A Very Surreal, Clean and Sober Anniversary
It was my anniversary yesterday. On January 24, 1996 I walked into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, and that was the last time I ever had a drink or used drugs.
The day was a little surreal for me. In some ways it felt like I just got clean and sober yesterday; in other ways it felt like it happened a hundred years ago. I was living in Puerto Rico at the time, managing a bar (great place for a drunk to work!). I was partying every night and sleeping less and less. One night, after hours of drinking and lots of coke, my heart began beating so hard I thought it was going to come right out of my chest. I broke out in a cold sweat and got up to splash some water on my face. When I glanced up into the mirror, I was shocked by my appearance. My face was pasty gray, my skin hung, and my eyes were dull and glazed over. In that instant, I knew I was going to die soon if I didn’t stop.
Flash forward 13 years. My cheeks are pink and my eyes sparkle. I am healthy and happy. My life is wonderful. I know how this happened – lots of hard work and sticking to the principles of AA – but I don’t know why. I often wonder, “Why me?” I have lost several friends to this disease when they ‘went back out.’ Other friends desperately need AA but are unwilling to admit they have a problem. I wish the program was a gift I could give, but addicts have to want it.
There is a saying in AA that is harsh but true: “Some of us have to die so the rest of us can live.” Maybe the deaths I have seen along the way have kept me sober. More likely, it is the ones who go back out that keep me sober; I’ve watched their lives become a living hell and I remember when mine was that bad.
Staying clean and sober is not an easy proposition. That is something that many drug addicts and alcoholics in recovery would attest to. The disease of alcoholism is cunning, baffling, powerful, and above all, patient. Just today I was watching a news program about an ingredient in red wine that has anti-aging properties and may be a cure for cancer and diabetes. Using this as justification, I began thinking it would be OK to have a glass of wine each day. Fortunately, I did what I have been taught to do – I thought this action through to its ultimate consequences. I remembered what my life was like 13 years ago and compared it to my present situation. I do not wish to give up what I have today. Thirteen years of sobriety may seem a bit surreal to me, but going back to that previous lifestyle is absolutely unimaginable to me. I can’t even relate to the person I was back then. And I am eternally grateful for the person I have become and all those who have helped me along the way.