Of course sobriety is awesome, and of course I wish I had found my way here sooner . . . MUCH sooner. I try very hard not to play the “what if” game because that ends well for NO ONE but as a flawed and imperfect human being, I cannot help but obsess over what COULD have been sometimes, instead of what was and is, even though I’m beyond grateful that my story is one that I’m still privileged to be here to tell. That is, I’m alive.
While in Germany I was able to escape to Amsterdam for a few days and it was mostly awesome, when it wasn’t completely chaotic and anxiety inducing. Busy folks everywhere. Tourists and locals meshing together through the canals and side street eateries. Pungent and competing smells from every bodega and bakery. Public trolleys and trains whizzing by with spaghetti-like crossing tracks and no discernible patterns. I watched a young gal peddling her bicycle through the cobble stone streets, with her groceries placed neatly in her front basket and a small short-haired dog in a little seat on the back. She donned a straw hat and was wearing a vintage yellow embroidered dress. She looked carefree and full of promise. Naturally, my first instinct was to quickly glance around for the movie cameras that were surely going to be visible to me at any moment, as this scene was just too sublime to be real, but I assure you, it was real, and my disbelief quickly turned to jealousy and simply put, sour grapes.
You see, THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ME. She is clearly living MY LIFE. You know, the one I pictured in my head while I was sitting upon all those bar stools, spending money I didn’t have, telling tales that weren’t true, sleeping with people I didn’t know.
My gaze burned holes in her as I recalled every single minute of my life I’ve spent sitting behind a desk staring at a clock and willing it to move faster. I quickly recounted all the days and months and years collectively I’ve spent hungover and ridiculously useless. How pathetically accurate AND ironic is it that the word I’m using is wasted? Time I’ve wasted, money I’ve wasted, and that doesn’t even touch the POTENTIAL I’ve wasted, and save getting me started on opportunities. They were wasted, because I was wasted.
Some people never recover so in the great big scheme of things, of course I’m grateful for every single second of every moment, but I also can’t help but look in the rear view mirror and wish hopelessly for a “do-over”, and I know that’s not a notion specific to drunks. I’m certainly not saying my life is one big regret, not at all – quite the opposite. My life is so freaking ass-kickingly awesome that I am furious at myself for not getting to it sooner.
And here’s the thing, I’ve done my share of living, believe you me. The point is not that I wish I could go back and make completely different decisions, but of course that is absolutely true as well. No, what I want is to go back in time with the knowledge, compassion and clarity I have now. I want to see those “missing” years through SOBER eyes, not just as blurry memories like dirty streaks on a window where you can only see the vague outlines of what actually happened. If only I had hit rock bottom sooner. If only I had given sobriety a shot years ago. If only I had LISTENED to all the warnings and advice. If only. Let’s also remember that I am still new to sobriety. I don’t have everything figured out, not even close. Many would argue I wasn’t near ready back then and I wouldn’t have listened, anyway, and they are one hundred percent correct.
It’s not that I think if I’d gotten sober years ago I may have invented the fucking Kindle or cured Cancer or anything as fruitful and contributory as all that, but I can’t help but wonder how different my path would have been, if we had been introduced earlier. As it turned out, I had to be introduced to some policemen, a few jails, multiple courtrooms, a few counselors, and ultimately some grim yet realistic liver Doctors who told me I was going to die before I would hold out my thin yellow hand to shake hands (tentatively) with sobriety.
Here’s my simple summation; my fear of dying outweighed my fear of living sober, but ONLY JUST. It was a barely discernible amount, but that was all I needed. A half ounce of hope.
It’s hard to forgive myself, but most days I still try. Some days things still just aren’t far enough away in that rear view mirror, you know?
I’m not unique. We all have a little bit of “woulda- coulda -shoulda” in us, I believe. But I also believe it’s where I go from here that counts now, and that’s a darn good thing because as luck would have it, that’s all I have; this moment and forward.
That’s all we have.
So, tell me. Do you guys lie awake at night and re-live every regrettable decision you’ve ever made and replay things over and over in your head like a terrible b-grade movie until there are tears running into your ears as you stare at your ceiling fan and wonder where thirty years of your life went?!?