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You Can’t Skip the Beginning but That’s Ok
One of the most touching places in Laura McKowen’s new book, “We Are the Luckiest,” are the words she used at a time of early, very wobbly sobriety where she spoke of wanting to protect the tiny pink new life growing inside her. She went on to say that she couldn’t really FEEL or ENVISION that new life. She just had to keep the faith that it was there and it would keep growing.
It’s true that the beginning can feel unspeakably rough and raw. But the beginning is also the stuff of miracles, of subtle and massive shifts, of learning and growing and questioning
As someone who knows the biological experience of having “a new life growing inside me,” her words rang tender and true. I wasn’t one of those Earth Mother pregnant ladies who has a growing relationship with her fetus, talking and singing to it, constantly stroking her belly with great love. Even in the delivery room, looking over at the nurses working with precision on that still-wet newborn, my small incredulous brain could barely wrap itself around the fact that an entirely new person had appeared out of nowhere. Nothing at all had changed, no one had walked in or out. Just a few seconds ago little Kathryn was not even in the world. She was a thought in my head, a dream in my heart—and a bowling ball-sized sensation inside my body.
I can’t imagine a more perfect analogy for the beginning of our journey into an alcohol-free life. Laura said that she couldn’t see it or feel it or even really imagine it. She just had the faith that staying the course would allow that new life to grow big enough to be born into the world. Unfortunately, that radically alive, glorious, joyful, radiant Alcohol-Free New Life doesn’t have a set gestation period. That’s why Laura also spoke of her need to work on patience—lots and lots of patience. A few people were watching Laura’s lengthy, rather difficult sobriety pregnancy unfold in real time. But most of us just know her within the context of that shiny new life, as the luminous, grace-filled, inspirational leader she has become.
“Over time, and with each right choice, I got stronger. I started to feel something magical growing inside me, getting bigger, more substantial, and pulsing with life.
Something like dignity.”
― Laura McKowen, We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life
I don’t think we can stress enough for those who are starting out on the sober path that it’s probably impossible to imagine how wonderful life can and will be on the other side of this Great Work, this Magnum Opus of breaking free. In a recent interview with Dax Shepard, Sean Penn referred to his youthful experience with nicotine addiction as “falling from master to slave.” That journey to slave might be slow or fast but it’s guaranteed to be easy. Few things in life demand less effort than developing an addiction to something or someone. It’s the journey back that calls for massive faith, hope and raw courage. Not to mention an eff-ton of perseverance.
Stumbling, learning, and starting again isn’t a long-repeated loop for everyone along this journey. But it is for many. And it can be especially demoralizing for those like Laura who are suffering and struggling to hear about someone who simply put down the drink and just feels more joyous and radically alive with each passing day. Every experience is unique but quite often I hear things like: “If don’t feel better (or if I’m feeling worse than before), why am I even doing this?”
Here’s the deal: Some of us are going to discover that we have far more than a dependence on alcohol to heal in our lives. Addictions are nearly always formed to relieve some root pain or fill some gaping inner hole, which works for a while. But then the “relief” itself deepens the root pain and digs an even bigger darker hole.
It’s true that the beginning can feel unspeakably rough and raw. Laura even used the words “my skin was on fire.” But the beginning is also the stuff of miracles, of subtle and massive shifts, of learning and growing and questioning. It’s Wonderland, Adventureland and hopefully glimpses of Tomorrowland all rolled into one. It’s the time to question and try everything—the time to throw your entire body, mind, emotions and heart into being WILLING to change.
Holly Whitaker, the founder of Hip Sobriety School and later Tempest Sobriety School, describes the beginning as the place “where you start to learn who you are, why you are here, and how to access those parts of you that you thought died along with the belief in Santa. This is where YOU begin. This is a WILD, life-altering, soul-shaping, awakening. Everything you ever longed to be, to feel, to know, to have starts here.”
The wise little Instagram lady who posted this graphic is right on the money—and she didn’t even write this about sobriety. She wrote it about everything we do or attempt to do in LIFE! Don’t miss that precious beginning part. Pay attention. It might be helpful to start journaling. Until you are much further down the road from early sobriety and encouraging others along the path from slave to master, you won’t realize what a priceless treasure The Beginning truly was.
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