It was more than a lunch, it was a celebration.
Five years in the making, the day had finally come. Gail and Paul, her new husband of three months, had invited me to celebrate this very special day with them.
And an event worthy of celebration it certainly was. That day Gail was revelling in five years of sobriety.
Yes, five years prior to that day Gail had finally surrendered and admitted that the demons controlling her life were more than she could manage and, for the first time ever, she reached out for help.
I have known Gail for 10 years and along with many of her colleagues and friends had been concerned about her incessant drinking. It had seemed the only person who did not see a problem in Gail’s drinking habits was Gail herself.
I remember that day so very clearly. She had come to my office late for her appointment and fighting a painful hangover. She had slept in and called in sick to work – not new behaviours for her – but something got through to her that day and she finally realized that after years of self-delusion, she was living a lie and the person most affected by her continual lying was herself.
While in my office she called a long-time acquaintance and told him that she was finally ready to go to an AA meeting but didn’t trust herself to get there. Would he please come to my office and take her to the beginning of her new life?
In the ensuing months, whenever we met, she would tell me of the years of constant lying to herself, to her family and friends her colleagues and even strangers in the street. She told me that the lying had become as natural to her as breathing and she laughingly told me that she had taken a taxi to my office that day because she could not remember where she had parked her car.
That was the moment when she finally realized that this was not a way to live.
After the first meeting she made a commitment to myself – an irrevocable, nonnegotiable pledge – to never ever again lie to herself which also meant never lying to anyone else.
That was the day she adopted The Habit of Being True to Yourself. She realized that her only hope of overcoming this and future challenges rested with her commitment to being truthful to herself at all times. She had lived a lie – many, many lies – for more than 25 years and The Habit of Being True to Yourself, more than anything else, played an enormous role during the early days of sobriety.
She never once fell off the wagon, but she came close many times and it was only her fierce commitment to The Habit of Being True to Yourself that forced her to disregard the rationalization process she was using to try and convince herself it was okay to “just have one little drink.”
Unbeknownst to her, Paul had invited 20 of their closest friends to join us for lunch and they all showed up to share in the “Surprise Celebration.”
I have always greatly admired those who overcome adversity and those who defeat the demons of addiction have a special place in my heart.
Gail frequently quotes a famous line from Hamlet:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Her willingness to confront the truth, face the truth, admit the truth and stay the course of truthfulness is an inspiration to us all. While many tears were shed during our celebratory meal, they were all tears of joy.
Gail, I am so proud of you.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.