06.25.12 Truth & Wisdom
There I was, 21-years-old, at 2am in some stranger’s apartment, on all fours, drunkenly pawing and clawing through the shag carpet for the crumbs of cocaine that had fallen there when “Mr. Right Now” had gotten up in a rage and knocked it off the table on his way out of the room. I snorted everything from that carpet that looked remotely like the drug I craved more than life itself, on a complete tear until this man finally dragged me off the floor and back to the couch, where I sat panting and wild-eyed, my heart beating out of my chest while I tried to figure out where he might be hiding the rest of his stash.
I wish I could tell you that some out-of-body experience that night helped me see how pathetic and desperate I was, but I can’t. It wasn’t even the worst night I’d ever had. It was just another Saturday night in the life of a coke addict and alcoholic.
There was no part of me then that said, “I should really stop this craziness.”
Nor was there any rational thoughts of change the morning after I was so drunk that I fell over a toy poodle in someone’s kitchen, falling face first onto the stone tile floor, which knocked me out and blackened my eyes for the next two weeks. That’s what dark sunglasses are for, right?
Unfortunately, I could go on and on with similar stories of shame, but I’ll save those for my memoir. Suffice it to say, I suffered greater and greater humiliation at the hands of my addiction for another three years before I finally got clean and sober. And recovery didn’t come from some enlightened will of my own; it was a divine concert of grace and opportunity that led me to it. I had simply become willing—finally—to be led away from the particular hell that my life had become.
Now, almost 27 years later, my life is peaceful, fulfilling and full of joy: in that time, I have owned and run multi-million dollar companies, become a published author, developed deeply satisfying relationships with my friends and family, enjoyed the love of my exceptional husband for more than 20 years and given back to my community as a mentor to at-risk youth, entrepreneurs and people in recovery.
Nothing about my past life pointed toward these possibilities. Nor did I have the capacity early in sobriety to dream about my future; I just wanted to get away from who I was, and what I had done.
So at what point did my sobriety go from being about the horror I was trying to get away from to the brilliant life I was moving toward?
It happened when I finally believed that I was worth saving, not just that others believed it. That came from showing up for support—again and again—and hearing the same, predictable platitudes—again and again—about “one day at a time” and “this too shall pass” and “let go and let God” and a hundred others just like these. And people wouldn’t stop talking about the progress in their life from following these directions, so I finally started listening.
After hearing came contemplation, and from contemplation came application and action. From that action came freedom, a bit at a time, then joy. By focusing more and more on our similarities than our differences, on solutions instead of problems, I finally saw the great human potential that is in each of us, not just in those who seemed more worthy of it.
Here’s what I know today:
You can make it in spite of your past, or because of it – the choice is yours.
You can be driven by what you want to get away from, or by what you want to gain—either motivation can get you somewhere better.
You will rarely choose what’s practical, or a “should”; you will shift and accomplish great things in your life because some imperative of the social, relative, professional, moral, or spiritual variety has dictated that you must.
My “musts” have changed—they went from “must stop puking, shaking, and crying” to “must grow and serve others,” and my results have changed accordingly. Figure out your “musts”: the things you must do, the person you must be, the ways in which you must serve, in all areas of your life. Let these drive you, and your life will unfold in miraculous ways.