When I was just twenty-one years-old, I was sat in a doctor’s office getting some crazy news. He informed me that, according to my liver enzyme readings I had the liver of a sixty year-old chronic alcoholic and that I would be dead inside a eight years without a radical lifestyle change. It was either quit drinking or…
That wasn’t my “bottom”. I drank for another year before finally seeing the light. Once I did see it, though, I didn’t look back. I made a deal with God in the middle of DT’s (withdrawal tremors – it isn’t pretty) – and rather unusual, where I would normally start with God’s end of the bargain, I started with my end. I prayed, “God, I know I’m meant for more than this (in other words, “I know I’ve been a loser in Your eyes for quite a while now”). I’ll give staying sober everything I’ve got, if You’ll just help me”. With that, my compulsion to drink was lifted and I set about fixing the flaws in my character that led me to drink.
That last point is fairly important for we recovering folk. Too many times, people make the mistake of believing it’s just about not drinking or doing drugs, and that’s why those people fail to remain in recovery so frequently. The key is fixing why we chose to pick up in the first place.
I set about cleaning the wreckage of my past, then fixing the why. Over two and a half decades I’ve been through a lot. Some highs and some lows, but that rollercoaster doesn’t look as crazy as it used to. The peaks and valleys aren’t as pronounced – in cycling terms, my life doesn’t equate to mountain climbs and descents anymore. It’s more like gentle rollers where the momentum from the last downhill helps propel me up the next little climb. There’s no coasting in this way of living, of course. If I coast over the top of one hill, I won’t have the momentum needed to crest the next.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to choosing this path; the manic highs aren’t as high as they once were. Those highs are sacrificed to raise the lows. What this means in recovery’s terms is that I put myself in fewer tempting situations. I loved to drink when I was on those blazing high’s in life – and I drank so I wouldn’t have to feel during those crushing lows. Eliminate both, and I can work on the stuff in the middle.
This is the choice. No more peaks and valleys, just nice rollers, and to get there all I had to do was “the next right thing in any situation”. Not the next right thing for me, or to further my career, or to make my sobriety better… The next right thing – and that often isn’t the best thing from my own selfish, personal perspective. And I have to concentrate on my part in everything for this to work.
If I look at where you’re wrong, if I look at where society has wronged me, if I concentrate on politicians or any other distraction, I miss that which is most important: My part.
And now we get down to the real nuts and bolts. I am selfish and self-centered. If I concentrate on anything other than my part in life, I will be miserable because I can’t do anything about other people, places or things. This is why activists are always so angry, they’re raging against the machine instead of worrying about their own pathetic selves. They have to fight something…. anything. And so they do.
No, I have to do better than that, for the sake of my happiness, because a happy me is better for this world than an angry, manic, depressive, drunk me.
In the end, ironically, it is all about me – just not in the way I want. It’s about a humble, flawed me, just trying to get better and do right. When I concentrate on that, life feels like Heaven, almost every day I wake up, and that’s as good as it gets.