Privileges and Pains.
One of the things I’m most grateful for in sobriety is the opportunity to help people who are suffering from alcoholism. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to step out into the world as a sober person and be the float on a line that helps haul a new drunk from the swallowing sea and into the rafts of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. There’s very little that gives me as much pleasure and satisfaction as seeing a newly sober drunk struggle to their feet and start living again. My former sponsee, whom I transferred to a friend when I left St. Louis, is one of those people. He’s coming up on nine months sober now. Working. Contributing. And he has even started a hobby. He’s building furniture at home. Compare that to drinking himself to death and playing video games. Boy to man, nine months. And of course, I hope you read the recent guest post from my friend with a year.
A person who is as close to me as any ever has been is now taking her first steps into the program. She had about 6 weeks sober and then a small relapse. Just the equivalent of about two cocktails. Now she’s got about a week again. She’s working very hard. She got some bullshit static in the rooms too, about “relapse means you weren’t working the steps hard enough!” That’s a crock of shit. In early sobriety, those first six weeks, many people working incredibly hard relapse. And AA is supposed to be a judgement-free place. We all know that any of us could have relapsed in the early days. Now, with five years behind me, yes, my sobriety is more contingent upon working my program well and not neglecting it. In the beginning, sometimes there’s just too much. Relapse happens. Dust off. Come back. Which is what she’s doing. And I’m so proud.
Recently, I’ve had a different privilege. I’ve been talking to a person whose spouse is the alcoholic. Divorce is imminent. The drinker keeps drinking. My friend is suffering. I’ve been trying to support my friend, someone I admire greatly, while they come to grips with the idea that the person they married is gone. And cannot come back. There’s grief to endure.
And I think that that’s what happened in my own marriage. My ex loved me once. And I loved her. And I will always love the things that I loved about her. But as my alcoholism progressed, the person that I was, that she loved, vanished. And when I got sober, he didn’t come back. A new person – for me, a better person – emerged instead. I am neither the person I was before I drank, nor the person I was while I drank. I am a new thing, still marbled with traces of all the persons I’ve ever been. Talking to my friend has helped me see this process from the other side. And I am unimaginably grateful.
And I am deeply affected by my friend’s suffering. Because I see how I was in the reflection in my friend’s eyes. I see the alcoholism of my friend’s spouse and I can see the things I used to do, the lies I used to tell, the selfishness and bitterness that I used to harbor. I cannot imagine a greater lesson about my need to embrace my program, dedicate myself ever more fervently to my recovery. There is so much in my past I need to never return to. But I cannot simply dismiss it, deny it. I own it.
It’s painful. Painful to see the anguish that this disease causes in both those who suffer from it, and those who suffer at the hands of the people who suffer from it. It’s painful to be reminded of the things I’ve done. But it is an unimaginable privilege to stand where I stand now. Ready to help. To intercede. To shoulder burdens for those who cannot carry the weight of theirs anymore. Because that is how I stay centered, how I stay in the middle of this garden, blooming in sober soil, helping to guide others from darkness to light. And so I thank them all, for saving my life.