Was there a second of time I looked around? Did I sail through or drop my anchor down? Was anything enough to kiss the ground, and say ‘I’m here now…’?— John Mayer, “Clarity”
I woke up feeling old the other day, all lethargic and ornery, dreading everything that lay ahead on my schedule. And as I staggered downstairs and plopped into my same spot on the couch to drink my same cup — sorry, pot — of coffee and eat my same gluten-free chocolate peanut butter protein bar, I thought to myself with a twinge of despair: “This is it? This is my entire life, right here?” 😩
Side note: I would be cool with a life filled with chocolate peanut butter protein bars. Sobriety has stricken me with an insatiable sweet tooth.
That, and an ugly self-pity streak.
Sometimes, though, in the midst of nursing the dull ache of what’s-the-point-itis — an existential affliction that’s plagued me all my life — I have flashes of clarity. Reminders that “this,” whatever it happens to be at the time, is everything I need.
Sure enough, there I sat in the midst of my morning routine, not really thinking of anything in particular, and I suddenly remembered the hangovers. Out of nowhere, memories of pounding headaches and searing shame, the visceral remnants of a drinking binge, came flooding back.
I used to wake up on mornings just like this, feeling half-dead — but in a much different way.
There would be a tequila bottle in its designated place on the kitchen counter, and just looking at it made the throbbing in my brain grow worse. I’d bought that bottle on the way home from work the previous evening, 12 hours after swearing to myself that I would “take the night off”…and now, there was barely a shot left. How could I let that happen AGAIN? What did I have to show for it except pain and misery, and the haunting knowledge that I’d absolutely need to buy another bottle today? The unforgiving vicious cycle had started over, the second I opened my eyes.
And that was your typical Thursday.
Fast forward a year and change, and it’s hard to put into words the rush of emotion that comes with those flashbacks. It’s relief. It’s pride. It’s gratitude. It’s elation! You guys, I might live the most boring life imaginable, but I don’t live like that anymore! I haven’t been hung over, haven’t been a slave to the vicious cycle of addiction, haven’t spent a single red cent on alcohol, in 16 months!
I have never been so certain of anything in my life: I do not ever want to go back to those tortuous, pounding-head mornings, staring at that terrible, near-empty bottle on the counter.
I certainly don’t have to.
Everything I need to live the life I want is right here, within me, as long as I keep the alcohol out.
So, yeah, that entire thought process took like 5 minutes, which is longer than it takes me to devour a Think bar. 😋 I went right back to dreading the workday, but I at least purged some of that pesky existential dread. A fog seemed to lift from my brain as the first light of morning appeared outside the window.
Later that same evening, I heard someone in a recovery meeting talk about feeling an overpowering urge to relapse. They said all their friends had gone back to drinking and seemed to be having a great time, so why continue to fight the “good fight”? They said they were thisclose to driving to the liquor store for a bottle.
It’s hard to convince someone else that they’re on the right path, that “what everyone else is doing” always looks a lot more fun than it actually is. You can’t make another person “see the light.” In fact, their light might look very different from yours. Each of us has to follow our own path, in our own time.
But that’s the beauty of meetings. All our paths converge for an hour a week. We “drop our anchors” and take stock of our situations. We share our individual moments of clarity — our “experience, strength and hope” — from the painful flashbacks to the higher-power bolts from the blue, and hope it’s what someone else needs to hear to begin their own de-fogging process.
I shared my hangover story, my gratitude for waking up free. Some days, that quick burst of clarity is all I have to keep me going.
Thankfully, it’s always everything I need.