Small Triumphs

by Brenda H. in Montreal

No, I don’t post that often, probably because anything I have to say has already been said far more eloquently by someone else. When I reply to other people’s posts, I do it personally, probably because I think if I’m too far off the mark at least only one person will notice this. Semi-lurker? Yes, that probably describes me best.

Today’s personal ramble probably falls into the category of ‘personal’ rather than of use to all. But it’s been on my mind all day, so much so that I actually did have the burning desire to post on the drive home from work. And as the title says, it’s about baby steps and mini-victories.

Perhaps I had hoped sobriety would be something more dramatic, that perhaps I’d have an apocalyptic vision or blinding flashes of wisdom. Maybe I had dreamed that my life would change overnight, that I’d suddenly be sought after by the movers and shakers of the world and recognized for the genius I thought I was. Maybe my debt load, accumulated during the years of wanton spending on alcohol and alcohol-related activities, would suddenly disappear. But last night it suddenly struck me that these changes won’t happen any time soon, perhaps not even in my lifetime. So what has sobriety brought to me, as I begin my third month without substance abuse?

Well, yesterday afternoon a neighbor called to discuss her very difficult first pregnancy. And I took the call. Why is that so astounding? Because for four years I never picked up the phone after my second drink because the slur in my voice would signal to the world that I was well on my way to oblivion. Last night I had to return to work for a special event. There’s nothing new about that. What WAS new was that I actually stayed around half an hour after I was free to come home, just chatting to people. This, too, is unusual because in the past I would beetle out of any social or work-related event at the earliest opportunity so that I could rush home to the waiting arms of my favorite companion, the bottle. Tonight I have a truck-load of things which must be finished by tomorrow. What’s unusual about this is that I willingly brought this burden home, knowing I’d be clear-headed enough to complete everything as the evening wears on because I won’t be unconscious on the sofa.

My fridge contains real food, not alcohol-friendly munchies. It may look like everyone else’s fridge but I know the difference because my fridge seldom contained more than crumbs during a non-pay week. Any spare cash needed to be hoarded in case I ran out of supplies before the following cheque. I can call a friend, walk to the store, drop in on a neighbor after dinner, things every person does without thinking but things I could never do because I could barely stand by dinner time. I can walk the dog for a full hour every morning at 5:30 a.m. because I wake up, under my own steam, and am ready to greet the day.

My sobriety has not brought me brass bands, flowers from strangers or engraved citations signed by famous people. On several occasions it hasn’t even brought me happiness. What it HAS provided me with is an enormous feeling of pride and increased self-confidence. No, I’ll never run a marathon, climb Mount Everest or discover a cure for some dreaded disease. No Nobel Prizes will ever come my way. But I can now carry on conversations without checking my watch, calculating the time it will take me to get home and get buzzed. I can mow the lawn or (more seasonally appropriate) shovel the driveway without first fortifying myself with a drink or six. I can write thank-you notes for gifts and invitations received, knowing I won’t say anything absurd (or any more absurd than most things I say) or outrageous. I can even recall, the next day, what I have said.

No, there were no bells and whistles which came with this condition. But it’s 4:00 p.m. and I’m able to type a note to you. And in a few minutes I’ll go into chat and (perhaps) say something intelligent. At 6:00 I’ll make a well-balanced supper and later on I’ll attack the work I brought home with me, and may actually get everything done. That’s FOUR victories in one short day.

When I first began with LifeRing on Sept. 20 I was told by several people to take ‘baby steps’. What I didn’t hear said was that I should take pride in baby victories. That’s why it took me two full months to recognize the fact that I have had a miraculous vision of sorts. It’s the vision of me actually completing life’s little chores and tasks, fully conscious, fully aware and fully sober.

Thank you LifeRing.

(greyhound) Brenda H. in Montreal

Posted 11/22/02