16 days sober
It was a hot summer in south Florida, my family and myself joined together for the first time in years to attend this family festival called the Sunflower Fest. There was cotton candy, little trinkets dedicated to sunflowers, as well as a maze that trapped the humidity and sunrays that created a heavy wet blanket.
The beginning of the trip was amazing. We took group pictures in wood carve outs that framed our faces. The last time I remember enjoying such actives as a group I was nine; if memory serves me correct that was the last trip we all gathered as an almost real family.
In most card games there is at least one wild card that can change the luck in a person’s hand – just like in a family. You are dealt with a certain spread when you enter the world, and either your good to go, or you’re shit outta luck.
Everyone has their own coping mechanism that can bring them peace, and then there are times these actions can result into constant rationalizations that become detrimental. Most families will admit that they have at least one wild card in their deck. Whether this person has one or multiple additions or vices and how deep the people bury themselves is the mystery. Most of the members of my family have an addiction in way shape or another, but we still have our wild card.
In the span of 12 years, everyone now and then we would receive updates on certain family members that had “relapsed”. I never fully understood what it really meant when this member ‘fell off the wagon’. As a child, I always thought there was a literal wagon that they were ridding, and just made a simple wrong turn and fell off. When it kept happening more and more, it seemed strange that this loved one would keep making the same mistake. As I got older the statements turned into, ‘Well she just has a problem with drinking’. In my translation that meant, she didn’t eat enough before drinking, or she drank to help her fall asleep, or they would have a ‘few too many’ and felt whoosy afterwards.
I was introduced to how fragile my family was after the vacation amongst the sunflowers. What only a few of us knew, was that they had only been sober for 16 days.
This phrase became a mantra for our wild card, “16 days sober”. She was dealt the same hand everyone else was representing this family, but she used the cards to her advantage for her addiction. Admitting and facing the addiction are two different things. Admitting to yourself that there’s a problem is one thing; for the family to admit that they’re not perfect as a unit is another.
We all drank and smoked around her. I personally was just legal and on vacation so I had my fair share of liquid libations. Only two members didn’t drink, and yet none of us thought to ask why. Maybe everyone else knew but me – protecting the youngest in the family is still very important for some reason -; but is they did and they still drank around a freshly sober person, regardless if their blood or not, that’s still fucked up in my book.
The day our wild card left, we were in the kitchen. She was finally telling me that she was ‘16 days sober’ face to face, gave me small pieces to her story of how that came to be. Somehow I still didn’t see the weight of these words on her heart. I didn’t see the monster clinging on her back, playing with her hair and rewarding her with a pat on the head.
She was gone for 6 days.