Thursday, June 12, 2008

Five Years

What a difference five years can make. Last Friday, the 6th, made it five years since I last had an alcoholic beverage of any kind. Five years. That is a miracle, and truly the grace of a higher power.

I make no secret of the fact that I'm a recovering alcoholic. I don't go around beating my chest about it, but I'm not ashamed of the fact, by any measure. I'm ashamed of some of the things I did as a practicing alcoholic, but I guess we all have some regrets. I don't mind sharing about my experiences and struggles with the whisky bottle, because someone else might read it and realize that there is hope for anyone.

Five years ago today I was being released from the hospital. In my last conversation with the physician who treated while I was there, he told me I don't get any more chances. He was amazed that I was alive when I arrived, my body had been so devastated by my drinking, and he couldn't tell me that day that I would make a healthy recovery, there were too many test results that hadn't come back yet. I don't think he gave me much of a chance, he didn't even recommend that I go to a rehab facility. He just said, "If you drink again, you will certainly die."

He didn't have to tell me that, I already knew it. And I'd already had a moment of clarity while lying on a gurney in the emergency room. I was looking at the lights in the ceiling, IVs running electrolytes into my veins, three days of sobriety under my belt because I somehow talked my family into waiting until Monday to take me to the hospital and I didn't drink over the weekend, my mind not sober but not intoxicated, and I was thinking, "This is what my life has come to. This is what I amount to after forty years on God's green planet. This is what I've become." One hundred and twenty pounds, yellow skin, yellow eyes, kidneys and liver shut down, and just plain beat.

In that moment, something changed. I can't really describe it other than to say a very calm feeling washed over me, and it felt like acceptance. I decided that whatever time I had left, and whatever condition I was in, I would try to live it right. I would try my best to do the right thing with whatever remained of my life. I wouldn't drink again, and I would try to help others who fought the same battle. If I was going to die soon, I'd try to finish on a high note. I didn't beg God to heal my body, I just asked him to help me do the next right thing. I let go of the idea that one day I would control my drinking and be able to drink normally. I accepted my condition as an alcoholic and I accepted the fact that alcohol couldn't be part of my life. Period.

So, I'll tally some of the miracles and blessings of the last five years.

First of all, my health came back. On a worst case-best case spectrum, I was pretty close to best case. Although my liver had shut down, I hadn't done any irrepairable damage to it. It would be scarred, but it would heal and function normally. My kidneys kicked back in and started working after they had some fluids to work with. My gall bladder wasn't ruined, and my pancreas wasn't destroyed. Everything, over a period of time, started working again.

After two months of physical healing, I looked healthy enough to only look like I'd lived a hard life, not like I was going to keel over and die at any moment. I got a job selling cars, and that, my friends, was a humbling experience. But I gave it my best shot and was able to make a living at it. I got a promotion and started selling our used cars on eBay, and that wasn't a bad gig. It prolonged my time in the car business, but I knew it wasn't going to last forever. Other things were starting to happen.

I began repairing my credit as soon as I started getting a paycheck. Thanks to the questionable lending practices going on in 2004, I bought a home in my first year of sobriety. My first home. I continued to work on my credit and, fortunately, I was able to refinance in two years, or else I'd be suffering the mortgage rate resets that others with ARMs are suffering right now.

I started and completed my first novel. Granted, it wasn't the most wel- crafted novel, and not nearly ready for publication like I thought it was, but I finished it and people read it and encouraged me to keep writing. I'm working on number two now, and this one is much, much better. It might even have a chance for publication. We'll see.

Last year I was able to find employment in the field I'd been in prior to sobriety. I did some damage to my career but I'm overcoming it now. I'm back on track. I'm at the same point I was at about ten years ago, but without the monkey on my back, I'm making steady progress and hopefully will continue to make myself more valuable.

I got my first hole in one.

I stayed sober when my mom died, and I was able to be there for my father and sister and the rest of the family. Truly a miracle and a blessing.

I'm able to be there for my father, now. I'll be going to visit this weekend, and staying at his house next week. We've got to make some arrangements for him, and today I'm able to participate in that, and do the right thing. I'm very grateful for that.

Those are just some of the miracles in the last five years. If I went into more detail, people would think I was making up half of it. That's okay. I know the truth, and the truth is good.