Darkness

imageI write about pain at times because either I’m going to become willing to do what’s necessary to change or not. Pain can be a great motivator for sure. Sometimes pain is circumstantial as in losing a friend or loved one to cancer or addiction; other times it’s biologically organic and chemically derived. Fear, along with pain, is a great persuader when it plants seeds of doubt. It will try to convince me to stop the trudge of the sober life, but the softer, easier way becomes harder for me over time. Recovery from anything is not an easy proposition to face. How do I change? Why can’t I just quit on my own? How did I end up here? Am I doomed to a life of misery, pain, and regret? Perhaps, you’ve lost a child and watched the flame in their eyes flicker out, or had a loved one die tragically in your arms. We all hurt sometime, and grief can overwhelm like a breaker where the surf meets sand. I tried running and hiding in a bottle, resigning myself to half truths and outright lies. At the time, I could not or would not see a better way, even when I witnessed it in the lives of others. We all hit bottoms in life for different reasons and in different ways and they are pain filled. For me it was emotional, mental, and financial. For others it might have been an embarrassing DUI, but eventually I drank and drugged long and hard enough that it no longer killed the pain. I’m grateful I lived to write about it. When I hurt bad enough, I’ll do anything to make it stop, but to go onto the bitter end isn’t how I want my life to end. I want to serve with a purpose, have few expectations, and work with others who have struggled much like me. It’s where I find hope, and ultimately God. The struggle is real my friends, and just to think a few years back I had no purpose, plan, or known way of escape from the demons of anger, fear, and lust is tragic. They ruled me, and I stayed stuck in darkness. I’m thankful today others showed me the Light. There was a long period of reconstruction ahead, but I had to start at ground zero in order for me to enjoy my life today. I don’t want to die drunk, so even in the dark times I have faith in the belief that the hope lies where there is Light…..good day!…b

Resentments

imageThe textbook of AA, affectionately known as the Big Book, talks at great length about resentments. In fact, the founders of AA thought the topic so important that it is included as one of the three areas, along with fear and personal relations (sex), that a fourth step inventory must address. “Resentments are our number one offender, they destroy more alcoholics than anything else,” it reads. They must have known me from way back because I never knew while I was drinking how anger fueled by resentments had ruled my life. It also outlines a plan to write the person, place, or institutions that I resent, what the resentment actually is, what parts of my life it affects, and how my fear, dishonesty, self seeking, and self centeredness play a part and not the perceptions, “fancied or real,” of how others have wronged me. That’s a very tall order for an alcoholic in order to bridge the gap to freedom. There is a question I must ask myself daily when I do a personal inventory of the situations, people, and circumstances that arise thru out my day that I mishandle, and how I could have handled them differently. “How free do I really want to be?” I have to get to the causes and conditions of why I drank, and having just experienced a situation the other night reminds me of the need to write it out in order to get my emotional equilibrium centered. I was speaking with a young guy after a meeting who was sharing with me how he ended up at a half way house( a place to go usually after a treatment center stint). I felt his pain when he spoke of missing his girlfriend and how other guys picked on him for it, when strangely two guys walked up and one made a bullying comment regarding the girl. It was inappropriate, unnecessary, and bad timing. In a cool a voice as I knew how, I told the guy he needed to move along. It was a  reminder that there are meeting attendees who are as sick as I once was and still can become. I run from those people today. They simply are not ready just yet, and for me, that is where the resentment lies. He retorted, “thanks for interrupting me, I wasn’t talking to you, ” and before I had known, I was lost in the moment. I’ve always been for the underdog and now I know why. I’ve always felt like one, and here was a guy I felt that I had to stand for in the moment. Thankfully, after our stand off, I believe the bully knew it was time for him to go. My ego tells me it’s because he sized me up, but I do believe God works in moments and luckily no one got injured. Defenseless people sometimes need other’s backbones in this world, and justified or not, I’m still ruminating over the situation. Anger tells me that I’ll handle this for myself God, but  I must put it on paper in four columns and do what the book suggests so that my spirit remains free. After all, the resentment kills me, not the other man….good day!…b

