While we have been celebrating the birth of a grandchild (March) and the Birkey’s new house (May), a quieter event has been developing in our family that is definitely something to celebrate: This weekend marks a milestone in Johnny’s journey of living without alcohol. It has been six months since he had his last drink.
Although we were certainly aware of his increasing habit of drinking and hoped for change, this has come as a surprise both to us and to him. He was sick for a few days in mid-February. When he started to feel better, he realized he’d already gone through the first effects of withdrawal so he decided he would “give up alcohol for Lent.” As the days progressed he started realizing that he slept better and felt better. He also realized that when he had crises, he could turn them around more quickly without alcohol in his system. (I used to call it throwing gasoline on a fire.) Days, weeks and now six months have gone by and he is committed to continuing.
This has been a hard year for everyone but especially difficult for someone like Johnny. 2019, the year we “kicked him out”–was hard, but he managed to work for almost a full year and was learning to live independently. A broken foot complicated things, but he still managed to hobble into work and was just given the go-ahead to return to normal physical activities (including tap) when Covid hit. He was staying with us at the time and continued to do so through the first uncertain months of the pandemic. By mid-summer, we moved him into an apartment, but allowed for a gradual transition, especially after he re-injured his foot, requiring another 12 weeks on crutches. Alcohol became part of his daily routine for managing anxiety and sleep problems.
This is just one part of a complex story, one good decision, made daily at first, with a growing commitment to a healthier life (and relationships.) It is definitely worth celebrating.*
*Most of this was written last May when he celebrated his three-month anniversary. We can’t believe another three months have flown by. He has something else to celebrate this month as he returns to school, hoping to complete his college career started so many years ago. He plans to major in Special Education or Special Populations at Northern Illinois University, starting next week. Hopefully he will work part-time on campus to help pay his other bills. He still has his apartment, right next to I-88 where he can begin the 40 minute commute.