Monthly Archives: December 2011

2012 Was Awful. 2011 Will Be Better.

There is no finer way to drive oneself to drink–or insanity–than by trying to improve the past or condemn the future.

There is no more perfect day on which to do it than December 31st.

Drinking is only one of the many temptations I must eschew on this last day of the year.

I am, like many people, a tragic but true believer in psychic time travel. What Might Have Been is the thing I love most in the world. Woulda Coulda and Shoulda are my BFFs. I also enjoy the company of Wishing, Hoping and Just Knowing what’s going to happen. On gloomy days I keep company with Dread and Anxiety and dwell in what the Twelve Step program calls “the wreckage of the future.”

It’s a crazy, painful way to live, and I try to remind myself of this on a daily basis.

New Year’s Eve is a teachable moment.

I try to imagine, for instance, what it would be like if today’s newspapers and blogs carried lists of the Best and Worst of 2012. What if we mapped out the whole year and looked back on it before it even began. For anxious control freaks like myself it would be a dream realized.

What if, at the same time, we looked ahead to 2011 as an opportunity for change, renewal and new beginnings?

Now that for me, and perhaps for you too, would be nirvana.

It would be also insane and impossible.

Of course many of us want to manipulate our past and future–and obviously we can not. You don’t have to be smarter than a fifth grader to know that humans are not capable of fixing history nor looking back wisely on what lies ahead.

Living with the past, we learn in recovery, is about doing our best to find acceptance and make peace with our regrets and mistakes. Facing the future is about courage and openness.

Tonight, I hope and pray I will stay steady and sober, neither falling forward nor staggering back in the darkness.


Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Recovery Journal


Getting There

The man in the cafe car orders a double whiskey with his morning muffin. A few feet away another fellow peruses the Canyon Ranch website on his laptop. I am buried in a book of sober meditations, hoping to morph into a saint before the Acela reaches New York, praying that I will stay straight and behave myself at Thanksgiving dinner. If I have learned anything at all in recovery it is to focus on getting my own act together and not worry about what others will do. There is plenty of work to be done.

This will be my first holiday season without alcohol. I am five months sober.

Thanksgiving is, above all, about showing up. That’s what all of us on this train are doing. Whether we’re drinking or sober, anxious or calm, angry or contented, dreading the family reunion or anticipating it with joy, we have decided to show up somewhere and connect with our fellow humans on this day dedicated to gatherings of relatives and friends.

Showing up is the first step in behaving well. Showing up is where the healing begins with other people. You can’t make friends if you don’t show up. You can’t mend fences without showing up. You cannot feel the growth and change in yourself and others if you don’t show up.

The first thing anyone said to me at an AA meeting was: “Keep coming back.”

That advice saves lives. Alcoholics don’t like to show up. We tend to fear other people. We are afraid they will hurt us or that we are not good enough. We fear shame, embarrassment, hurt feelings, anger, resentment. We fear bad interactions. We fear our own weaknesses and shortcomings, especially our addiction, and the trouble they cause. So we isolate, we give excuses, we avoid the people who could take away our loneliness and help us. We drink, become increasingly morose, and isolate even more.

Showing up is the antidote: Taking a train, a plane, a car, a bicycle, or our own feet out of the house and into the larger, livelier, warmer world.

When we show up, we give ourselves the chance to be courageous, be loved and be truly grateful.


Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Recovery Journal, Uncategorized