Emigre

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“You are my sweetest downfall”, she sings, “but I loved you first.” Once you recognize her voice you will understand better the story behind the song. The lyrics are written about the love affair Samson had with Delilah, who ultimately cut off his hair which had been the source of his strength. I gain wisdom from reading and hearing stories of faith, hope, struggles, and endurance that others have experienced in order to improve the quality of their lives. Regina Spektor, a Russian emigre, left with 5 members of her extended family at the age of 9 (pictured above)  with nothing but a soft voice and fingers that rub the keys of pianos as smooth as polished glass. Her family’s Jewish faith was the main reason for leaving their homeland, and to pack up and leave with nothing but shirts on their backs takes courage, especially when it’s the only life you’ve ever known. Our stories in recovery are very similar, and I hear the same message of hope in meetings as well. A lady in her 70’s shares that she just got the news that she has lung cancer, but she doesn’t want to drink. Miracle, my friends, these are miraculous wonders from God. The basic premise behind step 3 is that there is a God, and He works thru the spirit that resides in us all. He must, lest I perish. I meet strangers in meetings everyday and somehow I fit with them; an Asian woman from Australia, a traveling couple from the West Coast, a private pilot who once lived in Sweden,  and a Frenchman who has ported his sailboat in a fishing village due north. Experiences, not opinions, have taught me about my life. Then I happen upon a memorial for vagabonds by the sea, and humility teaches me that I’m closer than ever to home. Brendan Manning expresses it well in his book entitled, The Ragamuffin  Gospel, a priest from New Orleans who wrote that God is not asking for perfection, just honesty. We are all wanderers, sojourners, pilgrims,  and immigrants in this wonderment called life, and each of us can draw strength from the stories we share of how we stay sober just one more day…blessings!…b

 

Control

 Screenshot_2016-07-26-16-48-40-1Perhaps you have pounded your fist on the bar, looked at the tap, and had no mental defense either. It’s as perplexing as it is confusing to think that somehow I can enjoy the ease and comfort of a few and be able to control it. What’s even more puzzling is studying the tab the next morning. Who did I buy all these drinks for? I drank them, silly. Control is an illusion, and it’s an old idea that no longer works for me. The better idea is for me to surrender. We hear that often in meetings but I have to be reminded even more these days that just because the obsession has left me doesnt render me powerful again,  especially after I take that first sip of scotch. How often I would try to control my drinking and tell myself it will be different this time. The chatter would get louder in my head until I could no longer drown out the noise. At one point I would count the number of beers or shots I had as I went along thru the day and night. Eventually, something snapped after that first one or two and I could no longer tell you how many I had drank than a man on the moon. Some of you can relate, and some perhaps have probably seen it in the actions of those you love. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I could not stop by sheer willpower alone and nobody could ever change that until I finally hit rock bottom.  No matter how hard they tried. No matter how hard I tried. I did what I had to do, until I became willing and ready to change. Any attempts to control my drinking was an illusion as well as a delusion. There is a difference. I may have temporarily adapted to others demands, but once they turned their back, it was “self will run riot.”  I made many promises but never a decision. Would I “go onto the bitter end, or seek a spiritual solution?”  I’m grateful now that I chose the latter. Along the way I’ve learned to detach, but I had to experience the pains of worry, regret, obsessing, and trying to control first.  Today, I trust that Someone greater than me knows and cares about what’s happening in my life and the lives of others. The best idea for me is to stay out of the way because nothing I have experienced heals better than letting go of the idea or need to fix or control. I simply do not have that power ….good day!….b

Letting Go

imageI’m almost certain that many in recovery have thoughts at some point that I have had at times. That if I just hold a little tighter or longer and squeeze a little more that somehow I can do this recovery stuff on my own. Living sober certainly has its rewards, and thanks be to God for interventions. Those “God nods” that happen to us while drinking or sober remind me how small I am in comparison to who I thought I once was. But pour a drink down me, and  I’ll somehow think I can do it successfully again. It’s a perplexing riddle. What then happens to alcoholics like myself is twofold. First, the obsession takes over my mind, I use, and then the allergy that my body needs more and more takes over because without it, I begin the process of going thru withdrawals. Normal drinkers don’t experience that phenomena of craving I’ve been told. But then again, they may not reach the exhilarating highs I got either, until even the fears can’t be drowned out. Thankfully, there is a way of escape. But how do I find it when the idea pops in my head that I got this now? For me it took interventions, and more interventions from people who loved me enough to tell me the truth about a life I could not see. It’s frightening to let go of the rope, or whatever I’ve held onto believing that it will fix me, and as perplexing as it sounds, I was simply afraid to change even when life’s circumstances were embarrassing me and giving me black eyes. The courage comes in letting go of the rope, irregardless, even if no one but God catches me before I hit bottom. There is a difference between hopelessness and desperation like the difference between hunger and starvation. I either believe or I don’t. I either have faith or I won’t. Watching and wanting what others had in sobriety kept me coming back even when trying to solve the riddle myself wasn’t working. It took reaching out, asking for helping, letting go of the rope, and interventions for me to see that trying so hard to figure it all out was actually what was killing me. Yet today because of learning to let go, I walk a free man….good day!…b

