When I was newly sober I heard that it takes as long as it took to walk into that miserable impenetrable dark forest to walk back out again. Well. I got loaded as hard as I could 24/7 for 22 years. I must be getting close to the edge of that forest. That is a big-time cheerful thought!
Seriously. I’ve held that image for many years. I could easily picture the dark forest. And me standing 22 years in, vines (and probably snakes) twisting around my feet, not even knowing which direction to walk to start making my way out.
Getting sober wasn’t easy for me. Duh. I didn’t wait for weekends, or tragedies, or successes to get loaded. I got loaded because I was breathing. Because my eyelashes hurt. Because your eyelashes hurt. Pre-emptively. In case something was challenging. Or painful. Or pleasant. Or disappointing. Or fulfilling.
Life without self-medicating was for a long time a big painful mystery. They told me I only had to do two things to recover. Stop getting loaded and change everything.
It’s a relief today to look back and see how much has changed. Life is not such a mystifying mortifying struggle all the time. I still have appalling needy I’d rather be anywhere but here doing anything but this where’s the dope moments, oh yes I do and probably will until I’m dead. But those moments are not constant and the struggle no longer feels like a permanent condition.
Here are some of the changes I’ve noticed:
- Conversations last longer than the time that they are about me
- I’ve learned to say “How are you?” back to people. Which I finally learned to do after years of that uncomfortable silence in conversations once I ran out of things to say about myself: see first bullet. It was and continues to be mortifying. Friend: Hi, Sue, how are you? Me: Oh, good. Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah…… [increasingly uncomfortable pause in which friend looks at me patiently/quizzically/pointedly] Me: Oh! (mental headslap) And how are you? Luckily the pause is getting shorter! Luckily I am more often than not sincerely interested in knowing what the answer is. And sometimes I ask first! It’s a work in progress. Do the math: I’m still in the jungle!
- I have had the experience of thinking about others before I think of myself a handful of times, which gives me hope. Scenario: I’m driving 100 miles to Thanksgiving dinner with family. I hit stalled traffic less than ten miles from home. Instead of thinking Fuck this! I hate this road! I hate holidays! I’m going to be late! —my first thought was I hope nobody’s hurt. Seriously. That was a big big change.
- I make a difference in people’s lives. People actually pay me money to share with them/teach them some of the things I’ve been privileged to learn and implement over these last years of my transformation. I feel lucky, honored and privileged.
- I’m grateful for this sober day. And for all 7,671 of them (yes, I adjust for leap years, yes I’m a little obsessive). I wasn’t grateful for them as I lived them, I’m grateful for them now. And I’m working on gratitude for what is, instead of what was or what might be.
As a wise woman said: They only moment you can be happy is now. Happy sigh.
Love and blessings to all!