Tag Archives: sobriety

Of Faust, Anniversaries, and Another Sober Night

Today is 366.

That marks the third time I can write that.  In fact, I’ve written it here before.  I haven’t read that post in some years now–I appreciate the hopefulness and the blush of reality.  And the McKagan quote, but that is practically a given.

My last drink, this time, I scarcely remember.  I mean, I remember the night (which is saying something for last year), and I know it was finishing off a bottle of Jameson, but that’s partially because I planned it that way, and it doesn’t have the sway and quality of the wine I mentioned in 2007 in my memory.  It was just another drink.   I couldn’t get drunk to save my life–despite polishing off several bottles of various types (it is a wonder I could move on the 28th, given the variety of the night before) before finishing the Jameson (and that was nearly half a bottle).

I went into the night knowing exactly what I intended to do. I felt nothing physically.  Emotionally, I was devastated.  I was once again at the same crossroad, only this time the threats (oh you Faustian bargains) were far more palpable.  I wasn’t going to live through this.  It wasn’t just a matter of sanity (though that was well in question too).  I was dying. If I may borrow from my favorite literary trope, I could hear Mephistopheles–and he was not wearing the poodle suit (what follows is from Historia):

And it came to pass between twelve and one 0′ clock in the night that a great blast of wind stormed against the house, blustering on all sides as if the inn and indeed the entire neighborhood would be torn down. The students fell into a great fear, got out of their beds and came together to comfort one another, but they did not stir out of their chamber. The innkeeper went running out of the house, however, and he found that there was no disturbance at all in any other place than his own. The students were lodged in a chamber close by the rooms of Doctor Faustus, and over the raging of the wind they heard a hideous music, as if snakes, adders and other serpents were in the house. Doctor Faustus’ door creaked open. There then arose a crying out of Murther! and Help! but the voice was weak and hollow, soon dying out entirely.

When it was day the students, who had not slept this entire night, went into the chamber where Doctor Faustus had lain, but they found no Faustus there. The parlor was full of blood. Brain clave unto the walls where the Fiend had dashed him from one to the other. Here lay his eyes, here a few teeth. O it was a hideous spectaculum. Then began the students to bewail and beweep him, seeking him in many places. When they came out to the dung heap, here they found his corpse. It was monstrous to behold, for head and limbs were still twitching.

Ah, to bewail and beweep.

For as much as I loved the taste of whiskey, I hated that night.  I hated it that night.  I hated that I couldn’t feel anything anymore.  I should have been in a blackout, but I wasn’t so blessed.  I packed off to bed and awoke with another ferocious hangover (that I felt) and went to work.  I hated myself. And wondered if anyone noticed.

Day 1 was just like normal, tinged though it was with a death’s anniversary (and, no, it didn’t escape my attention that December 28, 2010 was the one year anniversary of the Rev’s death.  It felt, actually, weirdly appropriate).  Except that I wouldn’t go home and drink that night.  Or the next. And one day (hour, minute) at a time, I put together 366 again.

I blogged on Day 2, sounding remarkably rational, quoting Knapp (whose book sits in my office now):

I sometimes think of alcoholics as people who’ve elevated [the search for a fix] to an art form or a religion, filling the emptiness with drink, chasing drink after drink, sometimes killing themselves in the effort.  They may give up liquor, but the chase is harder to stop. That’s why you hear people in AA meetings talk about thinking or acting alcoholically long after they’ve put down their last drink. The search for an external solution goes on: I want something.  I need something. “My husband is acting like an idiot,” a woman said at a meeting not long ago.  “I have to remember that the solution is not ‘Get a new husband’.” (61)

Did I mention the whole Faust parallel yet? Seeking.  Always seeking.

Day 366 was pretty normal too–at least this version of normal.  Awakened with no hangover (yeah!) and joint pain (not so yeah), went to work.  Annoyed colleagues and cleaned my office (hey, the network was down).  Came home and annoyed the dog.

Yep, this is certainly what passes for normal around here.

Save for this:  got honest with my boss.  I make no particular secret about me, my addictions, and my sobriety–my students link to this blog, and I talk openly, when appropriate, with some colleagues and students.  But not with my boss (well, one of them), though her assistant knows.  I owned up when showing off my new tattoo (in celebration of 365), and she asked if it was a Christmas present.  It seemed the right moment to be honest with her.  She’s perhaps the first person I’ve told who would really have been surprised (I guess–it felt that way), so that was…weird.

