So my treatment is coming to a close…a month in intensive outpatient. It has been a blast. No really. In the same way a hard job is rewarding, or better, a colon cleanse is …well, cleansing. I feel my insides have been scrubbed clean. For now. The whole 12-step process is cyclical and won’t be confined to 4 weeks. Each day I wake up, I’m bound to my express my gratitude for the next 24 hours of life I’ve been given. This is my goodbye letter to Skip, Gerry, Paul, Brad, Josh, Jen, Kat, Ross, Wes, Ashley , Wesley and Laine.
I’ve met people I like, and some I will worry about. I’ve watched good counselors in action. For another counselor, this has been stimulating and interesting and inspirational. But what I’m going to cherish forever, are the people I will never forget. Their stories. The ones they tell themselves to either stay addicted or get sober and stay that way. I spend an ugly amount of time imagining these people, their lives, their dreams, their secrets and their sickness. I’ve never had the opportunity to be in a room for 3 hrs /3 times a week with anyone. Ever. That is treatment. That is recovery. The telling of my story to another, and listening with compassion as they tell me their story. We not only share and listen, we bare our souls through our honesty. Working a 12-Step program in a small group of addicts/alcoholics defines the word “intense”; so no wonder the program is called “Intensive Outpatient”. Yet the stranger sitting next to me, is no stranger at all but a very kindred spirit. Us alcoholics, we know one another. Recognize and empathize familiar character “defects” as the Big Book calls our neuroses, our fears, our shame and our defense mechanisms. My group has opened me up more than I could have managed on my own. I’ve looked into their faces, into eyes that are hurting, lying, feeling pain, feeling confusion, blame, shame and resentment. I understand you. You are me. I want to know that when you leave the program, you too will have many years of joyful, transcendent sobriety. Living life the way our Creator, or Higher power, desires for each of his children. I didn’t know any heroin addicts, meth addicts, roxy kids, but I did know addiction before I entered our group. I knew it well. Growing up with a dad who was more a Dr. Jekyl Mr . Hyde figure most days, me and my little sisters spent our formative years anxious,fearful, unsure, scared and ashamed. Yet we were loved. In the same way Paul’s kids love him because they know they are loved/were loved. Love is a word that means many things to different people. For me, love is all you need to succeed in this world. No I’m not talking about financial success. When the worry of economic stress leaves you, you are spiritually awakened. I’m talking about the kind of success my favorite poet wrote :
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
I am learning how to love myself, alcoholic that I am, imperfect, judgemental, critical, cynical little bitch I can be. But I love the parts of me that recovery and sobriety have illuminated in a way that I haven’t remembered for a long time. My creative spirit, my loving and nurturing kindness, my need to stop the suffering of others, my humor, and my integrity. I have traveled many light years over the last 6 months. I’m an alien to my life now. I’ve landed on another planet. A sober planet where my people feel anger but move on, can feel resentments but where prayer for the other person soothes such destructive thoughts, can be tired at work, be broke, be stressed but have the gift of AA fellowship, real relationships that aren’t co-dependent ones or enabling ones, but real love relationships that offer support and rejoice in change and progress. I am sad for the “unfortunate who is constitutionally incapable of being honest with himself” because I know that man will die. Maybe not tomorrow, but one day. We all die. But we don’t all live. I’ve learned this in the program. Existing is not living. Addiction is not living. It’s dying, slowly or quickly depending on how ambitious a drunk or junkie we are. My disease is in remission for now. But like an old-timer told me, “your alcoholism does push-ups” during my sobriety. I call my alcoholism “the Adversary”…because I like thinking of it as evil I’m battling against every day. Addiction will kill you. You will lose everything that you love, value and dream about. It cares nothing for your dream or your soul. It wants your mind and body. There is no room in a God-formed soul for addiction. I pray for you, my stranger/friends, as I pray for myself. “Thy will be done.” And “To Thine own self be True” Truth is God. And God is Love. God bless us all and find gratitude in sobriety. Find solace, contentment, understanding, prayer. Of course there will be bad days. The first year is the hardest, so they tell me. Well, I’m half way through that. I hope our paths cross and you find joy in your sobriety. My alcoholism is the best gift I was given. Because it has brought me to you, brought me to a firmer belief in a Higher Power, and a truth that I can no longer avoid. And for that I am blessed and grateful. I love you all. You deserve your own love too. Whether you believe it or not, it’s true. You will see. I have. And I remind myself every day.