Confessions

Confessions

We were warming up running a lap around campus. My boss was in the lead, and I was the trailing sheppard making sure we corralled all 60 of the high school soccer players we had assembled for a Saturday morning training session. As we approached the pitch to end our roughly one-mile warmup, I slowed my pace to separate myself from the back of the pack. Saturday morning was coffee time, you see, so jogging with a full bladder was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

 

Before we reentered the public areas of campus, we ran down a maintenance road. At the end of the off-limits area I spotted two dumpsters with just enough room between them for me to squeeze into. One dumpster blocked the view from the soccer field and parking lot, and the other dumpster blocked the maintenance road I had just traversed. As I felt the sweet relief of making room for more coffee, I noticed that what the dumpsters didn’t block was the security camera attached to the corner of the maintenance building twenty feet in front of me. I smiled and waved, hoping that (1) the video was only accessed if something came up stolen or vandalized and (2) in the event that the video was watched by a human, that human would empathize and appreciate the joyful relief on my face.

 

As I finished my jog to rejoin the team, I prepared my hopefully unnecessary defense. There is only one porta-potty on campus, and it is inexplicably padlocked. Listen, I get that porta-potties on a high school campus take unnatural and unimaginably disgusting abuse at the hands of immature, although quite creative, little delinquents. But for the sake of the rest of us, the school should pony up an extra hundred bucks a month (or something like that) to pay an abusive-use stipend to the porta-potty company. What’s with the locked porta-potty? That’s like going to a strip club. You can look at, but not use, the merchandise? No thank you.

 

Later that afternoon, I told my boss of the incident. I could tell that she wished I had kept the story to myself. I am not sure if she was disgusted, or if she was disappointed that I took away her plausible deniability.

 

And that’s the worst thing I’ve done in many months, as far as I can remember. I peed between two outdoor dumpsters. I confess.

 

What a difference when I contrast that against a 25-year drinking career where I deserved to be arrested on a semi-regular basis, and should probably have died half-a-dozen times.

 

I didn’t drive drunk often, but I did it more than never. I definitely did drink and drive like it was my birthright. Maybe that’s because I witnessed the two generations before me driving after consuming alcohol (or while consuming in the case of my grandfather) my whole life. Maybe it’s because the town I spent my formative years in had drive-thru bars on both the north and south ends near the county lines. It was legal to drink while driving in Morgan County long after open container laws had passed in Marion and Monroe Counties.

 

I remember the dilemma of finishing a can of IPA in my open-top Jeep as I drove through the neighborhood. I don’t litter. In fact, I was one of those crazy homeowners so dedicated to the pristine appearance of the neighborhood that I used to sweep the street in front of my house when I finished mowing the lawn. But a beer can could be trouble if I was ever pulled over for neglecting to click on my turn signal, so I reluctantly tossed empties as I drove along on more occasions than I would care to confess.

 

Alcohol had the consistent effect of cranking the volume on my inside voice. I did most of my drinking at home, alone in our basement, but on the occasions that I came home late after my wife and family had gone to bed, I was like a caterpillar emerging from my chrysalis into the not-so-rare species, Slumberus Interruptus. If you are reading this, you are probably intimately familiar with the metamorphosis, because you either live with one or you are one. The crazy thing about this species is that we transfer back in the morning or when we drop below a certain blood alcohol level with nary a memory of the transformation. But we often leave evidence, like a plate of microwaved nachos spilled across kitchen floors or half-emptied beer bottles scattered on counters and end tables in full view, but somehow invisible and in need of bewildered (and bewildering) replacement in the wee little hours. Or maybe you know it because we have climbed all over you in a manner we perceive as flirtatious and attractive, and you rightly receive as slobbery and fumbling, before passing out from the arduous struggle of taking off our own pants.

 

I used to have things to confess that were confession worthy. I didn’t get belligerent drunk every night, but when I did, there was considerable aftermath and lingering trauma.

 

I could write a book about the collateral damage of my drinking. In fact, I have. A book and this blog and our Untoxicated Podcast with hundreds of stories of drunken debauchery. But what about now, you might be wondering. Now with over seven years of sobriety, surely I have more confessions to make than a childish story about peeing between two dumpsters.

