Yesterday morning I tried to recall how many years it had been since I had a drink. I remembered the date, but not the year. I resigned myself to the notion that if I couldn't remember how long it had been then it must surely be less of a big deal than I had been making of it. Like remembering the anniversary of your first date. Once you get married, and have a kid, the focus shifts.
Speaking of those last few things, I believe I can draw a fairly straight line from the moment I stopped drinking to the events that culminated in the creation of my little family. Would they have happened anyway? It's possible, but I doubt it could have transpired in the same way or at the same speed. My life changed abruptly once I decided to stop drinking. By removing one major source of activity and confusion in my life, I was able to find other more practical ways to spend my time. It is no coincidence that it is my wife who helped me recall that I was celebrating my twentieth year of sobriety.
Not that I don't have some regrets. I still miss the warm, fraternal buzz of sharing a pitcher of beer. I have fond memories of bottles of Chardonnay: their smell, their taste. I miss that excuse to sit at the end of a bar, hammering away at the video trivia game for hours. I miss the gut-busting laughter that a two-drink minimum ensures. I miss the periodic release of all my demons.
Not everyone is with me on that last one, and I understand. I didn't have an "off switch." My college roommates called me "The Thing That Would Not Heave." Long after I had lost the power of comprehensible speech, I was able to stagger around and continue to consume. Twenty years ago, I had made a name for myself as a guy who could really throw 'em down. On my twentieth birthday, I made a point of drinking a beer for every year I had been alive. I made a name for myself as a number of other things, but decorum prohibits their mention here. The up side has been tremendous, but I know that it was a choice I made way back when to stop drinking, and that means I have had plenty of time to second guess myself. And now, I can turn the page and start forgetting again.