We’ve got six chickens in our suburban neighborhood over in East Maryville, and when I go out to lock up the coop at night, I find myself on occasion staring up at the stars for a few minute and reflecting on change.
I’m a couple of months shy of my one-year anniversary here at Cornerstone. I’m four months away from my 10-year wedding anniversary. I'm a father who worries too much about whether he's doing a decent job by his three kids. I'm a recovering addict who stresses about not making enough meetings. I'm a writer, a friend, a sponsor.
I'm all of these things, and despite all of the worries and headaches and struggles that come with living as a flawed human being on Planet Earth, everything in my life is a blessing. I just don't always look at it that way.
It's funny how the longer I stay clean, the more I can turn those blessings into burdens. In the darkest hours of my addiction, I can remember feeling so incredibly alone, like a sailor adrift on a life ring far out to sea, with no land and no ship in sight, the waters full of sharks. I can remember praying for a good woman, someone to love and who would love me back.
I can remember seeing friends with their children and wondering whether I would ever be able to clean myself up enough to be responsible for another life. I remember hearing the laughter of a child and wondering if I would ever know what that sounded like ringing through the halls of my own home.
I can remember driving a car on a doughnut spare for five months, driving off without ever paying for gas, praying I never collided with anyone or anything because I had long before let the insurance lapse. I can remember scraping bags of dope by candlelight, the power turned off and an eviction notice hanging from the door, wondering if I would ever be able to put aside the poison I was shooting into my arm and just be able to live some semblance of a normal life — working hard, paying bills, being a responsible and productive member of society.
When I first got clean, I woke up every morning, filled with the simple gratitude of just being able to wake up at 6 a.m. without being in withdrawal. It was like being born again — there was joy and relief to be found in every sunrise, every drive to work, every deadline and challenge.
Now, my life is full. My schedule is hectic. My day often begins way too early and stops way too late. I feel like I'm always on the go — rarely meditating as I should or getting enough sleep or just being still in the present moment. Life has taken some unexpected turns over the past couple of years, and a lot of times it seems like I'm always rushing to catch up.
Which is why I value those little moments when I can put the brakes onto my running thoughts. Sitting in the floor with my daughter, listening to her giggle while she scoots across the floor on her diaper-padded butt and shrieking like a pterodactyl ... tucking my middle son into bed at night and kissing his wild mane of hair … giving my oldest a nod or a fist-bump as I drop him off at school. It seems like just yesterday he was the one in diapers, and the other two didn’t even exist, and when I stare up at those stars on my way out to the chickens, I’m awestruck by the passage of time and the hurried pace of change.
The trees reach toward the stars, black cut-outs against the orange-purple glow of the distant city lights. My neighbors, good and kind and fun people, move through their lives as lighted silhouettes on the other side of curtained windows. In the fall, the nearby middle school football field is awash in sodium lights and the white noise of a cheering crowd, but on these winter days, I can hear the traffic on East Broadway clearly, tires on blacktop and the occasional siren or brake squeal. Sometimes, I’ll stop for a few minutes in the shadows and close my eyes, willing myself to slow down and drink in these moment.
If I've learned anything in my recovery, it's this — the only thing that's constant in this life is change. When the darkness encroaches and troubles weigh heavy, all I need to do is hang on, because it will change. When life seems to be one endless moment of happiness and joy after another, I'd best prepare myself, because it's going to change.
The measure of my life isn't how it's defined by that change; it's how I react to it, how I choose to live and deal with those changes and incorporate them into my life. It's not always easy, but today I'm better able to accept life on life's terms. That's because I have a life today, which is a far cry from the hell I once lived in.
And for that alone, I'm so very grateful. I wouldn't change what I have or who I am for anything ... just for today. I hope whatever troubles you or weighs on your mind, that you, too, can call a spiritual time out and live in this moment. All of your life has led you to now, and no other that follows will be like it. Savor it, and live your best life. Much love.