08 January 2017

I Wore a Plastic Patient's I.D. Bracelet for 3 Months


I identify myself now as an alcoholic in long-term recovery. Strong, resolute, unwaveringly committed to continue on this sober path, helping others where and how I can, this is how I spend my days. Semi-retired, I still work part-time as a cashier. Decades of less than minimum wage pay as a waiter and bartender do not a mogul make. Advertising Coordinator at a Casino (1988) was my last 'real job' before my long, slow and painful alcoholic descent. A small advertising agency I co-owned, which disbanded broke a few years before that, did little to add to my Social Security benefits 30-some odd years later. 
My short stint at what was then Merv Griffin's Resorts International Casino & Hotel ended when higher-ups insisted upon my seeing a therapist to discuss my problems with alcohol. Steeped in denial, I quit and immediately started a full-time food server position rather than face up to my alcoholism.
Recurring emergency room visits evolved into two short stretches at what was then the Atlantic City Detox. Eventually beyond their resources, the hospital arranged for my first real Rehab Hospital in Lakewood, New Jersey.
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 "When I first got out of Lakewood Hospital's rehab wing, I wore the plastic patient's I.D. bracelet for three months. That bracelet was my Scarlet Letter and my Red Badge of Courage, ever reminding me that I have a sickness, an illness, an identity that I could not change, that I am an Alcoholic Forever. One of my forever's would have to be that I would have to change if I were to remain sober. I did not know it then, couldn't have known it, but that plastic I.D. bracelet was like my own personal "Serenity Prayer"* incarnate, unspoken, felt, neither consciously known nor understood."
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The point I'm making here is that sobriety is so very fragile and I was so very empty and lost when I first got sober that very first time. Multiple relapses would follow, but that patient's I.D. bracelet comes back into my consciousness often, reminding me of the road I had to travel before I eventually found sustained sobriety and an identity of my own.
That bracelet was the only thing I owned at that time because even the clothes on my back were really the gift of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission where I lived until I could scrape together enough money for a single room in a boarding house.
Today, I know that "nothing matters more than we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
One of my many, many mores is my memory of the plastic bracelet essential to saving my life as a symbol of change and hope. I discarded my old life and with help was brought forward to this new, vibrant and doable, durable life of recovery. Like that bracelet, I would have to learn a certain plasticity as I was bent and pounded into a new shape, transitioning from an alcoholic in his cups to a sober being who yielded to the permanent resiliency of recovery.
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*The "Serenity Prayer" by Reinhold Niebuhr reads, in part, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." 
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#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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With the exception of the "Serenity Prayer," passages in quotes are excerpted from All Drinking Aside: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal by Jim Anders, linked here: https://goo.gl/ycu5jg 
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