How a Fish Led Me to My Fate

 

My Dad had a pet fish. His name was Toby. This brave beta lasted three years in a small plastic fish bowl the size of a piggy bank. Year after year, I’ve watched this fish slowly lose its buoyancy and the will to fight for which his species is known. Most betas have a life expectancy of three years. Toby rode that life till the wheels fell off. His struggle recently ended.

 

One morning before the end I felt a sudden urge to free Toby from his dreary existence in his tiny plastic dwelling. After all, who would want to be flushed down the toilet on their last day? Not Toby! He had once brought joy to my Dad’s home with his blue vibrancy and shiny red markings. Upon agreement with my Dad, I put Toby’s tank in a cardboard box and we set off to free him into the wild. We drove to a small nearby pond that I had discovered just a day or two prior. After seeing a sign in the grass beside the pond which read “Healing Garden,” I felt this was the perfect drop-off location for little Toby. He would finally be free.

 

As we pulled up to the pond and parked the car, I noticed a crowd of people assembled in the grass. Apparently a 5K charity event was underway. My curiosity peaked, I picked up Toby and walked toward the crowd. As I approached, I noticed signs in the grass that read “MADD.” I knew exactly what this was: A Mothers Against Drunk Driving event honoring victims who had been killed by drunk drivers. I stepped into the heart of the crowd and noticed posters displaying faces of children, elderly, beauty queens, all gone due to reckless intoxication. My heart sunk and tears welled up.

 

I understood what these people had gone through, or at least I could imagine their pain and grief. In fact, just two days before I had lectured my Dad about his drinking and driving. His recklessness hit close to home, as it jogged my memory back to that night in 2007 when I, while driving drunk, hit a car with a family in it.

 

Boom! It happened so quickly that all I could remember was being dragged out of my vehicle, placed on a stretcher by EMT, and taken to the ER. Shortly after being medically assessed, I was transported to jail.

 

Unfortunately, the worst part of that horrific night in 2007 was not the fact that it was Christmas Eve. It was sobering up to the harsh reality of what had happened, not knowing if the couple I hit was dead or alive. I was 29 and possibly facing vehicular manslaughter. This was definitely not how my life was supposed to go. That one drunken decision changed the trajectory of my life forever. Thank God, the couple was not injured, but my soul surely was.

 

Sometimes your bottom is wherever you stop digging, if you survive that long. The following five years were spent in a downward spiral to one devastating bottom after another. But, as the old adage goes, “Once you’ve gone that far down, the only way is up.” By sheer grace, I can say that my life’s upward path undeniably began with sobriety.

 

I spoke to the organizer of that MADD event, to which I have good ol’ Toby to thank, and was delightfully invited to partner with them for a future charity event. I didn’t bat an eye before agreeing. Of course, it was the least I could do and, frankly, a universal boon.

 

The beautiful thing about redemption is being able to pay it forward. I did so for Toby that day, and he gave it right back to me. I have a feeling Toby is happy wherever he is; his soul is swimming free. Mine sure is. Recovery is possible. Never lose hope because sometimes unseen miracles are waiting just around the bend.

 

Or, in this case, just outside the fishbowl.

 

My Best Fix

 

A woman in the constellation group told me my path to success would be found in the “Northwest.” She said it was a straight shot to all my dreams coming true. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I filed it in my grey matter for later use.

 

A month later, when I met “B” online, whose profile name was “dreamscometrue” and who also lived in the “Northwest” suburbs, I instantly got chills! This was surely what the woman in the constellation group was referencing; it all made sense now. How could he not be “the one,” with fate and serendipity tag-teaming me into submission?

 

Still, despite the cosmic coincidence, something in my gut was hesitant to respond to him. He reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who left me for an alcoholic nut-job. (Yeah, I said it. Who trades in a Porsche for a used Corolla?)

 

Something just felt “off” with B; in the wise words of R-Kelly, “My mind was telling me no, but my body was telling me yes.” I was responding to my libido, while my higher conscience went hopelessly unheard.

 

Inevitably, I lowered my guard and responded to his message. Our first phone chat lasted over two hours. The conversation flowed naturally and an instant connection was formed. This had to be a karmic meeting of kindred souls.

 

By this point, I was a bit smitten with B, thanks to both the spontaneous occurrence of this situation and the uncanny commonalities he and I shared. All systems go!

 

When we did meet in person, the connection deepened. B was tall, attractive, slender and toned, with “bedroom blue” eyes. I undressed him in one glance. But I wasn’t around the bend just yet. Some sliver of restraint held me back.

 

Not for long. Successive phone conversations led to a few more “harmless” dates, and by encounter #3, we were making out like two teens in a John Hughes’s movie. I felt alive, euphoric, feverishly craving more.

 

I was intoxicated…just like the effects of a drug.

