My life doesn’t look much different from the outside. I still wear an ugly red polo at the same old job. I still don’t have very much (or any) in my savings account, and even after spending three months in Lithuania, my reading and writing skills are still in the English language.
But on the inside, my interior is even more complicated. I’ve been through a lot of change in a really short time. Many people don’t know that I was actually sent home early from Lithuania because of my drinking. And then I went to rehab for 21 days before I was sent home for abusing a prescription medication. Then, shortly after getting home, I spent another evening with wine before I showed up to an AA meeting the next day to pick up my fourth startover chip in 2 months. Now, according to an app on my iPhone, I’ve been sober from alcohol and other drugs for 7 days. I switched cigarettes for vaping and AA fresh brew for the moscato I loved so much. I take Wellbutrin instead of Vyvanse and a sleeping medication instead of abusing Bendadryl or taking one too many Melatonin tablets before bedtime. Some people call this sobriety. I call it really fucking hard.
Much to everyone’s confusion and disappointment, I have not graduated from IWU; I haven’t even finished all my classes from the fall semester of my senior year. I’ve spent many a late night with a pen in hand scribbling out the questions I would ask of God about how I got to where I am. Why can’t I finish anything? Why do I isolate myself over and over again? The answer is simple: I’m a flawed human being with a lot of hurts. But I’m also capable of healing and growth. And even though it’s been ugly and imperfect, that’s what the setbacks and outright failures of the last year have been about. Before I was really ready to recognize that I was a person with an illness and in need of help, I could not start getting better.
In rehab, we used the word insanity to describe our illness and our thought patterns. I was insane when I got in my car to drive after I had a bottle of wine. I was insane when I got angry with the treatment facility when they told me I couldn’t use my vyvanse anymore. I was insane when I romanticized my own pain as I stood dark and cold on the coast of the Baltic Sea. I was insane to think I was too good to ask for help.
Rehab also taught me that if I keep trying, if I take things one day at a time, the mental obsession over drinking and using I once had will be lifted. Who or what exactly does that lifting is really outside the scope of my understanding, but I know there’s gotta be some power greater than me at work in this world and in my life. Most of the time, I find that at the tables of AA meetings. The group is smarter, more loving, and more prepared than I am on my own. Admitting that has taken courage and humility—two things I haven’t had much of for quite some time now. The first step is showing up. The second is drinking the coffee and admitting when it sucks–when all of it sucks.
In the rooms of AA, posters say things like Easy does it! and First things first! At first I was furious. These sayings are terribly cliché and just plain obnoxious. Like who the fuck do these people think they are using kindergarten phrases at me when I have the culture shock and the anxiety that naturally accompanies the early days of sobriety? But the truth is that “these people” have ruined their lives far worse than I did mine, and they learned the hard way that all they had was today to do the most good they could. I should have asked myself who the fuck I thought I was to try to quit drinking on my own.
I’ve come to find freedom in the 24 hours I have. I find freedom, crazy as it sounds, in the idea of taking simple steps in the right direction. Staying sober is only the beginning. My journey out of wreckage and into a group of like-minded people is about finding myself and my will to live again. I’m not afraid of being ordinary anymore. I’m much more afraid of being a lonely drunk.
Here’s to to today.
“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Step 2, Alcoholics Anonymous