Wednesday, December 05, 2007

25 years sober, dry as a bone

Today I have been sober for 25 years. At my first AA meetings, the old men would look me up and down and dismissively grumble "little girl, I spilled more than you ever drank." It took a while, but I finally learned to respond "well if you hadn't spilled so much, you might have got here sooner." At 23 when I hit the doors of AA I was a complete mess. At 25, having tried my version of the steps for two years, I was worse.

Alcoholics Anonymous. It saved my life. I learned how to live again, relearned all of the lessons I was taught as a child but abandoned in those hazy years of excess. Thirteen years of drugs, alcohol, men, crime. That kind of messy, dangerous, ugly living wrecks the conscience and the soul and the body. The happy thing about getting sober is that I've been able to live three lives in one: my life before chemicals, the addiction years, and then the gift of living sober.

I have been in the rooms long enough to see people come in and out and in and out and then go to their funerals. I have tried to pass on this amazing gift to folks who ultimately killed themselves. The disease of alcoholism and its near constant companion, drug addiction, kills. It's easy to forget that with twenty five clean years behind me, when the memory of my own efforts to die seem vague, as if belonging to someone else.

On the beach in Mexico, Mike asked me if I ever think about drinking. I do, of course. I don't know that any drunk never thinks about it. But it's the same way I think about going to Iceland or drilling for oil in my back garden. Passing thoughts, not going to happen. He thinks about it too, at 16 years of sobriety, just wondering what it would be like now, if it could be different this time.

That's probably the weakened voice of my disease, just a whisper, a question: what would it be like if I tried it again. Could it be different? I drank or smoked or snorted or shot up or swallowed something every single day for 11 years and for another two years I tried desperately to quit. Every day I meant it, absolutely, that this day would be the end. Every single day I succumbed to the obsession, the addiction, the craving for alcohol. It will never be different for me and I know that. Still the whisper, every now and then.

Walking on the beach at Mazatlan with the sun warming our shoulders, the waves washing new patterns into the sand before us, Mike and I laughed about the absurdity of imagining that either of us could ever have champagne at dawn on the beach (my fantasy) or a cold beer in hand watching the sun set over the Pacific (his). I'm not made for it. He's not either. I'm made for the funnel mouthed gulping of cheap vodka staggering throwing up three day blackout fucking some stranger waking in a seedy motel sick and hungover and craving more kind of drinking. Champagne on the beach is someone else's life and good for them.

To drink is to die and that's just a fact of my life. It's okay, better than okay. I wouldn't trade this life I have today for anything. I had my lifetime share of alcohol and probably most of yours between the ages of 12 and 25. To not drink is to live free and happy, at peace on the inside, able to experience life as it comes, to feel things honestly, to cry when I'm sad, to rage when I'm angry, to laugh till I'm breathless and to be fully present for those precious, pinnacle moments of exquisite, perfect joy.

Today I'm grateful for second chances, for the possibility of reclamation. I'm grateful to be blessed and best of all, to know that this life I live is purely a gift. Gratitude is the best feeling of all and I am grateful, today, for 25 years of a good life.

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Anonymous tater said...

9,125 days, 219,000 hours, or 13,140,000 minutes and counting. Pretty damn impressive sunshine. I just passed the 15 year mark 2 days ago. I think we all do the what ifs from time to time, and of course the stock answer is "I definitely have another drink in me, I just don't think I have another recovery." I can stand testament to that as I struggle with re-kicking the smoking addiction. I am an addict. I don't do casual, I do full throttle. I am so very proud of you, and am ever so grateful for your voice, your acquaintance, and your charms.

December 06, 2007 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Coach said...

One day at a time, Lynette. One day at a time.

December 06, 2007 10:18 AM  
Blogger Red7Eric said...

Hooray for you, Lynette. Congratulations. What you did for yourself by getting sober you also did for others; the world would be a poorer place without you in it.

I'm sending this post to a friend today who would really appreciate it, I think. So ... in addition to congrats: thanks.

December 06, 2007 10:43 AM  
Blogger Debbi said...

I want to thank you as well, Lynette. You're a wonderful example of the Big Book in action. Congratulations on a life lived well and sober.

December 06, 2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Happy Anniversary! What a precious gift to have the richness of life.

December 06, 2007 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said it: LIFE IS A GIFT. Not a gift I appreciated any more than any other punk kid at 21. But YOU have learned that, and it shows. YOU celebrate life mightily, and labeling this post as partly "JOY" shows it. Congrats! And, I'm jealous of the WARM vacation!

