Day 160: The Graduate

If I could put into words exactly how important this day is in the timeline of my life, I would.

But, I can’t.

I can say that today, I am pretty fucking proud. Proud of my own balls. My guts and glory. And, while AA would have us all put our egos aside, today, I graduated rehab, so, AA can step down for the day.

I used to think that it was AA that really saved me, gave me my sobriety, kept me sober. But, today, as I sit in a circle of my peers, my fellow fuck-ups in rehab, I know that isn’t true. Rehab saved me too. It just took until today for me to see the whole picture. And, that picture looks like this:

I’m strong. I’m candid. I’m zany. I’m quiet. I’m loud. I’m funny. I’m cerebral. Yes, I’m all these things.

When I got to rehab, I thought I knew who I was. I just knew I couldn’t stay sober long enough to think about it. But, the truth is, when I actually got sober, I realized that without booze, I was pretty void. I’d lost all these elements that at one time or another made me who I was. They’d all slipped away because I’d let myself slip away. Broken and torn, I resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t think I was worth much. That I didn’t have much to offer, personally or professionally. That I was miserable and unlovable. Easily leave-able. And, alcohol, alcohol was the buddy that made all that bearable.

Without drinking, all that hate and doubt, pain and mistrust, it all quickly became unbearable.

AA may have given me the biggest tool bag in sobriety, but rehab, rehab gave me back that unnameable joie de vivre that I’d lost. That ability to act out how I felt I should, without fear of being judged or being wrong. It taught me that I am what I am. That I’m a person worth advocating for, and when I need to, that’s what I should do. It taught me that building boundaries is OK. That people you love, people you hate, people you work with…they’re not you. They won’t always agree with you or understand you. They won’t always like you. It’s OK. As long as I am me. That true version. The version I blotted out. The version I had to rebuild.

I sat in a circle today with all my rehab-ers. They went around, one by one, saying nice things, speaking encouraging words, sharing stories of the amazing memories we’ve made in the last five months. And, it struck me, these people know me. Know me. The quirky, off-color, fussy, fun, and strong me. The fearless me. The me that I created and nurtured, right here, in rehab. These people know me better than some of my closest friends and relatives. They know me, because it wasn’t necessary for me to put on a show here. I could just be. There were no expectations. No one was counting on me. No one needed me to fill a specific hole or play some assigned role. I just came here, and was. I spoke my truth.

Today, I feel all the love of my little, addict community. I feel the impact that I’ve made on these people. And, it’s significant. As I shared my final share, expressing my gratitude for the acceptance and the room for growth these people allowed me, I saw that all my strength, the thing I thought I had built up, just for me, was in this group. Something we built together. Something we share.

As I walked to my car after the ceremony, my heart was so full of love, I thought it might burst. I have my sobriety, but, I also have this incredible family. A family, like my family of origin, that I can return to and be safe with. Always.

Today, I got a cake with an an Irish blessing, white and green frosting, and a Celtic cross. I got a card signed by everyone. I got a bag full of chocolate, tea, and almonds, my favorite snacks. I got a bromeliad. I got a coin that reads: ‘When you come to the edge of all you know, you must believe in one of two things: There will be Earth on which to stand or you will be given wings.’ I got a rehab diploma in which I ‘graduate to life!’ I got hugs. I got tears. I got kind, loving words that will ring in my ears until the day I die.

Oh, and, I got my life back. That too.

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