Time to let go

Five-hundred and Eighteen days ago I took my last drink. In two days I will have been sober for seventeen months. I quickly learned that if I was to remain sober I was going to have to place my sobriety above everything else in my life. For a long time, that was enough. I let go of my old life and embraced the new. Remaining sober became my full time job. For well over a year I immersed myself in thoughts of recovery from addiction; going to meetings, working steps and helping others who were struggling.

Recently I’ve been asking myself if there is more to life than this. With all that I have been through the answer is clearly, “yes”. But what do I want to make of my life? As I pull away from thoughts of sobriety my mind quickly turns to drinking. As I try to envision my future it is impossible to see one that doesn’t involve alcohol. It’s not the hopeless, drunken vision of the future that I had when I quit but neither is it a future firmly rooted in sobriety.

Of course the future is unknown. So far I have been unable to get myself to take that first drink. My visions are but delusions based only on what I have experienced. Not since I was twelve have I experienced such continuous sobriety. I find myself surrounded by uncharted waters. While there are those who have been here before me, I am not interested in following anyone else’s path. All I can do is take what I have learned and blaze my own trail.

Still, that’s an amazingly scary proposition. There is a commonly heard phrase in AA that goes, “the first thing you put ahead of your sobriety will be the second thing that you lose.” The lesson is that if we fail to make sobriety our top priority that we will lose it and with it everything that we have worked for.  These are sage words indeed. Many have tested this premise and found it sound in reasoning. But I live a spiritual life, guided by reason perhaps, but propelled by passion. I find that whatever I hold most dear winds up controlling me. It is that attachment which becomes the burden and the source of my suffering. It is time for me to let of sobriety with the same courage with which I let go of the drink. In essence, I am putting my sobriety in God’s hands.

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Everything happens for a reason

So today it snowed and my daughter decided that she wanted to take the day off from school… all so that I would have time to write. Right?!? Isn’t that why it happened? Doesn’t everything happen for a reason? Or do things just happen and we assign them a reason? Well. in this case it’s both. There is definitely a reason why it snowed having to do with all sorts of meteorological stuff that I don’t completely understand and wouldn’t dare try to explain. My daughter certainly has her reasons for not wanting to go to school today but I learned long ago that any attempts to understand teenage girls is pointless. Love and acceptance are the only tools which have any chance of yielding positive results in that situation.

The fact remains that I am now writing. It snowed, my daughter isn’t going to school and I’m writing a blog post. Cause and effect. Bam!

It’s also a fact that I haven’t been writing much since I got sober. There is obviously a correlation but fully understanding the cause may be a difficult as explaining the weather or teenage daughters.

There is a simple answer however. There’s always a simple answer. It’s God’s will is probably the simplest answer and it’s good enough. When all other explanations fail me, I still have God. To be honest, God has been indispensable during this phase of my journey but I don’t really want to write about God. I don’t. I really don’t. At least not publicly. At least not now. I consider spirituality in whatever form it takes to be a very personal thing. I no business writing about God or spirituality and I can’t write about what has been going on in my life without it. It may be God’s will that I not right but more likely it’s my will to not write about God.

A lot of things changed in my life when I quit drinking. The undeniable truth is that drinking played a huge role in my life. The simple act of quitting meant that things were going to change. That was kind of the point. If I wasn’t an alcoholic that would probably be the end of the story. Man quits drinking, stops making trips to the liquor store. In my case it’s a much bigger deal than that. In many ways my story resembles that of every other alcoholic who has gotten sober. If you want to read some of those stories there is a whole book of them online.

I’m determined to make my story a success story but I’m not ready to declare victory yet, not that I even know what that would mean. Every day I don’t have a drink is a victory but I’m under no illusions that my recovery will one day be complete. Prior to sobriety I didn’t care how the story turned out. It was just me, doing my thing. I felt perfectly comfortable telling it in the moment. Win or lose I knew it would make a good story. But it’s no longer just about me. It’s bigger than me. That is to say, I’m part of something bigger than me. If I fail I don’t want to bring anyone else down with me. That and I actually care how my life turns out now. It’s not just a story.

