Today is day 29. For those who have been following our latest saga, that will make a modicum of sense ... You will remember that, as we confronted the fact of Master's problematic use of alcohol in the aftermath of His bariatric surgery, we eventually developed The Plan. The Plan was conceived as a way to reduce and moderate the amount of alcohol He was consuming, and the hope was that in doing that, He would be able to regain control of His life AND continue to enjoy the limited and responsible use of alcohol as a positive part of His life.
You will also remember that, in the beginning, He was not at all happy about The Plan. He understood the necessity and from an intellectual standpoint, He was in accord with it. Emotionally? He was angry, frustrated, hurt, frightened, bewildered, belligerent -- and every kind of passive aggressive He could come up with. For several days, He spun downward into deepening depression, and things got darker and darker around our house.
It took some time, but He began to read and research, and as He learned more about the physical factors that had so impacted His alcohol metabolism and tolerance, He began to become calmer and more positive about the changes He was making, and He began to feel more certain that He could, in fact do this -- and so regain His accustomed level of control in His own life. It was at that juncture that I took a page from His book and used a trick He'd used with me in the past -- I employed our Discipline Dynamic to try and help reset His thinking and emotional responses to the changes He was experiencing. Things improved. Dramatically.
We had some ups and downs after that. We had moments where we were almost giddy with the shimmer of success that seemed within reach, and then we had very difficult and dark days and nights, when the very early days of withdrawal from the effects of alcohol turned out to be more trying than we at first imagined. After one particularly ugly episode on a Saturday night, we invoked our disciplinary agreements, and at His request and command, I acted as the disciplinarian to enforce the limits that He'd agreed to. He spoke to the events of that night and day, and described His reactions and responses in His wonderfully descriptive post, Fred's Side of the Gavotte. We felt ourselves back on the path again, and our sense of hope recovered. He began to contemplate a much lengthier period of abstinence than He'd been willing to discuss previously. As we talked, discussed, contemplated, pondered, the number 40 began to shape our conversations -- and before it was all over and done with, He'd committed Himself to a 40 day period of abstinence from alcohol prior to embarking on what we'd come to refer to as The Plan.
40. Inviolable. Immovable. Non-negotiable. A mountain that WOULD be scaled and conquered.
That was OK for awhile. Days went by, and He kept His count of the days, but He seemed good. Some of the early issues that plagued Him: sleep disturbance and unexplained weight gain, and restless leg syndrome symptoms, all began to resolve. He felt physically and emotionally better day by day, and I started to believe that we were through the worst of it.
Last weekend, Saturday morning dawned cool and fallish after weeks and weeks of murderously hot, drought-ridden days, and we awakened together feeling good with one another. We made love and reveled in the rare happening of our mutual climax. We had been given some tickets to the second to the last game of our Cincinnati Reds, and so spent a nice afternoon watching the boys of summer add one more win to their successful season. It was really a very good day.
By the time we got home, He was in the dumps. No warning and no reason. He was just bummed out and bent out of shape. Once again, He was insistent that life without alcohol was pointless, meaningless, worthless. He began to consistently refer to these days as "doing time," and insisted that He was "in jail." He started counting down the days, hours, and minutes until He would be able to drink again. He spent Saturday evening in an angry silence. Sunday was even worse. Monday morning -- no better. He and I barely spoke, save to figure out when we would go out for our daily power walks, and then discuss how fast or slow we'd managed to go.
As I had time during the day on Monday, I talked with Him on IM, and eventually I got a sense of the game He was running down on Himself. It was clear that that 40 day thing was preying on His mind, eating at Him, making Him more and more crazy as the minutes ticked off in His head. Slowly, and as gently as I could, I explored with Him the significance of that particular number. What was the significance of the count? If The Plan was still to be implemented, and if He'd already completed a period of abstinence that was as long as or perhaps longer than that recommended by some "experts" in the field of moderating alcohol usage, then what was the harm in relinquishing the insistence on 40 days, and perhaps beginning the trial implementation of The Plan? What did it serve Him, I asked, for Him to work up such a sense of deprivation and delayed gratification prior to the re-introduction of alcohol on a limited basis? Slowly. Slowly. He started to unwind just a bit, and consider the possibilities. By the time I got home from school, He was prepared to suggest that maybe He might abstain until the weekend, and then we could try The Plan.
And so that is where we are now. He is calmer and happier. He is no longer feeling like He is doing time. He doesn't seem to feel like a Man imprisoned anymore. The coming weekend looms as an opportunity; a new part of our lives to explore and learn from and about. Too, it comes to us with the potential of being a gift -- days of pleasure and enjoyment that might, hopefully, include some moderate and prudent use of alcohol along with all the other parts of our lives.
We are anticipating. We are hopeful. We wonder what we will find. This is life. This is where we are now.