My summer is melting like ice cream on a 90 degree July day – every day is jam-packed with granddaughters or yoga or long walks or even ice-skating with my husband. There’s a world of difference between last summer, my first as a sober adult, and this summer. Sobriety is as much a part of me as my eye color or height – just a part of what makes me “me.”
But last week, out of the blue, our son lost his job. None of us saw it coming, as he’d worked his way up (in one of our city’s charter schools) from per diem substitute, to classroom teacher, to administrator, to principal. He was the only constant employee in the school’s 13-year history. A new ‘top dog’ was hired recently, and the decision was made to clean house. So his position was written out of the budget. Thirteen years of employment was reduced to six boxes in the back seat of his car.
At first, he was stunned. Then enveloped by such deep sadness. Then furious. And he’s used his anger to propel him forward as he contemplates a brand-new career. We were watching his two little girls that day and, consequently, were the first family members to see him.
I hugged and kissed my boy. And told him how sorry I was. And said that it was their loss. And that they were fucking fuckers to do this to him. And I cried a little after hearing that his sweet five year old tried to console him with a story about how she knew he was sad to leave his job, but that she understood how he might be feeling. Because she was really sad to leave kindergarten but now she’s looking forward to first grade – and maybe he’d be just as excited about a new job.
But never – even though my mother’s heart was crushed for him – did drinking cross my mind.
And then a few days later, my entire family: three kids, two sons-in-law, daughter-in-law, and three granddaughters, traveled to Cleveland to beam with pride as our youngest graduated from the University of Phoenix.
This young woman is in long-term recovery from heroin addiction and has attained her bachelors degree while working full-time. It’s taken the better part of six years. And back in the dark days of her addiction, I never would have dreamed that she’d graduate from college. I thought it was far more likely to be planning her funeral. But by God, she did it. It was a weekend of memories I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
And again, I never wanted to drink to celebrate. I wouldn’t dream of fuzzing out one second of the joy and pride and gratitude to a beneficent universe that I felt.
We can suffer crushing disappointment – sober. We can experience huge, huge triumphs – sober.
And while it doesn’t make the hard stuff suck any less, it’s processed and moved through more efficiently when we “feel the feels,” instead of numbing out. Because the unpleasant feelings are still waiting there, waiting to be dealt with, once you sober up. It’s just delaying the inevitable.
Being present for the good stuff makes for glowing, complete memories that last forever. And they play in your mind, over and over, in a glorious loop.
Who knew that giving up one little thing would grant so many enormous blessings?