Three Years Sober: To Move Or Not To Move?
This morning I slogged off to a very early meeting I’m now doing Thursday mornings. Clear. Cold: 9 degrees. All the adjectives for cold feel threatening: bitter. Biting. Numb. Icy.
The cold morning was beautiful. The cloudless sky was a deep crystalline violet. Absolute stillness at 6:45. The half-moon was shining like a lamp, reminding me of a dream I had on Christmas Eve, a dream that has stayed with me. I dreamed of a moon that kept changing—from fingernail to almost half, growing and growing in brightness—and in the dream I was moving from window to window and realized I was witnessing a clear lunar eclipse.
The windows were like the ones in my house, but I was not in my house. I was somewhere else.
The dream ended with a bright full moon and a sense of growing clarity. I woke with a feeling of peace.
It seems to me that, in the dream, there were obstacles sliding slowly out of the way of the light. In a lunar eclipse what casts the shadow is the Earth. And I am part of the Earth. So (by the transitive property, as my kid would say), what was moving out of the way of the light was me.
The third year of sobriety was hard in my world. Bitter. Biting.
I wanted to get numb over the holidays. I’m tired of life being hard. Two days after Christmas I found myself in the same spot, the same physical location, as the one in which, three years ago yesterday, I stole a Vicodin and ended a relapse. I stood in that room last week, looking at the bottle of Vicodin. The same bottle: it’s still there. I held it in my hand. Tempting. In the end, I heard my friend C.’s voice telling me:
If you use, you will abandon yourself.
In the end I decided I was damned if I was going to take one of those boring little pills and wait to feel the numbness sneak through my body the way it had three years ago, just so I could Be Numb for a few hours and then have to Come Back To Life—or not, because that’s always a possibility. I put the bottle back, unopened. Walked back out to the basement room where everyone (else) was drinking beer in front of the woodstove.
But why did I have to stick my hand in the fire? Huh?
This morning I woke up and for a while actually forgot I was three years sober. How’s that for gratitude. So I put it on Facebook: “3 years.” All these people wrote in. Some of you I know from seeing you every week of my life in some room or other. Some of you I met online and later met In Real Life. Some of you, I’ve never seen your faces. If I had died, I wouldn’t have known any of you.
It’s easy to forget I could have died. I write, “Life is hard,” but life is jammy compared with life in active addiction, which was hell. Which was slavery to lies and isolation and the almighty drug.
Life has been asking me lately to remember that I could have died. For a story I’m writing for The Fix I talked with Dr. David Smith, the founder of the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, who has practically pioneered addiction medicine and has been working with people like us for more than 40 years. “I have a number of patients who have become addicted to fentanyl with serious medical consequences,” he said. “In the latest one, the patient ate a fentanyl patch and died.” This was a nurse. Another ate a patch and had a heart attack, he said; yet another ate fentanyl and fell asleep behind the wheel of the truck he was driving—fortunately before he’d started the ignition. His boss, however, Did Not Like This.
I remember the times I used so much that I could feel my respiration slowing against my will. I remember wondering if a body could force itself to breathe.
Commitment to sobriety forces me to change my ways of doing life. One of my ways of doing life?—passively. Things Will Just Work Out. Take a Chill Pill.
Things don’t Just Work Out. People work them out. People make choices. Not to make a choice is to make a choice.
So in my dream I saw a moon that kept changing—from fingernail to almost half, growing and growing in brightness—and in the dream I was moving from window to window and realized I was witnessing a clear lunar eclipse. The windows were like the ones in my house, but I was not in my house. I was somewhere else.
I was somewhere else. Somewhere like my house, but not, but not.
The dream ended with a bright full moon and a sense of growing clarity. I woke with a feeling of peace. And it seemed to me that, in the dream, there were obstacles sliding slowly out of the way of the light: the Earth. Myself. Moving out of the way of the light.
Moving out of the way.
“You seem stuck,” a friend of mine said the other day. “It worries me that you wanted to use. I think you need to get moving.”
So often, all sobriety asks me to do is to move. “Accept, then move,” Sluggo used to say. So much of what Sluggo used to say is stuff that still works. Sluggo didn’t write to me on Facebook today. But I love Sluggo, and I know she loves me.