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.