Today I am four years sober. I don’t know much, but I know this: you must let the space exist between where you are and where you want to be. You must do everything you can to stay in that space until a new life fills in.
Since November 2015, I have completely changed my life. I’m nearly 3.5 years sober, I made the leap from my career in advertising to write and teach, I live in my dream location (basically, as close to the ocean as I can get without actually living on a boat), and I’m publishing my first book this September. My life is by no means perfect, but it is mine. It makes sense. It feels like home.
Holly and I started HOME in July of 2015 when I was just a shaky few months sober. I knew nothing about podcasting (other than I loved Radiolab and WTF and On Being and that there was something special about the way we can experience this medium privately), but I did know I wanted to talk about this thing.
I mean, you know that commercial with the staples button that says "that was easy.” Getting sober is the hardest-best thing ever, but is there ever a time when you can hit cruise control and sit back and enjoy it? I know I'll never get to push that staples button, but can I at least get one that says, "It's getting easier?”
This is basically the reason I started to drink in the first place, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason people have drank since the beginning of time: to feel more comfortable in their skin. Now, they probably didn’t quite use that language while sitting around the fire or dinner table or watering hole (I’m sorry, I have to pause here: imagine Jesus saying to Luke, I don’t know, I just feel so…uncomfortable in my own skin sometimes, man.) but that’s why. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and smooths the chatter of our minds and some of our minds are really, really loud and mean.
I often get to the end of a day and feel like I didn't do enough. Not enough as in, I only took care of myself, Alma, my dog, and work. Maybe ran. Maybe read a little. Said a prayer. Since when is that not enough? In what insane world is that a below par day?
I took a few hours off last week to take Alma to her 5-year appointment. She was anxious about whether or not she'd have to get a shot, but excited about all the fun things the doctor would do: check her ears, ask her questions, peek in her mouth, ask her to count to ten. Since I didn't know whether she'd have to get a shot, I explained she may not have to, but that we'd find out when we got there. She said she'd be ok if she had to -- she wouldn't cry. I said I'd be there either way.
Well, she had to get a shot. And from the moment she learned it was coming to the time it took three of us (me, two nurses) to hold her so they could administer the shot was mercury rising. Her fear escalated and she started to anticipate the shot, tried to bargain her way out, and I explained to her that thinking about it was the thing that made it scary, that it actually would only last a moment if she could just be brave for a second, just one second. When the nurses came in, Alma looked dead into my eyes and begged PLEASE MAMA I DON'T WANT IT. I lowered my gaze to meet hers, gently turned her shoulders so her heart could face mine, and clasped her little hands. I asked her what we do when we're afraid.
She swallowed and replied, "We do it anyway. We are brave."
She still cried and struggled and I winced at having to hold my baby while they did the small thing they had to do. But she made it, of course. I was there. We had a giggle later on and she got to tell her dad how terrible it was.
And you know? That was the *only* thing I needed to do that day. Or week. Or month. That would've been enough.
Our busy-ness is so often just clutter and noise and the "enough" part is the one or two moments we get to show up for the ones we love and assure them they'll be alright.