Sunday, August 12, 2012

Moments of Clarity

People in recovery often talk about their moment of clarity – that moment when they knew it was over and they couldn't keep going on the way they were going. I had one final moment of clarity the morning of August 27, 2007 and it was pretty simple, almost mundane. It was something along the lines of “OK. If this wasn't fun on Sunday night, how the hell is it ever going to be fun on Monday morning.” And with that, I took my stuff and headed off to my outpatient program to really start trying to be sober.

But that was just the final moment. I had several other moments along the way – both small and large – that culminated in that moment. And they were things that may or may not seem like they would have been significant, but I held on to them. And I continued to think about them as I spiraled downward. These moments I believe were the universe laying the groundwork for what was to come. The way I always describe it in meetings is, “God speaks to us where we are, in the language we understand.”

[About the song: see below.]
I'm just going to write about a couple of these moments tonight.

I've already written about my obsession with Charmed, so it should come as no surprise that two of the moments have to do with the show. The first one happened when I was watching an episode from season three. In it, Prue (Shannen Doherty) is cursed by a demon and becomes an empath. What this means is that she can feel everything that the people around her are feeling. At first it is funny because she feels things that happen to her sisters and it's just strange. But as the episode goes on, she starts feeling all the pain and emotional turmoil of thousand of people in the city.

Well, it was very, very close to what I was going through. I walked through Manhattan and felt like I could communicate telepathically with every person that was nearby. That's a lot of people throwing a lot of shit at you all at once. And it was happening to my favorite character on my favorite TV show right in front of me. It probably sounds silly to you, but it was the first time I felt like anyone understood what I was going through. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't delusional enough to think Prue was a real person, but someone wrote that shit. And they did a really good job of describing what it felt like. So I just sat there transfixed, watching this unfold. Then, in the last scene, she channels all of this pain to vanquish a heretofore unvanquishable demon. You can't even begin to imagine how liberating that was for me. So liberating that I watched that scene over and over for months – until I was probably six months sober. It was a shred of hope that I clung to. Maybe this could be beaten, even though it seemed unbeatable. Well, just watch for yourself. The scene begins at the 4:50 mark.

The other Charmed moment was just a single line, but I've kept it with me through my entire sobriety. Here's what happened. I was in an intensive outpatient program (five days a week) for two months before I went to my first 12-step meeting. The counselors kept trying to convince me that I was going to need to go if I wanted to stay sober (stay sober? I never even got sober during those two months). But I just didn't think it was for me. It was a cult and I wanted no part of it. And furthermore, those people all seemed pretty strange to me. So, thanks but no thanks.

Until the day I met a guy I thought was super hot. I spent a lot of time chatting him up to try to figure out my way in. Never mind that I was a disaster inside and out. I knew what I wanted and I set about figuring out how to get it. One of the things he really liked to chat about was Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA). He was sober for about 18 months (which seemed like an eternity to me then) and he went to those meetings regularly.

Really? That's funny, because I've been wanting to check one of those meetings out for a while now. Perhaps I could go with you? So I went to my first 12-step meeting in an attempt to get into some hot guy's pants. And here I am five years later, about to turn five.

So, what was this line from Charmed that stuck with me? Well, in the episode the leprechauns enlist the help of Paige to vanquish a demon that kills their kind. She agrees to help, but only because she wants some good luck for herself and her sisters (ulterior motives). After a lot of shenanigans, the demon is vanquished and one of the leprechauns thanks her profusely for saving their kind. At this point, she comes clean about thinking magic “owed her something”. He asks if she still feels that way now and she answers that she doesn't. And the leprechaun says, “It doesn't matter what brings a person, only what they leave with.”

Apparently there is no wrong reason to do the right thing.

Finally, the reason for tonight's song. This one is really simple and straightforward. I'm watching the Academy Awards in 2007, only to see my girl Jennifer Hudson win an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls. A year before that, she was a seventh-place contestant from American Idol who couldn't get a recording contract. Now she's nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Talk about an impossible dream. When they called her name, I was ecstatic. And when she got up to the stage and accepted her award, the first thing she said was, “Look what God can do!”

I've used that line over and over and over during the last five years. And I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

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