Balloons and confetti covered the stage as millions of people cheered. With tears streaming down her face, Kelly Clarkson stepped forward to accept her place as the first American Idol. Her original song summed up the scene best: “Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this!” That one single moment, hearing her name called as the winner, has forever transformed her life.
Have you experienced those single snapshots in time that become vividly scribed into your memory? That solitary experience that, no matter how many years pass, recalling it transports you there in an instant when time seemed to pause, sensed heightened, and the brain etching every finite detail. How can one moment in time be so impactful that it changes the course of your life or alters your world view?
I experienced one of these moments as a child. I was in the back of my dad’s pickup truck, wind blowing in my face as I stared into the passing pastures. I had just learned our “father/son weekend” was now going to include his brother and several cases of beer. He had turned to look back from the driver’s seat after unexpectedly stopping to pick up his brother and through the window shot a familiar nasty glance at me. That was the moment I made the decision to keep my promises to my children and committed to make myself as opposite of him as possible. That one moment altered the way I viewed the world, him, and how I chose to behave for years.
I could go on, throughout my life’s timeline, pinpointing these epiphany moments. I’ve learned that doing so helps me better understand the driving force behind my thought patterns and ultimately the resulting behaviors. But the latest “moment” has been the most influential so far: when I made the decision to be sober. `
It was an August day, the humidity was a thick, smothering blanket. The three of us, my kids and myself, were sweating as soon as we left my daughter’s car and began walking toward the greenway. I had been released from jail earlier that day, and my daughter had been the only voice to answer my “collect call from a Mecklenburg County inmate”. This had been the fourth time I found myself there in two years. We were silent as we walked through the grass, I recall the distant sounds of a brook, birds singing, and children playing.
This was the first time I can remember feeling awkward around my own children; I hadn’t seen them in months after we were evicted from our home and I went out of state to “get my shit together.” I didn’t know what to say, but I knew what I felt. There was an overwhelming surge of emotion that I can only describe as a newfound release of the past and resolve for the future. I clumsily stumbled over my words as I attempted to apologize and explain how I ended up in jail again. I hesitantly vowed to stay away from drugs because I had made that promise to them before and the words seemed hollow.
My daughter, not sure if it was the frustration of the heat or impatience with me, or a combination of all those things, abruptly stopped the awkward walk-and-talk. I turned to see her standing in her best scolding stance: hands on her hips and head tilted, lips quivering.
“Dad. It’s either Meth or us. You decide.”
We all stood in silence. My son’s eyes met mine with a dull sadness that I had not seen or maybe never noticed before that day. He then looked down at the ground. My daughter’s chest was heaving; surely it took a certain boldness for her to confront me in this way.
That’s the moment. I let it go.
Mentally I finally made the choice, seeing the dire situation in a new way. As my psyche experienced the epiphany, it manifested physically as I felt every muscle in my body seemed to melt. That is the moment I take myself back to every time I have a craving or feel weak or faced with a temptation. Imagery has played a major role in enabled me to stay sober for, as of this writing, over 160 days.
Was there a moment in time that made you decide to be sober? If not, what are some factors that led you to break the hold of addiction? I would really love to hear about it.