My friend Gypsy was talking about his 37 years of sobriety when he used a word I hadn’t heard much lately: freedom.
As in, freedom to make decisions today without being held back due to alcohol or drugs.
Freedom to come and go as he pleases and hang out with who he wants to hang out with. Freedom to be Gypsy.
I had sat next to him Thursday evening at the Citrus Recovery Fest knowing he would be getting up soon to speak. He told me he enjoys the blog. I told him I needed a word of inspiration.
He nodded and then went up to talk.
Lately I’ve been thinking about my last drunk days. That’s a normal topic between the ears close to a sobriety anniversary, which isn’t this time of year.
But with my 65th birthday open house set for Saturday, Oct. 7 at Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson, and focusing on preparing the yard for that, it harkens me to those dark days totally alone here.
It didn’t start that way. When I first moved in, fresh from a divorce, it was party-central. I remember a friend opening the fridge to find only a 12-pack of Natural Light.
The fun quickly evaporated. Friends stopped dropping by. My lovely home became a prison. Each night I poured whiskey in a shot glass, followed by a yelling match between me and the spirits that I knew I would eventually lose.
Let me tell you something. You have a friend who’s an active alcoholic or addict, that’s not a fun life. Sure isn’t a free one. I was chained to whiskey. I could no more function without Crown Royal than air.
Yet it was clearly killing me. July 5-6, 2006, I detoxed at home alone (not for the faint at heart), separated myself from alcohol, reached out for help, attended my first 12-step meeting and things have worked out rather well since then.
As a sober alcoholic in recovery, I exist in a parallel universe. I’m the same person from those old days but I’m not.
And freedom, boy, it just becomes so clear.
As paralyzing life in active addiction can be, recovery is just the opposite. Not saying it’s all ponies and poodles, but I am often struck by the freedoms I enjoy today that were once impossible.
For example, I walked down the state trail Thursday to the Recovery Fest event. I hung out there for about an hour, feeling the good vibes from others in recovery.
I walked back home just before dark. As I write, there’s a cool breeze coming in from the open front door, the night calm after a late-evening thunderstorm that really kicked up the winds around here.
That’s a rather routine evening. Most people wouldn’t think twice about it. Me, I have the luxury of comparing these mundane moments with the chaos of the past. Peace and tranquility have taken on a whole other meaning.
I love hanging out with friends in recovery. There is such a zest for life because we’ve experienced the alternative. We grab tightly ahold of recovery. It’s a gift, one undeserved, that can disappear at any time if I don’t cherish it and at the same time give it away.
I told Gypsy I needed an inspiring word. He reminded me that inspiration comes from within, that God has granted us recovered drunks and druggies a freedom that only the formerly enslaved can appreciate. He asks only that we share it.
Those last few days and weeks with the bottle were terribly lonely. There was no freedom, no happiness. I don’t live like that today. My life includes a spirit of adventure born from the self-realized freedom that I have a pretty good chance at success so long as I stay away from a drink.
That’s recovery. It’s priceless. Think I’ll stick with it today.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.