How strong are you? I asked myself. How strong are you willing to let your Higher Power be?
This was last night. Election Night. I sat on my boyfriend’s sofa, watching one state after another turn red. It was like a nightmare. We alternated between speechlessly staring at the screen, to flipping through social media, trying to get information faster. My mood turned from panicky to numb as the red and blue lines zig-zagged across the chart. When the final results came, we turned off the TV.
Trump. My country had elected Trump. And a Republican House and Senate.
It was the worst case scenario for someone like me. I’m an addict in recovery, who relies on the Affordable Care Act for insurance coverage. I’m a woman, who relies on Planned Parenthood for reproductive and wellness care. I’m a mother, who has fed her child with food stamps more than once. I’m a survivor of multiple rapes, who needs to believe that not all men want to “grab me by the pussy” in order to be able to leave the house. I’m a single parent, who counts on a robust economy in order to stay employed and provide for my family. I felt my sense of security evaporate.
I was afraid, but I didn’t panic. And most importantly, I didn’t drink.
The day I got sober was the day I joined the No Matter What Club, and I intend to keep my membership in good standing. It’s not the easy road, but my experience is that it’s absolutely worth it. I don’t put much faith in platitudes, but I have learned that I am much tougher than I thought—and that, when the chips are down, I can trust myself to stick to my principles.
When I was early in my recovery, I had plenty of opportunities to test my resolve. I remember kneeling by my bed one night, and praying, “God, please remove everything that separates me from you. Help me to know your power.”
In short order, my world was turned upside down. My husband told me he wanted a divorce. I slept in my car or on friends’ couches while I sent out job applications and asked everyone I knew for work. I brought my 18-month-old child to AA meetings, hoping that he would be welcome, too. No home, no job, no money. It was the worst time I could have imagined—and it happened so fast that it took my breath away. I was afraid every waking minute. But I was even more afraid of drinking, because I knew what that would do to me. I stayed sober.
In meetings, I heard other people talk about losing their children, their loved ones, and their jobs. I heard stories about horrific divorces, much worse than mine. But they were sober. In the middle of my blind despair, that message got through to me. I don’t have to drink, no matter what. And then it changed to: Nothing on this earth can compel me to give up my sobriety.
That mindset has gotten me through one nightmare after another. Deaths, losses, heartaches. I’ve been fired and stayed sober. I’ve moved. I’ve attended funerals. I was fully present for all of it. I got what I prayed for—I really am connected to life, now, whether I like it or not. I cannot look away.
When I truly had nothing, I was left with my recovery. I began to see that it really is the most valuable thing that I have—even if nobody else feels that way. I have a sobriety date that doesn’t change. I have an unbreakable bond with my Higher Power. And I have the assurance that, no matter what, I can trust myself to stay sober in all conditions. It is not easy, but it is absolutely worth it. Years later, I can face things that terrify me without anesthetic of any kind. I’m still a member of the No Matter What Club.
For me, that means that I don’t pick up a drink or a drug under any circumstances. I believe that the relief from the madness of active addiction is a gift—and that it is mine forever, as long as I take care of myself and let The Dude do the rest.
As much as the outcome of this election frightens and discourages me—as afraid as I am of what might be next for our country, for people like me—I know that I will face this future, sober. My recovery is still my greatest asset, and I will use it to help other people until my heart stops beating.
Nothing can change that. Nobody can take that away. No matter what.