In the words of the patriot William Wallace,
Happy Independence Day! Happy Birthday, America. And to all of my #recoveryposse and sober friends around the world Happy Freedom to you.
My personal freedom day is February 7th, 2014, 2.4 years ago, 28.9 months, or 879 days….but again who’s counting? To quote Ralph Ellison, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free” and that day marked the beginning of my own discovery of self.
Early on I just needed the freedom from a drink. Freedom from the obsession to drink. The freedom no longer drink without my permission. It was all about not picking up the next drink. It sounds easy but despite a lifetime of doing everything I put my mind to I just couldn’t not pick up a drink. I’d get a few days in a row, or even several months, but the obsession would always be in my head whispering that it’ll be harmless, just one, what could it hurt, everyone else is drinking, it’s only one drink, who will find out…and eventually it would wear me down enough to pick it up and put it down empty. Finally I found enough desperation to not just ‘do AA’ (I’d been trying that 18 months) but to follow the steps laid out in AA.
I did the first three steps:
- I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable.
- I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.
- I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God.
I walked through these first three steps with the guidance of my sponsor, Farmer Scott. As I’ve written about before I also followed the path as laid out for me in the AA Big Book and for me as with thousand of others it has been a path to freedom.
One Day At A Time
Probably the most recognized phrase in AA, One Day At A Time is usually followed by the three words, “Just don’t drink‘. I heard these words thousands of times and they are so important early on. They’re important today. To stop drinking is why I came to AA. Just Don’t Drink. But my freedom has been more than that and I just recently realized One Day At A Time has a broader meaning that is just as important as Just Don’t Drink.
This blog post is overdue. It’s been six weeks since my last post and I’ve had a few moments of stress over that. I’m supposed to be writing about Father’s Day and it was ready to write itself during Father’s Day weekend. Seriously, it could have and should have written itself. I had it all in my head and I was excited to share and talk about a favorite video from @TheFatherEffect which you can find below. It’s a gripping video that highlights how so many of the problems in our country and families today are caused by the lack of fathers.
But that didn’t happen so I pivoted and decided I could still pull it off the following week. I was out at a local bar with friends celebrating one of their birthdays and my buddy Cliff complimented my blog. When he asked how often I post I replied that I try to post every two to three weeks. He then remarked that it’s been a lot longer than that and I decided I couldn’t argue with him. Instead I started to stress again about how much time has passed since my last blog! I told Cliff to look for my Father’s Day post coming soon! ….well my Fatherhood blog will have to wait for another day…and I didn’t stress long about it. ‘Man plans, God laughs’.
My friend Katie is early in her recovery and we were talking on the way to a 7am meeting at Moseley Woods in Newburyport yesterday. She was talking about a close call road rage situation she and her sponsor had and I brought up a favorite quote Farmer Scott often shares with me. I’ll often call Scott with a personal or work situation I’m dealing with. His appropriate go-to response is, “would you rather be happy or right?”. I’ve heard this from him so often that I actually used it last week with an employee who is having a difficult time playing in the sandbox at work. I asked him straight out, “would you rather be happy or right?”. Then I amended it and asked, “would you rather be successful in your career or right?.” I was more surprised than I should have been that he got the message I had been trying to help him understand. Too often our response to others is about making a point to prove we’re right or taking a personal shot at them to boost our own ego and we always end up aggravating that situation.
Scott has helped me realize that I need to ‘stay on my side of the street.’ My focus has to be on what I control and not what others do. That why the Serenity Prayer is so important. I have to trust God’s will with the rest. At this serene 7 am meeting under a gazebo along the Merrimac River we each commented on the day’s Daily Reflection. In part it read,
“At first I could not be sure of His direction in my life, but now I see that if I am to be bold enough to ask for His guidance, I must act as if He has provided it. I frequently ask God to help me remember that He has a path for me.”
As each person spoke I heard a perspective that I hadn’t before. It made me rethink One Day At A Time. It blended with a message I had heard the night before from pastor Judah Smith on disciple Peter’s attempt to walk on water with Jesus. Judah told this very familiar story from several of their accounts in the bible in which the disciples were instructed by Jesus into the boat ahead of him during which they had to fight a storm. The storm was so fierce that they could only row less than four miles in four hours to the other side of the lake. He noted that Jesus didn’t start the storm. It was seasonal for these type of storms to arrive yet here they were in the middle of it. Suddenly Jesus startles the men by appearing near them walking on the water. It is said that this is the very scene which first made several of the disciples true believers. Peter attempts to step out of the boat to walk over to Jesus and does successfully until he starts to get scared and quickly sinks. He screams out for help from Jesus who reaches out and grabs Peter’s hand rising him up. Holding Peter’s hand, Jesus asks, ““You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Judah highlights that it isn’t until they get into the boat together that Jesus calms the storm. So as they are standing there on the water, with Peter soaked and cold from his fall underwater caused by lost faith, Jesus and he were still in the middle of the storm. They must have been screaming at each other over the roar of the wind and waves. I picture Cloony as Gloucester Captain Billy Tyne screaming to Wahlberg aboard the splintering Andrea Gail in The Perfect Storm. Instead of calming the storm prior to Peter stepping out of the boat, or calming the winds after he sinks, or prior to making his point about faith to ensure he can be heard by all of the men, Jesus waits until they’re back in the boat. Judah’s point is that the storm doesn’t stop when we walk with Jesus. Our lives don’t change for the better the moment we drop to ask God for help. As our daily reflection stated if I’m bold enough to ask for His help then I have to have faith. Faith that His will is going to lead to happiness after the storm. I trust that my life is better and will continue to get better as I walk with Jesus but it also takes faith and action every day.
You can find find Judah’s sermon here:
So for me One Day At A Time is just as important today as it is for the newcomer still white-knuckling it. For the newcomer it’s Just Don’t Drink. For me its the Serenity Prayer. It’s not looking back on the harm I caused someone or that someone caused me. It’s not worrying about tomorrow or the next day. It’s not even worrying about what people are saying or how someone feels about me. As you’ll hear ‘how someone feels about you is none of your business’. The AA steps provide the tools to hand all of the fears and resentments to God so that I can just be present today and just do what I need to do to live the way God wants me to live. I need to worry about my own actions and not others. Avoid being swept into other’s drama that doesn’t concern me. I need to focus my actions today on being the man, father, employee, manager, friend, that I want to be … that God intends me to be. One Day At A Time. I need to have true serenity if only for today.
So much of staying sober is remaining in the day. One Day At A Time. But guess what? This isn’t just about staying sober. This isn’t just for alcoholics or addicts either. This is for anyone who wants happiness. This is for anyone who wants to be Free. Remain in the day. Trust God with the rest. Try every day to have true serenity. One Day At A Time.
“True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right.” ~Brigham Young
Happy Independence Day. And Happy Birthday America,
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.