Yesterday was my day in court. Or to be more accurate, one of my days – I count it my 8th or 9th day in court. My sentence was at hand, as many of you know. Just yet another day at the office. And in doing so, it was time for me to pull out the monkey suit once again – a suit that will be burned to polyester-choked ashes very soon. A suit that has seen more court dates than dates with my wife. A suit that has bore witness to more vows on the stand than vows at the front of a church. So yes, time to call a witch and witch and give it the old Joan of Arc treatment.
I have always gone to court alone. No one deserves to be dragged to the potential bedbug-harvesting laden wooden benches to hear my sad tale over and over again in excruciating detail. Except me, of course. But even I am tired of my story, even as the lead role. But for this occasion, I was asked to bring folks along. Not exactly a tea party, but close considering I’ve been sitting in hot water since my drinking and driving incident over 2 1/2 years ago. So with me yesterday was my wife, her brother, my parents, and a dear family friend. I also had invited my sponsor to be there, who said he would be there. But when the proceedings started, he wasn’t anywhere to be found. My phone had no texts or phone messages waiting for me either.
Now, I love my sponsor. He has helped me in more ways that I can describe. He has been through a lot in his life, and looking at him and I, on the surface, you couldn’t imagine two guys like us meeting ever, let alone having the deep relationship that we do. I will probably dedicate a post just on him one day, but in the meantime, take my word that this is a man that I would trust my very life to. And yet, I still don’t know his last name (it’s just never come up – maybe one day I will ask). We don’t speak a whole lot these days – not like when I was new and raw and seeping with emotional and mental sores. But when we do, it’s right to the heart of the matter, which is usually that – matters of the heart. He has always been reliable, and he has never not been where he said he would be. So I was a bit worried.
My family and friends sat behind me as the court opened up and the judge appeared. The Crown made it’s submissions – a veritable Best-Of-Hits of my miserable story – the high readings, the fact my son was in the car, the secrecy of my alcoholism, etc. He did mention that he had read this blog in his research and was quite impressed by the overall work I have done in these few years. Still, it was hard not to hear the muted sniffling and blowing of noses from behind me, especially when it came to talk of my son that day.
Then it was break time, and my sponsor still wasn’t there. I thought of him and hoped he was okay. But my attention was on what my lawyer was telling me about the tactics he was going to use after the break. My family and friends were a bit shell-shocked by the whole judicial process, this being pretty much the first time at a court of any kind – so the break served them well. I, on the other hand, was used to the sights, sounds and smells of the courts, and was very used to hearing my tale of woe broken down into minute pieces to be picked apart. Especially the ugly stuff. Which is much of it, like breadcrumbs in a high school meatloaf. It was difficult at times to not break my somewhat phlegmatic façade while they outlined some of the evidence. I said my Serenity Prayers and other things to settle the unsettling times. I looked at the judge, as my lawyer advised me on day one. And she looked back – often – in that non-judgemental judgey way.
My lawyer brought up the letters. Yes – those letters that so many of you were so kind and generous to offer. (More on that later). And all the other positives that have happened in my recovery time. It was a tonic to the Crown’s position, and then I was asked if I wanted to speak on my behalf. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it – I was a bit frightened to speak with some strangers in the room (it’s an open court), but my life had been dissected quite publicly already, so it wasn’t a big deal. I read something that I had prepared, then sat down. (On a side note – I really have been a bit more public about this – I was moved to mention this on a recent thing I did here)
And the decision at the end, after all this hand wringing, submissions and case study comparisons?
That will now have to wait another month.
The judge felt that she needed a bit more time to weigh everything. Jail time is still on the table – weekends only, but still there. Probation is almost a given on this one, as is a hefty fine and some prohibition from driving. Jail time is the fly in the ointment at this point…for me, that is. And so it continues.
