Today is my birthday -- my second birthday of the year. The one I vowed I would never again forget or take for granted. Today I turn 23 -- 23 years sober. 23 years of making the choice to live and feel all of life in it's raw form, without dulling, numbing, and otherwise checking out.
Yesterday, my family helped make my birthday celebration one of the sweetest moments of my sobriety journey. It was only a little more than a year ago that I took my daughters on a walk one day and shared the story of that journey with them. They are young and innocent and never questioned why I didn't drink. I shared my story of being hospitalized, broken -- mentally and physically--very nearly beyond repair, and utterly powerless to my defeat by alcohol. And despite the defeat I felt, my unwavering husband and parents wouldn't let me slip away and they demanded I get help. Not on my terms -- but NOW. I had always been a good student and at a very deep level I understood this was life's biggest test for me so far and one where failure absolutely wasn't an option. On Oct 5, 1997, less than 24 hours after my last bender that landed me in the hospital, defeated, and nearly dead, I checked into a treatment program in Walnut Creek, CA.
The road ahead was rocky and tough, and tomorrow was never guaranteed. But one day at a time, I began to heal, the fog began to clear, and I began to receive intangible gifts that I trust are powerful enough to guide me through anything today. Maybe I was a little slow to receive something others already grasped, but my early years of sobriety introduced me to the concepts of gratitude and (non-religious) spirituality and I fully embraced both. Both were keys to my sustained sobriety.
When I shared my story with my daughters, they were naturally compassionate and non-judgmental. In today's world where everything, including our own persona, are artificially filtered and expertly branded, I wanted to be able to share raw vulnerability, flaws, and scars openly with my daughters so they can learn to value depth and honesty in relationships. It's important to me that my daughters learn to examine mental health and addiction with compassion and without masks of shame. And more than anything, I wanted my daughters to see that our defining moments of struggle can also be the key to unlocking our true character and strength.
Addiction never ceases to break my heart when I hear of another beautiful soul defeated by it's power. My throat still chokes up when I try to understand why I was spared 23 years ago and continue to be today. I don't know why. But I never lose gratitude for it or take it for granted that I was given a 2nd chance.
Gratitude is really the only word I have vocabulary for that describes what I felt yesterday as my family helped me celebrate my 8,395 "one day at a time"'s since I flipped the switched of my life from OFF to ON. The contrast of my life today to 23 years ago is stark. The emptiness I was once trying to fill is now filled with gratitude, abundance, love, Chris, and 2 beautiful little humans who undoubtedly wouldn't be in my life had it not been for admitting my powerlessness 23 years ago and accepting help.
Yesterday, my family helped make my "birthday" celebration one of the sweetest moments of my sobriety journey. My 12-year old daughter surprised me by baking the most special cake I will ever eat. A four-layer rainbow cake with the most amazing mascarpone chattily cream frosting that she researched and independently devoted half of her Sunday to preparing. I can honestly say I've never had a more delicious cake in my entire life (and that's saying a LOT from a dessert connoisseur!) Her secret ingredient was love -- lots of it! 23 years ago, I was filled with so much shame that I would have never imagined I would one day have a beautiful daughter who would drop everything to spend her entire day baking a cake to celebrate my sobriety.
Yesterday, I felt only pride and gratitude. As we sat down to an amazing Italian feast Chris made for the "birthday" dinner, he started to make a toast. I stopped him and said "Cheers to You. Had you not stood by my side, believed in me, and demanded more for me, none of this would exist today." Gratitude. There's no other word.
With Love and Gratitude,
[It has only been in recent years that I have openly shared my sobriety journey with others. Addiction and mental health issues are very private matters that need to be heard and voiced in order to remove shame and stigma surrounding them. I voice my journey today because it's part of my wholeness, but I also talk openly about it in case anyone else needs help. My hand and heart will always be open to helping anyone struggling with addiction and/or mental health.]