29 November 2020
26 November 2020
All of us, together and separately, have said of others and of ourselves, that anyone can make it. But in our hearts we doubt we can, at times each of us has doubted, been filled with doubt. Because we know, too well we know, that many can't.
All we are left with, sometimes, is hope and puzzlement: Recovery's Enigma.
A certain faith and an uncertain doubt are intertwined and from it a fabric both coarse and fine is woven.
So much of life a mystery and difficult and sometimes impossible to understand. Yet in moments distant and too close to us, at times we understand the very fabric of our lives and others can be torn apart.
We must work together to repair the damaged sail when the storm has calmed and we have taken measure of our losses and our gains. A thousand generations have brought us all this far. And by now we have learned that beyond the far horizon, soon another day will appear. We do our best to keep this ship in good repair, even knowing every day a multitude will die and a birth of plentitude will provide new menders who will tend to right our course.
Recovery's Enigma, that anyone can make it, yet many don't, becomes a good thing, not because in itself that it is good, but in our knowing we can make it right. Through learned strength and shared courage we continue to long, endure our struggles and to make life good. Move on. Move forward.
I don't know why I awoke in the middle of the night and felt compelled to write this. Somehow, the far horizon had become today, half a thousand years behind us and untold futures lie ahead.
I won't drink to that, to all of this, but I will pause.
Give thanks, be kind. There are many storms ahead. This is but one day for thanksgiving, with many more ahead. Give thanks. I'm going back to bed.
11 November 2020
Thanks to a Jan T. (I will protect her Anonymity), today I was reminded of my last Alcoholics Anonymous Sponsor (someone who, like you, is in Recovery and offers a helping hand and Guidance so that you may find another sober day). He lived a long, productive and honored life and maintained and flourished with over 60 years of continuous sobriety. He died sober and thanks to him, that is my best intention.
When I first got sober, the first 8 years were endless repetitions of relapse and recovery. One man did for me what a battery of doctors, therapists and psychiatrists were unable to do (partly, of course, due to my inability to following their best advice).
My Sponsor, M.M., after a deluge of discussions, one day, when I was completely perplexed and didn't know what to do next, offered me a small bit of advice that changed and likely saved my life. To paraphrase, he offered that when I don't know what to do next to gain another day of sobriety, I should help someone else. It's a Win/Win situation. Helping them in whatever way possible helps both of you.
My experience has confirmed this to be true. In a larger sense, each generation passes the mantle on to their successors. And so, life goes on.
Back to Jan T. (from the first sentence of this post): Jan got to know me through one of the many Recovery Groups I belong to on Facebook. She liked my posts and is currently reading the book of recovery I wrote, despite the fact that I've never met her in person. Today, she sent me a personal message saying verbatim:
He's talking to his disease
That is insane.
I declare myself insane - [smiley face, laughing till you cry face]"
I replied to her: "It's an eye-opener for people who have never had a substance use disorder!
HERE'S WHERE SHE KNOCKED ME OVER with a flood of memories of the life of the man who had saved my life. She shared with me that she had sent a passage from my book to a friend this very morning. If I understand correctly, the passage she sent her friend was about people who shut others out of their life simply to see who might persist to open that door.
Jan told me that her friend contacted her within minutes.
She concluded with a "Thank you, Jim."
When Jan reads this post, I'm hoping that she will understand that helping someone else is a Win/Win situation and in this case, a Win/Win/Win/Win situation (if you get my drift).
JAN! THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME FIND ANOTHER DAY SOBER.
I say this truly, thanks!
Do nothing, stay trapped.
DO GOOD, GET WELL SOONER.
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more." - All Drinking Aside, p. 269.
30 October 2020
22 October 2020
15 October 2020
Aging Sober & Dying Sober may not seem like the most optimistic topic to choose to write about, but I am sure of this one thing: Doing so may increase my quality of Living Sober.
In less than a month I'll be 70 (October 24th, to be exact).
That's 21.1111 in Celsius (Do you like my new coffee mug?). Which makes this valid point for me: It's all a matter of perspective.
When I was in my twenties (NOT my Celsius 20's!), way before my catastrophic downward slide, I already knew I was an alcoholic. At that time, I considered alcohol and drugs as sources for inspiration. The Tragic Hero had to have a flaw, an Achilles heel. Mine would be Alcohol, with a Capital A, a source of inspiration and the cause of what would surely be my Heroic Demise.
In my most vivid imagination, I couldn't imagine living past 40 (human years, not Fahrenheit or dog years).
Imagined pain was inspirational and real pain was to be handled by increasing my dosages of drugs and alcohol. The real decade of my 40's was the unimaginable pain induced by addiction, by losing everything time and again. Loss. The hospitals, detoxes, rehabs, intravenous drips, jobs lost, relationships lost, repeated periods of homelessness. Total loss, you get the picture, just this side of death, an impoverished life.
Pneumonia, Cancer, Addiction - I've survived giant clumps of physical and psychological hurdles since my 40's. Stages of my life. The final stage will surely come. "Past is prologue," so said Shakespeare. No matter your interpretation, one thing is certain: There will be a final curtain.
That's the word I'm looking for. I want to learn how to best adapt to the changing circumstances to come as I inevitably trudge forward.
That's the second word I need. I want to do it all sober, to be aware until all awareness is drained from me.
Word Three. I must have Grit (I feel like I'm playing Charades! First Word :-) Two Syllables).
I have found Recovery to not only be possible, but supremely doable and ultimately irreplaceable.