Now after about a minute or two after saying my piece, and after the judge left the court room, I turned around and then I saw him – my sponsor – standing in the aisle. A hulking man, he opened his massive hand and shook mine. We went outside where he gave my mother a hug and greeted the others. Before departing, my lawyer spoke to us all, telling us that he wasn’t used to seeing such support like the support I had – in court and out of court. He told us that he’s seen a great number of heartbreaking stories in his time – like teen kids coming to his office with no one to accompany them. People on their own – fighting the fight to stay alive, trying to beat the demons that crack at their skulls and hearts, with no one in their corner. Alone. And as we know, we don’t do this on our own. We need others like us, to show us the way, the light the lanterns along the path, to guide, to lend an ear or shoulder, to just say “yeah – I’ve been there”. Like my sponsor did with me, and still does. And how we all out here in the sobersphere get to do for one another.
After everyone left, my sponsor and I sat down. He apologized for being late. He said that he got word the other day that his cousin, a man his age and an alcoholic, had committed suicide. The man left behind a teenage daughter and distraught wife. So my sponsor had to go and be with his family. He also updated me about the once special woman in his life, a woman he had made plans to spend his life with, who had gone back out into drugs recently and had to distance himself from her. His eyes welled up as he told me all of this, and I put my hand on his knee to let him know I was there for him. My turn to help him, to comfort him for that moment. The way he had done so many times for me. Two people, connected by one common problem and a common solution.
So the idea of perspective hit home at that very moment, as we spoke in hushed tones outside the very doors of my trial room. The problems I had, or thought that I had, started to dissolve. Not that there wasn’t business to attend to later on, but at that moment, it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about where my head was at, it wasn’t about the punishment to be meted out at another time. It was that I had the privilege, the blessing, the ability to be present. Alive. To still have a loving family, surrounded by beautiful friends and well-wishers, to be of service to others, to stretch and grow, to breathe fresh air, to go home to a crazy dachshund under warm sheets and wake up to a job that I enjoy. I am here. I am with you guys. I am with those near me. I am in my mind, an old brain working with new ideas and concepts. I am in my spirit, unencumbered by the weight of shame, guilt and remorse. I am in my heart, trying harder to open it up a little more. I don’t always succeed with flying colours on these things…but I try. I get a do-over in life. My sponsor’s cousin – and all the suffering alcoholics and addicts who die daily – never got that do-over. We get to live two lives in one lifetime…how great is that?
So as I left that court, my sponsor and I parting ways, I felt a great relief wash over me. No, this thing hasn’t been resolved per se, but I felt a great burden come off my shoulders. I felt something lift off of me. A sense of peace came over me, if you will. Another layer peeled. A sense that I was never abandoned back in the old days. I was the one who abandoned – the Creator, my family, my own life. And there is a good feeling of coming home. And it’s at that spiritual roost that I feel at rest. That’s what recovery is, to me – the feeling of coming home. I no longer seek the externals in artificial means. I still struggle in many things in my life, but I am still home. The nearer I am to you, my spirit, the Creator, the serenity, the grace bestowed upon me…the quieter I am inside. And that is all I ever sought in my alcohol use – the make the noise quiet down.
And as for those letters – I can’t thank you enough. I had over 40 letters of support, and that didn’t go unnoticed by the judge, who read them all. I know that they made an impact of some kind. For those who were generous enough to give of their time and effort – I thank you. For those who wanted to and couldn’t get to it – I thank you too. For those who sent me well wishes and prayers – I thank you too. I felt them. There was a great amount of time yesterday discussing and/or highlighting alcoholism and online support and the difference it can make to those who aren’t part of 12-step recovery groups perhaps, or who live in remote areas, or who travel a lot, or who are still entrenched in the stigma of coming out to those in “real life”. It was a wonderful, and sometimes amusing, thing to hear – these non-alcoholics trying to make sense of it, and advocating for folks like us and recognizing the work that it involves. Because don’t kid yourself – this is work.
So for today, sitting in the “after” of it all, I find myself just being. I have things at work and home to attend to, like everyone else. I am not thinking of next month. I am looking at what I need to do now, hoping that I can be of help to someone, trusting in the timeline of the Creator and putting faith in what happens, needs to happen for a reason. Today is today, and for that reason, I am grateful. I am grateful to my family, my friends, all of you, and my sobriety. I pray for the still struggling alcoholic and addict.
Peace and blessings