A friend of mine had a co-worker he called Burrhead and the most amazing things came out of Burrhead’s realm of existence and thought. Not intentional, sometimes they show great wit anyway.
“Rome wasn’t burnt in a day” is another favorite. But the title saying is the one I want to look at today and how it reflects events in my life at any given moment.
In the spring of 1995 I went to treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. The 6 weeks prior to that I had hurt my back climbing in a pipe chase inspecting for asbestos. And I got some great drugs from the doctor. As I was explaining to a family member the other day, my body doesn’t give a good god damn who my pusher is.
After treatment I was very reluctant to follow all of the suggestions I was given. Two meetings a week!?!? Are you frikking kidding me??? I don’t have time for that. Today that is true a lot of the time. But then? I had no life. I had no interests. I had no friends. I had no where else to go. But I fought the solution for me tooth and nail. I refused to connect with the similarities and concentrated on the differences. I kept claiming that I was a Priestess, I followed the way of the Goddess and there was no way I could connect with the God that I saw in the readings of the group I belonged to. *HAR!* Who on earth was I kidding? My life didn’t resemble anyone following anything but a path of destruction. Certainly not creation.
It took one good night of denial and drinking and naked sweat lodging out in the woods at 3AM with all my closest friends (har!) to realize how serious the problem was for me. Most drunks should be so lucky. I raised that bottle to my lips and the knowing struck me that no one spends three days trying not to drink. That normal drinkers wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I was a drunk. End of story.
And I drank that bottle any way. And a few more before the night was over.
The drive home on the misty morning of July 3rd (summer doesn’t start in the PNW until after the 4th of July) was quiet and subdued and sad. I was going to have to leave my one last friend because they were finally killing me. And I knew that I would go to those meetings and that I would do the work but I knew that my life was over and that there was no more fun to be had. As long as things didn’t get any worse that was good enough for me. *sob* Poor me. Poor me. Yeah, pour me a drink…
At 8 months sober I was ready to suicide. Enough had changed that I didn’t want to die but I knew I didn’t want to keep living just dry as a bone. Recovery work became my only option. I finally got a real sponsor, I worked steps, I made amends, and gradually things really did get better.
So, here I am after 12 years, 9 months, and 29 days of sobriety and what do I have to pass on? Sure, I have a great life, an amazing life. I ain’t not scholar, Ican’t type, and I don’t have much money, but I have peace. How can I take my experience of the educational variety, in other words slow as molasses one day at a time, and present that in such a way that it doesn’t appear to be an overwhelming and unrealistic task for a new comer with a couple of days of sobriety? How can I make the slow trek towards time sober look appealing instead of daunting? My family member remembers me in my drinking days. It was years before they saw how much I had changed. They now no longer see me as they used to see me. But they can not see how, if they do what I did, they could have what I have.
They don’t see that they are worthy of it. They don’t see that they have the stamina for it. They suddenly think I have this unknown thing that made it possible for me but that perhaps they don’t have that “thing.”
They can’t bear the fact that for the first couple years they are going to be raw. No skin. Many, many things are going to hurt. They will have to have “swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.” Those truths keep a lot of drunks from progressing forward, “pride says they need not and fear says they dare not.” They simply can not see that no matter what they have to face about their past it could not possibly be worse than continuing they way they are going. Looking at and dealing with the past turned out not to be worse than living drunk for the future. They both suck but one sucked less. That’s as good as it gets at first. Just waking up without a hangover is as good as it gets in the beginning. And for most of us that in itself was a frikking miracle. Is it enough to tempt? To tempt more than the next drink? It was for me but how do I pass that on?
How can I help someone walk through that? How can I let them see that the truths they will find are NOT worse than the truths I found? That they are not the worst of the worst? The only way they can see that and believe that is DO that. And getting over that hurdle can be the difference between life and death.
My family member has agreed to AA and daily work but not treatment. They have agreed that if they relapse again they will go to treatment. They are like me and my prodigal Knight of Pentacles. They have everything they need to move forward and do the task that is in front of them. They need to kick the fucking horse. Once kicked will the horse think? Or drink? Just don’t pick up the first drink. That is the only drink that needs to be avoided. Sounds ridiculous and trite doesn’t it? But ultimately that is all it comes down to.
I did a lot of “the next appointed thing.” I did a lot of housework. Dishes kept me sober. Laundry kept me sober. Vacuuming cobwebs kept me sober. Stitching kept me sober. Those were the things I did when I couldn’t get to a meeting, it was late at night. I spent a lot of time getting into internet fights. But I didn’t drink. Until we build a new life we live in a gap between the old and the new and flailing around is how it is. I did a lot of dishes…
One must accept that they can live themselves into a new way of thinking but can not think themselves into a new way of living. The first is the only way that it works in my experience. One frikking day at a time.