I get a little irritated with people who take their recovery for granted.
There, I said it. It’s not a very politically correct point of view, but I’m not in this to win a Humanitarian of the Year award. I’m in this to stay alive, and what’s even more important is that while I’m aliving, I plan on doing it with all the aliveness available to me in every given moment. You know how some people just wrap their fist around a tube of toothpaste and squeeze from the middle, and other people scrape a straight edge up the length of the tube and stick the bristles of their toothbrush down into the neck to get every last smear of paste? Today I try to live more like that guy. Since I’ve gone to all the trouble of getting sober, I make a daily effort to grab life by the bowling balls and live the crap out of it.
There was a time not terribly long ago when I was so sick, depressed and defeated, when everything was so undeniably broken, that I’d be driving to work on windy back roads, shaking and moaning and using my connection to God to pray that the person driving toward me was sending an angry text to a deadbeat ex-husband and would cross the yellow line to end my misery. I was that cavalier about a whole bunch of lives then. In fact, I was rather flippant about the fact that despite all the extraordinary gifts that came factory installed in this unique life I’d been blessed with, the only talent I was exercising with any skill was discovering clever nooks and crannies in which to hide my bottles.
Then I was given the most spectacular gift – the will to live a better life than I had demonstrated I was capable of living in the previous few years. We’ve all received gifts that we have no idea what to do with (mine usually come from my mother in law) and we smile, say thank you, and clear off some space on a shelf in the back of the closet. The gift of true sobriety, however, is the kind you want to treasure like a Ming vase and display proudly under expertly installed high-wattage spotlights.
If God himself, in whatever incarnation you perceive such a being, showed up on your doorstep, latte in one hand, and a giant bedazzled box of wonder in the other, and he told you that inside was a golden key that would unlock the door to pure emotional freedom, you’d take it right? Please tell me that you’d snatch that box up, usher him right to the most comfortable chair you own and give him a foot massage while you expressed your gratitude using all the flowery nuance of language at your disposal.
Sobriety is that kind of gift and I beg of you to marvel at it with the kind of wonder reserved for newborns and pigs that can talk—like you may never again have the privilege of seeing anything so jaw-droppingly remarkable in your entire life.
It’s so easy to get up in our heads about what’s going wrong today and fall back into destructive patterns of coping. When I’m overwhelmed, angry, or living in fear, my addiction tends to come out sideways – I overeat, overshop, get impatient, snap at my loved ones, isolate, and start to romance a drink as my only solution to this temporary thing I’m feeling. That’s the danger zone – the place where my built-in forgetter tries to tell me that maybe things weren’t actually so bad before, that if I slipped I could always get right back up, and that this sobriety gig is just Too. Damned. Hard. And then I remember. Thank God, I remember.
Gratitude for all of it.
When life gets lifey, which it will with regularity, and you feel like the only way to manage a situation, a person, or an emotion, is to drink or use, I urge you to get out a piece of paper (your notes app will due nicely in a pinch) and make a quick gratitude list. No matter how scratchy things feel, you can always, ALWAYS come up with 3 things to be grateful for. There were days when the very best I could come up with were “water, toothpaste, and salt,” but if there was even the tiniest thing to appreciate, it gave me hope. Get some things on your list. A clean place to take a shower, your heart beating, the nicotine patch, your children’s health, warm socks, arms and legs that work, not having allergies, a buy one-get one free sale on hot dogs, pink highlighters, the fact that the next door neighbor’s dog finally stopped barking, seeing in color, mail that isn’t stamped “past due,” or how about the fact that you’re still freaking alive, and because of that one simple truth, you have a God-given invitation to create the life of your dreams.
I’m grateful for my sobriety because it allows me to be and do anything I can dream of because my dreamer has been cleared of all the debris that was blocking my connection to a life of contentment when I was using. This gift of sobriety allows me to tap into a source of higher vibrational energy and maintain an open channel of communication with a power greater than myself, which is awesome because my own power was simply driving me to the liquor store a few times a day. Sobriety allows me to cultivate honest, deeply meaningful relationships with people today. It means that today I remember your name, and your story, and something special about you, and carry a piece of you with me in my thoughts, whereas before I was too preoccupied to make space for that kind of information.
My sobriety is a blank check to clear the wreckage of my past and use my future to inspire others find the joy in their own recovery. For that I am eternally, unapologetically grateful.