Thirty-five is an important number for me. It’s the number of years it took for Larry’s remains to be returned from Vietnam. And, as of July 1, 2016, it will be the number of years that I have been sober.
When people ask me how I feel about maintaining my sobriety for so long, I tell them that I am grateful. I don’t take my sobriety for granted, and I will never forget how I came to be where I am today. I’m grateful for the people who helped me along the way, beginning with my grandmother who taught me the Serenity Prayer that I still recite daily. I’m grateful for the gift of writing. Expressing myself through the written word has given me both strength and consolation when I needed it most.
Whenever something would plague me or I felt disappointed in myself for having a drink, I would write down how I was feeling at the time in little ramblings on legal pads. No matter how insignificant these notes seemed at the time, they really were the first steps toward being truly honest with myself in sharing my story, the story that ultimately became my memoir, Where the Water Meets the Sand.
In Chapter 24, Volunteering at the VA, I recount when I went to the VA hospital to help in the alcohol treatment unit. If there was one thing I learned on my road to recovery, it was that I gained strength from being around people who had recovered—or had been on the same path as I was. I was eager to be a successful, sober person for these veterans. But I quickly learned that they were helping me more than I could help them. They helped me recognize and articulate my life’s mission of comforting those suffering in silence, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, and opening doors to resources for support and treatment.
When people ask me why I don’t drink, I tell them without hesitation that I’m a recovering alcoholic. I feel very comfortable saying those words, and I’m thankful that I can continue adding years to my sobriety.
Birthdays are great, but my most important anniversary is my sobriety date. Today is a day for celebration.