It was countdown time. Newcomers stood up and identified themselves. The applause was loud and encouraging--I clapped and smiled along with everybody. The sobriety countdown continued. Thirty to sixty days. Sixty to ninety days—that where I am. But as the countdown continued I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. I became intensely conscious of everyone’s time in relation to my own.
I couldn’t shake the awareness of my relapses. I should be with the ones who raised their hands for the two-to-three year group, but I relapsed at a year and a half. Then there were those taking their one-year cake. I would have been among them but went out at nine months. I felt envy—the chartreuse monster.
The next morning, I woke up feeling shitty still. I felt sorry for myself—or at least my bruised ego did. I began to devalue myself and my recovery at an alarming pace. I went from having 72 proud days of sobriety to imagining myself a tragic old trot with nothing but a bus pass and a toothbrush to his name. Gratitude had flown out the window and along with it all sense of perspective.
I know how to feel bad about myself. It is so ingrained. Beating myself up is second nature. The “ism” waits for these vulnerable times and mugs my fragile self-esteem with the ferocity of a pack of hyenas-- pulling, tugging and shredding me into ribbons. “Compare and despair” kicks in and I get stuck in a spiraling loop of self-reproach and fear.
Luckily, I’ve been around long enough to have heard solution. It’s about one addict helping another. So I got on the phone and called people and talked. Called others and talked some more. It was with their help that I began to sort out and identify the various elements gnawing at me. It was only by talking to those I turned to that I was able to pull myself up into the present—the only “time” that really matters!
They reminded me that I was fortunate to survive two (fairly short) relapses and make it back into the rooms. Many do not. The pointed out my willingness to live a spiritual life manifests itself twice daily. In the morning I kneel and read from the Big Book, and recite the Third and Seventh step prayers. At night before I go to sleep, I again kneel and thank my Higher Power for keeping me clean and sober for one more day. Gratitude in action.
I make phone calls and more importantly, return them. I go to meetings and despite my fear and self-judgment, sit amongst my fellows. I stay open-minded and willing to take suggestion. I get more and longer glimpses of peace, love and serenity.
I am still here. Just for today.