At an A.A. meeting awhile back, Andy, a young man with a handsome handle-bar moustache, was speaking. The general topic for the evening was how we can stay clean and sober, avoiding relapse.
Trying to keep his hands quiet, Andy said, “I wake up every morning and I am excited. I am clean and sober and excited. Next week my son will celebrate his seventh birthday. For the first time I will be sober and remember the gift I got for him and won’t be afraid of what I might do to make Timmy ashamed of me. That gets me excited. I can’t wait.” Andy’s voice was smiling.
I sat back in my chair and thought, he’s right. I need a little of that. I need to get the wonder back: that same childlike wonder to look at something—a puppy, a bubble, rainbows, clouds— and laugh aloud, “Wow!”
Too many of us can’t say that. I’m sober, but I don’t appreciate the winning. I am not alone. I am one in eight American adults who is an alcoholic. One study shows that roughly 90% of people with alcoholic disease relapse within four years of completing treatment. I was one of the 90%.
Now, sometimes when I wash dishes I remember my drinking days when I took whatever plate was on top of the heap, maybe rinse it off, eat, and put it back on top. And laundry. If the shirt or pants in the dirty clothes basket didn’t smell too bad, I put them on. One autumn I didn’t rake the leaves, and in the spring wondered why the grass was dead.
Today, as ridiculous as it is, sometimes I take a moment and pat myself on the back and say what a big boy I am with clean dishes and clean clothes and green grass and a sober day ahead of me.
It’s time for us to stand in front of a mirror, tall and proud and grinning, shouting, “Damn, I’m good! And Happy Birthday, Timmy. People like you help me stay sober.”