On November 3rd I celebrated my 17th sober birthday. Almost legal. It was a hard a year, a scary year, year 16. The rug was pulled out from under me and I ended up being someplace I had never been before. I had been living my life one way and I was faced with the decision of doing something different. It wasn’t a decision really. Maybe on some level there was a moment where I could have done something differently, like drink, but that didn’t seem like an option until much later in the year. My survival instincts kicked in and after 16 years sober, lots of therapy, meetings, working steps, service, prayer, and meditation, those instincts said, keep doing what you're doing, and do more of it.
A relationship ended. That was all. Relationships end all the time. But this particular relationship at this particular time in my life shredded my heart and left me scrambling to gather the scraps and begin the process of stitching those tattered pieces together. I had worked hard those previous 15 years. I was determined to get well from the time I was 24 years old. Not only was I in recovery from a hopeless state of mind and body but I was recovering from a childhood that had left me with a deeply embedded core negative belief about myself that I was unworthy, easily replaceable, fundamentally defective. That’s why I drank. Sure, alcoholism runs in my family, along with every other -ism passed down from grandfathers and uncles, and the women in my family were emotionally unstable and were living from a place of believing they too were worthy of nothing but scraps, which made it challenging to raise kids with a healthy dose of self-esteem. But I drank because the pain of living as the human being I believed I was was excruciating and made it impossible to face the world stone cold sober. Drinking saved my life and 12 step programs have made it possible to live, not just survive.
Here in California we celebrate sobriety birthdays with cakes and candles. Tonight, mine will hold 17 candles. It holds 17 candles because I didn’t drink. I put one foot in front of the other and held on to meetings, therapy, prayer, and service for dear life. There were moments when I understood that drinking could be an option and I chose not to drink. Pure ego. I wasn’t going to give alcoholism the satisfaction of taking another one of us down. I was not giving up without a fight. It won’t be the last fight of my life because life is in session and I’m fully engaged in healing and recovering from who alcoholism wants me to believe I am to the person God has always intended me to be. That is a fight I intend to win.