What My Heart Heard

**Commemorating my recent sobriety birthday, I wax nostalgic.**

When I cried out in the depths of my disease “I have a good heart” only one person believed me.  My mom had no reason to, neither did my sister.  My sister-in-law likely figured she knew better but no one else bothered to listen.  It was only my sponsor who believed.  I remember when I said it.  I was in the middle of my rented room, a pile of newspapers stacked between the closet mirror and my desk.  I had been crying, crumpled on the floor.

Not many people in my family believed much about my recovery.  Not many of them had reason to.  Why would they when we didn’t talk and, as far as they could tell, I still did everything I used to do, everything they didn’t like me doing?  I was trying to do everything different.  I was doing the best I could.

Most people are doing the best they can.  I would do well to remember this.  It would make for far less disappointment and I’d have far fewer unmet expectations.  I’d likely be a little happier with others and others would likely be a little happier with me.  Maybe the same can be said of my sister and brothers.  Maybe they were judging me as best they knew how.  Maybe I was judging them by their furrowed brow.  My brother wore it when he saw me doing better for the first time in a long time.  My sponsor saw it better than I did.  “Peter, as angry as you are, your brother’s even angrier.”  Maybe my brother had reason to be.  Maybe I did too.  Maybe holding onto our anger was the best we both could do.

“Maybe I’d be better be off if they’d try to understand me” I’d say.

“Maybe they’d be better off if you tried to understand them” he’d play.

My sponsor constantly reminded me to look in the mirror.

“There’s not much in my life I want to see.”

“There’s so much more in your life and there’s even more for you to be.”

“But I haven’t done much with my life” I’d fight.

“You seem to be doing pretty well now” he’d recite.

“I’m crying in the corner because I don’t know what to do.”

“You’re crying in the corner because you’re feeling blue…and that’s ok” he’d say.

My sponsor would remind me my feelings, good, bad, otherwise were just feelings to be felt.  They were never right nor wrong.  They just were…were to be felt, held, welcomed and embraced.

My idea had always been to run from my feelings.  There never was a feeling I really liked.  Feelings were just painful and I held so much pain I couldn’t bear to hold anymore.  My bottle helped me to feel nothing at all and nothing was wonderful!

Do you see that?  For me, feeling nothing, feeling different, feeling fixed is so much better than feeling good.  That’s a sign and a symptom of my illness.  Normal people will take “feeling good”.  I’ll take “feeling nothing” even if I’m not often understood.

Riding waves of ordinary, everyday feelings were sweeping me away.  It felt like I was constantly in decay.  Cramped, crying in my corner I’d call out to my sponsor asking “When will it get better? ”

“It already has, Peter.  You’re feeling feelings.  When’s the last time you felt feelings without drinking them away?”

“But it hurts and I don’t know what to do!”

“You’re doing it. You’re living life and you’re doing it sober.  You finally have a clue.  Look around. At this moment is there really anything wrong?  Are chunks of blue falling from the sky? Are your friends saying ‘I can’t take you anymore?’  Is your mom threatening to call the police if you show up on her front door?  No.  The birds outside are singing but you’re crying on your floor.”

It was that.  That worked.  Those words, they did it.  They were spoken to my good heart and I was willing to believe.  That simple, stupid message was enough for me to see my life was getting better in spite, and not because, of me.

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