The Burning Ship Saved Me



I’m glad you’re here with me today. You’re one step further away from your disease, because you’re here for one of two things. You’re wanting to get sober and live a happy life in recovery. Or, you’re here to feed your mind with different thoughts and perspectives of this disease. I applaud you either way for your courage and strength to take time out of your day to read my blog. You have choices in life and I’m glad you’re here with me for this moment instead of using drugs or alcohol. I’m excited about what I’d like to write about tonight. It deals with faith, perception, and patience. Enjoy.

I’ve never been on a cruise in my life and I can’t wait to experience one. I’ve been living a sober life for over 6 years, being patient on many levels, especially monetarily. I’m not from money and I’ve never had a lot of money. But I’m at a place in my life where I can pay bills without stress and have a few bucks in the bank. I still breathe with anxiety some weeks and months having to “wait” for the next check to make sure I can take care of myself, my wife and daughter. Like I said though, I am grateful for what I have in my life and that I’m not in that panic phase I lived in for so long. My time will come. I only need to stay focused, take it a day at a time, and it will happen! Lets’ get back to the cruise I so badly want to experience. I can only picture what it must be like. How fun and relaxing it will be. Being able to meet some nice people who are there to enjoy the same thing I am. I can imagine the ocean being calm, peaceful, yet scary to be in such a large, vast space of nothing. I guess the ship would be the one thing I can count on to keep me safe from any type of disaster.

Now, I want you to picture what it’s like to be on a ship with addicts and alcoholics. Specifically yourself being on the ship. Picture where you’ve been through all the years of drinking or drugging. Think of all the times you put yourself in dangerous situations with other people you’d never hang around if you weren’t using. Yeah, we’ve all been there right? (shaking head in disgust) We gravitate to the kind of people that really are a mirror image of ourselves when we use. Some of these people may not be full blown addicts or alcoholics, but we wouldn’t know because we’re only concerned with one thing. Our self. We only care about how high we can get each and every time we go out and use. I know, I did. Captain-Diet Cokes were one of my things and I’d always say, “It’s time to put up the sails”! This meant to pour me a Captain. I meant business when this thought would go through my mind. It meant it was time to feel good and escape from reality regardless of the consequences. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so!

See, I’ve never heard a normal person (aka normee) ever say what I’d say when I wanted to get a Captain Diet Coke. Understand something, I’m a passionate person and put a lot of meaning behind everything I do, even calling out when I’m going to get drunk. Now that’s what you call pride, right?! (shaking head again) Yeah, it’s called “false pride”. It’s called, I need everybody to “hear me roar”, because I’m less than. I’m nobody when I need to drink like that. I only would think I was someone important. It was all a show and I was the best damn actor every time I drank. Either way, I didn’t care what people thought. I was going to make the show great. How would I accomplish this feat you ask? It’s simple, I’m an alcoholic. I’d get drunk. “I’m going to bring down the house baby and I want you to do it with me!”

But what if this really happened on the ship you boarded a long time ago? You stuck out on the big ocean of nothingness. There would be no one to save you if the ship were to go down. Picture everyone having a great time and starting to get out of control. Fun turns into turmoil, danger is all around, and fires are ablaze. The fires are the problems of your life waiting to burn you down along with the other people on the ship. It’s your disease of alcoholism or addiction to drugs that is the danger causing turmoil. A volatile gas that is ready to explode! You may be at this stage with your disease at this very moment. You are feeling like the fires are ablaze with fury and you’re trying to run away from them but you can’t. They are getting larger everyday and you’re quietly praying for someone, something, to help you escape the flames. You know you don’t want to die. And you know you want a way out, but don’t know what to do. You don’t know who you can reach out to for help.

It’s at this point there is another person on the ship that has the same fear of the flames. The difference is that this person notices it on your face. They see you want to live, they understand that all you have to do is jump from the ship to save yourself. But you’re too afraid of vastness of the ocean. An ocean of the unknown. You’re afraid of what will happen, or not, if you jump. So this person makes it easy for you to do so and pushes you off the burning ship. Maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t a person at all. Maybe, just maybe, this was a higher power working through a person on that ship to help you along. To give you that “nudge” into the next step of your life called recovery.

