Winter is officially here; we had a blizzard yesterday, it is below zero here tonight with wind, AND I fell spectacularly on my ass in the middle of the road on the way to the post office this morning. I did the whole “look around to make sure nobody saw me” thing, and just then someone stopped their car to make sure I was okay. Which is both the joy and the boon of living in a small town. No matter-I used to drink perhaps more than was good for me, so falling down on Main Street isn’t the most embarrassing thing I have ever done. At least in the winter, I have a real excuse.
Speaking of drinking too much, I celebrated eleven years sober today. I am not quite sure how I feel about it. I mean, of course I am thrilled-one DAY sober is pretty damn huge for we alcoholics, and we all know that we only get eleven (or however many) years by putting a whole string of one-day-at-a-times all together. But you know, a year was a big deal, and three years was when I finally really started to GET the program (which also coincides nicely with how sober I was when I separated from my husband-and we all know there are no coincidences, right?). At 9 years sober, we had our crazy stalker break into the house, and that same year Hannah was molested-so it was my AA program and my AA friends that kept me together (with a lot of help from you people in blog-land, too) and got us all through. Ten years is ten years, which has the ring of authority.
But eleven doesn’t have the same feeling. Thrilled, yes. At the same time, so many things have happened in this last sober year that have reminded me that there is still so much work in front of me. After all this time, and as the result of some of the things that have happened in the last year, I have so much work still to do. Let’s see, I am a caretaker, a manipulator, someone who needs to control every little thing in her life and will resort to doing anything to get that control. I like to focus on what everyone else is doing in order to keep from dealing with my own issues, and the end result? I go crazy. In fact, one of my favorite women in the program once said,”My son started to use drugs and I went crazy.” Well, I can sure relate to THAT one. I have been doing some work in Al-Anon, re-remembering that not only do I have no control over alcohol, but I have no control over anything/anyone.
So. Eleven years sober, and it feels in many ways now like I am taking sobriety to a different level. I know that this is a good thing, a necessary thing, and I am excited to be starting down a new path. Maybe this is what eleven years brings you, the knowledge that pain is necessary for growth. I cannot guarantee that everything in my life is going to be good, but I can guarantee that it is better than I ever imagined it would be even in the midst of hardship.
I told you about my two friends who were both dying of cancer. M., the dapper man who so jauntily swung his legs in his blue hospital gown, died early Sunday morning. I am blessed in that independent of my friendship with him, my son has been good friends with his grandson for years and years-there is a decade of connection between our two families-so they called me to let me know his time was near; they allowed me to come in and sit with him just a few hours before his passing. It was hard-my god, so hard, the shell of this wonderful, strong, absolutely amazing man there on the bed, each breath getting shallower as his family sat their watch, but this is what my eleven years have given me. Not just the desire to say goodbye to a friend, but the ability to stick it through and confront the messy ending of a life. When I was a practicing drunk, well, I would have been the one feeling self-important and scurrying around trying to make sure everyone was okay and rushing in to fill the silence with talk and then perhaps go home and throw a few pies together so I could say,”Look what I did! Aren’t I great?” Anything at all to avoid having to deal with my own feelings of grief. Now, with some days under my belt, I was able to simply be there. To hold his hand, to talk to him when he opened his eyes, knowing that he probably had no idea who I was but, strangely enough, not caring. What a humbling and beautiful experience to simply be present, to be given that gift.
So eleven years, and it is Thanksgiving Eve. I have boiled my eggs to make deviled eggs tomorrow, got the sourdough starter proofing for bread, and have my sweet potatoes boiled and cooling as well. My children are all home and safe, Owen battling a cold which makes him snotty and feverish and a little grouchy, all of them a little antsy for tomorrow. Steve is here as well, and though I have neither the time nor the inclination to go into all of that, suffice it to say that we are both in a better place. Him, for his own reasons, and me, because I am learning to detach and stop trying to control. We will go to our friends’ tomorrow and be surrounded by people we love, and will then gather at Steve’s parents house later, the first time I have seen most of them since May. I feel grateful tonight, not so much for changes in Steve or changes in any outward circumstances but for changes in me. I am loved, that I know, by so many people that I can no longer count them on one hand like I used to. I don’t have enough hands, and I am humbles and grateful every day.
Yes. Eleven years thank you God.