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

The Next Day

imageI waited for it all to change for most of my life. The drinking life was the only one I ever really knew. Starting out as a kid, stealing my best friend’s uncle’s vodka, and chasing it with grapefruit juice was a screw driver into oblivion. Then, after a good buzz, my head spinning like a top, we’d race our bicycles down a big hill with no brakes and dare each other to pass thru the stop sign without getting mowed over. I was a mere 14. I’d been chasing that warm buzz all this time before I realized that over half my life was gone. At 41, I was just happy to have made 40. The promises I made to God and myself that I would really quit tomorrow are too numerous to count. I’ve been an addict since I can remember wanting more of anything I’ve ever taken to numb my feelings. And nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever been able to change that. The doctor’s opinion in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about the ” mind of a chronic alcoholic.” Today, almost 5 years sober,  I still wrestle with that same mind. I’m bodily different, too, when I take a drink; both scream for more, more, and more. I only wish that I had a dime for every time that I’ve said that I’d quit tomorrow. Oh, I quit a thousand times, but I couldn’t stay stopped. Not even the hangovers the next day could persuade me. As bad as they hurt, I’d drink a little in the morning to ease those jitters. Perhaps you weren’t as bad as me, or maybe you were worse. What qualifies me is that I can’t stop when I start, and I never could quit entirely. God forbid, that I ever try the “two drinks and I’ll stop” experiment again. But that’s where my mind goes when I turn a cold beer bottoms up…and the next day I miss out on the joys that today brings staying sober….good day!…b

livin free

20160511_135652Life had not always been egregious when I drank. I was reminded recently of the controlling measures I would take to curb the obsession to drink until my son’s lacrosse game had ended. I would drink water, pace, talk on the phone, appear overly engaged, but deep down my mind and my body would be screaming for alcohol. I was so sick that finally I caved and began sneaking beers with a friend at intermission. Maybe he or I would have a little toke together. There once was nothing like the peace pipe to pull me together and at least take the edge off my mind. Aaah, the ease and comfort of that first couple, and then I would miss the whole fourth period, lost in an abyss of numbness and alcohol. I would stop by the store, sit on my front porch and literally dream of doing the activities that I enjoy today sober. It was my great obsession to try and drink with contentment. After all, I really had some good memories. Like the time we were in Cancun and could swim up to the bar, corona with limes flowing like water. Or the time we got snowed in in the Smokey Mountains, scotch burning my mouth like cinnamon fireballs. The ease and comfort, I’ll never forget. Then, over a period of years my drinking wasn’t fun anymore. I guess I stepped over the line into full blown alcoholism somewhere between Oxford  and Montgomery. What I feel today is raw and untouched compared to the rigidity and need to control that would hit me. I wanted to seemingly be fine, but in my heart I knew I couldn’t drink and tell the truth. Alcohol changes me like that, and before I even knew that life was  passing me by, I couldn’t even tell what day it was. I still occasionally have a using dream at five years sober. I wake up to unchartered territory but freedom knowing that each new day brings hope that God will put someone in my life to show that this way of life works….it really does….good day!….b

Realizations

imageI never wanted to quit drinking while there was still time without having to go thru enough misfortune and pain to finally surrender. I looked for ways out in hollowed out and fragmented sectors of my mind. I still have delusional thinking when I begin to romance the idea of that first drink. It’s the venom without having to hold the snake. It’s the poison without having to concoct it myself. Sealed up, ready and waiting to catch me off balance and snatch me into the fiery pits of a living hell…..I don’t want to go back. Thankfully, I realize today that acceptance that I never actually could drink like a gentleman has finally seeped into my everyday journey. Do I miss the taste of ice cold beer? You can bet your life savers I do. Do I miss the numbness I felt as well as the sense of comfort I found there? I surely can at times. That’s what makes me bodily and mentally different from normal drinkers. Those half glass, one cocktail wonders that would be left, so I thought, for me to finish later always perplexed me. What convinces me that I can just walk over to the package store, grab a quick six, and then  stop? My mind does, when all other evidence leads to the contrary. Working the steps with a sponsor taught me that. Going to meetings teaches me that. Working with newcomers also reminds me of that very fact. I’ve realized also that isolation, self pity, and remorse can’t keep me sober but it sure can make me miserable enough to want to drink. That’s why I have to constantly look past economics, social status, materials, and relationships. Those won’t kill me, but my addiction will.  I do the work, and He provides the results. And the results are positive proof that the obsession to drink was removed as I continued to pray for willingness. I realize today that I’m just here on Mother Earth for awhile, and I want others to say that they are better people because God saw fit to allow our paths to cross…good day!…b

