To all the addicts in the house
Hey there, and Congratulations!
If you are reading this you are still alive!
That is no small thing for someone with a terminal illness
which is actively trying to kill you.
You wake up and there's a bomb in your head, and every day you
do the sober deal you
move the timer back from boom
for another 24 hours.
Tricky part is,
this bomb doesn't tick.
Be careful what you think about what you think.
It's no tragedy or surprise that you have an alcoholic thought.
My God, you're an alcoholic! Of course you're going to have alcoholic thoughts!
The tragedy is thinking about the thought and deciding that
The only true ward I've found to guard against the sick whisper in my head
(the fuck it or the you deserve or the why keep on or the it's your turn or the I'll show them)
talking about what I'm thinking,
sharing about how I'm feeling and
praying about what I'm doing.
Congratulations! You're still alive.
Now make it count for something
and go help.
AA does not suggest I am kind to the unkind, or honest to people who lie to me, or any variation of "practicing these principles in all our affairs" so that I am a good person, or for any inherently moral reason. AA makes that suggestion because when I am not soaking my brain in consciousness numbing chemicals I cannot live comfortably in my skin when I indulge in sick or fear-based behaviors. To put it more simply, my head gets really noisy when I lie and act like an ass to people, even when they (seem to) deserve it. And then putting energy into not having a noisy head by saying to myself "I don't care" when in fact, I do (and if I didn't I wouldn't have to spend energy convincing myself that I don't) -- is stupid and exhausting and ultimately is harder to live with than just working at being kind and honest to begin with.
There is simply no substitute for the "unshakable foundation" that writing, prayer and meditation provide.
Time sober is not a tool for remaining sober. The best analogy for that is the realization that I can't build muscle today on last month's weight lifting. Working out diligently over time will change your body, yes. But if you stop working out then the results of all you did in the past will likely, eventually fade. The same is true of the spiritual transformation engendered by maintaining physical sobriety and working the 12 Steps. The quality of my recovery today is based on what I do today. Not on what I did last month or twenty years ago.
For many of us, we instantly believe whatever negative thing anyone says about us is true.
And for many of us, no one says anything half as mean or negative to us as we do to ourselves.
I cannot think or feel my way into healthy actions. It is by taking healthy actions that I change for the better how I think and feel. And so it follows, to develop self esteem one must do self esteeming things. Ironically, most alcoholics at first believe this means we need to be nicer to ourselves. The great cosmic punch line is that what it actually means is that we need to be nicer to others.
And sometimes, when I write these blog posts -- these strange messages from (sometimes) my ego, (sometimes) my experience, and (often) my heart -- it feels like I'm just sitting talking with all of you, and you're sitting right next to me with a cup of tea, your shoes off and your feet tucked up under you on the sofa. Just me blabbing to you -- as much mess as message. This is one of those, I'm afraid.
I'm doing a poor job of mult-tasking. Writing while noodling around on iTunes (somehow all my music got sucked up into the cloud, along with my playlists, which of course I never bothered to back up -- do it now? when I can do it later? Please! I imagine my music up there in the cloud, bumping into everyone else's music, and at first feeling shy and self conscious but then remembering, "Hey! We are great!" and standing up tall. Wow. Project much SP?) Anyone who saw all my music in one group would be... puzzled. There's eclectic and then there's multiple personality disorder. Given that scale, when we talk about "the committee" in our heads in AA, it seems like each of mine has their own personal iTunes shopping experience.
I'm also randomly jotting down a list of things not to forget -- packing for a road trip this weekend. Heading out to an AA Convention and man, do I need one right now. So far my list includes "Phone charger cord. Almonds. Blazer."
I told you I was doing a poor job of multi-tasking. Real grown-ups make organized lists and not random stream-of-consciousness scribbles on the back of an envelope for Christ's sake! Ah well, unmasked once again -- if there's such a thing as a real grown up I. Ain't. It.
Part of why the break is such a welcome relief is that there have been some changes at work I haven't had time to write about here. (I've barely had time to write here period, let alone get all personal and chatty about my fear -- why is it always fear? <sigh> -- and daily challenges on the job.) They've moved me to a different restaurant from the cozy one I started at. Lest you think this is some sort of endorsement on their part, I'm afraid it's more akin to a battlefield promotion. Someone quit, then someone else quit... if my bosses are like the little boy sticking his fingers in the dyke to stem the flood, then I, dear readers, am one of the fingers gettin' stuck.
Much (much) busier. Much harder. A much younger crew. I say this without (too much) exaggeration: I come home from work sometimes and think "this job is actually shaving years off my life."
Boo hoo, poor me.
Never fear. AA works. Some days I'm grateful -- I just wake up that way with my head on straight.
Some days I have to get to grateful -- and it's like starting a car on a cold winter's morning. Takes a couple turns of the ignition key and a little "rrrr...rrrr...rrrr" before it starts up. And even then you have to sit and let it idle some.
And some days... some days it's like that thing that fell on the floor and rolled under the sofa and you lay down on the rug and sneeze at all the dust bunnies you discover and stretch your arm all the way out and fish around and you can only just brush it with your finger tips and then the very act of doing so seems to push it that little bit farther away and out of reach and your head space is simply crap all day.
