Friday the 13th: I lost my sobriety ring.
FLASHBACK: The night I left my restaurant management job, before going to rehab, my co-workers threw me a party. And, it was one of the best parties ever. I got sloppy drunk, of course, but everyone knew — it was my last-hurrah. I felt so loved that night and I was genuinely hopeful. Amidst all my drinks and all my fun, I was secretly relieved to be so close to freedom.
The sous chef pulled me aside and handed me a gift. She was relatively new in the kitchen and I didn’t know her very well, so I was surprised by the gesture. I opened my little package at the bar, whilst sipping my cocktails. It was a thin, wiry, sterling silver ring. Simple. Small. Understated. There was a little note inside too — to the effect of: When you wear this ring, remember why you quit. It seemed so appropriate as I sat there, throwing back drinks, hugging my staff goodbye, letting go of my life as I knew it. Remember why you quit.
I wore the shit out of that ring. My first day sober, I put that thing on my thumb and there it stayed. I turned it around-and-around on my finger nervously in my first days of rehab and at 12-Step meetings. I popped it on and off during awkward moments that you only experience as a newly sober person. And, every time I looked at it, I remembered. I remembered sitting at my restaurant bar, wasted, wanting to be DONE.
When I realized my ring was missing Friday, I figured I’d forgotten to put it back on after my shower. But, it wasn’t in my little, glass, ring dish. Or on the floor. Or on my nightstand. Or by the kitchen sink. Gone.
I had this moment of panic. If my “sobriety” ring is gone…. Am I going to drink now?
A ring — something so inconsequential, however symbolic, had made me question my own ability to stay sober. That’s alcoholism. And, I have enough sobriety, at the moment anyway, to know that the thoughts, where I make it OK, reasonable even, to drink — are just a symptom. A symptom that dresses up the elephant in the room.
My Elephant: I lost something else this week too, not just the ring. It was big. Something I won’t find in-between the couch cushions next time I vacuum. And, sometimes, when I lose big things, I start assigning meaning to smaller things in an attempt to lighten my load. I let my little stuff take over my big stuff. I compartmentalize. I attempt to organize all the meaning. Then, overwhelmed by meaning — I give meaning to meaningless things.
Losing my ring was just a reminder: Honor your losses. Know, that some things have so much meaning, we’ll never actually make sense of them being gone. There is nothing that can replace this, so, don’t try. Let go, step into the void, stop looking. Just remember. Remember.
Today, I thumb the spot where my ring used to be. I remember what I had, and what it felt like when I had it. I acknowledge that, today, it’s gone.
Life can change as easily as a ring slips off a finger. It doesn’t mean anything. But, looking back, retracing my steps, remembering where I once stood —it means everything.