Life sure can be funny at times, filled with irony, and circumstances almost too coincidental not to see a divine hand at work. I recently experienced just such an event.
In 2010, I spent my Thanksgiving in a two-week mandatory rehab as a result of having pled guilty, for the second time, of driving while under the influence of alcohol.
As I sit here writing this, I am 10 days away from taking the first steps toward completing a lifelong dream of serving this nation in uniform. This September, I will report to basic combat training for the United States Army at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.
In 2020, assuming all goes according to plan, I will spend this Thanksgiving with friends, family and loved ones as an Officer Candidate in the New Hampshire Army National Guard. I am also privileged to work at the Addiction Policy Forum as its Chief of Staff, serving and helping others with the same disease of addiction that compels me to offer this piece. These are just a few of the blessings I have received since I made the decision to remove alcohol from my life.
September is Recovery Month, and I find myself reflecting a great deal on the 10.5 years that have come and gone since I had my last drink. It is incredible to me now to see just how much was told to me in my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that holds true to this day.
I will never forget walking into that meeting smelling the brewing coffee, with a knot in my stomach, nervous, and hungover from the night before. The people in the room were smiling, hugging, laughing, warm and welcoming. I was catching the very first glimpse of the life I could have.
I will never forget the first person who stood up that day. He told the crowd that it was on that day 40 years ago he had his last drink. And I remember leaning over to the guy next to me, probably still smelling of the night before, and asking him why anyone would choose to kick off a meeting with a lie like that? Surely no one actually had 40 years of recovery.
And I will never forget the gentleman’s response to my comment. After the meeting he pulled me aside and told me if I took it one day at a time, sometimes even one minute or hour at a time, that my life would begin to get better if I simply continued doing the next right thing.
More lies, or so I thought.
At the time, I felt like these mantras were simple cliches, just some saccharine sayings to soothe the gathered masses, making them feel better without much actual, practical utility.
10 years on, and I understand the only lies being told at that meeting were the ones I was telling myself. 10 Recovery Months later, I understand that what I was told in that very first meeting was, and remains, true. 10 days from now, I will realize a dream of mine because I followed that simple, yet profound, advice.
Of course, these are not magical sayings that can be uttered three times and all of a sudden everything is going to be ok. Recovery is not a straight line, life is going to happen, there are going to be setbacks, and you will need to learn how to take a moral inventory and be honest with yourself in order to get better and do better.
But it will get better. The seemingly simple act of removing alcohol or drugs from your life will change your entire trajectory for the better.
This Recovery Month, I am thankful for life’s symmetry, and ironies that abound and can be found if you open your eyes to them. I am thankful for the lessons I have learned, even if it meant I had to learn them the hard way. And I am forever thankful for the individuals who have helped me along the way, given advice and guidance while helping to shape me into the person I am today.