“Mom, can you take me and Andy to the tennis courts on the way to school tonight?”
“Mom, can you drop me off at Scott’s? It’s on the way to the courts.”
“Mom, can Jason spend the night since the other boys won’t be home? You could pick him up on the way home from school.”
“Mom, are you taking the car tonight? I would really like to trade cars because your tires have air and mine don’t and I’m driving a lot further than you are tonight.”
“Honey, we’re out of milk. Could you stop on the way home from school and pick up a gallon?”
This is my world today. I have an atypical family of four children from my three different marriages. I am miraculously participating in a ten-year-long marriage to a man who used to drop his trousers in bars and sleep in his car. Seven years ago we were headed for disaster, with a life that was littered with alcohol and drug abuse, child and spouse abuse, police intervention, and general chaos. I hated myself and everyone who was within relationship distance. I couldn’t hold down a job and lived on welfare. Today, it would be hard to pick us out from the other families on our suburban street. Today, I teach at a local liberal arts college and am close to finishing up a Ph.D. in psychology. My family is a miracle to me.
The world is a nasty place for a woman who destroys everything she touches. Parenthood was simply an excuse to continue breathing. How lonely the dark nights and early mornings could be when they were spent with drunken strangers who told lies bigger than my own. I lived this life. I sought out this life. It was safe because I felt comfortable in a world that demanded little more than drunken participation.
Approaching thirty years of age, I knew the dance of the living dead. God, in infinite wisdom, decided I needed a taste of something fine and real and unconditionally accepting to bring meaning to my life. I met hope, face to face, in an AA hall. I believe that heaven and earth stopped for a moment to observe the changing of one small heart. I found a moment of peace in an otherwise unmanageable life and I cried out for help. I found my help at regular AA meetings and by diligently seeking my higher power via the Twelve Steps explained to me by patient AA members and a very tolerant sponsor.
It has not been easy and it has not been begonias bundled with ribbons. I remember the changes I tried to make in the beginning and how hard they were. The substance abuse was the first change to be made, followed by changes in relationship behavior and perceptions of the world. I remember one particularly difficult segment of time–a day. Anxiety and depression covered me in a blanket of steel. My sponsor said to keep busy, to achieve small tasks, and to enjoy each breath I took.
I decided to move a stack of wood that day, from the driveway into the garage where it would stay dry and be easier to get at. It was late winter and a swirl of snowflakes swept over the icy drive. I welcomed the cold. It was a feeling, a vibrant feeling, and held me above the drudgery of depression.
I wrapped up warm and forcefully began moving the pile of wood as if it would somehow change my life. I started carrying three or four pieces at a time, scraping my hands and my neck carrying the load too high. I rushed. I hurried. I was desperate. The task seemed insurmountable.
The wood was heavy and eventually I was forced to carry only a piece at a time. I had to stop and rest when I got tired–it was hard work for a small woman. I wanted to quit but I didn’t. I began to see that somehow I could do it. I prayed to the Almighty and my spirits were bolstered.
I breathed slowly and intently and focused on the task at hand. My thoughts wandered but they quit racing. Piece by piece, moment by moment, the pile inside the garage grew higher and higher. This job could be done. It would be done. I could see the finished product taking shape and I was beginning to feel good about myself. My arms ached but there was joy in this pain.
Then I found that toward the bottom of the heap the pieces of rough wood were frozen together. I struggled. I kicked at the pieces and scraped them with my gloves. I got some of the pieces, but a few on the very bottom were immovable. How could this be?–I was giving it all I had. I was outraged. I was sinking. Tears came fast and furious, leaving raw spots on my cheeks where I rubbed at them with my gloves. I sank into a heap on the cold driveway. I was cold and tired. I couldn’t do it anymore.
I turned my head around to see my husband walking toward me in his robe and slippers. He had a fireplace poker in his hand and began chipping away at the ice. His blue robe was not protecting him from the wind and he looked pretty comical. He moved the last few pieces of wood into the garage and then turned and gathered me in his arms.
“You don’t have to do it all yourself,” he whispered.
“I didn’t know that,” I sobbed back.
He went back into the house. I got an old broom and swept away the pieces of remaining bark which littered the driveway. The wind gathered loose scraps and took them away. Some pieces just swirled around me and I decided to leave them swirling. A few shards were sunk in ice and would have to wait for a warmer day. I went into the house for a cup of hot cocoa and to snuggle into a pair of slippers.
That’s how my pile of wood moved from the driveway to the garage and it’s the same way that I have watched miracles happen in my sobriety–miracles of love and life which daily astound me. I work hard to do what is in front of me to do, asking for the guidance of my Higher Power and help from others when necessary. I feel pain and I feel pleasure. I know joy and heartache. I am alive and I am a sober human being, thanks to my Higher Power and the Fellowship of AA. I certainly am.