The Raze

The Raze

I have an amazing life. I know this. I have a ton to be grateful for. And yet, probably not a week goes by that I do not want to raze it to the ground. Demolish it. Set it on fire with a blowtorch and simply walk away. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to drink. I just want to run away. I want to travel the country and see mountains and large trees and waves of grain and big skies. I want to experience the Grand Canyon.

This is not a new feeling. I have had a version of this fantasy for most of my life. When I was younger, I thought of myself as Bohemian. I remember having a personal philosophy that I would never buy anything of value that I could not fit in a suitcase. For most of my adult existence, that has remained largely true. I never really seemed to ever own anything of value. I never had a job that wasn’t like any other job out there. I never had a relationship that required much from me.

When I got sober, my lifestyle remained true to form. I lost most of my belongings during my sobering up, so the only things that were left were the very most important things of the no things to begin with. At eighteen months, I got my first apartment. I owned an air mattress and a computer precariously perched atop a box. Then I got a bed and a used sofa. And a desk… And a puppy. Its here, with the puppy, that things start to become awkward. Cause I can’t put Dio in a suitcase. I see homeless people with dogs sometimes, but they’re always kinda big, guard dog looking dogs. They’re definitely not long haired, prissy Dachshunds that prefer to be carried.

Then the family came back. That’s good. I walked away once before. I lived; they lived. But now they’re older and I’m older and I like them. They make running away more difficult. It’s not a deal breaker, but I would miss them.

And then I did what the unthinking runner does, I got the second puppy. Now, if one is going to run away, and if one ferocious attack puppy is bad enough, a second and even more skittish Maltese puppy is not the way to go. Ggggrrrrrrrr…

Okay, so it’s me and two puppies in a dented Hyundai traveling across the country. It’s tight, but they’re pretty good in the car. Dio sits in my lap. I don’t know if that’s legal. And I’m always scared to tell other dog people that is how we roll because I don’t want the doggie seatbelt lecture. Anywho, we could make do.

But the worst of it is, I fell in love. And that is no bueno for a runner. For the longest time, I thought I could leave. I threatened to leave. Convinced myself I could leave. But no. I really love him and could not imagine not seeing his beautiful face every day. Sigh.

Okay. Me, two dogs, and my man in my dented Hyundai all running away together. But my sister gave me these really awesome chairs from her living room. They’re perfect. So comfortable. The best chairs I’ve ever owned. It’s a shame to leave ‘em. So, we’ll strap them to the roof. Good. We’re all set. Me, my two dogs, and my man all running away in my dented Hyundai with two chairs strapped to the roof.

I really do not understand why a part of me is always trying to flee. I mean, I know the AA answers. I know that I am restless and discontent, that my insatiable need for more everything constantly pushes me in to a state of ingratitude, that I am “A victim of the delusion that [I] can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if [I] only manage well,” (BB 61). But somehow, in this moment, the answers sound hallow. I feel like it is not enough to simply say, I feel this way because I am an alcoholic.

And yet, I have nothing else. I think it is a really awkward moment in the life of an alcoholic when they have no proper answers for why they do the things they do. Why does the guy who has everything to lose, drink anyways? Why does the girl who has already done everything she said she’d never do, continue to do it? Why do I, who finally has everything she’s always wanted, have reoccurring fantasies of walking away?

I think the baffling thing about this disease is even the people experiencing it find it hard to articulate the fears, obsessions, the frantic search for happiness in things that exist outside of our own souls. If I only go there, do that, buy this, then I will be happy.

Last night, I had a moment of pure happiness. I was here, in my living room, in one of the big over-sized chairs my sister gave me. One of the puppies was in my lap, the other not far from me. I watched as my love put away the evening dishes. And I thought: Wow, life is tremendously good. I have everything I could possibly every want. I have peace.

And I think that about the best an alcoholic can wish for. I don’t think just because one gets sober and works the steps, that life necessarily becomes easy or sane. But I do think we can occasionally have these moments of perfect serenity and calm, when everything just seems right and easy and good.

One of my very favorite AA sayings comes from a man from a local club. I heard it in one of the first meetings I ever attended and it resonated so deeply, I never forgot it. “I didn’t get in trouble every time I was drinking, but every time I was in trouble, I was drinking.”

To that, I would like to add this, “I haven’t been at peace the entire time I have been sober, but the only times I have ever felt peace, I was sober.”

 

Free Bookmarks

BookmarkII

Hey everyone,

First of all, thank you, as always, for reading. So, I made these bookmarks. I thought a good idea and fun to make (it was), but now I do not know what to do with them. If you want one or ten (there are a few different styles), shoot me an email with your name and address. I will mail them to you. Free of charge. You do not have to do anything. You don’t even have to sign up to receive my blog via email or comment, even though that’s what I really want, because I just cannot really bring myself to ask anyone to sincerely do that. I wouldn’t do it. But I might be inclined to send an email if I got a nifty bookmark out of the deal.

Best Regards,

AGK

Agkroger@gmail.com

 

Fear does not get to Win

The Fear Problem

Fear… “This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it,” (Big Book 67).

