In the recovery community we have a lot of phrases and sayings. They’re not official. Nobody owns them. They’re just out there, author unknown. The phrases and sayings get passed around. You hear one and it means nothing. You file it away with the others, in your head. And then one day it means something. You dust it off, roll it around on your tongue, say it aloud and hear it as if for the first time.
Don’t compare, identify
Wherever you go, there you are
First things first
Surrender to win
More will be revealed
Don’t quit before the miracle
These are just a few. There are hundreds. We hear them. We love them. We hate them. Sometimes, we recognize one another through them.
About a month ago, I was traveling from Tampa to New York to visit family. The airport lines were long. I was worried that I might miss my flight. A nice man helped me out. He held my place in line while I raced to the ladies room, he assisted me at the ticketing kiosk and directed me to the right gate. No big deal to him but a really big deal to me. I’m not a frequent flyer. I thanked him profusely and he humbly accepted. And then, he said something. I wish I could tell you what he said but I can’t remember. Maybe I’ll remember by the time I finish writing this. Don’t hold your breath. The point is he said something familiar. One of those sayings.
“Hey wait,” I asked “are you a friend of Bill’s?”
“Yeah,” he answered. “You?”
“Nine years” I beamed (All we have is today. I know, I know but I can’t help it. I’m proud of my nine). “Small world” I added.
“We’re everywhere” he said. And then, as he walked away, “Stick around, it keeps getting better.”
That’s another saying. One of my favorites. It keeps getting better.
If you want to stay sober you’ve got to be willing to step over the bodies. That’s an ugly one, but it’s out there. Like all the others, there’s truth to it. We can’t fall apart and say “screw it” every time we lose one. We stop briefly, yes of course. We say a prayer and we pay our respects. We visit with grief. We feel it in it’s entirety. We soberly endure the intensity of its pain. We don’t unpack and stay there though. That would be dangerous. We march on. We trudge forward on the road of happy destiny.
I didn’t grasp that saying at first. I didn’t think it would ever apply to me. People die from drinking? Not in my world. I don’t even know those kind of people. And then it happens. And it happens again. One too many Xanax chased back with the bedtime wine. A tragic moonlight swim in the ocean. All hope lost, a trigger pulled. These sad endings become all too familiar and the ugly saying takes on new meaning. It belongs to you. You know the drill. Suit up and show up. You accept, acknowledge, grieve and move forward. “Okay, okay” you whisper in the dark. “I can do this. I can step over the bodies.” Still, you hate that saying.
If you’re like me, you keep a secret list. You keep it in your head, close to your heart. It’s a list of names. Names of people, people whose bodies you could never step over. You just can’t. You’re sure of it. At least, you don’t think you could. You do a quick little thing. Some call it a prayer. You ask the God of your understanding to look after those names. The names on your secret list. You beg.
Recently I’ve been in touch with an old friend. She’s hilarious, beautiful and successful. She thinks she might have a drinking problem. We’ve been talking, mostly texting. I share with her my own experience, strength and hope. Whatever wisdom I can muster. She’s trying to quit. She can quit. She has quit. Several times. Five days. twelve days. Ten days. She can’t seem to stay quit though. I been there. I get it. I told her what I finally did. I told her where I went. I told her how it helped me. She’s reluctant to go that route, to that extreme. She just wants to cut back, get the drinking under control. She doesn’t realize that she’s fighting for her life. She doesn’t get it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she’ll be fine. Just in case though, I’ve added her name to my secret list. Not this one, please God, not this one. I just can’t.
Death. That’s the worst case scenario. That’s as bad as it gets. You would think so, right? That’s what I thought.
Somebody I love is very sick. Liver failure. The kind that kills you, but not right away. I can not express just how much nursing homes suck, even the best rated ones with all five stars. I have no words to describe the horrors my somebody has endured. Its been a long hot summer. As he continues to suffer, so do we who love him.
I’m feeling a new phrase on the tip of my tongue. Ive heard it for years but never gave it much thought. Now I get it.
Alcohol wants us dead, but it’ll settle for miserable.