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.”

 

Six Months Later

Dogs blog

There is an odd feeling of anticipation as I type this, an awkward mix of pride and embarrassment that has caused me to simultaneously have a smile and a stomachache. Yesterday, was the six month anniversary of this blog. I know; it’s insane. If this blog were in sobriety, it would be walking up for its blue chip. It would have successfully transitioned from rehab to IOP to a halfway house. The blog could chair a meeting, have a job, and if it were doing a step a month, be smack dab in the middle of its character defects.

On April 6, I was headed up to the annual women’s retreat I attend. (Yes, the same retreat, I wrote of in Monday’s blog.) I had just come off a terribly difficult and arduous year. I was depressed and floundering. I really did not want to go. I remember trying to figure out some way to back out, but my recovery simply wouldn’t let me. I knew I had to go, no matter what.

Towards the end of the weekend, a dear friend came up to me and very casually said, “I think you should start a blog.” Without a blink of an eye, I said no. I did not want to start a blog. Blogging is not real writing. I want to be Hemingway or Faulkner, not a blogger. (This is one of those times where I can see my alcoholism for the delusion that it is. Leave it to a girl who cannot even bear to show her writing to others to look down on a totally legitimate form of expression because it doesn’t jive with how she thinks Hemingway would have gone about it. Jeez Louise.)

That night, as I laid in bed, a singular thought kept eating away at the base of my skull. I got out of bed and began to write in the same fashion that I always write: alone in a quiet room, in a diary no one would ever see. A forth step, a written tenth, another attempt to put pen to paper in order to quiet the crazy. A piece of paper that would be thrown away in some not too distant future.

But this time, as I looked down on that paper, I realized the only reason I had for not showing my writing was fear. For as long as I kept my dream close to my chest, as long as I did not breathe a word of it, or show it to anybody, then that dream was safe. My dream would be safe from the cynics and the naysayers, from the realists and the defeatists. I realized something else too though. As long as I never pursued my dream, it would only ever remain a dream. My dream would never become my reality.

The Ninth Step Promises tell us, “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly know that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves,” (Big Book 84). And at that moment, I was filled with peace. It is hard to articulate, but it felt like an enormous release of air from my chest. I just knew my friend was right, and I intuitively knew how to handle it. I had to show my writing, not in the distant future, not somewhere down the line, but now, immediately. That night I came home and started this blog.

These last six months have not been easy. I am still plagued by an incredible amount of fear and self-doubt. At any given time, I can convince myself that any number of my friends are encouraging me like a naïve cousin. “Pretty girl, she’ll realize soon enough.” Sigh.

But there are good days too. There are the days when I realize it does not matter if anyone actually reads or not because it is not the about a number or a reward, but the active practicing of courage and perseverance, and accountability. It’s about suiting up.

It is easy to reflect back on my sobriety and say: Without AA, I would not be alive. I would not have dependable friends or a remarkable man. But I also know that without AA, I never would have had the courage to write or the fortitude to post. I would not have been able to withstand the criticism or abandoned myself to a process that has no definitive ending. It’s saccharine to say, but I know it is true. AA put the right person in my path, with exactly the suggestion I needed to hear, at a time when I could hear it. And then gave me strength and courage to actually follow through.

The Big Book says, “Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.” (152). Yep, that’s about right.

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Thank you to everyone who has read, subscribed to, commented, re-posted, shared, or otherwise supported this endeavor over the past six months.  You’re continued support means an enormous amount to me. Thank you, Lisa.

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

 

Has to be Smashed

For the past few years, maybe because I am a writer at heart, I tend to adopt themes that represent my current mindset in my recovery. (Or maybe they adopt me. Wink.) For two or three months, it feels as if most everything I am feeling or thinking somehow revolves around one central idea. Last spring, I started tossing around the idea of character development, specifically the top of page 72 in the Twelve and Twelve. The end result of that period of exploration ultimately became this blog. I realized if I am to practice principles in all my affairs then I needed to practice courage by following my dreams.

Lately though, my mind keeps returning to the idea of denial. This has not only been reflected in the choices of those close to me in the program, but choices by my family members, and indeed with myself. The power of the human mind to forget, ignore, rationalize, justify, and delude is astonishing. One some level, I think it might be one of the most fascinatingly interesting aspects of the alcoholic mind. How do we not see? Or if we see, how do we ignore?

