Today, May 28, is a big honking day for me. I haven't celebrated it lately. But on the 28th of May in 1994 I quit drinking. This will be year 28 and it seems poetic to make it a special year. Twenty-eight on the 28th.
I used to give a big party for the girls at the local drug and alcohol rehab in town. We had a wonderful time together. Since I love to give parties those parties were sometimes integral in keeping me sober. A reward. I had to stay sober one more year just to give the party. It never was particularly fancy but the rehab always had at least 16 girls in residence and over the years all the graduates knew they were invited so I could have over 20 girls show up for the party. My yard would be full of cars and the yard full of chairs. We'd grill hot dogs and hamburgers. I'd have a big bonfire and gobs of conversations. Somebody would fire up some music. The rehab girls brought their kids and they could ride the golf cart and jump on the trampoline and play in the playhouse. It had a real family atmosphere.
My sobriety has always been a quiet endeavor. There wasn't any movie-worthy drama like "Days of Wine and Roses." I've had enough drama to last a lifetime after growing up with a mother, father and sister who were all alcoholics and drug addicts. I won't go into the details here because nobody wants to hear them and I don't want to relive them. Let's just say no alcoholic gives up drinking easily. And I've seen enough to know that I can't afford to ever have another drink. It's simply not worth it.
I have a pretty great life now. I'm not going to do anything to mess it up.
Right now I'm on a pilgrimage to the island of Iona in Scotland to let my soul talk to God for a while. I will do a little tourism and some resting. My body is really tired right now from hiking up a hill to see nature up close and personal. Some days I feel old and tired but I have now lived longer than either of my parents or my sister did and I feel actually healthier today than I did thirty years ago.
Twenty-eight years ago I was a very different person. I was pretty angry at God. If you had asked me I would have denied it because I don't think I could have identified it at the time. It took a lot of time, some good therapy and an extremely patient husband to smooth out all the kinks in my attitude.
At my lowest point, when it finally dawned on me that I was going to have to give up drinking the anger grew and festered and it almost destroyed my marriage. But I kept going to church because that was the only thing I knew to do. And I would feel such anger inside that it really confused me. Sometimes I felt like leaving before the service even started--like, "Why am I even here?" I had to make myself stay. And I discovered that if I could make myself stay until the first hymn I would feel better.
There was something about that first hymn that always made things better. People always talk about how therapeutic music is and it's true. No matter what the song was, that first hymn would quiet my nerves. It was the sound of the congregation all around me singing that had a calming effect on me. It was like a soft blanket of love, a warm washcloth washing my soul and renewing it. And I would be OK.
I think this went on for about three months until my soul calmed down.
And then I got enough better that I forgot how much better I was. And the new sober me felt like the normal me.
Sometimes when I'm talking about that first miracle Jesus performed when he turned the water into wine I get it turned around and say that He turned the wine into water. I've said it wrong enough times now that I've come to realize it's not a mistake at all. It's been my own private miracle. Jesus turned wine into water for me. And I've come to enjoy a really good glass of water. Especially in a social setting when everyone else is enjoying wine I can stand back and appreciate my glass of water and give thanks for my miracle.
And here we are 28 years later. On the 28th of May.
There is not a day that I don't think about it. There's not a day that I don't miss it. But I wouldn't go back for anything.
There are a lot of things that are special about the congregation of the Garland church and one of them is that they were friends to me when I needed them. They probably had no idea what they were doing. God is sneaky that way sometimes.
Coincidentally, there is somebody from that Garland congregation here on the pilgrimage with me and I think I will buy them a drink to say "Thank You." They weren't members of the church back them to be my back-up choir for that first hymn but they can stand in for the rest of the congregation. Just because I can't have a drink doesn't mean they can't.
Thank you, God. I owe you big time.