Twenty-seven years ago...
TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO!
I walked in.
I sat down.
And I did something that I had never done before, surrendered.
Before I had quit, I had given up, I had been resigned, I had been demoralized, I had been done. But I had never, ever surrendered.
But on this day, twenty-seven years ago, I did.
And everything changed. I didn’t know it then. I only felt horrible and messed up and sick. I just felt so incredibly low. I was at that jumping off place, that place where I could not continue even one more second heading the way I was heading.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew that in that moment, I was willing to do something I was never wiling to do before...ask for help and then follow the suggestions of someone else.
My headstrong and rebelliousness had backed me into a corner and I had become a crisis I could neither avoid nor delay. I was just wrecked...constantly.
Today, I can see that it wasn’t really so bad. After being around for the last twenty-seven years, I kind of laugh at myself because I thought my bottom was bad. Now I know better. There were many, many, many worse bottoms to be had. I had only to continue to drink and all of that would be my reality. But on this day, twenty-seven years ago, I had had enough. How I felt that day was bad enough to get my attention. And bring about a surrender sufficient to begin a new life.
I have surrendered many times since that first one. I am in a new form of surrender now as my parents health is precarious and we are forced to navigate those choppy waters of old age, sickness and eventually death. I do not like it. I do not want it. But I see it and I am surrendered to the idea, that while there are many things I can do, I cannot change life’s ultimate ending...for anyone, ever. So I do the thing that I learned to do quite inadvertently twenty-seven years ago, I surrender. I ask for help and then follow the suggestions given to me by people who know more about this than me, which is pretty much everyone.
And even though my current life circumstances are hard at the moment, I am happy. I am joyous and I am fucking free. Because I get to do this life. I get to show up for my parents, my kids, my employer, my friends, my life. I get to stop desperately seeking an exit and just do what is in front of me instead of spending the whole of my life attempting to avoid it.
And my life today is beautiful. All of it. The chaos, sleeplessness, fear, love, pain, joy, gratitude. All of it is mine and I am so fucking grateful. This life, this one that I was so violently throwing away all those years ago has become the foundation of everything I know.
Today I know how to stay sober. And that has to come first, still. Every day. Every single day, sobriety has to be my most important goal. Followed by my willingness to help another on the path who is similarly suffering. I do not do this perfectly, this helping others. Sometimes I am still a selfish ass. But most days, I would do anything to help just one person stay away from a drink for just a little longer. Because I know that everything, fucking absolutely everything can and does change if you can just walk through a door, sit down and open your heart and mind just a tiny, little bit.
Today I am grateful to all those who were here when I got here. You knew, you loved me until I could love myself. And you tolerated my intense hatred for everything and everyone.
I am grateful for my family following in my footsteps and joining me on this broad path.
I am grateful to all those people who I have sponsored and been sponsored by, it hasn’t always been easy or fun but I am still here, and so are some of you, and that means everything.
I am grateful to all the amazing friends I have met along the path both in recovery and out. I was adrift and alone and foundering when I got here. I trusted no one, to include myself, and it has taken a very long time today for me to be able to develop anything close to intimacy in my life. Thank you for holding me in good stead all these years. And being patient with me while I falteringly began to take off my armor, one battle piece at a time.
I am grateful for my early sobriety friends. My friend Karl flew all the way out here to be with me today and hike Santa Cruz Island, my annual pilgrimage. That is the kind of friends I have today. Friends that would do that. Show up for me. Be here and willing spend time and energy and money to be there for me. I love you Karl with a K! And that hike will not happen today because my mom's hip is probably dislocated and I will be taking her to the hospital this morning. And only a friend who has walked this road, who has lost both of his parents in similar fashion could know and be willing to support me and my family today. We will not hike Santa Cruz today, and that is ok. Really. I have been re-made into a person who is ok not getting her way because I have experienced that God's way is infinitely better!
I am grateful for my children. I am grateful that while I haven’t been the best example of sobriety all the time, I have been a constant and unremitting reminder of the life you can lead if you find a God you can do business with and turn your will and your life over to that. I am so grateful that my children have never seen me drunk.
I am grateful for the spiritual principles of honesty, accountability, perseverance, unselfishness and service. These have been indispensable.
I am grateful for the path to recovery blazed by all my fellow sisters and brothers who kept the torch burning and made sure that there was always a safe place to run to. Thank you. As a life long runner, you got me and made it safe for me to stay long enough to get the message.
I am grateful today that I believe in loving kindness and the expression of that in all beings. This is my God. A belief that all people are basically good. This is what I turned my will and my life over to all those years ago and it has never let me down. I believe, I worship, I dedicate every moment I have had from that day until this, doing my best to grow in the direction of loving kindness, joy, equanimity, grace and service. God gave me this life as a gift, and it is my gift to God to give back to whomever, wherever I can.
Thank you for my life. Thank you for the experience with surrender. Thank you for the laughs, but most especially for the tears. I couldn’t cry when I got here, no matter how badly I hurt, the tears would not flow. Today, I can and do cry and that is the best gift ever. To hurt when I hurt, and to not run from the pain in a never ending spiral towards death because I am unwilling and unable to feel sadness, heartbreak, loss, pain, rejection, disappointment and fear.
Today you have taught me to surrender to it all and trust. And that has made all the difference in living a deathly existence and living a joyful life. I stayed not because I feared dying from alcoholism, I stayed because I feared living the way that I was for the whole of my life, not dying fast enough. I can think of no way of living that is worse, drinking to live and living to drink.
Today, my life doesn’t look perhaps the way that I would like but I live each day with a deep and abiding gratitude for the mess, for the pain, for the joy, for the program, for the fellowship, for the recovery. I would have missed it all, thank you God, for saving me and giving me this amazing beautiful life.
To all my brothers and sisters out there still trying to wrest satisfaction, surrender. Give up the fight and join the winning side.
“Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. May God bless you and keep you - until then.” Page 164. The Big Book.