“Slowly, with many lost days, I come back to life.”
Suzanne Collins – Mockingjay
I woke up this morning with a clear head and an unashamed heart. My first act, before I even opened my eyes, was to say,
I say that a lot lately.
A year ago today, I walked into a church with absolutely no hope of getting sober. None. I honestly wasn’t going there to get sober. I was going there because every single person in my life was upset with me. They all wanted me to try. I knew I’d been trying all day, every day, all of the days to get a handle on my drinking. Trying to control it was my full-time job. I was failing spectacularly, but it was certainly not for lack of effort. I figured at least if I went to a meeting it would finally LOOK like I was trying from the outside.
I had been trying for so long. I had no more try left in me. I was so unbelievably tired.
“… sometimes you count the days, sometimes you weigh them.”
Elizabeth Gilbert – eat pray love
A year ago today, I texted a friend. I said, “I’m going to my first meeting.” She replied, “What kind of meeting?” I said, “AA. I’m terrified.” She said, “Don’t u dare be afraid. That’s the one place I’m not afraid. Those are our people.”
I told her I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it. She said, “Just promise yourself to go and sit. That’s all u have to do.”
A year ago today, I decided I could probably sit in a room for an hour. Maybe.
A year ago today, I walked in just minutes before the meeting started, staring down at my phone, willing no one to talk to me. My head and heart were both pounding, my hands were shaking.
A year ago today, a woman swooped down on me and introduced herself. She invited me to sit next to her. She was chairing the meeting, as it turns out. So much for fading into the woodwork.
A year ago today, I hated her guts.
A year ago today, I sat around some tables while people introduced themselves.
A year ago today, I said out loud for the first time, My name is Laura and I’m an alcoholic. Then I burst into tears.
I don’t remember a lot about that meeting. Like my first time at hot yoga, my sole intention was to stay in the room and not throw up. I remember everyone seemed really happy. When you are in despair hope and joy are unbearable. It seemed fake. I was not buying what they were selling.
A year ago today, that same woman insisted I give her my number. The next morning she set me an emoji-laden text and asked me when I was going to my next meeting. Because I am a people pleaser- something else I am working on- I didn’t want to disappoint her. I Googled and found another meeting so the swooper would be happy.
If I had the opportunity to tweak the Beatitudes, I would add,
“Blessed are the swoopers”
A year go tomorrow, I went to my first women’s meeting and found my tribe. I don’t remember who it was and I don’t remember what she said, but someone shared with such raw vulnerability and I remember having the thought- “OH. We’re telling the TRUTH here.” It was like breathing pure oxygen after holding my breath for my entire life.
My tribe, who I now cannot imagine my life without, is full of brave, brilliant, outrageous, wildly funny, strong, tender, generous women. I see mercy, grace, and forgiveness in action every single day. It’s faith with its work boots on. It is what church is supposed to be.
You know what we say when someone comes back to the rooms after they ‘go out’ and fall off the wagon? Every time? Even if it’s over and over again? The same two words. “Welcome back.”
If the price of admission to this club of gloriously kind rascals is not drinking, it’s a price I’ll enthusiastically pay all day, every day, all the days, for the rest of my life.
I tell you what, I cannot believe I made it a year. That’s both remarkable and unremarkable simultaneously. It’s remarkable in the sense that I did not for one second believe I could do it. It is unremarkable in that these 365 days do not do one single thing to guarantee me tomorrow.
I thought sobriety was something you achieve, but it isn’t. That sort of sucks, but I have learned to accept it as a thing I cannot change. That’s kind of a thing, as it turns out.
It’s a practice, like yoga. You never have it in the bag. You never win. You never cross the finish line.
You get up every day and do the work. You tell the truth. You ask for help, and you help when asked. It is as simple and hard as drinking was easy and complicated. I remember thinking in the beginning, “I cannot believe I have to do this every day.” Now I cannot believe I GET to do it every day. I go to a meeting 6 days a week. I look forward to them. I laugh more than I cry.
I’ve had a number of people say that sobriety seems to have come easily to me, maybe because once I stopped I stayed stopped. So far.
Hear me when I say this- I’ve earned every day of my sobriety. I fought for every minute of it and I guard it like a junkyard dog. It’s far and away the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I’ve learned to put my sobriety first before every other person, place, or thing in my life- because I know in my bones if I’m not sober I’ll lose everything else anyway.
I wake up most mornings awash in gratitude for the opportunity to live differently and to mend what I broke. I catch glimpses of myself in mirrors or see myself in photos and I think I finally look like me. I look happy, I think.
Who, I ask you, is luckier than me?
If you are struggling with addiction and need help, you can find local AA and NA easily.
As my wise, lovely friend advised,
“Just go and sit.”
That really is all you have to do on Day One. Just go and sit. And listen.
Love you so.
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