Anticipatory angst

imageThe waiting is the hardest part for me, for anything really. I anticipate the future as if I could predict it, then suddenly I realize that I’m trying to get the pieces of the puzzle of Life to fit. That forces me into worry and angst. It really is a quandary when the tape doesn’t play out like I would like. It became the same way with grieving my last drink. It’s the same way anticipating the loss of a loved one or grieving someone who has passed thru our lives. Here today, gone tomorrow…….a deadly disease that tells me one drink won’t kill me, and so far left from center that I can’t even see the ball at kick off. Selfish, self centered to the extreme, I wake up in my world every day. And then I have to humbly ask God to keep me sober and remember it never has been mine to begin with. Not next week or next year, but today. It’s a miracle I was able to stop drinking. What’s more miraculous is that I am staying stopped. “It is what it is” is a popular saying, but nothing rings more true in my recovery than letting go of the idea of control. If you’ve ever been trapped at sea with 14 foot swells, or trapped under a kayak in whitewater, or thrown off a downhill descent on a mountain bike…then you understand the powerlessness of losing control. It’s an illusion to believe that I have much control of anything, much less my future. It hasn’t played out by the script, oh!, but the lessons I’ve learned. That a bottle of booze can create powerlessness really quickly, and it alters my mind so much that only an act of God has been able to free me. Nobody else could…believe me, I tried that too. When a man stops drinking he must change everything is what they told me. They were darn well right. I can’t focus on the future if my feet aren’t firmly planted in today. Lots can happen in two 12 hour increments back to back, but for me to anticipate anxiously and worry about occurrences in my life down the road lead to fear, and fears are what lead me back to a drink….good day!…b

One drink

imageAhh, the insanity returns and if I were to drink again. I wouldn’t call them relapses because the obsession had never actually left me. Those periods of dryness where I would feel like I could once again control my drinking would hit me without a second thought. Like a clown in a barrel at a rodeo, alcohol would turn my world completely upside down. Ruled by my emotional nature, I could not tell the real from the unreal. I drink another just to keep the buzz going, and don’t eat because it will kill it. I was a day drinker and a nightly drunk. My daughter, who was 10 years old when I had my last drink, asked me recently if I remembered getting bored drinking every day, listening to music, and having drinking buddies stop by to hang on the porch. We told the same stories, made up the same lies, and listened to the same music day after endless day. Night would fall, no dinner on the table with only a handful of cheezits for supper. I’ve since moved from that cabin, and moved on with my life, but I still miss that porch. My sponsor reminds me time and again that change is inevitable but growth is optional. Alcoholics by nature fear change; at least I know I did. I was scared to get sober for fear of what my life would become…. boring, glum, and morass. It turns out those sober alcoholics in AA were right, and I agree that the here and now have become the best days of my life to date. I embrace recovery like I drank; with passion and fervor. If that insanity returns, its because I’ve begun to believe that I’ve achieved the gift of sobriety by myself. I had to ask for and be willing to receive help from others who’ve walked this same journey. I am amazed at how I see others walk thru trials by fire and not pick up that first drink. Those delusional thoughts however, can twist my thinking into believing the lie that I can drink a few and stop. I only wished I could. I never drank much for the taste anyway, I drank for the effect it produces when my body metabolizes it. My brain tells me that I can stop at the next one, or the next, or the night cap. It never turns out like I had hoped, and that’s why that first one is the most important one to stay away from...one drink, two drinks, three drinks, floor. I never could have just one, but then again, I’ve never been able to make cornbread like my mama could either, no matter how many times or how hard I try…..good day!…b

Cinco

imageJust like that, it’s been five years since I had my last drink. I really only wished I could say that it comes without help and work. It’s a disgustingly filthy, vile, and ultimately fatal condition when I’m throwing them back. Those dead soldiers that are still in the box…..empty….with the lids twisted back on like it was someone else who had left them there. The twisted, sordid thoughts of chronic alcoholism can run free in my head, and I can forget it’s still just a day at a time deal, just like I forget my debit card PIN. I still lose my wallet, lock my keys in my car, and forget to put the toothpaste lid back on the tube. All while trying to see my part in a world that unfolds each passing day of my life. I have accepted that I never will have it all down just right. I’ve also resigned myself to fixing what once was broken. I don’t have the power to change my past, but I can learn what hasn’t worked and use the lessons to help others who, for some alcoholic reason, drank just like me. As we say, “one was just never enough”. I suffered from a narcissistic and hedonistic mind set that unless I was going to benefit, then I would leave it to someone else to handle. The book calls it self centeredness. Yes, I can be that guy. Today, thanks to the promises of hope I found thru working the steps of AA, the desire to drink has been lifted, but I fought the notion that I was a drunk long before I would admit it. The spiritual axiom is that each day I surrender to win. Acceptance really is the answer to all my problems, and when I believe it and respond accordingly, then days become months and months turn into years. I was able to pick up my bed and walk a free man; from bondage to freedom. That’s the how and why of it. Half a decade alcohol and drug free is a long time for a man shackled to the next drink……and the next, then the next, and then the door. I know, I had to be shown it many times before I would admit complete defeat…..good day!!… b

