Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What it was like: Year Fifteen

I think this is getting really tiresome...  Any opinions anyone would care to express?  I was thinking of maybe doing 5 year blocks from here on out- and therefore getting this done in two more days.  I am happy to write them year by year, but the later years start blending....

Ok, so I celebrated 14 years.  I moved into my very own little townhouse.  I was driving to work one day shortly thereafter in my vintage Subaru, holding the driver's side door shut, and admiring the steam billowing from under the hood.  I thought - that's it!  I am buying a new car!  And I did!  I purchased myself a brand new 1999 white Volkswagen Jetta, and oh, how I loved that car.

Since I had a new car, I decided to take the road trip I had wanted to take for years.  I drove (by myself) from Denver to Youngstown, Ohio to see my old childhood friends, and then on to Pittsburgh to see my parents' graves.  I also decided to stop in Akron to go to 855 Ardmore Ave.  

I didn't really have a huge desire to go there because I think Bill and Dr. Bob are constantly spinning in their graves with the way we have idolized them.  But since I was driving right through Akron, I thought I might as well go there.  I sheepishly asked my non-alcoholic childhood friend if she would mind - since we were traveling together on this leg.  She was happy to go.  As we walked up the stairs to that house, I got goose bumps all over.  When we walked in the door and a couple of old geezers seated in the living room said "Welcome Home," I cried.  I turned to my friend, embarrassed, and was amazed to see that she was crying too!   She found it incredibly moving as well.  To think of all that transpired in that house was pretty inspiring!  I am glad the house is preserved, but I do wish we would stop idolizing those two fully human drunks.... but I digress...

By this time, I had decided to go to school part time instead of full time, so I was watching my original classmates get ready to graduate, while I had another year to go.  I still think it was a good decision.  I still enjoyed school, I wasn't just "getting through" it or "enduring" it, I was actually enjoying it and putting a lot of effort into my work.  

Also by this time my back was just completely toast.  I was in pain all of the time.  I finally started taking vicodin - just so I could get through my days and nights.  I took less than prescribed, and talked with my sponsor constantly about it.  I asked myself these questions every single time I opened the bottle to take out another pill - 1.  Am I in pain?  2. Is the pain why I am taking this pill?  3.  Am I taking the pill as prescribed?  If I could answer those questions, I took the pill and tried to have faith that God would take care of me through this period.

I tried acupuncture which helped a little.  The acupuncturist (who was also an anesthesiologist) advised me not to have surgery unless I lost the use of my arms.  I agreed.  So, one day I was riding my bike home from work and both of my arms went numb, it was a scary experience to get home that way.  All the way from the shoulder to my fingertips.  That was when I decided to have the surgery my physician had recommended.

On June 30, 1999, I checked into the hospital for an anterior discectomy and fusion of C4-6 - with bone grafts and titanium rods.  That was a major ordeal.  But a week later, my prescription for vicodin ran out and miracle of miracles, I did not refill it.  I stopped taking pain meds, and just like the studies said, since I took the medication as indicated for pain,  I was not addicted.  What a relief that was.

I had to wear a huge neck brace for 7 weeks and that was definitely the worst part of the surgery.

On my 15th birthday, I was wearing this neck brace - along with a pretty dress.  I have a picture of myself outside of the meeting that night - with my friend who had moved to San Francisco.  He was in town for the meeting.  It was a wonderful night.  

Among other things, here is what I wrote in my birthday journal:
"It was a very beautiful night but I just want to cry.  15 years is so long.  I am so grateful.  So blessed.  It is such a wonderful gift.  Thank you God."



13 comments:

Ed G. said...

Since you asked:
It's not my effort (it's your hard work), but I'm all for continuing a year at a time. As I've already expressed, it's a marvel to me that you have journals and resources to remember by. I've always intended to do that but have not yet developed the discipline to do it consistently. Maybe that part of why I blog?

Anyway, I can see where this is useful to me, others, and perhaps you. If you only remember a couple of paragraphs in a year, you could just write those and, if something comes up later, you could add it then for "fleshing out" your history. I have another blog that I do that with (add to or change old articles)...

I am blessed by your writing and would be most appreciative if you'd continue as you started but wouldn't think the less of you if you felt you need to condense.

Just sayin...

