Life is not Something to be Endured

“When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone. He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set on a path which tell him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. In a very real sense he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he has hitherto denied himself. He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable” (Twelve and Twelve 106-107).

 

I’ve been thinking about this passage on and off for a couple of weeks. The sentence that keeps reverberating is, “Life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered,” but I felt the whole paragraph is so strong that it deserved to be reproduced.

I have really struggled with the idea that life is something to be endured. Not just recently; I’ve struggled with it my entire life. I remember being a kid and just yearning, begging for independence. I needed power and control over my own existence so badly I could taste it. By the time I became eighteen though, it was too late. I had become too used to self-medication and escapism; I could no longer exist in reality. My daytime life, my working life, my social life, all became something to endure in order to perpetuate the false. When I finally awoke from this nightmare twelve years later, I had to endure the crazy that was early sobriety. I was upset at a lot of people and things. I wanted to blame others, but you told me the fault lay squarely in my own house. I was broke, scared, lost. Over time, things got better. I went back to school, got a job, and did my best to become an adult. I endured my new found responsibility.

But then something happened. It was in October of last year. I was in the midst of a horrible job. Every morning, I woke up with a sense of dread and oppression at the next days, weeks, years. One Friday evening, my boyfriend stopped by to pick me up for an unexpected date. I had been sleeping off another horrendous week and hadn’t received his texts. I didn’t want to go out. I wanted to feel sorry for myself. He had a whole night planned. He convinced me. I relented.

What we did wasn’t important, nor might I add, all that extraordinary. But I do remember the emotions. I remember being happy, really happy, and laughing, really laughing, for the first time in weeks. I remember driving down the freeway, looking up at the night sky and thinking life is short and beautiful to not be appreciated. And I remember thinking I no longer wanted to live a life of dirt and disease, sadness and heartache. I wanted beauty and art and culture and literature. I wanted to live a life of joy and stars and laughter.

I couldn’t have articulated it then, but I had reached a whole new kind of bottom in sobriety.

It took some time for me to sort out the unhappiness that was my life, but over the course of the year I got a new job, a new apartment, and a new roommate. And I began following a new path, not the path of a career, but a path of the creative. I started to write again.

Some days, it is still hard to not get caught up in enduring life. I worry about money and housing and health. But the reality is, right now at this very moment, my life couldn’t be more beautiful. I am looking out the window at the last of the summer storms. I am in full anticipation of October and Halloween. I cannot wait for the first burst of cold weather when I can turn off the air conditioner and open all the windows in the house. It reminds me, though, of where I was, not just physically but emotionally, last October.

What if I never realized I had the power to change my life? What if I never realize that I could be happy? I still don’t know today why I thought the only way to live life was to endure it. I’m not sure if it is a quirk in my psychology or a byproduct of my alcoholism. I do know though, that it doesn’t have to continue that way. I have a friend who says, “I’ve been drunk and I’ve been sober. Sober’s better.” So might I add, is happy.

 

A little Nina Simone to help you smile.

Cause if you ain’t Drunk now, it’s Gonna be all right

My life is just this side of unmanageable. I really and truly do not understand how other people keep all their parts moving with seemingly effortless ease while my life is usually held together by a concoction of spit and duct tape. But my life wasn’t always this together. In my early sobriety, I was a real mess.

The most memorably unmanageable part of my early sobriety was not the fact that I was homeless or that I was unemployed and unemployable, but that the stickers on my car were totally and completely expired. Not just kinda expired. Not just the police pull me over just in case I didn’t realize that the sticker three feet away from my face had somehow missed my keen observational skills. If I remember correctly, both my registration and my inspection sticker were like three years expired. And for the life of me, I had no idea how to fix them. My license was expired. I had no money, no insurance, no idea how to get money or insurance. The inspection and license required insurance, the insurance required a license (or so I thought). And who knew what a registration required. The license required me to go to the DPS, the registration to the courthouse. And none of that seemed the least bit doable.

One evening as I was heading home from a friend’s house, I got pulled over. The police officer didn’t, to my surprise, arrest me. Instead he gave me a handful of tickets with an accompaniment of frowny police countenance and a threat. Shaken, I turned my car around and drove straight back to my friend’s house. The next morning, I fortified myself against the world and once again began the drive home. This time I was smart enough to turn left out of the housing development instead of right. One minute after I got on the Sam Houston Tollway, I saw lights in my rear view mirror. Man, oh man. In my head, I’d like to think I kept it together for thirty seconds, but it might not have been that long. The officer just looked at me with an even frownier countenance than the previous officer because this wasn’t just regular police, this was sheriff police.

As a way of introduction I stammered, “Sir, I just got all these tickets last night, and really, I’m just trying to get home and park my car.”

Sheriff looked at the tickets for a minute and said, “These are dated last month.”

I looked at the tickets and then looked at Sheriff and back at the tickets and said, “I assure you, it was last night.”

And Sheriff said, “But they’re dated last month.”

For a second, I swear, I thought I might be on Candid Camera. I’m a pretty fast thinker, but I did not know if insisting that the other patrolman was wrong about the date was the right way to go or not.

An awkward paused stretched out. Sheriff said, “Tell me, why are your stickers so out date.”

This one I could answer, and I quickly stumbled over my words in a gush of new tears, “I just got sober and I am trying to get my life back together and I don’t have the money or know how to get the even get the stickers…” I trailed off and sat there staring at my hands against the steering wheel.

Sheriff took a long, hard look at me, “You drunk now?”

“What? No, sir!” (Though looking back, I have to admit, it was a fair question.)

“Cause if you ain’t drunk now, it’s gonna be all right.”

Sheriff said, he’d keep an eye out for my car, and if I ever drove the tollway again with my stickers expired, he’d pull me right back over. And then he let me go.

I finally did get out from under. I got the job, the money, the insurance, and yes, I went to the courthouse and the DPS. It took a while, but it got done.

But sometimes when life gets especially life-y, when things don’t go my way, or when I’m driving down the tollway, I think of good, old Sheriff and how he spoke my truth. “Cause if I ain’t drunk now, it’s gonna be all right.”