At this writing, I’ve been sober 16 years.
Getting sober takes time.
I’ve seen a few myths derail more than one person’s chance at getting sober.
One myth says: “I am sober when I stop drinking.”
Wrong. Not, somewhat wrong, or a little wrong. Wrong. Dead wrong. You’re clean, as it were, when you stop drinking, not sober.
Here’s the reality (fact) that replaces the myth. You have to stop drinking in order to get sober. Getting sober takes time. Trust me. If you’re fortunate enough to be in your early strides of the experience, you don’t yet realize how unwell you are.
Another myth says: “I can do it alone” and yet another is some family member or loved one thinking that they can save the alcoholic-addict.
Reality says: “Not only are you wrong, but don’t you think it’s nice to find out there is at least one massive life challenge you don’t have to face alone?”
There is another unflinching fact. Being an active alcoholic results in one of three endings: jails, institutions, or death. This is fact.
One other thing, another expression I learned. You’re not allowed to kill yourself in your first three years of sobriety because you’ll be killing the wrong person.
A reporter asked me today to describe what it was that made my father so special. I didn’t know what to say. I knew there was no way I could put it into words. Much like a recent blog piece about the extraordinary look of a woman’s face being out of the reach of words, so it is when it comes to explaining what it was about my father that makes him the greatest gift life has ever given me.
Here is what I did say. Trying to describe my father would be like looking up at Mount Everest and trying to describe what I was seeing to someone over the phone. I wouldn’t stand a chance. I’d certainly give it my best shot with words like majestic, magnificent, magical, breathtaking. I could keep adding words too, but never would the person on the other end of the phone understand what it was like to see Mount Everest in person.
My father was as accepting and loving as a human being can be. Never did I have to be anyone but me to be loved. I did not have to live up to something, or achieve some high standard somewhere in order to be fully loved and accepted. When I was 15 and he died at age 55, my ability to feel safe being me in the world died with him.
The difficulty feeling safe in the world was no doubt compounded by the fact my mother placed me in reform school 16 weeks later on a PINS (Person in Need of Supervision) petition. In those days PINS petitions were often a matter of the family saying to the court, we don’t want the child, you take him. Children are heard a bit more today then they were in 1969.
I never fully regained the ability to feel safe being me in the world until I got sober more than six years ago. My father is my Everest. He is a constant reminder that real love between two people is possible in the world. And as you probably already know, it’s just as impossible to put real love into words as it is putting Everest into words or, for me, my father into words. But they are all real, and you will know it if you see it, or feel it.
Just keep your eyes and your hearts open. After all, everyone deserves an Everest or two.