Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

“They flutter behind you your possible pasts
some bright-eyed and crazy, some frightened and lost
a warning to anyone still in command
of their possible future to take care.
”   Your Possible Pasts, Pink Floyd

 It was twenty years ago today that I took my last drink.  It was rum, of all things, and I had probably 4 or 5 shots before feeling it gurgle right back up, burn my throat, and I hurled the battery acid into a sink.  Then it was off to detox, where the sobriety, this time, stuck, and I’m 20 years sober as of about 9:17 a.m:. 

I want  to try and avoid too much sentimentality, (I've already written lots here) and it would be impossible to sum up the myriad of thoughts and significance of this, but not to post on it would just seem wrong.

 Yes, it is both the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but really, it’s also the easiest. You just have to get out of the way and let it happen. It wanted to happen, needed to happen, and all it took was reducing the self-pity, resentment, selfishness, insane ways of thinking, self-will run riot, and all those things that make us alcoholics so annoying. I say reduce not eliminate, since to think they are gone is to forget the humility upon which the doors of sobriety swings, but now my life is sprinkled with kindness and joys and rich treasures that, ironically, I was seeking in my substance use but never found.

Sobriety comes natural to me now, and I have a quiet unwavering confidence it will persist, but Yes, I still want to drink, still can taste beer when I see it, still wait for the sting of Gilbeys Gin or cheap vodka when I drink a squirt, my body still reacts to witnessing drug use on the movie screen, and I still think people who walk away from a half-empty drink are crazy. And as I write this, I can still feel my addiction in my gut. Or any time at all, I can summon up the feeling. Easy as being conscious of your left elbow, I can turn my consciousness to the addiction inside me. I can make my mouth water in seconds thinking of a drink.

This thought scares some people but comforts me. I know who I am and what I am, so don’t’ have to pretend I can drink like normal people.  When I have nightmares of a substance using dream and a relapse (which I still do) I wake up grateful, since, nope, I’m still sober, and Yep, I know I wouldn’t enjoy that.

The hardest part about sobriety is living in reality all the time.  All the time.  Most folks, when faced with the need for stress relief or to relax, have the option of a drink. Not me, I lost that option. So, I’m stuck in the realm of reality and having to find alternate ways to to escape. One of the cliché’s is that SOBER is an acronym for “ Son Of a Bitch Everything’s Real”

So now I lean hard on my diversions, or my ‘supplements’ which I prefer, and fortunately, I now have a ton of different options to get me high.   My diversions haven’t always been healthy, and my life in sobriety has been stranger than addiction, but I now cling to my running highs, my imagination, writing and reading and watching things that still give me a sense of wonder, make me go “damn” “awwwww”, or “wow” and fulfill me with a spiritual and emotional high. .

Yep, I’m getting high all the time now.  If they could bundle up a pack of  my runner’s high,  I’m sure it would be a top seller at the local dope house. Twenty years ago it was my hands that were getting me high, grabbing whatever substance they could and putting them into my body, but now it is my legs, carrying me through miles of runs at different speeds and through all sorts of different states.

That’s part of why it was soooo cool to run the Ann Arbor Marathon last week, to go back to the city where I learned so much about life.  The school work was easy compared to what I put myself through.

And despite not getting stoned anymore, I certainly still think “stoned” thoughts.  I remember fearing that I would lose my edge if I got sober, that I would become like everybody else, who I was convinced were boring and cliché and faked being happy. When I opened my eyes and looked closer, I realized that it was me, the sad, pathetic drunk, who was the stupid cliché, and that to live stone cold sober is to have a sharper edge than ever.

There are so many things that deserve the credit. For one, the Big Book of AA that proves people from the 1930’s really can understand me.  So many counselors, recovery folks, and even obscure things like songs and snippets that I turned to.  Yes, a cold pop that replaced the beer in my crotch, which seemed to be needed for that car to go forward, I send my thanks your way. Ten cents extra at a time.

Without my wife I would have never tapped into my sense of adventure.  No way do I finish 1 marathon, much less 13, without her. When I met her, she had already  been swimming deep into the pool of endorphins, and I dove in head first. And no way do my children have the same joy in their lives without her that I hope will prevent them from turning to substances the way I did.

So, I sit here today waiting for an angel to visit me, like Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but instead of answering the question “what would it be like if I never lived?” I’m going to ask “what would have happened had I never gotten sober? I had been hospitalized a handful of times, bleeding internally, pancreatitis, shitting blood, and always on the verge of a seizure or DT’s.  I am always curious about that death that would have happened had I continued.  It was a very possible past.

Instead, I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.

  (I turned comments off for this post and not pimping my book as usual here. Not fully sure why. Well, I do know why, it's just too difficult to explain.)

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