There is something that people “in recovery” say to other people in recovery on the anniversary of their sobriety date. Yes, congratulations and happy birthday. Not those. I haven't heard it quite as much recently, but as my life has gotten bigger and more busy I suppose I spend less time around people in recovery as I used to. I say it as well. “You're a miracle.”
The thought behind it is that it's a miracle whenever someone who couldn't stop drinking and using no matter how hard he tried by himself, now gets through the day sober. One day at a time. I think I'm required by law to say that. God knows I don't want to jinx tomorrow. And it is. A miracle that is. For those of you not addicted to any mind-altering substances, it's probably hard to understand. That's because we say “it's a miracle” in everyday life often meaning it's long overdue or surprising. “I finally got the rebate check I've been waiting for for two months. It's a miracle.” “He took out the trash without being asked? It's a miracle.”
In this case, however, we mean it literally. Our solution to our addiction problem is a spiritual solution. It's not necessarily a religious solution, so those of you who are unfamiliar with the process shouldn't think that it's just about going to church (some of us don't go to church at all). Church can be a part of it for some of us, but the key ingredient is God (I went back and forth on whether to capitalize that because honestly you can get sober with god, it doesn't have to be the God of mainstream religion). Dependence on a higher power to take care of us and provide the strength and ability to do what was previously impossible. So when we say “you're a miracle” it's our way of saying congratulations, you're awesome, but don't for one second get the idea that you did this on your own.
The first time someone said it to me was when I got to 90 days sober. I was insulted and disgusted. Of course, that's because I was thinking it was meant in the same way as the “taking out the trash” usage. My response was, “fuck you.” Even after my friend explained to me that it was not something derogatory, I was not pleased. In fact, for the whole first year of my sobriety I only ever said it sarcastically. If I encountered a person I found particularly crazy, I might say to my friend, “yeah, that one's a miracle.” Let's just say I didn't step into sobriety and become immediately enlightened. I'm sure I'm still a work in progress, but I'm quite certain that when I walked into a room in that first year, four or five people turned to their friends and said, “yeah, that one's a miracle.”
In fact, as I got to end of my first year sober, many people told me right to my face. “You really are a miracle. I didn't think you had any chance of staying sober.” And you know what? They had every right to think that. I got to recovery hearing voices, thinking people could read my mind and I could read theirs. I have no idea how many days I sat in the groups at my outpatient rehab program (and at meetings) having telepathic conversations with people. That's not true. I have a very good idea. It was all of them. Every day. The voices were so loud when I was newly sober that I would have to ask people to stop talking for a moment until I could get them to be quiet because I literally couldn't hear what was really being said to me over the racket going on in my head. Drug-induced psychosis presents in a way that looks a lot like schizophrenia. That's what people were dealing with when they interacted with me back then. It's no wonder most of them were stunned that I got that one-year cake.
People who have been reading this blog for a while know that I have no qualms about describing the voices and the craziness that I put myself through that last year I was using meth. Part of it is that I'm pretty much an open book. I write about my life. I talk about my life. I might not tell everybody everything, but I tell a lot of different people something. Ultimately, in one way or another virtually my entire life could be told by other people if you got the right combination of them together.
That's not the only reason I talk about it though. I talk about it because I don't ever want someone to think that they are so far gone they can't come back. I thought that about myself. I knew other people thought it about me. It was a horrible feeling to wonder if I'd ever be right again. I talk about those voices and that paranoia because I know someone else has gone through it. And I want them to see that there is hope.
Twice in the last month I told my story in front of a group of people. Both times someone came up to me afterward and said they couldn't believe that I described exactly what they were going through. One guy said something that I laughed out loud at because I remember thinking this way back then. He said, “Part of me thought you were saying all that stuff just so I would know they know everything about me.” I understood exactly what he meant and how he felt. I don't know if either of those guys will stay sober. But they both told me that they knew from the way I talked about it that I went through it, that it gave them hope to know that it's possible to come back from it.
Just being willing to stand up and tell the truth about who I was and what I've experienced gave someone hope. Anyone who knew me six years ago knows: THAT is a miracle.