A couple of weeks ago I reached another sobriety milestone. Being clean and sober is not something I'd say that I take tremendous pride in. I'm leery of pride. I am very happy about my sobriety and glad that I got clean when I did --weeks before the missus found out she was pregnant and as I was embarking on my teaching career. I feel uncomfortable at AA meetings when people applaud my "birthday." It's a nice way to recognize people but I don't want to do an end zone dance about it. One of the most difficult concepts I've wrestled with in my life is humility. Looking back on your drinking and using years are a good recipe for humility, but it's best not to pump your fists in the air about keeping off the booze. After all it's a one-day-at-a-time thing. You've got to stay sober that day, it's a constant work in progress. Humility is more important than pride.
A lot of people talk about the miracle of their sobriety. I don't think staying sober a day at a time is a miracle. It's just what you do and the way to do is pretty simple: go to meetings, pay attention, talk to people, don't pick up that first drink, pray if you're into it (not me), meditate if your into it (me), do service and, as soon as you can, find a life that is more than just staying sober. Sobriety is not an end, it's a road to live a better life for people who have damaged some of their time on earth by getting very high very often. There's no miracle in it.
I have experienced a miracle however. Thirty one years ago after a two day drunken debauch I woke up and my first thought was that I had a problem. The wife, unsurprisingly, had been upset with my drunken state and slept on the sofa. I got out of bed and sat on the end of the sofa. She sat up. I said, "I've got a problem." Just like that. Mind you, I had never for one second prior to that morning entertained the notion that my drinking or drug use was excessive. When you're a social drunkard you can always point to other people and say, "now that guy drinks too much." Finding someone who uses more than you or who you think does, is easy. But me? I was fine. Over the years I've been questioned about this story. Surely, a person will say, the idea must have been planted by someone, or you had to have considered the possibility. Interestingly, none of the people who question my story are themselves in recovery. Folks who get clean and sober understand that sometimes, as we say, the bolt of lightening strikes.
That bolt was fortuitous for me because as previously mentioned I was eight months away from being a father. Managing that while imbibing and snorting would have been a disaster, not that my wife would have allowed it. As a result of my getting clean I was able to be a father to not just one but two daughters who today are successful grown women.
No, I don't miss drinking. Not anymore. There were times that I thought the only way to manage the world was though heavy doses of alcohol. Having given that up I faced something more daunting than simply not drinking, managing the world completely sober. It was a whole new way of life. I had relied on getting high to manage the pain I still suffered as an abuse survivor and controlling my panic attacks and blunting my depression. Absent booze, navigating the world was difficult. Fortunately I was busy, first with a pregnant wife, then with a baby and the whole time with my new career. It was sink or swim and through AA I swam. Awkwardly at first but I managed.
Drinking had been the be all and end all of my life. Drinking was parties, music, sex, sports, holidays, Summer, Winter, Autumn, Spring a means of celebrating a means of drowning sorrow a means of escape, a way of life. One function of drinking is how it allows one to face life's grim realties. You can ponder mortality or discuss it with others when anesthetized by liquor. An existential crisis while high is easily blunted by getting higher. Of course, getting higher and higher is rather the point for an addict. Too much is never enough. There is no end, there is always more. I spent years drinking towards the perfect evening. Somehow this night would reach the stratosphere. There was some nebulous perfect high that could be attained, perhaps containing incredible sex, great insights, tremendous belly laughs, unparalleled excitement. One just had to keep at it, this dance with god was there somewhere.
Yes, I committed any number of truly stupid actions while high. I led women on, I hurt feelings, I broke things, I stole, I vandalized, I lied, I cheated, I made a bloody damn fool of myself. And I suffered some truly hellacious hangovers. All of this was collateral damage in the fight to be high, higher and highest. It was a stupid way to live, but the only way I knew. Truly it kept me sane, in the face of the horrors of my childhood and my crippling panic attacks, liquor allowed me some comfort and was a social lubricant without which I would never have made the scores of friends I did in my youth. But the cure for my ails took over and needed to be stopped. I'm a lucky man.
Being sober has not been a panacea. It has, however, been a truer path to enlightenment, understanding and coming to terms with who I am and what I've gone through. Sobriety does not make one perfect but it allows the pursuit of progress (perfection being unattainable). I am a work in progress. I am bi polar and suffer from depression but I live through it on life's terms, accepting the things I cannot change and trying desperately to change the things I can. I hope for serenity and honesty and courage, but do not ascribe those characteristics to myself. I'm just doing what I can today.
I'm really glad for today.