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.
Labels: alcoholics anonymous, alcoholism, joy, sobriety