555 days ago, on the 1st of September 2016, wickedly hungover, I swam out into the middle of the Wandlitzsee, a lake outside Berlin. Lungs on fire, floating on my back, tears salting the lake water, I begged God once again to please help me. I was so afraid that I would not be able to stop drinking. That I would not be able to live.
The one thing I had not tried was surrender. I had relied on the fight. Depended on tenacity, on running and never giving up my whole life. How could I surrender? How could that be the answer and what does it even mean? I told God I was willing to surrender but to please explain what surrender looks like, feels like? Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I felt a soft voice, surely say "stop swimming, stop paddling and just let the water hold you.”
That is what I did and that is what I kept doing over those first few tender days, on our little camping holiday on the lake. I practiced letting go and letting myself be held by the water, by the earth, a chair. I practiced listening to my body. I ate when I was hungry. Dozed off when I was tired. I thought about something that I had heard Rob Bell say about grace and gratitude and the generosity of life. He spoke of the first thing that happens for us, when we are born into this world. We are given the most precious gift, a gift that we need for our very survival - a breath. And then we are given another one and another and we just keep being given this gift over and over, all day and night for the rest of our lives. That this gift does not require our effort, only our existence. That we are born loved and cherished and supported.
This is the foundation that I have been growing on for the past 555 days. That I am loved because I exist. That I do not have to earn my place in this world. I was given to this lifetime because the whole entire universe needs a me around. All I ever have to do with every given breath is to become more and more deeply and uniquely myself. To find out who I am and do it on purpose.
I asked God not just for sobriety but for freedom. I said “Dear God, please grant me freedom from alcohol” and freedom is what I have. I do not crave alcohol, not even when times are really hard or shocking or exceptionally painful. I don’t feel awkward when other people are drinking around me, I just feel really lucky and grateful that I am not doing that to myself anymore.