But, good.  One more step.  One more night the demons are kept at bay.

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Welcome to the Family

Family is entirely a misnomer, but the song is too stuck in my head to type “committee,” which is more apt (maybe…family might be pretty appropriate too, now that I think about it).  I’ve had some…odd experiences of late. So, a brief detour from the relapse narrative (and, truth be told, the first relapse is a really short story. Also completely common, but I’ll get to it. Needs to be written) and into the annals of mental health.

The sum of all of the weird events is personality. I’ve had a personality assessment, an encouragement for personal branding (no, not the body mod kind), and a, well, series of insights regarding my still unfinished fifth step (we ran out of time. Fee free to insert the appropriate joke here). According to the DiSC (said personality assessment), I am a “high S, high I” (the scores are nearly equal).  I stands for “influence” and S, unbelievably, for Steady (though, in glancing at ye olde font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, S originally was short for submission.  Make of that what you will).  Also, as with Myers-Briggs, I seem to possess the traits of the “counselor” personality type (INFJ).

And you know what they suggest about the mental health of counselors, right?

As some of you in my daily existence are already aware, I dragged my butt back into therapy recently. Seemed a wise thing to do, on the whole, and certainly because I need all the help I can get with the whole sanity and sobriety thing.  Unfortunately, our current therapeutic enterprise is thusly particularly entertaining, as I currently feel decidedly less sane than before.

Why?

Clearly this post is destined to be among the “please tell me this isn’t as crazy as it feels” variety.  Simply put, we’ve begun naming the voices in my head. Seeing that in print, you might imagine, makes me a bit nervous. Probably makes some of you a bit nervous.

Hi!

If you hang around recovery long enough (and this time, thankfully, I have, so I wasn’t as put off by said therapeutic enterprise as I might have otherwise been), you’ll hear about “The Committee.” The notion is commonplace–one might imagine the committee as simply as Tom and Jerry cartoons with the angel and the devil on the shoulders. A friend of mine–last week I think–commented about her own committee that she wishes “they would use their inside voices.”  I so agree.

Let me introduce the committee members as yet identified (note: I owe the ridiculous construction that follows to one of the silliest fanfic pieces I’ve read to date.  No, I am not sharing the fic–I do wish to retain a modicum of dignity).  Here’s kind of how my brain works:  I recently remarked to someone that over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few events that might be called serendipitous with regard to my recovery.  Having said that….

Critic:  This isn’t appropriate sharing material.  Also, they won’t believe you anyway.

Skeptic:  Serendipitous seems to be a bit of a stretch.

Counselor:  There, there.

THAT is what happens in my brain.  What comes out of my mouth then, is often a follow-up a rephrase:  Well, not serendipitous exactly, but there was something….just…  Well, it is sort of what happens; I mean if they were all so well-defined, I could recognize them and be done already.  It’s more of an impulse–I constantly correct myself (I think I’ve noted in these pages before that I self-correct in my writing to a degree that is stunning for someone who is also a terrible editor.  Were I to leave every word I typed and put strikeouts through the word choice changes, it would be a much, much longer post).  The confident and constant critical narrative causes me to do such things as confusing self-flagellation with self-depricating humor and martyrdom with humility.

As it happens, the “maybe-not-exactly-serendipity-but-damn-sure-came-up-a-bunch” thing regarded self-criticism and the ways in which I silence myself and belittle my own experiences.*

Critic:  Others have had it far worse than you.  Stop being dramatic and oversensitive.

Skeptic: You may be blowing these “connections” out of proportion.

Critic: You have nothing of note to say anyway.

Skeptic:  I still reject the notion of serendipity.

The Rabble:  Yeah, what they said.  Who’s reading this?  *runs off to check stats*

Counselor:  Stop listening to them.  They aren’t helping.

Critic:  Can it, softie.

Here’s the rub, though (and What She Said warned me about this, but boy was I unprepared for the realization)–I wondered yesterday what it would be like if the Critic, who is by far the most dominant of the voices, were to be silenced, or even muffled.  The idea is, frankly, terrifying.  I realize the Critic is me, a particularly unhelpful part of me, but definitely me, so to absent this dominant part of me leaves me with…what, exactly?  From where I sit, what remains is a void.

