For three summers now I have made a trip to Orange County, California to celebrate my youngest daughter’s clean and sober birthday. When I saw the ad for this website and the talk of the “stigma” attached to addiction I had to write.
The first year we had a big BBQ and presents and the best time. I will never forget that day ever. Seeing her with her new friends who were all clean and sober with varying degrees of sobriety/clean dates. Before the party even began one of her friends dropped off some cookies and sweets with a card. This is the guy my daughter told me about who would give her rides from meetings when she first started attending. I remember thinking who does this?? Now I know! People in recovery do these things. This guy ended up letting us throw her two year party at his house when my rental place with a gated community was not keen on me hosting 20 sober people for a BBQ.
As usual I digress. At my daughter’s first birthday I also got to meet her sponsor for the first time, a woman who will always have my gratitude. A woman who encouraged my daughter to dig deep to do the work on her steps. Two of her counselors came and it was like hosting royalty to me, these guys who she learned so much from. One who guards his relationship with her and the other who had to give me reports on her progress. How I looked so forward to those calls because I too was growing even tho I did not know it. I was letting this be her journey. I was not asking too many questions I was just actually trusting the process. Many pictures were taken, many hugs and so much thanks from her new friends for the home cooked food. It was a great day just like when she was little and I would plan a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle party because that was her favorite. After the party we all headed off to an AA meeting where my daughter would speak and receive her one year chip. En route I had a call from the owner of the home I was renting, a neighbor had called a noise complaint and was wanting to call the police. I explained our BBQ was over, it was a sober celebration and we were on our way to an AA meeting. I was “home” by 9:00 pm that night and called a dear friend to report on the successful party. She wondered was it strange to host a no alcohol party? Actually it was great! I did not have to purchase any alcohol, much money saved right there, didn’t worry about what kind of alcohol to purchase and did not have to worry about anyone driving away from an event I hosted, impaired!
For her second birthday again I flew to California, rented a pad and got to work planning a party! We also did some therapizing and it was intense but good. We talked, really talked and listened to each other. Since we were in a gated community with a great community patio and BBQ, I checked with the owner to see if we could host a sober BBQ celebration. I was told no and then was showered with kind offers from her sober friends as to where we could have the celebration. My daughter now has a new sponsor as her old sponsor is her roommate. Her former sponsor (I will always see her that way) bursts into our condo the morning of the party full of joy for my daughter and sorry she can not join us as she has to work. So I cooked with joy in my heart, she studied as she is now in school again, we packed up a party into a giant cooler and went to her friends home which they graciously offered. When thanked they responded they are so busy now that sometimes it is hard to “be of service” and this was an opportunity for them. I see her old friends, meet some new ones and meet her new sponsor and one of her sponsees. I am beyond grateful. Everyone does their “gratefuls” out loud and a good time is had by all.
For her third birthday I fly to California, this time I rent a tiny little place because I will not be cooking this year. I’m kind of sad I love to cook but my daughter is now a vegan and wants to try a vegan restaurant. The morning of her birthday I stop by the treatment center to say Happy Birthday to us, to her counselor, who to me will always be her counselor. I meet a young girl who my daughter sponsors. I reflect all day on this journey that she has taken and how she has evolved into the person she was always meant to be. We go to an amazing vegan restaurant that is “gratitude” based, how perfect. We go after “work” because my daughter now has a full time job. Yes she is a drug and alcohol counselor now, using her experience to help others, calling Mom’s to give them status reports, being their lifeline call. Old friends and a couple new friends, the first sponsor who I adore, all her friends who I have come to know during each visit in between birthday celebrations. The waitress is a little surprised no alcoholic beverages are ordered, the crowd is young but no one drinks? We have a wonderful celebration everyone is catching up as they are “older” now and have more regular life obligations and don’t get to see each other as often. At the end of the meal we do our “gratefuls” my daughter thanks me for being proud of her as a drug addict. I’m a little surprised why wouldn’t I be proud of her? I then realize the “stigma” perhaps some parents/friends might be embarrassed? Me, I am grateful beyond words. Being in therapy during her active addiction I had to go to very dark places, I had to face facts, drugs kill, alcohol kills. They destroy families, relationships, everything if you let them. Hardest of all, she has to be ready to quit, I don’t get to make that decision for her. So today I try to look for ways to give back. I don’t have a crystal ball with sure answers but I do have the experience of walking the scariest, darkest journey I could have never ever imagined. I retained my sense of humor during the journey, received and clung to every bit of hope thrown my way. I found out who my real friends were and find real joy now being present for my life. And I have no problem talking about my daughter’s birthday celebrations.