Written, October 15, 2007
Today I celebrate 17 years of sobriety. I decided that it was time to write something about this, and what it means to me.
I still remember that first drink. I was sitting on the roof of our carport with friends (I was eleven years old), and one of them brought a six pack of Budweiser. I still remember the taste, but more importantly I remember the feeling I got after drinking that one beer. I spent the next ten years chasing that feeling.
I grew up in Alcoholics Anonymous. My Grandfather would have celebrated 41 years next month (he died 13 years ago), my Mom just celebrated 36 years and my Brother 18. It's a blessing to have these amazing examples in my life. My Father never got it and died two had a half years ago maintaining control.
17 years ago I called my younger Brother, because I couldn't live like this anymore. He gave me the name of someone to call in Los Angeles, and I immediately avoided calling. I was living with a friend who had dated someone who was sober. He called him and I went to my first meeting, not as Susan's son or Ralph's grandson, but Rick an Alcoholic. It immediately became a social gathering for me, and I wasn't willing to do anything except not take a drink. I knew what to say having grown up in the program, but my talk was just that talk. About three months into my sobriety someone told me to sit down and shut up. It was time to start listening. I am glad that I was receptive at that point, and whether it was because I wanted to please (I am a people pleaser), or really ready to listen I don't know. I do know that I took what was said and started listening. This got me through that first year of sobriety. I had a sponsor and built a solid group of friends. After that first year, I started to have thoughts that maybe I wasn't old enough, maybe I hadn't gone through enough to actually stay sober. I believe that this was the first time I actually asked for help from some higher power. That next Monday, in walked this beautiful young woman. She was 21 and five years sober. She saved my life that night. She proved to me that it didn't matter how old you were, only that you had a desire to stop drinking. I didn't want to go back to that life and realized that night that I didn't have to drink again. She is still the one constant in my life from those early days. We were roommates for awhile, and it was walking from our place to school one morning that I had my first of many spiritual awakenings. For some reason that morning (I always reflected while walking to school) I asked God to restore me to sanity.
Over the years my life has changed. I met, fell in love with and am still with the same person. We celebrate our fifteenth anniversary in less then one month. In 1995 I changed careers and continue to grow as a result. I started showing up for life. I started living everyday for just that day. I plan for my future, and I don't believe that I will ever drink again. What I do know is that I have a reprieve from my desire to drink today. I pray and meditate every morning and have a very strong connection to God.
There have been many people who have touched my life over the past 17 years. There are only a few outside of my family that have had such a profound impact that I will mention it here. There's that one friend who asked me once if my God was big enough to handle whatever I was going through at that time. I said, "No." He told me "fine, then get a new God. One that is big enough to handle the situation." It was at that point that I realized that it was my Higher Power. Then there was that one friend who told me early on that he liked me and wanted me to come around more. I don't ever remember a point in my life where someone actually told me that they liked me. I know it's very Sally Field, but someone who grew up with the pains and struggles to be liked, as I did was finally able to see that I was likeable just for being me. I can say that has changed over the past 17 years. J When I was five years sober my closest friend at the time told me that she was tired of trying to be someone different for each person. I realized at that point that if you didn't like for who I was then we weren't meant to be friends and that was OK.
Finally, something my Grandfather told me has stuck with me always. When I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted my Father in my life (at that point we hadn't spoken in over a year (this was after not seeing him from ages 14 – 20). He told me that I had to make a decision. Do I want my Father in my life? If I did, I needed to let go of all my preconceived ideas and let him be who he is going to be. He was a spiritually sick man, and I had to remove the label of Father and see the man. If I didn't want a relationship with him then I needed to tell him and let him go. On the two hour drive back from Palm Springs I went through it in my head. I prayed for an answer, and by the time I got home one was revealed. I called my Father and am happy to say that we had an amazing relationship. Once I let go of all my ideas and notions it became clear that we could have a relationship. Four months before he died he came to Los Angeles for the first time in twenty years. We bonded over that week. I was able to support him through his rough times, and get some closure. When he died, I was sad, but I had no regrets. We had said everything we needed to, and I know that he loved me in the best way he knew how.
None of these amazing things would have happened without my sobriety, my relationship with God, or the amazing people that have come into my life. I have many things to be grateful for in my life and I count those blessings everyday.
Thank you to Jeffrey, Toni, Rick L, Pamela, Nancy, Jack, Lauren, my entire family and all of the amazing friends I have today. Without all of these people, some who are still a big part of my life, some who have departed and some who have passed away, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Without these lessons or these amazing people I wouldn't continue to grow and change everyday.