There are times when I stop and really reflect on my recovery. These times are sometimes brought on by seeing how often relapse happens in my community, or, as was recently the case, losing a friend to this disease. I can’t help but wonder how I have, thus far, been able to hitch myself to this wagon and stay hitched to it. Why me, and not them? I don’t run a perfect program, as they say. Far from it, if the guidelines of an AA program are truly the measuring stick of what recovery should look like. There is an ebb and flow, for me, in my relationship with AA, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the case. I would always be the first person to tell someone to do all the things that it is suggested we do in AA; because we have seen it can work where little else can, to say anything else would be dangerous. But at the tend of the day, we do what we do, and it works, or it doesn’t- and the mitigating factor is something internal, having to do with surrender and no percentage less than 100.
At this point in my recovery, I can’t really remember what it was like to want to drink or use. I don’t remember the feeling of craving. This may be due to the fullness of my life now, and how inspired I am on a daily basis to do the right thing. As a single mom of two teenage girls, there is little time to indulge in any sort of self pity. Often, when people ask me how I am doing, I have to stop and check in, as I am, I really am, what I am doing- not how I am feeling. Feelings are secondary. I have a lot to do, and I don’t do it grudgingly. I have a gold thread of joy that ties it all together, whether its a day of work and feeding kids and driving to appointments and doing laundry, or a blessedly relaxed and rare day by the pool. I am not discontent. My life has purpose, and that fills the hole that was once a gaping maw of want and need.
There is one aspect of my recovery, however, that is without a doubt one of the biggest and least talked about. I am, for the sake of this dialogue, skipping over principles, and my Higher Power, and working with others, as I have spoken at length about all of the above in previous blogs. The aspect I am referring to is the element of PLAY.
Play, and a playful attitude, are pivotal to my very existence. It is something that, if you removed it from me, would render me lifeless, a zombie, a robot, which is what I was when I was using. Serving only my appetites reduced me to being a slave to them. But as I got sober, I realized how profound the playful aspect was for me. I need to do things like go to the beach to build sandcastles and hunt for starfish and run with dogs. I have to sing as loud as I can in my car, louder than my head and its incessant thinking. I need to end my day with a plate full of warm cookies. I need to go play paintball, and run around and get dirty and get paint all in my hair and hoot and holler. I need to dance in the aisles of the grocery store, to embarrass my kids. I need to interact playfully with the guy at 7-11 or the gas station or the woman at the check out counter at Trader Joe’s. I need to hula hoop, even though I suck at it, and go to Disneyland or to ride rollercoasters. I need to BOUNCE through my day, no matter what I am doing.
I don’t know about you, but for me, its THE gold thread that holds my life in sobriety together- its is the playful loving golden thread of God. It invites the spirit of play into all my affairs, and I find that the universe plays with me in kind. There is love in playfulness, and the universe is always and ever loving. The only time it isn’t is NEVER- but we often are not open to it, and at those times it will seem like the universe is conspiring against us. So often we are so focused on ourselves that we do not see how the world has opened its arms to us, urging us forward into new personal adventures while we cling to our old ideas with a white knuckled death grip, insisting on taking it all personally.
The thing that gets my goat is that you can’t ever really tell anyone that they are holding onto old ideas, that life is amazing and that the seemingly unfortunate event they are currently in is a great blessing, that the universe is inviting them to play while they are busy indulging in outdated belief systems. This will only piss a person off. They don’t want to hear it. Usually they want you to recognize their suffering, to co-sign it, and that is no help, either. The only person who I can tell this to is me. When I get confronted by scenarios that I don’t have any answers for, that I become fearful or worried about, I am the only one who can say- “Hey, this is a gift. You aren’t seeing it right because you are making yourself the focus. Snap out of it, homegirl. This doesn’t work, plus its no fun!” All challenges are invitations to grow. Many of them I created by my own myopia, and I get to learn not to repeat that mistake. Sometimes they are a cleansing- things are removed from my life that have outlived their usefulness, and I need to make room for new experiences. And because I have a highly developed sense of play, which has a bounce to it, a built in spring, if you will- I can easily bounce back from most things that I almost let tackle me. Even if I start to buy the ticket to the pity parade, that spring won’t let me do it. Why? Because the pity parade is BORING, and the bounce wants to bounce, and the play wants to play. Life is fun if you say it is, if you take a stand to adopt the spirit of play and inject it into everything.
There will be some who may think that there is no levity in their situation, and to them I want to say, they may be right. I haven’t walked in anyone else’s shoes, and there may be some situations that are so dark that light can’t get in there. Or maybe a little can, but not enough to smile about yet. For them I will say there is always hope, and there is always something to marvel at, and it could always be worse. It could always be worse. The only people for whom that isn’t true are not here to say it to anymore. If you are on this planet, if you woke up today, then it could be worse.