Anti-Sobriety Myths

At this writing, I’ve been sober 16 years.

Getting sober  takes time.

I’ve seen a few myths derail more than one person’s chance at getting sober.

One myth says: “I am sober when I stop drinking.”

Wrong. Not, somewhat wrong, or a little wrong. Wrong. Dead wrong. You’re clean, as it were, when you stop drinking, not sober.

Here’s the reality (fact) that replaces the myth. You have to stop drinking in order to get sober. Getting sober takes time. Trust me.  If you’re fortunate enough to be in your early strides of the experience, you don’t yet realize how unwell you are.

Another myth says: “I can do it alone” and yet another is some family member or loved one thinking that they can save the alcoholic-addict.

Reality says: “Not only are you wrong, but don’t you think it’s nice to find out there is at least one massive life challenge you don’t have to face alone?”

I do.

There is another unflinching fact. Being an active alcoholic results in one of three endings: jails, institutions, or death. This is fact.

One other thing, another expression I learned. You’re not allowed to kill yourself in your first three years of sobriety because you’ll be killing the wrong person.



Remembering to live

A close friend of mine who died last year used to say, “Remember, the moment you’re in is the only place you have to be.” This man helped me enormously on my journey to sobriety, something this writer could not have done alone. In July of this year I will celebrate 10 years sober and it is not an overstatement to say I protect my sobriety with the same ferocity as I’d protect my child. I am not in the least unique, nor am I anywhere near the first to say, anything you put before your sobriety you’ll lose.

More than anything, I don’t want to lose the chance each day gives me to live my life. Remembering to do so can be the challenge. Life is never short on distractions. These days I can get so caught up in the task and frustration of finding a new home that I forget to enjoy the quiet mystical beauty of the falling snow. I can get so caught up in living on a diet that largely consists of beans and vegetables along with the occasional bowl of oatmeal and fresh baked loaf of pumpkin bread that I forget to enjoy the fact that one of my dogs, Charley, is always sitting nearby with his head cocked in the diligent hope and undying belief that it is just a matter of time before a morsel of food hits the floor.

While it is true that life happens to us whether we like it or not, it is equally true that the wonders of life are there for our experiencing whether we like it or not; it is simply a matter of staying open to them which, in most cases, means staying present in the moment you’re in. Early this morning, for example, I went outside to put some mail in the mailbox. A crow perched in a nearby tree cawed good-morning and I responded with, “Hi, sweetie. Glad you’re here.” I’m glad I didn’t miss that moment.

None of us are absent the wanted and unwanted challenges of life. That’s a fact. But none of us are absent the right to live our lives in the moment we’re in and all the glory that can be found there.

Right now, as I write these words for you, there is jazz playing quietly in the background. Next to me is a mug with fresh-made coffee. Not far from where I sit a fire dances in the woodstove. My reading chair is near the fire and on the table next to the chair the book I’m reading, Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd,” is waiting for me. Charley is curled up by the fire and McKenzie, my old and loyal German Shepherd, is sleeping at my feet. I’ll be damned if I’ll let the challenges of life, particularly the unwanted ones, rob me of remembering to live the moment I’m in. While there will always be challenges, there will always be a moment to be in; I just have to remember to live it. I hope you do too.

One Indelible Truth

And so the hunt for a new home continues. I am not at all unique when I say not knowing where you will live next brings a formidable amount of stress that is, quite frankly, exhausting.

The other day I asked Christine to take my house plants to her house so they’d be safe. She was sweetly reluctant, rightly pointing out that the presence of plants was calming and uplifting. True, I said, “But keep in mind that the whole process of going through an experience like this is like a fire fight; you’re not going to get through it without being bloodied, without being damaged, wounded. The thing is you keep going, keep fighting.” In other words, allow the experience, and all that comes with it.

Not easy. And, in a word, terrifying.

It is striking to me, though not at all surprising, that the large majority of those reaching out to me are people who, like me, are in recovery and the loved ones of same. With some exceptions, there has been pretty much silence from all others. Nothing unique there. And it’s okay. People are people with, like me, frailties and limits. So goes the wonderful and perplexing world of humanity.

