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My Own Sober Miracle

I used to cringe when I heard those sober zealots talking about "waiting for the miracle." Then mine arrived—and now I’m terrified I’m going to screw it up.

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By Nic Sheff

01/08/12

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I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard some asshole at an AA meeting telling some poor newcomer, "Hey, don't quit before the miracle happens." It’s one of the many seemingly meaningless platitudes repeated over and over again in 12-Step rooms. 

It wasn’t a saying I’ve really thought all that much about, and when I did, I’d just think it sounded dumb. Still, at the same time, I guess I was sort of waiting around for some kind of miracle to happen. Not that I believe in God. But I figured if I worked hard enough, eventually something would come along. It's human nature.

And then, not that long ago, I guess it did come along.

But the truth is that there have been a lot of miracles in my life since getting sober. There are the two books I’ve written and the novel I just sold. There is the fact that I re-met my future wife after not having seen her for 15 years, though we were best friends throughout middle school and I was in love with her the whole time. There is the miracle of how much I’ve come to love my life now, after having been so fucking deeply unhappy for so very long. There is the miracle of my relationship with my family and my friends and two dogs and one cat.

But one thing I haven’t been able to figure out as all these things have happened is how to support my family in the long run—and to find a career that I love doing and will be able to do from now on. 

With the miracle comes fear and stress, self-doubt and all those feelings that made me want to get high in the first place.

Of course, I do love writing books. But, contrary to popular belief, it’s no way to make a living. Plus the process takes forever and, in between books, there’s not much else to do. I’ve tried writing articles for other magazines and have done that here. But this is also slow, infrequent and not all that well paying. What I’ve wanted more than anything is to find something I love to do and have a career working in that field. I guess that’s what everybody wants. That’s what everybody prays for. That’s what I prayed for—well, not prayed, but you know what I mean.

After all, what good were all these other miracles in sobriety if I couldn’t support my family, have kids one day, maybe even buy a modest home? And most people know how hard it is to find a career that will actually make all those things possible—especially a career that is exciting, engaging, and fulfilling. Especially when you don’t have a college education. Especially when you’re not qualified to do pretty much anything other than write, which, as I said, is no way to make a living. I'd been applying to bookstores and other places where I could get paid minimum wage but none of those things worked out.

I needed another miracle.

And, in sobriety, finally, after nearly five years, I got one.

The miracle—the big miracle—happened. 

Only what they don’t tell you (or if they do, I wasn’t listening) is that once the miracle finally does happen—once the opportunity is given to you—that’s when the real hard work begins. Because once you have that chance, the worst thing in the fucking world would be to fuck it up. When you never have a chance to succeed in something, you never have the chance to fail. Now I have the chance to fail. And it freaks me out. 

Of all the jobs I’ve ever had, there’s never been one that I cared about so if I was late or not performing my best didn't matter. But now it matters so much.  

What happened was I got a very low level position working on a TV show (though, if all goes well, I should be able to write my own episode). It’s an entry-level job in a field I absolutely love. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved movies—I mean, been absolutely obsessed with them. But in the last 10 years, I’ve definitely become more and more obsessed with scripted one-hour dramatic television. So getting a chance to write for a great television show is beyond what I ever could have imagined for myself. 

In sobriety, this is the miracle beyond miracles and it happened.

And every single day so far in the writing room has been incredible. I don’t just love the idea of working on a show, I love working on a show. For once in my life, I love all my co-workers, I love getting up in the morning, I love driving in traffic (well, maybe not that, but still…) It is everything I could have ever wanted. I hope I can keep working in TV forever.

But now—now that I have this chance—I’m terrified I’m going to fuck it all up. What if I’m no good? What if I’m not smart enough? Clever enough? What if I’m a failure?

There is that chance. There is always that chance. Because, of course, when the miracle happens, that’s when failure can happen, too. With the miracle comes fear and stress, self-doubt and all those feelings that made me want to get high in the first place. But I’m not going to get high and sabotage my chances or do any other fucking thing I might’ve done inthe past. This opportunity might scare the fuck out of me but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give into it.

I almost hate to admit it but there’s another annoying platitude I’ve heard in AA meetings that I’ve been thinking about: it’s that God will never give us more than we can handle.

Well, like I said, I’m not too sure about the whole God thing but this isn’t going to be more than I can handle. I just have to remember to stay really honest and really open. When I start trying to hide my fear and anxiety, that’s when I get into trouble. Because when I try to pretend that I am not who I am, that’s when the sickness starts to eat away at my insides.

So I will stay true and do the best I can because I love it. And it is, yes, a miracle.

Nic Sheff is a columnist for The Fix and the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction, the New York Times-bestselling Tweak, and We All Fall Down. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two hound dogs, and a cat and has previously written about how not to preach recovery and his father David Sheff's book Beautiful Boy, among many other topics.

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