Alcoholism, Memories, recovery

An Imperfect 10

I slowly woke up this morning from a dream I can’t remember and with my dog, Henry, at the foot of my bed. He’s usually the one to start stirring, but not today. I dragged his little body up next to me and he snuggled into my side, letting out a sigh as if to say, Let’s sleep a bit longer, mom. Ok Hen, we can do that.

I scrolled briefly through my Facebook feed and then checked the CNN app to see if I missed a mass shooting overnight (I didn’t, thankfully) and instead read a little about Trump’s process for choosing a running mate/VP and the big announcement of his decision tomorrow. Now it’s my turn to sigh, more heavily than my dog.

I opened my trusty sobriety app and the display showed 10.00 months. I smiled a little and thanked God for helping me stay away from alcohol for this amount of time.

Seeing 10.00 triggers something inside me. You see, I’ve always been a little silly about the number 10. It started very young, when I was born in fact, weighing in at 10 pounds even. A Perfect 10, I like to say 😉 Big babies are no big deal today but back then, I was considered a whopper. Someone unique and special in all my newborn blubbery.

Before you start feeling sorry for my mom because she had to push out such a monstrosity through a comparatively tiny opening, keep in mind they knocked women out cold in those days. There were no birthing rooms with dulas or coaches or nervous dads gently wiping sweat from the brow of a laboring mom, her lower half rendered numb and useless because of an epidural. Birthing babies happened in a blue tile-walled, brightly-lit sterile operating room with men in masks holding syringes and clamps and forceps. I don’t even want to know how they pulled me out of my mom’s unconscious body. The shit of science-fiction movies, no doubt.

My mom remembers nothing about my birth, only to wake up afterward in a recovery room with her baby girl nowhere in sight. Then they wheeled her down the hall toward the nursery so she could peek at me through the glass. “She’s a big one” the nurse said.

The number ten was later a big part of my life as a gymnast. 10 was the highest score you could get for your routines and performances on each event.  Some may remember Nadia Comaneci of Romania, the first gymnast ever to score a 10 at the Olympic games. This happened in 1976 at the games in Montreal and was awarded for her routine on the uneven parallel bars. I was a tiny 7 year old tumbler then, but remember being awestruck by Nadia and her “perfection.” Later, Mary Lou Retton would score not one but TWO 10s at the 1980 Olympics held in LA. She was a little spark plug in her American flag gymnastics suit, smiling and waving to the crowd and hugging her coaches. I desperately wanted to be like Mary Lou.

The scoring now is very different, and I would argue too complicated. It takes away the drama that is so inherent in highly competitive sports. And completely eliminates the possibility of perfection. But maybe that’s a good thing, because perfection is a strange concept. And in a sport where athleticism and artistry and technical skills are being judged all at the same time, pure objectivity and consensus among a group of people to define “perfection” is highly unlikely.

Perfection is at odds with what we strive for in recovery with the focus instead on progress. For someone like me whose early years were defined by the belief that perfection could be achieved, patting myself on the back for progress doesn’t always feel right. But in AA, progress is measured by milestones and “birthdays” for days and months and years of sobriety, and these are highly celebrated. Progress is rewarded even, with coins and cheers and hugs from friends. There’s just enough drama in these rituals to make them feel important and special.

So instead of measuring my sobriety on a 10 point scale, I will settle for high scores for things I do that continually develop me as a good human being. Staying sober is one of those things. Being good to myself is another. Being good to others, yet another. These are things that when I was drinking, were less important to me.

One more sigh, this time in gratitude, and I’m off to start my day.

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