December 06, 2007 12:08 PM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

taterbug, happy birthday your own self, honey. and yes, full throttle it is. minus the self destruction, full throttle is a pretty kickass way to live. you and smoking, me and food. still with our demons, but a cut above the old days.

coach, always. always. and a minute at a time. i wish i could live in the instant, that's where that peak connection comes from, the exquisite joy of being right here. oh, so new agey, but so true.

eric, thank you. that's sweet. it's a happy day.

debbi ~ thank you too, and there you are, a shining example of the BB in action as well. isn't it cool? to turn from a wreck into this?

jeff, thank you sweetie pie. that richness of life i tried to find in a bottle, hell, it's right here. who knew?

anonymous ~ i think it helps to get a little age on. appreciation is more deeply felt. it's a cliche, but youth really is wasted on the young. thank you honey.

December 06, 2007 12:20 PM  
Anonymous David in KC said...

Congratulations Lynette! A good friend has just celebrated his first year of sobriety, I'm sending him a link to this post.

Snow's falling in Kansas City, off work at 5, and at about 515 I'll toast you with a coffee as I slide out of the Starbuck's drive-thru.

December 06, 2007 12:40 PM  
Blogger totegirl said...

Wonderful. I am celebrating someone's 28th with them on New Year's Eve. You remind me a lot of her. She is seriously my ray of sunshine sometimes because she really knows how bad it can get, and look, she can still smile! What's my problem? Oh yeah, I don't really have any!

So hooray for you! Life is a gift! Glad you got the message, and glad I did too!

December 06, 2007 1:21 PM  
Blogger kusala ~ joe said...

Congratulations, Lynette!! The way you write your story is really eloquent and touching and funny at the same time. I am happy for you and the stories you share with others.

I know how strange it sounds for people who incredulously ask, "But why do you have to be totally 100% abstinent? Can't you just learn to drink moderately like "normal" people?" I myself used to think 12-steppers were ridiculously rigid, but I also sincerely understand that for so many addicts, it really is the only thing that has kept them from dying (in more ways thant one). Alcohol isn't the particular substance that makes me lose all control, and I guess I'm glad for that (some would say I'm deluding myself, but fuck them) -- but I know what the insanity and total path to death is and I really love and pray for every addict of every kind in this world.

I'm so glad our paths have crossed, I hope you know.

December 06, 2007 1:38 PM  
Blogger evilganome said...

Congratulations, sweetie! Like everyone else, I am happy to know that you've found your way and are here with us. Keep on kicking ass!

December 06, 2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous silent one said...

I always read but never leave comments...but today..I will made me cry for all the friends Ive seen that have never been able to break the addiction.

December 06, 2007 1:45 PM  
Blogger Dusty said...

This post gave me goosebumps Lynette.Congrats on 25 years, I hope you have another 25 years :)

Can I post it at Sirens?

December 06, 2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger Willym said...

Oh Lady you made me cry - mostly for joy for two lives saved.

December 06, 2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger Doralong said...

Well done my dear, and may peace be upon you for wrestling with your demons and holding them at bay- May you and Mike have many more OJ mornings on the beach together!

December 06, 2007 5:26 PM  
Blogger rodger said...

This is are beautiful..the world is beautiful for you being in it...happy, proud and sober. Congratulations to you sweet Lynette!!

December 06, 2007 9:18 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Sorry I missed your anniversary Lynette. Belated congratulation! Your story is inspiring to me. God willing, I'll be celebrating 5 years later this month. Right now I'm going through a very rough period with my sister having end-stage uterine cancer. If not for AA I know that I would not be there to help her and to provide comfort to my siblings. The program has given me a life and I am eternally grateful for that.

December 06, 2007 9:23 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

david, please pass on my congrats to your friend. that first year can be a bitch. and thanks for the toast. chilly here too. hate the cold, but feel all warm inside on this happy day.

totegirl ~ 28 on new year's eve! and people told me i was crazy for getting sober this time of year :-) recognizing that each day is a gift helps keep things in perspective, doesn't it?

me too, joe, the path thingy :-) and yes, it is unbearably rigid until the alternative becomes unlivable and then it is freedom. certainly not for everyone, just my way out of a nightmare life and there are other ways that work for other folks. i've got no quarrel with that, no longer thumping my big book as i did when i was still terrified it wasn't going to work ;-)

tony ~ i'm all spiritual and happy today. ass kicking will resume tomorrow, as will general grumpiness about the state of the nation. but today ~ bliss :-) thanks for your good wishes.

silent one ~ it is heartbreaking, i know. i can't even count the people i know who have died from this fucking disease. and why some make it out and others don't, it's a mystery and a tragedy.

dusty, thanks honey. that would be kickass, a sirens post and another 25 years both. of course.

willym ~ for some reason i've been on the verge of happy tears all day long. i haven't accomplished a thing but to play and that just seems like the right thing. thanks for your good wishes, precious man.

