In some ways I remember the day as vividly as if it were yesterday. In other ways, it seems as if I am remembering a television show or movie that I watched while drinking.
I remember begging her not to leave me there. I am not sure whose bright idea it was for me to do this, but they were obviously stoned. Oh yeah, it was my idea and I was stoned. She clung to my hand for the entire hour they made us wait for me to get checked in. (Which was torture in and of itself.) I made her swear to stay near a phone so I could call her anytime I needed to. She promised and handed me a picture of the two of us and a very heartfelt “You can do this” letter. You would’ve thought that it held the secret of the universe in it the way I clutched it to my chest.
When she left me and I had to make the very long walk to the “quarters” that I would be staying, I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my life. I suddenly wasn’t so sure that I wanted to do this. I hadn’t ruined everything in my life. Oh sure, most of my life was in shambles, but I could fix it on my own. Instinctually my hand went to the locket I wore that had picture of my “babies” in it. I knew I had to do this. If I couldn’t do it for me, I had to do it for them.
Walking into the commons where all of the druggies were hanging out scared the hell out of me. I do not belong here! I am not like them. I am a middle class, suburban mom. Not a heroin addict off the street. There must be a mistake. (There was. The mistake was mine. I was just like they were. No better. Probably worse because I couldn’t see it yet.) It all seemed to be in slow motion. (Of course, I had taken every pill I could find before I had checked in, so I am sure that had something to do with it.)
That night was long and one of the toughest of my life. It was scary. It was lonely. It was loud. It was pretty much hellish. But it saved my life. That next day in my first meeting (where I was surrounded by alcoholics and drug addicts who were not going to take any of my excuses, lies or bullshit), I got honest for the first time about how bad things had gotten. I also received my first “chip”. (The first chip is called a Desire Chip. It is just an outward way to say that you have the desire to stay clean and sober for the next 24 hours. It is an outward symbol of an inward desire. And the hardest one to stand up and accept! I still have mine and cherish it as one of my most prized possesions.) I so looked forward to the 6th of each month when I knew it was time to get another. It was something I was able to set as a goal. “If I can just make it to the 6th, I can do it forever.” I said that every month. These first monthly chips mean the most to me because it was hard to fight everyday to do this, but I did it and am proud to own them.
One day I will probably go into details about what happened while I was in detox. Maybe not. Oh there are some wild and wonderful stories to share. Some hysterical. Some heartbreaking. Some inspirational. Some frightening. The thing they all had in common is that they saved my life and straightened me out. It took the cocaine addict telling me off to snap me out of the “I don’t belong here” attitude. Thank God he did it on that first morning or I am not sure that I would’ve ever taken them or the experience seriously.
Why am I telling you this now? Today is my “birthday”. (That’s 12 Step talk for the day that I got clean.) I have been clean for 4 years today. Four years! Some days that amazes me. It got easy after the first
few days weeks months years… It will never be easy. But it is easier now than it was then. Once an addict, always an addict. I just don’t use anymore. And that, my friend, makes all the difference in the world!
Happy 4 years to me!
What have you overcome that you want to celebrate? Then celebrate with me!