By: Jana Greene
No, I couldn’t think of a better name for this piece, lol. I think it’s because as I approach my 20 year sobriety anniversary this weekend, my mind is alllll over the place. But I want to record these thoughts, both random and cohesive. I made a promise to God while sprawled out on a bathroom floor, desperate and shaking, that if he would help me not drink, I wouldn’t be shy about sharing my story and journey. And I’m not shy about it. Being shy about addiction has helped to keep the good people of Earth sick and stuck for centuries.
Plus, I’m a shoot-from-the-hip kind of girl.
Twenty years ago, I walked into an AA meeting in the town where I lived. I can recall feeling shame that I didn’t make it two days prior and so I’d already blown my big New Year’s Eve target date. It was actually January 3rd when I darkened the door. My heart raced as I pulled the door open and peered inside. It was a particularly sunny day, which should have been foreshadowing of recovery and not what it felt like – intrusive sunshine that irritated my hangover. My eyes had to adjust to the light, so I couldn’t see faces at first.
But adjust they did. I don’t know what I was expecting, but most of the attendees were much older than my 32 years. The place smelled of mid-grade coffee and served in styrofoam cups. It was a tiny community center – a one-room job. Nowhere to run, as they say.
The thing is, I knew when I walked up the sidewalk to the meeting that this would be a life changer one way or another, because once I showed my face at a recovery event, the jig was up. You can’t admit to God and country that you have an alcohol problem in a small town and then pretend it didn’t happen. Anonymity or not.
And the jig WAS up. I had gotten so sick that the whites of my eyes were yellowing. I had a litany of reasons I had no business being there – your garden variety justification.
I live at the beach and drinking is what everybody does.
I’m only 32, I can’t be an alcoholic.
I don’t drink before 5pm most days. Okay, SOME days.
I don’t drink a lot of the “hard stuff.”
And on and on and on, ad nauseum (literally.)
But of course I did need to be there – badly.
The denial wasn’t working anymore. My health told a different story about how sick I was, inside and out. And the toll on my relationships. And my walk with God. And in my Spirit, where it didn’t want to seem to wash out.
So on that January day in 2001, I made a commitment to myself and to my precious children. Mommy would get sober, but she would need God’s help.
God’s help came in the form of sitting down in a metal chair that day, the legs scraping against the linoleum just a little too loudly. I didn’t want to be seen. But I did want to get found.
The old man chairing the meeting started things off with the following admission:
“I didn’t take a drink for twenty years,” he says to nodding attendants. “But on my 20th sober anniversary, I figured I had obviously licked this thing. I proved that I can go without drinking, right?”
I squirmed in my chair, head splitting, arms crossed.
“So I had a drink to celebrate 20 years, and here I am again today, happily pursuing sobriety, and I have six months again. Keep coming back. It works if you work it.”
I remember thinking, “Dude, I cannot make it one day without drinking. Not a single one. Are you NUTS?” Also, YES….you ARE nuts, because how could you possibly have thought it was a good idea to have a drink after 20 years?
I WILL NEVER GET TO 20 YEARS, I thought. And I meant it. There was NO way; I loved drinking too much.
And now I understand what they guy who chaired the meeting means now. I know what he was up against, and I know how much respect my disease demands.
What IS this force we battle? For someone to go 20 years without and then BOOM! Back at square one? That’s the day I figured out that I wouldn’t get a “day off” from recovery. It’s the nature of the beast to convince you it has no control of you. But it DOES. Until it controls everything.
I never in a million years expected my sobriety to “stick;” and frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stick around myself without ever having another drink. But oh honey! The richness that is life without ingesting your own personal poison is INCREDIBLE!
I know it sounds impossible, but I promise your eyes will adjust to the light. And light aplenty there will be, illuminating so many wonderous things. The light vanquishes the dark, always.
I’m a seasoned veteran at recovery, but still (always) ONE drink away from disaster. I STILL take one single day at a time. There are occasions I learn more from newcomers than old-timers. And I have learned to trust God more than I’d imagined was possible.
The life I’ve been given as recompense, Oh MY! It’s a complex, beautiful dance to which I’m only now beginning to truly appreciate.
There is healing for you. Pick up your mat and come along. It’s the story of how my life was saved.
God bless us, every one.