I’ve finished school for a few weeks. I’d forgotten just how unmanageable finals week makes my life. I think there’s a step for that. The problem is that my grades are something I do have quite a degree of control over. This is why I like school. Academia is one of few places in this world where good works are directly tied to good rewards in a timely fashion. I’m actually fairly sure I’ve earned myself two A+’s but I still keep checking to see if my grades have been posted yet.
It’s time to put school aside and look at the rest of the last week. I did, indeed, celebrate my first recovery birthday. 368 days and a few hours now!
I’ve been trying to really hold onto how I felt last year at this time. I don’t want to forget. Ever. I need to remember that is still right there waiting for me.
My jail time was done as a juvenile, 16 years ago. I never was institutionalized. My drug of choice was not a lethal one, overdoses on it are incredibly rare. (There were, however, a few occasions I drank into the lethal range….)
Last year I was feeling the first excruciating pains of being resurrected from death. I have no other words for the experience. The day I really bottomed out and reached out and cried out and showed up in a meeting was the day I died. (I also tried to die once of hypothermia, that’s another story and also one that had a long-term impact.) But no, getting clean and finding myself completely and utterly and totally powerless was a form of death-of-Self for me. There was no more life as I knew it and no more life on my terms and no more will power or stubbornness. I died. The parts of me that had made me me, or that I thought I was, were given an excruciating and painfully drawn-out burning at the stake.
It was brutal and it was ugly. I couldn’t stop shaking, stop sobbing. I couldn’t eat or sleep or shit. I shivered and sniffled. I saw little flashy things in my brain and knew I was insane.
It is not an experience I would wish on anyone for anything. The ego-smashing of that much powerlessness all crashing down at once combined with the sensations of withdrawal is hell, real and living and right here on earth right now.
I didn’t come into recovery at the behest of frustrated family or on orders of the court. I didn’t think I might have a problem. I didn’t have a friend drag me along to introduce me. There was no easy, lubricated entrance for me. There was no more bullshitting myself. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was dead and done.
I need to remember what it feels like to die. I know there are too many people who would say that I should leave the past in the past and only think positive. I say bullshit.
First off, remembering that taste of hell does more than anything else can to keep me clean and free. As long as I remember I will never be tempted to use again.
Second off, dying is what granted me free-will again. God gave me my first miracle pretty fast, carefully wrapped in temptation and testing. (Yes, I know it’s problematic to think of God as a small, spiteful and testing image of Man, bear with me a moment.) Someone dear to me showed up and smoked dope in front of me on my own porch. And I turned away and did not take it. I had a choice again. Family members kept trying to put drinks in my hand, and I kept saying NO. I had a choice again. It seemed then to be so cruel that I would be tested rather than supported. But the fact that I could say NO was, itself, my first miracle.
Thirdly, remembering death and holding it close, knowing that nothingness and oblivion is in itself a form of awakening and rebirth. Some people spend decades trying to meditate their way into nothingness, trying to pray their way into grace, trying to work their way into awakening. I got it the quick way. OK, the long way is probably more recommended and, I imagine, gentler. This experience has changed me dramatically. I got a paper back with lots of comments and not the mark I wanted. I thanked her for her feedback. 369 days ago I would have argued for why I was right.
Fourth, I need to remember that I no longer live in the world quite the way most other people do. While the lightening bolts were probably caused by little serotonin seizures in my head, I got struck all the same. One of my earliest recovery dreams was about having a lightening bolt hit feet from me and walking away unscathed. There have been a number of those dividing and can’t-ever-go-back experiences in my life, events that changed me at my core forever more. And they all have the same two themes: death and God. They can’t really be forgotten because they are crossing thresholds that cannot be re-entered. This is one of those. I can never again see myself as a normie, as a woman who can live on her own will power and her own terms. This contrasts with the terminal uniqueness of believing myself above the law and superior. Or maybe it reverses it. I’m huddled up before God and totally at Her mercy now.
This doesn’t mean that I coast along without any responsibility for myself. On the contrary, I take total responsibility for continuing to treat my disease and for how I live my life. But I no longer take a shred of responsibility for other people. And everything I do is done with God holding me up and in a spirit of gratitude and grace. That doesn’t mean life doesn’t severely suck sometimes. I’ve had plenty of miserable moments and nasty feelings to walk through. And no, I haven’t learned to be genuinely grateful for having people hurt me intentionally. But I still go to bed every night thanking God for another day clean and free.
I don’t work a perfect program. There is no such thing. I keep making progress. Except when I don’t, because sometimes I even slip back a bit. But I get that much right. Every night I am still grateful for the miracle that is living again.
A few weeks ago I had another dream, a dream I hardly know how to write about. The first thing I did was write it down. And I’ve tried to touch it with poetry. But words don’t capture it. I was in THE Garden. I do not know what else to say. There was a huge, old inn with endless quirky rooms and an endless old Garden which was perfectly beautiful in a half-wild and mostly unkempt way. And I got to rake the grass clippings and dance on the porch in my lime-green imitation Crocs. I danced like a little kid, free and alive and pure. I didn’t get to see God. But I did overheard one guest tell another that The Owner had commanded them to treat me as if I was His daughter.