There lives, deep within my chest, a small black tarball of fear. I can feel it. It exists, not where my heart is, but where a child thinks her heart is. Smack in the middle of my chest. Right behind my breastbone. If I think on it, it grows. I can feel it blossoming right now, as I type this, winding like a slow vine throughout my body and into my fingertips. It says, “Don’t write about me. Don’t acknowledge me, because then I become real. I become real and they will know… They will know you are years sober and still I live within you. You have not conquered me.”

I remember walking into the rooms, dazed, reeking of vodka (really, they should stop telling burgeoning alcoholics that vodka doesn’t smell). I just wanted to stop drinking. Maybe not even stop entirely forever. Just stop for the moment. Stop blowing up my life. Stop getting into trouble. I sat there lost and disturbed as people spoke of how fear had invaded their daily lives.

And I thought, “Poor people,” cause I knew what it meant to be brave. I was seven feet tall and in total control of my life. I remember my sponsor telling me to list my fears on my first fourth step. I wrote something like 1. Drinking. 2. Cockroaches. And there the list abruptly ended. I had zero conception or understanding that I drank largely out of fear. I mean, I read it in the Big Book and my sponsor told me it was true. The rooms told me it was true. But I had no idea how to internalize that information. I didn’t understand that I drank out of a fear of facing reality. Fear of what others thought of me. And fear of what I thought of myself.

Fear is insidious and cunning. It fights dirty. It comes at once, full force, slamming into my body. Then again, waiting until I am lying in bed late at night, it subtly and mischievously burrows into my soul. Fear will tell me I am not good enough or pretty enough. It will tell me my life a foolish, quixotic endeavor doomed to end in a fiery ball of disappointment and failure. It will tell me I will drink again, so why not drink right now.

But then, I remember that fear is not real. I may feel it. It may exist, oozing out from the pit in my chest to momentarily hijack my thoughts, but it no longer gets to dictate my actions. That’s what recovery has given me: steps and people, a higher power, and the knowledge of second thought. It has given me time and perspective and understanding. Recovery may not have cured the neurosis, but it has given me a fighting chance. No, fear does not get to win, not today.

 

13 Years and 1500 Miles

Hello, Everyone. Whenever something interesting happens in recovery, because of recovery, I always like to take a minute and recognize it. I thought I would share this story with you.

Last week, I heard friend of mine decided she was no longer an alcoholic, and as long as she stayed away from the drugs, she could successfully drink. This depth of self-deception is so common in recovery, it would be ludicrous, if it weren’t also so deadly. It’s so common, in fact, that this same friend’s first sponsor also fell victim to this delusion of drinking like a gentleman. My friend and I spent untold hours swinging on an old porch swing, smoking cigarettes against the backdrop of Houston sunsets, talking of the obsession of some to drug addicts to drink. She swore up and down that she would never forget she was an alcoholic first. And yet, just a year later, she did just that.

Some people may try to stay in contact, remain friends, with those that go back out. I have no interest in doing that. We are people who normally would not mix that find solace in our recovery. Without the recovery to talk about, I am not sure what is left. I don’t want to be friends today with any drug addict that is not trying to clean house, help others, trust God. Do what you want to do, there is no anger or hurt. I’m just not going to sign off on your behavior. Find someone else to do that.

So, I’ve lost a friend to this disease.

Then, a few days later, I was walking out the door to a local 9:30 meeting when my phone alerted me to a comment on my blog (If you click the “Shotgun Writing” tab and scroll down to the bottom, you will see it). Rebecca was my roommate when I lived in Boston. I was in a terrible place in my disease. I was envious of her. She was vibrant, and lovely, and intelligent, and amazing (And she still is). Our friendship dissolved one night when my barbed tongue spat opinions that I had no right to voice. I said things that one cannot simply take back the next day. She was hurt and angry, and I could not/cannot blame her. My behavior was atrocious.

But somehow she came across my blog. And decided to say hello. At first I was embarrassed. I have blown my anonymity all over the internet, but as soon as someone else validated it, I was uncomfortable. I have to be honest, I really wanted to delete the message. But something told me, my intuitive voice I guess, that running from the message was not what I am about today. So, I commented back. A day later, Rebecca email me. And we’ve talked every day since then. It has been amazing reuniting with someone whom I cherished when I lived in Boston.

So, that is my story. I lost one friend to this disease, but then another walked back into my life. Life works in mysterious ways. When I get down about the long odds, the heartbreak, the broken families, the erratic behavior, the poverty, institutions, insanity, and death that permeate the AA culture, I sometimes forget that families also heal, sanity is fostered, love occurs, and relationships (even those separated by 13 years and 1500 miles) are mended. As long as I stay sober, there is always a chance.

 

Dark Waves Crash and Retreat

Lydia walked along the quiet sands of Jamaica Beach. There was a lingering stillness in the air that attracted the feeling, not of nostalgia, but that this was a moment from which nostalgia is made. From trillions of miles away, the light from the stars was just reaching earth. Dark waves crashed and retreated on the beach. Abandoned white foam yearned to be reunited with the ocean.