Since I've had a few more of those last types of mornings lately than I care to confess, even with all the damn writing and praying and sponsees and blah blah blah, a weekend of AA out of town is (possibly) quite literally a life-saving prescription from Dr. God. (who, by the way, does take all kinds of insurance, but the lab work is still killer and covered under a different plan.)
"Arrange someone to check on cats" goes on the list.
"Kindle" on the list.
The new restaurant -- and the drama around this which isn't entirely in my head -- has prompted a fresh round of spiritual examination, too. Seems to be God's will that some people are cashiers at Walmart. Or cooks in my kitchen (which is hot, hard work. I'm a really nice boss, but it is still really hot, hard work). What if you don't like God's will for you? You can do the footwork right? But what if
Wait. STOP. Now you see why a weekend of AA for me can be filed under "potentially life saving." The "What if's" are about as useless as the "Why's" when it comes to God and God's will. Accept or skewer yourself on the kabob of your famously, redundantly, riotous self-will. Or shut up and do the footwork and (as always, damnit) stay out of the result. (Aargh! I literally want to scream at that sometimes.)
"Kindle Charger" on the list.
"Comb. Chapstick." Wait, is that one of those can't-take-with-you things for airplanes now? I've been able to avoid flying for quite a while. Oh well, if they need to confiscate my chapstick they're welcome to it.
And I have a new boss. Which is another whole post for another whole day, I assure you. Suffice to say that he has, so far, not proven to be a huge fan of the Mr. SponsorPants Experience. And sometimes that is in your head, and sometimes it isn't. This... isn't.
Boo hoo, poor me. Did you know there are children in Africa who have so many flies around their eyes that from a distance they appear to be wearing glasses? (Multi-tasking! I'm also watching an interview with a former President who does a lot of wonderful charity work around the world. He's talking about the more than two million latrines they've dug in the sub-sahara regions, transforming whole villages' hygiene almost overnight. And I am whining about my boss who might not like me as much as I want him to. Jesus.) Perspective SP? BUT... perspective is good -- IMPORTANT -- but my life is my life and my problems are MY problems and I'm the one who needs to do something about it. What's that part in the Big Book about the retired clergyman sighing about the sins of the 20th Century? Awareness of the world and the deplorable things sometimes found in it must not be used to completely undercut myself. That, too, is as out-of-balance as NO awareness of the world and a complete self-focus.
Oh man, some of this music is old, old drinking music. Music I listened to when sneaking out of the house, stealing my dad's car out of the garage and driving out into the night. Purchased in a nostalgic sweep of emotion, sometimes it takes me right back to being that sad boy on those mad nights of very bad freefall. Let's... let's skip listening to those this evening, shall we?
The new kids who work for me have divined so far that I don't drink, and that I am a man of a certain age with a suspicious amount of knowledge about old Broadway musicals, books, movies and television they've never heard of. I try not to judge, but at least once a day I tell them all they are woefully un-informed and that by having the poor judgement to be born as late as they were they missed... well, simply everything fun and interesting, and must now wander a barren pop landscape of "Real Housewives" and Little Heinie, or Baby Lulu -- or whatever that poor child with the tv show and the sugar addiction is called. They pause in whatever they're doing and look at me like rabbits, confused by the oncoming headlights of a strange and maybe dangerous car barreling towards them.
See? AA Weekend. Stat.
If you are still drinking, but want to stop, or want to want to stop, remember,
you don't have to live that way.
Alcoholism is the great con artist, convincing you that the solution to your loneliness is to avoid other people and that the answer to the riddle of your unhappiness is located in the bottom of a bottle -- "I'll just have one" and "I'll quit tomorrow" are the two most famous and dangerous lies the addict will tell themselves, and believe.
Just try. Try the meeting. Try reading the book. Try picking up the phone and calling someone. Try asking for help.
Try believing that while maybe not everyone in a meeting will understand you, someone will.
Try to do the opposite of your impulses, the opposite of your habits, the opposite of what you think you want to do.
Just try it for one day.
Sometimes I think that
being an alcoholic
is like having restless leg syndrome
in your soul.
For my friends new to AA
who may have taken the first step to heart
but still struggle mightily with both self esteem and ego,
Just because there is
something wrong with you
doesn't mean that there is
everything wrong with you.
We are not bad people getting good,
we are sick people getting better.
We talk about it in various ways, both in meetings and AA literature: Alcoholism is a disease of perception, the problem for the alcoholic centers in the mind, etc., etc.
The 12 Steps are a process which literally allows us -- via the creation of a "psychic change" or, more commonly, a spiritual experience -- to alter that null-sum equation and re-wire how we think, thus transforming our entire life. Yes, we become free from alcohol -- but eventually sobriety becomes so much more. Lived with willingness and depth, a life of sobriety via AA is like a release from prison, or walking away from a wheelchair, or finally breathing free.
But to get there, I had to admit (Step alert!) and address the problem.
As is so often the case with me, what I believe the problem to be is not the problem at all. Ironically, ultimately, the problem was not my drinking.
The problem was my thinking.
And to believe I could solve that problem on my own is believing that I could solve the problem with the problem.
That's... not a good plan.