DL ~ yes! the OJ mornings! and with a little ginger ale with the orange juice, doesn't that almost make a mimose? ;-) i'm not up on fancy drinks, rising up from the gutter as i have, but i always wanted to be a fancy drink kind of gal.

rodger . . . thank you, honey. what a sweetheart you are.

dennis ~ god bless you. five years and through such a tough time. i'm so sorry about your sister. that is just terrible and a terrible time of year. you hang on and don't let go. i'm sure that's what she would want for you and if you're as hopeless as i am, it's the only thing that will help you get through. you can be there for her because you are sober. that is a gift. and yes, i also thank AA and that spirit for my very life. hugs, friend.


Tonight I was locking up the shop and I went to tell Mike I was leaving. He was in the restoration shop next door to the warehouse. He said "I'll go with you," and then asked me to check the lock on the back door because he had heard some noises in the alley.

I opened the back door and saw two men sitting at the end of the alley. It was very dark and I could only make out two darkened lumps, but definitely human.

I asked them what they were doing and one said "please don't call the police, we're just trying to get out of the wind." It was terribly cold here today and I've been shivering off and on all afternoon.

Two men holed up in the dead end, L-shaped alley behind my building on a frigid, damp night which is only going to get worse.

I asked them if they needed some blankets and they said that would be wonderful. I got three packing blankets out of the warehouse for each of them and asked them not to start a fire.

Then I closed and locked the door and said a prayer for them, and a thank you, that 25 years ago today I surrendered. It's a cliche, but so very true: but for the grace of the God I found in AA, that could be me.

December 06, 2007 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Tater said...

Yep. Keeping it green for you, your higher power providing you a poetic ending to an important milestone. Sometimes seems like magic, no?

December 07, 2007 4:51 AM  
Blogger LSL said...

Wonderful, wonderful post and anniversay. Good on you.

December 07, 2007 5:57 AM  
Blogger Ms. Place said...

Ah, what a wonderful post. It will answer the question to so many people who are asking: what if I just take one drink? How could that possibly hurt me?

Welcome big, Lynette. I hope you are rested! And yes, this year I am not at all into Christmas. I haven't even decorated the house. Not a twig, light, or a tree. Ah, well. Perhaps this weekend.

December 07, 2007 9:20 AM  
Anonymous ralph said...

Congratulations, Lynette. I finally kicked the remnants of my alcohol abuse 6 years ago this past October. My druggy/booze/not entirely within the bounds of the law years started at 12, by 18 I thought I was through with it, but going to clubs and staying out til dawn is not the way to stay sober. The drinking monster followed me around for far too many years. Thrilled to have lived the last 6 years with a clear (well, as clear as it can be) head. Love to 'ya.

December 07, 2007 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Father Tony said...

You strong woman, I bow to you. Congratulations. Powerfully spoken. (Hey let's have some fun. Send me a face pic and thru the magic of Photoshop I'll give you my eyebrows since you've stated your desire for them. My Christmas gift! I'll give you the option to post the result or not. Game?)

December 07, 2007 11:41 AM  
Blogger David said...

Oh, Father Tony. Life is just a big playground for you now that you're retired, isn't it?

Lynette, thanks for the continual window you provide into a world I will most likely never know. I'm glad you find joy in the rewards you've earned.

A lyric from "Into the Woods" popped into my head while typing this comment -

Just remembering you've had an "and"
when you're back to "or"
makes the "or" mean more
than it did before.

Happy Anniversary

December 07, 2007 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Travis said...

Good for you!! :) It's always great to hear about the success stories.


December 07, 2007 1:15 PM  
Anonymous TedBear said...

God I love you. What a beautiful post. Congratulations, darlin'! What a terrific achievement! Xo.

December 07, 2007 7:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Add my voice to chorus of congratulations. This was so beautiful to read--you have so much to be proud of.

December 08, 2007 10:15 AM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

Lynette. I'm so glad that you are here and who you are to write this, and share it. Happy Anniversary, and a big hell yeah to you, girl.

December 09, 2007 6:07 PM  
Anonymous ewe said...

That is so wonderful. I am sure you have a nice life built up because of it and I hope Tater knows that most of us never lost friend because of smoking cigarettes. A lapse in smoking is not a relapse in sobriety. Happy Anniversary to a great today.

