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In Celebration

by Mark Strand

You sit in a chair, touched by nothing, feeling   
the old self become the older self, imagining   
only the patience of water, the boredom of stone.   
You think that silence is the extra page,   
you think that nothing is good or bad, not even
the darkness that fills the house while you sit watching
it happen. You’ve seen it happen before. Your friends
move past the window, their faces soiled with regret.
You want to wave but cannot raise your hand.
You sit in a chair. You turn to the nightshade spreading
a poisonous net around the house. You taste   
the honey of absence. It is the same wherever   
you are, the same if the voice rots before   
the body, or the body rots before the voice.
You know that desire leads only to sorrow, that sorrow
leads to achievement which leads to emptiness.   
You know that this is different, that this   
is the celebration, the only celebration,   
that by giving yourself over to nothing,
you shall be healed. You know there is joy in feeling
your lungs prepare themselves for an ashen future,
so you wait, you stare and you wait, and the dust settles
and the miraculous hours of childhood wander in darkness.
We have, it seems, entered a new phase of life.  We have come through the initial storms of intervention and
the move to tackle alcohol addiction, and by all appearances, life seems better -- sometimes even good.   Having stood our world on its head, and upended our power dynamic, He and I have reached a place of relative calm.  We are feeling relieved, more connected and more intensely in love than we have in a very long time.  Knowing what we now know, armed with some solid information, there is a sense that we may have managed to catch this "just in time," and perhaps dodged a much more difficult and damaging future.
It should feel like a real victory.  Sometimes it does -- feel that way.  Sometimes, this feels exactly the way our triumphal passage through the challenges of bariatric weight loss surgery does -- as if we have met a towering challenge head on and conquered.  At one level, we are all happy that this hasn't been more difficult.  That is the good news.  

Except that -- from His perspective, this battle may have been won, but not without enormous loss.  Today, His quiet and sad wistful words came across my computer screen -- mourning the loss of any sort of potential for EVER being able to experience "celebration" again.  How, He lamented to me, can we ever celebrate without food and drink?  What can ever replace that part of our lives?  

I have no good answer for those questions.  Intellectually and philosophically, I've argued that we will need to reframe the whole concept of "celebration" and create a new version of that for ourselves.  That is probably a good, therapeutic sounding answer to His insistent question, but in practical terms I have no idea how to make that happen.  There is some very real likelihood that anything I might suggest or imagine will be viewed as pale and dull, lifeless and silly.  Nothing I can offer will ever feel as "good" to Him as alcohol does in His memory.
Add to the loss of alcohol, the previous losses of unfettered food consumption, the loss of tobacco, the limitations imposed by osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis, the quieter sexual tides of waning testosterone -- and it feels to Him, not surprisingly, that life stretches out ahead of us:  long and healthy but not very exciting or interesting.  I am weighed down by His sadness and sorrow.   

Perhaps there comes a time, when one has attained a certain number of years, that there is nothing left but a long string of personal diminishments.  I wonder if we have come to that crossroads -- no place left for us to go, and nothing left to create great joy and deep passion.  Must we now go on taking joy in feeling
our lungs prepare themselves for an ashen future?



  1. No no. I'm not ready to be diminished. I don't think you are either.

    What replaces food and drink?

    Friends. Lovers. Laughing. Joking. Talking too loud.

    Art, exercise, personal goals set and met.

    Family. Children. Grandchildren.

    Travel. Novelty. Beauty. Music.

    Tastes of lots of things. Some food, but mostly experience.

    Sex. Love. Spanking. Pain. Exultation. Passion. Emotion.

    Meditation. Prayer. Spiritualism.

    Food and drink are only two elements of celebration and not the most important two.

  2. I am young and naive and perhaps have no place to comment here; I can, however, assure you I have and still do battle *many* addiction issues. Perhaps, just maybe, the crossroads you describe is true... But I can only hope there may be some additional phase of continued clarity where you find something celebratory of what you've experienced, of your wisdom, of your love for another that many will never have the pleasure to experience...
    Maybe even the celebration of having given others (such as myself) hope and reassurance...

