Every year this day brings different emotions and stages. Year one was awe. As in, I seriously cannot believe I didn't drink a drop of alcohol in 365 days. It's a miracle!
Year two brought pride. You're really doing this dude and life is super-sweet.
Year three was all about being comfortable in my own skin and the beginning of deep healing from past wrongs.
Year four was about mentorship and taking addicts under my wing in an attempt to say, Hey, this is totally doable, don't freak out. Take it one day at a time.
So what can be said of year five. Two words: Survivor's Guilt.
The summer was kind of rough and triggered a few impulses that could have led me to have a brew. I didn't wind up in a bar with trembling hands cupping a whisky. It was more a case of not having my usual pep and falsely believing that something that has caused so much pain in my life could actually make the crappy day in question better. I know the probability of me drinking again is borderline 100% not going to happen. I am sure some sobriety manual (or reader) out there will disagree with that statement and that's OK. All addicts are different and we all have our ways of managing.
Getting back to the guilt. I feel like I survived something that has taken the lives of so many I hold dear. And those are just the people I know personally. The homeless and destitute I see daily, break my heart and I feel like I am doing nothing to help them. I have mentored addicts and continue to do so through the form of email/Skype. It's all very orderly and polite and Christian. In my heart though, I know it is not enough. I find it harder and harder to pass the guy lying on his dirty mattress at our local library. His hands swelled from water retention, the soles of his shoes scuffed down to the point of seeing his dirty feet poke through, the remnants from the previous night's garbage scavenging hunt his only earthly possessions. This is wrong, so wrong.
I want to say to all addicts, “You are worth something!” The beginning of sobriety is the hardest thing I've ever done but also the most worth it. It is worth it! It is worth delving into—and undoing—all those years of guilt and shame. I wish I could sit down with you face to face and tell you how worthy of saving you are. That regardless of age, good years are still ahead of you. Old dreams can still be achieved and new ones hatched. I know you didn't set out to end up like this when you snorted your first line, drank your first beer, or took that first hit.
I am getting all misty-eyed here and that is not the point. The point is this: I am making a vow to help those affected by alcoholism and addiction the best I can over the next year in hope that when I write my six-year sobriety post I will have done more than just put words on a screen.
Thanks to all who walk with me, inspire me, and love me.