Blessings and aloha...

Steve E. said...

I never idolized Bill W OR Bob S, never thought of them as any more than any one of us who Trust God, Clean house, Confess, Make Amends, Pray, meditate, and help others.

In fact I never even heard of them being "idolized"...

Having said that, when I climbed those Twelve Steps to the house on Ardmore in Akron, and heard the words, "Welcome Home!" well, I also cried. Yep! I could "see" those old drunks in that upstairs room KNEELING, and praying. AND staying sober.

garden-variety drunk said...

well since you're taking input, i'd love to read about each of the years. i find the twists and turns of our paths so fascinating. but if it's tedious or tiresome to you, 5 year blocks work too :)

Kathy Lynne said...

do what's best for you.....I'm looking forward to the day I have 5 year blocks....

Pam said...

I'm so glad you added the part about the pretty dress with the neck brace, 'cause that's so MARY.
You are so brave.

Lou said...

I like the year by year, it feels like really getting to know you.

Mary Christine said...

Steve, in the meeting room of my home group, there is a painting of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. And sometimes on my birthday, I am given a coin, with my number of sober years in roman numerals on one side, and a picture of bill and bob on the other!?!?

AnyEdge said...

Mary Christine,

I love these stories. I fear that switching to 5 year chunks would lose the intimacy of it. In AA so often, we hear: What it was like; what happened; what it's like now. And those are wonderful things, but it leaves out a lot.

Between what happened (which usually has meant people sharing their bottoming out) and what it's like now (how people are today) is a lifetime sometimes, and I've loved hearing yours. It's the kind of story we don't often know.

It has been wildly inspiring to me. All those things that you faced, your courage, your stubbornness, your mistakes and atonements, have all been fascintating. So many times in your story I've thought: 'well, that's where I'd be drinking again.' Obviously, my life is going to have those moments too. And I will be able to look back, remember what you wrote, and say, 'MC didn't. And I bet there are people like her at my club right now who went through what I'm going through, sober.'

It's a great description of a life lived instead of endured. Thank you for writing it, for sharing it, and for being so unflinchingly honest about it.

Steve E. said...

Ooooops!

Yeah, I've seen those pictures and I guess I thought of them no more than photos of my grandparents hanging in the living room.

I hear how people talk also, and I guess they do seem to forget we are dealing with people, mere human drunks. Our "Founder" is God, in my book.

Sorry again for writing B4 I think...character defect!!!!!!

After all, Bill, or Bob, is the great, great, great, great, great grandsponsor of most of us (those who have sponsors)? Hence, I can live with the pictures.

Have a good day. Peace

Trailboss said...

I am truly enjoying these posts. I hope you continue until 2009!

Scott W said...

I don't remember any woman at Lambda taking their chip on birthday night wearing a dress. I do remember a couple of men wearing dresses, though.

Banana Girl said...

I love the detail of the year by year, but do understand the extraordinary emotional burden this brings. So I say, do it your own way sistah! Either way, you are providing such a wonderful gift. As for idolization, I think that for most of us, we really needed that at the beginning. To know and have affirmed through stories and images and history the complete and true path to walk via Bill and Bob. I realize too that sometimes this goes overboard, but if it works for the person seeking, what harm is done? I needed the blessed reassurances of the proof that two dead men struggled and stayed sober. It meant that I could too. That strength for me was in short supply when I entered the rooms and had not yet found the courage to get a sponsor. They were in spirit my closed mouthed trusted friends and if for a brief period they were the power that propelled me to try harder, dig deeper and be competely honest, then I feel no sacrilege was being perpetrated. Rather, I needed to honor something in my life in order to find the standard of conduct becoming a struggling alcoholic. So when I read about Bill's relapses and feel his pain through the words of the BB, then I know what lies in store for me if I relapse. I learned quickly that I didn't want that and that I could choose differently by his example. To know the power of the program sometimes must come through the visual images and the symbols we use. But they can never displace the outright necessity of the personal commitment to the program. At least this has been my experience. J.

Syd said...

I like the year by year approach. I get so much out of what you wrote. In this one, the experience of being in Akron and those old guys saying Welcome Home. That brought tears to my eyes.

I like the way that you write and express your thoughts. All very much to the point but with such feelings. Thanks for this journey to share with you.