10 Years Sober. No booze, no drugs. I walked into a church basement ten years ago. I felt hapless, hopeless, and helpless. Beaten over the previous 18 years from alcoholic drinking. I was in pain, desperate, and convinced that I couldn’t stop drinking. I thought my life was over, I thought the “fun” was over, I thought I was relegated to a boring existence which would involve a daily struggle to battle my demons. I was willing to accept all of this in order to stop the pain.
10 years later there is no struggle. I am at peace. My life and the people around it continue to grow. The joy of living is a gift I get to experience everyday. My deeds and my actions demonstrate the incredible power of a loving spirit which flows in me and through me. I’ve been provided a program of recovery which requires that I light the path of others so that I can see my own. This program has set me free. Free from alcohol, free from nightmares, free from self.
10 years sober has allowed me the chance to discover who I am. I have learned much about my shortfalls and my gifts. I’ve learned who my family is, who my friends are and what makes them tick. I’ve also learned why the not so friendly are sometimes placed in my life. And been provided with a way to learn and grow from every obstacle that is placed in my path. Not all of the events in my life are happy events and yet my life is filled with happiness today. Some of the most beautiful people I have known have lost their lives to the disease of alcoholism. I have not lost them. Their beauty, and humor, and music stay with me. They have left a permanent imprint on my heart and for that I am grateful.
10 years ago I use to feel absolutely alone in a room full of people, today I feel completely whole regardless of my surroundings. I am able to set goals, achieve them, receive satisfaction, set higher goals, fail them, and receive even more satisfaction. I’ve learned that my journey here on earth is designed to provide me with lessons in love, spirituality, and laughter. That life is meant to be enjoyed. So many people have helped me along this journey. Many of them had no idea. I have a love and respect for each and every person who has helped me along the path.
10 years without a drink has allowed me to have a lot of conversations about drinking and the life of an alcoholic. Often I am given credit where very little is due. I was graced with the gift of desperation – I certainly didn’t earn it. Often I am asked if I struggle. The struggles I’m faced with today pale in comparison to my old life and the desire to hide from my problems left once I figured out how to solve them. Often I hear that I don’t look like an alcoholic.
That is because I was an alcoholic (notice the picture to the left); today I am a recovered alcoholic. Not cured, but recovered. Recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. I am like a man who has jumped off a building and broken both of his legs. His legs are placed in a cast. After a period of time the cast is removed. With some help he begins to walk with a walker, then with a cane, then he hobbles around until one day he can walk, run, and even dance again. He shows no signs of his previous injury. He has recovered. This does not mean he is able to jump off buildings again. Apparently he’s as bad at jumping as I am at drinking.
10 years ago my life began. It has new meaning. It has a purpose. Today I have a passion for living and I’m grateful to all who have helped me along the way. The only way I know how to repay this debt is to give away what was freely given to me. A way out.
10 years ago I had my own perceived stigma around alcoholism. For 27 years September has been known as National Recovery Month. It is a month dedicated to the celebration that people can and do recover. I write this post as my tiny contribution to continue to improve the way people with substance abuse and other mental health are perceived. I was wrong then. I did not know what the disease of alcoholism was and I certainly had no idea what a recovered alcoholic was.
10 years and not a drop…Thank you God.
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