I found sobriety in the summer of 1978. I had been severely addicted to mood altering chemicals for six years. I hit bottom, went into a Substance Use Disorder treatment center, and started practicing a recovery program in August of 1978.
Here we are… months after the world became an unknown place, and many of our creature comforts, things we took for granted, turned into vast luxuries. I dream longingly of a haircut or sitting in a café with a dear friend over a steaming cup of bad coffee…or, hardest of all, receiving a hug at an AA meeting. I am getting accustomed to my new masked reality, the shouting at friends from a distance when I have the rare pleasure of seeing them. And, somehow, it is all ok. Really ok. And that is because I watch my mouth.
Thanksgiving weekend 2019 brought 17 inches of heavy wet snow to northwestern Wisconsin, a special place where our family cabin sits, on the Minerva chain of lakes. As I looked out into the yard this past Sunday morning, I was startled by the sight of our many pine trees – white, blue spruce, and jack pine, all sagging towards earth with heavily burdened branches carrying the weight of nature’s winter storm. Concerned these trees might topple or at least suffer the damage of broken branches, I donned Sorel boots, jacket, hat and gloves and set out intent to remove some of the 17 inches of ice crystals these trees of ours were carrying.
I woke up this morning and my wife sent me a post that she had shared/read about someone who decided to not let drugs and alcohol numb them, to not just say that they are fine when things are really upsetting them or they are having a hard day. I told her that honestly that was the same reason that I decided to get sober so many years ago because I was numb for so long and I really like feeling all of the emotions good or bad that come with life and it makes me feel strong to face them everyday and not give up.
“Love and tolerance of others is our code”. (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 84)
Several years ago, close to Valentine’s Day, I was listening to the radio one morning on my drive into work. The radio host asked the above question to the listening audience. Immediately, the phoneline was inundated with dozens of phone calls from listeners all offering sage wisdom on the topic. However, one caller’s comments have stayed with me all this time. He responded with, “Love isn’t a noun – it’s a verb”.
Oh, the holidays! When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads! Snow! Family! Food! Togetherness! Traditions, old and new! Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together. Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into our worst-case scenario.