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Monday, May 5, 2008

I am Sweet 16

On May 4 I celebrated 16 years of continuous sobriety.

I have never been so blessed.

Despite all the hardships of the past 9 months I have stayed sober and while that may not seem like a big deal to some people it is a very big deal to me. Not once have I thought that getting loaded would be an appropriate response to feeling stupid, harassed, unloved, ugly, inadequate or juvenile. Never did it cross my mind that the way to feel better was to reach for a bottle of vodka. To be able to say I cried, screamed, ranted, raved, prayed, begged, laughed, gritted my teeth, ate too much, slept too little but never EVER did I want to drink is a miracle.

I have watched better people than I am not be able to put together more than one year of sobriety at a time.

I have met people far more intelligent, with better educations, better bodies, better names, and prettier faces who wanted this sobriety thing with all their hearts who cannot get it, cannot keep it and cannot understand why.

Well, either do I.

It is estimated that anywhere from 12 to 15 percent of the population is alcoholic - and many do not realize they are because they function well according to the standards of the world. They never miss a day of work. Their bills are paid. Their kids know who they are and how they are related to them. Their car is always parked in the driveway at the right time and they do not cheat (or beat) on their spouse. Suggest to them that they go one year without having even a small amount of alcohol and, if they are even willing to try that, they will be astonished to discover they cannot go one month...or two...and so they will come up with a reason as to why they drank. It will seem reasonable. It will sound plausible.

It won't be the truth, however, because the truth is they CANNOT not drink for one year.

Only 10 percent of those who are alcoholic will ever admit they are and seek some sort of treatment, and of that group maybe half will go to a 12 step program. Most will seek some sort of treatment that has nothing to do with alcohol - they will go to their minister, their priest, their rabbi...they will go to a therapist, an acupuncturist, a hairdresser. They will switch from scotch to brandy and take more physical exercise and take a trip or change jobs....and some will go to their first meeting, look around the rooms and think, "I do not belong here with these scruffy looking people" and they will leave.

I guess I got desperate enough to stay, even though I was secretly certain that I had walked into the Hells Angels Chapter of the 12 step program I needed to be in and that staying was a really dumb idea. Truth is, I had to stay because I had no place else to go...but the reality is I sat in the rooms for 2 years and still drank before I finally got it - that it is the very FIRST drink that gets me drunk...not the 10th or 15th like I always thought....and I need to be physically sober before I can even begin to treat my disease with any success.

Today I am ok. I am not thrilled with my life all the time and I am not ridiculously happy all the time. I am ok.

I am grateful to be ok.

For someone like me, being ok is pretty darn great.

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