Since going sober sixteen months ago, I’ve dreaded Friday nights and the party mindset that comes with the weekend. But recently, I decided to change my perspective. I took my 12-year-old son David to the public pool, and we spent the early evening redefining “Happy Hour.” I joined him on the long twisty-turny slide, and I followed him up for a turn on the high dive.
With my toes over the edge, I looked out over the turquoise water and families of all colors who’d come to swim in it. Looking down, though, my brain went haywire. What follows is the 15-second reel that played inside my head before I jumped…
This is really high. I don’t think I can do it. But I can’t turn around and go back down. How humiliating. I’m 50 years old. I’ve seen far scarier things. I saw Greg Louganis hit his head on the high dive in Seoul. He was okay. I watched my father die a slow miserable death from Alzheimer’s. Not okay. I’ve faced the murder of a friend, even faced the murderer. Then, the suicide of a sibling. I faced my own drinking problem head on, in the desert of Abu Dhabi no less. This board is nothing in the scheme of things, yet somehow everything is riding on it. David is waiting for me by the ladder. He just jumped. A big smile on his face. I hope I don’t look scared, or pathetic. What’s the worst that could happen? My ears burst from the impact? That would be good because I have two little pools of water stuck in my inner ear. They drive me crazy. Sloshing about. Probably just one drop in each canal. An ENT said there was nothing in there, when I asked. He’s wrong. I spent my whole youth in a swimming pool. Those drops are the residual of that life. Maybe I don’t want them to be gone yet. Proof of my champion swimmer history lives in these ear drums. Man I used to do double back flips off the high dive at my club pool back in the ‘70s. Fearless then. Okay, I’ve got to jump now. Screw my eardrums. It’s sort of dizzying up here, jutting out over the Earth. I wish I could hold onto something. Why does the railing end about five feet before the end of the board? We need more things to hold onto when stuff is falling away. Even my brain cells should have little guard rails. My head feels more confused than it should be right now. Wobbly, just like this board. I hope it’s not the initial signs of Alzheimer’s. One of the first things my dad lost was his sense of place in space. Proprioception. When I drop, I fear my head will feel like it’s flying off into the wild blue yonder. Is there such a thing as diving board sickness? Like car sickness? Maybe that’s what I have. I never had it at David’s age. Twelve. What do people see looking up here at me? A poor frumpy lady who probably had a better body in her reckless youth? Not a former Olympic contender or man-eater nymph, two ways I used to see myself. I should just go, let my jiggly skin jiggle all the way down until the splash cover me up. I can feel the kids waiting in behind me getting antsy. There’s only one way out. Down.
I popped up, from the deep end. David was beaming and screaming, “Great job, Mom!” The rush of adrenaline felt incredible. A small feat, but a huge relief.
I’ve finally beaten Friday night at its own game. Jumping into liquids is far more exhilarating than drinking down copious amounts. Sixteen months ago, I was drowning from the inside out. The high dive catapulted me into the exact moment I’ve been working toward.
A fulcrum between then and now.