Reconnecting with joy in art and writing

I’ve mentioned before that I really didn’t lose much as a result of my drinking. And it’s true, I didn’t lose any of the things that one might normally measure as losses. I kept my job, my wife, my house, my son, my car, and my health — if only just barely.

This past Sunday, I was feeling a bit restless for no particular reason. We’d been to the pool on Saturday, but I felt a need to get out of the house. I went out around 11:30 with the intention of picking up a pair of shorts to replace some that I’d blown out on vacation.

Over the past week, my Twitter/Instagram/Facebook friend, Regina Walker had posted a few photos of her son at some art museums —this one of her son contemplating a Jackson Pollock had stirred up a desire to go to an art museum in me. Then over the weekend, she posted this one at MOMA and it kind of sealed the deal. As I left the house, I asked my son if he’d like to go to the Baltimore Museum of Art when I returned.

Amazingly, he said, “Yes” Continue reading

How looking for the similarities rather than the differences changed my life

We all do it. We all compare ourselves to other people.

We compare ourselves to our friends, our enemies, our neighbors, strangers on the street, and celebrities that we will never know personally. In some cases we feel “superior to” and in other cases we feel “less than” — neither view is particularly healthy.

Our subjective understanding of ourselves is deeply rooted in our understanding of how we fit in (or don’t) to this world. We come to this understanding by comparing ourselves to others. In early years, this is how we learn to become social animals. It’s how we learn to make friends.

I am constantly amazed that my son so easily makes friends when he meets other children his age. I am sure he compares himself to them, but it doesn’t seem to matter. He quickly finds the commonalities and joins in in the fun. Those commonalities may be as specific as the love of Legos or as simple as the mere fact that they are kids and not adults.

I have vague recollections of being able to do this myself when I was young. But somewhere along the line I lost the ability to quickly identify similarities and began to focus on the differences. Continue reading


Facebook has a remarkable way of reminding me exactly how crazy things had gotten in my life. You know those “Memories” that it shows. Many of mine are related to what I was drinking that day. Either a picture of a drink, a check in on untapd, or even more disturbing a post about how much I was looking forward to having a drink.

It’s been nine months and one day since I took my last drink. Continue reading

First Father’s Day Sober

Today is Father’s Day. I am sober.

Although I stopped counting a while ago, the app on my phone tells me it’s been 270 days since I first went 24 hours without a drink. I celebrate my sobriety date based on that rather than the day of my last drink — somehow it seems more correct.

I woke up today thinking that I was in a strange bed and wondering which room my father and mother were in. The sense of being in a strange room was probably a remnant of being on vacation and also of sleeping so soundly that I was disoriented upon waking.

It was a strange thought to have at 43, in my own house, in my own bed, with my wife by my side and my son across the hall in his room.

I miss my father.

He was taken from us way to early. I was 29. I hadn’t met Mrs. TKD yet. Mr. Grey was just a hope and a dream. There are many things that I wish he was here to enjoy. One more corned beef sandwich at Attman’s Deli in Baltimore. A few more oysters shucked by Lester Jones (RIP) at the City Dock in Annapolis. Breaking clays with me at Pintail Point. Perhaps, getting the line of a fly rod wet and hooking up with a few trout. He’d have loved to see his grandchildren. He’d have loved to take Mr. Grey fishing. He’d have loved to see me get sober.

Fortunately, he never saw me at my worst, but he knew that I drank more than I should in my 20s. He never said much about it, but I know he worried about me. That’s what fathers do. We worry about our sons and daughters.

Today, I’m going to honor my father’s memory by being the best dad I can be for Mr. Grey. I don’t know exactly what that means today — exactly what I’ll do to achieve that goal — but I suspect that if I do the right things, hold my temper in check, and just be with him in whatever way he needs today, I’ll achieve that goal.

And I can do that today, because I won’t pick up a drink.

The whisper of the skunk

It’s another great day to be alive, healthy, and sober. The sunset last night was so spectacular here in Menemsha. It was a true reminder of how beautiful this world and this life really are.

As I sit here on the porch of the cottage we are renting this morning the sky is clear, the birds are singing, and the harbor bell is ringing in the distance.

Driving back from a 12 Step meeting in Vineyard Haven this morning, listening to my favorite radio station in the world on FM instead of over the Internet, I was reminded of my friend Mark’s blog title, the Miracle of the Mundane.

There truly is something miraculous about these little every day occurrences. As I’ve become more present and aware in my sobriety, I’m starting to notice the small things that make this world so amazing. I am finding beauty in everything. 

The first day on the island, as we drove from Vineyard Haven, I noticed this faint sweet smell that was at once pleasant and also noxious. I couldn’t describe it if I tried. I thought perhaps it was a flower or plant native to the island.

After being here a few days, I’ve discovered that the faint smell is not a flower or plant. It’s the whisper of the scent of a skunk in the air. And there is actually something beautiful about it.

The ferry that wasn’t a ferry. 

“Hi, welcome to Seastreak. Do you have a reservation?”  

“Yes, we’re on the 2 PM to Martha’s Vineyard.”

