When I was newly sober, there was a crusty old guy (probably the age I am now!) who frequently said, “This is not a dress rehearsal!” I took a gut-punch on that one, guilty of the “someday soon...” mentality that told myself, “Life will get better when...” the boyfriend comes back, or when he goes away; when I lose 10 pounds; when this or that event is over; someday, somehow, out there in the future some miracle of change will magically happen. It never (truly never) occurred to me that life might get better if I stopped drinking and drugging – they were my solution, not the problem. A few months after treatment, I hit my knees when I got home from a noon meeting, in tears, asking “Is this all I had to do? Quit getting high every day, ask for help, and I feel this good?” Definitely pink cloud territory, but I went with it. Life did get better, and quickly, for me. Part of it was that I simply felt good physically – waking up clear headed (vs coming to) felt like a miracle in and of itself. Not puking. Remembering what I’d done the day before... all the tiny successes of daily life kept me coming back.
And, I must admit that I still live with a fair amount of “Life will get better/calmer when...” I finally quit my job; this or that event is over; my spouse gets home from work, or leaves for the day; when I go on vacation or when I get back, etc. In many ways I have “recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body,” and I still carry this brain around. This brain that likes to plan, and jump ahead, and figure things out.
I absolutely LOVE the fresh pages of a new year’s journal or calendar. One of my Thanksgiving rituals is to go through next year’s wall calendar to add in birthdays and important dates, and I salivate over all the choices for a daily planner – What color? What features? I’ve been keeping a diary since the 6th grade, and a few years ago, read from my embarrassing 1986 journal of the first year of sobriety at an “Awkward” event, and only because it was over 30 years ago! Taking a cue from a sponsee, I did go through the decades recently and culled out many years, keeping those that felt monumental (hitting bottom, getting sober, breakups, new jobs, turning 50, for example). I suppose at some point, I’ll let go of a few more, but for now, my daily readers and journal are a big part of my spiritual practice – a way to slow down, hit "pause" and access my inner wisdom.
These days, I like making plans and doubly like when they are cancelled, but my point is that I am future oriented. Fine. Makes me a good employee and party organizer, and not-fine when it means I’m about to topple over because my emotional center of gravity is two weeks out and I’m not paying attention to the right-here-right-now of one day at a time.
This was all brought into stark relief as I cried through the memorial service for the young man I wrote about last week. From the outside, it looked like he had everything going for him – a loving family, great friends, a good heart. And, now he is gone. We just never know – what is truly on another’s mind, what awaits around the next corner, what the state of the world might be as those fresh calendar pages turn in to the new year.
Speaking of the new year and turn of the seasons, I attended an autumn women’s circle last night with a friend. I recognized some of the mostly younger women from the rooms, but many were strangers, though how sweet to come together in community, in varying degrees of internal and external transition, seeking a centering and connecting space. I think of those times I was lost and trying to find my place – in various faiths prior to recovery and just after, then again when a long term relationship ended and I found myself in a running group, a book club, a spiritual study group, and several Step groups. I realized that what people were seeking was community, and felt fortunate (then and now) to have found my tribe in the 12 Step programs. There are other places I feel at home, but AA/Alanon is where I’ve learned how to be a member among members and enjoy the feeling of being known. The company of women hasn't always been my thing, having totally bought in to the cultural b.s. that other women are my competition - an uncomfortable way to live for too many years, because, of course, there is/was always someone cuter, smarter, sexier, etc. I am grateful to have finally settled in to myself, and for the strong women I call "friend" today.
Who do you call "friend" today? Do they know that? And what about One Day at a Time? How do you bring yourself back to the present when your mind takes a field trip?