Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK and My Sobriety: For Realz?

Yes Virginia, for realz.

Last Friday my status on Facebook just said: eighteen years. Those who know me personally and read this blog knew what that means: I celebrated eighteen years of continuous sobriety. I celebrated by going out to dinner with some of the women who have been on this journey with me. I don't white-knuckle it and go it alone - I need that kind of community, just as I need other kinds of community too.

We all need community, we need each other. We all have our demons and our issues; we all want to both understand and be understood. We all have our humanity in common, no matter our race, gender, sexuality or religion.

Who better to thank for this reminder than Dr. Martin Luther King?

As I take a moment to celebrate him,  I am put in mind of a particular Martin Luther King Day, fourteen years ago. I was working on a dual diagnosis unit in San Francisco. In many of the psychotherapy groups I was leading that day, we discussed Dr. King's famous I Have a Dream speech. 

I will never forget one gentleman in particular, who spoke about the impact Dr, King had had on his life and his future sobriety. This man was in his mid-30's, African-American, astoundingly intelligent, but his brain had been hit with severe depression and alcoholism. He wanted to stay sober because of Dr. King's words. He yearned for faith because of Dr. King's legacy.

He quoted Dr. King: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." 
His eyes glistening with tears, he went on to say: "Alcoholism and mental illness is another form of oppression." His voice was a slow, deep baritone. He had been taking his medication, wasn't drinking and was starting to feel better. Heads nodded, and all faces turned toward him. (Which in itself was a miracle - one of my therapeutic goals with several "clients" was eye contact in a group setting.)

He stopped, looking to me for assurance. I smiled, encouraging him. He was able to connect Dr. King's messages of non-violence, faith and dreams of equality to his own hopes for sobriety. He was able to strike a chord with his fellow group members talking about MLK's message in a way that I, as a young white girl wasn't able to.

He struck a chord with me too, and now MLK is indelibly a part of my sobriety.

Abstinence isn't for everybody, but it is for me, because I recognize that I have the dis-ease of alcoholism. It is a dis-ease of body, mind and spirit. It almost killed me.

It doesn't mean that I'm a lower form of human, that I can't handle my liquor, that one drink is too much for me because I don't know when to stop - and nor does it mean I'm a higher form of human, that I have transcended the need for spirits. (I haven't - I need an ever-evolving  relationship with a Higher Power - I just don't pretend that I can heal myself or my stress with alcohol anymore.)

It means I get to be human, I get to live. And I get to share myself with you.

Thank you Dr. King: your reach is wider than you ever knew.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Lena,

    Congratulations! You have been an inspiration to me from my first time at 82nd st. two years ago. I miss seeing you there. Hope all is well and thanks for inspiring me one again. Great post!


  3. Thank you so much Trish for stopping by the blogosphere to say hello - your taking time to comment means a lot to me. I miss seeing you too, and I am so glad to hear that you are keeping your seat warm on 82!

  4. Hi Lena,
    What a great post. Thanks for sharing! I wanted to let you know that I finally read Edges. Congratulations on a well written and thoroughly engaging book. You really brought the characters to life and did a good job of dealing with a difficult subject. I reviewed it on Goodreads and plan to do the same on Amazon and blog about it.

    And on another note....I bought the 50th anniversary edition of The Snowy Day. There are several pages of bonus material in the back including a fantastic picture of Ezra Jack Keats with your grandmother on July 15th, 1963, at the awards dinner for the Newbery and Caldecott winners; A Wrinkle in Time and The Snowy Day. You probably have your own copy of that picture!

    Take Care.

  5. Thank you soooooo much Cari! I'm so glad that you read Edges, and enjoyed it enough to tell me about it! I always love it when you comment.

  6. Wow. I had no idea. Congratulations to you!

  7. What an amazing and brave journey, Lena!

  8. Lena- beautiful and moving piece. Martin Luther King is one of my heroes and it was touching to hear his message give clarity to some who are on a tough jorunery. All is possible if you believe that it is better to live in the light.

  9. Congratulations on your hard-won sobriety, Lena. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it.

  10. Thank you everyone for taking the time to read and comment! Lisa, I always love seeing your name on here!

  11. Hey, Léna. Congratulations! I am glad you get to be human and create and express yourself. :)

    -Eleanor, clerk from Flights of Fantasy bookstore

  12. Hey Eleanor! Thanks so much! I hope that Albany is treating you kindly. Cheers!

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