Revealing the Roots and Behaviors of Addiction
The Grim Reaper
Plucked from the sky like diamonds
Plucked from the sky like spring’s new leaf
Whether it’s God’s will or my wish
It happened, yeah yeah, you were
Plucked from the sky like dragonflies
You’re almost an angel.
Eleanor, from the album Three Wishes, Shannon Worrell, 1994
Dryuary Day 14
This is going off of our story in Africa, so forgive the digression for a small celebration and some cleansing.
Today marks two weeks since I’ve popped a cork, opened a bottle, taken a shot or enjoyed the fizzy foam of a nice pale ale mustache. I have even poured wine and mixed cocktails for others. Earlier in the series, I had mused that I hadn’t gone thirty-one days without alcohol since I was thirteen. This is a bit disingenuous, as I did stop drinking through three pregnancies, except for a glass of Chablis I had one night with Anthony at dinner. Truth be told, I got a buzz from it really quickly, and didn’t even finish the glass. When carrying our second son (third and last child), we went to a wedding in D.C., and I had a pint at a pub. I couldn’t finish that either.
There was always something about pregnancy that made it easy to stop. My body was a construction site. The eye beams of my hips craned apart as the mortar of my skeleton crumbled away, leaving my grip useless, which was evident from all the broken dishes and dropped mugs.
As the charges went off, and the old edifice roared and collapsed, a foundation was being excavated and the anchors laid for the greatest project of them all: a burgeoning, new human being. At three months, I was still nauseous, though normally at night. My knowledge of the project was only five weeks on, and the whole thing was still a bit frightening.
At month four, the gestation became more real, manifesting as poochy belly and joyous, full breasts (we don’t have much of those in my family, so a little celebration was warranted). Month four was also the porn stage. I used to call Anthony home from work.
“You better get here, cuz I’m eyeballing the door knob!”
I imagine him leaving a crew trainee on a fifty-foot ladder in the rain.
But month five was the month I made contact. I could hear her. She spoke to me in firey colors, assured me that she would consume all I had until I was completely subsumed, that we would, from this point forward, feed on each other to the point of synergy, that she would take everything to live and grow and yet leave me larger and stronger. And the result would be a journey of love and connection that I would never be able to replicate. Without any testing, I knew she was a girl, the space odyssey that would put me back together.
In month six, she swam around, did flips to my moods. She was a million butterflies, threading around and whispering to me, each fluttering precious breath into my heart as I slept, drove my car and taught my training workshops. I had wildflowers growing out of my brain. My lungs were brimming with oxygen. My nails and my hair and my skin were gorgeous. I felt so beautiful and sexy. I was tethered to the Life Force.
In month seven, she went head down for the long sleep, the time to rest and prepare for life on the outside. Her foot was jammed in my rib cage and stayed there for the remainder. It felt like I’d been horse-kicked…all the time.
This is why women endure labor and then choose to get pregnant again. If pregnancy just felt like months four through six, we’d all have fourteen kids.
Anyway, we completed our family with Ella and then two sons, AJ and Ricky. They are intelligent and healthy. Now, they are teenagers, which means Anthony and I don’t always like them very much. Still, I went through a tortuous period of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Why me? Why do I get to have three healthy kids? When will God punish me for my transgressions, just reach out and bite us all in half so I can walk the world in darkness?
When the kids were young, I knew the Grim Reaper would arrive at any moment with a clipboard.
“Ahem, you’re Josie?”
“Aaaand it says here you’ve had more sex partners than Catherine the Great.”
“That’s a myth! Catherine only had…”
“…aaaaand we can assume that your fucked up past is, and I’m quoting you here, ‘worse than anyone else I know”?
“That’d be me.”
“You’ve had more than one abortion.”
“Ok, so, the truck is here, and we’re just gonna take Ella, AJ and Rick off your hands, ok? I mean, it’s obvious that you’re pretty awful, and upper management just doesn’t approve of your being a mom to three kids who obviously shouldn’t be wasted on you. So, uh, we’re gonna send them back through the system, cut their memories and distribute them to new families.”
This scenario played over and over again in my head. I teetered on the edge of oblivion, living in constant fear of what I felt was the inevitable. One day, I went to visit my friend Marianne. She’s an ex-biker chick (no really, like the serious gang type) turned spiritual advisor. At six-foot-three, she’s a force of nature. I love her. I was sobbing on her ottoman. She tried to explain that the universe doesn’t really work on a crime-punishment paradigm. It’s more like a falling-learning model.
But certainly no one had fallen like I had, right? I was the worst, wasn’t I? I couldn’t understand why lightening wasn’t bound to strike.
“The lightening has struck,” she offered. “You’ve been struck many times.”
Over a short period, I had traveled a million miles through different stages of myself. I had joined the Peace Corps, gotten married and had begun to start a family all within five years. I was morphing and camouflaging through each incarnation of woman, spouse and now mother, but I could not shake the dark shadows of my adolescence, the victim, the crazy girl, the slut, the wrecking ball.
“I mean, how does God allow me to reconcile three terminated pregnancies?” I pleaded.
“Don’t you see?” Marianne said, her eyes twinkling through her glasses.
“He’s already given them back to you.”
Josie Elbiry, 2021
Thank you for staying here through Day 14. In the next installment, we are going back into the Central African Republic to continue the story.
This may have been a hard read for you. It was indeed a difficult write.
Revealing the Roots and Behaviors of Addictions is a series of short memoirs written during a month of abstention from alcohol. I thought that I would just not be drinking. I was not prepared for the watershed of memories, both abusive and fulfilling, that would present themselves not only for me to face, but also to compartmentalize and, ultimately, accept with gratitude.
You can catch up with memoirs 1–13 here.