, as I sit on the porch watching Air Force football while writing this, Adam and I would have had a beer in hand by now. It’s vacation, it’s football, it was us.

Truth is, I didn’t drink nearly as much before Adam. I drank shitty beer with the occasional tequila shot. True story… Adam probably fell in love with me when we are at McAllister’s downtown (remember that place?) and I ordered tequila shots (right before Jen and I headed to see the Monkees at Pikes Peak Center). They offered training wheels, and I scoffed. Only rookies need the lime and salt. Adam eventually introduced me to “sipping tequila” and I generally left Cuervo behind. McAllister’s was the place we could never leave on a Sunday, drinking beer and playing Golden Tee (that game was like crack) with friends.

We liked the Manitou Springs Wine Festival and Swirl Wine Bar (we were one of the first regulars); the new breweries that popped up in the Springs, camping with cocktail hour; Disa’s gin and tonics at school, blue-cheese stuffed olives in martinis along with carpaccio at the Chop House, collecting 17 plastic cups from Coconuts by the Beach in Florida; pre-made screwdrivers in our backpack at Starfest. The discovery of sour beers … a sour for me and an IPA for him. The Warp Core Breach at Star Trek Experience in Vegas with Paul and Michelle; a glass of wine with Adam’s scallops and linguine while watching the Walking Dead. Wandering up and down side streets in Heidelberg and finding the off the beaten path absinthe bar where we were the only tourists, where we communicated haphazardly through the language barrier with the bartender. Sitting in a square in Cologne, Germany, watching the Germans celebrate because their team had just won a friendly over some other country. Going from place to place in Bruges because I had a giant spider bite that itched so badly I could only sit for about 30 minutes before needing to move to get my mind off of it. Sipping wine on the banks of a river in Germany with a baguette and cheese. Wine in Paris, beer in Amsterdam, and all sorts of weird stuff in Japan.

Lots of alcohol, eh? I didn’t think we drank any more or less than our friends. But of course, I was oblivious to what Adam might have been drinking at home while I wasn’t there. I didn’t know the pain and anxiety he must have felt with the deceit and the lying to me. When he would swear he would never drink again, and a week later I would find the hidden bottle of gin.

To hate alcohol is to hate my 17 years with Adam, and I won’t do it. Whatever you may think an alcoholic is, you might be wrong. Adam was a light in this world; he wasn’t drunk all the time, he wasn’t abusive, he didn’t pass out at bars or say rude things. He wasn’t an obnoxious drunk. He was perfect in my eyes. A perfect man with a perfect illness. An insidious illness we are just beginning to understand.

It was scary for us, more so for him, to think of a future without alcohol. Does that sound weird to you? Everything we did pretty much included alcohol. We had 12 years together before we realized this was bad for him. I could stop after two beers; he could not. He “knew” he shouldn’t be drinking, but at 40, how do you really think you are going to die from liver disease? You just don’t. It’s not happening to any of your friends, so why you?

I haven’t had a drink in about 95 days. That’s the longest for me probably since I went to college. Last night, playing poker, with drinks everywhere, it was hard for me to not join in the drinking fun, get a little buzz. And I’m definitely not an alcoholic. How difficult must it have been for Adam? He said “I’m fine if you drink, I’m fine if my friends drink.” The fact is, he wasn’t. He was terrified of “ruining” other people’s good times, of changing my life so drastically.

That is where my biggest guilt comes in. Why didn’t I realize how hard it was for him? I would have quit along with him. But I guess part of me was mourning the loss of our lifestyle, too. I worried about a lifestyle; instead I lost a whole life.

I would like to toast to Adam again. To taste a new IPA and scrunch up my nose and say, “ewww” and go back to a saison. To sip a great bubbly and say “you would have liked this, Adam.” I might be hypocritical. Fuck you if you think I am. I’m just trying to deal with the loss of my husband in any way I can. My entire life has been ripped from me and I don’t know what to do.

So just try to smile with me and enjoy that IPA.