The Symbiosis of Recovery
This isn’t your typical New Year’s post. Partially because I can’t stand the way we decide to treat a random day as if it’s our only chance at change, but also because I don’t like goal-setting. I never have. I think I’ve grown even more salty toward goals because of the amount of times while in recovery that I drove my stake in the ground saying this would be the day I’d choose to never drink again…. just to find myself with the audibly dry hands, chapped lips and the whole body flush of shame and pain that marked my multiple relapses. So instead, I want to take this first blog post of the year to call out the boldness and courage I’ve seen in someone else- someone who chose an ordinary day to do something extraordinary for her family, herself… and in a weird spin of events, for me.
Last week, a chick from high school hit me up on Instagram. She and I were cheerleaders when I was a senior and she was a sophomore. How either of us ever ended up as cheerleaders is a mystery to me but proof that God has a sense of humor. I took her under my wing that year because I loved her. Her quiet, contrarian Daria-esque approach to the fact that we wore brightly colored matching outfits every Friday for football games cracked me up. She had awesome taste in music and boys and I had a car to drive her and a couple other girls I loved around while chasing both of the previously mentioned things. Fast forward through some time, life, and distance I open my instagram messenger to read:
“Hi Mollie… Congrats on your sweet boy. I know its been a few months, but I’ve loved seeing pics and now know the blessing of being a Mom. I was reaching out because I recently got sober… like in the last week. I’ve been looking/reading tons of resources… (does this girl get me or what?!)… and one suggested telling a sober friend that you are sober. So you are one of the few people I know on this journey so I hope you don’t mind me sharing that I’m on this journey too.”
I had to scroll through days of messages to get to that first one so I could copy it down and I love that. Today marks a week sober for her and 5 days of our back and forth communication about problematic relationships with booze, the addiction epidemic in our world, mommy wine culture, recovery, and our joys of marriage and motherhood.
The Saturday she sent the message I was fresh off of a week with my in-laws in town for Christmas, my step-son here for his 2 week winter break, while still knee-deep in the exhausting uncertainty of our colicky baby- not to mention I’d recently taken our two year old to the ER for a bad case of the Darth Vaders (croup) and was still trying to keep him healthy. The last thing I expected was to become so involved and excited by the courage of a girl I’d lost touch with that I’d bring joy and renewal into the areas of my life I’d been limping through hopelessly.
Sarah and I have talked more deeply about life, love, weakness, and joy on instagram than some people ever venture into- all while parenting littles and minding different time zones.
I guess if I’m going to draw a parallel between the providence of this relationship and the new beginnings of a new year, it’s to remind myself that my most profound blessings come in the unexpected; often when I don’t feel like I have anything to give.
Messages with Sarah have reignited a passion to share my sobriety journey more- even after having fought the actual and imagined voices that’ve said “it’s over-played,” “everyone’s heard it,” or that I’m using it for something impure or self-promoting.
Sarah and I are tied together, no matter where her journey takes her, or where mine takes me, not just because of the booze but because of the ability to admit with ultimate vulnerability that something out there is stronger than we are on our own. That we need each other and affirmation from our support systems that we belong, we’re loved and that our ‘struggle’ isn’t for naught.
There’s a beautiful kind of symbiosis in relationship that recovery models well, but sadly we neglect it in most of our day-today ‘non-recovery’ relationships. This symbiosis is that the fastest way to advance and grow is by bringing someone else with us.
I haven’t faced temptation to drink for a long time, and I’m not on a dry-drunk either- I’ve just lost touch with my roots; with the things that help me feel profoundly grateful for the smallest victories. If I let Him, God uses my triumph over alcoholism to remind me that I AM strong enough to be a struggling step-mom, to weather the storm of Huxley’s colic, and that even though I don’t have a lot to give to my friendships right now, that I’m not a bad friend. Sarah and our cut-to-the-quick instagram messages have showed me that.
Truth is, staying in touch with the bones of my recovery is what builds the muscles I need to see and move clearly through this phase of my life.
Sarah found me standing at 3 months shy of 4 years sober, with two and a half kids, a husband, some anxiety issues and negative voices all of which were keeping me forgetting this piece of my truth.
Her words showed me once again how much courage is required to start the rocky climb to a sober mountaintop. It’s just that by showing me that courage, she also reminded me to tie my laces tighter and get back on track toward my own summit.
So substance recovery, marital conflict, parenting hardships, or family trauma, when we’re beat down and don’t think we have the margin, the goods, or the ability to pour into someone else, the opportunities are there to give, encourage, and share your truth. It just happens to be that your own growth is depending on it; the symbiosis of recovery.