Today marks 7 years and 3 months of sobriety. 2648 days. 378 weeks. What is significant about 2648 days? Nothing. And everything. It represents 2648 “one-day-at a-times”. Countless victories over temptation and cravings and thoughts of giving in. Thousands of hours of work. Working through the ups of the “pink cloud” of sobriety, the downs of facing life on life’s terms, and everything in between. Facing my darkest demons head-on and surviving the battles. Learning and understanding the true meaning of humility. Training myself to let go of things that are out of my control and turn them over to my Higher Power. Sometimes I take a moment to pat myself on the back. But I will face day 2648 today as I do every other. Just for today, I will not pick up a drink. One day at a time.
I often hate dealing with life on life’s terms. I still foolishly think I can do life on my terms. Never really works out, but yet I still try. I can honestly say that life is a zillion times better in sobriety than it was when I was drinking. But shit happens in life, whether you are stone-cold sober or numbing it out and fooling yourself into thinking you’ve found some sort of Nirvana-like alternate reality. Life is hard. But life is beautiful. In these past 7 years and 3 months, I have ridden the emotional roller coaster time and time again. Sobriety allows you to feel ineffable joy at times. It also gives you the presence to fully experience pain, hurt, sorrow and grief — feelings that I often tried to avoid and numb by quickly reaching for the bottle. I can honestly say that I’d rather fully feelthe joy and the sorrow than feel nothing.
There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin in which Grandma tells a story about riding on the roller coaster when she was younger. She said “you know, it’s just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together. Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.” Steve Martin rolls his eyes thinking Grandma is just rambling. His wife, Mary Steenburgen, clearly understands the wisdom that she is sharing with them. Life is much more like a roller coaster than a merry go-round. Stay real.
Recently, my roller coaster ride included taking my oldest child to college. I see so many posts on social media about friends dropping their kids off at school. The excitement, the fear, and the sadness of them flying the coop, all captured in the pictures and posts. Many of these kids I’ve known since they were babies. How did this happen? It honestly feels like just yesterday that I was taking my daughter to the playground to play with them. But time flies, kids grow, and they move on. I didn’t cry. I was so thrilled that she seemed happy, grounded and ready to go. I realized that’s the best I could ask for as a parent. To prepare them to move on and be strong on their own, teach them to make smart decisions, and always listen to and trust their gut. When I drank, I couldn’t trust my gut. I couldn’t feel my gut. And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that being present now and available for my kids is a true gift of sobriety. Whether I am at the top of the roller coaster, about to experience that thrill of the drop, or at the bottom working slowly on the climb up, I am here for them. Fully present. Fully feeling.
The heat of the summer is coming to an end. The leaves will start falling and another season will arrive. Mother Nature’s roller coaster. We will put the bathing suits, swim goggles and pool bags away and get out our new gear, sport our kids’ school colors and cheer at their football and lacrosse games. We will share in their triumphs and disappointments. We won’t make them stay on the merry-go-round. We will let them ride the roller coaster. But we will buckle them in and let them know they are loved. And tell them to enjoy the ride.
“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.” – Brene Brown, “Daring Greatly”