Maybe I’ll Start Using My Silverware

I think I’ve been running from a truth my whole life.

I only know this now because for the first time in my life, I didn’t turn from it. I took it on the chest.

On the morning of that day, I helped a friend head into the unknown. I did not hear from him the rest of the day and haven’t since. A few days earlier, growing increasingly uneasy about my continued abstinence, I had asked for a break from a romantic relationship to, well, have a chance of keeping it.

The rest of the day, to not feel, I used. I used exercise, I used cake and ice cream, I used work, I used grinding thoughts about others and what I could do for them and what they should  do. I even used the bitch who stole my husbands – TV.  I fantasized about walking, not driving, to a local restaurant with dark booths, ordering a steak and a Black Russian, eating a bite of steak, then sitting back and ordering a cold, chocolately vodka drink again and again. The bliss, the ecstasy, the separation of me from my anguish! Oh, yes, it is there. Just a walk down the hill.

When I stopped using the bitch, it was dark. I sat outside on the edge of my porch. My skin began to prickle then throb with longing. If only I could be held. Please. I promise not long. Just long enough to feel better.

. . . . .

On one of the last times I drove my mother to radiation treatment for lung cancer she sat in the passenger seat and turned her head away from me and looked out the window.

“I wasn’t a maternal mother, you know,” she said. “I didn’t really like babies.”

. . . . .

I sat on the step and thought: Who could hold me? Who could and would do it? Hold me today, right now?

I thought of my mother, my non-maternal mother. I do remember a time she held me and it did feel like what was wrong got righted. But she is gone.

I thought of my father, who would want to be able to hold me, but he’s got his own worries and concerns.

I thought of my sister who has a real life in another town.

Storyteller by Larry BechtelI thought of my beautiful former husbands and boyfriends, and knew they would, and should, begrudge me even the request.

I thought of my friends who would probably come if I called. But I could imagine their departure in their bodies even as they hugged me, their return already begun to their own lives.

I thought of my long-gone adopted cat-child, and my current two cats out hunting in the night. Kris Lenz says, “Cats are occasionally interactive art.” Cats aren’t for holding.

And I realized that there is no one to hold me. I will never be held in the way I need to be held. I probably never was. And it’s too late now.

I am all I get.

. . . . .

Since becoming an addictions counselor one year ago, I have worked creatively, intently, tirelessly on behalf of people struggling with addictions. When tireless drained to tired but the effort seemed to help, I remember saying aloud to someone, “I wish I had me in my life.”

. . . . .

I am it.

Childless, half-orphaned, divorced, half a century old, addicted to alcohol, I am it.

When I was sixteen and my grandmother took me on the bus to Buckingham-Flippin, the jewelry and fine china store  in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia to pick out a sterling silver flatware pattern and buy the first teaspoon for my hope chest, oh my did I have no idea I would end up here.

This is not what I would have wished for that young woman. This is not at all what my grandmothers who loved me would have wished for me.

What has happened has happened. And I am the one who feels it all. I am the one who has to have had it all happen, feel it all, and not shatter.

I’m uncertain of exactly how the next few hours went down. I sobbed into the night, into the air of the very neighborhood in which I was that sixteen year-old girl. And at some point, sitting on the edge of the porch, I put my muscled arms around myself and squeezed myself tight. I hugged myself as only a 56 year-old woman who works out hard and loves hard can hug.

. . . . .

I had no insights or epiphanies during those hours. All I can say is I took it, I didn’t run, I didn’t turn away, I made it. If I drank alcohol over and over again to avoid going through that? I should have. That was demonic, haunted, mythic, epic, dark.

That was Saturday night. This is Tuesday morning. My heart, held in my chest, hurts. Still, it’s not that bad being me, taking care of myself. I might have wished for more? But I am enough.

And I am not alone. My neighbor, sculptor Larry Bechtel, gave me a sack of beans from their garden last night. What a surprise, what a delight! And I was just home from a support group meeting where a woman I don’t know very well hugged me, didn’t let go, and kept holding me. I began to cry.

Not epic. Just kind.

I remember when I adopted my first cat ever, Helen, I knew that if she wanted piano lessons, I would work a second job so she would have them. I don’t know what I want. But when I decide, I know someone who works hard and loves hard and will do what she can to make it happen.

Image: Storyteller by Larry Bechtel

When the Silence Ends
Would You Feel Ashamed If It Happened to You?


  1. TK Sharpley says:

    Day—–> Feb 14, 2002 A new person! It’s taken this long to created and like ME! I’m pretty awesome…. And so are you!

  2. Dearest Ann, Your description of “you”–childless, orphaned, divorced, alcoholic–is so very incomplete. Every single “you” that lives within you deserves YOUR hugs and appreciation: the teacher, the friend, the brave little girl, the brave big girl, the lover, the generous counselor, the writer, the poet and the strong choice maker. There’s more, but I will leave that for another time. Label yourself, if you must, but wear the one that says “Human and Thriving.” Lots of love., Terry

  3. Thanks, Anne. Saturday was rough for me as well. Thanks to your app, I know I’m 107 days without a drink. Childless, divorced, orphaned, and next week, after the sale of my home, homeless. Scared shitless but feeling it and dealing with it. Thanks for writing. Keep them coming.

  4. I know that feeling well. Not the desire for alcohol, but the desire, the NEED to be held. My mother was an anxious woman, not one to give a baby more attention than was absolutely necessary, yet fearful of forgetting something important. Holding wasn’t important.

    I am 55, orphaned, twice-divorced, and no one has asked me out so there is no boyfriend – past, current, or in the foreseeable future – to hold me that. My 13 year old cat, Stripey, is old enough to let me cuddle her when I need to. She can’t jump on the bed anymore, but last night I picked her up and put her on the bed beside me. I spooned her, and she purred and rested her head on my shoulder as I petted her cheeks and chin. But she is, after all, a cat, so it wasn’t long before she hopped off the bed.

    Yes, sometimes holding yourself is all you can do. Being able to do that just might be the only thing we really have to learn to do.

    Hugs to you, Anne. Once again you’ve described your personal struggle and in the process given me better insight into mine.

  5. You’re triply brave, Anne. You resisted the false comfort of alcohol, sat with pain and loneliness, and shared this part of your journey with the world. My hat is off to you.

    For the past several years I’ve been working hard to heal my own wounds. Here’s what I tell myself when I’m scrambling to avoid my own pain: it’s part of me. That seemingly endless well of hurt and hopelessness is the part of me begging for help and comfort. Other parts of me can comfort it. Other parts can say, “It’s okay to hurt. I love you at this moment just as you are. The pain will pass. Just let it happen. Once you feel it fully, it will pass.” And it does, every time, once I get out of its way.

    You’re doing the hard work, Anne, and you’re doing great. Keep going!