My son had a medical emergency and had been severely injured. It was crushingly painful to see him physically and emotionally hurting. I spent almost a month on and off the bench outside of Hartford Hospital while my son endured six surgeries, a battery of procedures, jabs, bloodwork, rehabilitation – the works. The road to his rehabilitation will be a long one. I am so grateful to have my toolbox, strong roots in recovery and sober living.
I see in movies and media how alcohol is marketed as a stress reliever, when in reality it only hinders cognitive processing and, in many cases, fuels the fires. I love the joy and enthusiasm a sober life allows me to cherish. I value peaceful mornings to reflect. When the s**t hits the fan, the infrastructure of my recovery provides the keystone of my sobriety: the strength to do the heavy lifting life sometimes asks of us. I follow the Soberful Program of The Five Pillars of Sustainable Sobriety along with my roots in AA, friendship and support in She Recovers, and embrace the wise women of Women for Sobriety. The Five Pillars: Movement, Growth, Balance, Process and Connection exemplify how I could not only sustain sobriety, but make best use of its gifts through this moment in time.
I took time in the early morning and an evening break to walk my dog, nurture my garden, and focus on the forward motion of healing and recovery.
I managed what my anxiety would have projected as unmanageable. The fear I saw in my son’s face between his third and fourth surgeries will be imprinted in my mind forever. I held his hand, stood strong for him, let the tears flow after he went through the doors, and was surrounded by his team in the OR. The trendy phrase ‘we can do hard things’, proved true. In early sobriety, a common query was “how am I not going to drink if (fill in the tough situation)?” Where alcohol kept me stuck, recovery fosters growth.
“Whatever the question, Balance is the answer,” is a favorite phrase in the Soberful Program. I spent the majority of the past two weeks in the hospital, but I allowed myself to also take breaks and trust the medical staff so I could care for myself and my older son. I slept at home, made sure I brought in healthy food, raided the vending machine as needed, left piles of laundry that will get folded one day, but always made my bed. I took time out to accompany my middle son to The Walk for Autism for him, soul-restoring for me!
Only with acute mental clarity could I understand the terminology and information of a condition, previously utterly unknown to me, that the medical professionals shared with me. Instead of my mind spinning on a drink, wrecked by ‘hangziety,’ or overcomplicating, I found my zen spot to practice gratitude, actively listen, and be 100 percent present at my son’s bedside. I am not a vascular surgeon; I could not fix the problem, but I could process all that was going on, help my son understand, and hold his hand solidly as fear gripped both of our hearts. Each night I could hit the pillow sober with a clear understanding of the day and my emotions appropriately expressed. I could wake up, the situation was still there, but with sleep, process, and stability to step robustly into each new day.
Thank goodness for modern technology. COVID protocols meant I often had to wait outside the hospital, and visitor entry was extremely limited. My sober tribe was with me: ears at the end of a phone line, texts from around the world. I loved ‘hanging out’ in the sober online communities that the pandemic helped strengthen. I felt supported while reading community posts and listening in to meetings with my earbuds. I only had my phone and little privacy to talk, but I still felt connected hearing familiar voices, seeing friendly faces, reading messages and stories.
In early sobriety I heard so many times, “Build your toolbox,” “Find your tribe,” and “Do the work.” I had a hard time conceptualizing what these phrases meant. Now I understand, value, treasure and use those tools and skills, now all carefully crafted and practiced. When the s**t hits the fan, they are well-oiled and ready to go.