One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces. “There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.
“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear . . . The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”
The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”
His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

This blog is about the constant struggle. Mostly about mine, but then all the major themes running through my life are universal to everyone else. If my experiences are able to help even one single person find their way through the labyrinth of life, then I am better equipped to stand in the face of any adversity and say, "Bring it. BRING IT! And pack a lunch." Its not about me at that point. And for me, that is the point, the whole point, and nothing but the point.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Love Will Tear Us Apart - Broken Social Scene.wmv

bibio - jealous of roses

Staying sober through the season of good cheer....

The disease of alcoholism and addiction is, as they say in AA, cunning, baffling, and powerful. Its sneaky. Its smart. It doesn’t sleep and only has one job- that is to disable until death, stopping at jails and institutions along the way.

It is remarkable where the disease will lurk, trying to suss out where one is vulnerable. The holidays are rife with loopholes in an otherwise watertight sobriety; it is not hard to imagine how dicey the season is for those who are struggling with recovery. And for those who are still immersed in the disease, the holidays are a deadly battleground. The feelings of alienation and separateness that are symptoms of addiction are amplified during the season of good cheer; I know, I remember this well.

For me, I have found in recovery a tight knit clan of people with whom I celebrate Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Last year I had 31 people for Thanksgiving, all sober, all wonderful, all family by choice. A far cry from my last Thanksgiving before getting sober. That particular Thanksgiving, I am told that I took the ham out of the oven with my bare hands. That’s the last time anyone saw it; no one knows what I did with it after that. No one remembers eating it. But they all remember the spectacle of me removing it. Fortunately, I don’t remember that at all. I know we ended up at a small dive bar on Sunset; my children were spending Thanksgiving with their father, and so there was nothing stopping my debauchery, and it was all downhill from there.

I cringe a bit when I think of that night. It was so far from who I wanted to be. I didn’t realize that I suffered from an illness, that one drink, only one, would wake up a craving for more that I could not refuse. If I had one, then I was going to have as many as I could get in me. I wasn’t sure how to not have that first one; I was to oafraid of my feelings, of other people, of socializing, of not being good enough, of not knowing what to say, of being sad, of being happy. I really only wanted to have a couple of drinks, but it never, never, turned out that way.

This year, in my fourth year of sobriety, I found myself looking longingly at my Waterford crystal goblets, so pretty and sparkly and elegant. I remembered how, during Christmas, champagne was my drink of choice. I loved the bubbly stuff in the pretty glass with a plate of assorted cheeses. This sounds tame enough, right? Civilized, even. But not so for me, and for my ilk. The diabolical disease can dress itself up in sparkly elegance and still deliver its blow. It’s the same, whether its in a needle, a straw, a pill bottle, or a flute of champagne.

When I caught myself, I had to remember that my head is a liar. It says, “oh, how nice that would be.” Or, “you’ve worked so hard, what could it hurt?” I have to thank my disease for sharing, but to kindly shut the eff up and leave me be.

As if to answer my diseased thinking, my phone starts ringing. People looking for someone to do an intervention. Someone who had been in recovery a while, who had recently taken up drinking again, hung himself. Women hanging on by the skin of their teeth through the holidays, feeling lonely and alone, craving the dispicable comfort of a drink. Someone already deep in their cups, wanting to talk about an ex. I don’t spend a lot of time on the phone with a ‘wet’ one. I try not to speak to the disease, just like I try not to listen to it sounding off in my head.

I am grateful that I have learned tools that allow me to navigate the tricky times. I love the divine intervention of the universe, choreographing the phone calls that allow me to very poignantly re-experience the deleterious affects of ‘just one drink.’ Now that it is the day after Christmas, all the gifts opened, the last of the toll house cookies baked, I am deeply aware of my relief. Not that I made it through without a drink, but that I got to be present for everything, that I didn’t miss a single beat. That the joy that the season promises is, like everything, a choice.

Sometimes we need help to get sober, but in the end its always a choice. Happiness is a choice. Gratitude and serentiy and joy are choices. Recovery has given me the presence of mind to pause and dileberate and think through my reactions and choose appropriate responses instead. I get to show up for my life, not run, not hide, but SHINE.