The Places that Scare You

Today is my 27th anniversary of living a sober life. It’s recorded in my Medicine Bag section.  Just a few sentences, as directed. This is what it says:

August 25, 1990

“I am sitting at the table in the knotty pine kitchen. It is dark outside. In a Steuben tumbler is a glass of iced vodka.  Down the hall, far enough away I can’t here the TV, my son Max is in the living room.  He is five years old.  I hear a voice in my head.  “This is your last drink.”  I say to that voice, “Okay,” and walk over to the sink and pour it out.  It is a Friday night, and the following morning, we leave for our summer vacation, a week at the beach at Day’s Cottages in Truro, MA.  We stay in the cabin named Violet, just across the street from the store.  That was my first sober day.”


Now this morning, August 25,2017, I hit my toe on the ottoman in my office. The same ottoman and same toe that resulted in a broken toe just last October.  It may be broken again.  I’ve elevated, iced, and taped it up.  When it happened, I collapsed into the tan corduroy chair, amazed and angry.  Really? I just broke my toe again? Just like that?

“It’s the little things,” rises in my mind’s consciousness.  It’s the little things we get tripped up on and this is a little pinky toe. Yes, a nuisance, but in contrast to all other pains, problems and predicaments in my life, the life of my loved ones, in the world, it’s a little thing.

The universe uses everything. While meditating this morning I went to a place that scared me.  I’ve been avoiding it for a few weeks. I’ve been restless, agitated, irritated at the world, especially all those drivers in all those cars. Meditation has felt like a form of torture. I knew I was bothered by my job search. I’ve been trying to find meaningful paid work, harder than I anticipated for a person in their mid-fifties. This morning in meditation after feeling immense gratitude for my sobriety, after hitting my toe, after listening to Pema Chödrön talk about going to the places that scare you, I did too.

I reached a place I work very hard not to feel: shame. I felt small, my heart ached and there was a twisty, sick feeling in my belly. I am not good enough.  The feeling lasted a minute or two. Then I started to think about it and the feeling receded. That’s okay too, as someone told me long ago, our body knows how much we can handle.

What a gift it was to break my toe today on my sober anniversary, listen to Pema Chödrön and go to that place that scares me.  It’ll scare me less now. That is recovery.

Pema Chödrön – Going to the places that scare you: