For me, the last two winter seasons in Missouri have been challenging. Not to my sobriety directly, but as a direct threat to my ability to manage my emotional self-care.
My younger brother is now chronically homeless. Alcohol hijacked my loved one. It has taken the light from his eyes and fueled the fires that have burned every single bridge he has ever walked on. He is a strong, hilarious, freakishly talented artist who spends his days fighting his demons and his nights saturating himself more heavily to make it through frigid temperatures. Like so many of you, we, as a family, are distraught.
We don’t know what the next right thing to do is and because we are all now mostly estranged, (aside from empty, direct text messages about my brother’s whereabouts) we cannot rely on one another for strength or support. Every fiber of my being wants to plan another rescue mission. My heart tugs at me, poking and prodding all day long as I go about my daily business.
As Christmas approaches, I focus all of my energy on making sure that my three boys know how loved and valued they are. I am grateful to have peace in my life.
People ask how I stay strong.
In my mind I wonder, are they asking how I don’t let pain and outside circumstances destroy my inner peace or rip my life apart?
I don’t feel “strong” as I sit back helplessly, watching my loved one self-destruct. Maybe it seems that way from the outside, but inside I am working my own program like a mother-fucking boss. Every single day I push out the sound of my brother’s shaky, flat voice asking for a money or telling me that he is really cold. I focus on the truth about what I can do and what I can’t.
I dock my feelings bit by bit and process one at a time, but I feel like running in any direction that even hints it might be easier. I have made the decision to resist escape by replacing it with practicing the pause. I give myself time to process and face how I am feeling.
I refuse to let myself compartmentalize the life I have created in sobriety with the life I reluctantly walked away from to save myself, and ultimately, my children. I refrain from magical thinking and continually creating scenarios that sound better than reality. Acceptance means accepting what is. For me, this means that I make the reality of my dysfunctional family something that functions for me. I rearrange pieces. I ask for outside opinions, advice, direction, and prayer.
I can feel frustrated and rightfully angry without shutting down or feeling defeated. At the end of the day, I can’t let my anxiety trap me into thinking that any amount of worry is going to fix my brother.
In a month I will be quietly celebrating twelve years of sobriety. I feel blessed that don’t have to focus on my sobriety daily anymore.
I don’t sit and stare at the clock, praying and wishing it was almost bedtime because I am not sure if I can make it. But I do have to face my feelings every single day. I still take daily stock of how well (or not) I am doing. I have to continue to stay vigilant about the threats that hinder my ability to enjoy the here and now. I cannot let myself get tangled up in the tension between what was and what could be or should have been.
So I hear that sobriety is badass, and I will humbly agree.
Attempting or sustaining sobriety means that we are openly and purposefully rebelling against self-destruction. It doesn’t matter how we do it, how we keep it going, or what pace we are moving and growing.
So whether you are five minutes in, five days, five years, or five decades.
What matters is we are doing the damn thing that is full of radical, rebellious, revolutionary choices and bold decisions. Don’t let yourself forget that.