Day 78 Alcohol Free: Leaving

Traveling back to Denver has gotten me all worked up. This is the first time I’ve felt any persistent cravings for a drink in the past almost 80 days of sobriety. I’m not the best air traveler – I get nervous and jumpy, and have a hard time tolerating the turbulence that is typical of flying directly toward the Rocky Mountains.

To top it off, my flight left at 5:45am this morning, and I traveled the entire way running off of 45 minutes of sleep. Yes, 45 minutes. When we landed, we had to wait on the tarmac for 30 minutes for a gate to open up. Traffic to my Aunt’s place from the airport was crazy and added an extra 30 minutes to my ride. By the time I got in the door, I was barely able to function. I laid down around 9am and slept until 3.

Every time I’ve traveled back to Denver since the day I left two years ago, I get this intense mixture of overwhelm, sadness, comfort and nostalgia. Since I left, I’ve been back six times, and it’s always the same. Two of those six times was to say goodbye to a loved one, once was for a week-long solo road trip, another was for my grandmother’s 80th birthday celebration, and the others were simply to come back and see my friends.

The day I left Denver to move back home – July 30, 2014 – my life as I knew it was mostly in shambles. As I’ve written about a few times before, I was on the brink of losing my marriage and I’d just been laid off.

The things I left behind included:

  • my fancy new downtown apartment – the one my ex-husband asked me to rent with him as part of his effort to re-enter our marriage and start fresh, which his (now current) wife would later move into, a mere month and some days after I left town.
  • several carloads of Goodwill donations, which included memorabilia we had collected over the years together, many of which came from our wedding day. When my husband first decided he was bored with our marriage and frustrated by our life, he asked for my help to minimize our belongings. We got rid of 90% of our things, leaving mainly furniture, electronics, and clothing. Everything else was either thrown away or donated.
  • some kitchen appliances and other household goods that, after all was said and done, I really wished I would’ve taken on my way out the door. Maybe the crock pot. Maybe the toaster oven, or the nice cast iron pans.
  • a group of friends with whom I’d become quite close over the two years I lived there. I still talk regularly with a couple, and there are others who have simply faded into the background.
  • family, and lots of it. I was born in Colorado and lived here until I was about 6 years old, after which point my parents moved our family up North. Meanwhile, many of my extended relatives stayed right here in Denver, and as all my cousins grew up together and stayed close, I barely recognized them each time we came back to town for a visit. When I moved back after college, I felt like quite the outsider; we never reconnected the way I would’ve hoped.

To anyone unfamiliar with the situation, it might’ve seemed as though I was the one who made the final call – I looked like the “leaver.” I packed my car to the brim, took the cats, and moved 900 miles away less than a month after signing that lease on the new apartment with my ex. I filed for the divorce. I paid the majority of the fees and told my ex how to make sure the filing went through uncontested. Hell, I even talked about leaving town before the decision to split was even made.

When I left, I left all of those things behind. The material things. The people. The places. But I left a part of my soul there, too – I left a future, the future I thought I was supposed to have. And it’s hard to describe that feeling, the way I experience it in my heart. It’s like a dull throb that intensifies as I look out over the mountain range to the west. It makes my stomach feel a little heavier and my legs ache. This thin air still holds many of the hopes I had in that past life of mine, and it carries the memories of the things and people and places I left behind.

Yes, I left. I physically walked away from the man who had left me emotionally months before. I left the man who decided on his own that there was something or someone better than me, or what I was able to give. I left after begging, pleading, crying. I left after trying to reconcile with the man who had previously told me he was giving me the middle finger in his mind, the man who asked me to change who I was.

I left, and I keep leaving. In the past, I left many things in a haze. Sometimes drunk or drinking. Sometimes not. And then, after a while, I’ve looked back with nostalgia and sadness, always wondering what might’ve happened had I stayed the original course.

The leaving hasn’t always been bad, though. 78 days ago I made the commitment to leave one of the less pleasing things about my life behind. I woke up red in the face, tired, hungover, anxious, sad, and hopeful. I wrote down the reasons I couldn’t go back. Like a breakup, I felt scared and intensely liberated. But unlike the other things I’ve left behind, I won’t be looking back and wondering to myself how things might’ve been had I kept drinking. I don’t have to wonder, because the answer is clear.

It’s more clear than that mountain air rolling off the Rockies into the valley, more clear than the look on my ex-husband’s face when he told me that he simply couldn’t do it anymore. It gets more clear with every day I move forward, away from that other version of me.

So, even after a long day of sleep-deprived travel back to the place I can only feel bittersweet about, I refuse yet another drink. I make that move forward, rather than taking a step back in the wrong direction. Because for better or worse, when we leave, we can only look forward and set our sights on the hope of a better tomorrow, knowing that all we’ve really got is today.

4 thoughts on “Day 78 Alcohol Free: Leaving

  1. tarnishedsoul says:

    The Denver area is my home, so I have quite a different reaction to returning; but I have a place in Colorado that gives me pain every time I return to it. I can’t really offer advice, since I’m so new in my sobriety, but I know when I came close to 90 days before, I had gone back to drinking because I did not resist the triggers that sent me there.
    I don’t envy your emotions, but I admire your honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. runawayhappy says:

    Leaving is hard. I had to make a similar decision both about a man and about drink. I’m also a nervous flier! My strength in flying came from drinking.

    Looking forward to reading you! Hi! I’m Jenny. 🙂


    • okayishness blog says:

      Ha, my strength for flying used to come from drinking too… I think it just made me care less in general 🙂 And nice to meet you, I’m Em! Hopefully we both are on much, much better paths now that we’ve left those men & drinks behind. Looking forward to reading more from you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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