Monthly Archives: August 2017

Today

Birthdays are weird.

I mean, I get it. Kind of. Birthdays are anniversaries, and we’re prone to want to commemorate the good things that have happened in our lives. There are plenty of not so pleasant anniversaries, and we choose to acknowledge or deny them in our own ways. But when it comes to birthdays, we didn’t do anything.

We have approximately zero stake to claim in entering into this world. And yet, somehow, we have become entitled people who are owed something, at the very least, on (or around) the anniversary of our birth.

I say ‘at the very least’ because some of us have taken the celebration of our birth to an entirely different level. Some of us are not content with a birth day. Instead, we have decided that we deserve to celebrate for a week or even a month. And that’s fine. I mean, it’s weird, but it’s fine. If you want to be indulged and others are willing to entertain your nonsensical fantasy, more power to you.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate or even, perhaps, enjoy a birthday celebration. I just want it to be low key. There’s no desire in my heart to be the elevated center of attention. After all, I can no more take credit for experiencing another revolution of the earth around the sun than I can take for my conception or birth.

But some of us are different.
Some of us celebrate more than one birthday a year.

Now that sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Clearly we were all only born once, so why would we celebrate more than one birthday? I know what some of you are thinking. Some of you, perhaps, have decided that my inner street preacher is coming out. You are convinced that I’m going to start spouting Bible verses like John 3:3.

That’s a legitimate concern. I definitely know people who can pinpoint a date which they would refer to as their point of conversion or salvation. And I think for some people that’s accurate. But not everyone who enters into a relationship with God does so in the same manner. Plenty of people cannot pinpoint a date. For many of us it was a journey. For some it still is.

Some of you know my personal story, so you know that I have another date which could be classified as a birthday. Being adopted is a major part of my story and a determining factor in who I am and how I understand God. And while it is a significant anniversary in my life, I don’t celebrate it like a birthday. In fact, I don’t celebrate it at all. If anything, it usually brings me to tears. Usually tears of happiness and appreciation, but tears nevertheless.

No, none of those, for me at least, qualify as the most important birthday in my life. Some of you are tracking with me. You understand. You know. You get it because we’re in the same boat, you and I. You, too, have a birthday to which you cling dearly.

But you know as well as I that you can’t cling too dearly. You can’t put too much weight in it. You can’t spend time anticipating it. If you do, if I do, we’ll buckle under the weight of the anxiety and expectation.

Because we must remember that this birthday is just another day. You see, friends, there’s a thing about sobriety that I bet you already know. As with many major spiritual movements, popular culture has borrowed words and phrases from the recovery community. One of the most ubiquitous phrases to enter the mainstream has to be “one day at a time.”

Perhaps deriving its origins from Reinhold Niebuhr’s full version of the Serenity Prayer, the phraseology actually reads: “Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time.” The whole notion is that we can do anything we have to for just one day. The other thrust is that all we have is today.

When we wake up in the morning we have the opportunity to start new today. We have the opportunity for a fresh day. Each and every today is a day in which I strive to be and remain sober. Living in the past will not keep me sober, and neither will attempting to live into the future. All I have, all any of us really have, is today.

And today is that day. Today is my birthday. This marks five years of todays. It hasn’t been easy, but is hasn’t always been hard. That’s because I work my program. I take my inventory daily, or multiple times a day if I experience a disturbance. I make phone calls. I take phone calls. I work diligently to admit my wrongs and make amends in the moment, and I still fall short. But today I’m sober.

I will stand up in front of my peers and accept a medallion. I believe that medallion is more important to them than it is to me. We are called to share our experience, strength and hope. Picking up that medallion is one way I can provide hope to others. I say that because seeing others pick up their medallions, or even their one day chips, gives me hope.

And I will continue to live today. If I have an inkling of hope of staying sober, that’s all I can do. There’s a reason that my sponsor’s sponsor has him complete an entire fourth step every year leading up to his anniversary. Like many of the other anniversaries in life, this one can be very difficult. If we put our faith in it or attempt to live to that next anniversary rather than living for today, that’s when we fail. That’s when our character defects get the better of us.

So I’m grateful for today. I’m grateful for my sponsor, my home group, and my recovery community. I’m grateful for those who have gone before me and failed and those who have shown me how to succeed. I’m grateful for those who don’t even know how they’ve impacted my life and my recovery journey. I’m grateful for the program, the steps, and God.

And I’m grateful that tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll have another opportunity to live for today.

– Alex Walker

P.S. I realize that their are different views and opinions on celebrating sober anniversaries and receiving medallions. You are more than welcome to share your personal views and opinions with me. I also want to share with all of you some wisdom from people much wiser than I.

Do We Make Too Much of Anniversaries?

Bittersweet

When last we joined one another it was in a conversation about death. In particular, it was about the death of a young man which occurred on Wednesday, July 19, of this year – a mere three weeks ago.

