I read this today on Belle’s blog and it spoke loudly to me.
“JM (day 153): I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between ‘giving up’ alcohol and ‘embracing a sober life’. I tend to think that even for people with no addiction to booze there is that buzz from drinking that is intended to adjust your perception of life. Either to pep you up if you are low/tired or to enhance if you are feeling celebratory. It’s like in both cases life itself isn’t quite enough without the drug. For problem drinkers like us this obviously also becomes a habit – we drink because we drink so we drink. In no way do we work on our life to make sure that we can create our own pep ups or enhancements through other actions…”
When I started depending on alcohol, I stopped relying on myself to feel ok. It was exactly like “life itself wasn’t quite enough”.
What a shame that it took over 58 years for me to feel at peace with reality. But here I am.
There are things happening, to people I care about and at work, which formerly would have caused great discomfort. Anxiety, worry and regret were ever present. Instead of examining the feelings and thoughtfully weighing my options for doing the next best thing for each situation, I drank. Poof: feelings subdued, if not gone.
Building sobriety muscle is a lot like exercising the body. You show up and make a habit of going through the motions, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it hurts and you think you can’t do it or don’t want to. You hang in there. You observe others who are a step or two ahead of you. One day you realize that you’re stronger. You can do this without fighting yourself. In fact, it feels good.
In the clarity of sober light I now understand my potential as well as my limitations. I can make so much more of my life than I thought I could. I cannot, however, change the course of other people’s lives.
So today I continue rowing, gently, loving the boat I’m in, taking in the scenery, and grateful that I finally made it to the other side.
“I like your necklace. Are you a friend of Bill W.?”
Knowing that this is a reference to AA, and although I’ve never gone to meetings, instinctively I answered, “Yes”. I’m a former drinker and I’ve worked hard to stay that way, pretty much on my own.
Tim, offering that he is 19 years sober and still goes to meetings 5 days a week, seemed to want to talk.
I told him the story of the pendant. Last year, almost 8 months after I quit drinking, I took a road trip with my son. On that trip, the first I can recall without alcohol, I made a point of buying myself little rewards to celebrate my sobriety.
On our last day I found myself in a Native American shop looking at sterling silver jewelry. As I browsed, one piece with an unusual design caught my eye. I asked the shopkeeper if he knew the significance of the symbol, and he said he didn’t. I was drawn to it and it was reasonably priced, so I bought it.
Back at the hotel room with my iPad, I did a search for “triangle in circle symbol”. I learned that it’s widely used in AA. What? Wow. Seriously.
I’ve worn this pendant a lot. Tim was the first person who approached me and acknowledged its connection to AA and recovery. I felt proud to be wearing it and happy that it helped me connect to a kindred spirit.
Afterward, I wondered about my response to the “Bill W.” question. Am I a “friend of Bill” if I embrace a life of recovery but I don’t go to AA? Is it unauthentic to wear a symbol of a movement that I support but to which I don’t “belong”?
Here’s what I think: the sober community is diverse and no matter how we got here, we share a common bond. Code words and symbolism that help us to connect to one another can only be a good thing.