A really fucking significant void.

As I said, terrifying.  And not just a little upsetting–who am I without the pounds of self-hatred I dump on myself without even acknowledging that I do it most of the time?  Again with the mantra of the year:  who the hell am I?**

If you made it through this drivel (Hi, Critic!), or not, for that matter, thank you.  I’m trying to get all of this clear in my head and it helps immeasurably to put it out here.  Helps, too, to know there is a level of accountability to other people knowing my crazy.


*Out of an unusual sense of self-preservation, I’m not going to cite the particulars here.  I will say that I was horrified to realize how much I had begun to belittle one particular series of events in my life and recast it as both “not that big of a deal” and my fault.  I *thought* I had worked through the issues, but, quite clearly, I had, instead, boxed them up neatly and tried to pretend they weren’t there.  When I mentioned this is therapy, my counselor observed that I was, at the time, doing the best I could to merely survive, which is an accurate assessment, but not one I’d ever really considered.

**Yeah, working on a “personal brand” has been a real blast.  Sheesh.  Although, if you look at the exterior, the bright red hair and the penchant for unusual shoes certainly comes to mind.

Held Together By Duct Tape

I sat down Monday night and realized that I had song lyrics in my head that I had not heard in forever.  It was a song I wrote with a friend of mine (we’ll call her Ryan for amusement’s sake) my senior year of high school.  I recall the specifics of when we wrote it because we composed (that is far too kind a term) the piece on the way to Raleigh, NC to register me for college classes.  I was a couple of days away from graduating from high school.  The song humorously captures some of the oddities we witnessed on our drive down: the town of Bullocksville (which to our punk hearts was the funniest thing ever), some very cold fries from Hardee’s, searching for a copy of Playgirl that had a guy who looked like Pete Loran from Trixter, and a Budweiser truck (which, as I recall, was actually a Coke truck, but Budweiser sounded way better in the song).

The particular lines that got stuck on auto repeat were, in part, the title to this blog post, which literally described a guy we drove along the highway with for a while in NC.  His car had Saran Wrap windows and was largely held together by duct tape (personally, I would have used gaffer’s tape, but to each his or her own when it comes to personal auto repair).  As I recall, he was towing a relatively new BMW.  You can see from all this, I’m sure, what inspired a song called “I Don’t Give a Fuck” (well, I think that was the title–it was the chorus.  And someone was referred to as a duck along the way.  For poetic purposes, you understand).

I initally had no idea why a song I co-wrote more than 15 years ago popped into my head unbidden on Monday.  By Tuesday, however, it dawned on me why, as I had yet another emotional breakdown–this one inspired by TG’s departure for his summer with dad.  At some point that night, I realized that I was barely holding myself together–and it felt physical.  Like I was, yes, held together by very cheap, albeit necessary, means.  Me and that car, man.

“Held together by duct tape” is a pretty fair description of my day-to-day existence, wherein I am doing whatever it takes just to keep it all in.  Not just keep it together–keep it in.  “It” here primarily refers to emotions, but also to thoughts and ideas.  I have spent a lifetime building walls that look and feel terribly solid, but are often as flimsy as Saran Wrap and duct tape windows.  These walls are meant to drive away pain, people, and fear (or, rather, hide away), and, moreover to keep me from causing pain–so I shut anything that I think might cause you anger, discomfort, or harm behind a wall.

And then I fight to keep them all standing.  I can feel the fight viscerally.

Even so, I can touch one of those fears right now.  Two of the three times I have relapsed were during the summer months.  Both were in the second summer of sobriety (or perhaps alcohol abstinence is more accurate); I’m only in the first summer of this surrender.  But I am scared.  I know that the summer opens alcohol’s doors for me because for a few weeks I am not the every day parent–I am not responsible for anyone other than me.

Every summer, during those weeks, I imagine doing something for me–a something I don’t normally have time or energy or whatever to do: hit the beach by myself, get a tattoo or piercing (admittedly, G might fire me if I get another of the latter), go to concerts (all the metal shows are in Europe in June, so terrible timing), get a massage, hang out with friends–things I normally deny myself (I don’t deserve, don’t have time, don’t have money, G won’t like—yadda, yadda, yadda.  Excuses, I’ve got them).

