By: Deb Palmer

 

 

“We design our lives through the power of choices.”― Golden Flower

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Choosing Our Fate Runs in the Family

 

When my children were little, I offered choices like clean your room or scrub toilets, get along or spend the day pulling weeds. 

“You choose,” I’d say with a smile. Choices empowered them to decide their fate. 

I’m the same way. No dictators allowed!

 

I Chose Recovery

 

Last month I celebrated my sobriety, a choice I made 28 years ago. Initially, I doubt I would have agreed to a single week of abstaining—what a daunting thought. Yet, as “one-day-at a time,” stacked up, I began to see the potential benefits of the alien lifestyle. 

The obvious perks? No hangovers or pissed off friends and family. After actively working and living the steps of recovery, surprise advantages surfaced. Strained relationships healed. My normal lifestyle shifted from mayhem and drama to one of peace and serenity.

Mind you; I am not saying my life became perfect, in fact, quite the opposite. 

 

Choosing New Coping Methods

 

Life with its jabs and punches just kept on coming. My old coping techniques died, yet failures, losses, debts, disagreements survived sobriety. No longer could I drink them away or rid my life of people because, after all, people are the source of a messy life. Or so I once believed. 

So, you’d think after 28 years of truly enjoying a sober life, I would NEVER question whether or not I should step off that old wagon adage. 

Would it really be a problem today? Maybe this time, I’d be satisfied with just one drink, make saner choices, treat others better. I never could before, but hey, I know better now. Right?

Here are the sober truths: 

  • If you are living the steps of recovery, you’ve got to acknowledge every day that God is all-powerful, and you are not. 
  • If you keep an inventory of wrongs, you create ways to right the wrongs.
  • If you’re embracing fellowship, that means listening to others.
  • When you do all of those things, it’s tough to say yes to a drink. 

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Choosing to Ask the Hard Questions

 

Sober, I naturally ask good questions like:

  • Do I want to trade the life I have today for the one I once had?
  • Is there something from my drinking days I miss enough to risk the blessings gained in sobriety
  • What would I say to my children and grandchildren, after years of modeling a sober alternative lifestyle? 
  • What would they process and learn, witnessing me tossing it all away?

Those are all good questions because it makes us choose whether or not we want a life of sobriety. After all, that gives us the power of choice. I once believed a life without alcohol would not be worth living. The opting out of that life didn’t exist in my world. As a child from a strong Scotch/Irish family, I could hardly wait to have my first drink and second, third… seventh. I certainly never gave a thought to my LAST drink. Why would I choose to let the booze sopped roots of my family tree dry out, wither and die? 

At times our family appeared perfect and beautiful. Yet, when taking a sober look back without the false hope of what I wanted it to be, there’s a glaring flaw—you could never exhale until the proverbial poo hit the fan. We all knew it was coming. Even a simple family event, like a campfire in the woods, began as wholesome as the family photo in the dime store wallet. Uncle Roy and son Larry playing steel guitars accompanied by Uncle Sam on the fiddle.

Cousins sunburned after a day wading in Eight-Mile Creek, their tummies filled with corn-on-the-cob and Aunt Lizzie’s buttermilk biscuits. All gathered around the blazing stone-lined fire, singing, You are my Sunshine— Your Cheatin’ Heart— and my favorite— Sue City Sue. The Cleavers’ with an Irish twist. 

 

Here Come the Bad Choices

 

But then…

Someone (usually Uncle Roy), takes a drunken fall into the fire, and so it begins. Chaos emerges like a swarm of uninvited mosquitos, the sting zapping the good parts from the scene. No matter what the gathering, havoc eventually rears its ugly head. 

Picture a memorable Thanksgiving dinner followed by a group nap of round-belly relatives, or an innocent family card game. Just when you think it’s safe, fists purple eyes or Uncle Elden chases Aunt Nell with a butcher knife, or Cleo screeches out of the driveway with husband Frank’s bottom hanging out from under the hood. 

And always without exception, words that should not have been said, flow, leaving scars to innards and needed treasures like trust and security die an ugly death. 

These things I remember when sober. These are the details I might forget after an intended couple of drinks turns to a few and keeps counting. Sober, I can reason that I would never let those things happen around my family today, but before I run with that thought, I reflect on the “I would nevers” flashing check marks on my To-Don’t list. 

 

Choose: This or That

 

Sober, I can count my blessings, compare the before and after shot. Deb inebriated versus Deb sober. Today I have an amazing marriage, children who honor me, grandchildren, I hope respect the life I model. 

I have friends that were around many yesterdays, today, and will remain in my future. I run a small business. I’ve written a book. I try to reach out and love others whenever a door opens. The only impressive thing is that I’m okay being a small fish in a vast pond. I am not less nor better than anyone. 

That’s huge, coming out of the mouth of a typical addict/alcoholic. For me, that is only possible because I keep that gaping hole in my heart filled with God’s love. The God who knew all along what I needed to live and thrive in this messy world. 

 

Choose to or Have to?

 

Semantics matter. You hear people say all the time, “He had to quit drinking,” or “You must stop drinking,” or “I had to quit.” 

No.

I don’t have to stay sober. If I was stuck on an island with no fruit to ferment or my lips were sewn shut, then I might be able to say, I have to stay sober. Until then, I choose to keep sobriety a choice I make “one day at a time.” 

 

 

Bio: Deb Palmer

Deb Palmer is the co-author of “In Spite of Us- A Love Story about Second Chances.”

She lives in Yakima, Washington with her husband/co-author, Sandy. 

Deb has published an array of fiction and non-fiction articles in many print magazines, online journals, and anthologies. In addition, she writes an inspirational blog, “In Spite of Us,” known for gut-wrenching truth and humor with a message.

 

 

 

 

 

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