I haven’t had a drink for 3921 days. That number is a fraction of the people who are responsible for my sobriety.
Today I am experiencing the gift of walking serenely and quietly through what used to be a season of drunkenness, humiliation and profound regret. Each day I have the opportunity to decide that anger and resentment are not worth the effort. Most of the time I am comfortable with mystery, and it doesn’t really matter if I ever solve it. I’d just as soon not.
Most of the people who gave me this gift aren’t aware of their importance or that they even participated.
My wife, my children and her family, and my brother and his beautiful kids fill the old emptiness with love and affection and a desire to do better and be better.
My dear and oldest friend, the son of my cousin and a sister-in-law that I never met, but nonetheless know, they are among the multitude who never received my inexplicable remission.
My favorite married couple who cared for me in the dark times and light; newspaper staffs; cousins, aunts and uncles who showed me kindness; friends; coworkers and supervisors who were and are more than coworkers and supervisors.
A certain counselor/mother and a certain attorney who calmed my raging heart and showed me I was worth their sacrifice. A school principal who fought for me and never judged me for my sins.
Monks and priests, who reminded me to seek progress rather than perfection and to sing prayers of gratitude. Nuns and other women with generous hearts whose hospitality and tenderness healed me.
Doctors and nurses who warned that if I didn’t change I would die, and who celebrated when I finally listened.
Basketball coaches, players and referees who gave me something to measure my progress and maturity by; and schoolchildren who called out my name and made fun of my attempts at Spanish with a Missouri accent, and their teachers who demonstrated that I had a long way to go to truly serve. People like them, and people on welfare with two or three jobs, they showed me what a real work ethic is.
Highway Patrolmen who handcuffed me and made the highways a little bit safer; a judge who sentenced me to jail, but with a kind voice; the men who shared my holding cell, somehow bringing humor, friendship and warmth to a terrifying moment; probation officers who were the first people to bear witness to a change in me.
People suffering poverty, oppression and homelessness and the people of means who help them. They humble me and stretch my heart open; people who trust me to serve them, and people who make me work for that trust.
Acquaintances and strangers on the street who walked in and out of my life, dusting it with a bit of magic. Musicians, authors, poets and people who make me laugh and cry.
Mother Nature and Father Time for teaching me to accept life as it is and to value the moment.
The tattoo artist who inscribed the Serenity Prayer and the word “Surrender” on my forearms as a daily reminder that I’m not the center of the universe.
Those I’ve hurt for making me accountable and for forgiving, and those who hurt me for whetting the tools of sobriety and helping me find the relief of forgiveness.
Most of all, I am grateful for other alcoholics and addicts—newcomers, old-timers, sponsors and strugglers–sober or still suffering. Those like Carol, Jacob and Kathy who have paid the ultimate price, sacrificing their lives to remind those left behind that they still have a chance.
Though most of these people don’t know who they are, I remember each one.
They are the God of my understanding, my Higher Power.