Five years ago at this moment, I was sitting in the holding cell of the County jail awaiting release after my second drunk driving arrest. The man next to me was talking to himself, and despite my utter and profound shame and self-loathing, I was struck with how damn unfair it was that this young man in his twenties, found himself in a place for criminals like me. He was clearly very mentally ill, and whatever he had done, the penal system was not a place for him. It was sad.
Then there was the guy laying on the floor, obviously a young gang member, who knew the ropes when it came to jail-house meals…he deftly ate what was edible and bargained with the mentally ill kid for the leftovers. And the place smelled like butt. There’s no other way to describe it.
I was released around 1pm that day after being arrested around 1:30 the previous morning. I was in a blackout and driving over 120 mph on the freeway. I knew I was an alcoholic and I had tried to get sober for the past 9 years, but there was a part of me that believed I could control my drinking…that I could drink like other people did. I just needed to moderate. I was able to put together 15 months of sobriety at one time during that period.
I was in law school at the time and I had just completed my first set of mid-term exams…I had done well and decided I deserved a celebration. Two drinks I told myself, that’s all. I swore to it and was certain I would keep it at that. I had over 8 beers, one Crown Royal on the rocks, and a pint of Vodka in my car that night. As I sat handcuffed in the back of a CHP cruiser, I decided that I had in fact lost all control over my ability to regulate my alcohol intake. I also made the decision that regardless of my prejudices against a particular twelve-step program, my fears that it was a cult and that I would be brainwashed, I committed to joining it again and staying sober. I realized at that moment how lucky I was to be alive but even luckier that I hadn’t killed someone that night.
I spent 40 days in jail for the second DUI and this blog title, “Conversations with the Moon” refers to my nightly sojourn outside at precisely 8pm every one of those nights to look at the moon and talk to my daughter Maddy. We had agreed prior to me going in that this would be our way of communicating. I didn’t want my kids to see me in the jail. It was just something I couldn’t do to them. So Maddy and I chatted every night at 8. Well, at least I did…she was leading her own teenage life at the time, so you’ll forgive her if she had other things to do.
So here’s the deal, in case tomorrow doesn’t come, Mayan calendar-wise, wish me a happy sobriety birthday…if I make it to midnight tonight, I will be celebrating five years of sobriety. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but I have grown in ways I could never have imagined and am eternally grateful for my sobriety and my sober and trustworthy relationship with my wonderful kids…