02 August 2023

BEING BOTH (rough draft/incomplete)


"Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes)" - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

BEING BOTH is a work of introspection in nine parts. I, YOU, WE ARE ALL THESE THINGS in groupings of two, three or twenty. These nine posts are based upon an image of nine Venn Diagrams attributed to Young Minds, the UK's leading mental health charity for young people which I discovered recently on my LinkedIn feed.

See them as I saw them at the top of my August 2, 2023 post here: https://alldrinkingaside.blogspot.com/2023/08/9-venn.html
[Please note that this is a work in progress and will undergo changes large and small as I move forward]

STRUCTURE has been such a huge part of my Recovery. Looking at the subtitle to my first book, ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal, you will see that "Structure" is hidden in plain sight three times in the subtitle alone.

Much of my progress has been through looking in the rear-view mirror.

If this is your first reading, bear with me. 
There are Woodworkers and there are Word-Workers. 
I am the latter. 
Rarely is my writing once and done. Likewise, when reading a book, especially poetry, my view is refined with each revisit. Each exposure deepens my appreciation. 
Nuance is not a one-night stand with me. 
Woodworkers and Word Workers are constantly refining their craft.

Reader Response will help me chisel away at this rough pile of nine stones, so it may begin to look more like Mount Rushmore and less like the debris on this word-sculptor's floor. Any suggestions or reflections of your own on the subjects presented are greatly appreciated.

Enough already.

Let us begin:


1. Capable & Lost:

I must speak of being lost first. The word 'Lost' is not far from 'Loss' in the dictionary, and in my life.
Unable to find my way home, to a home, to myself, somewhere safe, sane and known. Somewhere, anywhere, home.

Addiction crippled me.
Yet I always somehow did find my way to my physical home, my third-floor apartment in the early days of my drinking career. If home were only about our geographical space, we've got GPS for that. But what about lost in the Spiritual sense, or Lost Identity, a human being lost?
"Lights on, but nobody's home" once applied to me. And rightly so.
"Nothing another drink couldn't fix" was my subliminal knee-jerk reaction to anything, everything. "Nothing another drink couldn't fix" or break. Or shatter. Or lose.

Bus. Jitney. Taxi. Walk. No matter the way, I was Lost in Space, in a far less entertaining way than the mid-'60's TV Show of the same name. Nothing funny. Nothing admirable. Everywhere, nowhere, Lost in Space. Drunk. High. Stoned. Addicted.

Addiction took me off course from whatever direction my life may have been taking when I was a teenager. Much, most, can never be recovered. Maybe saying "I am in recovery" isn't the best way to express it. It's a little inaccurate and doesn't reflect the better than new reality of what recovery has brought and that may continue to bring to me. Who knows where I would have landed had I not had that first of over 50,000 drinks?

Moot point. Undoing 50.000 drinks is an impossibility. Living in recovery is doable, possible, irreplaceable. 

We are all in recovery. In recovery from a drug, a habit, a relationship, from ourselves. We are all in recovery in the sense that with each step we regain our balance and move forward. All this, of course, much simpler when we are not under the influence of some drug. I am becoming free of my addictions and capable of living on solid ground. Each step is indeed a balancing act. My life is not some clown car now. I live and breathe recovery.

Now if I am lost, I am literally lost and it feels nothing the same as being in the addiction game.

I am capable of recovery. I am capable in recovery. I am capable, even when lost. I can find the solutions to dissipate any temporary sense of being lonely or lost. 

Purposeful living.

Capable and lost? I can be both.

Recovery is my Awesome Sauce, a tired slang expression, to be sure, but I am in it to win it, so slang be dang!

Capable and lost?

Sounds about right. Feels good. I'll drink to that. A sparkling cider, if you please.

"Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes)" - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

[Part 2, Being Both: Smiling & Struggling, Coming Soon. Stay Tuned]


2. Smiling & Struggling:
Smiling in anxiety, smiling in depression. Literal masks disfiguring the struggle behind these false fronts
An iota of empathy, perhaps an overdose of it: I have felt both, been both. 
A smile can help or hurt. It's situational.
The word itself usually brings a smile.
Corny. More likely. More smiley.
Corn Corny:.. Smile ear to ear.
A genuine smile reduces blood pressure, increases endurance and may help to reduce stress. A weak or forced smile when asked how I was doing in my addiction was more often than not a mask to disguise my true feelings of loss and hopelessness [See BEING BOTH: 1. Capable & Lost]. Definitely not a blood pressure reducer or good for either stress or endurance. Ultimately, addiction seems to have added to any problems and slowed my progress in achieving solutions. 
Life is not easy under any conditions. Some days harder than others. Addiction is harder than living clean and sober. Illness casts a veil over perceptions. When I am ill, the world is not so rosy appearing. Ill health colors my view of the world.
Surrender, waving the white flag to addiction, admitting that "I am powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable," although the seeming solution, felt impossible in the thick of it until recovery had a firmer grasp on me than addiction did. 
Strive on Fellow Travelers. My mind's eye sees a sailor struggling with the ropes to maintain an even keel, teeth gritting in the grapple. 
Call this a smile.
Call this a struggle.
Strive on Fellow Travelers. Life is good. Smiling and struggling, strive on.


