...We have been speaking to you of serious, sometimes tragic things. We have been dealing with alcohol in its worst aspect. But we aren't a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life.Today is a double celebration of sorts. This morning, I began my new career as an official employee of Hewitt Associates, a major human-resources consulting firm headquartered in the 'burbs north of Chicago. After my disastrous foray into theological studies, I am once again on the road to being (as AA's 7th traditions says) "self supporting through our own contributions." And today also marks my fifteen-year sobriety anniversary.
...So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn't we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.
(from the text Alcoholics Anonymous, page 132)
The book Alcoholics Anonymous is the only textbook about a progressive, fatal disease that contains the phrase "We absolutely insist on enjoying life."
(Scott R., Sherman Oaks, CA)
Neither celebration started off so well, however.
Somehow, in the process of moving this summer, I managed to misplace my "important papers" file - the one with my will, my birth certificate, and the original of my social security card in it. While my profound hope is that I won't need the will for a while, I desperately needed the social security card (or the birth certificate) in order to fill out my I-9 form for my new employer during orientation on Monday morning.
So I spent the weekend emptying boxes, sorting through papers that I swore I'd file or read or take action on someday (but never did) in a vain effort to find the critical documents. The result is that my apartment now looks like a drug dealer or mob enforcer came in and "tossed" the place. Not pretty. And certainly not what one might expect from someone sober that long.
Finally I just gave up late last night, accepted the fact that if it was a drop-dead fatal requirement, I'd just end up ordering the replacement documents and being a temporary employee for another month, and went to bed. I needed to get up very early on Monday to travel up to the company HQ up in Lincolnshire for the first day of orientation.
This morning, I was ready to leave the house about 5:25 AM when I realized that somehow, in the excitement of tearing things up to find my "important documents," I had somehow also managed to misplace my wallet. (You have to understand that I was still beating myself up for supposedly being a responsible adult, but nonetheless somehow managing to misplace two critical life documents. And there I was, with the clock running on my departure time, and once again I couldn't find stuff that was important to me.)
Let's just say that it wasn't exactly a spiritual high-water mark for me.
In fact, my language might have indicated that I was having a spiritual blackout (or at least "rotating brownouts") rather than a spiritual experience of any kind. And as I was tearing around my apartment, the recurring theme in my head was: People who are fifteen years sober aren't supposed to be having days like this. This is first-year sobriety nonsense. So what the hell am I doing here again?
(Trust me - I know better than that. I really do. I know lots of people who have had much worse days, with much more sober-time than I have. But I wasn't listening to me this morning.)
Now, the end of the story is pretty simple: About 6:00 AM, I finally stopped to breathe, and pray the only honest prayer I could say: God, grant me the serenity to be able to find my FREAKIN' WALLET before I break something! And shortly after that, I actually did find the damn thing, said about a hundred reps of "Thank you, God," then got in the car, and did deep-breathing exercises for about 5 miles up I-94. It took just shy of two and a quarter hours to travel the 50 miles to Lincolnshire by leaving at 6:15 instead of 5:30. But it was OK. Really.
And the day got immensely better. I arrived not only on-time, but calmed down and reasonably serene. I found out that just the application for a replacement Social Security card would be enough for the employment folks. And we got done early enough that I could perform some tech-support by phone for one of my coworkers on the drive back down from Lincolnshire.
And I got to go to my Monday AA meeting - and be reminded, again and again, just what an incredible gift this sobriety is for those of us who need it. I got to see the people who have so enriched my life for the last three years - and got to admit that while my day certainly hadn't gone according to my best-laid-plans, it still went OK - because I was sober.
At one of my first AA meetings, a man said to me, "Steve, drunks drink, and junkies use - unless there is a miracle. So if you qualify for this group, and you wake up sober, you're an absolute freakin' miracle." Like my wallet, I've managed to misplace that thought a bunch of times, but I've never truly lost it yet - for which I'm grateful.
I am not where I want to be - not by any means. In some ways, parts of the last year have been failures - financially, emotionally, spiritually. There is part of me that wishes that I weren't starting my life and my career over - again - on the low side of my half-century birthday. There are lots of things I wish were different...lots different.
But despite all the things I wish could be otherwise, I also can claim a whole bunch of real blessings this year. I know that I have family and friends alike who love me, and are grateful for my presence in their lives. That, by itself, is a huge gift. It is not good, as Scripture says, for this particular man to be alone - and so I have received incredible gifts of love, inclusion and friendship...many more than I could ever measure.
And I know that God has managed to use me, and my struggles, for good this year. I know that there are people who God has managed to "reach out and touch" through me. I know that over the last year, I've taken some actions to be more honest about who and what I am - steps that I have put off taking for decades (literally).
And I know where my wallet, my keys, and my phone are.
So as the young folk would say: "It's all good."
The last several days have not been fun, by any means. But I can honestly say that tonight, I am not "a glum lot," and that my goal for tomorrow is not only to "enjoy life," but to use both my blessings and my struggles to help others.
To the people in the community of recovery - my sponsors, my sponsees, and all the people who have made this journey possible - all I can say is thank you, and thank you, and forever thank you. I'll never be able to repay the gifts that each of you have given me over the last fifteen years.
But it will be my honor and my pleasure to try, nonetheless.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. May God bless you and keep you - until then. (page 164)