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!
So here we are, finally, back to the present. Since this blog has been more or less a journal of the past year, I encourage someone just reading for the first time to look back over the past months to get an idea of what it was like. For this post, however, I am going to focus on the miracle that was waiting for me, just around the corner. It is 365 full days later, and daily I did the four things I have talked about the past year… I prayed, I went to a meeting, I talked to another alcoholic, and I did not pick up a drink or a drug. As a result I get something today I honestly did not think I could ever do, which is stand in the front of a meeting and receive a coin that commemorates my one year of sobriety.
I have been trying to compose this post in my head for the past week, the topic being, what have I gained in recovery? The list is almost endless… healed relationships, gratitude, membership in an indescribably wonderful Fellowship, pride, clarity, connection with God, I could honestly go on and on.
So then the big question… what is at the top of the list? I think the biggest gift I have received in sobriety is a true sense of self. And I don’t mean I got myself back, I mean I got this sense of self for the first time in 43 years. Prior to this past year, I defined my life by the things that needed to change… once I lose weight, once I get my degrees, once I have an awesome profession, once I am married, once I have a child, once I have a boy and a girl, once I am able to run a mile without stopping, once I stop drinking, once I stop taking painkillers… then my life will be great. For as long as I can possibly remember, my happiness was based on a set of future conditions, and, if I was lucky enough to meet those conditions, a new future set was already in place. Which meant happiness was always just out of my reach.
Today, as a result of a year spent reflecting, and praying, and sharing, and writing, I feel different. I am at peace, right now, at 9:06 am on Sunday, January 27th. I have faith that I will be at peace for the rest of the day. If something happens to disrupt that peace, I know that something is temporary, it will pass, and I will be okay. And if the day goes completely to hell, I have the ultimate tool that I can take out and use at will: “Am I sober today? Then nothing else matters.”
365 days of continuous sobriety? Priceless.
A few follow-up’s from previous posts… my large family reunion (the one that required tons of work) was a wonderful occasion, and occurred on Saturday. Weather held out, and it was fantastic seeing family members that I generally don’t see except for this event. Two points of interest: first, I am conscious about how much more attention I pay to people when I am not drinking. If I had been partying like I did at the last reunion, the focus would have been on the next drink instead of the family surrounding me, and before you know it I would have little memory of the evening. Second, a very close cousin had a medical scare that required her to be taken to the hospital by ambulance in the evening. Because of my recovery, I:
a. Noticed that she had fallen ill
b. Was able to physically help her while we waited for the ambulance, and, most importantly,
c. Was able to f0llow the ambulance by car (trust me, not many at that party could make that claim!)
Sunday was a smaller, more immediate family gathering, and… same miracles apply. In choosing recovery, I am also choosing to be present at any given function, and actually care about the people around me. And of course, there is the added bonus of not making a fool of myself, and remembering the events in the morning!
Finally, last night, my very good friend invited me to attend the Bruce Springsteen concert with him, as a way of celebrating my success thus far. As if my recovery is not celebration enough! I had the most thoroughly enjoyable evening in recent memory… no event planning required, just show up, and have a blast! It should go without saying that the concert was superb (I am a long-time Bruce fan), he played for 3 1/2 hours straight! I feel like I did not stop laughing from the time we got into the car to head down to Philly, until the time I left my friends house after 1 in the morning. The significance of the night… that someone wanted to spend time with me, and celebrate my recovery, is something I will hold special forever.
Most important, Bruce played Jungleland…. I am so lucky!!