Twenty years. One day at a time.
Twenty years ago, two days before the New Year, I walked up Fairmount Boulevard in Cleveland Heights to Jane’s house. A month earlier, my friend Tina had informed me that Jane — a luminous light of a human — was sober. We had stood in Tina’s cold garage smoking, me with wine glass in hand, when I tearfully explained to her that I knew I had to quit drinking. She cried too as she had been prepping to give me her private intervention speech.
I had been a daily drinker since I was in my early 20s. By my mid 30s, I was struggling to hide my unwellness. I took medication for panic in the morning just to be able to leave the house. I would then drink coffee and smoke cigarettes until I had to take another pill, my adrenal system hijacking my fuel supply. Each night, I would drink. Some nights I w0uld black out. I still have dreams I have done something terrible only I can’t remember what it is.
Every single day I wanted it to be different. And every single day, I repeated the same actions. At some point, I became “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I began to feel the embarrassment of public drunkenness, forgetting a nighttime conversation with a fellow parent, being the polar opposite of who I wanted to be. Somehow, I found the courage to take a step into a room I never, ever wanted to visit.
On a cold winter’s morning, before my first meeting twelve-step meeting, Jane brought me in to her solarium sanctuary and told me a bunch of brilliant and hopeful things but the one I remember was this, delivered in a way that made me understand the words “beseeching” and “grace.”
There is so much love.
Then she took me to a meeting in a church basement, the second oldest women’s meeting in the world. Miraculously, I kept showing up. I cried for about a year of meetings and clenched my teeth the rest of the time. I started taking Pilates. I moved, I breathed, I did what I intended to do. For an addict, these are miraculous achievements.
I have so many tools now that I use to stay as healthy as I can. Movement, meditation, service work … these are all in the kit of parts I have put together for myself to stay relatively not-crazy. But it is so important to me that I don’t forget the addict part of myself … my inner slick trickster who made me believe that the best thing I could do any given day was to have another Jack Daniels or glass of wine.
I am one of the lucky ones. Michael was not. Jen was not. So many others who are sick and suffering are not.
So with immense gratitude, I offer myself to any of you who may need a hand. Every single good thing I have today is the direct result of this moment, twenty years ago. If I can help you in any way, please reach out.
I have added to Jane’s promise.
There is so much love.
There is so much fun.
There is so much laughter.
There is so much to do.
Originally published at medium.com on December 22, 2016.