27 February 2018

... a heart made empty, PHANTOM PAIN, real as any other...


"In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing." - Antonio Porchia
*****
The Phantom Pain an amputee feels where an arm or leg once was but is no longer there is oh-so-easy for me to imagine. Cramps, tingling, burning, numbness, pain running up and down, all in the area where the limb used to be. It's all a trick of memory and loss, of what was but no longer is. Mixed signals from the brain.
Close your eyes. Without touching it, picture in your mind how your leg feels right this second. Now imagine it has been amputated but you still feel it, exactly the same. Loss. The memory of loss. And forgetting, deep forgetting.
A decade after I quit smoking, occasionally, I find my hand clutching my chest pocket where my pack of Marlboros were usually found. This, without a previous thought of a cigarette. I know now these detours are dead ends leaving me clutching at nothing, evaporating in thin air.
"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."
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's Phantom Pleasures are Illusions, too. But all the pains that addiction may have caused you will return full-force and worse if you pick up now. Or ever. That has been my experience. With each successive relapse, the desire of Addiction's Endless Quest for More is, was, has been, will return and will never be satisfied. You will find nothing, then less than nothing, the pain that is addiction, the pain of numb and nil. The nothing that IS nothing. Real. Too real. 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. Pain, pain numb and nil. Believe addiction will not have its fill. Recovery has room for one and all. Recovery is my everything...
*****
"I know what I have given you... I do not know what you have received." - Antonio Porchia

*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
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#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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Passages in quotes are excerpted from ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4

16 February 2018

"Sweep So Much Under the Carpet Before a Corpse is Found There"


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.
*****
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. For me, Recovery is life-long. I would help break the stigma of addiction by refusing to remain silent in my sobriety.
*****
I felt such a sadness when I first read Joyce Rebeta Burditt's famous "Alcoholism isn't a spectator sport. Eventually the whole family gets to play." 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.
***** 
"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 society. Families can only sweep so much under the carpet before a corpse is found there. Stigma is a corpse of sorts, a 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.
*****
Sobriety is a Gift. 
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 my 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.  
*****
Recovery is earned. 
I learned 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. Well over a dozen 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.


*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal  
http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
The Addiction Fiction that is also a Sobering Autobiography
Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4

15 February 2018

Walls of Denial Fed by Stigma


The stigma of alcoholism and addiction and the hatred and ignorance behind it have forced many of us to hide our addictions behind walls of denial. We hid them (and our drugs), sometimes quite cleverly (a chef I once worked with hid his bottle at work in the toilet tank).
"Why doesn't he just stop?"
And when we finally got clean and sober, we met behind closed doors because some of us had to protect our dirty, little secrets.
"You'll never be anything but a drunk."
*****
BUT... the scabs that are the stigmas of addiction (and recovery) will not heal by retaliation. A well-placed "Drop Dead!" simply won't do. The stigma of addiction is slowly being undone. Being in recovery becomes more than a state of being when it is shared with others, admitted, discussed. The cloak of addiction is unravelled and revealed by the evidence of science and acts of kindness. A few kind words go a long way in bridging the gap between hatred and understanding.
AND... there is a certain backlash occurring in the political sector from which I presently recoil. I don't want to see any progress made in the recovery movement lost to a changing political climate. Whether it be progress ON addiction or the progress OF addiction, I realize that progress is never straight forward (or straight downward).
SO... as a member of the recovering community, I feel I have to dig deeper trenches, strengthen my foundation in recovery and continue to speak out against stigma and in favor of greater progress and social acceptance for the recovering communities.
*****
WE and THEY, US and THEM, will one day be ALL of US. The Common Good will eventually triumph. I've seen so much positive change in my own lifetime that I feel the future holds great promise. We need to air our thoughts and feelings, not to stuff them. For me, personally, anonymity is an old, old shoe which no longer fits the person I have become after well-over a dozen years of sobriety. "Yard by yard, it's hard. Inch by inch, it's a cinch" is perhaps an overstatement, but I, for one, truly believe that the butterfly effect will be realized as millions and millions more emerge from their cocoons of recovery from addiction.
Millions more will become the fulcrum that will move the world. History is on the side of progress so, from where I sit, things are looking up.
*****
"These people don't deserve... "
"These people can't... "
"These people won't..."
*****
13 years sober and I continue to heal.
*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
History is on the side of the Common Good.
HOPE: Our Most Renewable Natural Resource

(Sculpture by Daniel Arsham on Pinterest)
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#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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Explore All Drinking Aside: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO

01 February 2018

The Unquenchable Thirst That Only Recovery Could Fill


Letting go of alcohol in my early recovery felt truly impossible. Early on, my relentless, unquenchable thirst for alcohol had me in an unforgiving chase towards Recovery. Tight-fisted, I clutched this new-found life with a ferocity which only added to my difficulties. After all, drinking was all I knew. 
I walked a tightrope. 
But Recovery is not a tightrope, it's a bridge, a wide bridge which leads to many paths and lives for those who finally find it. 
To chase after sobriety was too close to the chase for the next drink for me. Doing push-ups for the next drink. This was not a chase. I felt like I needed different muscles somehow. Recovery felt like it should become an embodiment, not something to possess, like a cheap half-gallon of vodka. I would somehow enfold it as it enfolded me. Gently. Sobriety, 'this loose-fitting garment.'  
I would have to move away from the idea that sobriety was some form of punishment. Slow down. So close to death, then suddenly sober. How awkwardly I chased the desire to live without alcohol. Alcohol had been ruthlessly, mercilessly killing me. And now this, sobriety. I didn't know what it was. Recovery was beyond my 30 years of experience drinking daily.
Each sober breath became a new experience, different, so different from the numbness each drink presented me. Learning to breathe became a way of letting go, completely, of the last drink. The bridge is wide, the path, an expansive highway. Still lost, it was not so much that I found recovery as recovery found me.
The realization that I was truly sober, truly living in recovery took around five years. My teeth were no longer clenching. Nor my fists. A subtle shift, loosening, unloosening, recovery found me.
Letting go, that hackneyed "Go with the flow," finally meant something. My brain changed with time in thousands of different ways and the broken pieces became whole, a container which could hold me, complete, no glass in hand.
The edges of a rainbow dissipate into thin air. In that space I found recovery and myself, a letting go becoming whole.
No drink ever took me into that thin, full air. Never.
I did not drink today.
This is a very, very, very good day. 
Letting go....
Sober.

*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more." 
*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
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You might also enjoy All Drinking Aside: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
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