Far From Alone. Written by Author and The Addictions Academy staff writer, Jay Keefe

Far From Alone. Written by The Addiction Academy staff writer, Jay Keefe

When I first got sober I took off for a month and rented a small waterfront cabin in the woods for my pups and me.

My therapist thought it was a great idea but she was a little concerned I would be isolating and isolation can be dangerous for an alcoholic.

But I went and it turned out to be one of the best summers of my life.

I woke up every day, walked my girls, ate breakfast, went to the gym, grabbed the girls and explored most of the Lakes Region and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Then we’d come home, I’d eat dinner, go to a 12-step meeting, take the girls for their evening walk and settle into bed to either read or write.

It was perfect.

I did something similar this summer but it was different this time.

I think I was trying to recapture a moment that couldn’t possibly have been recreated simply because I’m not the same person I was back then.

At first I blamed it on the weather.  The first couple of days were rainy and raw and just overall depressing.  Then I had to leave suddenly because a friend was going through a tough time with her sick mom, so I blamed it on that.

Things will be fine, I thought.  Once I get back to the lake something will magically click and it’ll be just as good as it was back in early sobriety.

But something was still off.

So I did what I was taught when I first got sober.

I went to meetings.  I got connected.

I heard a gentleman talk about being adrift, almost as if he had become untethered and was drifting aimlessly through life and had no direction.

That was exactly how I felt.

Here I was, in my favorite place in the world, with my pups, and I was sad.  I was lost and anxious (and I’m not an anxious person) and couldn’t figure why.

But this guy’s analogy hit home.

Then he said something that kind of wrapped everything up for me in a neat, little package, something I had known all along but chose to ignore.

He said that when he is drifting, the 12-step program he and I belong to, is (and has always been) his anchor.

Bingo.

I went home and slept well that night.

A couple of days later I went to another meeting with the girl who’s mom was sick (her and her family came up to visit) and a guy I had met the prior week pulled me aside and told me it was nice to see me smile.  I didn’t realize the pain and discomfort I had been feeling was transparent enough for other people (and strangers, no less) to notice.

But it was.

Later that night, I grabbed the girl (and most of her family) and told her I wanted to show her something.

Armed with a few flashlights, we walked up to the field behind the cabin.  I told them to shut the flashlights off.  Then I told them to look up.

I’m not a talented enough writer to describe what we witnessed in that field on a late July night, but the brilliance of the stars in the sky was like nothing any of them had ever seen, so I’ll just leave it at that.

My friend had asked me a few months prior to prove to her that there was a god, that she had doubted the presence of a higher power and was lost herself.  I was in Hawaii at the time so I sent her dozens of pictures of the sun and the sky and the ocean and I sent her a picture I had unknowingly taken with a huge sunburst behind me that looked exactly like an angel radiating from the clouds.

That was her proof and she had believed.

But we as alcoholics (and humans, in general) can very easily lose sight of things, especially things that aren’t tangible.

I had been witnessing those stars every night for the past week and I wanted to share that with my friend.  I wanted her to believe again.  And maybe I wanted to believe myself.  Maybe I wanted to become anchored again.

I think it worked.  She also saw her first shooting star that night.  Coincidence?  I don’t believe in coincidences.

A week or so later I showed another friend the stars in that field and we got into a discussion about God and religion.  I told her that I didn’t believe in the organized religion I was raised on, that the thought of an old bearded guy in the clouds surrounded by angels and overseeing everything that’s ever happened (and is going to happen) was fucking absurd.

Then I told her to look up again.

“See those stars?” I said.  “I didn’t make those.  I didn’t create them.  I have no idea what did, but something did.  Do I think it was the father of Jesus?  Or Buddha?  Or some great Indian warrior?  No, I don’t.  But something did.

“I stopped trying to figure that kind of stuff out years ago.  I’m not intelligent enough to figure it out.  No one is.  But I’m intelligent enough to know that I didn’t create that sky-but something did-something greater than myself.  And that’s what I believe in.  That’s my higher power, so to speak.”

As I sit on the porch of this little cabin on my last night here I know this vacation was just a powerful and life-changing as the one I experienced almost a decade ago, maybe even more so.

I was in a wonderful place back then.  My pups were just beginning their lives and I myself was just shy of a decade younger.  And I had never explored that side of the lake, a lake that had been part of me for my entire life, and it was all new and fresh and exciting, yet familiar.  And although I didn’t have any company during my first stay, I was active and engaging.  I went to meetings, took yoga classes and never once felt like I was isolating or alone.

This time my girls and I didn’t go on any hikes.  Our morning and evening walks were shorter, and didn’t involve any hills.  I felt discomfort and self-pity.  And I was being stubborn.

I had been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole for months with something going on in my life and I thought a retreat to the lake would fix it.

It didn’t.

But once I started doing the things I knew I should be doing, like going to meetings, reaching out, and handing it over to something greater than myself, things fell into place.

I was able to walk through the strife and come out on the other side, better and hopefully a little wiser than before.

Do I need a constant reminder that I’m not in charge of things, that if I just have a little faith now and then, things will be all right?

No.  No I don’t.

But sometimes it helps, especially when I get a little lost.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a little field I want to go hang out in, a field that sparkles and shines with the radiance of a billion stars.

 

alone

Jay Keefe, The Addictions Academy staff writer and Director of Happiness

National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer

Published Author of “And Drink I Did”

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