Nine months and counting

Give or take five minutes, Félix arrival each day is as predictable as the sunrise. Our five dogs gallop up to the gate at around eight-fifteen and when he arrives with his own two mutts you can hear the thundering welcome from our kitchen. He’ll dismount his bicycle, lock the gate behind him and slowly walk the five-hundred feet to our house followed by a romping, barking conga line of canines.

Mini cowboy at the fiesta. 

So it’s a bad sign, usually a serious case of la cruda—a hangover—when Félix comes in late or not at all. The worst case came last year, following the weekend of his village’s annual fiesta. Félix didn’t show up for two days, so I drove to his home late Tuesday to find out if he was all right.

I ran into Félix’ thin, weathered dad sitting on the stoop of his home who, with a sheepish smile, warned me his son was borrachito, a little drunk, a condition I’d heard the old man was well acquainted with.

Félix was far more than borrachito: His normally quiet wife apparently had exiled Felix to his parents’ to sleep off the hangover. She went to get him, and when he finally emerged Félix was wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts, a black eye and a few other bruises.

“What the hell happened to you?,” I asked.

“I fell down coming home,” he mumbled.

Félix returned to work on Wednesday morning, and sullenly and abjectly apologized and promised it would never happen again. We docked him one day’s pay.

One the eve of this year’s fiesta, with a sly half-smile, I urged Félix to take it easy at the celebrations.

He just said, “Don’t worry about it Alfredo, I haven’t had anything to drink in nine months.”

I thought it was remarkable that he was tracking his sobriety, something common at A.A. meetings.

Félix has been working for us for over seven years and the topic of his drinking and the aftermath has come up several times. I’d mentioned that Stew and I have been sober for over thirty years, which Félix at first had some trouble comprehending—that’s about as long as he’s been alive. I even mentioned that I had attended an A.A. meeting in his village. He knew about the meeting but politely dismissed the A.A. “cure” as something for weaklings, men without sufficient resolve. Not him.

A.A. club in Felix’s village.

On other occasions he volunteered stories about the ravages of alcoholism on his village and his own family. For years his dad was a down-in-the-gutter drunk who’d disappear for days at a time and ultimately quit only when he found himself too sick and broke to continue. Félix also has told me about liquor-fueled car accidents and even killings in Sosnavar, and finding, along with the usual beer cans and liquor bottles, empties of denatured alcohol scattered about, warning labels intact.

Though Félix often talks to me with the candor usually reserved for very close friends or relatives, he’s never mentioned what happened nine months ago that caused him to lay off the booze. I’m not going to ask.

Yesterday, when Félix showed up for work twenty minutes late, Stew expected the worst. Instead Félix, with a proud smile, announced he’d survived the fiesta without “any problem.”

We offered congratulations and to take him and his family out for dinner in April to celebrate his one-year anniversary. We’ll be going to Pollo Feliz, I proposed, a broiled chicken restaurant he and his family visit on very special occasions.

Félix shook my hand and gladly accepted the challenge.



4 thoughts on “Nine months and counting

  1. A timely thought: “In offering my hand to the newcomer or to someone who has relapsed, I find that my own sobriety has been recharged with indescribable gratitude and happiness.” From AA's Daily Reflections, January 17.


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