 

I spent some time this morning recounting my most devilish and inconsiderate actions of the last few months. I am a narrative non-fiction writer. Vulnerability is my superpower. Buckle up, buttercup. Here are my confessions.

 

A few weeks ago, we received some mail intended for our next-door neighbor. This is not an isolated event. Each time it happens, I trudge next door and slide our neighbor’s mail into their mail slot. On this occasion, it occurred to me that we never get mail delivered sporadically through the day, at least not that I’m aware of. How come our neighbors never slide our mail delivered accidentally to them through our mail slot? What if I missed an important opportunity to send some government agency more of our hard-earned cash? As I thought about the lack of courtesy reciprocation, I looked at my neighbor’s piece of mail in my hand. A solicitation. An advertisement. Junk mail. I ripped it up and put it in our kitchen trash can. I confess.

 

Earlier this month, I spotted a large pile of cat puke on our basement carpet. One of our cats is pretty old, and he likes to chew on houseplants to the considerable distress of his stomach, so a pile of vomit is not a rare event. On this particular occasion, I childishly thought of our cats as Sheri’s cats. I waited to hear Sheri come down the stairs at the back end of the house. It took some patience. I just sat there staring at the half-digested kibble for something like 15 minutes. When I heard her come into the basement, I scooted silently up the front stairs and asked her to come help me with something. I knew her path would take her right past the cat puke. To ensure her discovery, I turned on every light in the basement and pulled the coffee table back from the offended area. Sure enough, I heard Sheri make a deep sigh and head to the laundry room for a plastic bag and carpet cleaner. When she asked me later what I wanted, I mysteriously couldn’t remember. I confess. I spent a full third-of-an-hour getting out of a chore that would have taken me three minutes to complete.

 

I clean up the kitchen in our house. This is not me bragging. Kitchen clean-up duty gets me out of doing laundry and most of the cooking in our home. The tradeoff is a no-brainer for me. However, doing dishes often happens just before bed when I am at my least energetic and most cranky. Last week, while wrapping leftover pizza in aluminum foil so it is ready for reheating, I took a bite from the end of every piece. I giggled to myself and my mischievousness that I knew would annoy the boogers out of my kids, the most likely reheaters of leftover pizza. And to make my sin worse, when my second-oldest son asked if I knew anything about all of the bites out of all the pizza, I shook my head in disgust at whichever of his brothers thought they were being funny. I confess. Like emitting a silent fart and blaming the person sitting next to me, I molested the pizza and tried to pin the deed on my innocent children.

 

A few nights ago, we were talking about our toothbrushes around the family dinner table. I’ll give you a second to get over your jealousy about the exciting dinner conversation at our house.

 

Are you ready to continue?

 

My wife, Sheri, mentioned that since we had all been passing a cold around the house, she moved her toothbrush out of the cup in the medicine cabinet where all the rest of us sick-o’s kept ours. That evening, after brushing my teeth, I found Sheri’s isolated toothbrush, and pressed the bristles of mine into the bristles of hers. I put the tandem toothbrushes back into her hiding place like a couple of dental hygiene conjoined twins. In my defense, I wasn’t sick anymore. But I confess to finding a new and less romantic way for my wife and I to swap spit.

 

That’s it. If I were Catholic, I think I could put a priest to sleep through the little mesh-covered window. I’ve made many more honest mistakes over the past several months, but when it comes to devious infringements on the people around me, I can’t think of anything else.

 

One of the most important lessons of lasting sobriety for me was to distinguish a lack of inflicted trauma from boredom. There is nothing boring about my life now. My life is no longer death-defying. I no longer risk jail time, financial collapse or losing my family. I have cycled away from my drinking friends to friendships based on other shared interests – like soccer, writing, community service and dumpster watering. Just because I no longer make blacked-out memories of belligerent behavior doesn’t mean I don’t have stories to tell.

 

I made the shift – the shift from getting sober as an inflicted and reluctant necessity to willingly avoiding a toxin because my life is indisputably more exciting and more memorable without it.

 

I confess. I’ll never drink again.

 

Are you ready to make the shift? Consider joining us in SHOUT Sobriety.

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