Slay. That. Dragon.

17

By: Jana Greene

I know I’ve milked this 17 years of sobriety thing for an entire week now, and for that I’m sorry. If you are sick of hearing about it, I don’t blame you in the least.. But you are my friends and I want to be 100% transparent with you.
January 3rd is my official DOS (date of sobriety). I was going to pick up my chip on the 1st but it was special order and hadn’t arrived yet, which was fine with me. Because I really – for the first time ever – had zero enthusiasm for collecting that !little token of time earned through sobriety.
I rather resent the past year, which has been the most difficult to avoid relapse, if I’m honest. I made it – but by the skin of my teeth. At one point, I even opened a bottle of brandy I found that my husband had had for years and sat it on my bedside table. I curled up on my bed and cried. Then I opened the bottle. And I smelled the brandy, which smelled like an old friend, or how a grandpa used to smell when you were a kid. I never should have smelled that Brandy. Then I cried some more. I had words with God, and he listened so patiently, and I could feel His Spirit near me and in me, and it aggravated me to no end because without that presence I could pick up that bottle and just let the dragon have his way. I was so exhausted from fighting it and running from it.
See, having an addiction is a lot like having a dragon follow you around everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Your deepest thoughts. Your stress and anxiety. The crapper. EVERYWHERE. He taunts you, sometimes far more aggressively than others, This past year,, he has been practically crawling up my ass. One thing after another after another. In that moment in a fetal position on my bed with a bottle of Dragon Sedative sitting RIGHT THERE, so close – I wished God would bugger off.
But, that sliver of my soul that so values the life I’ve been granted – this beautiful second chance – gave voice above the din of my disgruntled sobbing. My lips said “please.’ Just “please;” that’s all. Over and over and over and over until I wasn’t crying anymore, and the brandy starting stinking, and I could feel my father’s arms around me. I wiped off the snot and tears, took the bottle to the bathroom sink, and poured it’s contents down the drain. I didn’t feel victorious. I felt nothing at all.
Soon after, that damn dragon was on my heels again. But I started trying to self care a little better – including joining my tribe at meetings. As the big anniversary approached, I felt unworthy of going through the ceremonial celebration of Chipdom, whereas I had ALWAYS looked forward to picking it up every other year. I’ll be sober 17 years. Cherrio! (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of “The Crown.”) Yay. Blargh. I don’t deserve it. I’ve been a terrible role model for recovery lately.
But something happened between last week and this week. Clear up until the moment I arrived at the meeting (with one of my daughters, who came for moral support,) I felt that same malaise.
The program is the same each week, as it was tonight: Worship, the reading of the 12 Steps, announcements, and then The Bestowing of the Chips.
Two people went up to pick up surrender chips, and my heart melted for them. I remember picking up that chip and finally admitting I had been drinking myself to death. I kept going – 90 meetings in 90 days – collecting chips with awe and wonder every noteworthy time chips were given.
Hey…..
Today is January 8, 2018. I can remember when I could only make it one day without drinking and having to start over. I remember when a month was an eternity, but a wonderful eternity of self-discovery. The whites of my eyes lost the yellow tinge. I worked on ME. And most importantly, I didn’t drink.
Well guess what? 2017 was a dadgum BITCH. Every thing in our lives changed, and not for the better. I had 6-10 migraines per month. I’ve still not found employment. A million stressful circumstances riled up my dragon like crazy.
But I did not drink. By God’s GRACE.
Tonight – when my friend who was giving out chips asked with a wink if anyone here tonight has 17 years, I felt like the conflab Grinch himself – my heart started expanding.
OH MY GOD. 17 YEARS.
And despite the suckiness of 2017, I DID NOT DRINK.
I became suddenly exhilarated beyond explanation. My daughter stood and applauded as I approached the stage to pick up my chip. I gave my friend a hug and he put the brass chip in my hand.
And I sobbed because the weight of it felt like lead. It felt like all the weight I’d been carrying on my shoulders for a year, but as golden treasure, not the heart-heaviness of  dragon bullying. I became giddy, ya’ll. I’ve never been so happy to pick up a chip in my whole entire recovery life, and I’ve had some doozies of difficult years. The dragon has tried to push me off the wagon many, many times, but today?
God flipped the script. All the ways I felt I’d failed this year felt instead like victories. Yes, I had close scrapes, but God gave me the strength to carry on and hold fast to my precious recovery – the thing that has made all other good things possible. The reason my children are not motherless. The reason I’m not 6 feet under. The reason I get to watch my grandchild grow up.
So ya’ll….I think this chip is my FAVORITE chip. Of. All. TIME. The hardest earned. Ultimately, the most gloriously received.
Oh God, thank you.
Thank you for getting me through, even if my the skin of my teeth. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t relapse.
(And it could not have happened without the boundless grace of God. And WONDERFUL friends. And my tribe – my homegroup. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband.)
And the dragon?
I. SLAYED. THAT. BITCH.
SLAY.
The sword is sharpened with every hardship.
And I’m so grateful.