3. Kind & Setting Boundaries:
I have a mean streak. Don't cross my boundaries or I will likely lash out. Setting boundaries is building fences, closing doors and windows, closing your clam shell and hiding within it.
Sometimes I don't even know I'm doing it. It can be harsh, unintended or not. Did something that happened to me in the third grade, for example, which still colors my world decades later? 
I don't think so. It doesn't feel that what. But how would I know? Self-truth can be slow to present itself.
"Mistaking Kindness for Weakness" was not my creation. It lives and breathes on its own. Abuse is a fuel. "Hurt People Hurt People," but that cannot be an excuse or permission for inappropriate response to your kindness.
Set Boundaries.
Kindness has its limits.
Mankind doesn't quite capture it, yet Humankind somehow does.
Kindness defines our species. But so does Hatred, Rage and Revenge.
I will continue setting boundaries for self-protection, and, occasionally, to protect others from me. We protect ourselves and each other. Protection is kindness. 

Let kindness bloom within us, between us. Let it be boundless within the boundaries we must set to allow its continuation.


4. Vulnerable & Powerful:
Others may see that I can be taken advantage of. I may fear losing out on possibly deepening relationships by building walls of protection unnecessarily [See BEING BOTH: 3. Kind & Setting Boundaries] Power plays and vulnerability play a part in personal and business transactions. Vulnerability can be powerful. In fact, power without vulnerability veers on abuse.
In a work situation, power over others may border on Master and Slave. Wield power wisely if you have it. So much of this being human thing is touch and go. 
Or don't touch and don't go.
The longer I remain in recovery from addiction, the more I seem willing to lay down the gauntlet and be open to pleasure where I once hid within my own pain.
Everything has its limits. My vulnerability vacillates. In danger, at risk, unprotected, being vulnerable can be a scary place to be. Weighing the likelihood of being hurt against the possibilities of connection and growth. Being in touch with who you are, who you aren't, as well as the perceived judgement of others. 
Judgement has a place. 
Doing the math of being emotionally well-balanced is both and art and a science. I trusted my drug dealer though, didn't I?
This recovery thing is a whole new life. Learning from real life mistakes can be very expensive. 
Being invulnerable is not an option. That is for Greek Gods and Philosophers beyond my ken. 


5. Successful & Traumatized:
By outside measure, I might be regarded as a relative failure. Thirty years of daily drinking and drugging most certainly changed my chances to succeed in the world of power, money and possessions.
But I possess myself today (not self-possessed, that, a horse of a different color).
Being at the top of my game is one of the positive results of overcoming "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Addiction bestowed wo much of that on me. Talk about making matters worse: any and all addictive substances. Life can be painful and feel so unfair without addiction being thrown into the mix. 

"Why me?" eventually served me little to no purpose. Life as it is must be dealt with, all drinking aside, lol
Success against all odds, including decades of traumatic experiences, would become mine, an inside job.. 
No one ever said it would be easy. Life is difficult, traumatic and seemingly insurmountable at times [See BEING BOTH: 4. Vulnerable & Powerful].

By now, you must have noticed that all these BEING BOTH posts have a snowballing effect. Vulnerable, powerful, successful, traumatized. All of these, all of these, all of these, All.

Like building a snowman, I would have to build my own life in recovery out of the remaining flakes of self that survived my avalanche of addiction.


6. Extrovert & Alone:
From years of being a food server and bartender, I have learned well that the more I turn on the charm, the more money I will have in tips at the end of each shift. My job description was to make my guests feel happier and welcomed when they walked through the door. Many, and in fact most jobs require a performance. 

As best stated by Shakespeare, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." As I've stated elsewhere, "I am the actor who portrays me. Alcohol is the thug who betrayed me."

"All the world's a stage... " indeed.
Behind the bar, easily, the mask of acting like a good friend and a psychoanalyst were tools of the trade.
"The tears of a clown" comes to mind, not so much now, but in my drinking days, for sure.
Reaching out, then being rejected, has set be back on numerous occasions. Sometimes it seems the world simply will not let me share. "Go back in your shell" they seem to say sometimes. 
Striking a balance between my introversion and extroversion is a high-wire act at times. I don't need a drink or drug to break me out of my shell. Totally alone and undeniably connected is where I find myself today.
We are all works in progress!


7. Valuable & Flawed:
Value is like a six-sided word to me. So many meanings to me. I value friendships and emotions for which no value can be assigned. Deep down, value is those things that bring meaning to my life. 


8. Introvert & Reaching Out:
Open arms are not my strength. I am cautious, overly so at times. "Life touches us all," is how I've heard it expressed in Recovery Meetings. Having experienced pain, loss and rejection, self-protection cuts me off from what otherwise may have been positive experiences. 
Life is a crap-shoot. 
"The Friendly Introvert" undoubtedly could be the title of my next book. There are already books with similar titles, so I guess there must be many of us.
Addiction severed my ties with humanity. Addiction crowds out what were once People, Places and Things and you (by which of course I mean "I") are left with nothing.
In a certain way, Recovery forced me to open myself up to sharing the human experience.


9. Loving & Questioning:
Loving, and questioning my love, of self, of others. Life is such a mixed bag. 
I have to go back now and number these damned Posts as I may refer to one or the other and I try to untie the mess and the message of all 9.
Damn! I didn't even realize this was the 9th until I numbered them.
Lol. As you can see, I'm not a master of any of them.
My experience is shared here, hoping to expand them all by your varied thoughts and perceptions on #9 or any of the other 8 that precede it.

Possible 10:


Bored & Grateful:

Reaching out
Setting Boundaries
[add from ada saved carve out quote]

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