Today I am seven years sober. Lucky number seven. To have any sort of celebration or anniversary during this weird time in the world feels incredibly odd. But this is a date I refuse to let pass by without acknowledging the journey that has led me here, maybe even especially now, when we are living in a world that is so fragile, so scary, so full of heartbreak and fear. During this pandemic, I have daily thoughts of how much this feels like early sobriety. In such a short period of time, everything had changed. One day, the world as I knew it was over, it was different, and I had to learn how to live in this new place. There would always be a memory of a time before that day, and a time after. Things would never be the same.
I reached out to people I loved and admired who had been on this path before and asked them for advice. How did they do it? Turned out, I needed to completely change my life. What I had used to cope in the past wouldn’t work anymore. How I handled my day-to-day existence in the past wasn’t available to me. There were lots of things I wanted to do in that moment, daily habits and patterns that had been decades in the making. But I needed to find a different way. The world was different now. But I wasn’t going to do it in a day or a week or a month or even a year. I did it every single day, one day at a time.
I have always done a silent happy dance when I see my non-recovery friends quoting sayings that have been on embroidered wall hangings in the rooms of recovery meetings forever. “Do the next right thing.” “Take it one day at a time.” “Keep it simple.” One of these days you non-sober people are going to quote my very favorite, “Don’t drink, even if your ass falls off.” Yes, that is really something we say to each other. And it’s true! Today, as we navigate another new world, I am so grateful to be doing it as a sober person. When I first got quit drinking, I had no idea what was in store. I remember when my dad got sick around two years and I thought to myself “THIS is why I got sober. So I could handle this.” Then the election of 2016 happened, and I thought “Maybe THIS is why I got sober, so I could handle this.” Since that time there have been too many instances to count (going to the refugee camps in Greece, lobbying in Topeka and DC, starting my own business, dealing with marriage and parenting issues, changing careers and giving up my business, being in a horrific car accident, moving, etc.) where I have thought the same thing. THIS is why I got sober.
But really, it’s for all those reasons. Every hard or wonderful or crazy thing in my life in the last seven years has been “figureoutable” because I am sober. Despite my fears, I got through that first day, week, month and year. I survived the darkest days of my life. I did it imperfectly and with lots of mistakes, but I did it. And I know as a community we will make it through this challenge too. It won’t be easy. Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. You don’t get to skip the hard parts, in fact, those are the parts that make it all worth it in the end. Getting sober was the exact opposite of easy. And yet, it was the best thing I ever did for myself, my loved ones and my community.
I can be a person who contributes to the world in a positive way, because seven years ago I chose a different path, and every day since I’ve woken up and made the same choice. I am so fortunate. I am so grateful. To all of you who led the way for me, thank you for your service. You know who you are. And if you are in a place where you are questioning your drinking, please reach out. There are so many of us out there, and trust me, we are pretty amazing people.
We are still unsure when these two will go back to school. Instead of our planned spring break road trip, we took a 24 hour jaunt to Oklahoma and back. We kept our distance from others and washed our hands often. We stopped at Sunnyside on the way home and talked about all the barriers kids experience to get an education, both in the past and currently around the world. We talked a lot about how white people (like the Ingalls family…this is the school house from the book “Little House on the Prairie”) took everything from Native Americans and how we have rewritten history to make them the “heroes.”
We are living through a really weird time right now, but I keep reminding myself there have been worse times. We will only get through this by doing the next right thing, one moment at a time. We must be kind to one another. We must push our leadership to do more. We must make smart decisions and do whatever we can to help, regardless of the inconvenience it may be to our lives. To all the mothers out there trying to keep our families safe, while also keeping them calm, I am with you.
I hope this may give some of us more empathy, so when we see mothers at the border with their kids or refugees in camps we understand how easily that could be us. What would you do to protect your kids? Leave a COVID-19 hot spot? Empty the shelves of your local store? Go anywhere to keep them safe? This is universal. We need to do what we can to be helpers, because someday (maybe sooner than we hope), we will be the ones needing help.
I’m not a resolutions person (too much pressure), I’m more of a general theme person. I haven’t decided on my word of the year yet (which, BTW, is another recovery/sobriety thing that has been hijacked by the general population and it makes me smile to know all these people are embracing long-held sobriety traditions and they don’t even know it…see also: anything regarding co-dependency and pretty much anything Brene Brown has ever written), but I’m so close, and this little mapping exercise from Karen Walrond is something I started doing in 2012 and is still my favorite way to work out my focus for the year. 2019 was a fantastic, exhausting whirlwind.
I know 2020 will be hard (I mean, we are four days in and probably already at war with Iran soooo…) and stressful and wonderful and sad and joyful. But all I can control is me. I want to focus on being less pessimistic, less judgmental and more forgiving. The world right now is a scary place. But hasn’t it always been scary? Maybe we just see it more clearly now. And by “we,” I mean middle class white women with privilege that has blinded us from much of the pain in the world. Regardless, the glasses are on, and now we need to decide how to carry ourselves in the world.
I hope to choose action and love and optimism, even when it seems silly. Because if there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that adding to the negativity and sitting in my angry resolve that everything will be awful no matter what, doesn’t change anything. It just makes me a miserable, ineffective person. In the words of my fictional, spiritual guide, Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Today, I choose light.