Gifts of Sobriety – @SoberMovement

I left a 60 day treatment center on August 31st, 2018. Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10th, 2018. I watched from an apartment complex in Pensacola, FL. I watched this storm destroy my hometown. A town that my parents, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles live in. A city that I have so many memories in and that will always have a special place in my heart.

My parents, grandparents, and two cousins stayed at my parent’s house to ride out the category 4 hurricane. I lost contact with my family members around 11am. The last text I received said that they were in a closet and that it was getting worse. Fortunately, I heard from them around 4pm that same day. All my dad said was “We are safe, the house has damages but we are lucky. But, it’s bad. Really bad”. Keep in mind that they had only seen what was around our neighborhood. They had no idea what the rest of the city looked like. I tried to explain what I had seen on the Weather Channel and on Facebook; that there was probably nothing left. They were calling me asking what specific buildings looked like or if they were even still standing. “Guys,” I tried to explain, “No one knows exactly what things look like because no one can get into the city. Hospitals are being evacuated because roofs caved in and every single building at the Air Force Base has extensive damage. That is all I know.” They couldn’t grasp the magnitude of this storm.

The following days after landfall were the hardest. It had taken a couple of days to hear from other family members that were not staying at my parent’s house but we were able to confirm that they were all safe. I barely had any contact with my parents and had no idea what was really going on. I wished I could do something, anything. I felt so useless. There was nothing I could do. I wanted to drive there and be with them. They didn’t deserve this; they shouldn’t be going through this. My mom called me 2 days after the hurricane, “Hey, I just wanted to call, I feel like it haven’t talked to you a lot. How are you?” I lost it. Through tears I said “I’m so sorry, I wish I could help you.”. My parents have given me everything and I couldn’t do a single thing to help them in this catastrophic event that just occurred.

“There is nothing left.” my dad said on his way to work one morning. He works for AT&T and has been working 14 hour shift for 14 days straight with one day off since the storm. You could hear the heartbreak in his voice, “You drive down the street and there is nothing. Nothing will be the same.” Again, the feeling of uselessness came in. I needed to help them and there was nothing I could do. I felt like I should be experiencing this with them. I wanted to drop everything I was doing and go there. But looting was getting worse, they still didn’t have power or water, and debris was scattered all over the streets. If I came, I couldn’t offer much assistance and didn’t know if I would be able to get out of Panama City since there was little to no gas.

I sent my dad a text that night, “I love you.” He responded back, “I love you too. I hope you have a peaceful night sleep.” He has no power and it’s 100 degrees in the house and he is telling me to have a peaceful night sleep. I woke up around 8:15am to his phone call. “Hello.”, I answered. “Hey, what are you doing?” “Ah, still sleeping, what are you doing?” “What did you do last night?” Weird question from my dad but I don’t usually sleep this late, so maybe he wanted to know why I was sleeping in. “I hung out with a friend and we went to a fundraiser downtown and then I came home around 8:30pm and went to bed.” “Oh, okay.” That’s when it clicked, he thought I went out last night. He thought I sent him a drunk ‘I love you’ text. “Dad, I didn’t go out last night! I’ll have 4 months sober this week.” He exhaled, “Oh, good, I was so worried. That’s great, I’m so proud of you.” This man who has housed 6 of my family members in his own home, who watched his community get destroyed, who has been working nonstop, who has spent hours on the phone with insurance, who was reaching out to other family members for more bottles of water because they were running low, was worried about ME. ME.

In my addiction, I couldn’t have cared less that they were worried about me. I was fine, nothing was wrong, no need to worry. My mom told me that she would wake up in the middle of the night with a bad feeling and would pray for me and I still didn’t care. They received numerous drunk phone calls and have witnessed me in that state of mind multiple times and I couldn’t have cared less about what I was doing to them.

I could have gotten upset with my dad, “How dare you question my sobriety when I just got out of treatment.” But instead, I realized something, in that moment I was something they no longer needed to worry about. They needed to focus on rebuilding their lives and I was now helping them by not being something that needed to consume their thoughts and energy. I know it doesn’t seen like much but that was something I was able to provide my family in that moment. Although I wasn’t able to offer manpower, running water, or a hot meal I was able to give them peace of mind.

I went to Panama City last weekend and it still looks an atomic bomb went off. I immediately started crying when I drove into the city. My dad was right, there is nothing left. But, I was reminded of the strength and resilience that this town has. My mom and I were able to give supplies to individuals and families who had lost everything. My family is focused on what they need to do to rebuild their lives, post hurricane Michael, and I am so grateful that I am no longer on the list of things they need to worry about.

As an addict, I wasn’t aware of how worried my my family was. But they were worried. Even when they act like they don’t care. They do. Giving your family and friends peace of mind isn’t a reason to get sober but it is an amazing gift. One that I am extremely grateful for.

Chandler

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