The way home

June 3, 2010

I am on a flight where you choose your own seat and this is new to me. At the same time that this empowers me, it also makes me feel like the unpopular kid in the lunch room, searching frantically for one of the last spaces and a welcoming face. Much like the last four and a half months of sobriety, I think, because I always think in analogies. I can’t help it.

I spot the middle seat in the exit row and ask the Aisle Man if it’s taken. He kindly says it’s yours and I slide in and stretch my legs and start to realize he’s been drinking. He makes jokes that aren’t funny, loudly, trying to entertain the whole plane. Some people chuckle softly, a courtesy laugh. Others shift uncomfortably in their seats, trying to ignore his volume and obvious drunkenness.

He orders a drink and then another on a flight that’s not two hours. I read David Sedaris and somehow I feel at ease. I feel comfortable with him, a kindred spirit even though I’m on this side of our addiction. I understand him and I forgive his clumsy words and actions and talk with him about Minneapolis. I am on my way home and I’m sober and it’s surreal and good and different. And I think, when we’re together we are not okay while we’re okay, we are on different pages in the same book. And then I pray there is speed-reading involved in his story, even though I’m not ahead of him while I’m on this different page.


I get off the plane and I walk with this man until we say goodbye. Then I wait to claim my overstuffed bag. We’re early, maybe the wind hurried our flight. So I lug said bag over the edge of the carousel and I go and stand outside while it starts to drizzle and I wait. I’m feet away from a bench and so I hear her when she slurs. She’s talking to me and to everyone and no one and I don’t know what her words are, but I know she’s drunk. She can’t sit up straight, her body sways from her intoxication and she rolls her eyes and waves away a woman who approaches her. The woman is her sister and she’s anxious and embarrassed. She gives me an apologetic shrug of the shoulders and I touch her arm and tell her I understand, that I’m recovering, slowly. Her eyes light up and she says me too and she grabs my hand and tells me it’s always so comforting to meet a fellow friend of Bill W.

She needed that right then and I did too and it was no coincidence at all that we stood there together just two people making an army.

With her garbled words, my new bench friend tells me she will be taken to Hazelden. She flew here to go to treatment. She laughs, like it’s the best joke of her life and then the corners of her mouth shiver in fear. She is doing an excellent job of having one last hurrah before treatment, and my heart hurts for her and with hers and next to her soldier sister. I want to tell her that things are about to get better. I want to tell her that she’s on her way to something good. I want to fix it. But I know she won’t remember and so I just stand close by and I wait and I silently pray that she makes it, that her sister makes it. I really want them to make it.

And I pray and want the same thing for me, because we who are not on the same page but living the same story, we are different while always the same.

Then my ride pulls up to the curb and I don’t want to leave while I want to leave.

That’s how it feels, in this book, my addiction story, their addiction story. We are always both saints and sinners while we get better or we don’t.

Whatever the page, there is always growth in the pain, while we wait for our rides home.


Kelly June 3, 2010 at 9:32 am

I love this way of looking at addiction … because it's true and raw and cyclical. The same story but different pages with likely similarities in the opening chapters and potentially drastically different endings.

So diverse and complicated, yet so much the same. It's you and him and her and us. Always.

MollyinMinn June 3, 2010 at 9:35 am

Amazing how people weave in and out of our lives, sometimes when we need to have them do just that, the most.

Kim June 3, 2010 at 9:36 am


This is an amazing post. Even thought I am closely acquainted with addiction, I have never been "in" the book. I have read the book, I have seen it in my family, but never been in the pages myself.
This has opened my eyes and helped me understand that even though my family members who have been sober for 20 years (YES! It is possible) probably still struggle with it.
You are a wonderful woman and I am honored to call you friend.

5thsister June 3, 2010 at 9:48 am

Oh sweet Heather…these were not mere accidental encounters. I see the hand of God working through you. Will you pray that I, somehow, reach the page you are on?

deb June 3, 2010 at 10:01 am

just love this,
and your every page.

and you.

btw , finished When We are Engulfed in Flames not too long ago…. is that the one you are reading?

