In a few hours from now, I’ll mark 19 years clean and sober on my life calendar. It’s been a long, long journey to here. The irony of this isn’t lost on me as I watch the nightly news report the sad passing of another brother who lost his fight. Robin Williams made so many of us laugh. He had an unshakeable joy. Maybe he knew how difficult this life can be and went all out to help each of us live another day. This world will be a little less funny without him.
I didn’t start out with the intention of being an alcoholic and an addict. One day, I stood before a mirror no longer able to recognize who I had become. “How did I get here?” I wondered. Surely, nobody decides to be like this.
Somewhere, something inside me is different than it is in some of you. I’m missing a switch or at the very least, it’s stuck in the “on” position. You have a drink, you stop, and you’re ok. I have a drink and say let’s have a few more. A few more quickly turns into too many. You can take a toke or pop a pill and be satisfied. I’m thinking of how I can score more. After all, the more the merrier, right? Somewhere, you and I arrived at the same point and you said “Stop, I’ve had enough.” I stepped on the gas, full throttle ahead.
My life is one of extreme high highs and pitifully low lows. To this day, I have times of prolific productivity followed by weeks of utter slothfulness. I have moments of ecstatic joy; the kind that makes the hair on your arms stand up and your face feel flush with the overwhelming rush of happiness. At the very peak, I come to the realization that this incredibly sensational feeling has to end and that it will undoubtedly be followed by the deepest, darkest, darkness. The higher the high, the lower the low.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve survived near death. Frankly, I’m surprised to be alive. I’m amazed that in all my insanity I managed to avoid doing irredeemable harm to a family or that I didn’t wind up killing someone one in some tragic late night accident. Certainly, my struggle has left plenty of wounded hearts and damaged souls in its wake. Mine is not a journey without scars or lives unscathed. As with any battle, there are casualties.
Some of you reading this won’t be able to relate to what I’ve written here at all. You won’t understand that it’s not simply a matter of will power or making better choices. You won’t grasp that this isn’t a lifestyle choice or a matter of self-control, but a disease. I’m okay with that because I’m not really writing it for you. Besides, I had to quit worrying about what other people think of me a long time ago. I’m glad that today, by God’s grace, I can say yes to life and living it abundantly. Every day and every moment isn’t perfect. But this too shall pass.
If you’re reading this and you’re struggling with alcohol, addiction or depression, I’m writing this for you. Know that you are not alone. There are plenty of people who are in this fight with you. Reach out. Get help. Speak up. Don’t slip away in the silence, succumbing to the darkness. Choose life. There is a light. There is a way. When the darkness tells you “No, you can’t”, know that “Yes, you can.”
To continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result is the manifestation of insanity. Something in my life had to change if I was ever going to have a chance at having a different outcome. You can do this. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Your life can change.
A few months ago, my late niece, Natalie, reminded me of the importance of cherishing every breath because none of us are guaranteed our next. I’m so grateful to be alive today—clean and sober. Although it is still a battle that I must choose to fight each and every morning, I know I can make it, even if it is still only one day at a time. Natalie also reminded me that life is better when you laugh. That’s certainly something she and Robin Williams are in agreement on. On this night, I know both are deeply missed.
But for the grace of God, there go I.