Sobriety, Writing


1 Comment 10 June 2013

20 years ago, when I was 16, my family lost our house during my parents’ divorce. It was devastating. Thinking about it now, my blood still runs hot with anger and cold with shame. One rainy day as I watched our neighbors pick through all our belongings we were selling in our driveway and front yard, I swore to myself that somehow, though I had no idea how, I would right this wrong, I would avenge the harm done to my family and my mother.

I moved 22 times between 15 and 28. The residence that I held longest during that period was the year in which I lived out of my Toyota minivan. My mom and my sisters endured similar humiliations—shithole apartments, sketchy roommates, degrading minimum-wage jobs in fast food and customer service.

I remember staying with my mom and my sister Tashina one fall when I was 26. I wasn’t even crashing on the couch: it was a one bedroom and the couch was Tashina’s bed. I slept on the floor. There was a horrible rainstorm one night and the roof started leaking badly, in every room. We scrambled to get pots or bowls under the most significant leaks until we ran out of containers. I remember shuffling our bedding around so we weren’t sleeping underneath the drips and cursing and laughing and cursing some more. Again, I vowed that I would see my mother restored. Not to the top, as we had never been on top, but just to the middle, the bottom of the middle even. Anything but the bottom.

On one visit to my mother when she was working as a caretaker in the Virgin Islands, I literally evicted my old dog off her bed at night and slept on that, dog hair and dog stink be damned. My last trip down there when I was 32, just months before I quit drinking, there was one bed up for grabs so my mom and I took turns sleeping on the floor. I remember talking to her until we fell asleep, then resuming our conversation when we woke up in the morning, our backs aching from the cheap, shitty bed and the shittier floor. It was hell, but at least we were in it together. Again, I swore that I would see our fortunes reversed, as I had sworn in the past, again and again, though by now it felt more like a fantasy than some realistic goal: I would get us a home, I would build a death ray machine, we would all live forever.

Of course, by then the pain of losing our home had ceased to be something that drove me to succeed. I drank passionately. I made mistake after mistake after mistake. Bitterness consumed me, and it became a reason to give up, an excuse for my failures.

Then, in 2009, I stopped drinking and started getting my shit together. I wrote about my mistakes for Amazon in The Long Run. Last week, using only the money I made from writing about those mistakes, I put a deposit down on a house in California, a house we will call “Sweet Revenge.” It’s on the outskirts of a little town called Rainbow. Yes, Virginia, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If you zoom out and look at my situation as a whole, it makes sense in a way: losing our house made me burn out, then bottom out, then write so much that a house came back to me. And also: man, that makes no fucking sense at all. It gets weirder.

On May 30th, I recorded the audio book for The Long Run. When I walked out of the studio to my Toyota minivan (just like the one I lived in) I realized that I had parked on a street that figures in The Long Run. When I checked my messages, I found out that the seller had accepted my offer on the house. It was four years to the day since I had quit drinking. It’s fairly well-documented that I don’t believe in God or Jesus or Allah or Muhammad or Budda or the capital-U Universe or positive vibes or karma or kismet or chi or soulmates or The Force or any of that shit. But right now, if you worship the Easter Bunny, well, I will happily kneel at his fluffy feet with you and bow my head in front of him in a prayer of gratitude.

This whole experience of finding a home is too intense for me to look at directly, like the tiny star at the end of an arc-welder’s torch, so I’m not going to dwell on it. Instead, let me just say: THANK YOU. Thank you to all of my friends and my family who believed in me when I didn’t, thanks to the teachers and editors and writers who saw something other folks didn’t, thanks to everyone who’s ever read, shared, reviewed or gifted a story of mine, and thank you and thank you and thank you.

What else? Oh yeah: welcome home, Mom.

Your Comments

1 comment

  1. phil lalonde says:

    Congratulations for your courage and perseverance. From…..a friend of Bill’s for 12 years now!

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