December 9th, 2022
You were this close to living in a Dennis-less world.
That’s one of the parts of my past we don’t talk much about. I’m not saying it would have been a better place or worse place, but it definitely would have been a different one.
Today marks five years since I took my last drink — a small, warm, plastic bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the trunk of my car, if you’re keeping score at home — and it’s hard to do these essays in particular because nothing I can write can accurately capture these years or this experience.
Of course, that doesn’t stop me from trying.
So, what have these five years meant? What does my choice mean?
It means my dog got the best of me for nearly her entire existence.
It means that, even though I’ve been present since day one, I’ve been able to be completely here for my child for a third of his life.
It means I got to spend the last years of my mom’s life fully living. No matter what she saw me go through, I got to show her that I was going to be okay before she left. As a parent, I can’t imagine a more significant gift; as a child, there was nothing I wanted to give her more.
I am a decent brother. I am an adequate co-worker. I am a better friend. I am a more reliable partner.
What does it not mean?
It doesn’t mean I don’t mess up or get upset. It doesn’t mean I don’t argue or that I can’t be difficult. It doesn’t mean I don’t get sad or mad or worse. It doesn’t mean I’m always right. It doesn’t even mean I never want to drink.
It doesn’t mean I’m perfect.
It does mean I can make progress. It means I can be unafraid of being wrong and admitting my faults. It means I can be honest and vulnerable. It means I can be here for people in ways I couldn’t be before, because I wasn’t there for myself. It means I am able to let people know how much I love them.
And I do.
I mean it when I say I care. I care about how you are, what you love, what you’re feeling and thinking and, above all, I care that you exist in this world.
I didn’t care much for myself. This aspect is regularly glossed over, but I’m serious when I say that I was very close to not being here. Sometimes because of how I was living, and sometimes because I wasn’t sure if I deserved to, if I wanted to.
I deserve to. I want to.
You almost got a Dennis-less world, until I listened to voices outside of my head and they told me there was a better way, a path towards a place that exists to show me I am worth something.
I’ve been walking it.
Five years and still counting steps, one day at a time.
As always, if you or someone you know needs help, reach out. These lines are always open.
All my love, squirrels.