By Bill L.August 19, 2020
Hope, when viewed through the rearview mirror, is nothing more than willingness.
That statement sums up my early experience with hope … hope is a pretty scarce commodity for an alcoholic in the throws of addiction. In fact, there isn’t a point in my life when I felt more hopeless than when I hit my bottom.
That’s the tricky thing about addiction, it robbed me of hope and, the more hopeless I became, the more I needed to drink. It’s like a serpent eating its tail… a non-virtuous cycle that feeds on itself.
I’ve been in recovery now for 10 years. I know what hope is today. And every day I wake up with deep gratitude for what I have and a profound hope for what is yet to come. But it wasn’t always so.
I was cursed from a young age with what I call the Terrible Trifecta: I was an alcoholic with an extremely high tolerance for alcohol and a cast-iron stomach. Let that sink in for a moment. What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out a lot.
My drinking career was fairly non-eventful until I hit my 40s. That’s when my body stopped rebounding from excessive alcohol intake to the point where I needed to start drinking in the mornings in order to be able to survive another minute in my own skin.
“And that’s the tricky thing about addiction, it robbed me of hope and, the more hopeless I became, the more I needed to drink.”
Sometimes I couldn’t wait until morning. Sometimes I would wake up and drink through the night too. I was in a death spiral. Literally.
In the final months of my drinking, I was hospitalized three times with acute alcohol poisoning. Each time my BAC was above a .4 and the last two times my wife was called to come say her good-byes.
Three times I cheated death. After the third time, I became willing. Willingness was born of surrender. I didn’t know what to do; I only knew where to go. In my case it was AA.
First I surrendered. My best thinking is what got me where I was. I had to borrow someone else’s thinking for a bit. Once I surrendered, I became willing—willing to try anything, willing to listen to anyone, willing to find people who had what I wanted, and (the hardest part) willing to take direction.
I suppose that’s what hope looks like in its earliest incarnation: surrender and willingness. But it blossoms over time. And each new day in sobriety hope becomes more real.
I’ve been on the slab three times. Three times I should have died. Each new day I remind myself of that simple fact.
And each day I replace the word “have” with the word “get”: I don’t have to do anything. I get to do everything.