And all the self-denial, all the exertion of control over my emotions and desires eventually manifests as a desire to drink, which is the only form of excess and release from control I typically allowed myself.  Of course I drank alcoholically; in addition to the genetic component, it was the only time I gave myself permission to be out of control–and I ran with it.  Oh boy, did I ever run with it.

Music, my only other outlet for release, I couldn’t give in as freely to, since I am nearly always driving or running when I’m listening (both activities requiring a modicum of attention).  Of course, I started letting myself go to concerts again this year, as I’ve mentioned before–and those moments of surrendering control to the music and musicians.  Felt fucking fantastic.  And, as a bonus, no hangover, no shaking, and no need to worry about what might have occurred during that blackout.  Brilliant!

But, I’ve no concerts right now to help me pick at the binding tape, owing to an inability to take a quick jaunt across the pond, and I am knee-deep in trying to figure out ways to let go in healthy ways (and identifying what those even are).  So the specter of relapse is haunting me right now, pretty brutally.  I’ve got a better toolkit now, certainly, but it doesn’t change that I am terrified.  I don’t want to relapse again.  I don’t want to forget.  And I don’t want to be so scared and brittle and controlled (an awesome combination, I tell you) anymore.

I want to surrender the duct tape, but I am so scared to do so.

Turn It Up So Fucking Loud That I Can’t Hear My Mind

Credit for the title goes, of course, to Mötley Crüe.  From time to time, I’m asked why it is I listen to music–particularly the stripe of music I lean towards–so loud and so often.  One of the myriad reasons (besides the whole love music thing) is that music can help me drown out the committee in my brain for a while.  Now, it’s not always this reason, and I can’t afford to use music strictly to hide, as I did with alcohol, but I vividly recall practically living on Godsmack’s “Whatever” while fighting with my first major professor while writing my Master’s thesis (and, if I recall correctly, before my comps for that degree).*

In the course of meditating, I’ve found a couple of repetitive habits of mind.  There are, naturally, song cycles, often dependent on what I’ve been listening to recently, but, and not infrequently, the iZazen™ will queue up something that I need to hear, but have been ignoring in day-to-day life.  Sometimes I even get blessed moments of silence, when the committee decides to cease commentary for a few moments.  Stuff that I’ve shoved into my HP box–you know, the stuff I’ve turned over?–will generally pop up, particularly if there was something I kind of hoped would come of an event or action, even though, in theory, I shouldn’t concern myself with what happens, since that part is outside my limited sphere of influence.

Also, I will almost always–particularly with longer meditation sessions–think about blogging.  Some idea that at that moment is guaranteed to be THE MOST IMPORTANT THOUGHT EVER (those of you who have made forays into psychoactive substances may find this particular habit of mind quite familiar.  To quote a favorite guitarist**, “I cure cancer and then  forget how I did it”).  I think (I can’t be sure, since I don’t look at the clock) that this particular habit pops up when I’ve been sitting for at least 15 minutes–about the time my brain decides that we’ve had about enough of this madness, thank you, go do something!

Invariably, I can’t really recall what it was that seemed so necessary to write, or, as with today, the I recall the topic, but not the particular flights of utter brilliance.  See also Shel Silverstein:

I wrote such a beautiful book for you
‘Bout rainbows and sunshine
And dreams that come true.
But the goat went and ate it
(You knew that he would),
So I wrote you another one
Fast as I could.
Of course it could never be
Nearly as great
As that beautiful book
That silly goat ate.
So if you don’t like
This new book I just wrote-
Blame the goat.

Or, for the more Romantically (yes, that is capitalized on purpose) minded of you, go check out Coleridge’s preface to “Kubla Khan”.  In other words, I can’t possibly be held accountable for this drivel.

One of the other habits of mind is not altogether unrelated from something my sponsor told me the other day.  “You know,” she said in her terribly calm, perfectly poised way, “you really shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.”  It happens that, though when she said it I had to stop myself from crying like a hormonal 16-year-old fangirl (I know something of that particular stripe), the LOVE OF WHOSE (whom’s??) LIFE HAS…(oh, just fill in the blanks.  Got married, had sex, fired a band member, been fired, you name it.  All met with similar flights of tearful rage).  I stopped myself because we were in public, and I do try to not scare the straights.

