Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Reflections on an anniversary

A friend celebrating a milestone anniversary at one of my favorite meetings this past week spoke of the deeper magic available to us via long-term recovery. I caught my breath, momentarily floating on the enchantment I felt when first introduced to sobriety. I know many people resist the surrender that carries us across the abyss, but all the fight had gone out of me by the time I stood at the front door of treatment at the Oregon Coast. Afraid to go in, but more terrified of not, I was definitely at the jumping off point. Grieving my dear father, who'd died just a few years earlier, heartbroken over the man who'd left the country and married someone else, still stinging from the look in my mother's eyes at Thanksgiving when she said, "I just don't understand...," physically, morally and spiritually bankrupt. I was broken, shattered, no arguments or justifications left. As the clouds lifted, I jumped on that pink cloud, beyond grateful for the snippets of a new life I saw through the door of willingness. 

So, yes, yes, yes to the deeper magic of long-term recovery - the heart-to-heart connections, the love, the growing into ourselves, the caring we show those who still suffer. I've long joked that AA is the only place where the guy who drinks in the parking lot gets a standing ovation in the meeting room. We are kind to each other, knowing that "there but for the grace of [whatever] go I." 

My mom wouldn't finish my novel, Shadows and Veins, the fictionalized version of my story, saying it was too dark after reading the first few pages. I told her that the story turns out OK in the end, but really, it might not have. I am very aware that I'm one of the fortunate ones who didn't die at the end of a needle, or behind the wheel of a car; who didn't go home with the wrong stranger or go through the wrong doorway or swallow the wrong pill. I am very aware that it could've gone either way, still emotionally and physically connected to my meth cook lover who picked me up when treatment was done. It could've gone either way when a treatment pal spent the weekend, just inches away from her own relapse, or a couple of years later when a crush didn't reciprocate, and I got a phone call from a using friend asking me to go dancing at a club. It could've gone either way when that same friend called to tell me the meth cook had died of an overdose and she had some of his last batch of speed and did I want some, to honor him. I still remember standing in my kitchen, wall phone in hand, the internal debate won by the recovery angel on my shoulder saying, "No. No thank you." 

My anniversary - 37 years - was on Tuesday, so this is very much the time of year I reflect on what it was like, what happened and what it's like now, or more accurately, what I was like, what happened and what I'm like now. A lot of life has happened in these 37 years, though it feels like a blink of an eye, but never for a moment have I regretted the decision to stay. I've also been reflecting on my long-term relationships - the 30-year celebrant in the meeting, who I've probably known for at least 15 or 20 of those years, my only "successful" 12 Step call when she was 20 and just now turned 50. And I'm fortunate enough to have long-term friendships outside program, with women I went to grade school and high school with, or my bestie, who I met on her 18th birthday. Most of those relationships faltered during the peak of my addictions (how could they not) and even earlier in recovery when AA/Alanon was my primary focus, but true friendships don't die, even if fallow for a time.

Speaking of old friends, I attended a graveside service yesterday for the mother of a woman I've known since 3rd grade, though she moved to the other side of the country when we were 15. At the cemetery, I noticed a pussywillow in full bloom, and on this morning's walk, saw a flowering quince budding bright pink. My first thoughts were, "It's too early - we're not even a month into winter," but as quickly remembered that I am certainly not in charge of the weather or much else. What I think is timely, for the garden or another's life has very little to do with what may actually happen. I may have opinions about my brother's choices, or stepdaughter's, the folks next door, or my elected officials, but really, I'm only in charge of me. That can be frustrating, or liberating - what is my choice to be?

Happy new year friends and readers. Does the term "deeper magic" as applied to recovery resonate with you? What are some of the magical moments you've experienced? Does "Expect a Miracle" apply only to newcomers? If you've had close calls, how did you step back from the brink? If the new year equals a cosmic re-set button, what are you looking forward to? What tools do you utilize to keep the focus on yourself instead of others?

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This could be time to think about a new year inventory. See the Feb 4, 2022 entry for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy mailed to you. Email me at with questions. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

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