Friday, November 11, 2011

What I've Learned in 26 Years

Next month will be my 27th anniversary in Narcotics Anonymous. It amazes me that I have managed to stay clean all these years. For someone who drank and used the way I did, to stay clean for almost three decades is a miracle and one I thank God for on a daily basis.

On my anniversary I will speak my home group, Hip, Slick & Kool. I will give a brief drug-a-log, because newcomers need to hear you used the way they did—the heroin, methadone maintenance, cocaine, liberal doses of PCP—and I will share about some of the key things I have learned in my 27 years clean. Here they are.

The people you love may not always love you. Or, the way they can love you may not be the way you need to be loved. As painful as that was, once I faced the truth, turning it over and moving on has been my only answer. It takes time and courage, but admitting that I needed more and detaching with love has been the only solution that has worked for me.

Everyone is struggling with something. You may see people who you think “have it together.” Trust me, everyone, no matter how long they have been clean or how spiritual they appear, struggles with something. It may be food, it may be gambling, it may be an inability to be intimate, it may be how they handle money—but it is something. We each are gifted with our own personal struggles we wrestle throughout our lives.

My family often lets me down, but people in the Fellowship rarely do. I continue to be disappointed in my family members. I continue to invite them into my life; they continue to refuse. People in the Fellowship are happy to accept almost any invitation I extend. My friends in the Fellowship have become my family. I can call on them at any time and they will drop everything if I need help. They are always at the top of my gratitude list.

My God is always bigger. I have walked through very difficult circumstances in recovery. The death of both parents; a painful divorce (which is almost an oxymoron); very public humiliations; an almost fatal illness and subsequent organ transplant; the death of animals I have loved more than most people, to name a few. In all these instances, and when I thought I could not go on either emotionally or physically, my God has always been bigger than the problem at hand.

There were many times when I wasn’t sure I could stay clean. Whenever I ask myself: “Why am I bothering to stay clean, to suit up and show up?”—when I am at my wit’s end, considering that first drink which will lead me back to my drug of choice—that is when God inevitably sends me an Eskimo. It may be that newcomer I reluctantly agreed to sponsor, calling with some drama of her own. It may be my sponsor showing up at the door. It may be my phone ringing unexpectedly, the caller ID announcing a close friend. It may be a simple post from a Facebook friend that suddenly slips into that hole in my gut and clicks into place. These Eskimos tell me that, one day at a time, nothing is so bad that I can’t face it and that I never have to face it alone. There have been many, many Eskimos in my recovery. You may be my next one.

You really can’t take it with you when you die. When my doctor told me I had only a few months to live, I had a lot of time to think. I looked around my house at all the “stuff” I owned. I realized that at best, these possessions were just things that someone would have to dispose of or donate when I died. None of the physical things I owned mattered one iota in the end. What matters is how I live my life and how I treat others.

When shit hits the fan, and it will hit the fan, put on the blues and lean into the pain. There is no way around the pain—no shortcut, no detour, no avoidance. Just walk toward the pain to get past it. It will not kill you. It will feel like it will kill you, but I and others who have chosen to stay clean for years and years have learned that pain is not fatal. Beyond the pain there is new freedom. You will come out stronger on the other side.

What really matters is friendship. To have friends, you have to be a friend. Whenever I have problems in my recovery, my NA friends are there for me unconditionally. That is because I am a friend to them. NA taught me how to be a friend.

These are just a few of my thoughts about my years in the Fellowship. My dearest friend in NA, the love of my life I will never marry, sent me a card last year for my clean date. I think his words sum it up much better than I can.

“That you arrived was an act of Providence. That you stayed is a daily miracle. That you endure displays your courage. What you have accomplished makes you an inspiration.”

Those words can be said about almost anyone who stays clean in NA. We didn’t get here by accident and we don’t stay clean by accident, either. I thank God daily for the Grace that brought me to these rooms.

1 comment:

Anne Wayman said...

well said... life is good and it's weird.