Ladybug

Yesterday, I met my sister and a bunch of our friends at a three o’clock meeting at our local clubhouse. It was sweet that so many program friends had shown up to see me take my three-year chip. But the best part was seeing my beautiful 13 year-old niece there. She’s one of my favorite people on the planet, best buddies to hang out with and a girl whose always had my heart. Plus we both like cupcakes, sparkly things and teen television shows so we’re kindred spirits. It had been suggested that I share “how I did it” before the meeting opened up. I did and I got incredibly choked up looking at my niece sitting there smiling. See, it wasn’t just a nice thing she did for her old uncle by showing up but it was fitting because she and my other nieces and nephews literally saved my life when I was getting sober.

When she was little I called her ladybug. She had these heart-shaped lips and long eyelashes and light cocoa colored skin with curly hair. She was the first grandchild so my whole family just thought she was an angel. And we were right. This little girl has been through so much yet still lights up a room with her optimistic attitude and sweet disposition. After September 11th, I needed to get out of Los Angeles. I felt like I was suffocating there and needed a break. I was at the height of my daily drinking and regular drug use and I promoted a night at a club in Hollywood. It had all become too much. The sadness, the paranoia that LA was next, the partying. So I ran home to Denver to spend time with my sister and her kids. After going through airport hell to get there, I arrived in Denver and spent days just hanging out with my niece who was three and my nephew who was one. They made me laugh and we watched Sponge Bob and Blue’s Clues. And Ladybug always knew how to crack me up. One night when I was brushing my teeth, my niece came in dressed in her pajamas and holding a footstool. She clunked it down on the ground and reached for her toothbrush and said, “Excuse me, darling.” I busted up laughing and so did my sister minutes later when I shared the story. And that sums up the joy she’s brought into my life from moment one.

The kids in my life have always given me hope and made me laugh and loved me no matter what. The relationships I developed with them sober set the bar high for the other people in my life. These kids taught me I deserved to be loved unconditionally, to laugh constantly and live in the moment. My first two years sober, I spent tons of hours with my brother’s three kids. He told me one night after I had been sober for a few months, “It’s important for them to see you get through this and get better.” But it’s been equally important as a sober person to have them around.

After a long day of celebrating, crying tears of joy and indulging in dessert, I collapsed in bed feeling blessed and truly in awe of the way my life has changed.

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3

For the past three years whenever January 2nd rolls around, I  have to double and triple check the date.  Just to make sure it’s actually happening. But after seeing the date on my computer – 1/2/2012 I realize it’s truly January 2nd and I couldn’t be more excited.  Because today, I am celebrating three years of continuous sobriety!!!

I’m not sure if 3 is  the magic number but I do know that as third child who was born on the 30th, it is recurring number in my life. But I’d sound crazy ( or crazier as the case may be) if I tried to spout off  a bunch of numerology mumbjo jumbo, mainly because I don’t know any. What I do know is that for me, the kid who started drinking in 1989 and didn’t stop until 2009, three years is a long ass time without a drink!  I always thought “multiple years of sobriety” was something other people could do. Moreover, I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do. I knew that without drinking and without drugs and without some regular chemical or form of escape, I would have to deal with myself. And why in the hell would I want to do that?!?

I spent years carefully curating a life of complete bullshit and delusion and I knew from having sober family members that I would have to tear that all down and “get real”. Blah. Real is unsparkly, unfabulous, and uninteresting. No thanks. So I put it off for a loooooong time. Well the shit hurricane that was my life reached a level five intensity at the end of 2008 and I was forced to face the music which is a fun sounding idiom but is far from fun when you have to do it. Yet it was unavoidable so I did it. I got sober. And lord knows I didn’t always do it right and wouldn’t win some crown for being the most perfect sober person on Earth. But one day at a time, I didn’t drink and I don’t drink. And then before you know it, I haven’t drank in three years.

Alas, I don’t get to graduate from recovery. I don’t get a certificate in the mail that says “Congratulations! You can now drink again.”  So three years, three decades, three minutes sober– it’s all amazing. This is a life-long journey. And I’m okay with that.