Love is a verb

It’s been one hell of week since my birthday. A friend asked me recently if I had recovered from my birthday yet. I assumed he was referring to the hang-over I instilled on that night so I answered, “yes”.   I’ve always been able to recover from the harm caused by alcohol. Now if he had asked me if I had recovered from my birth, that would have been a different story. I may not recover from my birth until the day I die. Until then, it may just be one long arduous process of recovery. What get’s me through is love.

Love has made this past week one of the best I’ve had in a long time. I finally saw my daughter on Monday for the first time in six months. I met with her and her therapist. This was my daughter’s condition and we had been trying for three months to bring it to fruition. For all that time, I had no idea what she was thinking or feeling. I had no idea why she wasn’t talking to me. I didn’t know whether she wanted me in her life of not.  I still have a lot of questions but I have the only answer I need. I know that she loves me and wants me in her life. She asked me to legally adopt her and I told her that I would.

I guess the biggest issue she faced in reaching out was that she didn’t want to burden me. She didn’t want to be an inconvenience. As ridiculous as that sounds to me, I’m finding that it’s a fairly common sentiment among the people I love. I find life to be a burden and rather inconvenient. I was doing just fine before I was born. Love is the one thing that gives my life meaning. The only reason I do anything is out of love. I don’t know what to do to help people understand this.

My daughter’s therapist tried to explain it to her. She said, “Love is a feeling but remember how we talked about love is also being a verb?”

At this point I was thinking, “Oh god! Not this shit!”

It’s not that I’m averse to pop psychology or meme philosophy or even song lyrics. They all have their place and they can all have value.

My problem with this “love is a verb” expression is specific to how it has played out in my life. For me it has been, “If you really loved me you would do _____”, or “How could you do _____ if you really loved me?”

For me, it has been more like the Janet Jackson’s song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

I get it. I understand that they way people experience love is through acts of love. We experience love not by how the lover feels but by what they do and what they do affects how we feel. It’s like how people experience God through religion. Most people don’t actually know God but they know that through religion they can feel God’s presence. Religion might be a verb but God is not a verb. To me, Love is God. I prefer this song by Ziggy Marley.

As with any religion, our faith is not measured merely by our belief but by our actions. As with many religious people I sometimes fuck up. As with many religious people, even when I am holding true to my faith I will sometimes piss people off.

All I know is that when my son was conceived it was an act of Love. All I know is that when I stuck by my pregnant friend and married her, it was an act of Love.

I know that when my friend called me in the middle of the night last Friday, I answer… because of Love.

I know that I spent three nights last week creating improvisational soundscapes for my band leader’s performance art piece… because of Love.

I know that I was sad that none of my close friends showed up… because of Love.

I know that when my band leader and h/ir wife made the cover of CityPages this week I was thrilled… because of Love.

I know that I biked across town in the middle of winter to see a friend who had a bad day at work… because of Love.

I know that I survived a fifteen hour day yesterday… because of Love… and enjoyed every minute of it… because of Love.

I know that I got out of bed today… because of Love.

—–

I also wrote this song today. It’s a Valentine to my daughter but it is inspired by everyone I love… which means everyone. Here are the lyrics.  Sorry there is no fancy video.

I love you today
As I do everyday

Whether together or apart
You are always in my heart

Everything that I do
Everything to you I say
Comes from the love that’s deep inside
It won’t ever go away

Sometimes love is painful
It don’t feel like you think it should
No one said love would be easy
But with love I know it could

We all have our doubts
What is love all about?

It’s hard to know what to feel
When we don’t know what is real

Love is not a box of chocolates
Or a Valentine’s Day card
But look inside and you will see
The reason why I work so hard

I can’t prove it to you
It’s really nothing I can show
But I’ll try with all my actions
In the hope that you will know

I love you today
As I do everyday

Whether together or apart
You are always in my heart

January thirteenth

I awoke to find an “Add New Post” window open on my computer screen. Only the title field was filled in. It said, “How alcohol saved my life”.

The night before I watched the movie, “Drinking Buddies“. Accept for the part where a drunk bicycle rider gets freaked out at the sight of blood, I found it to be one of the most accurate portrayals of drinking life that I’ve ever scene in a movie. I felt inspired me to write an honest account of the role alcohol has played in my life. I felt like I could finally do it without coming off like I was just trying to justify bad behavior.

