Today is the first day of January.
It is day one of a new month and day one of a new year.
Day one always feels like a clean slate, doesn’t it?
Day one is pristine. It’s a blank page.
Day one is a virgin.
It’s full of hope and promise.
…until you fuck it up.
If you’ve ever fucked up a day one, this is dedicated to you.
Because you really didn’t do what you thought you did.
Shame is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket. —Brene Brown
I remember the first time I met her. It was at the treatment center I got clean at. We instantly connected. She was smart. She loved science, animals, and her dog. She had big dreams of who she was going to be. She told me about her spirit animal, and even though I don’t believe in them, I had to appreciate the way she was so passionate about everything. She made me listen to a song that made her cry the last time she got high. She turned me on to Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. She was vulnerable and beautiful. She wasn’t afraid to share her scars with me.
But she was filled with shame.
“I had so much time behind me. I was sponsoring girls. I was doing so well. And now I’m here…again.
I wanted to take that cloak of shame and hopelessness off of her.
I knew it was too heavy.
It was dangerous to wear.
Shame will smother you.
Day one means a lot of things to a lot of people. If you’re in recovery, or trying desperately to be, day one can feel like the enemy. Like it’s mocking you.
Or maybe it’s you that’s doing the mocking. It’s all so twisted, you don’t even know anymore. It’s just like this sick circus. You thought you really had something. You built something…
A life was forming. Your life. Your identity.
Recovery was happening.
And then, for just a minute, your mind glanced at the old life…and like a broken lover, you sought comfort in the arms of your abuser “just one more time.”
We think it will turn out differently this time. We think….We think….Or maybe we are too blind, too oppressed to think at that moment.
The moment of relapse is not the most memorable for me though. That’s not the crescendo.
The break of the wave for me is the moment right after the poison begins to warm my body.
The scales fall off of my eyes, the veil falls away….and there I am, the fool.
I trusted and listened.
I was willingly blind.
Now it’s all shame and regret.
Just me, naked, alone.
There’s Something Brave And Beautiful About Being Naked
The voice on the other end of the phone said, “I don’t know how to break free. I can’t break free.”
He was sobbing.
It was the kind of cry when everything is lost.
It’s the cry that comes out when you’ve been stripped bare.
Listening to him took me to that familiar place.
I had lived in that place.
Before going to treatment I had relapsed and relapsed.
I had seen hundreds of “day ones” until each one seemed to come with the promise of failure.
If you’ve been to 14 different treatment centers and today is your day one, and your therapist asks you, “What is different about this time?” it is pretty easy to want to reply with, “I don’t really know. Probably nothing. Actually all I do know is that I don’t want to die today.”
Instead of Counting and Losing Our Clean Time
If we’re going to find our way back to sobriety, and ultimately to recovery, vulnerability is going to be the path we take.
Being tired and broken and vulnerable is the fruit of new birth.
And new birth is a day one.
Think about new birth.
A mom in labor is in pain for hours. She is frustrated and tired. Her body is pushed to breaking…and out of that comes new life.
It is no different for recovery.
We have to stop counting our days and gaining and losing our clean time. Recovery is a birthing process. It is messy, bloody, broken and naked.
When we relapse, or return to lap up the vomit we left on the pavement, we don’t lose our tools. We may temporarily set them aside or throw them in the dumpster, but they are not lost.
If I work out and eat right to the point where I have an amazing body (six pack and all)…and then one day I feel weak and instead of clinging to God for my strength, I reach for an ice cream sandwich…and one turns into twelve….do you think I will suddenly look in the mirror and be out of shape? Will I sprout a muffin top after one day…or even four…of binge eating?
Did I relapse? Yes.
Was it a return to a former state? Yes.
Can I wipe my face…wash my hands and get back in the race?
There is no “mandatory remorse period” or “shame jail” that we must sit in until we are worthy to help another person in their recovery journey or to begin using the tools we have again.
If you relapse after one year or fifteen, don’t stay gone…but if you do stay gone for an extended period, guess what?
You will be met with a welcome-home kind of love from Your Savior (and from other people in recovery who “get it”).
Jesus loves you.
Your day one is important.
But if you fuck it up and fall down, please just try again.
The Bible says, “His mercy is new every morning,” but you can start your new morning right now.
It’s whenever you decide to come back.
Are you ready to come back?
Ready for a day one?
You’ll never regret your day one. It represents a day of decision and intent.
And please know that you already are everything you are striving to become.
This is a shame free program.
So, give yourself a break, and allow your journey to continue.