We Didn’t Start the Fire!
Welcome back to Halfway House Chronicles: One Woman’s Story of Early-Sobriety. I hope you liked the first one, ‘cause I have lots more where that came from!
When I was coming up with my list of which interesting experiences to write about, I kept coming back to the idea that they should be more than funny stories. I mean, fun and games are good…but where’s the value? Where’s the spiritual lesson in telling humorous stories about early-recovery?
With that in mind, all Halfway House Chronicles are going to have some sort of lesson attached to them. They’ll have some nugget of wisdom I’ve distilled from my (somewhat crazy) early-sobriety antics.
Today, I’d like to share with you all about the time I lit a fire in my sober living house and end with a reflection on God-centered thinking. Sounds like a jump, right? Then read on!
Okay, Maybe We DID Start the Fire…
I was living in the same halfway house I talked about last time. My roommates who were secretly getting high had been kicked out. I got a new roommate who I loved and, more importantly, who was working to better herself spiritually.
We’d go to meetings together, discuss the Big Book together, do yoga together, meditate together, and talk to boys together. In short, we were inseparable and not always for the best reasons!
One day, we were hanging out on the other side of our halfway house “complex” (the house was actually a bunch of apartments in a large complex). We were smoking cigarettes and talking to two boys who were up on their porch.
They started throwing little bits of gravel at us, so, of course, we threw our cigarettes up at them. Makes sense, right? Oh the strange logic of early-sobriety!
Anyway, one of our cigarettes must have fallen from their porch to the bushes in front of us ‘cause, within a minute or two, we noticed A LOT of smoke coming from the bush. We’d accidently lit it on fire!
I started freaking out and yelling about how we were going to get kicked out (I probably should have been yelling about how we could have burned the place down). Thankfully, my roommate was more levelheaded. She ran up into the boys’ apartment, grabbed a bucket of water, and dumped it on the bush.
That got rid of the fire and the immediate emergency. At our house meeting a few days later, my roommate and I got called out for going into the boys’ apartment. Apparently someone had seen my roommate run into their house to get water!
I was furious because a) I hadn’t gone into their apartment and b) my roommate only did it to extinguish the fire! I tried explaining that to the owner and house managers. Of course, they weren’t very understanding. They didn’t kick us out, but we were now on thin ice.
And they were right! One of the house managers, the same one who’d given me such good advice when I called her about my old roommates using, took me aside and gave me some MORE advice I still remember to this day.
A Lesson in Humility & God
Here’s where the lesson I was talking about earlier enters the picture (told you we’d get there!). This woman, who I now think was an angel sent into my life to help me during early-recovery, told me a few things.
First, she pointed out that my roommate and myself wouldn’t have had to get water to extinguish the fire if we hadn’t been at the boys’ apartment in the first place. Okay, that’s pretty obvious right? It hit me like a ton of bricks!
She explained that I was looking for attention and outside validation, which is normal for an alcoholic, when I should have been looking to strengthen my relationship with God.
She sat down with me (ironically right in front of where we’d started the fire!) and explained the difference between God-centered thinking and selfish thinking. God-centered thinking, she said, was when someone prayed and meditated and thought of how they could help people.
Selfish thinking, on the other hand, was what most alcoholics were used to. It was thinking about only ourselves and how to get what we want.
She then explained that although I was upset over this whole situation (and on early-curfew!), I could use it as a source of humility and a way to start practicing God-centered thinking. She told me that us alcoholics don’t learn things easily, that we have to bang out heads on the wall a few times to learn a simple lesson.
I can fortunately say I took her advice. I began to pray and meditate more seriously. I began to practice God-centered thinking AND living. Guess what? I haven’t started a fire since! That, my friends, is a miracle!