God, Drugs and Thugs – My Messy Beautiful
I read something this morning that took me back 5 years, 9 months and 20 days – to a moment which is never too far from my consciousness. As I approach my sixth year clean and sober, the image burned into my mind on June 17th, 2008, doesn’t haunt me like it once did. That skeletal frame, covered with bruises and track marks no longer chases me, fearfully, toward sobriety. The hollow, lifeless eyes are no longer black holes threatening to swallow me whole unless I begin sprinting toward a spiritual life. No, today the memory brings up a feeling of sorrowful gratitude. The girl in the mirror has sunk to such a low point that she can’t even recognize herself anymore. Absolutely nothing in her life makes sense anymore. Once upon a time, she was really something. She “coulda’ been a contender.” On this day, though, she has finally lost her last shred of dignity. Unable to even locate a vein capable of receiving the drugs she has been using to numb all the pain of her guilt and shame, she sinks to the floor and sobs inconsolably for hours on end. I cannot begin to express the love and admiration I have toward this woman in this moment when she finally admitted defeat.
I slept through the whole next day and on Thursday, June 19th, I showed up at my first AA meeting with 40 hours clean and sober. I often describe my bottom as sort of falling off a cliff and then bouncing a few times. As stubborn as I’ve always been, I had to go off and do a few more stupid things before I finally admitted with every fiber of my being that I was the one who had brought myself to this point. I couldn’t blame anyone else anymore. This was my life and I had to take responsibility for it. It wasn’t until after that first meeting where I admitted not that I was an alcoholic, but rather a heroin addict (oh yes, I’m terminally unique) that I made some bad choices which finally cost me my job, drove me to uncontrollable suicidal ideation and landed me in detox. EVEN THEN, I had to have one more go at a night of partying before early in the morning of July 2nd, 2008, I finally realized, “I can do none of it. It’s not just the drugs; I can’t drink anymore, either.” I crawled into another meeting with my tail between my legs on July 3rd, eleven days before my 30th birthday, and I haven’t had a drink or a drug since.
“You’re only as sick as your secrets,” we often say in recovery. I knew firsthand how true that was. Nearing the end, I somehow knew that if I could just say the words, then I would be freed. I simply couldn’t let down my guard to show anyone the truth that they already knew. Those first few months sober, I HAD no secrets. I was so scared of ever going back to that lifestyle that I shared everything with everyone! Accountability was my thing now. I crossed the line of TMI so dramatically, so often, that the “normies” in my life steered clear of me for fear of what I may say next! I couldn’t care less, though, because the more people who knew what was going on with me, the more people I would have to hide any backsliding from.
I lived for sobriety! I did 90 meetings in 90 days (plus a few more, just for good measure). I got a sponsor. I worked steps. I read the book with a pen and highlighter in hand. I shared in meetings (I over-shared and spewed emotional vomit along with expressing my ecstatic spiritual realizations). I got a home group (and a second one, just to be sure). I prayed (on my knees, even). I meditated and journalled. I got involved. I even made my bed every morning because one of our old-timers always says, “Make your bed because you’re the one who slept in it!” (I’m sure he means this more figuratively, but I did it literally, too, just in case – and I still do).
The pendulum swings, though, and I eventually calmed down on the over-sharing and the radical sobriety, in general. Though I have not had to relapse (yet), I have hit many emotional bottoms through the years. I’ve also experienced extreme spiritual highs. I still struggle to find balance. Sobriety is not my everything anymore, but it is the foundation upon which I have built the rest of my life. The principles I have learned in recovery are the ones which guide all my thoughts and actions (at least when I’m not resting on my laurels or sitting on my pity pot). My rollercoaster life looks a lot more like a leisurely drive through the hills now. I still have my ups and downs, but they aren’t as dramatic anymore. And I don’t feel like I’m about to lose my lunch or be thrown from my seat!
The most important thing I’ve had to learn from this experience is that I can’t hide the ugliness anymore. The fears, the resentments, the guilt and shame, it all has to be acknowledged in the light of day. Whatever I try to hide will destroy me from the inside. You’d think after all the painful, horrendous consequences I’ve endured, that I’d have this lesson down pat. Alas, I am a stubborn alcoholic and I still think I can get away with things from time to time. I am not perfect. And it is okay to let you know this about me. I stumble sometimes and occasionally shoot myself in the foot. Life happens. And sometimes when it does, it throws me for a loop. So long as I remain Honest, Open-minded and Willing, though, I can survive any storm. Just like Glennon says, “Life is brutiful,” and that is nothing to hide.