While speaking with a friend last week, I had one of those oddly random memory flashbacks to my drinking days. It occurred perhaps ten years ago, not long after I had moved from Boston to Houston. I was at a local sports bar. Neon lights reflected in sticky veneer. Country music blared a little too loudly from a jukebox as if at any moment a rousing crowd of patrons would suddenly appear to two-step around the scattered pool tables and “Golden Tee” machine. I remember both my hands clasping a Guinness as I sobbed and hic-upped a longing to be “normal.” I remember saying it over and over again, a mantra to my alcoholism. It is one of those memories, that while tragic and tragically depressing, actually brings a hint of a smile to my lips. How ridiculous was I?

I am of the variety of alcoholic that believes I was genetically predetermined to have an acute and profound reaction to chemical brain stimulation. In addition to my predilection for alcohol, I possess a plethora of emotional and psychological baggage that will tell me at any given moment that while I may exist in this world, I am not of this world. My whole life, I have felt that I am an oddity. A tomboy with a speech impediment. An awkward teenager with a pocket full of secrets. A disillusioned adult with a drive towards escapism and obscurity. I have always been too overweight, too liberal, too outspoken. I don’t wear makeup. I do wear glasses. I shop almost exclusively at Old Navy and thrift stores and the back of Teresa P.’s closet.

The last thing I wanted added onto my list was anything even remotely close to straight edge, pious, abstemious, holy, or self-righteous. I wanted to be funny and light and awesome.

Only when I sobered up, when I stopped singularly focusing on myself, did I realize everyone is a bit weird. We all carry around a knapsack of strange and questionable qualities that help define us and differentiate us from others. What makes me abnormal is not my differences, but that my alcoholic perception tells me these differences are a negative thing.

“The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed,” (Big Book, 30). See? It’s not just the delusion that I might be able to drink like other people, but the delusion that I act, feel, or look like other people, that has to be smashed too. I can’t live my life judging myself by the actions and appearance of other people, because I’m not other people.

Every day I stay sober, I love myself just a smidge more, for I have learned it is neither the clothes nor the make-up that determine my self-worth. No, what defines me today is not what is on the outside, but what lives in my soul: service, friendship, honesty, gratitude, and love. (And maybe, just maybe, a little bit of fun, light, and awesomeness too!)

 

 

Henry: The Girl at the End of the Hall with the Beautiful Voice

Henry could not remember the exact date he first heard Lydia’s voice. He remembered everything else about that moment, but not the date. No matter how hard he tried to count the days backward, he could never quite capture, with a hundred percent certitude, the day. Henry would have felt better if he could make a factual association to a memory that was anything but factual.

 

When he was just seven, Henry’s parents sat him down in their modest living room and explained to him that his mother had cancer. As his father spoke, Henry’s mother turned deep crimson, uncomfortable with the third person conversation about her body, her future. Henry had now watched variations of this same conversation play out many times as an oncologist. The emotion of powerlessness was not one Henry like reliving, but it provided motivation for his drive and perseverance. Every time Henry wanted to quit, he would remember the shame on his mother’s face when she had to admit that the part of her body that had originally been sexual gratification to his father, nourishment for him, and vanity for her, was now also her death sentence. It was amazing, to Henry, how much havoc a few mutant cells could wreck. As he saw it, cancer was as devastating as it was indiscriminate. Henry made it his life’s ambition to eradicate the terrifying disease.

Night after night, Henry paced the quiet halls of the hospital. In the quiet of the wee, small hours Henry did his best thinking. And it was in the wee, small hours, sometime in October, that Henry first heard Lydia’s soft voice coming from one of the rooms at the end of the hall.

The voice was quiet and yet held a calm confidence. It was the voice of slow moving water. As he neared, Henry slowed his gait. Usually so in command of his habits and physical space, Henry did not know why he suddenly felt an intruder in his own hospital. Henry stood outside the door that day listening to the peaceful voice. She was young. The voice had a clear innocence that age often washes away. She was reading a book. He did not recognize it, but the writing was lyrical, a masterpiece. Henry often thought it strange that most patients preferred to read cheap, dime store novels from the grocery store checkout line rather than read the great pieces of literature they’d never found time to read before. But maybe life was too hard fought for people to read hard fought literature too. Maybe, he thought, we all need happy endings.

