It’s been two years since I abandoned MOV, but suddenly I feel as though I may have a thing or two to say. So here I am in front of my keyboard trying to reconstruct this abandoned home. My life itself has been a reconstruction of sorts and 2015 will take a special, if not inglorious place in my history. There’s been so much that has gone on. The next few posts here will be a sort of journal of the recent past and hopefully an avenue for me to continue to heal and possibly grow. I guess the place I should begin is with my recent sobriety. As of today, it’s been over 13 months. It’s taken each minute of those days to try and rebuild all that I attempted to destroy.
I can’t recall the day I stepped into my first meeting but like they say, “no one walks into AA on a winning streak.” I had just lost my job and my marriage was on the verge of destruction. I felt the disabling weight of my son’s disdain, the agony I imposed upon my wife, and the disabling fear of an uncertain future. There were times when I walked in a sort of daze. I recall using a knife to cut myself, to pierce through the cloak of numbness I wore and to also feel the pain of well deserving punishment. Each day I’d walk into a meeting hoping for some ease to my agony and some solutions to my plight. Every story I heard rang with similarity and the prayer at the meetings’ end would give me a small amount of solace. There was often wisdom that helped me to keep going and gave me some courage to keep working through the wreckage I had created. Today, I only attend a weekly meeting and the words I hear have become less comforting or helpful. Those around the table will tell me that this is a time when I may be in a great danger of relapse. The times when you feel confident in sobriety are the times when you should be most fearful of picking up that drink. I fully understand.
I don’t know if AA saved my life like many others around a table will attest for themselves. I will say that it gave me the support and strength to keep going. I’d occasionally stare at the sign on the wall that read, “You are not alone”. On occasion, those words alone were enough to lift me up enough to at least not break down in tears. I still recognize the need to attend meetings but I no longer clutch to AA as a life raft keeping my head above stormy waters. I have immense gratitude for AA and my fellow addicts around the tables. Where else will you find practical strangers pushing their phone numbers in your hand offering for you to call for help at any time of the day? I can’t say for certainty that my oldest friends would be as willing to do the same.
However, a year after those first days I’ve come to realize the key to the AA program. It evolves around the desperation of those who enter the program. We staggered through those doors in a shroud of hopelessness and the 12 steps gave us guidance through that desperation. The people around you and belief in a “higher power” were avenues of hope when no hope seemed to exist. Maybe it’s similar to people falling victim to a cult like the Manson Family, Heaven’s Gate, or Catholicism. I might argue that belief in a false God is better than having no belief at all.
I have learned a few things over my first year of sobriety. First, being sober doesn’t solve the rest of life’s problems. It just gives you one less place to hide from them. Secondly, being sober lets you focus on trying to fix the rest of your faults. Drinking didn’t create my failings; it only served to magnify them. Whatever shortcomings I had when I was drinking didn’t magically fall away just because I chose not to pick up a glass. Finally, being an alcoholic is forever. This isn’t because of the constant threat of falling victim to the bottle again; it’s because I have to live with all that I have created and I’ll always wonder if my life and more importantly the lives of my family would be better if I had never taken that first sip. Not only do I live with the hauntings of possibly drinking again, I also live with the specter of what might have been had I been a little less angry, a little more patient, a little more loving, a little more present, a little more aware, and just a little better.
I constantly battle with this question inside me that asks how much of a better person I’d be if I never drank and how much of a better father I would have been, and then how much all of this affected my kids. I was assured that over time these feelings will fade. I responded that it takes millions of years for a stream to smooth the jagged edges of a stone. My hope is that it takes less time to somehow smooth over all the jagged edges I’ve created.