On my one year sober anniversary, I felt somewhat at a loss. I mean, really-- how in the world do you celebrate anything, if not with a flute or seven of champagne (merely as a prelude to the serious drinking that was sure to follow)? I went to my regular meeting and announced for all the world to hear (or at least the 27 people who were present): I have one year, today.
I'd seen the drill a thousand times. OK, maybe not a thousand, but at least one or two at every meeting I went to (which was pretty much a daily occurrence), someone announce his or her anniversary. Some counted days. Some, months. There were many of these folks at every meeting. For some, it took months, sometimes years, to put some time together. Often, we'd hear "I have 3 days. Again" or "I'm back. Got two weeks this time." Some iteration of time and desperation and hope.
Incremental anniversaries were announced, but there were always a helluva lot fewer people making these announcements as the years went up. Two years. Three. Seven. Seventeen. With each bigger chunk of time, the number of people to reach those milestones became fewer. One year anniversaries were kinda special. At the one year mark, it was as if you had crossed a magic line-- you'd made it, member of the club. Not that it would be a slam-dunk guarantee of sobriety, forever and ever, world without end, amen. Not that (not ever that). But at a year, there was a recognition that, at the very least, there was a chance that sobriety just might stick.
So I announcded my anniversary. I felt a little proud; I felt a little lost. There was applause and exclamatory congratulations flew across the room. I got the obligatory "How'd ya do it?" followed quickly with my equally obligatory "With the help of God and the fellowship of this program!" It was a script we'd all played at before, in one role or another. Right at that moment, I didn't believe a word of any of it.
Frankly, I had no idea how the hell I'd stayed sober for a year.
We went for coffee and to grab a bite after the meeting. No champagne. :) I got a chip-- a brass coin-- embossed with a giant Roman numeral I on one side, and "To thine own self be true" on the other. I got a rose. And I got a card. The front was kinda sappy-- watercolor flowers and "Hooray! Hooray!" Lots of exclamation points. Or at least, it felt like a lot. I opened it.
This was another of those truth things, found unexpectedly. It hit me between the eyes and took my breath away. Hooray, hooray--
"You did the thing you feared the most!"
And I realized, in that instant, that I had. Sobriety was a terrifying prospect when I was just starting. How in the world can you live without a drink to calm you and protect you and put a glassy, fluid shield between you and the rest of the universe? How in the world do you face life raw and vulnerable? How in the world can anyone dare to hope-- that things will change, the life gets better, that there is forgiveness and perhaps even love?
How? A day at a time. A day at a time, a minute, an hour, a breath-- you do the thing you fear the most.
In honor of that long ago moment, that changed my life and opened my heart; in honor of this month of Elul, for today, for this moment, I will dare to live of life of hope. I will dare to trust, and pray, and believe. For today, I will let faith overrule my fear. For this moment, I will brave the shadows. For today, I will reach out to offer strength and kindness, to shine a light in your darkness.
For today, for this moment, in this breath-- this eternal and infinite breath-- I will do the thing I fear the most, and I will dare to leap...