There you are, in the great big ocean scared as hell looking back at the burning ship. Your instincts tell you to swim back to the burning ship because this is all you know (*Many people retreat back to their disease because they’ve never lived life without drugs or alcohol). You tell yourself the lies that the ship won’t sink, the flames will go out, the other people (addicts and alcoholics) will save you. Wrong! They could care less about you. They’re as selfish as you are and don’t want to let go of their disease. They’re still partying thinking the same thing you just thought. They’re thinking the flames will go out too, and that the ship won’t sink. Unfortunately, these people will continue to suffer along with the ship, and some will die. It’s a guarantee because they don’t have the strength to let go (surrender to your disease) and simply jump.

You turn to swim away from the ship, never to look back again. You can’t explain how easy this was to do. And you have a moment of clarity as the cold water pierces your skin. It’s a moment in which you realize how much trouble you were in back on the ship (of denial). You’ve recognized, if but for an instant, that you want something better than what was sure to happen if you stayed. You see the big waves in front of you and you think to yourself, “how can this be any better”? Where am I supposed to go now?! Anger, frustration, and resentment set in as you keep swimming towards nothing. Swimming towards the unknown. You wonder who pushed you, trying to figure it all out. You start to get tired and realize you’re not going to make it. You want to give up, but there is something inside you that doesn’t let you do so. That something is called “faith”. Not hope, but faith. You’ve always had hope that things will work out in your life. And they have in a weird way. But faith is what you need at this very moment to change your life. You’re scared, scared beyond what you could ever imagine. Yet you have peace at the same time. You say to yourself, “If you’re out there, whoever you are, or whatever you are…I believe you can help me (i.e.- Higher Power, something greater than ourselves). I want a better life than what I’ve been living!” It is this moment you’ve humbled yourself, bowing down to something greater than yourself. For me, this one is God.

At that moment, as you’re bobbing up and down in the waves, you see a small boat with 2 people in the boat. You don’t have to yell as they see you. You’re tired. Too tired to swim, but strong enough to reach out your hand to be saved.

*It ‘s when you’re at this stage in your life, wanting to get sober, that you (have to reach out your hand) for help!

One of the men in the boat reach out there hand to you and you grab on. No words are spoken at this moment. They lift you into the boat. You are exhausted. You catch your breathe looking back at the burning ship. The man who grabbed your hand says to you, “I’m familiar with that, I was there once. My ship was burning too and someone pushed me in the cold water. I don’t know who pushed me, but I’m glad they did. I need to do something for someone else and repay me debt for being saved. That is part of my program to help others. (*Step 12) A person just like myself came along when I was losing faith. I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but I hung in there. I guess I found my faith in a higher power when my boat came to save me.”

See, I’m that person who is reaching out there hand to you right now. Your ship is on fire, it is sinking. You’ve been treading water for God knows how long, but you don’t have to tread water anymore. And by the way, God (does know) how long you’ve been suffering. My hand that is reaching out to you at this very moment is not of my own, but of a Higher Power working through me. I’m glad you have enough strength to reach out your hand to me and not judge me. Because I’m not here to judge you. I only want to help you. No different than those who have come before me.

Our boat in recovery may not be that fancy, but it’s firm and sturdy. It’s made of oak. It moves slow and we have to do the work (paddle) to get to where we’re going. But one thing is for certain. I’ve never seen one of these boats start on fire and burn. The people that ride in these boats are at peace. They’re content with first and foremost, their sobriety. All other blessings are icing on the cake. So don’t be afraid, even though I know you are. “It’s ok, I was afraid too.” I know you don’t know any of us, but you soon will. We’re a big family that once was lost. We love each other unconditionally without words spoken. We’ve all experienced the pain of the burning flames of our past. It’s time to let go of that big grand ship you thought was so great. We’re going to paddle hard each day, I hope you don’t mind. We need to make each day count (*living one day at a time as best we can), because that’s all we have. We won’t be out on the ocean everyday as long as we stay the course (*must keep spiritually fit by working your program). I’ve experienced some of the beautiful islands I’ve seen in recovery. They’re so peaceful. I can tell you I enjoy them more without booze in me. I can’t wait to take you to one of them.

So let’s get going. I’ll paddle first so you can reflect on the smoldering ship you’ve left behind and watch how it’s done. Then, I’ll expect you to take over for me. I need your strength too. I can’t do this alone. I need you, and you need me to get through each day.

May the winds of recovery be at your back!

Derek L.

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