“Okay, parking is down the street for $13 a day, or we can valet it for $25 a day.”

“We were planning to take our car…”

“We don’t take cars, sir. You need to go to the Steamship Authority up in Woods Hole for that.”

My sinking heart was met by my rising stomach, as that familiar rushing feeling started in my face, neck, and chest. Something was terribly wrong with this situation. This wasn’t a ferry. Ferries are boats that transport cars and trucks. This was an overpriced boat offering rides to passengers to the island.  Not a ferry.

She repeated the bit about Woods Hole after I didn’t respond. Then she offered that we really don’t need a car on the Vineyard, lots of bikes and public transportation. All well and good, but we had a load of shit in the way-back of the Volvo.

There would be no refund, but our prepaid reservation would be good for a year.

I was not concerned in the least about the money, though I probably should’ve been more concerned about losing $120 on tickets that we will never use. I was concerned that there would be no chance of us getting a reservation on the car ferry and that we’d be lucky to get to our vacation spot after two solid days in the car.

And I was right, the website confirmed that there were no available reservations until the next day.

We needed lunch, desperately, and had passed a restaurant on the way to this ferry that’s not a ferry. So we headed for it. The parking lot was a disaster, of course, and I nearly lost it trying to find a place to park the car.

The car.

The car was a gift from Mrs. TKD’s father. A twelve year old Volvo XC70 with 213K miles on it that had been nothing but trouble for my father in law. Why on earth was I driving this to Martha’s Vineyard? Well, it rides a lot nicer than either Subaru and it’s got very comfortable seats. It survived Mrs. TKD’s trip to Cooperstown. So, I figured what the hell.

Mid-way through our first leg of this journey the “Check Engine” light came on. The fluids were good. The car was driving fine. So we continued. Besides it was 8:30 PM, we weren’t going to find a mechanic anyway. It made it the 90 miles that we had left with no problems.

Mrs. TKD googled “Volvo xc70 check engine light” and found that the most common cause is a failing or improperly tightened gas cap. Visual inspection of the 12 year old gas cap revealed a failing gasket. Since our reservation for the ferry that was not actually a ferry was for 2 PM and since we had a 4 hour drive, I knew we needed to get to the bottom of the light first thing in the morning. So I’d been to Autozone to purchase a new fuel cap at 7:30. It did not immediately seem to have any effect on the light.

Fortunately, Mrs. TKD’s dad’s mechanic opened at 8:00. We headed there and explained the situation. They checked the codes and confirmed that it was infact the gas cap that had triggered the light. They reset the code. No charge.

So, back to this parking lot and the restaurant.

I haven’t felt a compulsion to have a drink as strongly as the moment I walked in that door since I quit drinking. Every cell in my body screamed, “give me the booze!”

I was furious, — with my wife and also with myself. When she asked me to reserve this ferry that is not a ferry, I had some concerns about it because all I’d ever heard of was the Steamship Authority ferry. But I took her word for it and reserved anyway without doing my research. I should have verified.

I was also anxious. All the stars seemed to be aligning against me. Maybe we should have gone to the Outerbanks like Mrs. TKD had suggested back in April.  

As I sat there sullenly, Mrs. TKD made a reservation for the next day and we started making our way to Woods Hole. I read from some 12 step literature. The reading in Daily Reflections was particularly helpful.

We reacted more strongly to frustrations than normal people. 

— AS BILL SEES IT, p. 111

Impatience with other people is one of my principal failings.

A little food. The Serenity Prayer. Deep breathing. Acceptance.

I got through the compulsion. I got past the irritation. I didn’t explode outwardly even as I felt like I might inside.

It’s still the same day as it was when we arrived at the wrong boat. I started this post on my phone while in the standby line at Woods Hole. I fully expected to be waiting hours – and if it were peak season, we probably would have – but I’m finishing this post from aboard the ferry and we’ll be landing on the island within a half hour.

Everything worked out. 

My family isn’t mad at me.

I am still sober.

A spontaneous evening

“This is why I stopped drinking,” I said, “I was missing times like this.”

My son had been making paper airplanes of various designs — multiple different shapes, decorations, cut outs, stapled on parts, and weights of paper ranging from printing paper to card-stock — since shortly after Hearon had shown up for dinner. Of course, every different plane was presented to our guest for inspection and approval before its inaugural flight. I can’t do justice to my son’s enthusiasm for these planes and the fact that he had a new friend to show them to. Let me just say that there was a great deal of laughter and many smiles between the three of us.

This was, indeed, one of the reasons I’d stopped drinking — I was, indeed, missing out on moments like this 8 months ago. I missed out on the because they never had a chance to happen. Continue reading

Depression is NOT a “defect of character”

It’s June. The 6th month of the year. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will be celebrating the start of summer with the summer solstice. Those in the Southern Hemisphere are headed into winter.

Of course, in the 12 step world, we often focus on a step and a tradition each month. Naturally, meetings are focused on the sixth step in June, where we humbly ask the good of our understanding to remove our defects of character.

I’m still fuming. Continue reading