I’ve noticed that the people who have been sober long term inevitably talk about that one time when the compulsion to drink came upon them unexpectedly.
Sometimes it’s because of a stressful or tragic event. Sometimes it’s because the allure of old acquaintances in a party situation suddenly looks too inviting. “I can go back to being sober tomorrow” it whispers. “I sobered up and stayed sober this time. I can do it again.” But whatever the case, those who managed to stick to the plan not to drink go on to remain sober long term. And it seems in most cases that it’s just one really trying situation, and after that they stay sober from then on.
I find that interesting. I get the impression it’s like a test of some sort, to test one’s resolve. I’m not saying that’s what it is, I’m just saying that that’s what it looks like. But perseverance is necessary if your’re going to stay sober long term. I’m actually 40 months sober today. I can’t say I’ve had my ‘test’ yet. I do know however, that between 2 and 2.5 years I hit a spot in my sobriety for several months where I was just going through the motions. No motivation, no zest for life whatsoever. I just had to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
I damn sure wasn’t going to drink, that’s all there was to it. I had made up my mind on that point, and if I had to live like a zombie then so be it! I figured it wouldn’t last forever and it didn’t.
“Good things happen to drunks who stay sober.” I’ve heard that from guys with a lot of sober time, as in decades. Now when the occasion calls for it, I will say it to them. And I always get the same reaction from them, an expression of recognition and agreement. “That’s right.” They know it because they’ve experienced it themselves. And because they’ve been sober for decades, they’ve known a whole lot of other drunks who stayed sober, who have said the same thing.
But you’ve got to stay sober. And it’s not 100% good stuff all the time. Life doesn’t work like that. There will be trials and low spots ahead. I think (and this is just my theory) that every person has a main life lesson/ hurdle to overcome. And for the truly substance or alcohol dependent person, that hurdle is recovery from that addiction. And so that’s why ‘good things happen to drunks who stay sober.’ Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, you’re free to move in any direction you want except backward.
We were at lunch on Wednesday and my friend Tommy was worried about his real estate deals. He goes through this on a regular basis. But he knows it’s all going to work out because it always does. Tommy has over 20 years of sobriety. Tommy said; “I know I just gotta keep the rudder steady.” And I thought, “wow that’s cool, I think I’ll use that!”
Sometimes we can’t see the ‘forest for the trees.’ We pass through some turbulence or some rough waters. But if we remain true to ourselves, which means for the addict or alcoholic not picking back up, we almost always come out the other side in better shape than we went in.
Every time you go back on your decision to quit alcohol, you’re selling at least part of your own future. You’re shortchanging yourself. The reason I know this is because I did it. As they say, it takes what it takes.
I heard a couple of A.A. members speak this week in meetings. Audrey with nine years, I believe, talked with heart and courage about how she coped at work with a stressful busy day at work that would have sent her off in a rage before and cost her that job. But she handled it. She kept her cool. Audrey is a diagnosed bipolar and paranoid schizophrenic. But when she speaks she conveys a message of hope like few others in the room. And then there’s Jim. Jim has well over 20 years sobriety. Jim shares amazing stuff all the time that really has everyone’s attention. Jim likes to say; “When I got to A.A. I was in pretty rough shape. I only owned two pair of jeans and they were dirty.” Jim is an inspiration to many. You can absolutely see the peace and contentment he and Audrey both have. And you know what else they both have in common? They both have cancer.
That’s right. They both have cancer but you would not know it by listening to them. They are at a meeting sharing their experience, strength, and hope, to help others and they’re content because they already overcame the greatest obstacle on their life journey, and it isn’t cancer.
But you can only stay sober today. You can’t stay sober yesterday, or tomorrow, just today. That’s what I intend to do.
Let’s hold the rudder steady
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