Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sobriety and Pride

My friend Tedi wrote this and posted it to Facebook this morning, so I have swiped it (with her permission) and posted it here. Lots of good info in this one.

I quit drinking nine months ago. In AA, nine months is a recognized milestone and I received a green chip to commemorate it. I also announced it here, and have been receiving my friends' and family's congratulations. So, why does it make me so uncomfortable when someone I care about tells me that they're proud of me for quitting? I've been thinking about it and have come up with a few thoughts.

The congratulations are great, I love those. It's like we're all celebrating together. And there is much to celebrate. I feel wonderful, people tell me I look ten years younger, and my life is on an even keel. I'm kinder, more amiable, less prone to stress, in short, more serene.

But the pride thing just rubs the wrong way. I can see how people would be glad I quit drinking. They love me and want me to be safe and healthy. And it makes me a nicer, more thoughtful person, so I'm more pleasant to be around. So "glad" sits well.

The thing is, I'm not proud of myself, in this instance. I was proud when I graduated from college. I was proud when I was working on my newspaper column. I am proud of my children. Those were all things I actively worked, or contributed positive effort to, in order to accomplish.

It's hard to feel pride about something I'm not doing. It's more like I'm returning to a more natural state of affairs, that I've rediscovered the status quo. If I'd been beating myself with a hammer(and my body probably thinks that was the equivalent) for fifteen years and I suddenly stopped, it doesn't seem like a point of pride. It just means I stopped being quite so crazy. And a lot less bruised.

The other part of it, as my friends also in recovery will know, is that I didn't really do this. All by myself, I would have never quit drinking. It's not a lack of will power. People who know me well know how strong my will is. I have an actual physical disorder which causes me to react differently to alcohol than the majority of the population. You can't see it. I don't break out in hives. I break out in handcuffs. And a whole lot of other things. When I drink, I can't control what I say, or what I do, or how much of it I say or do. And it's sometimes hard to remember that, for me, it's the first drink that gets me drunk. Not every time. I've been known to have just one. But I never know, when I drink one, if it will only be just one. It's a crap shoot with very bad odds.

The one thing I did do was go to AA, and get some very good therapy. And I'm pleased that I finally did something good for myself. But just going to AA, and just going to therapy didn't get me sober. What got me sober is very hard to explain if you've never gone through it, never worked the twelve steps and never truly surrendered to a power you don't understand. But it isn't me. It's something greater than me. And it's a true miracle. Twelve simple suggestions for living, sharing my progress, pitfalls and questions with people just like me, and finally admitting that there are things in this world I can't do all by myself. I am not an island. I need the other people on this planet in order to be well.

That is not a point of pride. It's a point of gratitude.

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