partly sunny, extremely mild, temps 6
This is a very special day for me. The biggest day on my calendar. This is the day I got sober. Seventeen years ago today I stopped drinking and joined a 12 step programme.
I don't talk about it often. I never mention it on the blog, except this one day. And I'll only answer questions about it if there's a direct question. But if there is that direct question, then I'm content to speak about my alcoholism and my sobriety. It came as a shock to see that someone had put it on the Wikipedia page about me. I was stunned and my immediate reaction was to try to have it taken off.
But then I realized it was quite true. Very humbling that.
And whoever had put it there had found it in an interview I'd given, so it's not like this was a violation. The information was out there.
And, beyond all that, I thought that maybe there's a reason it's there. So I left it.
I have to say, I'm a very private, but very grateful alcoholic. Without having gone through that, without standing by that precipice trying to decide if I should live or die. Afraid to die and afraid to live. Without knowing that hell I would not know the heaven I was then given.
I look back on my life 17 years ago, and the despair. The loneliness. The certainty the best had been and nothing will ever be good again. I think of the self loathing. And the ache that no amount of alcohol could numb. Thinking it couldn't get worse. And then it did.
The pain stopped. And I was left with nothing. No feelings at all. Just a wasteland of a life. A great expanse of nothing. Empty.
I was 35. And life was over.
But I decided, since I was ready to die, maybe I could try one last thing. AA.
I walked into my first meeting 17 years ago and haven't had a drink since. I didn't go to AA because I was brave. It took no courage. It took raw desperation. And a moment of grace.
Every Saturday night now I go to an AA meeting in a local village. We take turns making coffee, and cleaning up, and chairing, and greeting the newcomer. And the only thing we ask of each other is complete honesty. How you're really doing. How you're really feeling.
In AA I've learned how to live. And I've learned that the void inside will not be filled with drink or drugs, with shopping. Not even, though I've tried, with gummi bears. It would never be filled with compliments, with successes, with money or awards.
Not with anything anyone could give me, or I could take. The only thing that has filled that void is faith in a higher power. And in giving. Not, finally, in taking at all. Like a drowning man, I grasped everything to me, believing it would hold me up, prevent me sinking. I had no idea the only way to save myself was to give it away.
I look at my life now. Everyday I stand by the pond, say my prayers, and wonder at how lucky I am. And I thank God for this life that came when I thought it was over. That rose up from the void. Filled with love and friends and creativity. I live with a man I love, in a place I adore, and I do something that gives me endless pleasure.
I'm sober today, but far from perfect (as Michael and my friends will agree!) And in moments when I disappoint myself, it's helpful to remember (as a woman named Jane reminded me yesterday) how far I've come. And not worry about the distance yet to go.
My name's Louise, and I'm a grateful alcoholic.