Editor's Note: Last April, Ted M reflected on achieving a year of sobriety. In this essay, he looks at his life a year later.
As I reflect on year two in a lifelong pattern I have finally chosen to embrace — one day at a time — I am reminded how grateful and humble I was at year one for the peace, dignity and self-respect that I had commenced to anchor down. That feeling has not changed; simply the daily activities have emerged in different formats.
In the past year, I have seen the light in the eyes of strangers reignite, I have sat and spoken to people for no other reason than to help them purge their past and move forward with their lives.
I have worked at being more patient, giving, present. I have heard my voice; sharing thoughts I knew might help and saying things just to hear the words come out of my mouth because if I released them, they would not have power over me anymore.
I have read how to be, how not to be, how to be fated, how to let go, how to be better, how not to take things personally.
I have dealt with fear, anxiety, anger and resentment through a variety of means: Prayer, mediation, conversation; with simple communication being the bulk of those formats.
I have read/studied Eastern and Western philosophies in order to open my mind, heart, and spirit to things known and yet undiscovered. With eyes wide open, I have bought into many concepts. I have appraised things simple and complex, the aspects of life I will practice and others I will strive for — some attainable, some suitable to just exist.
I have read how to be, how not to be, how to be fated, how to let go, how to be better, how not to take things personally. Often, I have learned how to mispronounce and stumble over funny sounding and foreign words, that if I reread another four times, may stick and make sense to me.
I have decided this knowledge is growth, both in worldly and spiritual matters, so I have to read on.
Striking a balance
In the past year, I have learned I do not want to be a self-centered, judgmental, morally corrupt addict/alcoholic and I have also learned I do not want to be a pious Buddhist monk. I have a visual sensory perception, so I often draw pictures in my head of how I think things should look. I have learned that I better draw this with an Etch A Sketch, as the picture will change often. I have learned to be nimble and not set in my ways, a spiritual street boxer of sorts, as this flexibility will serve me best.
In the past year, I have learned I do not want to be a self-centered, judgmental, morally corrupt addict/alcoholic and I have also learned I do not want to be a pious Buddhist monk.
I have listened — at times, intently, eagerly, wearily, half-heartedly to theories and stories, ideas and doctrine, beliefs and foundations. I have listened with my ears and with my eyes. I have an honest desire to be a sponge and take in as much as possible.
My degree in school and business worldliness helps but does not make any promises with this new syllabus of life I am working off of. I have to be vigilant, quick footed – and if I am eager for long term success, I have to be ready for change, adaptation, on a daily regime. The mortar has been poured for the foundation, but I have to be open to re-arranging the furniture on a regular basis.
I have to watch more and talk less. I have begun the service work; I know its values to others, but also, I know what that action means to me — peace of mind, purpose, positive movement. I have facilitated change in others, not from a completely unselfish manner, although I have read that’s what I should do — in order to help them and free myself.
I have plans, and those can gladly wait, because a calling trumps a plan in any game of rock-paper-scissors! I have ambitions, but those can be redirected towards more meaningful and purposeful endeavors. I have desires; those can be tempered and embraced in a healthy fashion for once. I have faults, after all I am human, I have learned not to shy away from them, but rather be man enough to admit, address, and take action on them.
Learning to laugh
I have learned to laugh again and see beauty in the simple things. I have seen real life miracles and real life tragedies and remained calm throughout-a miracle in and of itself. I have learned people can have the same tiger spots in recovery as out, just a bit more self-knowledgeable.
I have learned that what got me in the door is not what’s kept me in the house.
I have learned that what got me in the door is not what’s kept me in the house. I have learned to unlearn. I have learned faith without works is surly dead. I have seen people come and go and come. I have seen how it works in every shade of the rainbow and I have decided that like the proverbial snowflake — everyone has to have a unique shape and path.
I have had times in the past year that have been so peaceful, so magically serene, so heartening, so inspirational that no earthly value could be attributed to them. I have been inspired by the obvious and less transparent.
I have had conversations that have remolded my DNA, I have heard stories and advice that have pushed me closer to the spirit of the light. I have taken and seen action that was so meaningful that a picture and its representation of a thousand words would not be enough to express my thoughts.
Infrequently, but in the spirit of full and real disclosure of the complete picture, I have had discouraging times, sad times, tempting times, and times of real frustration.
I have had to live on life’s terms and that is not always easy in recovery. I have had someone I worked closely with wish me to die of a horrible disease while they were living in one of their own. I have had people I treated like family remind me in uncomfortable ways I’m not.
I have been reminded that people come in and out of my life often for moments or seasons, and I have had to learn to let them go without judgment.
I have a prayer by Mother Teresa in my back pocket for such occasions that reminds me – things will happen, do it anyway, because in the end it wasn’t between you and them, it is between you and God. I have been reminded that people come in and out of my life often for moments or seasons, and I have had to learn to let them go without judgment.
I have worked hard at being my best, failing at times because my journey is a lifelong one, and it seemed, at certain turns, in my flawed human discernment, never to be enough.
I have no idea how you do the following, but I have had to make the phone call to a family and be the first to share the news that their young son was in a more peaceful place. I have knowledge that this is the circle of life, but it doesn’t lessen the pain.
As I contemplate the past year, I can only hope that others in and on the precipice of recovery have taken the time to see how important service work is, staying in the now, prayer and meditation, slowing down, not taking things personally, putting forth daily effort, regaining respect and dignity, sharing fruits of their labor and basking in the sunshine of the spirit.
I have —and because of that, by the grace of God, I am at peace, for another year and just for today.
Editor's Note: Because the Twelve Step philosophy is to preserve anonymity, we have not published Ted M.'s full name. However, he can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 832-224-4783.