29 January 2017

The Snake Pit of Addiction


"Alcoholism isn't a spectator sport. Eventually the whole family gets to play."
- Joyce Rebeta Burditt

Morning Meditation: Sobriety is a gift. Recovery is earned.*
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A snake pit is a place in European legend where those considered insane were placed. It was thought that being lowered into a pit filled with snakes would terrorize one back to sanity. Failing that treatment, the insane could be abandoned to die. "The Snake Pit" is also a 1948 Olivia de Havilland drama in which  she finds herself in an insane asylum but can't remember how she got there. Waking up in the hospital (coming to, really) and not knowing how I got there should have been my snake pit, scaring me sober, but alcoholism "is a subtle foe." I would not be scared sober so easily, despite addiction itself being a snake pit of sorts.
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If I had known then what I know now is an old refrain. But it is my belief that the stigma of addiction perpetrates further victimization of addicts and alcoholics. Stigma = Silence = Death. I could not hear what was not spoken. Suffer in silence. I learned to accept that I was an alcoholic and would probably die an early death and that would have to be good enough. It is an odd acceptance of a condition when it is not fully understood. I did not understand and I would drink again. Deep in my addiction, I knew no people in recovery. The stigma of addiction would contribute to the silence of those who had found recovery. Stigma would be self-perpetuating. Ignorance would continue. Suffering would continue. Recovery would be a long, drawn out process, still taking place in my twelfth year sober. I would help break the stigma of addiction by refusing to remain silent in my sobriety (I did not fully understand that this would be a major underlying reason for writing my book, odd as that may sound).
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I felt such a sadness when I first read Joyce Rebeta Burditt's "Alcoholism isn't a spectator sport. Eventually the whole family gets to play" quote. I felt it on many levels. The havoc that addiction has played out in the families of everyone around me as the decades have passed would have been impossible to ignore. I was a spectator of how addiction played out in others' families, although it played out fairly in silence in mine. 
Addiction is everywhere. Few are untouched by it. Addicts, so anesthetized, are not keenly aware of the burdens and pain afflicted by them upon their families . All suffer, certainly not only the addict. But addiction is sometimes a silent killer. We don't talk about it enough and keeping it from the light of day worsens and protracts its deadly effects.
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"Eventually the whole family gets to play" is a dark humor which forced me to confront addiction's heavy toll upon the very fabric of social construction. Families can only sweep so much under the carpet before a corpse is found there. Stigma is a corpse of sorts, a half-alive zombie, a major contributor to a future addict's death or at the very least, prolonged suffering.
For me, an almost perverse sense of humor has been a defense against the stark realities touched upon here. I'm happy to say that much has changed in my lifetime, but the change has been excruciatingly slow. There is little patience in this snake pit either.
*****
In the Morning Meditation beneath Burditt's profound quote, I say that 'Sobriety is a gift' because it was for me in this sense: I had reached a tipping point by around the second decade of daily drunkenness. Periodic binges seemed only to end by hospitalization. Waking in the hospital repeatedly was another snake pit. How did I get there? I was a blackout drinker who would continue drinking beyond the scope of memory's possibility. Presumably I would have died drinking in a blackout had my physical body not given out first. My brain wanted more alcohol than by body could survive consuming. The ultimate hamster on the ultimate wheel, destruction or death were the only alternatives (so I once thought). I would never have willfully chosen to stop drinking in these instances.Imminent death put a temporary hold on my downhill slide. Sobriety was truly a gift in these cases. 
The gift of near-death survival. Survival by luck, not by choice.  
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The "Recovery is earned" part of this Morning Mediation was my realization through repeated relapses that sustained sobriety would require a concerted effort by me with the help of many others. I would have to take action, make changes. Recovery is not a gift. The air around me today is such that I breathe recovery on a daily basis. Twelve plus years of daily holding onto my life with a gratitude for each day accumulated sober. Action. Recovery has become a way of life, of living, of doing. Action.
Sobriety was a gift. My recovery has been earned. Snake pit, a European legend lived and learned.



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#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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This post is written by Jim Anders, the author of All Drinking Aside: 
The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal
https://goo.gl/ycu5jg 

Find his recovery Tweets here: 


Explore the flavor and texture of his writing style on LinkedIn here: 

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*Both the Burditt quote and the Morning Meditation beneath it open the 67th Chapter of All Drinking Aside. This juxtaposition is an intentional stark contrast. Addiction is complex. It would be an injustice to think that solutions would be simple.