 

 

Franken-Ankle

By:  Jana Greene              

             Several weeks ago, I wrote in my journal about the experience of breaking my right ankle.  It was a deep and angsty piece  ruminating on the inconvenient timing of the accident, why God would allow it to happen two days after I quit my job (didn’t He know it was supposed to be a happy time?) and why it happened before I had other health issues resolved.  “Why?” I asked God as I typed.  “Why?”

                Surely God knew I needed to find another job, at least part-time.

                Surely He knew we didn’t need any more medical bills.                

                Like so many other things, it seemed a random misfortune, especially considering the manner in which it happened.  I didn’t injure it skydiving or bungee jumping, or even by participating in that fitness staple of the forty-plus-year-old woman, “Zumba”.

                I broke it by stepping out of bed because I needed to use the bathroom.  It made a horrible crunch and I felt searing pain….stepping onto the floor.

                I know….reckless, wanton behavior.  What can I say?  I live on the edge.

                For eleven days after the injury, I didn’t seek medical help, believing that it was a bad sprain.  I’ll just walk it out….I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, and frankly….I had other plans for that time.  The swelling and pain got to be too much, and I finally relented, going to the doctor.  The result of my top-notch stubbornness was a referral to an orthopedic specialist that quickly became a pre-op appointment and within days, surgery to rebuild my ankle.  Clearly, denial was not a good strategy.  When will I learn?  Denial never works out for me.

                The surgery went well, and I rested as directed for several days afterward.  Still, I was frustrated about the whole thing, and though it seems silly in retrospect, I’ve always kind of liked my ankles the way they were.  I know it sounds odd, but I could find fault with nearly every feature on my person, except for my ankles.   And although they are disproportionally small, they really do a good job of helping my feet get me where I need to be. 

I’m not a big fan of pain, either, and there was plenty of that involved.

                The first time I had a good look at my leg after surgery, my husband was sitting with me.  He makes it a point to be by my side when I need him most; he is just cool that way.  I took off the boot, and unwrapped the dressings.  Then the gauze pad.

On the outside of my leg, an angry-looking five inch scar ran from the lower calve to the top of my foot.  Stitches poked out at random intervals like little weeds in a garden row.  And where did the bone go?  The little round anklebone that should jut out a bit?  GONE. 

“It’s…it’s…” I sniffed “It looks like Franken-ankle!”  That’s what it looked like to me.

To which my Beloved, a man who lives with three grown daughters and a very emotionally- driven wife replied, “It looks great!”  He knows a thing or two about smoothing over hysteria.  Less is more. He gave me the tightest hug and smiled, and I felt better. 

                Days later, when I did the writing, I felt better still.  Bad things happen all of the time to each of us, much worse things than a broken leg.  Maybe God allowed it to happen now so that I would slow down enough to actually do some writing, which I’d been threatening to do for years.  I don’t really know, because the Almighty doesn’t let me in on the Master Plan, even when I ask real nice.  Or ask repeatedly.  The whole incident seemed overwhelming when it was happening, and as I heal, it sometimes still feels that way.  But it’s better every day.

                “Why” is a big thing with me;  I wish it wasn’t.  I am God’s oldest four-year-old, following him around and tugging on the hem of his garment, asking “WHY?”  Writing about things always helps me work through the pesky stages of acceptance (including denial), and reminds me what REALLY holds me together in all of the ways that matter, the grace of God.  Sticks and stones (and midnight bathroom trips) may break my bones, but His plans will never hurt me.  He knows my needs, far better than I do. 

                As for what now holds my leg together?  One titanium plate, six screws and one pin.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal.  I am learning to reach for the hem of Jesus’ garment for His healing, and His will, instead of reaching out to ask Him “why”.

                It’s a process.   

“I don’t think the way you think.
   The way you work isn’t the way I work.” – Isaiah 55:10