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Celebrating the Opportunity to Inspire Sobriety

September 19, 2017

Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

Once a year I get to celebrate my birthday, cake and all, with people like me; people who understand exactly how great it is to be sober for another year.

At first I thought the practice of celebrating the day we had our last drink a little strange; after all the act of quitting in and of itself was probably due to some self-made crisis better forgotten. I entered my 12 Step Program reluctantly to say the least, thinking that fun for me was through, life was over and I was stuck with a bunch of boring, damaged people. The thought of celebrating the end of the party was simply inconceivable.

Little did I know the party had just gotten started. Celebrating another year in sobriety means far more to me than celebrating the day I was born. I had no choice in that, it just happened. It’s not as if I earned all the adulation, all I did was appear. Maybe we should consider honoring our mothers on our birthday, after all, they did all the work, and the more kids they have the more days we could thank them!

Now, I start looking forward to my anniversary/birthday weeks before the actual event. The coin that will be presented is one of my most cherished gifts. I have sixteen of them now, and another on the way, God willing on September 23rd! Not only will I get a coin, a card that everybody in the group signs with a nice, personal message and a cake of my choosing (this year Nancy has promised to make a Carrot Cake because she knows I’m cutting down on sweets and eating more vegetables) but I will also be able to celebrate another day without the burden of alcohol weighing me down.

I guess you could say that those of us in a program get to celebrate every day, and that is exactly how we approach our lives now that we discovered how good things in sobriety are.

A life beyond our wildest dreams is promised by the old timers who have walked in our shoes, and they deliver on that promise every day we live without drinking.

The strength of the group is what keeps many of us away from the things that brought us to it in the first place. A lot of us have lost friends and family during our descent, and having people in our lives that care, even if just a little, makes a big difference when outside of a meeting, or treatment. Life on our own is when we are most vulnerable, when the voices in our head are loudest, when the choices we make more difficult. Without people to be accountable to it is far easier to fall out of sobriety. Not wanting to let even casual acquaintances down has kept countless people on the road to recovery.

On my anniversary I will be the chairperson for our meeting. I’ll have the floor for fifteen or twenty minutes, more if needed and will tell my story. The first few times were five minute jobs, but as time progressed, and I became more comfortable with my sobriety the story I told became more honest, and more complex. I’ll tell those assembled how it was, what I did to change it, and how it is. Simple stuff, easy to follow, difficult to mess up.

In telling our stories we share the strength and hope that we have found in sobriety with people new to the program while reminding ourselves just how fortunate we are to have survived ourselves. When I share my story I never hold back. The person I am describing no longer exists, a more reasonable, optimistic and less self-destructive one took his place.
By telling how it was I am able to exorcise some demons from my past. Remembering how I changed my ways reminds me that I need to stay vigilant, and how. Best of all, telling the people in my group how it is I am able to express my profound gratitude to them for sharing in my recovery as living proof that the program works.

The best gift I have ever received on my birthday is the opportunity to inspire another person who is suffering.

I will never know for certain if my story helped anybody find sobriety, but if I were to guess, I would guess that my story worked the exact same way that everybody else’s did for me.


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