The way home, revisited

September 11, 2011

Today I read an article in the October issue of Redbook magazine and was brought back to the beginning of my sobriety journey. Well, wait. Actually, I was brought back to my drinking days, too.  The article is about drinking mothers and features myself and my friends Ellie and Corinne.

I dont’ know if people who read that article will google The Extraordinary Ordinary and land here, but if so, I wanted to share something for them. So today I’m re-posting something from not long after I stopped drinking. I hope it speaks grace to anyone who comes along.


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.


Cynthia September 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I missed this the first time but I so admire your strength and courage- and your skill in conveying the unconveyable in words. You speak for so many. I admired all of that before I knew of your addiction story and the knowledge I have of that story now has only made that connection stronger. I, like countless others, cheer for you. We love to see you fight through and succeed. We’ll still be here, reading and encouraging, even if you fall or lapse. Yours is a story of messy triumph and through your story, others will see the way too! Thanks for being brave enough to shine the light for all who need it- which is pretty much all of us in some way or another.
Cynthia recently posted..Studio 5- Again!

molly September 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Ugh, Heather. Thank you for this.

I drank until I blacked out last night. And on medicine that clearly states I should not be drinking. I am most certainly not in recovery. I am scared. And I am running from it.
molly recently posted..while I was sleeping

Elizabeth @claritychaos September 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm

This is one of my favorite things you’ve written.
Elizabeth @claritychaos recently posted..We were camping in Yellowstone.

psychologysarah September 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Heather, I can’t help but comment when you write. I care for you so much and I love you thru your words. I, by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ am not an addict. But sometimes I wonder how I was spared. I just connect so much with your words and eat them up. You are so strong, you are a voice for those that have not found theirs yet. Your honesty is amazing.

Kim September 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

Still one of my favorites.

I love you.
Kim recently posted..Flee

Heather September 12, 2011 at 6:09 pm

What an inspiration you are to others. You are brave to open yourself up and put yourself in a vulnerable position. I feel your strength. I am new to your blog but I can clearly see how extraordinary you are.

laura @ hollywood housewife September 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Thank you for re-posting.
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Anneke September 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Wow, Heather, wow, wow, wow!!!
I am in tears yet again for the umpteenth time today…
I am currently separated from my husband (an extremely verbally abusive housemate)
He struggles too and my heart aches when you describe that man on the plane… it ached every time my husband did it, too. The loudness, the obnoxiousness, the jokes I had heard a thousand time before…
I don’t know what it is like being on that side of it, I struggle with stuff, but not this stuff so I just don’t get it. I wanted to be that someone to help him, but I hindered and enabled most of the time, I didn’t turn the other cheek either. Never enough, I couldn’t be… now I wait for him to find his way.
Anneke recently posted..Randomness …of perfection, writing, inadequacies, faith and trust

Meredith September 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Yes, I read the Redbook article and yes, I googled Extraordinary Ordinary and that was about 8 hours ago and here I still sit, overwhelmed because I think I was led to this place and to you so that I could begin to discover the truth about myself. I knew that I was broken and I knew that I was flawed but seeing that you are too and reading the beauty of the writing that comes out of you has inspired me to shed some light upon my own sickness and expose the beauty that I may have inside.
I have a feeling that I will be one of the first of many, many thousands of women who are led to you, and to themselves, because of the article. And so THANK YOU. You are so talented and brave and simply an answered prayer for me.

Heather September 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Meredith, I just happened to check my email and got your comment at the absolute perfect time. I’m always so surprised by grace, even though it is always there. Thank you for taking the time to let me know you read not only the article but my words here too, and that it all meant something to you. These kinds of things, these connections, always makw me want to sit downfor hours to talk. To say, tell me every word of your story because you matter so much and everything about it, the good and the bad, is all beautiful. Thank you!

Lorna September 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I just read your article in Redbook (a friend gave it to me) and was so happy to see that so many women feel exactly like I do. You have a unique talent for writing and putting exactly into words everything I’ve been thinking and feeling over the last 8 years I’ve been an alcoholic. I’ve been 7 months sober now (with God’s help) but some days my confidence doesn’t seem much better than it did when I was drinking. I go to AA meeting occasionally.
I’d love to know how long you’ve been sober and how your sobriety is going? Thank you so much for your encouraging and brave words!

Heather September 27, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Hello Lorna,

Thank you for your kind words about my writing. I’m so glad the Redbook article fell into your hands. Congratulations on 7 months of sobriety!

My confidence doesn’t seem much better than when I was drinking at times either…but still, I am so much more peaceful as a sober person. I’ve been sober for a year and 9 months. In so many ways it has flown by and in other ways it goes turtle slow. Sobriety has been a slow process for me overall, really. I mean, I didn’t have a magical experience with getting sober. Peace has come at a slow pace and I cling to the “progress, not perfection” saying. Grace comes in TIME and I am very impatient. More than anything, I’m grateful that my children have a sober mother now. I know for sure that my drinking only would have gotten worse and that would just be too painful for all of us.

Thank you again and I wish you so much peace in this journey. I know it’s hard, but I do see the gifts, they just keep coming…when I look for them, I seem them.


Fiona September 27, 2011 at 8:20 pm

I have a sobriety date of 9/29/11. It is my deadline and I enjoy your humble honesty. wish me luck.

Heather September 27, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I do wish you the best of luck and much peace and grace, too, Fiona. I’m sorry you’re struggling. I know how that feels. Please always remember that you’re not alone.

Fiona September 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm


Helenmartha October 11, 2011 at 11:39 am

I read the article in rebook yesterday while waiting for my son in the dentist office. Rather I say I took it! I realized that I wasn’t getting the full feeling of all of you womans stories because I was concerned someone might see what I was so captivated with! My god the significance I live in is paralizing! Anyway I have spent the in tire morning/afternoon reading crying thinking about how wonderful it is that I came across all of your pathes and how insignificant I really am! Our stories our fears our distruction is all so similar! I need help I want help and because of your writing I am feeling more positive about the possibility of joy love and respect for my future! Thank you and please wish me luck!

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