As a kid, I couldn’t walk down a sidewalk without avoiding the cracks (step on a crack, you break your mother’s back) until my older sister reminded me that our mother had already broken her back when she was 18. Oh. Too late.
I was a nail biter, chewing my nails to the quick as I nervously watched a teacher grade my test. To this day, I have a hard time keeping all body parts still when waiting or watching.
We used to say night prayers as a family, kneeling around our parents’ bed. I would obsessively continue the prayer ritual in bed to cover the bases and save my family from possible disasters that hadn’t been covered around the bed. I was sure that only my continued prayers protected my family from ultimate disaster. I believed I had that much control over the forces of God and nature.
Is it any wonder that neurotic and fearful me became addicted to anything that could separate me from the those fears and rituals? I’ve heard it said that reality is for those who can’t use alcohol. I could add nicotine and sugar to that equation, too. (Alcohol+ nicotine+sugar>REALITY)
There’s an old saying that you can’t kill a frog by dropping him into hot water. When he’s dropped into it, he’ll pop right out of the pot, reacting swiftly to the heat, and get out unharmed. If you put him in a pot of cool water and slowly warm it until it’s boiling hot, he’ll be cooked before he can react.
That’s the way of my bad habits. They crept up on me like an Indian in the woods. (I should say native American to be PC but that destroys the saying.) As a kid, I loved sweets, but I didn’t have the resources to chase a banana split with a pound of Hershey’s kisses. As an adult? Yep. Love that sugar!
I didn’t start out a 3 pack a day smoker, but that’s how I ended up.
In the beginning, I could have a couple of glasses of wine and stop. I might have been a little annoyed that I had to quit drinking that soon, but I could mask the discomfort. In the end, I was coming to in the morning, swearing that I’d never drink again, and drinking by dark until I passed out.
It’s more than 15 years since I smoked my last cigarette and on July 23, it will be 3 years since I passionately ate sugar. Those things I could quit with God’s help-whether I recognized it or not-and with no outside support.
July 7 was an important date for me. It’s the 13th anniversary of the first day I went to an AA meeting. I’d quit drinking the year before. Over the following 11 months, 3 weeks and 6 days, the wheels slowly and steadily loosened and eventually came off the bus. They were helped along by the loss of my job and death of my husband. Most of all, my tendency to suck it up and isolate myself in the belief that “I can do it better alone” was a bolt cutter.
With nothing to stand between me and reality, I was as close to suicide as I ever want to be. People say that coming to AA was Plan Z for them. For me, it was Plan Y; Plan Z was ending the pain. I had decided to swallow all the pain pills left from John’s bout with cancer. Since I’d quit drinking alcohol 363 days before, I wasn’t going to break my sobriety as I called it then with liquor and planned to wash them down with water.
I decided to take a chance on going to an AA meeting. It was there that I heard enough to get a glimmer of hope that I might be able to live and not drink. I wasn’t sure about happy, but the thought of losing some of my fears definitely caught my attention.
It is that hope that has sustained me through the past 13 years. Am I happy today? Reasonably most of the time, deliriously some of the time, and the other times? I know they won’t last forever; neither will the deliriously happy times but I can live with that.
This isn’t an ad for AA. There are other ways to get sober and to have a happy life. I know that for me, it’s the best way. I celebrated my AA birthday like I have most of the past 4,745 days: asking for God’s help, reading something spiritual, going to a meeting, talking to another alcoholic, and thanking God for keeping me sober.
That’s worked for me for the last 13 years. Think I’ll keep doing it.