A Birthday

When Chloe was born, I didn’t call the hospital to see how she, and her mother, were doing.

Because I was drunk.

Chloe, my sister’s firstborn. A kid I had been wildly excited to meet. It was December of 2001, and my drinking had “progressed” to the point where I needed alcohol first thing in the morning, several times throughout the day, and well into the evening. I drank not for pleasure, not to “take the edge off” a rough day, but for complete oblivion. Other things mattered, other people mattered, but I could not get out of the corner I’d painted myself into. My alcoholism had (as alcoholism tends to do) crept up on me gradually, all through my twenties, until seemingly overnight I had no other coping mechanisms left at my disposal. Simply put, I did not know how to exist without drinking.

And when Chloe was born I was so paralyzed by my own self-manufactured misery that I didn’t call the hospital.

This was my bottom.

I wish I could say that I stopped drinking on Chloe’s birthday. In point of fact, I went through the rest of December in a stupor. I had nip bottles strategically placed in pockets and purses to get me through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, all the while being very careful to never have more than two glasses of wine in front of my family. I’d excuse myself and go to the car, to the bathroom, and drink the way I needed to.

It was the worst December of my life.

I didn’t want to be the drunk, scary, weird aunt. I didn’t want to scare my nieces and nephews. I didn’t want to pull them into embarrassing hugs, and even more embarrassing conversations. I didn’t want to cover their little faces in wine breath. I didn’t want to make slurry declarations of love.

It wasn’t too late to simply be the WEIRD aunt. The aunt that these kids would perhaps eventually look up to. The aunt that would take them to plays, buy them books, agree to not tell their parents about their piercings or tattoos. I could be all those things for them. But only if I stopped drinking.

Chloe is eleven years old today. And I am just a shade over 10 1/2 years sober. Chloe has never seen me drunk. And neither have her brother and sister. It’s Chloe’s birthday, but she’s the one giving me the gifts. I don’t expect her to understand that. I pray to God she never does.

Happy Birthday, Chlo-Bo-Cop. You are made of awesome.

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