My response to her remark struck me as a tad odd (though, on the whole, I’m feeling about as raw as the above mentioned hormonal 16-year-old), because I don’t necessarily think of myself as exceptionally self-critical (except, you know, when I am) because I tend to regard myself as too lazy for self-criticism.

Go ahead.  Read that again.

While I am meditating, my resident librarian, who is also, of course, trying to get me off my duff  (smirk) to do something, also pitches all manner of things to remind me of how much I suck.  How lazy, thoughtless, unkind, you-name-it-I’ve-got-an-example-of-it I am.  I should, for example, find something meaningful to do with my life (not that I have any concrete notion what meaningful is supposed to be, but apparently it has a great deal to do with martyrdom).  That I simultaneously regard myself as too lazy for self-criticism and engage in it constantly shouldn’t surprise anyone, since I am fully capable of believing contradictory thoughts; for example, I’m not smart enough to have a Ph.D.  Let’s unpack this for a second, since I do, in fact, have that particular degree.  My assumption about myself necessarily implies that I was either brilliant enough to snow my graduate faculty or that they were equally stupid, suggesting as much misanthropy as self-criticism.  Or (this is a personal favorite), I’m not worthy of his love.  This particular assumption holds at its heart an incredible devaluing of someone else’s capacity for love and or judgement.  Again, either I’ve snowed him (’cause, you know, I’m so good at that) into believing I’m someone else entirely** and/or he’s a fool.  Again with the misanthropy.

One can extend that to whomever and however.  I can completely melt down over an assumption that someone is only pretending to like me (and, imagine what this suggests about them and me–why would anyone bother?  What in the world do I have to offer that would  necessitate or encourage such mendacity?).

And I know that I am not what I think (that was a stunning realization for me)–these thoughts crop up, but if I let them go, they really will wander off of their own volition.

So, my confession (which ya’ll already knew, but I’m supposed to say these things): I can’t stand my Self (whomever that may be), even though I find my Self to be, at times, appealingly (or, at least, amusingly) quirky.   So, now what?  How in the world do I work toward coming to terms with self?


*I wrote this paragraph last, so this example is a pretty good one for the remarks that follow.  We were eventually told that we clearly could not work together.  Yeah.  Understatement.

**Yes, guitarist.  I do have one.

The Face of Sanity

When we last met, my sponsor asked me to consider the following question:  what does sanity look like?  I have–no kidding–been pondering this for nine days.  Well, no, that’s not quite accurate, as I have (clearly, since I am just now sitting down to write this) engaged in as much time NOT thinking about it as I have mulling the question over.

What does sanity look like?

My initial, off-the-cuff response was something rather profound, along the lines of “how the fuck would I know?  I’ve never been sane.”  I’m fairly sure I kept that specific phrasing to myself and stuttered out some facsimile thereof (likely without liberal application of my favorite expletive). Truth be told, knowing me and my dear-god-please-let-me-please-this-person habits, my actual response was likely fairly insipid.  I’m almost positive I responded without making eye contact with her–staring at either my tea or the counter.

Which is how I got the question for homework, as she very kindly said that I should probably reflect on the question over the course of continuing Step 1 and wading into Step 2 (have I mentioned that I let her set the pace?  Yeah.  SLOW.  We’re at day 103 today.  Slow is, I grant, probably for the best in the long run, given that my own habits of mind haven’t been exactly…successful).  So, I’ve been equal parts toying with, deeply pondering, meditating on, and blithely ignoring the question for the last 9 days.

What does sanity look like?

I carved out a few examples of what it isn’t, but that is not what she asked, and I suspect with good reason.  It goes without saying that I know what insanity looks like: I’m an alcoholic; insanity is my default setting.  And, let me tell you, I can engage in some seriously insane thinking [grateful to be somewhat more aware of it–and able to redirect it (er, sometimes)–these days].  So, I set those aside.  I picked up the 12 & 12, the Big Book, my Zen & recovery books, and my handy notebook & pen.* I read, reflected, looked at examples of people I perceive to be sane and tried to craft a description of the perfect** sane person.

Which was not, let us agree, the task either.