 

That’s exactly what B was– a drug, one to which I was fast becoming addicted. I had simply replaced the chemical elixirs and pharmaceutical cocktails with a 54-year old hopeless romantic. And this was when I realized I might be a love addict, because something that feels that good, with extreme highs and lows, cannot be healthy. The red flags were camouflaged by the chemistry; I was totally blindsided.

 

So when it ended as fast as it started, I was left feeling a bit like a child whose toy had been taken away, disregarding the fact that this toy was the equivalent of a Rubik’s Cube that would explode if not solved quickly enough. The proceeding weeks left me in a state of withdrawal, similar to that of an addict mourning the loss of heroin. Ugh, dopamine deprivation.

 

Three months later, I found a love addiction support group, and had the gumption to ask the other women there why I seemed to be dating the same men in different bodies.

 

The unanimous response to my question: “Because you’re a love addict. We’re glad you’re here. Keep coming back.”

 

Come to think of it, maybe I was in the Northwest part of the room when they told me this. Or maybe that woman in the constellation group was daft. In any case, a year later, I realized that my dreams had come true. I had fallen in love with myself, not in an egotistical way, but in a way that made me feel whole, secure, and complete sans any romantic liaison. I had dated and married myself.

 

So I guess B was the portal to all my dreams coming true.

 

Thank you. You were my best “fix.”

 

 

 

 

 

Angie’s Prophecy

 

 

Her name was Angie, we met in rehab in 2008, and I was awestruck by the tattoo below her belly button that read, “The Best Is Yet to Come.” Our backgrounds were similar; both daughters of physicians drifting through life–the hard way–with no distinct direction, just a whimsical spiral into the depths of addiction.

 

She was a heroin addict. I snorted pills, of any variety, as long as they kept me sedated 24/7. Life just wasn’t my jam, you see. I had visions of grandeur with no ability to execute, which is a heck of a dilemma for a frills and fancy-seeking addict.

 

The Best Is Yet to Comeis not just a Sinatra song promising tasty plums from the tree of life and a ring-a-ding-ding future. It’s also a phrase commonly thrown around in recovery meetings, a cliché that seems to betray us when early experiences in sobriety don’t resemble that glamorous pipe dream we once envisioned for our lives.

 

Instead the pipe dream becomes a literal pipe, sans the dream. This is a common scenario when people grapple with the aftershocks of addiction, attempting to reconstruct the remnants of a shoddy existence.

 

Eventually, the clarity alarm rings and something within screams, “Help Me!” This is the real call to action. The white flag raises itself high and the message is clear–Man Down. We’re thus knocked to our knees, bruised and beaten. But eventually, with time and persistence, we’re back on our feet. Sanity propels us forward and the trek to freedom via recovery begins.

 

In early recovery, I would have never believed “The Best Is Yet to Come.” And then it came. Tenfold. Sometimes tattoos speak louder than words.

 

Eight years later, all that pain and suffering has made me wiser, stronger, and fierce as fuck. The pieces of my life, once fragmented and scattered (in various geographical and spiritual locations), have finally reassembled to form a majestic masterpiece beyond what even Michelangelo’s artistic genius was capable of conceiving.

 

You might wonder what my secret was? Simple: I got out of my own way.

 

It’s a strategy that might not seem all that profound, but the genius lies in the simplicity. Following that maxim was literally all it took for me to stay sober and for life to get better. And when I say better, I mean exponentially epic.

 

Nothing I could have ever imagined, dreamt, manifested, forced, coerced, or willed into existence could have ever matched my reality when I let go and allowed the universe to take over. True sanity is making a simple decision to let go of control and invite light in. Then repeat that decision all day, every day.

 

GETTING. OUT. OF. MY. OWN. WAY…. is the only way.

 

I’m a recovered addict. I want what I want when I want it, but what I reap doesn’t always match what I desire. No amount of strategizing will change that; in actuality, my striving and struggling tends to make things hellishly chaotic. So I’m left with two choices: (1) disaster or (2) do something different. After countless years of testing this theory, I support the latter: “Thy Will.” (Another great tattoo, I might add.)

 

Angie’s prophecy became a reality–who would ever have believed it? Certainly no one who came in contact with me during my active addiction. I was that miracle they talk about in AA meetings: a cross between a walking, breathing cliché and a savant poster child for recovery. All egos aside, I still do the work to this day. And on July 27, 2016, I celebrated four years of continuous sobriety.

 

I wonder what happened to Angie or if she even knew how much of an impact she made on my life. Even though we now may be worlds apart, we are one and the same: recovering addicts.

 

My message to her? Stay strong and stay positive, because you were right: The best is indeed yet to come. And when it does for you, Angie, if it hasn’t already, we’ll be united again in the realization of the promise that tattoo made all those years ago.