27 years clean and sober
The box was marked “Curt’s stuff, glass shards.” With trembling hands I opened the box to see the foot-long daggers of glass with the dried blood stains, now turned black. I used the shards once, during a talk, to emphasize that alcoholism kills. A girl, one-day sober, nearly fainted.
I was moving boxes of stuff from the barn to the attic-storage space above our new garage, trying to make room for the tractor and its attachments. Some of these boxes I’ve moved dozens of times over the course of 40 years, from house-to-house, storage space to storage space, wondering why I hang on to all this crap. With the glass shards, there’s no question. I don’t ever want to forget that fateful night 27 years ago that changed my life. The scars are still on my back, but the pain and sensitivity has lessened over the years so that it’s only an occasional reminder. The glass shards spell out the truth boldly.
I’ve written about this before, so I won’t belabor. Twenty-seven years ago, I was so drunk in my own home, I tripped (or was pushed by the hand of God) and fell through the glass top of my coffee table, cutting my back to smithereens, and nearly bleeding to death. Outside of that, no problem.
But I learned my lesson. It’s been a sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes painful process of recovery over the years, one-day-at-a-time. What I did learn very well is that I can’t put the first drop of alcohol into my body. Because I’m an alcoholic (an allergy), the tiniest amount of alcohol in my system starts a chemical reaction that I am powerless to control. I can’t stop drinking once I take that first drink. (You know the type—“can’t hold his liquor.”) Today, with the help of God, I don’t have to take the first drink.
November is my sobriety month—because of Thanksgiving, a good month to be thankful. I read in my daily meditation book for November 4, my first day of sobriety 27 years ago, a book I’ve read every day since, “Seeking pleasure does not bring happiness...Happiness is a by-product of living the right kind of life.”
I have found happiness in sobriety: married to a woman I love, and out here on “the farm” where I feel so much closer to God. Sometimes, while I’m working outdoors, in the clean, fresh, country air, and crystal-clear blue sky, I just raise my hands and say, “Thank you, God.”
For my sobriety birthday present to myself, and Ginnie, I bought us a brand new treadmill for our exercise room. The old treadmill was wore out and giving death signals. It yelped in pain like I did years ago. So, the new treadmill is a gift of health, and life, for both of us. And I do use it, daily. Sometimes just walking, but moving. Use it or lose it. Ginnie is hankering to give the treadmill a spin. She has some hip issues to work through first.
But the greatest gift of sobriety is that I finally know why I’m alive. I’ve often wondered why I lived through all that. Some people don’t, or if they do, they continue on the same path of self destruction. I’m alive and sober for a reason—so that I can complete my life work.
You see, I’ve been protected all my life. I know it without a doubt. It’s not a unique feeling. A lot of people tell me the same thing. They feel as if they have been protected. Some are called, others are chosen. My book will be called “Protected.” My plans are to write through the winter and have the book ready for spring, like yellow daffodils peeking through dirty snow, singing of new life to come.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.