The Road Best Traveled
It was simple. Even cliche :( I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
It was a Monday, sometime in late June or early July of last year. Carl and I had just finished a conference call with Mary Beth Best, the owner of Mary's Place in Sewanee, TN. We'd called to hear her voice, what she believed, and to find out how it would work.
What IS a recovery center? What does one DO there?
I'd initiated the call while watching the kids swim at the pool. I remember standing back by the picnic tables, phone to ear, listening to everything she said. She talked about spiritual maladies and the rewards of recovery. Once I hung up the phone, I got in my car to run home. (The kids were being safely supervised by a friend!)
As soon as I turned the key, I heard "Lord I'm Ready Now" by Plumb.
I just let go. And I feel exposed But it's so beautiful ‘Cause this is who I am I've been such a mess Now I can't care less I could bleed to death
(Chorus) Lord, I'm ready now All the walls are down Time is running out And I wanna make this count I ran away from you And I did what I wanted to But I don't want to let you down Lord, I'm ready now Lord, I'm ready now
I was so caught up In who I'm not Can you please forgive me
(Chorus) I've nothing left to hide no No reasons left to lie Give me another chance
(Chorus) Lord, I'm ready now.
I was shaking. It wasn't from fear, but from confirmation. God was speaking and I knew. I knew that the fighting was coming to an end. I wasn't yet sure how exactly, but in that moment I was overcome with exhaustion. The physical reaction was replicate of running on adrenaline with no food. I was tired, weary, unstable. I surrendered, no doubt. But I can't say it was entirely of sound deliberation. I simply gave up. I couldn't engage the mental and physical conflict any longer. I had been defeated and I didn't care. There was no humiliation for having to relinquish control. It was simply a matter of survival. My primitive instincts had been triggered. My life depended on it.
A significant part of any addict's story is the description of their "bottom". What singular event or experience stimulated the decision to quit? Surely, there was one major catalyst! That's true for many. Car accidents, job losses, ultimatums by family members, personal tragedies, jail time and homelessness are common. Just as common, however, are the absence of said benchmarks. Many of us just can't do it anymore. The mental obsession and physical allergy is simply too much to manage. We've depleted our energy to endure. We find ourselves in the fetal position, one hand feebly waving a white flag.
When that happens, when we finally acknowledge it, God is there. He's been waiting. Some of us drop that flag and and grasp His hand for leverage to stand. Others roll over and push themselves up. Either way, we take that first step towards sobriety. Some walk down the street to staying "dry". Others take the road to recovery.
Thank God I grabbed His hand. I wasn't strong enough to walk alone. The first few steps were scary. It was dark and I couldn't see where we were going. Had He not been there walking with me, I might have turned back. There were just so many unknowns and I was emotionally handicapped.
Recovery? Does that mean NO alcohol?! What will I do for fun? How will I function? I don't particularly like social settings, how am I going to get through them? What will people think? Am I going to be the only one of my friends who doesn't drink?! What will people say? How will I tell them? Not even on holidays? What about vacations? Date nights! Where will we go now?
It's been said that the 12 step program, "isn't for making bad people good or sick people well, but simply to make them available."
Although I'm sure this has been interpreted many ways, I understand it like this. I was never "bad!" I took care of my kids' needs and managed our home. I've been faithful to my husband. I never withdrew anything from society. I hadn't been in trouble with the law!
I was never "sick" either. I had my health and I had resources. I functioned in a high profile job, attended kids' activities and participated in obligatory events. I was involved and present.
But when I was drinking, I was self-centered.
I wasn't available to consider an alternate path for my life.
I wasn't able to conceptualize how my choices effected others. I was not available for consequences.
I was not available for my friends, to care about their struggles or to celebrate their praises.
I wasn't available to learn new things or appreciate others' opinions. I knew everything and my way was the only way.
I wasn't emotionally or physically available to my husband and children.
I wasn't spiritually available for what God wanted FROM me or FOR me.
I knew happiness before I got sober. I've had a great life! Christmas Day was always happy. Date nights were happy. Being snowed in with the family was happy. Vacations were happy and laying by the pool was happy. I loved to cook. That always made me happy. A good book brought me happiness. Shopping made me REALLY happy.
Living life in recovery has taught me two valuable lessons so far. Happiness is conditional. It's dependent on circumstances and environment. Joy, on the other hand, transcends all experiences, situations and conditions. People, places and things are irrelevant. It comes from knowing God and having a relationship with Him. As I learn to talk to Him, ask of Him, lean on Him and learn from Him, I am filled. For once in my life, my emotions are stable. I am not moved by changes around me. I am grounded in God's promises, continually seeking His will for my life. Simply by listening and being obedient, I am exempt from the feelings of guilt, shame, uncertainty and denial that misinformed my choices and misguided my direction for many years. My life was volatile before, co-dependent on my surroundings.
Now, as I learn to live my life through Him and for Him, things are constant. They're more clear. They make more sense, and they're reliable. I can't explain how, I just believe why. I gave it all up. I stopped serving as the center of my universe and relinquished my duties. I no longer make decisions in isolation. I'm now the servant, not the dictator.
The other incredible reward of recovery is a better understanding of gratitude. It's not an emotion, but an action. Without even trying, my spirits, my mood and my overall attitude are improving. I'm more patient, more willing, more productive. I want to share what I've been given. I want to give back as I have received. I now see the simple joys in everyday life. The monotony that drove me to drink before is being exposed as little blessings.
A convenient parking spot.
Finding a receipt I thought I'd lost.
Remembering all the things I needed at the store in spite of forgetting my list.
The smell of coffee.
Retrieving firewood from the pile in the dark without getting wet (or bitten!)
The kids getting along.
The feel of clean sheets.
Getting all green lights, preventing my tardiness (more a miracle than little blessing:)
New skincare products.
Excitement about a good grade on a test.
A clean kitchen.
I'm receiving these rewards, not because of something I've done. But because of what I'm NOT doing. Sure, not drinking gets me points, but not running my own life seals the win.
I stopped trying to stop drinking and started trying to start living. Maybe I could've just attended treatment, gotten dry and avoided alcohol. It's doubtful, but possible. I could be "dry", good, and less sick.
If I was just dry, I wouldn't know freedom from bondage. I'd still be hesitating, ready to run back the other way. I wouldn't have real relationships with the family and friends walking alongside me. I wouldn't be searching for people to invite on our journey. I'd never be available to see the little blessings that God points out on the sides of the road as we travel. I'd still be rushing towards the next happiness instead of stopping to take in the pure joys found through recovery and restoration.
Before I grabbed His hand, walking, even crawling, was exhausting and terrifying. I was navigating...alone...in the dark. I'm no longer alone as I go. And I never will be again. The views from this road continue to be shown to me, a little at a time. They're breathtaking and I'm awestruck.
I like this route and our pace.