This I Believe

Philip Christopher - Monticello, New York
Entered on May 4, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

Waking up to a cool, refreshing glass of orange juice is a good thing. Waking up wearing an orange jump suit is no way to start the day. Ironically, that bright and ill-fitting garment managed to rejuvenate my life. My existence up to that point was similar to that of an old, broken-down pickup truck. Once shiny, constructive and powerful, inside I was cold, empty and lifeless.

My new outfit included the must-have accessories of hand-cuffs and leg irons. However cumbersome, those metallic constraints performed like a set of jumper cables. Each of my wiry limbs was outfitted with a positive and negative charge. Their power shocked me with the blast of a much needed wake-up call.

I believe that my awareness grew from the stark reality of that situation. To be aware is to be alive, this I believe.

Performing the leg shackle shuffle, I waddled like a duck through the courtroom to an area that is reserved for prisoners only. Finally, I had reached the pinnacle of lawless success. I was the only jailbird in the building.

Standing up before the bench, his honor barked at me, “Are you aware of the charges as I have explained them?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“Are you aware of the conditions of your bail?”

“Oh yes. Yes sir, your honor. I’m aware.”

All too often, my morning glass of orange juice was mixed with vodka. You see, I’m an alcoholic. I have been aware of that fact for many years. However, I never chose to accept that fact until I woke up in that orange jump suit.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I lived the American Dream. Single-handedly, I drank until those gifts vanished from my life. I lost my house and my girl. I lost my job and crashed my truck. Most of all I lost my freedom. Awareness taught me that the judge or the police did not take that freedom away, I did.

Living my life without alcohol hit me like a ton of bricks. This new awareness opened up a part of my self that was once closed. The world is brighter, the air is fresher, real is realer. Learning about myself, while helping others, I realized that I am not alone. Spending time in the local soup kitchen and in treatment facilities, I was seeing a lot of myself in my predecessors and in those who would follow. I observed the initial despair and frustration in the eyes of my peers. Those dark circles under their eyes illustrate a road map of wrong turns and bumpy highways. Gradually, I notice those feelings transform into hope and confidence. Bodies beaten and egos bruised by the streets are strengthened and postures begin to straighten.

Awareness of a better way of life fosters growth, like a daffodil bulb, frozen during winter, only to emerge for the promise of a new season.

Awareness means I don’t have to wake up in that orange jump suit any more. Besides, unless it’s a glass of straight orange juice, orange is not my color.