There is one indelible and glorious truth that is by no means lost on me. I am alive and therefore afforded the privilege of going through this experience – one day at a time.



Leaps of Faith

I heard the following joke recently. A man falls down a deep hole that extends miles into the earth. He manages to stop his fall by grabbing onto a root with one hand. As he begins to tire he looks up at the small circle of light above him and yells, “Is there anybody up there?!” Suddenly a bright light from shines down and a deep voice says, “I am the Lord thy God. Let go of the root. I will save you.” The man pauses for a moment and then yells, “Is there anybody else up there?!”

Real leaps of faith, by any measure, are not easy. They often mean you’ll be holding hands with some gut ripping fear for a bit. Which is exactly what I felt this past Sunday when my landlords, a truly good and decent couple, informed me I would need to move out of the home I’ve been renting from them for nine years, in 30 days. It seems their marriage is coming to an end and the husband need to take up residence in the house.

I don’t need to tell you how frightening it is to lose your home. Home is far more than a physical thing. It is a spiritual, physical and emotional sanctuary.  Not so when you realize it is lost. Frightening for anyone, with an added degree of difficulty when the very part of your brain that allows you to manage emotion is damaged, which is where my damage is. The frontal lobe. And so for the first day I was pretty much incapacitated, difficulty speaking, trembling, hunched over, knowing what it was that was happening to me but unable to shake it and knowing too that that’s okay. Those disabling moments still grab me during the day – and night. We are all allowed our human experience, even when upsetting and unpleasant, and we make a mistake, albeit an understandable one, when we try to avoid the more unpleasant experiences of life.

I long ago learned that the only way to get through a terrifying or heartbreaking time is to give myself permission to go through it. In other words, allow the experience.

And so here I am with my three dogs hoping that I will be able to find a new home in time. I have already gotten a storage space and will begin to place things in storage and look for friends to watch my dogs for me if the worst happens and no new home shows up in time. I have been homeless in my life and the homeless monster is, even though I know intellectually it will not get me (I don’t think), bearing down on me with glistening hatred eyes.

There is one thing this experience will not take from me. My sobriety. One of the wonderful things about being sober is when all hell breaks loose in life, I can look the circumstances in the eye, snarl to myself, and say, You can’t take my sobriety.

Anyway, one day at a time. Keep the faith, even if doing so is a leap. It is for me right now.

And remember, it’s okay to be afraid, don’t let it scare you.



Eight Years Sober

If anyone told me years ago that I’d go eight years without drinking or smoking pot I would have immediately concluded they were smoking better weed than I ever smoked, and truth to tell, I smoked some good weed. But here I am, eight years sober today, July 12.

Without question sobriety is the most glorious presence in my life. All of life is here for me and I get to live it and experience  it, good and bad, as me. And isn’t that the point of life in the first place? To live it being who you are? Not some distorted version of yourself. Not as someone whose health: emotional, spiritual and physical is at risk because of the large amounts of alcohol and drugs your body is ingesting.

In my last days of using I was high on pot at all times and drinking 10 to 14 large glass gin and tonics every night. Being asthmatic, I would put myself through three or four nebulizer treatments daily so I could keep my lungs open for pot. It is a miracle I am alive.

I remember when I first went into a 12-step program, which works if you work it because if you truly work it you are wedded to rigorous honesty, I’d hear people refer to themselves as grateful recovering alcoholics. I’d hear people say this and think, Oh for God sakes, give me a break. But, I had a long way to go at the time. They knew this. I didn’t. But I do now. And now, with all my heart and soul I am proud to say I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.

I know there was a time, years in fact, when I  believed it was impossible for me to live life without the presence of pot, and, after my one mother’s suicide in 1992, the presence of alcohol. I have, however, learned a remarkable thing. What feels impossible may not be impossible. If you think it is impossible for you to be free of alcohol and drugs, you too have a right to discover that what feels impossible is not impossible, it simply feels that way.

Now, I am proud to say, it is impossible for me to live life with the presence of alcohol or pot. I love life this way.