Kelly Langner Sauer June 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

a necessary story. you have lived things I cannot even imagine. I so value this perspective. you help me understand how human we all are.

"there is always growth in the pain, while we wait for our rides home."

Becca June 3, 2010 at 10:11 am

And everyone's got a story, whether the book is open or hidden. And we all wait for our rides to somewhere. What a blessing to find their stories during the wait.

Subourbon Wife June 3, 2010 at 10:11 am

I'm proud of you, Heather. I have these little "God winks" once in a while and I wonder if they were always there and I was just unable to recognize them when I was drinking.
I had lunch with a friend yesterday who lost her new job because she drank at lunch one day. It seems so simple: DON'T go to work drunk! But it's not a matter of intelligence or willpower; it's a disease that plays terrible tricks on your mind. I love reading your stories and others', and the compassion and love our community shows others. Thanks for the post!

Ryley @ That's My Family! June 3, 2010 at 10:14 am

That's God deliverying just what you need to see. It's a new perspective around every corner.
So proud of you and how far you've come…

AllisonO June 3, 2010 at 10:44 am

Heather, this is beautiful. You don't need me to tell you that because it comes from you and you are beautiful and it shows in your person and your writing, but I want to tell you it anyway.

This is beautiful.

Corinne June 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

"…even though I'm not ahead of him while I'm on this different page."
Lovely. All of it, but especially that phrase. I'm so struck by how you see things, in those analogies and the people you meet. It seems like it's all good through your eyes, and I love that about you.

Bina June 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

Loved this…cuz it reminds us how we aren't alone. "we stood there together just two people making an army."

Funny what you notice when on the "other side", eh?

Beautiful post, friend.

Kori June 3, 2010 at 11:34 am

Very well said.

Heather June 3, 2010 at 11:49 am

Isn't it amazing how you are put in the right place at exactly the right time. I am always in awe when I see these examples of His divine intervention.


Jo@Mylestones June 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Wow. Amazing post. Such great perspective.

Sara Joy June 3, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I don't have words here.
But I need for you to know how beautiful this is, how true, how real.
Thank you.

hezro June 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Beautifully written!

Cameron June 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm

This is a beautiful post. Hugs to you, friend. :)

Kate Coveny Hood June 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm

It's funny how people just find each other. So often when you need something, all you need to do it look up from your bench to find it. You are a brave soldier.

Aging Mommy June 3, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I think everyone's stories as to how they end up in arguably in the wrong place are different, but what they end up facing and fighting to overcome is the same and although the end of this sort of story is never reached, hopefully for you there will be a moving on, beyond the ride home.

maggie, dammit June 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm

There really are no coincidences in sobriety.


Kimberly June 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Oh that beautiful heart of yours, to care so much for the others living that story with you.

Adventures In Babywearing June 3, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Oh wow, there's nothing I can say here compared to your own words. You are a painter of life stories. Many of them your own.


MommyJ June 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I imagine this is a journey that doesn't really ever end… but Heather, when you are far enough along that you can look back a ways and see how very far you've come, I hope you put all of these thoughts in a book. I really mean that. You have such an amazing way of expressing yourself that is so uplifting, so encouraging, so easy to relate to. There is an audience much larger than this blog that could benefit from your perspective. I love you for that… for your amazing perspective.

alita June 3, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Yes. Everyone has a story. Whether it be an open book or a secret, it is comforting to know that others are willing to read with you. Even if they are on different pages. This post sung out to me. Wonderfully composed. I felt nothing but compassion (not judgment) of the people you met. I don't know how to feel about that except grateful. There has to be more people that don't judge and who are accepting even if they have moved on.

Excellent writing.

Zoeyjane June 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Sometimes, you're in the right place at the right time.

wendy June 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm

A PEOPLE OF TWO MAKING AN ARMY —that was powerful and beautiful.
this was a great post!!

swonderful June 3, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I read this post on my iPod reader earlier and it straight-up took my breath away. Girlfriend, you are amazing.

