Archive | January, 2016

I Have a Dream….or a Flag

18 Jan

In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but rather the silence of our friends.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most people remember Martin Luther King, Jr. for his “I Have a Dream” speech from August 28th, 1963. He had so many other memorable quotes, it’s hard for me to choose just one for this piece. The one above really resonated with me. But on this weekend when we celebrate Reverend King, I am reminded of another remarkable civil rights figure, Rosa Parks. I had the distinct honor of meeting Ms. Parks back in 1991 at a Congressional Black Caucus event in Washington, D.C., which I attended with a very good friend of mine. Rosa Parks was nearly 80 years old and in a wheel chair, and I remember getting goosebumps when I got the chance to shake her small, frail hand.

Fast forward about fifteen years, when my daughter was in first grade. She told us one day that she was learning about Rosa Parks in school. I told her all about my encounter with Ms. Parks and what an honor it was for me to meet her, and encouraged her to share that story with her teacher and her classmates. I thought it would be pretty neat for a first grader to tell her class that her mom had met someone famous they were studying.

A few days went by, and I asked my daughter if she told her teacher and her classmates that I had met Rosa Parks. Her eyes welled up with tears and she said, “Yes, I did, but they didn’t believe me.” “What do you mean they didn’t believe you? I met her! It was such a great privilege! I’ll have to talk to your teacher.” So the next time I was in her class volunteering, I broached the subject with her teacher. Prepared to provide the details of my experience with Ms. Parks, I said to the teacher “My daughter said she shared with you and the class that I met Rosa Parks and that you all didn’t believe her. It’s true. I did meet her. At Congressional Black Caucus in 1991. She was in a wheelchair…..” I was prepared to go on but I realized I already sounded more than a little defensive. I shut up long enough for the teacher to speak and tell me this: “No, we didn’t believe her.  Because she told us you met Betsy Ross.” Ouch. I may be old….but not THAT old.

Each person must live their life as a model for others. – Rosa Parks

A Bridge of Silver Wings

1 Jan

I think I’ve mentioned it many times before in my blog, but I hate New Year’s Eve. I hated it when I was drinking and I hate it now that I’m sober. At least I could tolerate it more when I drank. But as an alcoholic, I considered it amateur night. What most people drank on New Year’s Eve was about what I consumed on a normal day. And, as someone who suffers from depression, the end of the year wrap-ups and forced look back at my life always bring me down. The news channels faithfully play some sappy song and run through all of the people who have passed away throughout the year. People use New Year’s Eve as an excuse to get stinking, obnoxiously drunk. You couldn’t pay me enough money to stand squished between a zillion other people in NYC to watch a ball drop. What’s the attraction? I don’t know if there is an Ebenezer Scrooge equivalent for New Year’s, but if so, I think I would fit the bill.

For the past few years, I’ve stayed home and just avoided the whole scene. It was too hard and too tempting that early in my sobriety. My friends invited me to their New Year’s Eve parties, which I greatly appreciated, but I just couldn’t do it. This year, I decided to go, at least for a little while. It was nice to be with friends in a beautiful house with delicious food and lots of warmth. But also lots of drinking. It got louder and louder. They were having a great time—drinking, dancing, eating, partying. Most of them told me that they were glad I came and that they understood that it must be hard for me to be around so much drinking. I left when I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to be strong for that much longer, nowhere close to midnight.

I felt badly leaving, like a big party-pooper, and felt like I was cheating my family out of staying and having a good time. These are the times when it sucks to be an alcoholic. My son asked me this morning why we are always the first ones to leave the party. Ouch. But if I don’t keep myself sober, I’d feel like I’m cheating my family out of a hell of a lot more.

Thank goodness this time of year, around the holidays, you can pretty much find a meeting any time, day or night. I knew it was important for me to go to a meeting yesterday, New Year’s Eve, and I’m so glad I went. No matter how bad you think you’ve got it, there’s always someone who is worse off. I heard several people talk about how rough 2015 was for them, and I mean rough. They were more than ready for the year to come to an end. Most importantly, I heard the speaker talking about how crucial it is to never forget the pain or the “gift of desperation” that brought us into the rooms of AA. I felt incredibly blessed to have somewhere to go where I could be with other alcoholics who get it. And I realized that my 2015 really wasn’t so bad.

So I woke up this morning, a new day, a new year, ready for a fresh start. I can choose how I’m going to face this upcoming year and what my attitude will be. It’s already off to a good start. I went to walk a friend’s dogs and ran into a bunch of families playing kickball in the park. I joined them for a little while and had a great time. One of my friends there told me what she was feeding her family, a tradition of New Year’s foods for “health and wealth” (black-eyed peas and collard greens). I told her I’d take all the health and wealth I could, and she showed up at my door a few hours later with a sample for us.

Hopefully now the toughest parts of the holidays are behind me and I can stop my whining to you all. Thanks for being there to listen and for your encouragement to stay strong. I really appreciate it. For those of you out there who are still struggling, don’t give up. It’s much better on the other side of the bottle. Much better. Happy New Year.

“A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare to the jeweled vision of a life started anew.”
― Aberjhani

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