Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I'd been so sick over the Christmas holidays, when I woke up this morning all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. Everything ached, I was bone weary, and I could feel the advance guard of another migraine staking out its claim. So I closed my eyes, buried myself in the covers, and soon found myself walking a long darkened hallway. There were many rooms opening onto the hallway, and it looked like every hospital and rehab I'd ever been in.
Two or three times staff and patients nodded at me like they knew me, one of them congratulating me on my 30th anniversary clean and sober. "That's today," I realized in my dream. Then I heard a voice call from one of the rooms. I looked through the open door and there was a woman sitting up in her bed wearing a deep blue nightgown. She smiled and congratulated me on my 30th. We hugged, and then she began crying and telling me about a friend of ours who had relapsed, gone out again, and died. Still hugging, I begged her to hang on.
That was when I realized that she was once a newcomer I tried to help many years ago who had died. The friend she had mentioned was another addict I had tried to help who had disappeared one day without a word. I never saw him again. There was another door to her room, and there was a man standing in the doorway wearing a hospital johnny and those slipper sox. He was a small man with gray hair, and was another newcomer I had tried to help who had died.
We hugged and he congratulated me on my 30th anniversary, but his voice was heavily laced with sarcasm. Another person came into the room, then another, more faces of those I'd tried to help, some I knew were dead, others I hadn't heard.
They were making comments about all my health problems, my mistakes, and my failures. The sense of the comments was that I was kidding myself about recovery, about addiction, about Narcotics Anonymous, and mostly the nonsense about one addict helping another. There were dozens of them, then hundreds—and I found myself at the bottom of a deep pit, lying on my back, weighted down by iron bars across my legs and chest, the walls and the space over the top of the pit made of faces, and I knew them all. Mostly they were newcomers who sat in on one meeting long enough to pick up a meeting list with my name and number on it, then went right out of the hall back into that deadly nightmare. Others were sponsees I'd had who only paused long enough to ask me to sponsor them before going out again. There were a few long-time sponsees who had succumbed to the disease and were now dead.
Scattered among all of the addicts were other faces of family and professional associates, each one talking about a lack of success, a disappointment, a crime against me, until I had a mountain of my failures, frustrations, and horrors towering over me. Then I head one of the faces make a comment about what a waste I was. Another made an additional comment, and that was the one I answered. My voice came out all distorted as I gasped for air. But I said to them all: "It's true I'm not the big famous author I wanted to be, and it's true I'm not as rich as I wanted to be, but if I don't pick up a drink or a drug today, I'll have another day clean."
Suddenly I was again out of that pit and walking those darkened hallways, a staff member thanking me for my visit. I stepped outside into the cold, turned around, and the door, the building, that peculiar corner of Hell had vanished. I was in a parking lot and there were several of us still in the program wishing each other goodnight as at the end of a meeting. I said good night to everyone, Got into my car, and began driving home, waking up in the process.
It is the easiest thing in the world for me to consider myself a failure. It is my disease's most important weapon against my sobriety. But—what a gift, this dream! If I don't pick up a drink or a drug today, I'll have another day clean."
That is power.
That is life.
That is success!