  3. Impish11:59 PM

    I agree with Sin - also, ceremony, and a few fine things...maybe tea from the fine cup, dinner on the nice tiny plate with the fine linen napkin, or the special plate, special sheets, or cuddly blanket one is brought when another in the family recognizes the specialness of the day. There are many ways to a sense of celebration other than through one's mouth. Have hope, have faith, mourn your loss, then move on and discover your own. I know you can.

  4. I really don't have anything to say, I just feel the need to leave some kind of comment. I can completely understand where Raheretic is coming from; I believe firmly I would feel the same way if I quit drinking...especially if I also lost smoking and had limits placed on eating. I'm very sad for you all going through this...quite an adjustment, I'm sure. Hugs to you all.


  5. Last holiday season we were brand-new at the gastric by-pass thing. But we made it. Of course, you wanted some extra attention at Thanksgiving, having a bowel obstruction, but we made it. You had an IV , instead of turkey, and Sue and I ate in the hospital cafeteria in shifts. But Christmas and New Year's were both celebrated at home, with small food treats and no alcohol. And we did just fine. We just ate and drank less and enjoyed the company more. I know you have given up alot in the past 18 months. I really do understand. But please know that Sue and I love you to pieces and we can get through it together.

    This is such a victory for you. Not that I ever expected differently, once you set your mind to it. I know it doesn't seem like much of a win, but, baby, it is. Longer, healthier life with the 2 women you love most in the world??? will get better. We will just need to hold onto each other a little tighter.

    Mores & Mores


  6. Perhaps the word might now be called

    I know.. hokey and all that.
    But .. your souls have gone through such huge changes.
    Your hearts are still intact.
    The way you celebrate.. well .. its a whole new ballgame.
    You can make it up as you go along.

    Certainly as a parent with two children out of state, we have had to make up the holidays into days that are happy but not filled with children

    Tough transition but .. very very doable.
    Cheers and good luck finding your joy!

  7. I have been sober/totally abstinent for more than 28 years. First, I promise you it can be better, in fact, for me, it is better than better.

    Secondly, I recommend Sober Celebrations by Liz Scott and published by the Cleveland Clinic. While the recipes may require some modification for your post-surgery diets, I'm more than assured that T will be able to handle it with panache!

    Third, most people do experience a period of mourning for the loss of their "friend". We see so much of it where I work that we have our clients write a "good-bye letter" to alcohol (or their other drug of choice)that goes into detail about the good times with it and then how it turned on them. It does help to put the grief into words.

    You all will remain in my thoughts and prayers. I'm proud of all of you, not just for what you've done, but your willingness to share a very difficult time with all of us who love you!


  8. Lynnlas, we have all three Liz Scott book on the way to us from Amazon. My two here are both waiting eagerly to see these books and begin adapting the recipes in them.

    I was discouraged at first by the Scott recipes I found on line. They all seemed to rely on high sugar fruit drinks, sweetened lime juice, and carbonated soda or seltzer, all of which are strictly out of bounds for t and I.

    Of course my two here quit emphatically told me just get the books Sir. Have you forgotten how skilled we are at adapting recipes to come up with acceptable substitutes? They reminded me that they need an idea, a vision, a concept, a recipe to begin with. I know when we get these they will have us on track in no time.

    Thank you for this very tangible and useful suggestion. It is interesting but after reading your comment I found myself drinking and enjoying t's mock margarita drink last night. I'd been feeling really bored with drinking just Crystal Light and sleepy time tea each night. I had tried the margarita mix she made a couple of times and just wrote it off as a weak substitute. After your comment, and looking at those book on line (it helped we had a dinner last night that tasted particularly good with our mock-aritas), I found myself really enjoying drinking our new mix:)

    Thank you not only for your emotional support and good wishes but for sharing your experience, and professional expertise.

    All the best,


    Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.

  9. I know regonize the feeling of loss and the feeling that there is not a lot to look forward to.
    Due to health issues i had to let go of alcohol, copious dinners and long intense sex and BDSM sessions.
    I try to find joy in little things now.
    Its not easy, but some days i conquer the loss.
    Those are great days!


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