Henry did not know how long he had been standing there, listening to the girl softly read. Then just as quietly, she stopped reading and began to cry. The tears were not the tears of anger, nor were they the tears of desperation. To Henry they were gut wrenching. As he blinked away his own tears, he realized they were the tears of loss. He had shed those same tears thirty years ago into his own pillow at home. After a few moments, Henry moved away as silently as he had approached.

And that was the date Henry wish he knew.

That was the date Henry wish he knew, cause that was the date he fell in love with the girl, the girl with the beautiful voice at the end of the hall.

 

 

A couple of years ago, Henry splurged on the extra-long sofa to fit his lanky frame. Most mornings when he woke, his first thought was usually along the lines of how the comfortable sofa had paid for itself many times over. On that morning though, Henry’s first thought was of the girl at the end of the hall.

Henry stretched as he turned on the coffee pot. As the smell of French roast permeated the stale office air, Henry looked out on the awakening streets of the Texas Medical Center. Already cars were backed up at the stoplights. Houston’s traffic was notorious. Henry relished the day when the construction in the Med Center would be complete.

Henry paced around his office. Rarely did he wake up agitated, and never was the source of the agitation a woman when he did. He ran his fingers through his dark curly hair and made an audible sigh of frustration as he grabbed a towel out of the closet. Maybe, he thought, a cold shower would set him straight.

For days afterwards, Henry avoided the room at the end of the hall. The girl with the lonely voice was not his patient, so in theory, this was not hard. Reality, though, was a whole other thing. Henry yearned to see the owner of the voice. Always focused, Henry found himself lost in thought on more than one occasion. Even the nurses were starting to whisper.

Finally, Henry could no longer allow a simple voice to occupy his ever-waking thoughts. As a rational man, a scientist, Henry determined that he had exaggerated the experience. Too much work and not enough sleep had culminated in an almost hallucinatory occurrence.

On a sunny morning in November, Henry fell into the rounds that included the Girl at the End of the Hall.

It was only as he stood looking at her, did Henry realize that if he had expectations of what the Girl at the End of the Hall would look like, it all vanished as he saw the beauty that was the reality. Henry sighed as he thought of the memory. He knew now, that Lydia was far from a traditional beauty. In fact, most men would probably consider her average. But on that crisp November morning, and every day since, Lydia has been the most beautiful woman that Henry had ever seen.

Lydia sat upright with her arms wrapped around her legs. Her auburn hair fell lightly upon her shoulders. She wore no makeup. This was common in the hospital, but unlike other women, the lack of makeup did not lessen Lydia’s beauty, but highlighted it. As Henry saw it, Lydia’s high cheekbones, jaunty nose, and naturally rosy lips made for an astonishing combination.

From her neck down, Lydia donned a crisp white cotton nightgown. It was the old-fashioned kind of nightwear with a big ruffle around the top and buttons all the way down. Henry knew at one glance that the garment was one of those deceptively simple outfits and that while it may have looked like Aunt Sally sewed it, that the nightgown probably cost the equivalent of a week’s wages from Neiman Marcus. The simplicity was simultaneously innocent and sexy. Henry yearned to slowly tug at the little ribbon at the neckline.

When Henry finally looked up, he caught Lydia’s eye. She had been watching him as he stared at her. Her emerald eyes sparked with satisfaction. She looked at him without a speck of self-consciousness or fear. Normally his gaze had the ability to unsettle some people. Never had someone else’s gaze disarmed him. The combination unnerved him. Inadvertently, Henry took a step back.

Henry shook his head. Never had he had sexual feeling towards a patient. Never. It was unethical. It went against everything he stood for. Disgusted with himself, he turned and walked out.

I Dream an Alcoholic’s Dream III

I dream an alcoholic’s dream

Of insanity.

With broken bottles at my feet

And a car wrapped ’round a tree,

Walking through Houston’s streets,

I wonder, how this can be me?

 

I dream an alcoholic’s dream

Of abhorrancy.

With no money, I cajole,

From my family I stole,

Within me there’s this hole

I wonder, where can be my soul?

 

I dream an alcoholic’s dream

Of serenity.

I dream this ride will finally end.

And of finding one true friend.

I wonder, can this life I transcend?

 

I dream an alcoholic’s dream

Of recovery.

With laughing children at my feet

And a house with blooming trees,

Walking through the shady streets,

I wonder, how can this be me?