My name is Josh, and I’m an alcoholic. Sometimes My name is Josh, and I’m an addict. It just depends on who’s in the room.
June 6th will mark my eights years of continuous sobriety. I’ve been identifying as an alcoholic and addict since I was nineteen years old. I quit drinking before I was even legally old enough to drink. It’s strange that the stigma of my addiction still follows me. I’m sure there are people out there who scoff, “How bad could it be at nineteen?”
It was bad.
When I first started going to meetings there was another newcomer–we both had less than thirty days clean and sober–and he kept coming back everyday. He inspired me. For years I saw him at meetings regularly, but as I accumulated months and years he consistently stayed under thirty days. Every time I saw him he’d tell me how many days he had, and it was always under thirty. In eight years there’s been one exception.
One day he told me that he had thirty-one days, so we went to Pacific Beach and surfed to celebrate. On our way back to my car he bent down next to a bus stop and picked up a joint roach. What are the chances?
The next time I saw him he was a newcomer.
Years have passed since, and I’ve moved on to new places and schedules and meetings and we went quite some time without seeing one another.
I walked into a meeting tonight. His demeanor far less exuberant and his smile grim and his speech confused. He announced himself as a newcomer. His arms and shoulders now dance without his control and his face tweaks and contorts in spasms. The contours of his face are sharp and profound and his eyes dark and concave, but he’s still here.
When we met I was a kid, and all I had to my name was a G.E.D., a few pairs of clothes, my mom, a fiance, and a ton of personal and legal problems. Since then I can’t even remember all the different jobs I’ve had, or trades I’ve learned. I can’t tell you the exact college courses I’ve taken without referring to a sheet. There is no way I’d be able to track the amount of meetings, or number of achievements, or how many friends I’ve made. He still has less than thirty days.
There was never a single point in time that I was like, “I’ve got this.” It’s always been bumpy, and I’ve always felt like there was work to be done. When you do a long grueling hike you stop at the summit for a while and enjoy the view. There is no summit to this hike, but that doesn’t mean that I should just stomp onward without acknowledging my progress.
There was a time when I was too impatient to take a bus, and now I have a drivers license and a car. On my twentieth birthday I sat up on a piss stained mattress, with a dirty used pillow permeated with somebody else’s secretions in a halfway house I moved into that day, and opened my bedroom window without a screen to enjoy a backyard filled with broken glass, used syringes, and abandoned couches. I attended two hour groups and peed in a cup every weekday (and select weekends) for roughly eighteen months–when I missed I went to jail, and I have been to jail in recovery. Back then I was just happy to have a pack of cigarettes. Puts shit into perspective.
A little patience and a lot of persistence. The hardest part about life is that it’s in real time. There is no pause, or instant replay while your last is under review. It’s right here and now, and it’s easy to get caught up in the action and forget to step back every once in a while to see how remarkable things really are.
I made a friend in early recovery and she used to always say, “Josh, put the bat down.” Here I am eight years later still beating myself up. I live a plush life, and I have more reasons to wake up tomorrow than ever before.
On my worst day I’m a recovering alcoholic named Josh, and those are the days that illuminate how far I’ve really come.
“I’m grateful for another day clean and sober, and as long as I don’t drink: I’ve got kindergarten problems!” – Anonymous