Megan June 4, 2010 at 12:58 am

Heather, thank you for sharing this incredibly difficult and inspiring journey with us. It is amazing and you express your thoughts so beautifully. I'm linking to the post you read at the CBC–I want my readers to enjoy it, since I don't remember the last time I was so moved by an expression of motherhood.

LadyMissSusan June 4, 2010 at 1:30 am

I just recently started reading your blog thanks to our mutual twitter friend @mandiegirl. While I haven't gone back & read all of your story yet I find your post & thoughts on alcoholism & addiction so insightful for someone so newly sober. It's a true testament to the program you are working! Thanks for reminding me tonight to have a little patience for the people who are just on a different page.

健豪 June 4, 2010 at 3:07 am
LisAway June 4, 2010 at 5:49 am

Tearful with this one Heather. It's lovely. You're lovely.

Charlotte June 4, 2010 at 6:53 am

One of the positive things about overcoming hard, hard struggles is the ability to emphasize and help others on the same journey without judgment. Thanks for showing us so clearly that perspective.

Ronnica June 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

Thank you for this. Love the "We are always both saints and sinners while we get better or we don't."

Trece June 4, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Your writing is so clear and true and beautiful that it hurts, like those knives that sever a limb and you don't recognize it till you pass out from loss of blood.

I love you, Heather; feel like we're conjoined at the hip.

It does get better. It has gotten better. One day at a time. . .

Rachel Sue June 4, 2010 at 11:35 pm

I wanted to stop and say that I'm so glad that I got to hear you speak at CBC, because I could hear you read this. And that makes all the difference.

Sarah June 5, 2010 at 5:12 am

You nail it every time you hunker down and write about addiction and recovery. You've got more and more in you. Words. Essays. A book, perhaps. But certainly, certainly, this sacred space here. And all of us reading.

Welcome Home.

rebecca @ altared spaces June 5, 2010 at 9:24 am

Your words are such poetry. I love the theme of the book and "home". Going home in so many ways. We're all finding our way there.

This is incredible living and writing and I'm inspired by both.

Boy Crazy June 5, 2010 at 9:37 am

just two people making an army.

incredibly powerful story, heather. not just this one you wrote here; but the one you are living.


anymommy June 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I don't know anything about this story and I still feel it through you. I have a feeling, in the past, I have walked by that bench unseeing, or rolled my eyes at that guy on the plane. And this is why I read blogs. Now, I know.

Mrs4444 June 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

What a fantastic post-Wow. I agree with Boy Crazy.

Em June 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm

what a beautiful story. We share a common bond, I love your relations to pages in a book. I pray that you make it also, and I believe that you will :)

Hope June 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm

This was a beautiful read.

charrette June 7, 2010 at 12:12 am

I loved this, Heather. So much so that I forwarded it to my son, with a lovely preface. And then forgot to leave you a comment. Oops!

This has the most lovely, forgiving, humbling insights.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts with us.

Christine June 7, 2010 at 6:40 am

The people we meet on our journey are sometimes fleeting, but often have an impact that extends beyond the brief moment in time. Sounds like that's what happened here. What you have to say is so important. Thanks for sharing as always and for being honest with us.

ZDub June 7, 2010 at 3:18 pm


You wrote the crap out of that.


debi9kids June 9, 2010 at 12:08 am

Oh wow. I am sitting here crying reading these words….

I think of so many people in my family that are on the same page as you, or in the same book, and I often wonder how to keep myself from getting there…

I feel the pull and tell myself never go there. But it scares me just to hear it.

Bless you for sharing your journey

Hyacynth December 31, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Don't know how I missed this one the first time around, but I'm glad I read it now. So very powerful, and it translates into so many other struggles.

MommyNamedApril February 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm

really lovely. congrats on being where you are and all the best in moving forward.

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} September 10, 2011 at 8:36 pm

wow, this is so telling and real and gracious. i love it.
suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} recently posted..out in the rain, everything changed

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