In April of 2011, after having been unemployed for seven months and drinking more every day, I was hired as a temp at a corporation in Richmond. I thought I was on the upswing, finally. I was trying to get some confidence back which had been decimated by unemployment. What I didn’t know was that going “back” to what I thought was a reasonable way of living was NOT in the plan the Universe had for me. That plan included my bottom coming up and hitting me in June of that same year, and my confidence and what little self-esteem I had left being knocked out from under me. On June 25th, still hung over and shaky from the previous twenty-four hours, I went to my first AA meeting with my son and picked up my white chip. I was ashamed and unsure of what the future held but I knew I had to be done with the booze and other substances. It was my choice and there was no other choice at that point.
It was a few months before I could laugh in a meeting. At first it was hard to hear others laughing in the rooms – what was so funny? But I found myself clinging to some old habits which had come earlier than the ones I was trying to get away from – those were prayer, meditation and gratitude – my spiritual journey which I had left behind years ago. Some nights the only way I could get to sleep was to lie in bed and say, “thank you”. Sometimes I didn’t specify what I was thankful for, but I knew that I was still sober and employed and had new sober friends to whom I could turn so that was enough. Thank you, thank you.
I kept going to meetings, made some not great choices but didn’t drink and kept looking for signs as to what was next. I had family and friends and work and AA. And that was just enough. When the path became clear for me to move out of a living situation that was not ideal for recovery I said “thank you” once again. I believe when we are on the right path for our lives, the Universal Power that joins us all as one makes that path clear and conspires to move us forward and to succeed. And I held on to that as my truth. Every time I was able to step forward a little I tried to remember it wasn’t just me taking the chance, but it was the Universe putting the chance there for me to take. I believe our Higher Power is Us. It is in each one of us, and around us and works with and through us. We are honored by it when we honor IT. I kept saying thank you.
I will be seven years sober this June and my number one tool for keeping grounded, and humble, positive and strong, is Gratitude. Second is truth. Speak your truth always. Sometimes it’s scary to do that and we fear judgement and maybe getting an answer we don’t want. But if it is honest and is from your deepest place of truth, the answer will be right. You might not see it immediately, but it will be right. And you will always be able to look yourself in the eye.
Over these six plus years, there have been hard things. Rubble to be cleared, relationships to be cut loose, hard decisions to be made. Not all family “issues” have been peaceful but they’ve ended up that way. We have a lot of fences to mend even when we haven’t had substance use in our lives but if those who truly love us see us doing the work, humbling ourselves yet holding our heads up and hands out in peace, what is meant to heal, heals. In the right time. Might not be in OUR time but in the right and perfect time. We keep doing the work, stay grateful and willing. It may not be easy all the time, but it is worth it.
My whole adult life my height, when measured, was 4’11”. I am sure that when I walked into that first AA meeting I was not even that tall – I was stooped in shame. After I had a couple of years of sobriety in and I had some peace and purpose in my life, I had a doctor’s appointment for a check-up. The nurse took all my vitals and asked me to stand so she could get my height. She looked at the ruler and as she looked down to record the result she said, “Five feet one inch”. Getting sober didn’t make me grow taller, just made me stand taller. That’s not a bad side effect either.