painting [him] to the senses

I’ve been sober almost two years and I’ve probably had a drinking dream a half dozen times. These episodes have a similar pattern; gradually I realize I’ve been drinking, having no idea how I started. I discover a glass in my hand and realize I’ve only had a little. I know I must stop, but I feel I’ve made a grave mistake. The sudden onset of hopelessness and shame is profound.

In last night’s dream, I was drinking some form of moonshine – undoubtably this was influenced by the episode of “Archer” we were watching last night. But in the dream this moonshine tasted far better than any liquor really tastes – it tasted of what we imagine these libations to taste like. Something out of this world, intoxicating yet poison, delicious poison. It’s the mouth-feel of that first drink, the one we chase. That first hit at the end of the day, before that moment when the futility strikes like a tuning fork in our heart. That sense, however slight, however we try to push our knowledge away: the sameness, the chase, the craving and the revulsion, that sense of drowning. The cycle of grasping and flight and gasping for air and succumbing.

Just because I don’t have to live that way doesn’t mean I don’t remember how it works.

But: it is, in this case, after all, just a dream. An illusion. I wake up and know I’m still clean and sober and I feel such a calm gratitude. I make an offering at my little shrine and get on my knees and thank the Universe and submit myself to its care, once again.


My son is getting fitted for braces on the 10th of next month. I have feels about this. I like his messed-up teeth and I think he looks wonderful with them. As a young person I didn’t receive orthodontia, nor my husband, so braces are a new territory for us. The bill, well all I can say is this first round of treatment will be paid off before he needs more. What else can I do? It is satisfying to have priorities. I simply care for the children as best I can, no matter what.

But: my son isn’t worried. While we wait for the technician to prepare the equipment to take a tooth mold, Nels looks at me. “So I need braces?” he asks in surprise. I nod and his eyes darken and his brows knit, and he says, “Bring it on.”

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

Nels, Initial Consultation For Orthodontia

6 thoughts on “painting [him] to the senses

  1. My daughter got braces about a month ago and my son will probably get them this summer. For my son, it’s because one of his adult teeth went renegade and grew sideways and hasn’t descended. My daughter has a large overbite. I’m pretty conflicted about it. I feel a little bit like this is getting a girl a nose job so she can look more acceptable and find a husband. I think they look great, obviously, but one can’t help seeing children through the eyes of love. In the end they made their decisions on their own. I tried to be as honest as possible about why they might want to consider it now vs. later or not at all. They were both most influenced by speaking to my brother who refused braces as a kid, but has them now, in his mid-thirties. He was glad not to have been forced when he was a kid, felt normal/attractive through dating and getting married, but finally got sick of having so much trouble cleaning his teeth.

    This got so long! Anyway, I think it’s really good for kids to make real decisions for themselves with adult support, but not coercion.

  2. @Ann
    Thank you for your thoughts on braces. I think I felt a little less conflicted than you, as I’d accepted that unless I was going to self-educate on orthodontics, I would take the word of the orthodontist who said this wasn’t just a cosmetic issue but one for Nels’ future dental health. Like you, at this age the kids in our family make their own decisions about their medical care. This is very rare in your average US family, so I hope you give yourself credit for that.

  3. i quit smoking 11 years ago and still have dreams every once in a while where i find myself smoking and can’t figure out why i’m doing it, how many i’ve smoked, and stress out that i’m doing it at all. every time i wonder when the dreams will stop their periodic appearances.

  4. @s*
    Coincidentally, today is my “quitting smoking” anniversary. EXCEPT since that day, I’ve smoked five cigarettes, so I guess I didn’t really quit.

    Anyway, that wasn’t relevant.

    Congrats on actually quitting. That is a very big deal. You are bad-ass.

  5. thanks. takes one to know one, kelly. (is it wrong that every time i think your name in my head, i think “kelly goddamn hogaboom”?) i don’t think i’d have the strength to smoke one periodically. also, i think it would be awful all over again. (learning to smoke was no peach.) luckily, i’m never consciously tempted. i think the dreams about smoking are more a crisis of feeling like i have no control over my life. i used to dream that my teeth were falling out. now i just dream i’ve been smoking.
    coincidences might be relevant, no? i like them, at any rate.

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