Recovery Lessons

imageEvery single, purposeful, and meaningful way to change I have learned in sobriety. The lessons that I learn today are in many ways the same as I learned in early recovery. Slogans like, “…but for the grace of God, ” and “…live and let live” are as meaningful today as the first day I walked into the room of CA and AA hoping beyond hope that life would change…..and it has. I don’t have a drinking problem now, but my thinking still gets screwed up at times. The mind of a chronic alcoholic is a marvel, even after the desire to drink has been lifted. It’s the alcoholism that gets me into selfish and self centered thoughts and behaviors,  I begin to feel miserable, and then by pain I become willing to do what I had been unwilling to do before to ease the discomfort. I become frustrated and my mind starts to unravel. We all get in ruts whether alcoholic or not. My good eating and exercise habits decline, and I begin to crave an instant fix. Maybe you, like me, revert to old ideas and behaviors without actually picking up a drink;however, me staying stuck there is a dangerous place. Wallowing in self pity, harboring resentments, and being ruled by my emotional nature has the power to cut me off spiritually, and I lighten up on my program. I begin forecasting the future, and despising my past. I’m going backward, and suddenly a drink feels like a good idea. It’s the ease and comfort that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. But fast forward to the lessons I’ve learned staying sober, living by principles, helping newcomers, and working the steps. It’s a much easier life than waking up with cravings so strong that I could not beat alone. So I asked for help, laid aside some religious prejudices, and began to notice that the bottle was a mirror image of the problem because if I’m not the problem, then there is no solution. I learned that in recovery. I’ve also learned to admit when I’m wrong as well. When I’m at odds with my fellow man, there is something inside of me that is amiss. Some people learn these lessons without ever picking up a drink. I’ve learned the hard way that the easy way out is not by what I say, but what I do….good day!…b

Courage

imageJails, institutions, or death are what’s left after I have exhausted all resources and decided that a drink would be a good idea. I’ve experienced two of the three, but I’ve never actually sat down and had just one drink. Even when I was a young teenager, I drank for the effect. I found out the hard way that cowards run but courageous people surrender. I’ve had to surrender all of my old ideas to remain sober. Getting my authentic self back takes guts, faith, and courage. As I am learning along my recovery road, all men of faith have courage. There is not enough beer in Boston to take me to where I want to go now. Turns out, there never has been. A man that is willing to change has to take the action to live life differently. Triggers create a thought, and it’s that very thought that produces an action. The book teaches me to pause when agitated or doubtful. That can be tough for me to do but recognizing that I have been ruled by my emotional nature most of my life has helped me get past my pride and ego and accept that I don’t have to respond negatively when life is not going my way. It takes courage to recognize it; it takes intestinal fortitude not to fire off a vindictive text or email. Others, I have found, are struggling with their own internal battles. Most days I must face God alone, and those are the days that I grow the most. I’ve watched a man the last couple of months wrestle with his alcoholism. It’s literally beating him to death. He calls on me from time to time, always with liquor on his breath. He is scared of change; frightened to face life without the bottle. I get it, a grown man scared to death of the here and now. For a month, he lived by self propulsion. He told he was going to figure it all out. Alcoholics like me are just like him. So he finally asked, and I told him the truth in love. He is delusional, just like I was when I first tried to quit on my own. We can’t tell the truth to circumvent our own denial and lies. His mind has been deluged with the idea that so many of us have while drinking and that is maybe we can control our drinking on our own. Other life events begin to preoccupy our minds. He’s trying hard to no avail. He finally has admitted he needs inpatient treatment. I suggested it some time ago, but he had to accept it on his terms, on his time. I pray his liver and health are not too far gone. The trips to Europe, fine car, business, and family mean little when a man’s life is at stake. It takes all the courage I can muster to surrender. Many of us fight to the bitter end and we mean well. Surrender takes work and practice and its not always easy, but I’m glad I found hope in others who have the courage and willingness to change. I have to remember that not every detail will be worked out like I want. Fortunately, there is a solution and a fellowship of men and women who keep me amazed at what can be accomplished when we merge to help one another….good day!…b