 

Mystify

The liquor shops in places like New Orleans don’t call them spirit shops for nothing. Use a double negative and drink  a half of fifth of tequila and you’ll see, feel, and experience life from a whole different angle. The book tells me that if I’m not really convinced that I’m an alcoholic then try stopping at two drinks and see what happens. That’s not mystical, that is mystifying;  to bedazzle, confuse, perplex, and otherwise be out of my mind. The two drink experience leaves me with a nasty insatiable desire for more and that’s the wolf inside I’ll feed if I want the ease and comfort of that first couple. I know, I chased that feeling most of my life. But what happens afterwards is tragically comic. I do otherworldly stuff in ordinary ways and my mind tells me that I can control my drinking again. God, help me not think like that I’ll pray. And I did that grossly insane thing for over twenty years and thankfully I found recovery and ultimately sobriety. Today, my thinking still revolves around me but I recognize it better thanks to synergistically working the twelve steps. How can I explain selfishness when all I did was put booze ahead of everything. But at the time, I had no choice. The mystifying decision was made for me. I would drink against my own will. Getting a sponsor, working the steps, going to meetings, hosting Big Book studies, reading recovery literature, and working with other alcoholics has revolutionized my thinking and somewhere in between God removed the obsession for me to drink. I now no longer believe that drinking is the answer so I finally quit running from myself. Today, I have faith that God’s will can and will be worked out and my job is to accept it. Not coerce, control, or manipulate, but blindly accept. And that sort of living propels me into wanting to get out of myself, my little inconveniences, and my little bitty world. After all, there is a mystifying effect that being sober has on me, and I like it when I feel much better waking up without having to drink a little hair of the dog that bit me from the night before…..good day!…b

Responsibility

imageLast night I was in a dark place driving down the freeway at 2 am. I had a long day much of which was spent in leisure at the beach with my daughters and her three girlfriends from out of town. I enjoyed their company, but I wanted to go visit my son who is also doing some summertime traveling. It sounds grandiose, but some days it’s not. An 18 year old who struggles and wrestles with many of the same demons I have can be challenging at best. Drugs and alcohol never were the whole problem. Mostly, I was running from the pain within myself. The pain of not measuring up, not fitting in, and not feeling unconditional love. In the country book of life somewhere it reads that acorns don’t fall far from oaks. My boy is just like me. I replaced the battery in his truck and without a thank you, I became pissed off. Being tired, angry, somewhat lonely, and hungry never have been good combinations for my attitude. Thankfully, even as tense and wound tight as a jack in the box as I was, I didn’t try to fight. My words were enough. This disease is warped and it tells me that I should see those traits in others that I work to have God refine in me now,  but maybe I should be reminded that he nor others are ready just yet. After all, it took me 25 years and nearly cost me my life more than once before I finally got willing. Then as I drove toward home, I starte insanely projecting. Perhaps he will end up homeless, or worse commit suicide, I thought to myself. I don’t want him to have to go down that road. Fear crops in, control takes over, and then I remember that there are some things daddy’s can’t fix. I can change batteries, do a little mechanical work, and then walk away. Letting go of those irrational thoughts are really rooted in my own selfishness. What I want for him and what he wants for himself may be two completely opposite lives. And I must let go and learn to live with myself. Acceptance is ground breaking stuff. Love and tolerance can be too. But like I told him, we each are responsible for our own actions and will experience life as it comes. Whether or not I choose to be responsible for my reactions is mine and mine alone, and I need the help of God and others to show me the way….good day!…b

