Growth Through Regression: The Longer I Live, the Less I Know for Sure

I know I support marriage equality for all.  I know black lives matter.  I know I support women having a choice in their well being and the power to control what happens with their own bodies. I know at heart I lean toward being a socialist, liberal, tree hugging hippie.  I know that addicts and alcoholics are not terrible people, they are sick and hurt people.  I know guns for the masses are a problem.  I know that I don’t need religion to be a good person.  I know that I believe in compassion and kindness to all living beings above all else.  I know that I have the right to change my mind.  To learn and grow and develop.

Beyond that though?  I just don’t know about so many things.  And that is a beautiful place to be.  

If I don’t drink before October 4th, I will be celebrating my 14th Soberthday. I know I had to use a calculator to figure out how many years I’ve been sober.  That much I know.  I know that I haven’t had a drink in 14 years.  More profoundly I know it means that through a lot of grace,  hard work and sticktoitness, my outlook upon life has changed.

It didn’t happen right away.  It took years to get here.  It took buckets full of forgiveness and grace.  It took many incredibly patient sober people and family members to help me on my path.  The first few years I was sober I was angry.  I knew everything.  I KNEW EVERYTHING FOR SURE.  I was right and you were wrong and I was going to shove things in your face to prove it to you.

Even in sobriety – maybe especially in sobriety – life brings me to my knees. I’ve had many moments defeat.  Of hopelessness.  Of darkness.  Of admitting I need help, guidance, grace.  The longer I live, the less I know for sure.

People far wiser and more experienced than me have famous quotes and books and art and music proving this point.  But for me today – it’s simple.  I can look at my kids.  I can watch them. I can listen.  They don’t front.  They tell you exactly what they think and feel and point out the beauty in the world with a view that I haven’t known in decades.  But not only my kids, other people.  When I was a bit comfortable in sobriety and took the blinders off and really looked around at other people, I began to see all they have to offer me.  To offer the world.  I wanted what they had.

I remember so clearly a woman sitting in an AA meeting crying about wanting to have a baby and she couldn’t get pregnant.  I’ve written about her before, but I’m pretty sure she has no idea how much she impacted my life all those years ago. She stayed sober through all her anguish and longing and talked about it.  I wanted what she had.

Here’s what I know.  I want vulnerability and sadness and joy and gratitude. I seek people out who exhibit these qualities.  The people willing to say, I don’t have it all figured out, let’s hang out.  I run away from people who say, I’ve got all the answers and I’ve got everything figured out and I know this for sure – follow me.  NOPE.  People who think their way is the only way? Definitely not what I’m looking for. Because how in the world could that possibly be true.  In religion, in politics, in life.

Here’s what I don’t know.  What I cannot logically explain.  Why this Monarch Butterfly is in this photo.  We were doing the ALS Walk for Life yesterday and as we were walking, I snapped this photo.  Not looking in the camera, simply holding it up in the air and capturing all the walkers.


I know what I believe about this butterfly.  Those of you following along will remember that Uncle Chip died recently of ALS and had given us butterfly love and appreciation. The fact that this Monarch showed up above us as we were walking yesterday, well, I just cannot get over how stunned I am looking at this picture.  I am not a god person.  I am not a religious person. But unlike years ago, I would not tell you that you are foolish to believe.  I don’t believe that anymore.  I believe we all do the best we can to get through and in our darkest moments we are the only ones who know who and what we rely upon.

That is perhaps the greatest gift of my recent years in sobriety.  My not having to prove I am right (when so often I am not at all right).  That ego. That letting go of the belief that I need to prove something to you.  I do not. It’s like a big exhale. I just let it go.  It’s not my job to convince anybody of anything.  Short of direct harm to another being, I am not going to step in your way of what you believe or think is right.  That is only because of sobriety and working the steps.  Hell, even sitting in AA meetings for 14 years and hearing people talk about God, I just let it roll off because I don’t need to fight it.  Do you have any idea how lovely that is?

I’ve gotten exactly no joy, no satisfaction, no greater sense of worthiness by bullying somebody into hearing my side of what I THINK IS RIGHT.  None. And the folks I respect the most are the ones who respect that right back. The ones who don’t try to tell me what I need to do or believe in my life. Exhale.  Life is so much easier when we aren’t fighting all the time.  There is enough to fight for or against in the world at large – for our fellow man, woman, child, animal – for us to be forcing our will on each other in the everyday.  Nobody can make anybody do anything else.  Period.

Each one of my 14 years sober has taught me different lessons.  All things I needed to repeatedly be taught and keep learning.  I am a very different person than I was 14 years ago.  I don’t have to have all the answers today. That, to me, is what happy joyous and free is all about.

I look for the gratitude every single day.  Even when things look bleak, I can find the gratitude.  Gratitude changes everything.  Unapologetic Gratitude, big or small is the key.

Growth through regression is a concept I hadn’t really put much stock into until I had my babies.  I want to be more like them.  I can say I DON’T KNOW and be totally comfortable with that the way they do.  I want to see the world through their eyes and the great thing about kids is if you are present, you get to do just that.   While it’s just not possible after living a life full of all kinds of experiences that have hurt and jaded me, there is newfound wonder and hope.  There is optimism and joy with each day as we begin anew.  I want what they have.  Sobriety has given me all these gifts. The greatest among these being humility, compassion and gratitude.


If you’d like to read more about my sobriety and recovery, please check out these links –

All past Sobriety posts on ChicagoNow

All past Sobriety posts on I Want a Dumpster Baby – my old blog


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