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.

Frigid.

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.

Frigid.

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.

Moving.

“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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jocelyn.d.davis Jocelyn D Davis

    Dearest G, So good to hear of your 3rd birthday in sustained recovery. Most pleasing. By the way, a three year of bottle of Vicodin is expired. Time to get rid of it.
    Your blog helps me stay sober/clean time and time again. Stay here. You are appreciated.

  • writingmywaysober

    “If you use , you will abandon yourself.” Thank-you for this. I needed it. I too, am at risk of relapse since a diagnosis of cancer, nearly losing my house, dog got killed. Now I work with addicts who have blown out their bodies with hard drug use. They are literally missing limbs, digits, and have lost people who love them but cant be around them anymore. They all have horrendous histories of trauma. I sit and look into their eyes as they cry from the simple act of being understood by someone who cares about their quiet lives, soon to be forgotten by so much of the world. I wonder: what is this existence all about? Why them and not me? The very hard questions stir in me hourly.
    I love Cat Stevens, Tea for the Tillerman saved my life one summer, nearly 3 decades ago. Thanks for that too.

  • Faith

    G..Congrats on your 3 years that totally awesome you worked hard to get
    those 3 years no one ever said recovery would be easy we work at staying
    clean/sober
    sometimes we work little harder to get threw day that
    just part of the process But G think it time to get rid of those pills
    had reservation for long time but today don’t have any can’t afford too
    love cat stevens enjoy my music listening to Alicia Keys brand new me it
    great song check it out !!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Heather-Kopp/1191344953 Heather Kopp

    G, congratulations! I always get so excited when I see a new post from you in my email. You are such a beacon, friend. And I appreciate all your writing–including that which you do for the Fix and other mags. Your influence is felt far and wide. I am so so glad I know you. We all have a list of people we’d be especially heartbroken about if they went back out–not so much a relapse, but a leaving of us and community–and you are one of those on my list. I don’t say that to pressure you, and my sobriety depends in no way on yours. I’m just trying to tell you how special you are to me and that you should never doubt the impact your life and sobriety is having in the world. Keep shining. Only you do it the way you do. Love and hugs, Heather

  • channah789

    Happy birthday, G!

  • http://guineveregetssober.com/ Guinevere

    dear channah, thank you. so glad to see you here. enormous hugs.

  • http://guineveregetssober.com/ Guinevere

    darlin Heather, thank you for this, and thank you for accompanying me on my journey. This year I want to reconnect with my fellow bloggers, and you’re at the top of the list. Your sincerity and heart warm me down to my fingertips. much love /G

  • http://twitter.com/SoberJulie SoberJulie

    G I’m so glad those words rang in your head at the right time. What would I do without you on my sober road? I’m also approaching my 3rd coin and find that each year I enter a mourning phase right about now. Being pulled back…within seconds ain’t bloody easy but I’m determined not to do that dance again.