Aging and dying are both inevitable too. I'm doing both sober, so far. Aging and dying are both there, no matter what else I may do. I imagine I will become part of whatever world I emerged from when I was born. Today, at the very least, when I die, I wish to rejoin whatever may come after in that state that was before my ever, ever, ever first drink.
Aging Sober & Dying Sober. Sounds about right (a drink would change none of this). No Buzz-kill at all. Release. A final letting go. A sober parting. Happy to end each day sober now. Aging is unstoppable. Dying is another sober day.
I can speak only how I feel today.
Today. Today. Today, the days stack up. With any luck, they will continue to do so.
Life is good.
May you also enjoy this Autobiographical Fiction, ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal
06 September 2020
ADDICTION: A blind man descending a spiral staircase leading to nowhere.
I still have phantom memories of my drinking past, euphoric recall. It's as if one of my legs were amputated, but that I can still sometimes, somehow feel those toes that are not there. Triggers are phantom toes wiggling. Don't take the bait. Don't bite. Use your good leg, the sober leg. The bad leg is gone. Let it go. Say your eulogy. Mourn this death and move on. Addiction is a beast that lives within you. You cannot kill the beast. Denial, anger, fear will not kill it. Begging, pleading blaming will not tame it. Depression, self-pity, doubt: they only feed it. Confront it. Accept it. The beast will never die.
Insanity's bouquet is not of different colored roses, or different flowers of various sorts.
It's a bouquet of weapons, destruction, defense and offense, all wrapped in lies and gin-soaked tears, false laughter, hollowed out bones. This is insanity's bouquet. Hot steel. cold steel, nothing. I will fill the black holes of my memory with a retrained brain. Live my way sober or lie my way drunk, powerless victim or sober victor. One foot in front of the other.
"YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE PROOF"
The Court of Public Opinions will convict me.
"You Can't Handle the Proof."
The Masquerade of Time will dispel recovery's urgency.
"You can't handle the proof."
I'm addicted to self, a lifetime of self.
"You can't handle the proof."
My disease trails me like a slug praying to catch up.
"You can't handle the proof."
What is my disease and what do I have left?
"You can't handle the proof."
Sobriety is my long-last act of love.
I can almost handle the truth.
07 August 2020
05 August 2020
I had to turn off the TV, stop eating my homemade vegetable soup and sit down to my keyboard.
My epiphany was this (as if you didn't already know): MOST of my "DRUNK" was AFTER I First Got "SOBER"!
This epiphany unfurled with another little epiphany inside of it: MY 30-YEAR DRINKING CAREER TAUGHT ME DIDDLY-SQUAT!
Moments ago I finished a separate post titled "CHOICE: Life SOBER or Life DRUNK," whose second sentence is "But I had to learn how to crawl before I could walk." That, I guess, is the precursor to all that follows:
I used to think in my drinking days that I would have to suffer for my art, a common belief, based on cultural myths, I guess. Drinking would be the burden I would have to bear in order to be able to produce my art (I was an advertising copywriter for a dozen or so years).To paraphrase a line in my book, "There was art produced by children in concentration camps, but that art was produced despite the living conditions, not because of them."
The illusion that addiction to alcohol was my burden to bear because it allowed me to produce my volumes of work followed the same equation as the concentration camps, above. Denial, stigma, addiction, bad luck and gravel rolled up into the hard candy crunch that my life had become and how my life would remain until I finally got sober.
Granted, I would not have necessarily had to relapse repeatedly during those first 8 years, but those final years of drinking between intermittent periods of sobriety taught me more than the 30 years of drinking that preceded it.
Those 8 years included disastrous failures at helping and being helped by others in recovery, a lesson in auditory hallucinations, fraudulent bank transactions, being the intended victim of murder, accusations of witnessing a murder, friends and former friends' suicide attempts and tragic successes, lives lost and never found. And on and on.
Viktor Frankl said that "To live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in suffering." This is the concentration camp analogy again. Viktor Frankl was a victim of such. I was a victim of alcoholism.
Those last 8 years (after I finally got sober for the first time and the relapses that were part and parcel of my first sobriety), were my concentration camp. I learned that it would some day be possible to be sober, to be productive and to live happily. But I wasn't there yet.
My 30-year drinking career merely prepared me for the suffering that would come AFTER I first found sobriety.
Of course, it is different for everyone, but much of the differences are in the details.
The meaning of my suffering has been found. Victim no more, responsible and free, today, I live sober.
Today's hard candy crunch is bearable because I am sober and my life is bearable because of my sobriety, not in spite of it.
Admittedly, 8 years of relapse preceded my current 16 years of continuous sobriety. But I had to learn how to crawl before I could walk. A 30-year drinking career did little to prepare me for living sober. I lived alcohol and was addicted to the culture of addiction. I had much to learn, unlearn and relearn.
Shared courage pulled me through.
My brain knew the Grand Canyon of Addiction through which the alcohol flowed. When the alcohol river ceased to flow, my brain didn't know which way to go. A serious blackout drinker, my eventual hospitalizations, detoxes and rehabs (which is where drinking repeatedly took me) were dark and deep experiences.
While still drinking, I listened to no one, not even to my own best advice. Alcohol was in the driver's seat. Let me spare you the details here (find all that in my book, if interested). Let me cut to the chase:
Crawl, as I crawled, if that's what it takes for you to learn how to stand tall and live sober.
Know that recovery is doable, sustainable and irreplaceable.
And if you should ask yourself: "Do I want to live my life sober or drunk?" I would suggest, firmly, that you already know the answer to that question.
Do the work. You are worth no less than whatever it takes to get there.
Sobriety is the only way to fly. Stick with the winners. Share your story and your courage as you journey forth.
Life is precious.