Saturday, October 2, 2010

Namaste! It's Been a Year

October 2, 2009 was the day I completed my 28 days at rehab and ventured out into the world to see if I could live in it without drinking.

October 2, 2010—today--marks my 393rd day sober.

Some of the old timers in AA don’t like people to count their first month of sobriety in rehab as “real” sobriety, because they see it as a kind of forced sobriety. I suppose that depends on the facility. Where I was, a patient could leave at any time by just walking off the property. Mountain Vista Farm is smack dab in the middle of Sonoma wine country—in fact, on my daily walk, the path led me right by a garden where grapes were hanging from the vine. A mere two mile walk would get me to Glen Ellen Village Market, which had an excellent selection of local wines. And any number of local restaurants and bars would have been only too happy to serve me whatever booze I might be craving.

Regardless, today I am either one year sober, or a little over a year and a month sober: choose whichever one you like.

The changes in me between now and then are impossible to completely enumerate.

I can say the good stuff far outweighs any bad stuff. And it’s funny: people say to me wow, you made it look painless; how easy it was for you to quit drinking. I’m not lying when I say it has been (so far) easy. I simply have no desire to drink. But what isn’t clear to most people is that this last time wasn’t the first time I ever tried to stop. This time, quitting stuck because I was sick of it, sick of myself, sick of how I made people feel, sick of not being the person I really am. It took my getting profoundly disgusted with myself and repulsed by choices I was making for me to put the damn bottle down for good. To admit that I just can’t drink, that I can’t ever drink, to acknowledge I’m one of “those people.” THAT was the hard part. Once the bottle was down, the idea of picking it up again has held no appeal.

I don’t mean to make the past year sound like peaches and cream. Looking back over the year, there have been a few rocky moments. I did lose a friend who didn’t want to discuss things that happened between us when I was drinking—things that, sadly, I still believe need to be looked at in the bright light of day in order to shake off the dirt, fold it all up, and tuck it away for good. It seems to be a fact about some folks that they’d much rather toss a soiled item into a dark corner and just let it rot, out of sight, until it goes away. Sometimes it is easier to ignore a thing, to minimize it, hell, to pretend it never happened—because, well, because then you don’t have to own your part of it. I used to understand this strategy—it’s the easy way--but now I admit I have no stomach for it. It’s the way of the perpetual victim, the person who does no wrong but constantly has wrongs done to them, and so never grows, never changes, at least not in any essential way. It’s the way I used to be. And so I have lost this person, something that strikes me as sad and unnecessary.

On the flip side, I’ve also been amazed by how forgiving, how loving, some people are. Actually, more people are than aren’t. My wife: I put her through hell, and I do mean hell. She had every right and reason in the world to kick my sorry ass to the curb a year ago. But she chose not to, chose instead to support me and chooses to stand by my side as I grow up, learn to be an adult (an addict never grows up or emotionally matures while they’re using, whether their substance is alcohol, drugs, sex, food, relationships, or you name it. We trap ourselves in a sticky tar of selfishness). Here I am, 48 years old, and finally learning how to not be impulsive, how to consider beforehand the consequences of things I say and do, how to not search for reasons to put myself first, how to not fly through life constantly reacting and always in crisis mode. Obviously a lot for me is still trial and error. Sometimes the old stinkin’ thinkin’ tries to worm its way back in, and, like a child, I feel (insert the bratty terminology here as it may fit the situation)—entitled, sorry for myself, misunderstood, picked on, persecuted, unjustly accused, holier-than-thou, angry. I try to shake it off. And nowadays it just seems to me that, when all is said and done, the only real sin in this world is selfishness.

So, I try to act from a place of love these days. It is not necessarily always a feeling: it is a PRACTICE.

The result is innumerable blessings: new friendships with people who give of themselves without imposing conditions, with people who pay it forward, with people who believe there is some greater purpose to our being here than evolutionary accident. I’ve built stronger friendships with people I’ve known, in some cases years, but until now I’ve never taken the time to really get to know them. (My sponsor, actually someone I dated seven years ago for a short while, is one of these persons. We like to joke that we have the healthiest relationship now than we’ve ever had.) It’s been quite something to find myself thinking about, say, a particular friend and marveling at how I never knew a certain part of their history and realizing what a special, remarkable person they really are.

Nowadays, heralding another human being with the word “namaste” makes total sense to me. When I was drinking, I thought it was something pretentious, like “Ciao, baby!”

And you know, maybe it’s these last two sentences that best make clear the difference in me. People are constantly telling me how happy I seem nowadays.

I am. I just am. I am a woman who loves, and is deeply loved by others. For the first time in my life, I finally feel like I'm exactly where I’m supposed to be.