And then it dawned on me–nay–whacked me across the back of the head, Sledgehammer-style (cue Peter Gabriel).  The answer–at least my answer–is the one I’ve been circling the whole time and not stating:  I don’t know.  I don’t know what sanity looks like, nor what it feels like.  Moreover, it doesn’t matter if I can’t describe it.  Perhaps it is enough to believe sanity exists–even believe I can achieve variation on the theme.   I’d liken the struggles I am clearly having with “restore us to sanity” to the ones many folks have with the other half of Step 2–the Higher Power.  So, it isn’t all that surprising to me that my conclusion is similar: I’m willing to believe that I may come to know sanity through this program.

After all, it’s the only chance I have.


*Old school technology rocks.

**Default setting B: perfectionist.  Corollary:  when perfection cannot be achieved, fuck it all and run away.

Running Lessons

I had intended for this post to be something radically other than what it is, which is as much testament to my unwillingness to just let things be as anything else.  I thought I’d be announcing the successful completion of a marathon.

It’s 10:56 am on Sunday, March 20.  I should be 4 hours into a marathon right now–and heading toward the end.  Since I am not so talented as to be typing while running, clearly one of three things has occurred:  I finished WAY faster than any one of us could imagine me having done, I started and did not finish (or, rather, finished unexpectedly early), or I didn’t start.

Good job if you picked door three for the reality of the situation on this lovely morning.  I withdrew from the race on Saturday morning, when we got the phone call that G’s mom went into hospice care.  I couldn’t risk being unavailable mentally, physically, etc. when the next call comes–and let us agree that marathons tend to take the wind out of the sails for a while.  So, we wait. No call yet, but I’m sure we’ll be making the drive this week.  I covet your thoughts and prayers on behalf of G and his family.  While this is not a surprise by any means, it has the qualities of feeling so very sudden.

I’m disappointed, of course, even as much as I know that it was the right thing to do.   For today, I’m practicing just being with my disappointment but not focusing on it.  My attention is for G, who, you might imagine, is in far worse shape than mere disappointment.  My legs and running brain, on the other hand, are just confused–trying to figure out why I am being so nice to them today.

I joked with G yesterday that HP* was trying to tell me to knock the marathon crap off, as this makes the third I’ve had to pull out of**–and only one of those three (the second time) was directly because of injury–and it wasn’t completely running related.  But, when I reflect more carefully, I tend to get marathon-crazy–obsessed with them in ways that I don’t obsess over shorter races (even half marys) to the point of planning to run while injured in the case of the first cancellation.  I finally withdrew because of unrelated-to-running factors, but I really shouldn’t have been considering the race at all since my foot was in far worse shape than I was then willing to admit.  The second race went to the dogs, or, rather, a dog–specifically the pit bull that decided to use the beagle and I as chew toys.  Three factors conspired: the rabies vaccinations wiped me out for a month, I was (and still am) nervous about running in the dark because of the attack, and my drinking was getting worse.  Did I acknowledge the last of these at the time–no, not really, and I wonder if maybe HP didn’t put a dog in my way to force me to stand down and quit trying to avoid the obvious (it was in my head at the time that if I could train for and run a marathon and drink then I didn’t really have a problem.  Laughter is perfectly acceptable).  And now this.  I detoxed twice during the training for this marathon, so I can’t really say my training was…optimal.  Unlike the Seattle mary, I was not 100% sure I could finish this time (though, some of that was the staying-in-my-own-headspace problem–letting the descriptions of the course get to me).  But, I was prepared and excited.

I’m not so deluded as to believe that the events of the weekend are about me, and I was mostly joking about HP (mostly), but, hey, even I can take a Mack-truck-size hint.  I am probably guilty of storytelling at this point–that is, constructing a story to make sense of a reality I simply need to shut up and exist in–but, delusions and humor aside, again being forced to stop trying to be in control and to overdo it, which is absolutely a hallmark of my addict-brain, makes me think there is something I need to pay heed to.  That marathon training, having three times now been associated with some kind of attempt to get and/or stay sober (and, in the fourth case, prove sobriety was unnecessary), may not be so good for me at present.  I use it in delusional and unhealthy ways–rather than running for the sake of running, I involve myself in an intense training that allows me to shut out other duties and reality itself (or, rather, to pretend that I can do that).  So, perhaps no more marathon training for a while; let my head get healthy with the steps of the program instead of my body getting healthy with the steps of the training (not that I’ll stop running.  That would be stupid).  I seem to be able to get to and complete half-marys and shorter, so I may stick to them.  They are certainly more humane for all involved.