24 January 2017

"Surrender to Win!"? Are They Crazy?!?


Before I first got sober, I'd never had I heard the expression "Surrender to win." Over the years many different people had made subtle suggestions to me. "Slow down. Slow your roll," etcetera, but no one outright ever suggested I should consider quitting altogether. They knew I wouldn't and couldn't. Alcohol had increasing become a symbol of my freedom. It was my stated choice long after I ceased being free to choose. "It's a free country..." all that, lots of that. Even as I increasingly became a walking hot mess, I'd learned it best to attempt to diminish the appearance of what others correctly perceived as my perpetual state of drunkenness.

***** 

To surrender would signal defeat. Like most addicts, I was defiant in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary. "Daily surrender to my alcoholism always meant another drink." I'll only have one... maybe two. Today would be different. Then I'd have a third and another. Then more. I won't black out today, yet I would continue drinking until I did. I would and I did. "Daily chipped away by my disease. And what was left when the chipping away stopped? ...  My brain fragments on this sculptor's floor. The dust of my disease. The oxygen masks, the intravenous drips,  the sedatives. How, having barely survived all of this for years on end, can I have come out on this other end today, feeling whole, joyful, alive?... "

*****
How did I survive? 
I would surrender to sobriety instead of the next drink. I would surrender or I would die. The subtle (and not so subtle) accumulation of experience of decades of drinking led to what seemed like the inevitable epiphany that active addiction would not allow: I could, would and must surrender to win. 
This is how I would die: Death by Alcohol, an avalanche of alcohol would seem to comfort as it killed. But it did stop. The hammering away of the addiction machine sputtered to a stop and finally when there was no juice left, neither a drop of strength, nor an ounce of courage, I surrendered. 
I surrendered to win. 
They were not crazy.
*****
That jackhammer called addiction has been stilled and silenced.
At the end of that long, dark and finally silent tunnel, the beginnings of a sober gratitude took shape. There would be no peace without surrender. Alcohol had proven that I could not beat it by joining it. I could only beat alcohol by surrender to sobriety. My un-joining alcohol and rejoining life.
No social drinker ever thinks such thoughts. 
I lift my Sparkling Cider glass in a toast to all the alcoholics out there who have not yet found sobriety, to all of us in recovery who have and to all the social drinkers out there undaunted by either cider or champagne! Cheers!
Surrender to win.
The end...

"...  end result. Gratitude."



*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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Only the passages in quotes, above, are from All Drinking Aside. 
I'm in hope that this post will serve as a bridge, a window and a door 
to what you will find there and how my recovery was uncovered....
*****
All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction
of an Alcoholic Animal by Jim Anders is linked here: 
https://goo.gl/ycu5jg 


Find his recovery Tweets here: 


Explore the flavor and texture of his writing style on LinkedIn here: 


14 January 2017

Self-Discovery Obliterated


Again and again I return to this. That addiction obliterates self-discovery. I almost lost what now to me has become essential to my sustained recovery. Here, "This is very interesting. The very process of writing... has increased my self-discovery. In my notes, typed in without asterisks, italics or exclamation points, I found this simple entry, a note to myself: 'Alcohol replaced self-discovery.' Like that was an insignificant afterthought, interesting, but of no real importance. And yet, there it was, brushed over, cast aside, almost ignored."

Alcohol replaced self-discovery... REPLACED IT! There is the horror of addiction, to me, to me. Self-discovery obliterated. Those who do not know ask questions like "Why is he being so selfish, so self-centered?" WOW! It didn't feel that way to me as I sped to my bottom, still decelerating in early recovery. I had almost missed this most basic of facts. 

For me, recovery has become political. Why? Because I did not die. Because I lived to have the opportunity for self-discovery in a sober and very real world. 

"... there it was, brushed over, cast aside aside, almost ignored"
Alcohol Replaced Self-Discovery.
Here it is: Meditate or Medicate?
I rest my case.




*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
This post is not excerpted from All Drinking Aside 
(with the exception of the short passage in quotes), 
but it is a bridge, a window and a door to what you will find there....
All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction
of an Alcoholic Animal by Jim Anders is linked here: 
https://goo.gl/ycu5jg 


Find his recovery Tweets here: 


Explore the flavor and texture of his writing style on LinkedIn here: 

10 January 2017

High-Functioning Alcoholic?


