Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. –Alcoholics Anonymous
I had a weird past few days. Too much to explain in detail, but different elements of it have left me in a less than optimal state of mind. Of particular note was Easter Sunday. In one morning, I had three separate incidents that reminded me of the wreckage of my past. Since I have never been one to discount coincidences, I assume that these are signs that I need to do something, but each of my follow-up actions that day did not bring the serenity for which I was searching (and that, by the way, would be an understatement).
So now it is Monday morning, and I am thinking… okay, something’s gotta give here. I am getting more and more agitated, and I really have nothing concrete on which to blame the agitation. It’s just stupid… you know that feeling? When you’re in a turmoil over absolutely nothing (and a big NO to the unspoken question, it is NOT hormonal)?
So I do what I am taught, and I share about it in my Monday meeting. Which works out beautifully, since I am the chair of the meeting, so I can take the meeting hostage with my baloney (just kidding, sort of). As luck would have it, there were only two other attendees at this meeting, which would normally sadden me, but worked out miraculously today, so I could go into a little more detail about my (non) problems.
Short story long, a woman whose sobriety I admire immensely told me the line above is one she has held dear in her 28 years of recovery. I had actually never heard it before (or, at least, never retained it). She said it took her some time to comprehend it, but it helps her to remember that, in recovery, her past is actually an asset, and can help her to stay grounded, as well as grateful, today.
So I thought back to the actual incidents of Sunday morning, and what specific memories they brought to mind. I also remembered something else big that happened over the past 5 days. I was asked to speak to a group of outpatient rehab clients, and a woman approached me and told me she was going through a lot of the turmoil that I had mentioned in my story. I gave her my number, and she texted me over the weekend… she wants what I have and would I be willing to sponsor her? I was replying to her Sunday morning when incident number one took place (found some old text messages that were less than sentimental between my husband and me during our separation period).
Bingo? Maybe I was looking at these troubling reminders in the wrong framework. Maybe I am reminded of the past so that I may have the appropriate empathy for the people God is putting in my life. It makes sense, but I’m still not having the lightbulb moment, at least not yet. That’s the trouble with signs… sometimes you are just not sure exactly where they are directing you. I thought I had it Sunday, I absolutely did not, but maybe I have it right this time. I spent the rest of the day getting out of my head, and trying to be of service to others, again as I was taught to do. Not surprisingly, it helped immensely, and I am feeling a lot better.
Having the faith that the lightbulb will go off, sooner or later, is a miracle. Also, gratitude for a beautiful Easter break with the kids, made all the more beautiful by the fact that it is over tonight!
I can already hear my husband challenging the title of this post, he would argue that my next post should be labeled the final chapter, but for me, this is the finale, God willing, in terms of bottoming out.
Okay, quick summary of the past three days… for 8-9 months, I had been attempting recovery, with absolutely zero success (if you are just joining this story, read back a few posts to Chapter 1). And each turning point during that time took me lower and lower, and feeling more and more hopeless. Where we last left off, I had been struggling with marital problems, frustration and/or outright anger from family and friends, multiple failed rehab treatments, failed attempts with AA, stepwork, sponsors, and on top of it all, the question mark of legal consequences.
And still I continued my addiction.
My final day was actually this day (Friday), but the date was January 26, 2012. The day started like any other. I attempted to pray, but deep down knew that I would get up, and go right back to what I knew… addictive behavior. I could retrace every step of that day, but I’m not sure it would serve much purpose. I will, however, recount what has become for me the critical moment. I had a thought so clear that I actually said it out loud, to myself, in the car: “There was not one part of this day that was fun.”
Anyone reading who is an addict knows that after a time, your drug of choice becomes totally ineffective, and what you are in fact doing is chasing the high that hasn’t really happened for a long time. By this point in my addiction, I really had no pleasant physical reaction at all, so of course the question becomes, then why do it? That question is already answered in the minds of every addict reading this, and will never be answered to the satisfaction of every non-addict. The ultimate answer: I do it because I am an addict.
Back to the story: so at the time I did not know I was uttering profound words, but in fact I was, because that was my last day of using a mind-altering substance. The day continued, and I actually had plans that evening to go out with some friends. During the car ride to the restaurant I spoke with my husband, and got a sense that something was amiss, but had no idea what it could be. I got home later that evening, and waiting for me was a card and a dozen roses… it was the anniversary of our first date. He remembered, I did not. And while there were these beautiful things waiting for me, my husband’s mood was not one of them. I tried to pry it out of him, but he would not budge…. nothing was wrong, he said.