But first I had something more important to attend to… my laundry. I’d kept my washing machine hobbling along for the past year or so but the time had come for it to retire. As a result I’d accumulated five loads of laundry so I loaded up my van and headed to Rainbow Laundromat in Uptown. They have free Wi-fi so I figured I could get some writing done at the same time. That never happened.  Washing five loads all at once doesn’t leave a lot of down time but an hour and a half later I had clean sheets, comforter and a fresh new wardrobe. I still felt like I had accomplished something.

I stopped by the liquor store determined to spend the evening writing but by the time I got home my brain had developed other plans. I didn’t want to spend another night at home drinking; I wanted to get out in the world and be with my people. I hadn’t been on my bike since November and this was going to be the night I stopped making excuses. The weather report said that snow was expected but I didn’t care. I was determined.

[It’s been almost a week since that night but sometimes a little time and reflection is helpful to sift out the fluff. Here are the highlights as I remember them now.]

I managed to find my winter biking gear including my ski goggles. It was cold and the roads suck but I was off and riding again. My first top after picking up tobacco at Sarna’s was the 331 Club. I found myself at the bar next to a man who was sitting alone drinking a Miller High Life; the two-for-one special of the evening. He explained that it’s been hard to find work and money has been tight since he got released from prison but he was really hoping to avoid going back. He explained that he would never do anything to hurt another person, except out of honor and loyalty. These were his guiding principles. He was surprised that I had never been to prison; I guess because he’s not used to talking to people who haven’t. I explained that fear has kept me out of prison and in a sense, fear was my prison. He told me that if you want to survive in prison, all you have to do is tell the truth.

He said, “I just tell them that I believe in God. They think that I’m crazy and leave me alone.”

I said, “You want to hear something really crazy? I think that I am God.”

“I don’t think that you are crazy. Not many people are willing to talk to me but you are.”

“That’s because I think that you are God.”

He didn’t believe me that he was God and maybe he was right. Still, he did look like God to me.

Next, I stopped at Club Jager to see if they had anything going on. To my surprise they were setting up for their monthly metal night. I vowed to return and headed off to Grumpy’s Downtown where a friend of mine holds a movie night on Monday’s. He was showing Robocop and Total Recall (the good one). I was more eager to see my friend than I was the movies. We had found ourselves in a three AM online spate recently and I wanted to make sure we were still “cool”. Our argument was over the placebo effect. I took the position that the brain has the power to heal and he was arguing for science and medicine. This is a pretty life or death issue but it’s not like either of us are wrong.

Then it was back to “Metal Night” at Club Jager. I love metal music but mostly I love the metalheads. Seriously, some of the nicest most loving people you will ever meet.

One of the guys I met described himself as a Satanist. He said, “This music is very spiritual to me.”

“A Satanist, huh?” I had to ask, “What do Satanists believe in?”

He told me, “Love.”

“Hmmm, that’s what I believe in as well. Maybe I’m a Satanist.”

The bike ride home was hell. Snow had covered the streets and it was still falling pretty hard. I just kept telling myself, “I can do this, I’ve been through worse.” It was slow going but I finally made it home. I had survived another day!

I woke up the next morning invigorated and feeling alive. I posted the following to facebook:

OMG Last night was amazing. I highly recommend doing stupid things. The world is just one big playground. A playground that could kill you but oh my god, not dying is sooooo much fun!!!

It was at that point that I realized that the day before was just any other day. It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day I nearly died; the day of my car accident, the day I lost my right eye. I call it my re-birthday. Every year I celebrate January Thirteenth as the beginning of my new life but this year I totally missed it… or did I?

God is a dream

In that state of not quite dreaming while still not yet awake there is a moment of clarity that quickly fades as the sobering reality of a new day dawns. Once awake the confusion sets in. My thoughts are bombarded with all the knowledge of what I don’t know or understand. The realization of my doubt reemerges.

What just moments ago seemed crystal clear now feels like a delusion. So what is real? Is there such thing as truth?

The answers, while so very simply, never seem to hold up to the light of day. It’s like trying to find God through science. Perhaps it can be done but that seems like going the long way around. If God is real, if God is truth then God is never that far away. There is no need to prove or disprove the existence of God because God just either is, or isn’t. It is a question which cannot be answered. For God to exist one must simply know it. If God does not exist, then all we have is questions.

As I pass around the corner leaving behind my twilight slumber to greet the cold morning air of this winter’s day I wonder; “Was that God, or was it a dream?”

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