I’ve been sober for eighteen years and three months. I haven’t felt a compulsion to drink or use drugs for eighteen years and one month. My last intense desire to use came at about sixty days sober. I was sitting in the office of the balloon store where I worked, holding the little slip of paper I kept all my sober friend’s names on, and was so overwhelmed with the desire to use that I kept calling my dealer’s beeper and then hanging up. Eventually I started calling people on that list. On that particular day I couldn’t reach anyone. I spent about two hours calling them all, leaving messages, and then going through the full list and starting again at the top. I must have left some people four or five messages that day.
In desperation I did the only thing I could think of; I got down on my knees, right there at work, and I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in and asked that the desire to use be taken away. And it was, just like that.
Ten years later, we moved out of the city and found it harder to get to the recovery meetings we knew and loved. We never really bonded with the meetings in our area, but we kept going. Then Tori was born and while at first it was easy to cart her to meetings, eventually she got too big and too bored and we started missing more than we attended. Eventually I found some daytime groups, even with babysitting, but then my work schedule picked up and suddenly the time between meetings grew from days to weeks to months.
While I haven’t had any desire to drink during those times with fewer meetings, my personality suffered. I became more sensitive, more prickly, more quick to anger. I also became judgemental, pushy, and defensive. Eventually I found myself in a place where I had a shortage of humility and I was focused on all the wrong things.
A couple of months ago I began taking the first steps to change that. I started calling my friend Dave once a week, asking him to commit to a weekly chat. Dave lives far away now, sadly, but is absolutely the most grounded sober person I know. He’s gifted at hearing me while also helping me see my own crazy. Then we arranged with local friends for an evening playdate for Tori while we went to a local recovery meeting; with amazing luck, we stumbled on a meeting with just the right mix of people and have found ourselves leaving each week with a big smile on our faces.
Finally, I started a little private Facebook group of sober women, and joined a much larger sober group with thousands of people in it. I’m not sure why I wasn’t taking advantage of the opportunities that social media can provide to us sober folks; I mean, I’m in plenty of business and friend related Facebook groups, so why not a sober one? I cannot explain why this didn’t occur to me sooner.
The result of concentrating again on my recovery? I feel better.
Last night someone at the meeting said, “I try to wear life like a loose garment.” I must have heard it before; it’s from the earliest sober meditation book (it’s also apparently a quote falsely attributed to Buddha). But last night felt like the first time, and it rang through me the way the truth often does. I found myself thinking about the feeling of taking off restrictive clothing and slipping into your softest pajamas. How great that feels.
I’ve been wearing life lately like it was the weird spanx-type garment I have; it’s a tank top that goes all the way down past my hips to my mid-thigh. It’s got underwires that go under my bra, giving me TWO underwires. It’s incredibly uncomfortable. It makes me itchy and I sit awkwardly when I wear it because if I sit wrong I have trouble taking a deep breath. It forces me to concentrate on myself and my body and my discomfort. I can’t look outward when I’m wearing it because I’m so focused on being uncomfortable.
I don’t want to wear life in that way anymore. I’m tired of holding myself awkwardly and trying to make myself look and be a person who I’m not. I’m tired of being hyper aware of myself.
It’s time to look outward and begin recovering. Again.