There’s a family that has been asking ‘why’ and struggling with the loss of their son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson and friend.

But what I left out of that glimpse into a father’s grief is that I was there. No, I wasn’t at the crash sight; I was in the hospital. I was there when the medevac helicopters flew in. I was there when the driver and passenger of the vehicle were brought to a hospital which would go on to save their lives while the life of their friend had already passed.

While the son of my friend died, while his friends were receiving care from one of the best hospitals in the state, I was experiencing pure elation. Well, perhaps not pure elation. It was definitely scarred by fits of terror, particularly associated with the fear of the unknown.

35 weeks, 2 days.

You see, I wasn’t supposed to be in that hospital. I was supposed to be at home with my wife. We were supposed to go in for a doctor’s visit in the afternoon, and we did. But they never let us leave. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t leave the hospital until the following Sunday.

Oblivious to the fact that anything was going on in the outside world, let alone that my friend’s son had been in an accident that would claim his life, my wife and I were admitted to the hospital directly from the obstetrician’s office.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

They wouldn’t even let us go to the car to get the suitcase we’d stashed for just such an occasion. We did not expect to be there, yet we were.

And at about the same time that my friend’s son was thrown from a vehicle and took his final breath, my own daughter and son drew their first.

They were early, certainly, but they were everything we had hoped and prayed for. Our twins came out happy and healthy. They didn’t spend any time in the NICU. We were able to hold them. We were, a few short days later, able to take them home with minimal complications.

My wife had a rough couple of days, but that’s almost to be expected as the result of many major surgeries.

So when I heard the awful news Thursday morning, I was devastated. The loss of life alone would have broken me before, but now I, too, was a father. I, too, had a sense of what it means to love a child, if even for only a few hours. Something inside of me understood the loss on a different level than I have before.

Losing young people always hurts me more than losing those who’ve lived long lives, but this time it was strange and unfamiliar. I struggled on a whole new level to wrap my head around something that made no sense.

And then, hours after we were released from the hospital, I left my wife and newborn babies to join hundreds of other people in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of a child who was only three weeks away from starting college.

Why is it important for me to tell you all of this?

It’s important because through all of this, I have had to take care of myself. I have had to keep my side of the street clean. I have had to be there for my wife and children the last three weeks just like my friend has had to be there for his wife and kids.

But I can guarantee you one thing that he and I have had in common the last three weeks: we are not going through this alone. They say that it takes a village to raise a child. I can honestly say that we have been surrounded by a village. People have been fixing meals, dropping by to hold or help with the babies, and constantly checking in on us. I know that the same is true for my friend and his family.

This is why accountability is important. This is why having a sponsor is important. This is why making phone calls is important. This is why trying to do everything yourself, trying to be everything for everyone, doesn’t work.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child (let alone two), it also takes a village to become and remain sober.

I went to my first meeting this week since the birth of my children. And I’ll tell you what, I needed that meeting. I needed to hear the experience, strength and hope of others. I needed the reminder that I’m not alone in this.

As weird as it may sound, for the weeks I didn’t make it to a meeting, I didn’t even have time to think about my addiction. I didn’t have time to think about acting out. I barely had time to breathe and sleep because my entire focus was on the needs of my wife and children.

But when my entire focus is on people other than myself, that means that I’m running the risk of not taking care of myself. I’m running the risk of a lapse or a relapse because I’m not paying attention to how I feel. I’m not working the program. I’m not spending time in prayer. I’m not talking to my sponsor.

As much as my wife and children need me, they need me to be whole. They need me to be healthy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some self-care. I’ve been sure to get out of the house occasionally to exercise or run some errands. But it’s not enough.

I have to get back to my routine. I have to get back into the swing of things. I have to do this one day at a time and not rest on my laurels because the moment I begin to think that the recovery time I have is enough to keep me going is the moment I start walking toward a relapse.

Remember that in and through all things, self-care is a necessity. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care keeps us sane and allows us to put our best foot forward.

 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

1 Kings 19:3-9

One life ends and new life begins. It seems obvious enough, but it’s not everyday that we’re affected so intimately by both happening at the same time. It certainly puts a new perspective on things.

Dear God, creator of all things. We come to you today humbled by the fact that you sent Jesus to die on a cross. We are in awe of life itself. We are only beginning to understand the expanses of the universe and will surely never be able to fully understand you. We are sorry that no matter how hard we try, we fall short of doing your will at all times. Sometimes we even forget to ask what your will is. We’ll try to do better. It’s really all we can do. Thank you for giving us life, for giving us families, for giving us friends. No matter how much or how little time we spend on this earth, we are grateful for the relationships that we’ve been able to cultivate. We are grateful for the memories that we’re making and the memories that we have to hold on to. We ask that you continue to shower us with grace and mercy. We value your guidance and direction for our lives. Please be with us in the good times and the bad. We will continue working to be faithful to you just as you have asked. All this we pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

– Alex Walker