My husband Randy celebrated his --drum roll, please--56th birthday a couple of weeks ago! As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, that's a "belly button" birthday. His sobriety birthday is coming up on 9 years--a miraculous, joyous occasion that has made the celebration of another year older possible. Thanks be to God!
Yet this year's birthday was bittersweet. At age 56, Randy could have retired from his job as an Air Traffic Controller with a comfortable monthly income and benefits. Sigh... On those days when we struggle with the "could- have- beens" Randy will say, "You know, we could have been retired now." We look at each other, roll our eyes, and manage to chuckle. Being able to laugh at ourselves has been a long time coming, though.
Randy lost his job 12 years ago, a devastating loss for him--and for me. But that's the toll of addiction. A bright and talented man had no power over alcohol. He had been through dozens of treatment programs, both in-patient and out-patient, counseling, A.A., and other support groups. I believe all were helpful and moved Randy toward recovery, but he hadn't reached the point of complete surrender even after losing his career. Yet the journey toward sobriety, though long and difficult, has left us with gratitude beyond words.
These days we don't allow ourselves to wallow for long in self-pity. We both know we are blessed many times over. We know alcoholism could have claimed Randy's life if he had continued drinking. My imagination has always been vivid in playing out worst-case scenarios that only by the grace of God never happened. The car accidents where Randy and/or the other driver and passengers could have been killed or maimed, a prison sentence and unimaginable guilt that haunted us, or a tragic mistake on his job, wreaking untold suffering.
Maybe it would have been nice to just hang out on our back deck sipping iced tea with no particular place to go. But having life, vibrant, busy with work and purpose is cause to celebrate. So when I brought out the chocolate cake with one bright candle (I was so sure I had a supply of those little birthday candles!) and sang my solo rendition of Happy birthday, dear Randy, I meant it with all my heart.