Esteemable acts

imageFor years I squandered away time in self pity and remorse. I also struggled with low self esteem. The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous has had to do with a radical shift in my life now. It says, we made a fearless and thorough moral inventory of ourselves. I was afraid to do that for what seemed like forever. Why? Was it fear of change, or fear of truly finding out who I really was? The answer is probably both. Alcohol is such a great persuader that it had me convinced that I was a pretty good guy….until I got it down in black and white. I had to finally get honest about what had driven me into belligerent denial and alcoholism. Trust this when I write that it’s not impossible to overcome the drinking malady because, after all those years, God finally removed the obsession and cravings for me to drink. It was my dirty little secret, or so I thought. Most people around me knew I was a drunk long before I would admit it. When my drinking buds told me that I drank too much, I probably should have listened much sooner, but that is what got me into the twisted and sorted shape that I found myself. I simply would not listen. I was not teachable so I began praying for willingness. I still pray for willingness today. Becoming willing to do a fourth step was a process in my experience. It takes courage, willingness, and faith to believe that if I looked at my resentments, fears, and relationships for what they truly were, that my life could change; that I could actually stop drinking for a day. What I learned is that I am the problem. Ruled by my own character flaws, I self destruct because I was maladjusted to life. Self-will takes over, and I am the creator of my own chaos and confusion. The good news is that the longer that I stay sober, the more I see these circumstances in my life being taken care of without my need to control. And that is the miracle. I don’t struggle with low self esteem as much as I once did. I am not as fearful and angry as I once was, and subsequently most all my relationships with others have gotten much better. Self esteem grows when I do esteem-able acts of good for others. I feel better about myself and about the world around me. For so long, that was not the natural order in my thinking. It was mostly self centered motivation to get more and more of what everyone else had that ran my life. Doing the work of the 12 steps teaches me those core principles. Working with others helps me stay out of that death trap. I miss the boat on many occasions, but just not drinking anymore is no longer enough for me. I must continue to hold out my hand, pass out my number, and help the man dying from a disease that kills….good day!…b

Until then

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Jails, institutions, or death are what’s left after I have exhausted all resources and decided a drink would be a good idea. But I’ve never actually sat down and had a drink. There is not enough beer in Boston to take me to where I want to go. Triggers create a thought. That thought produces an action. I’m either going to a meeting or going to the package store. Thankfully, because I remain willing and teachable, my truck no longer pulls me into the Tom Thumb for one more trip down memory lane. I got another wake up call this week when a friend called to tell me that a mutual friend of ours had overdosed and died. It’s becoming alarming, but I remain close to the firing line to remind me of what happens to those of us who’ve used up our tickets to chemical peace of mind. I almost predicted it, sadly enough. He began to isolate from those of us who would tell him the truth. He stopped wanting to hear the message of hope and became unwilling to do what had taken him thru the last two and a half years sober. First came the job, then a second job, then the girlfriend, and then excuses about why he wouldn’t take suggestions. Then, out with a bottle and needle. I mean within two months, out like a light. Dreams can get smashed that quickly.  These are our stories; at least those of us who are riddled with the disease of addiction, and death still stings like a red wasp. The gut wrenching, heartbreaking stories we tell are tragic enough. I had to pick and choose between a life or death proposition, and until then, I’ll keep taking one breath at a time. Many of us fight to the bitter end rather than to practice the art of surrender. It’s not always easy, but I’m glad I found my tribe. They give me reminders of what can happen when I get sidetracked with my little designs and plans that fail. 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 may be dysfunctional at times, but still keep me amazed at what can be accomplished when we merge into groups and help one another….good day!…b