“It Gets Better”
I tried so hard all the while I was drinking. I wanted to live a good life, to do well, to impress others. I tried my damnedest to figure out what that project called for and to make it happen. The Big Book calls this effort “self-propulsion,” the attempt to arrange people and circumstances so that we’ll get what we want.
I failed. That beautiful life I yearned for stayed just out of reach. I got good grades, looked pretty, earned degrees, attracted partners, clinched jobs and bought stuff — a car, my dream home. To bring about temporary relief, I drank every kind of booze I could find, smoked weed, took pills, snorted coke — but still wound up longing to die, to give up.
I identified as atheist — even though I’d had a Near Death Experience (NDE) at 22 during which I’d encountered god. That’s pretty rare — an atheist who’s journeyed to the light. But as I approached hitting bottom, as I threw life away ever more recklessly during those last months of drinking, god stepped in again and slapped me upside the head.
God shows up in virtually every NDE as a brilliant white light that radiates an intensity of love beyond earthly imagining. But that doesn’t mean god’s a milquetoast! There’s a point to our being here — we’ve agreed to do something by signing up for life, for this embodiment in matter. And in cases where we’re way off course, god will sometimes give us a nudge.
I’d driven home insanely drunk for the umpteenth time and was propping myself up with the open car door to marvel at what a badass drunk driver I was when a bolt of knowing struck me. It shot from the starry sky, through my bones, straight into the earth. It “said” several things at once. Foremost was a warning: This is the last time I can help you. God, not I, had delivered me home safe that night.
At the same time, it called bullshit on the way I was living, who I was being, what I was chasing. It said, essentially: You DO know right from wrong. I’d been living out the dramatic impulses of my mind, whereas god appealed to a quiet knowledge in my heart. Even deeper, like the resonance of a bass note, came god’s reality check: We both know you can do better.
I got sober two weeks later.
Next, I tried so hard in early sobriety. I went to meetings trying to look and sound good. I got a sponsor and worked the steps. I prayed… a little. And things definitely did get better. I began to stumble on moments of serenity — though for the most part, I still hurt. Being me still entailed a lot of suffering because I still gave credence to all those head-voices claiming I wasn’t good enough. I still chased the friendship of (sober) cool kids who didn’t include me in stuff. Alone, I felt worthless and abandoned. This went on for… let’s say nine years.
Was I still failing?
Not anymore. Now I had hope. Every day, every week, every month… I got a little bit better. “Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly,” my life transformed. Quickly, I stopped trying to manipulate people (as much) or circumstances (as insistently) and grew more honest. Quickly, I learned to share my honest thoughts and feelings with a sponsor and close friends. Quickly, I adopted the rudiments of service work by helping out my home group and sponsoring women.
God, meanwhile, kept getting in my face to say, “Hey — I’m real.” That’s largely what my addiction memoir is about — god getting in my face repeatedly through paranormal events, refusing to let up until my resistance finally collapsed and I promised, “I’ll never deny you again!”
Slowly, my primary dwelling place shifted from head to heart. Oh so slowly, I began to sense my own inner knowing. I found my source, my spiritual wellspring, as an energy that flows outward from me whenever I serve as a conduit for god’s love. I learned that seeking opportunities to channel this love is not only the purpose of my life but, inseparably, what grants me a degree of strength and joy beyond anything my mind can manufacture.
I’ve found home within myself. God visits me there. We’re good.
Life is precious. People are cute.
Shit in general seems way less complicated than it used to.
Sometimes, though, I still get lonely. Last night, for instance, I’d anticipated my son staying with me when he wasn’t. I had no energy. I “relapsed” into missing my ex. Melancholy knocked. So I called a friend who’d been struggling but is doing better now and was happy with him for the good turns his life’s taken. And when another friend stopped by to pick up a Gopro he’d loaned me, I asked him in so we could visit.
These contacts couldn’t alleviate my loneliness, but they let me make friends with it. Turning in for the night, I told myself: “We’re just tired from that insanely tough climb a few days ago. And we’re impatient to find a partner. That’s just life. It’s okay.”
My message to you, dear reader, is that wherever you find yourself on this journey called sobriety, so long as you keep working your program and seeking god’s guidance in all your choices, you’re growing. You’re better today than you were last year. Little by little, you will find your wholeness.
I know it can often look as if life’s easier for others. It’s not. Being human is hard work. We alcoholics just effed it up so royally that god gave us Cliff Notes in the form of the Big Book. All the secrets of a good life are housed between its covers.
One day at a time, one habit at a time, one kindness at a time, we move out of the darkness and toward the light. Hold fast to your hope. Keep going. You’re loved beyond your wildest dreams.