I listened to a podcast this morning about staying sober in a crisis. This woman and her family were evacuated, along with 90,000 other people, from their homes as an out-of-control fire raged around them. In this small Canadian town, there was only one road out. She bravely drove through it with her daughter in the car and her husband in the other car with their son. I was glued to her story. It was scary, but you have to understand that I was listening to this with an alcoholic brain and I was hearing more than the average listener. I could totally relate to what she was saying and what she wasn’t saying. She is in recovery as well and she had every reason to drink. I kept waiting for the part where she did. But she did not. Instead, she listed all of these things she was so grateful for:
The clarity to get her head together when they only had a few minutes to grab what was important to them.
If she had been drinking, she would not have been able to drive their second vehicle and it would have been destroyed.
She could be strong and clear for her children in such a frightening situation.
When they arrived at a friend's house that night, it was filled to capacity with displaced friends and family. Lots of alcohol around. In fact, someone said to her husband (who is sober too), "If you were going to drink, tonight would be the night.” In my early days of sobriety, I would've been thinking, “What? Permission? Ok!”
Instead she and her husband chose not to drink and remain clear to make a plan for the next day. They left that morning (that home was later evacuated the same day) and stayed at another friend's house farther away for a few weeks until she realized that she was so out of sorts her sobriety was feeling threatened. What she missed the most was her routine. The alcoholic brain needs structure. To some, that might have seemed like a selfish reason to go rent a place instead of staying at a friend's for free, but it was imperative to her sobriety.
Her sobriety is the most important thing in this whole story. Did they still have a lot of damage, heartache, and inconvenience ahead of them? Yes, however, think of what the story would’ve looked like if she had chosen to drink before, during, or after. The list is endless of all the negatives there would be to add to this story.
In the midst of this story, I was cheering this woman on! I appreciated her sharing and was proud of her in a way that only another alcoholic would understand. I thought beyond her story though. I thought about all the “out of sorts” days to come that would be so challenging for her. I prayed for her to remain strong for herself and her family. If she falls, so do they.
This story deeply impacted me because I am such a creature of habit now. Habits I did not think would ever be that important to me. So I really sympathized with her for the normalcy that would not be returned for some time to come. If this happened to me, my apple cart would definitely be upset! Instead, she took action and found a support group and a yoga class to help her with routine and peace of mind in a crisis.
I used to have a lot of bad habits and there are still a few lurking in the corners of my life (Milk Duds and cake, just to name a few.) In creating new habits in this new phase of life, I have become almost ritualistic about my quiet time of reading, writing, and praying in the morning. Whenever we go on vacation or somewhere unfamiliar, I get completely out of sorts. I always tell my husband that the first day or two I need to acclimate. As a guy, he’s like, “AcclImate to what? Let's hit the pool!"
To be honest, I always thought I needed some adjustment time so I could prepare myself for being around alcohol for a few days. When in actuality, my sense of displacement came from my routine being messed up and the fact that I was out of my safety bubble of home. I’m working on it and instead of two days adjusting, I've got it down to one day. That's important when the trip itself is only 3-4 days. By the time I was getting “acclimated,” it was time to go home!
I also understood the woman's need to get her own place because she wanted her alone time. I love alone time. I never thought that would be the case for me! The first 40 something years of my life, I constantly surrounded myself with people just to keep my mind off myself.
Now, I can go on vacation by myself, be totally content with a time of doing things that I enjoy and NOT feeling guilty about it. Like reading ( I take about 10 books along,) I listen to podcasts while lying on the beach, get in my comfy clothes by 6 pm and settle in with some Netflix or read on the balcony, if the weather is nice. Those are the times I feel closest to God. I am always ready to come home to my family and friends (or to have them join me,) but I have learned to cherish the peace I get when I am alone. That is truly a gift I didn't think I could ever appreciate.
Do you have a close friend or family member that is in recovery? I want to ask you today to remember this: their sobriety is the most important thing in their life. Respect what they need to do to keep it. Encourage and uplift whenever possible. It is easy to move on and think the worst is over because they have stopped drinking or using and in some ways, yes, the worst is
In reality, it is like learning how to do life all over again and every day presents a new challenge. We are starting from scratch because nothing, absolutely nothing, is the same. The days get easier, but there is always something unexpected because when does life really always go as planned!? So celebrate the milestones with them on the good days and be there through the tough days. Even if they don’t show it, believe me the hard days are there, and the best way to get thru them is with a friend. Maybe that is you.
As I write, I have a few days alone (and remember that's OK) before my friend comes to visit. Speaking of friends, I just had the best weekend with a high school buddy. Yes, high school was a long time ago, but I swear we haven't changed a bit! We had a great five days together and made the most of every moment. We laughed (like scary I might pee my pants laugh) and had great conversation about life. I took her to my favorite shopping and dining places and church at the Florabama. We biked and relaxed on the beach. Time flew and I was sad to say goodbye. I used to wonder what life would be like in the days of sobriety with friends. Would we still laugh that hard? How could that happen without alcohol??? Guess what, it does and it's better than I ever imagined. Gifts in sobriety, they just keep coming. I plan on opening every single one of them.
Peace on your Weekend,