by Nora C
Had I not had an intensely defeating, paradigm-shifting dose of humility, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Humility has made me the whole person that I am today: one that is filled with gratitude and an appreciation for a life I no longer take for granted.
I used to live life mindlessly. Driven by ego and hedonism, I followed liquor to the next bar meet-up or patio booze-session thinking I was something special. Even with two alcoholic parents I thought was untouchable and could never be sullied by the word alcoholic. I was, after all, your standard ambitious young professional and stuff like that didn’t happen with my high-achieving friends.
I’d have to excuse myself at 11 a.m. to go hurl
In some sense, we all feel invincible until we’re brought down to earth by a world-shattering event. Too clever for our own good, we’d had so many close encounters and gotten so good at lying we’d averted most consequences. But eventually we come to realize that yes, we can get fired, an engagement can be broken off, or we can be whisked away in an ambulance from alcohol poisoning. We’re not so special. The collateral damage will catch up to us.
I would go out and party four nights a week and then roll out of bed in time to sit in my cubicle next day for the rat race. Never mind I’d have to excuse myself at 11 a.m. to go hurl in the toilet, hung over. I was eager for success and prestige and I could do it all! I was winning work awards, thousands of dollars in scholarships, and was selected for prestigious internships in grad school. It felt like I was on an upward trajectory. I was terrified of leading a boring life and detested the idea of a long, slow fall into mediocrity, but I was blind to the wheels I was putting in motion.
I started drinking to celebrate my successes, then drinking to ease anxiety from pressure, and then drinking alone. I drank in the mornings until 3:00 a.m. Finally I drank just to keep water down and to control the shakes enough to lift the glass to my lips.
There was a fall from grace. When I entered rehab I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to make a withdrawal from an ATM. My friends and family were either fed up or had long since disappeared. I’m sure you know the story all too well so I won’t retell it for you.
Those first few weeks I felt acute humiliation, anger and helplessness. The rehab center provided a $40 stipend per month for laundry. I had to make that stretch to cover niceties like deodorant, bus tickets and candy (of course). I hated it, but I was still a selfish ungrateful person. Slowly my mindset shifted from experiences like my weekly treat of a single Diet Coke. After checking what felt like every bodega in the Mission, I found the cheapest vendor and for $1.46, I would twist off the top and enjoy a few minutes of escapism and pure bliss. That was learning an appreciation for small pleasures.
I’d rather live sober and struggling than drunk in a downward spiral
It took working three jobs and another two years before I finally pulled myself out of the financial hole I’d created. It took several more years to establish a sober community, build solid friendships and repair broken family bonds. I learned humility, self-sufficiency, the importance of hard-work and the value of money. I learned I’d rather live sober and struggling than drunk in a downward spiral of despair. Fortunately I also learned that when I’m sober I’m stronger and more stable. Every year has gotten exponentially better. This story isn’t really about a fall from grace, but finding graciousness.
I’ve come to treasure the transformation that took place. Those raw, naked moments in early rehab were a gift. I am writing this story on the eve of moving out of a sober living environment into my new studio apartment. Even speaking the words, “I can’t believe this place is mine” out loud to a loved one brought me to tears of joy. I am so grateful for this new life I have built. Today I begin a new chapter of self-sufficiency, a realization of the beauty around me, and an appreciation of the Promises coming true (Big Book, p. 83-84).