The Last Six Years
(original post October 20, 2015)
  
As I was just taking the same 66-minute walk I took dozens of dozens of times when I was ill a number of years ago, I was thinking about how I might start a website for those who are now treading the same ground I trod during that time of sickness. Also in my thoughts was the fact that today marks the six-year anniversary of my own sobriety from alcohol. Perhaps I could combine them and come up with something like this.
 
On October 20, 2009, I unknowingly began a journey that would take me to some of the deepest, darkest places I have ever known in my life – places that I could never have imagined. These were places that were infinitely vile and indescribably terrifying.
 
But, as the first three years of that journey were ending, I glimpsed a very faint light on the horizon. It had been nearly three years since I had known anything but the dark night of the soul, but I immediately recognized the light. I hadn’t forgotten what it looked like. As time went on, I could discern a figure walking toward me in the slowly intensifying light. It was a person. It was I. I was returning to myself, and I knew me immediately. I had been terrified that I would never return, and, if I did, I would not know me. I knew my dread had been unfounded the very moment I recognized who was approaching me. Yes, this person was I – but not the one I had known in my first fifty-eight years. This was a different Don. Although I was a bit wary at the outset, I could tell this was someone I wanted to get to know more closely…and I have done so in the past three years.
 
As horrific as the first half of my sober years has been, the second half has been equally, if not more, wondrous. I have experienced the “happy, joyous and free” way of life that I often saw in the rooms of AA but could not grasp for so long. I had no idea what it was or where one could get it. Now I know.
 
From the experience of these six years, I have learned many things about myself, others, the Creator, and life, in general. I have learned about the meaning and purpose of my life. I have created many strong, lasting relationships with others. I have lost relationships that were once very good and strong – only because to continue those relationships, as they had become, was not healthy for either side. Perhaps, one day, they will be reestablished. I have taken risks and been rewarded. I have taken risks and been burned. I have thought, felt and done things that I never would have imagined I would think, feel or do. I have wept tears of pain as well as tears of great joy. I have caused others to shed tears of pain and also tears of great joy. I have been praised. I have been maligned. In short, I have lived life – something that I could not do in my addiction and dependency.
 
Perhaps, the greatest thing I have learned in these six years is that there is always something new and wonderful to learn on the way to and during the happy, joyous and free life. Sometimes (probably most of the time) the greatest lessons we learn are born of tremendous pain and suffering, but we must allow ourselves to learn in that time of anguish. That does not mean we have to be happy about the suffering or that we need to be laughing and smiling as we trudge the path of misery. It also does not mean that we should be bitter and hatred-filled as we suffer. That only intensifies the pain and prevents us from ever shedding it. As such, we forfeit the happy, joyous and free life for a self-imposed life of resentment. I’ve been in that place. It’s ugly. That’s why I drank for forty years and ended up on benzos for thirteen years.    
 
There is indeed such a thing as a happy, joyous and free life. I look forward to living the next six years right in the middle of it and sharing it (or the directions to it) with anyone who wants it.