Thrill Seeking

imageI’ve always been addicted to my own adrenaline, running around like a chicken with my head chopped off. For some of us, it’s not just the thrill of the chase but the kill that we enjoy the most. It took me a long time to get settled in my own skin after getting clean, and today I can still struggle with how to control my emotional nature when excitement gets thrown into the mix. After all, it’s much like anger in that both have the power to destroy. I was addicted to them as much as pills and booze. The latter were just masks I used for cover. Seeking excitement can be dangerous in many ways. I get caught in the raft and before I know it, a storm has blow thru and I’ve washed out to sea, figuratively and literally. So, what does a man do who has felt all his life the need to compete with others and show them how life is won? My experience was that I had to surrender, and everyday I must concede the idea that chasing thrills is much more dangerous for me  than chasing dreams. One will get me killed, the other can bring me serenity and peace. The insanity is that for years I got the two backwards and had to be beaten into that state of reasonableness the book describes. Many chase the euphoric feelings of drugs and alcohol into the gates of insanity it reads, and the end results are jails, institutions, and death. Those first two were never exciting for me, but what lead up to them were. The thoughts and actions that precede that first drink can be categorized as nothing less than insane when the negative consequences prove otherwise; lost wages, respect, and loved ones. I’m grateful that yesterday I survived another day sober. Death was knocking at my door, and I had to ask for help. I am mortal and to have others watch me slowly kill myself had to be brutal on them. My own selfish desires to seek thrills, have excitement, create unnecessary drama, and otherwise have fun turned on me, and now I’ve learned to live and accept a more calm, peaceful and serene life by accepting a disease that I have no control over once I pick up that first drink…good day!…b

Honesty

imageHonesty can be brutal for me, but today it seers  my conscience when I get so keyed on “telling someone the truth.” I get an adrenaline kick, too. But then I feel bad because I hurt people’s feelings at the expense of my own ego. Telling someone something hurtful isn’t necessary today. The steps teach me that when talking about amends that it’s just not necessary to do so if it harms others. We all have a history, a past. I certainly do, and God didn’t put me here to get sober and tell others how to run their show. We each have a show too. To the outside, I look put together nicely at times, and other days I am a fragmented mental basket case. Frankness can be necessary, but curtness is rude. I can tear down rather than build up with my thoughts, actions, and words. And what does this have to do with sobriety you ask?  It means everything to me. I experienced a psychic change when God removed the obsession. He removed the obsession because I remain willing to do the work. I got a new sponsor in my new home, will attend a book study tonight, and at four years sober, I still go to 4-5 meetings a week. Why?…because if I’m honest, I have to admit that’s what it takes for me. It’s my medicine, my therapy, and my way of giving back. I want to live free. I want to experience life sober. I want to hold a woman in my arms sober. I want to die sober. So, to do so, I have to get real and honest without stepping on others toes. It’s necessary for me to survive. Honesty is the one indispensable ingredient,for a former swindler like me, that I must work toward daily. Otherwise, my conscience bothers me and I can’t stop thinking bout that….good day!..b

Breaking barriers

imageI realize more than ever that I don’t have to have it all together to affect change. God can use me and my brokenness to help others, but mostly when I’m willing to be vulnerable and take risks. I lose sometimes, but my experiences in recovery have taught me to remain humble and teachable. My recovery is my own. I must do what it takes to stay sober and for that I’m responsible. It only makes sense in island life that there are lots of drinking. But, there is also good recovery. Club membership is 60 bucks yearly. I’d spend that easily at the bar in three hours drinking pints. Lately, I have been irritable and a bit restless. I snapped on a tow truck operator day before yesterday. My mind tells me that he was the one being belligerent, but my momma always said that it takes two fools to argue; grappling over 50 bucks. I’m not kidding. There are moments in my life, ever so fleeting, when days pass and I feel that so much good is happening in my life that I need to learn to covet and treasure those days even more. Then, I’ll wake up sideways with fear, anger, and resentments. The program teaches me to pause when agitated or doubtful. I need to do that more. It’s my alcoholic brain in action. I got up as the sun rose this morning, rode my bike to a meeting, and then onto the beach for a jog to see and feel the tranquility of the water. A friend in the fellowship passed by in his car, and I thought for a second I would have perhaps see him, but he didn’t show. He’s been struggling lately with a recent relapse. I’ve reached out, but I’m just the messenger and it’s the message that saved me. He’s a good bit younger, unkept, sleeps in his car, and struggles to keep work. He’s also in painful denial. It’s tough watching what happens when someone falls off the wagon. Lord knows, I’ve been there countless times. Most of us feel that there is no one to catch us in our moments of desperation. Breaking down barriers and walls can be tough with addiction. It was difficult at first to reach out and verbalize that I needed help. I still have to do that even when my pride and ego say no. It’s as tough for some as Chuck Yeagar trying to break the sound barrier I’m sure, but he took a risk and wrote his name in history. The reality for me was that I had to become willing and put forth the effort. No one can recover for me. It can be so doggone brutal for a guy like me to ask for anything, and that’s a wall of denial that only God can tear down….good day!…b