Today I celebrate twenty years of sobriety. But that twenty years is just a number. I’m still an alcoholic. I still want to drink. The real difference between me now and the girl I was twenty years ago is that now I have some tools to keep me sober.
When I first got sober I went to one or two meetings a day, every day. I don’t any more. I’m not sure why. I could come up with a list of excuses. I guess I just don’t need them as much as I did then.
What I found in my own experience is that attending meetings made my alcoholism the focus of my life. I needed that because I had spent so long ignoring the pink elephant in the room.
I also needed to be forced out of my comfort zone and connect with people at an honest level.
Though all the meetings the Twelve Steps of AA became ingrained in my life view. Rigorous honesty. Humility. Self-love. Making amends when necessary. Letting go of things I have no control over. Taking responsibility of things I do have control over. Understanding the difference.
I also have a network of friends that I see regularly and with whom I can be totally honest and who will call me on my shit.
So while I no longer attend AA meetings, I live the steps and principles of AA every day. And so far, it seems to be working.
My understanding of a higher power has changed. I no longer believe in God or a supernatural being that will intercede on my behalf. I had to let that go.
As much as I would like there to be such an entity, the randomness of the shit in my life, despite prayers to this mystical, invisible Higher Power, despite my efforts to turning it over, it never made any positive difference. More often than not it triggered my codependent thinking rather than alleviating it.
What has made a difference was opening my heart to others. Listening to other people’s stories. Giving where I can. This has helped get me out of my shitty thinking.
Being creative and pushing myself to improve in my writing has also served as a way to work through the trauma that I have endured and continue to endure in an often hostile, bigoted world.
Finally, my relationship with my wife has helped me work through a lot of my fears and intimacy issues. Most relationships won’t do that. If anything, they explode because of unresolved issues. I’ve been married twice before and have had other relationships on top of that.
But my wife is truly remarkable. She has demonstrated over and over her unwavering love. It took me a few years to truly comprehend that unconditional love was real and what it looked like. Now I know. It is a rare and precious thing.
We all have a different journey. I don’t always know where mine will take me. But I have the tools that, when used, seem to get me through the toughest of times while allowing me to appreciate all the beauty in my life.