*Er, Higher Power, not Harry Potter, for those unfamiliar with my silly abbreviations.

**I did go to Atlanta, wander the expo, and pick up my shirt, though.  Damn thing is YELLOW, which should make me immensely visible as I take a jog this afternoon.  Seriously, I feel like an Easter egg in this thing.

Seeking Authenticity

Brief aside: better than last week.  Down, but not out.  It took me a bit, but I recognize that all the weight right now is temporary and wanting it to be gone NOW is only serving to produce a fantastic amount of suffering.  As someone reminded me the other night:  “Pain is obligatory; suffering is optional.”

As some of you may recall, I left the church I had attended for a bit over a decade a year ago (many of the posts under the “Sanctuary Should not be Underestimated” category are my attempts to work through the last hurrah of my years there).  G. hasn’t, at present, left that church, though he is looking around for other options, stymied a bit by the relatively low number of Disciples of Christ churches in the immediate area (he’s very committed to that particular denomination, in no small part because of the weekly celebration of the Eucharist–I’ve suggested the Episcopalian churches, but that’s would be a pretty big swing for him, particularly the move to the creed-based denomination).

Anyhoo…where was I?  Oh, yeah…

I’ve not returned to a church–and at present have no particular desire to do so.  Part of the reticence comes from the specifics of my withdrawal from the church last year, but some of it is far more long-standing, as I’ve while I’ve never had a particular problem addressing a Higher Power as “God” (well, until recently), I’ve also never believed that the particular denominations–or Christianity for that matter–were the only route to…whatever.  Insofar as I believe in anything that might be called heaven or hell, I believe they are of this earth and of our own construction and of now, not a hereafter.  So, I was comfortable enough in a DoC church (at least the idea of one) because of the community it offered, and, especially, the community it offered to Tough Guy.

Comfortable enough until I wasn’t.  I played the roles I was expected to play, including leader, until I couldn’t do it anymore (and even then I kept trying for a while).  So, I get why G is looking for that kind of community; I understand why and how it remains important to him.  I hope I will get to a point that I can rejoin him in such a community, because I know that is important to him as well.

At present, I’ve returned to meditation*, which is a spiritual practice and discipline that particularly appeals to me as it requires that I not think and not do.  So, when the idea for this blog post popped up mid-session, I had to set it aside and not worry over it, think about it, obsess that OMGifIdon’twriteitrightNOW… I acknowledged that the thought came, noted it for what it was, and let it go off into the ether (I got lucky, it stayed in relatively close ether).  My brain is rather unwilling to shut up most of the time, including during zazen (my meditation practice of choice), but I accept that and try to just–for 20 minutes–let worrying about my brain’s obsession du millisecond go.

20 minutes.  That’s it for now.  20 minutes of relative calm.  No getting up to fix this, no running off to write that, no jumping up to correct whatever my brain latches onto. 20 minutes of a commitment to be here and be compassionate (even to myself).  It occurred to me that this particular practice is not just a bit like a marathon, in the vein of “it’s not supposed to be easy.”  And I think that is part of what is so appealing.

That last thought sounded way less cracked in my head than it appears on the screen.

I think this is all part of the attempt to figure out who I am–to wend my way through the various masks and personas and assumptions, which is a rather odd experience.  As I understand it, such a journey is not at all unusual to the alcoholic in recovery nor to the thirtysomething, but it feels for all the world like another brush with adolesence, which was, for me, abruptly ended when I chose at 17 to keep the pregnancy that would end in TG.  So, perhaps normal with a dash of “oh, I never finished this part.”

The only “I knows” I have right now are: I know I want to be sober today, and I know I want to learn authenticity, compassion, and accountability** in my spiritual practice and in my daily interactions with life.


*I’ve meditated on and off for several years, usually while trying to convince myself that drinking wasn’t the real problem.  Sober zazan is far more interesting, I must say.  More on this later–I’m reading a book on this at present.

**As a matter of accountability, I had my sobriety date (December 28) tattooed on my foot yesterday, so that I have to see it every. single. day. It’s a major part of who I am.