When Life “Life’s” You: A Sobering Valentine’s Day
By: Tami Harper Winn
So there I am, the sun shining on my face through the slats in my bedroom window shades and I am awakened to a beautiful morning. I am alive and sober. It’s Valentine’s Day, sweethearts day, a day of love. I actually wake up feeling happy, not pulling the covers over my head begrudging the day ahead because no flowers or candy will show up for me. I have no special guy to bestow billowy kisses and accolades on. The only love affair I am having right now is with my words. I am in a very loving and committed relationship with my writing. I have perfected the art of gentle touch, the caressing of my keyboard, and the deep longing gaze into the screen before me. I have read so many books about relationships from “Quantum Love” by Laura Berman, Ph.D to “8 Keys To Building Your Best Relationships” by Daniel A. Hughes and perhaps I will one day be able to put them to use with a real live human, but for today I use them in my relationship with my readers. I am learning to communicate in an effective and meaningful way. I am practicing the art of pausing to listen and then participating in a soul seducing conversation with them. I am learning to speak from my heart.
As I woke up that bright lovely morning I could not resist the urge to reach over to the other side of my bed, trace the outline of my laptop, and pull it close to me. I was overcome with such desire and the urge to open it up and write with all the passion I could fathom. I was compelled to write about what better else than relationships in early sobriety on this Valentines Day. It was fitting and I had researched this topic thoroughly myself so I had an insider’s knowledge. It would be perfect. I was in love and on fire. But as you will soon find out, that story was not meant to be written on that day. That story would have to wait to be told somewhere else on this journey. Life was happening. Life was about ready to “life” me.
You see, as I began to sing the songs about love in young recovery through my writing a text from my phone sitting beside me came in that would forever alter my life. It said, “Hey u awake call moms bad shape” from my eldest brother at 10:27 am. My heart stopped and I knew. It was the call I had been dreading. You see, mom had been in bad shape for a few weeks. She started declining after losing her soulmate just a few months before. I knew what this meant. I closed my laptop and placed the call. It was time to go home, because mom was going home for good. My writing would have to wait. Life was “life-ing” me. By 2:28 pm my mom had returned home to my father and now four children were left behind to be parentless.
How do you stay sober through death when before your last drink you couldn’t stay sober through your lunch hour? How do you not do what you were designed to do, self destruct, when faced with such terrible tragic events? In AA they told me that even when I was sober, life would “Life” me. It doesn’t matter if you drink or not, life still goes on. The same things that happened when I drank would surely happen when I didn’t. How would I be able to survive the certain trials and low spots that I would surely hit when all the chips were on the table?
I always wondered if I’d drink when one of my family passed on. Actually, I believed I would surely drink once my daddy had died. He died only four months ago prior to this writing and I did not drink. How did I do it? Hmmm? That is the age old question. Well first, I got right with God and my dad before his passing. I developed a strong network of people around me prior and I did what I have always done since the day I first walked into the rooms of AA. I got up, went to a meeting and placed the phone calls to those I needed. I surrounded myself with friends who were sober even when my home was filled with family that were high and drunk afterwards and during. I carried the message of hope. I did the next indicated “right” thing even if it was the smallest I could do, like brush my teeth. (You can’t imagine how hard it is to do even the simplest thing when you are in such pain) I did the work outlined in the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and made the amends to my father that I needed to prior to his death. 12 simple steps and a Higher Power bigger than me saved me. Who would have known?
You see I wanted to stay sober more than anything in the world. I have an amazing life now and it is only getting better, despite the natural course of life that is occurring on a daily basis. Despite my circumstances, I am so blessed. I can say that today without reservation. No amount of drink would bring either of my parents back. No drug could change the fact that they were dead, gone. In fact, I knew from staying in the middle of the herd (AA term for staying close to the program and involved) and watching countless retreads make it back into the rooms of AA, that my life would only get worse, never better if I took just one drink. It wasn’t worth it to me.
As I stood in the living room of my parent’s house after my mother’s death just a little over a week ago, I felt the hugest hole I’d ever felt in my life. I felt a vacancy that is indescribable. I looked at my little sister and said, “Damn it, my self destruct button is broken.” I had absolutely no desire to destroy my life. The obsession to drink had been removed a long time ago and I couldn’t muster it up. Damn. I've got an awfully powerful Higher Power, because I am a drunk of the worst variety left to my own devices.
You may be thinking that it would be impossible for you to survive such a trial in your life. It feels that way. But feelings aren’t facts. They just aren’t. I deal with facts today. I’ve been sober enough days to know that I can’t trust my feelings. They lie. One minute I’m happily singing to a song in the car on my way to work at a job I really love and the next minute I want to smash someone because they cut in front of me and made me almost crash. In the next minute my friend calls and tells me a funny joke and I’m laughing again forgetting all about the jerk that nearly killed me. That’s feelings for you. They aren’t real.
To be completely honest, I did want out of my pain. I still do. I am human. Pain sucks. But the reality of this is that in one year my life will be different again and in ten years it will be even more different. I’ve been sober long enough to know this is a truth. I will live through much more of my life and the key word is, live. I will live! I want to live today despite the pain and uncertainty of tomorrow. I have gained so much staying sober that the cost of one drink for me today is too much for me to take the risk of losing everything I have gained.
So I feel the feelings. I get honest with myself and others about where I am at. I ask for help when I need it. I do what I was doing before the chaos happened. I pray consistently. I turn my attention to another who might benefit from my experience, strength, and hope. I give back what was so freely given to me. And I write. I write like the pen will have eternal ink. I write so the pages will bleed the words from my broken heart so that one day that broken heart can heal. I write so I can live. I write because it is my air, my breath, my life force spilling out so I can make room for what my Higher Power has in store for me.
I am nobody unique. I am just like you. I have no special super human powers. I just don’t drink no matter what and I do, however, have a very huge Higher Power. So, I am offering him to you. If you need to borrow him, he’s big enough to handle you too and all you throw at him. I’d be happy to share mine. But, don’t ask me what it is, because that is saved for a later story and I’m still trying to figure it out myself. So, pen in hand once again I suit up and show up to the page. Part of my amends to my father was that I would not let my words die with me. For my father I write. For my mother I write. For my readers I write. Most importantly, for my life, I write. I am a miracle.
Tami Harper Winn