The Jackpot

Forgive me. It’s been awhile. I have not forgotten or abandoned my commitment to writing.

I returned from vacation about two weeks ago. On the plane ride home, I started a piece about travel and how it is a blessing of recovery. This is very true. Before my third year of sobriety, I had never been on an airplane. I remember once telling a friend that I was perfectly content to go nowhere in life – in every sense of the word. Why? Because nowhere is comfortable and comfortable is easy. I cried a little when I saw the tops of the clouds for the first time. It was a milestone I think I was a little surprised to be passing. Not unlike my birthdays as each arrived: 23…24…25…I had always had the sense that I wouldn’t live long and there I was unexpectedly enjoying life.

I scribbled a few pages on this topic but I couldn’t bring myself to finish. For some reason, it didn’t feel genuine. So I decided to wait until something did.

I was recently reminded of the odds stacked against those of us who are trying to stay sober. These informal statistics have been passed down to me by word of mouth over the years but I would be willing to bet they are pretty accurate:

One or two out of every thirty people who enter recovery will succeed.

Let that sink in for a moment. What happens to the other twenty-eight or twenty-nine people? It stands to reason that they die fully immersed in their disease.

Bearing that in mind, I am forcefully delivered to the realization that I am (for today) the one person in thirty who made it.

The real kicker is how often I disrespect the fact that I came out a winner in this terrifying jackpot.

I am blessed to receive daily readings in my e-mail and I keep returning to two particular e-mails from this month. One says: In order to get well, we have to admit that we alone are powerless over our disease. We need other people to help us. This is hard for us to do. We aren’t used to needing anyone or asking for help. We all pushed people away.

The problem is that we won’t be able to ask all of our loved ones for help. We will have to look elsewhere. Those of us in recovery make many drinkers and recreational drug users – problematic or not – uncomfortable. Engaging in a social situation that doesn’t involve booze is largely unheard of in our culture. Dinner without drinks? Why would one do that?

The other reading I keep returning to says this: Changing ourselves, allowing ourselves to grow while others seek their own path, is how we have the most beneficial impact on people we love. We’re accountable for ourselves. They’re accountable for themselves. We let them go, and let ourselves grow.

I am the one in thirty. I have to protect my recovery because no one else can do it for me.

It’s the irony of this whole crazy dichotomy. We must depend on the help of others but sometimes we must also let them go. We walk together and we walk alone.

We win the jackpot but we stay winners by choice rather than chance.

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