It is so hard to photograph black animals! This picture from last year’s getaway sent me down the road of thinking about the year. Last year, we probably exposed the dog to the ticks that gave her Lyme’s. I don’t know for sure, but she had a bit of a rough year physically. She may be about ten years old now, getting up there for a dog her size. She doesn’t follow me up and down the stairs every single time I go now, just most times.
Last year at this time, my work partner and her husband took a vacation that would be their last. He had symptoms that finally compelled him to see a doctor, too late. His cancer was diagnosed in December, and he died in March. I spend my days with her and I have done so for 15 years. She’s ten years older than me, and I try to ready some little part of my heart to accept working without her, to accept living without this dog. I know that I may not experience these losses, but that I probably will. If I’m lucky I will.
We made that trip last year with some women from AA. One spent the year since then drinking, on and off. She’s sober now, back in the fold, trying to embrace AA again as the only lasting answer. I think, briefly, of what her life would have been like had she stayed sober. I wonder if she could go back and do it again if she’d be able to stay sober. I remember the lie my brain – my disease? – would tell me that alcohol would make me feel better, even when it didn’t, even when it hadn’t. Reality was just too much to bear.
Really. And my reality has never been all that terrible. Maybe it’s not reality that I couldn’t bear, but just my undrugged self, my real self, my raw self.
I’m reading a book about lying. I’m reading it because, as an investigator, I’m often trying to discover the truth about what happened from people who would rather I didn’t. Reading about the way we individually view lies and lying made me jump to the program of AA. I was raised in an average way for my time and place. I wasn’t raised with strong morals or a serious code of ethics, beyond the regular WASPy-upper-middle-class values that predominated my neighborhood and my schools. But in AA I learned to consider honesty as a character trait I would like to have, dishonesty as something that is bad and that will lower the quality of my life. Active alcoholism taught me to lie as much as I needed to get what I wanted, which was a slow kind of suicide. AA taught me to tell the truth in ever-increasing circumstances and situations and to consider carefully the content of my character.
So back to my friend who spent the past year drinking, on and off. I think that if she had stayed sober that whole time, she’d be at least a little bit further down the road that values concepts like honesty and teaches us how to live them in the real world. Instead she stayed still, or moved a little farther down the road of death and destruction.