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[ Personal Narratives ]

Moments of Clarity

I admit I’ve always been fascinated by them.

Moments when time stands still. When intuition practically yells at you – do NOT miss this!

You see, I have come to believe that all people in long term recovery have these moments and they are somehow related to a power greater than us. Of course I am sure all humans have these moments. But for some reason, addicts’ recoveries almost depend on the recognition of them and an ability to re-use them when the times call for it. And they do. And they get passed on to others to ponder.

In my recovery, which is well into its 28th year, I quickly recall five key moments that changed my life. They all took place in a three-year period. A handful of frozen pieces of time where if something hadn’t happened, if I hadn’t done something different, if I had turned left instead of right, if I had given in to the same old same old one more time, I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t be writing anything. I’d be a memory for a very few circle of friends and family to visit at a cemetery.

The first moment of clarity occurred in June 1985. I was standing at attention when it occurred, outside of a makeshift office on a Canadian warship, at sea off the West Coast. Inside that compartment, the captain stood stodgily in front of a podium, studying my less than stellar personal evaluation file. I was about to either be sentenced to military prison for a couple of months, or be granted a release from the military as I had requested. He held all the power.

A moment before being marched in front of my C.O. I said my first ever prayer. I pleaded to a God I didn’t know or believe in really. I just didn’t want to do jail time.

(Evidently one doesn’t need to be a member of a certain religion to pray. I avoided jail and was a civilian three weeks later.)

The second moment hit me almost a year to the day later. I was sitting by myself in the empty stands of the Max Bell arena in Calgary in June 1986. I had just eaten an amazing baron of beef dinner followed by a stirring talk from a powerful AA speaker. I was a few months sober. From my perch up high in the seats I watched down below as AA members, young and old, danced to the Rolling Stones’ Miss You. My belly was full. My spirit was rich. The music was loud and the girls were good looking. I knew right then for the first time I COULD do this sobriety thing.

The third time happened in the winter of 1987/88. I was relapsing, struggling with my drug addiction. I was high for days on end followed by incredible guilt and remorse, followed by more drugs. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t shaving. I was eating chips and hamburgers and Kraft Dinner for weeks. One night I couldn’t stand my own company any longer. I went back to a meeting – but changed my mind after sticking my head into the room. I made eye contact with Vic. He followed me out, talked me into coffee at the nearby donut shop. He got me to spill my guts, come clean about my relapse. He asked me if I was ready to do Step Three and mean it. I said yes. There at a small table in the middle of a donut shop filled with truck drivers and hobos, he grabbed my hands from across the table. He recited the Third Step Prayer from Page 63 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The whole thing. And being a Christian for good measure he added a bunch of pleas to his Higher Power, a carpenter. I was embarrassed, but unwilling to let go of his hands. For the second to last time, I accepted I needed help.

The fourth came a few months later. I was living with my big sister, free of charge. Eating her food. Watching her TV. Smoking drugs with her son. All the while not drinking, and pretending I was in recovery. She got sick of my act. One day while lecturing me she threw my Big Book at me across the kitchen table and called me a dry drunk. She was so mad. Indignant of course, I picked up that Big Book and though I thought about it, I didn’t throw it back at her. Instead I marched down to my free bed in her basement. Smacking that Big Book across my knee again and again, I broke down. I knew I was the problem. I’ve always been my problem. I cried for hours. Then I went upstairs, and told her I was going back to meetings. Her husband loaned me his car. I went to a midnight meeting. That was July 18, 1988. I have not used since.

The final moment of clarity that comes to mind was six months after my (hopefully) last relapse into drugs. It was the week between Christmas and New Years of 1988. I was in a small Rocky Mountains coffee shop in Golden, B.C. I was on my way to a west coast daily newspaper gig, a two month practicum from the Journalism school I was enrolled in. It was about 10 p.m. I was depressed. Earlier that day I had been dumped by a girl I should never have been entangled with. Distracted after the breakup, I had almost killed myself spinning out on the steep and icy highway heading into Field B.C. After the tow truck driver pulled me free from a snowy embankment that saved me from a fatal drop, I loaded the radiator up with GUNK and made for Golden. I caught a meeting and someone offered me a couch to crash on. But we went to the coffee shop first. In the booth I sat beside and across from three AA members. They all reeked of pot. I knew if I hung around them that night, I would use with them. Using for me was the same as drinking. It kept me disconnected and lost from people. Inspire of my exhaustion from all I’d been through that day, I changed my mind. I told the three pot smoking AA members I was going to push on to Revelstoke. I didn’t use that night. I haven’t used since.

So those are some of the key moments I’ve experienced. I thank you for reading them.

Moments of clarity are pivotal points in our lives. If you’ve had one, remember it. Write it down. Tell someone. In my mind it is rich. In another’s it can be all that is needed to turn their own lives around.