Lucky Number Thirteen

There seems to be an idea that 13 is an unlucky number and even after reading the article "What's So Unlucky About the Number 13?" I am not really 100% sure why. But we all have our things, and I for one, have plenty of them. But that's a story for another day.

For me the 01-01-2021 marked 13 years of sobriety and abstinence from the recreational use of habit-forming substances. What that means is that I don't drink and I don't use drugs for fun anymore. But unlike individuals in some of the mutual aid support groups, I wouldn't be seen as being 100% clean or abstinent. And this is not me justifying using, I am just very very clear on what my recovery means to me.

And what that is is this... I do not consume alcohol and I do not use narcotics. I try to be mindful of dysfunctional addictive behaviours and patterns, and I have not misused or abused anything chemical since I stopped drinking sometime in the early hours of the first of January 2007. I have used habit-forming pharmaceuticals in my recovery, but I have never developed an unhealthy dependency on any of these, and I am under ongoing psychiatric and therapeutic care to manage my anxiety, depression and substance use disorders.

So that's where I am with that, and I am extremely open about this in the work that I do as a recovery coach whose clients are mostly in some form of recovery themselves. I don't believe that I can moderate my alcohol use - I tried that a few times. And to be honest I wasn't much of a fan of chemicals, so that was easy to be done with. But I did like to drink - a lot! Not every day necessarily, although there was a period where that did happen. It was more of a balls to the wall kind of approach to booze, take no prisoners and see you on the flip side, MO.

While I was running bars and restaurants in the mid- to late 90s it was more of a daily affair, but it did become more of a binge relationship when I left the industry. Once I started I couldn't get enough until I was too sick to raise my head for days. Curled around the base of a toilet with my check pressed to the cold floor tiles in a quest for some kind of physical, emotional and mental relief. And what I realised many years into recovery, was that I was incapable of practising anything resembling spiritual principles or values, which was the really debilitating part of being a person who drank and behaved the way that I did.

Honest - no! Courageous - hell no! Integrity - pass! Authentic - not! And on and on with the inability to show up and lean into the ideals and values that I thought were so important. Well as long as there wasn't drinking to be done. The truth is that I didn't quite get that until I had been in recovery about eight or nine years. Call me a little slow on the uptake on this one.

But here's the funny part of the story. I was stumbling down a pavement in Taiwan sometime after midnight on the morning of January 1st, and fell into a hole. Not just any hole mind you, but an uncovered (man)hole. And of course I fell straight into what could only have been a sewer. Because if nothing else, the stench of the contents did break through my drunken haze. Ripped dress + bruised body and ego + ungodly smell = spiritual awakening (or whatever you want to call it). I'd been sober before and gone through a treatment programme. Spent some time in the rooms battling with the notion of a higher power. And nothing had come close to the clarity I experienced as I was unceremoniously pulled from the depths of an Asian gutter.

It's a really funny story when I tell it in person. And I really don't want people to think shame poor you! A healthy dose of shit-based reality was exactly what I needed to see where I was heading. After years of trying to stop drinking, pulled back into my bad behaviour by the promise of fun and revelry, I was suddenly clear that I was done. Simply put; that was that for that part of it. A hot shower, a change of clothes, a bad night's sleep and when I got up later that day I was determined it was going to be New Year! New Me!

And it's been the one decision I have made that I have been committed to over the past 13 years. I have done the work and cried the tears. I have gritted my teeth, learned to pause, connected with my personal needs, wants and values, and learned how to put down a whole boatload of healthy, self-loving boundaries. I have embraced certain people, and walked away from others. I have been honest and authentic about my process, and I have had spectacular emotional and spiritual meltdowns along the way. I have missed the sparkle of champagne bubbles, but not the revolting self-hatred of hangovers. I remember the good times and the bad times. I certainly have a much lower tolerance for small talk and general bullshit. And I'd say on the whole I have way more authentic meaning and purpose than when I was running up bar tabs and hauling ass through my work days.

It hasn't all been happy, smiley days. There have been horrendous periods in my life and I have developed resources and resilience to help me cope (sometimes barely) in those times without going back to the three loves of my life; Jack, José and Johnny. I haven't handled everything well and sometimes I forget where my pause button is, but I keep on getting up and showing up as courageously as possible. I continue to have my challenges with food, family and finding myself, but I'm betting that I'm doing a whole lot better than if I hadn't listened to the universe when she got some unsuspecting troublemaker to slip that cover off the (man)hole on that particular stretch of pavement on that exact night when I was walking down it. I heard that message loud and clear, and have been deeply grateful for my experience, pretty much every time I stop to connect with the essence my recovery.

So now instead of drowning my sorrows, I have learned to respond (well mostly) to my emotions and decide what I want to do in the situations that present themselves to me on pretty much an hourly basis. I do the work! I push through the pain! I practice gratitude and self-love. I surround myself with incredible people and I do work that is extremely meaningful. And I try and practice all the tools I have learned and teach. Every one of these endeavours is a practice in courage, authenticity, integrity and love. And I have a really strong feeling that this particular 13 might be one of fortune, fulfilment and fun adventures.

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