Sweeping the Floors

(Photo by Beatriz Biuzzo on Pexels.com)

It was a Tuesday night AA meeting, not one I usually went to. However, my schedule was different that day, and I needed a meeting. So I went. 

It was a commitment meeting, the kind where outside chapters come in to provide fresh perspectives and stories. The first guy to step up to the podium was a big, tall man with a long full beard. His hair was equally long, gathered in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. 

“How can I relate to this man? What can he teach me about sobriety?” I wondered, shifting in my seat. I was newly sober then, not fully aware of my character defects. (Truth be told, I’m still working on them.) What I was doing was unfairly judging this man, and in doing so, I had already decided that I had nothing to learn from him so my listening ears started to turn off. Then he said something that opened my eyes. 

Addiction is sitting in a kitchen chair, looking down at the floor, and realizing the floor is dirty. Initially, it’s not dirty enough for you to do anything about it. Gradually it becomes too much to ignore, and then you decide to take action. You clean the floors. You’ve achieved recovery. 

You maintain the clean floors for a little while, doing a little bit of work every day. Then eventually, you think, “they’re clean enough,” so you stop being so diligent in your work. You sit back down again. The floors become dirty. You’ve relapsed. 

Even if you don’t pick up a drink again, if you’re not cleaning your floors regularly and putting in the work of recovery, then you’re not healing. Initially, it’s daily work. It’s hitting your knees morning and night, attending meetings frequently, reading the literature, working through the steps with a sponsor. As you strengthen your relationship to your higher power and feel more grounded and confident in your sobriety, you may not necessarily be doing all of that every day, but sobriety is still a decision that’s made one day at a time. All you have is 24 hours. 

Those wise words struck a chord within me. The analogy was perfect, a good representation of the road I was facing ahead. I learned so much from this man, whom I wrongly assumed could teach me nothing. My ears were wide open the rest of the meeting, and now I eagerly await to see what each new speaker can teach me. No matter if they look like me or seem like they can relate to me on the outside, I try to be open and listen wholly. That man’s carefully planned words seemed so relevant to me.

For the last two years, I had been wondering if my floors were dirty. Friends had told me, years earlier, that they were. I thought all twenty-somethings had floors like mine. Looking back, other people don’t justify how dirty their floors are getting while they sit back on their ass and watch. 

I cleaned my floors when I though I hit rock bottom. I stayed sober from all alcohol for a week, but since I “didn’t have a problem” with malts (beers, seltzers, etc) I let them back in. After another week week, I was drinking liquor and wine again. I thought that since I had cleaned my floors, I was okay enough to drink again. I couldn’t be more wrong- I sank even lower than I had just weeks before. 

Even after that, one of the worst experiences of my life (if not the worst), I *still* drank. I had to, if I wanted to forget what happened, feel less anxious around other people, or to even just feel like a fraction of myself again. I drank to remember, I drank to forget. 

Thankfully in the wee morning hours after an emotionally long Christmas, while I was switching from wine to vodka (after I already had more than a bottle of wine to myself), I had a an epiphany. This is NOT living. This is addiction, and it’s winning. It has already taken so much from me- my sense of control, my sense of safety, my frustration tolerance, my relationship to the love of my life- I can’t let it take anything more. It even almost took my life. I’m DONE. 

With that, I dumped the alcohol down the drain, and for a brief moment, felt overcome with pride in myself. That feeling was quickly replaced by anxiety. Can I do this? I thought to myself. 

It hasn’t always been easy- but yes I can, I will, and I have. And I’ll keep doing it. In the nearly six months since that day, sobriety has given me back so much of what alcohol took from me. I’m extremely grateful. 

For now, I’m going to keep sweeping up my floors every day.

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