December 09, 2007 7:47 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

tater . . . it is magic. yes. 100%.

ms. place ~ thank you, sweetie. just one drink . . . . not a dream, and certainly not a reality, but it's so seductive. just one. just like everyone else. that is definitely the disease talking ;-) not into christmas this year. no decor. nothing. sigh. just want it to be warm. just want to be on the beach again.

ralph ~ congratulations on six years. that's the hardest time, i think. those first several years. it's been pretty smooth sailing for me for a long time now. hope it just gets better and better for you too.

padre ~ you're a sweet thing. i have sent you my face, as you well know. what a gift! your magnificent brows. i'm all adither with anticipation.

david, i love that little ditty. thank you for that.

travis! thank you! yay! :-)

teddybear ~ it's mutual, honey, and thank you. and michael, MC and ewe, thank you so much for your good wishes. it's a good life.

December 09, 2007 8:18 PM  
Blogger Da Nator said...

Congratulations, honey. You have earned your happy life a thousand times over.

December 10, 2007 7:30 AM  
Blogger Ms. Place said...

Oh, my. Did I write welcome big? Back, of course. I think of you as both Lynette and Big Ass Belle, although I suspect your ass has been getting smaller with all that exercise. Sorry for the Freudian slip!

I've gotten as far as plunking three lights in the window for Christmas decoration. How's that for not feeling the spirit of Christmas?

December 10, 2007 7:33 AM  
Blogger Stash said...

Congratulations, darling.

My second stepfather, Michael, died of a heart attack caused in part from his diabetes [which in turn was caused in part by his smoking.] He quit in 1990, shortly after he married my mother. Nary a day goes by where I wonder what life might be like for Mom had he quit earlier.

All the best to you for the years to come.

December 10, 2007 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

W.H. Auden wrote of "unexpected blessing[s] in a lucky life", and though he was writing about a special young man, he could easily have written it about your journey. Good for you, and good for us. Oklahoma needs more like you.

Madison, WI

December 10, 2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger Tater said...

Hey honey, some changes to my site are brewing and am switching to blogger...

December 11, 2007 8:47 AM  
Blogger Dusty said...


You seem like a very intelligent man. Why on earth would you switch to Blogger?

I know your comment isn't addressed to moi, but dude..don't do it! Go to WordPress if you must change.

December 11, 2007 9:04 AM  
Anonymous tater said...

I will look into it Dusty! Is it easier?

December 11, 2007 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Michele said...

Lynette! I went to check on you re: deadly ice storm and found this beautiful post ... which made me reach for the tissue box.

Thank you and congratulations. We have many friends and family who are on this journey.

December 11, 2007 11:30 AM  
Anonymous said...

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December 11, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger Dusty said...


As you know Google owns Blogger, and as such, isn't really our friend.You won't really be anonymous on blogger, its easy as hell to find someone if your looking for them, by merely doing a blog search on Google.

Blogger is down regularly for starters and you have no one to talk to if your having problems..they only have a Forum where you post a question and usually wait weeks for answer, if you get one at all.

They don't have enough templates to choose from, whereas WordPress is an open source platform that has thousands of templates and plug-in's to choose from.

You can email me if you want with specfic questions Tater and I will be happy to help you. Not that I am an all-knowing bitch..but I use both platforms and would never suggest that anyone use Blogger.

On the Sirens Chronicles legal page, there is an email form you can use to contact me. I will answer you immediately and you will then have my email to converse further if you want to.

December 11, 2007 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Fredericka said...

I, too, came over to check on how you're faring with the storm and found this wonderful post. AA saved my life (and sanity), too.

Hope you're doing okay in this weather!

December 11, 2007 7:45 PM  
Blogger here today, gone tomorrow said...

Congratulations, lynette.

December 12, 2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

Hey Lynette -- just wanted to leave some good thoughts for you during this storm. I know your power is out, but know that lots of folks are thinking of you. Hang in there, sweets...

December 12, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Amazing story. Amazing strength. I have so many relatives who've died of the drink or the things it made them do.

December 12, 2007 8:51 PM  
Blogger Willym said...

Lynette I know you won't probably be able to read this for a day or two - once the power returns I'm sure you'll have other more pressing things. Just want you to know that Laurent and I are thinking of you, Mike and the babes. I only wish there was more we could do.

December 13, 2007 1:42 AM  
Blogger kusala ~ joe said...

Lynette, hope you're all staying warm and SAFE through all the recent weather woes. We know it's partly that and partly that you're probably busier than an elf at this time of year. Look forward to reading more of your nourishing commentary soon!

December 14, 2007 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your sobriety is vivid and inviting. I'm struggling, but thanks.


December 21, 2007 12:15 AM  

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