There is a certain sadness, Lydia thought, to perfection. People strive so laboriously to find just a single moment of peace, that when it finally comes, they are so terrified of losing it, they cannot enjoy it. Peace is the most elusive of emotions, always within sight and yet just beyond one’s fingertips. Lydia sat down on the sand and pulled her legs up close to her body. She rested her head on her kneecaps and watched as sand sifted through her long fingers. She wanted to remember this moment, remember the smallest of details, so when she would retell it in later years, she could do so with enough exactitude as to elicit winsome approval of innocence and burgeoning adulthood from her audience.

From behind her, Lydia could hear the sound of the party. It sounded far away. Not uproarious, there was no music blaring nor people screaming. Just the tinkling sound of distant conversation dispersed with mild laughter. The girls had driven out from Houston earlier in the day. They had spent most of the afternoon sunbathing and playing in the cool gulf waters. The boys arrived later in the evening and with them, a trunk load of alcohol. At first, the girls played demur, denying drinks, as the rules of the game required, but the boys were persistent and the girls eventually relented.

Lydia turned around and looked back up at the house. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves, enjoying the last hurrah before they each left for their respective colleges and universities. Lydia smiled. In the moment, they all looked so promising, so vital, so handsome.

It stuck her as odd that she would ever be considered a part of this accomplished group. She was, of course, a part of it. It was her station in life. Her friends were the children of her parent’s friends. They had been raised together, went to the same schools, joined the same gymnastics and swim teams and respective scout troops. It would be unthinkable for Lydia to not be a part of this group. And yet, she didn’t feel a part of them. To Lydia, they were all sure of themselves, secure in their place. She was just there. Never quite invited or uninvited. But it all rang untrue. All of it. As if life were somehow this massive fictitious illusion where everyone puts up with everyone else because they don’t know what else to do.

Except, somehow, for Tuck.

Lydia met Tucker the first day of kindergarten. Her father had explained to her the day before that when one meets new people, the thing to do was to stick out one’s hand and proclaim in a loud, clear voice, “My name is Lydia Wilder.”

Then the other person would say, “My name is yadda yadda. How do you do?” Several times, Lydia and her father practiced the routine. “My name is Lydia Wilder.”

So, when Lydia entered the classroom she went directly up to the teacher, stuck out her hand and proclaimed, with an air of certitude, “My name is Lydia Wilder.” To which the teacher replied, “My name is Mrs. Leigh. How do you do?”

Confident, now in her approach, Lydia looked for another person to introduce herself to. Off to the side sat a fat cheeked boy in a striped shirt and Oshkosh jeans. Lydia walked over, “My name is Lydia Wilder.”

The boy looked up at Lydia, and then shifted to look around her. “Your shoe is untied.”

Lydia continued looking down at the boy, waiting for him to introduce himself, while he continued leaning off to the side to look at the rest of the class. “Umm, Lydia? Can you sit down please?”

Lydia turned around to see if she could see what the boy was seeing. Students were filing in. Moms were crying. Kids were crying. Some were wearing Sunday’s best. Other looked like they had dressed themselves. Slowly, Lydia backed up and without taking her eyes off the show, sat down on the floor next to the unnamed boy. Lydia took her hand in his, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. He looked at her and nodded, and then both of them turned their attention back to the room in rapt concentration.

For the next twelve years, never would one see Tuck without seeing Lydia in close proximity.

 

“Hey, Lydia. Where did you go?”

“I just needed fresh air. Tuck, you ever get the feeling that this is the best it’s ever gonna get?”

Tuck sat down next to Lydia, put his arm around her shoulder, and drew her closer to him. “No, Lydia. This is not the best it gets. This is just the beginning.” They sat there, as they were want to do, comfortable with each other’s silence. “You wanna get out of here? Go for a drive?”

Lydia nodded her head, and together they walked off towards the car.

 

 

Last Days

Lydia opened her eyes. They were crusty with sleep. As she raised her head to look around, waves of pain shot through her body. With a groan, Lydia settled her head back on the pillow. After a few minutes, she braced herself against the impending pain, and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Carefully, Lydia raised her body from the bed and slowly made her way to the kitchen.

Lydia stared at the bottle of vodka. A shadow of disgust crossed her face as her trembling hands poured a belt into a cut crystal rocks glass. She looked deeply at the venomously clear liquid. She did not want to drink it. A complex system of emotions flashed through Lydia’s mind as her hand, almost of its own volition, required her to drink the liquid. As much as she did not want to drink the vodka, she had to.

As soon as the alcohol touched her stomach, Lydia retched. With surprisingly quick reflexes, she covered her mouth with her hand as sour vodka and stomach acid pushed against her palm. She ran to the kitchen sink just as the second convulsion shook her body. Brown water spewed forth and splattered into the ivory porcelain sink.

Lydia looked at the contents of her last day of drinking and started to cry. She walked back to the vodka, picked up the glass, and finished off the shot.