Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Reflections on 28 years clean

As I struggle with the death of my beloved brother and business partner Stillman, I''m recycling a post I run in some form every year on my clean date since my 25th. I've added a few points this year because I've learned a few tough lessons.

Last week was my 28th anniversary in Narcotics Anonymous. It amazes me that I have managed to stay clean for more than a quarter of a century. I remember turning 25 years old at a drunken party where I felt good the next day because I had managed to control my drinking enough not to black out. But to stay clean for 28 years, that is a miracle and one which I thank God for on a daily basis. I want to share a few of the key things I have learned in my decades clean.
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 is, turning it over and moving on has been what I have done, right or wrong. It takes time and courage, but admitting that you need more and moving on is 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 are, struggles with something. It could be food, how they spend money, gambling, sex, whatever, we are all struggling. Our addiction manifests itself in new ways when we can’t have our drug of choice.
My family often lets me down, but people in the Fellowship almost never do. I continue to be disappointed with 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 give. My friends in the Fellowship have become my family.
We never truly “get over” our childhoods. No matter how much we think the steps have resolved what we went through as children, no one runs away at 15, hitchhikes 800 miles and stares total perverts in the face because she had such a great childhood.
My God is always bigger. I have walked through very difficult things 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.
When it 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, no diversion. Just walk toward the pain to get past it. It will not kill you. It will feel like it will kill you, but it will not, I have learned. Beyond the pain there is a new freedom.
You can't take it with you when you die. When a doctor told me I had no more than four months to live, I spent a lot of time thinking. I looked around my house at all the “stuff” I owned. I realized that at best, they 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 did matter toward the end? You did. You and my dogs and my family.
The gift of dysfunctional parents is a close-knit bond with your siblings, who understand the reality of your childhood. My childhood looked like a castle on a hill to my friends who really had dysfunction. The reality is that profound emotional abuse—the “slimy” abuse—is just as scarring as physical abuse.
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 of my years in the Fellowship. A friend sent me a card and I think his words summed 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 the rooms. We didn’t get here by accident and we don’t stay clean by accident, either. It's a lot of hard work and putting one foot in front of the other and learning to reach out for help.

I thank God daily for the Grace that brought me to these rooms.

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