I wasn’t going to write another post this week, but it seems that 2013 warrants some reflection. It’s been quite a year, and even though I’m not sad to tell it goodbye, I feel like I have had some victories that are worth celebrating. I may not have felt victorious then, but hindsight sometimes reveals the silver lining that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see at the time.
The beginning of 2013 was a flurry of emotion. I looked at my journal from the time to remind myself what I was feeling then. There was a lot of grief and fear, but what stood out the most in my early 2013 writing was hope. I was freshly out of rehab, my second trip in as many years, and I was working hard to do things differently so there wouldn’t be a third trip. My focus was on forgiveness, acceptance and honesty. I knew that if I had those three things, I might just make it. So I really worked on them: doing a lot of step work with my sponsor, going to meetings every day, praying, and telling the truth to myself and others. I had to do those things while I was cleaning up the wreckage that I had caused when I was drinking (legal, financial) and while returning to work after taking a 6-week leave of absence (I was overwhelmed). But somehow through all of that, I still had a lot of hope. I was able to see that if I kept doing the next right thing, no matter how difficult, and as long as I stayed sober, no matter what, things were going to get better. I was going to get better. I don’t think that I had ever really felt that kind of hope before. It was new, and it kept me moving in the right direction. It still does.
This past year I also had to deal with the horrible grief that comes from being separated from one’s child. The feelings of loss and wanting greeted me every single day, and I don’t see that going away…ever. What I learned though, is that those feelings can, and now do, peacefully coexist with happiness and joy. That was a gradual realization for me. At the beginning of the year I thought that any happiness I felt was in vain. How could that happiness be real? How could any feeling other than grief be real? Surely a daughter-less mother couldn’t have any real joy at the same time her heart is aching and broken. But somewhere along the way, I came to realize that the happiness and joy I was feeling was real. And that it didn’t mean that I was missing my daughter any less, or that my heart was less broken. But rather, it meant that even in its brokenness my heart could be joyous. I had completely underestimated my capacity to feel more than one emotion at a time.
As the holidays loomed toward the end of the year, I knew that my new realization would be challenged. And it was. I’ve written many times about how hard October through December are for me, and 2013 was no exception. There were down days and tears, days when all I wanted to do was hide from everyone and everything. But amazingly, as each holiday, birthday, or anniversary showed up, I was able to face the day and make it through. Not only that, but in most cases, I was able to have really good days, even when bad memories or regret were present. I also noticed that when I dissolved into self-pity and depression, I bounced back much quicker than I used to, and I was able to remember that the feelings, however real and however strong, would pass. That is a win in my opinion, no two ways about it!
All of those things make me feel triumphant, but my biggest victory of 2013, by far, was maintaining my sobriety. It is the first whole calendar year that I haven’t had a drink in a long, long time – maybe even since I took my first drink at 14. I celebrated a year sober on November 26, and I couldn’t be more proud. I was successful at making my recovery a priority, and I thank God for giving me that blessing. Out of the whole year, there was only one day that I really wanted to drink, and I knew that even though I wanted to I wouldn’t. If that isn’t a hope fulfilled and a prayer answered, I don’t know what is.
I don’t know what 2014 will bring. Just like any other year though, I am sure there will be challenges, sorrow, and fear. However, I like to think that there will also be an abundance of peace, joy, and security. I’m not going to make resolutions, because I never keep them, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that I’m going to make 2014 a year of growing, a year of nurturing better habits and another year of hope.
Happy New Year!