I once thought of myself as a high-functioning alcoholic, never admitting to what degree I was dysfunctional. Not knowing I would have performed better free of my addiction. High and barely functioning would have more aptly described me.
Today, I function well because I am in long-term recovery. Strong roots, a solid foundation and flights of fancy keep me free and unfettered. On my best days, gratitude is a walking meditation.
I am high (alcohol-free) and I am fully-functioning. 
I was a chronic substance abuser.  But today, I am in long-term recovery.
The drinking life is over. Sober living is my one and only way.


*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
This post is not excerpted from All Drinking Aside, but it is a bridge, 
a window and a door to what you will find there....
All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction
of an Alcoholic Animal by Jim Anders is linked here: 
https://goo.gl/ycu5jg 

Find his recovery Tweets here: 


Explore the flavor and texture of his writing style on LinkedIn here: 

Responsibility Set Me Free...


In order to justify my drinking, those oh-so-many years ago, I would sit on a barstool and tell myself that I was free to have another drink or two (or three or more) before heading home (how I got there usually not known). In order to defend my drinking, I told myself that freedom allowed me to choose to have one more for the road.

Addiction is far more than a substance. A complex system of behaviors eventually evolves as the progression of addiction propels one forward (and down and out).

Freedom without restrictions was the only freedom I knew. Freedom without restrictions defined me, became a wall behind which I defended my addiction. Breaking every rule eventually broke me.

I went from feeling powerful behind my addiction (until my tsunami hit) to being a total victim in my addiction. Eventually I reached the point where I had no choice but to not drink until I felt well enough to believe that i had both the power and the right to drink responsibly. The chains of victimhood once again confined me. Eventually I got it right and chose to live an alcohol-free life-style.

The confines of recovery are boundless.

Responsibility set me free.



*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
This post is not excerpted from All Drinking Aside, but it is a bridge, 
a window and a door to what you will find there....
All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction
of an Alcoholic Animal by Jim Anders is linked here: 
https://goo.gl/ycu5jg 

Find his recovery Tweets here: 

Explore the flavor and texture of his writing style on LinkedIn here: 

02 January 2017

Who is "The Fifteenth Stone"?


(Vatchi): Sotto, you just reminded me here of something I thought long forgotten. It's called "The Fifteenth Stone" and I can't recall if it's a true story or an allegory, or what. But let me explain of stones and elephants.
Somewhere, Japan or China, who knows? San Francisco? A garden exists somewhere, a rock garden: let's say the size of a tennis court. You can walk completely around it, but you are not allowed to cross its borders. This rock garden contains fifteen large stones of varying sizes, say, knee to chest high. And this rock garden is so constructed that no matter where you stand on the garden's perimeter, only fourteen of the stones are ever visible. One stone, forever changing, is always hidden from view. Fifteen stones in the garden, and no matter where you stand, only fourteen are visible.
Which stone is Jim, Sotto?
Which stone are you, Surimi?
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#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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If not You, Who?


This excerpt is from "All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal," an Autobiographical Fiction, linked here: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO

View my LinkedIn Recovery Posts here:
https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/0_38_vTSmQYaW33a9H_bIcA7?trk=prof-sm
& find a few Recovery Tweets here: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4

01 January 2017

Death Expectations / Recovery Realizations


"Do not kill her in front of me. Show me her body when you have finished." - Thandi Shezi's mother

(Sept. 1988, on the occasion of being forced to watch the savage beating of her daughter by South African police prior to her arrest.)*

Another mother, on Facebook, spoke to my core recently, expressing the same brutality exacted upon her daughter by addiction.
This is the third mother in my recent memory, exasperated, who had reached that point of overwhelming heartbreak.
Somewhere, tonight, a mother is crying out in anguish over the power that is addiction. Addiction is killing her daughter, out of reach. "Do not kill her in front of me. Show me her body when you have finished," she begs.
Everybody is recovering from something and sometimes that something is another person's addiction.
Grief. Anguish. Pain. Addiction spreads in ever-widening circles.
The chains of addiction must be broken. 
Hearts will heal, must heal. Thoughts unspoken, silent meditations shatter the night.
Ever-widening circles of hope.
Hope must conquer, will conquer.
Remember that there are whole worlds in recovery, that recovery is possible, doable, magnificent.
Recovery lives.
Strive on!

*(from "Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering" by David A. Kessler, M.D., p. 253)


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#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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Jim Anders is also the Author of "All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal," an Autobiographical Fiction, linked here: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
Visit his Niume Recovery page here: https://niume.com/pages/profile/?userID=26056
& find more of his Recovery Tweets here: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4