Went to bed, next day, the icy silence continued. I tried multiple times to figure out the problem, but to no avail. This is technically day 1 of sobriety, but the ramifications of my behavior are still to come.
My final bottom was more or less like an airplane hitting a runway as it is attempting to come to a stop… a series of bumps, and then… silence.
Bump: Sunday morning, I wake up, my husband is already out of bed. He comes into the room, I ask, for perhaps the 1,000th time that weekend, can you please tell me what’s wrong. He sits down on the bed, and lays it out very simply: he cannot do this anymore, I need to leave the house, immediately. He will drive me to my Mom‘s, but that is it. If I don’t go, he will make a scene in front of the kids, and cause irreparable damage to my relationship with them. He takes my phone, my keys, almost everything out of my wallet, and drives me away from my home.
Bump: I am dropped off, like a bag of garbage, at my Mom’s house. Both siblings that live there and my Mother cannot even look at me, they are so angry, hurt, and disappointed.
Bump: The next day, I have an already scheduled lawyer’s visit, at which point I am told that there seems to be no other alternative but jail time for my legal consequences.
Bump: The next day, I must report to a police station to make all the charges official. My picture is taken, I am finger printed, just like you see on TV.
And then… silence. And there I sat, my life in ruins, with very little idea of how I ever got to this place.
I’d like to add, at this point, that writing these posts for the past three days has been so much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Which is good, because I never would have done it if I had known how difficult it would be. Mainly, I have discovered in the past few days that I am, at heart, an optimistic, hopeful person, and writing about such dire things really goes against my grain. But if my story has touched even one person, and helped them in some way, then it is more than worth it.
I will conclude with what has become the beginning of my road to recovery. The first night that I stayed at my Mom’s, I could not sleep to save my life. As light was not even breaking on that next day, I got out of bed, dropped to my knees, and I prayed like I have never prayed before. I believe, and often share, that acceptance of my disease came at that moment, and I got the answer that carried me through the next year of my life. I need to do 4 things that day, and every day thereafter: pray, go to a meeting, talk to another addict, and those three will keep me from the fourth, which is not pick up a drink or drug. And I allowed myself the luxury of having only those 4 things on my “to-do” list for each and every day: as long as I do those things, I have had a wildly successful day.
And that is where the next story begins…
If you are a Catholic, you will appreciate this one. I thought that the past 3 days were much like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday… full of sadness, but also of hope for Easter Sunday. And then I laughed out loud at the audacity of comparing myself to Jesus Christ!
Yesterday was Easter, which means family time, on both small-scale and large. Small scale, meaning watching the kids enjoy their Easter baskets, making a special family breakfast, and attending an overpopulated mass, and large-scale, meaning big family party, this holiday with my side of the family.
A big day for me personally, because it was the first family function where everyone knew that I am in recovery. In fact, I planned to leave the party for my daily meeting in the middle of the party. Having logged a little bit of recovery time, I believe I went into this party much calmer than I would have prior to working on myself… the old me would have lost sleep over what people were thinking, and how they were going to treat me, and what I was going to say to them, etc… the “revised” me had a little trepidation about seeing certain people for the first time, but for the most part I truly felt blessed to be attending this function with this family.
Because, and I say this with no prejudice at all, I have, hands down, the best family in the universe. I thank God for them every single day, I am so blessed. There is no family that enjoys each other more than we do.
So for the most part, I felt lucky to get to spend time with my family. Of course, with any large group, there are one or two people who made me nervous, I worried a little how they might react to me, what they might say, questions they might ask. I was also very uncomfortable coming back into the party after my meeting, thinking that it would feel awkward to be returning from AA to a function where everyone is drinking.
You can probably guess what actually happened… the party was fantastic, every single person was wonderful to be around, no apparent judgment was made. Best of all, no one even realized that I had left the party for an hour. This all proves what I have known all along, but continually need to remind myself… what goes on in my head is in no way indicative of reality, and I must learn to stop projecting my thoughts and feelings onto others. All it does is waste energy and time, and I absolutely have better things to do!