April 1, 2013

Life after 25 years of Sobriety: Resurrecting Me. ~ Renee Baribeau

Photo: Tanya Dawn

Celebrating My Own Resurrection This Easter

This Easter I celebrate 26 years of being free from the suffocating grip of alcohol.

As a Shaman, I realize that there are living spirits who derive vicarious pleasure by using us as straws while we drink our cocktails. Some are friendlier than others. Years ago, as I was puffing on a cigarette, I became aware that a spirit was smoking through me. Since that day I have yet to put tobacco to my lips.

My life improved once I quit drinking, but on occasion I am reminded that my inner demons still live on. I’m grateful to be alive and healthy, unlike my father who died at the hands of a scotch demon. My motivation to quit came about during Easter Brunch. I was sitting at a table with my partner, while ogling a woman sitting across from me. This was the final act in a long drawn out drama of a very important relationship. As someone who pushes away love, I’ve had a handful of serious attractions the last 25 years; each one took me on a new journey, but always at the expense of my sanity.

Twenty-five years later I’m still struggling with inner demons. This past year has been a time of isolation and deep longing. Despite my best attempts not to emulate the generation before me, I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps, and closed the door to my heart.

My romantic experiences often left me hiding in the closet, crumpled in a fetal position.  

After many failed relationships, I found it easier to pull back and close the door. Alas, the human desire to connect invariably creeps back, slides under the crack of the closet door, teasing me until I emerge once again.

Last year I went on an island holiday. I decided to go for a stroll along the local beach. I was gazing at the ocean, and pondering my life, when a symphony of celestial music suddenly blew in from the trees, lifting me high above the wreckage of my closed heart. During this moment of peace and clarity, seeds for a new book were born. My first book of recipes was a metaphor for how I had escaped an early death in the same way that my father had done. My upcoming book will offer a system of healing designed for those suffering from deep emotional scars.

During my 25 years of sobriety I’ve been brought my knees many times. I’ve chipped away at my biggest character flaw: clubbing people with hurtful words. With shadow there is always light. My magical tool is capable of inspiring others, but when crossed, it rears its ugly head and becomes a mace of malice. This year, my goal is to reconcile my tongue. Above my desk hangs a sign that says, “Wait Three Days.” Sometimes I fail.

Over the years I’ve flown thousands of miles and drove countless hours to make amends to 77 different people.

Most often it was about self-forgiveness and connecting with the Divine. One day, after making a graveside amends to Jim, my sous chef, whom I had challenged every day, I encountered a chance meeting with Grace.

The following day I unexpectedly met his mother while attending a fair, 100 miles away, where I had driven to set one more wrong right. Struggling to find appropriate words, I recounted a misgiving with her son. She looked into my eyes, and said, “I am here because he forgives you.” As I dropped to my knees in tears in disbelief, my heart suddenly opened and I felt an inner peace, a new faith. Over the years, whenever dark clouds would hover in my life, I would call forth the memory of this enlightening experience.

Another Easter has arrived, and once again, I am struck sober by the willingness of my heart to open and heal. I love how the heart willingly goes when it is called, without concern. Each time I fall, I forget to ask the important questions, “Is it right, is it appropriate, and am I safe?”

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to love again. I forgot what it feels like to have someone paying attention to me, chatting for hours on the phone, and to enjoy true companionship. No matter how much you love your favorite jeans, the darkness and loneliness of a closet will never facilitate joy, peace and true love.

Healing is a gradual, and sometimes painful process. The last time the petals of my heart opened they were shattered, and it took me eight years to recover. Today I am grateful for the lessons learned. I have realized that my heart can love freely. There is no need for me to visit a barren wasteland, no matter how pretty the flowers appear on the other side of the river.

I’m celebrating my resurrection this Easter. I look forward to discovering my true self, and finding true love during the next quarter century.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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