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Don’t Let Tragedy Bring You Down

I’m going to tell you a secret, just in case you don’t know it. Life isn’t perfect after you get sober. Many people fail at recovery because they truly believe that getting sober will make life perfect, everything will go smoothly, there will be no more bumps in the road, relationships will be delightful. Right. The truth is, life is incredibly hard in every way – emotionally, professionally, physically – if you’re sober or not and most people use alcohol and drugs to make it go by easier. That’s normal, that’s human nature. That’s life. As recovering alcoholics or addicts we can’t go through life with that kind of thinking, “A drink can ease the stress, or a joint will make me care less.”

No, we have to care and feel and sit with whatever feelings this complicated life throws our way. I’m a New Yorker who lived through 9/11. It was a time like no other. Never before have Americans, much less the mighty New Yorker, felt so vulnerable. Symbols of American patriotism, honor and success were destroyed and thousands were killed, and it proved we are at risk at home. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, the following year was nothing short of devastating. The streets rang with the calls of desperate wives and children continuing to search for their fallen husbands or fathers, memorials were set up everywhere, and you couldn’t go a day without being reminded what happened to our friends, families and city.

Paris is in for the same year. They now have to change how they do everything—from how they manage travel, to border control to the subways to anything and everything that can now be seen as weak. It’s a nightmare. I spent many wonderful trips in Paris. Never did we worry. Things will never be the same. I’m so sorry for them and all their loss, but this is important:

Remember the saying ‘no good deed goes unpunished?’ Apply it here. You got sober. You did that for you and to save your life and the things that matter. Yes, we’re all experiencing tragedies right now and yes, the desire to relapse and say FUCK IT are overwhelming. But that’s just proving them all right. That’s letting the justice system say we’re all weak. That’s letting our diseases destroy the incredibly hard work we’ve done.

That’s putting pain above faith. We don’t do that.

We were shown how to feel pain and walk through it so we can show other people how. Now is our time to shine. Remember, you may be the only big book someone ever sees. Crash course:

1. Don’t isolate! Call those friends, mentors, relatives (if you dare). Fuck it, if you’re a loner like me, go to the movies, get to the store and run those errands. Just get out and be in the world. See those faces, see the sun, see the things that remind you why you want to live. Because you do. If you got sober, you do.

2. If you attend recovery groups – double up don’t double down. No gambling pun intended. Do everything they taught you to do in those first 30 days. Do it like your life depends on it. It might.

3. Help these people in crisis!!! We are a group of people who believe in service so go online and see what you can do to help.

Please forgive me, I hate sounding preachy, but personally I’ve worked with people who have overcome the impossible. Life isn’t pretty every day. It doesn’t feel good every day. But, it’s worth it. No one said this would be easy and filled with rainbows and sunshine daily, but it’s amazing. Getting to see yourself change and then the honor of getting to see someone else change is a blessing. You don’t know the miracle it is until you’ve seen it happen. It makes life worth living.

I’ve seen people forgive the unforgivable. I’ve forgiven the unforgivable. It takes time and patience and tears, so let them out, but forgive. Not because someone deserves forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. Bad people exist, and in recovery we need to dig extra deep, find extra forgiveness, and pray extra hard that the sick and suffering hopefully find their way. That’s all we can do—then we take care of ourselves, and each other, and don’t let ourselves get sucked in by that bad stuff.

You didn’t get sober to throw it away over the bad behavior of other people. Find your inner strength, do what you were taught to do and join together to support your fellows and don’t leave any wounded behind. We are taught love and tolerance, and while we hate finding it, it always works. Look at where hate and terrorism get people – dead and causing pain and suffering all over the globe. Love and tolerance never results in that.

Use your tools, find your friends and hang on tight. Resentments are the number one offenders.