30 Days and 0 Knights

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’ve been on a bit of a run with these posts lately. As I’ve mentioned before, I want to adhere to certain foundations of good story-telling. Suffice it to say that part of the reason people like those who, say, subscribe to The New Yorker read that thing from cover to cover is because they don’t have to or get to do it every day, or even every a week.

What I mean is, I don’t want to burn out those who enjoy reading this by obnoxiously posting every little seemingly profound thought, question, feeling or epiphany that pops into my head, so if I need to slow the roll down please let me know.

That said, there are significant pieces of breaking news for those who want to focus on the subplot of my sobriety.

I’m now past 30 days without a single drink (and to be completely freakin’ honest, hardly a true craving since). So I went to AA tonight with a bit of a spring in my step. Sure, I went way more than 30 days earlier this year but it’s a much more satisfying feeling this time because I’m doing it purely for my overall well being. I’m not just on the wagon, the wagon is packed with a whole family and all its baggage, including my problems with depression and anxiety, confidence issues, all that other stuff I’ve mentioned ad nauseam, as well as overall shortcomings in physical and spiritual health. The best part is, I’m driving that wagon, and all its passengers are unaware that I’m pointing that wagon right toward a cliff at the edge of the world. My problem with alcohol is but a single fiber in a deeper, spiritual, existential knot which I’ve begun to unravel.

To put my own spin on something a guy said tonight about the many aspects of sobriety and the program, I don’t know if it’s the Lexapro, the therapy, the exercise, the California climate, the treatment, AA, my significant progress letting go of a broken relationship, or the fact that I can share my story as it progresses in these pages and not really worry how many people even read it, but I feel better every day and I don’t want to risk it by stopping any one of those things.

So I went to AA tonight, actually excited to get a little piece of plastic commemorating my 30 straight days of continual “sobriety.”

Why the quote marks? You know why the quote marks. I was up front in the very first blog post in admitting I have no intention of refraining from using certain herbal remedies. It hasn’t been a problem in my life for many years. I have often went many days without it and not even realized it. When I stopped drinking this past winter, I stopped smoking for several months along with it and it never bothered me. Not drinking bothered me though.

This time around it’s halfway towards being opposite; the lack of alcohol hasn’t really bothered me thus far, but the idea that I should have to stop doing everything just because I have a booze problem is ridiculous. It’s not that I couldn’t if I chose to, it’s that there is no compelling incentive. It’s practically legal here, I never do it before or during work, treatment or AA or when I know I’ll need to have my wits about it. I genuinely enjoy it and don’t abuse it, in the way someone who can drink normally (that’s to say, a non-alcoholic) enjoys a beer or three after work on a Friday.

Back to the story. For those who don’t know, part of the AA protocol is people volunteering or getting called on to say something, share their thoughts, share their struggles, share their stories, give a bit o’ the ol’ ex-drunk wisdom to the newcomers.

The controversy over whether someone who still puffs can truly be considered “in recovery” from alcoholism or “sober” has never come up directly in the 10 or so times I’ve been there. But this time, two people brought it up. More specifically, they mentioned how they used to come to the meetings and take chips but they were still smoking pot at the time and they now consider smoking pot relapsing and being untrue to your recovery process.

They didn’t even qualify it by saying “in my opinion” or “for me,” they said it like it was a piece of dogmatic law from whatever the AA equivalent of the Vatican is or even the true word of God himself.

Alienated is the best word to describe how that made me feel. Alienated and Angry. Toward the end of the meeting, I finally shared a piece of my story, being this was the day I graduated from “newcomer” to “person who is no longer supposed to raise his hand and identify himself as a newcomer at the beginning of every meeting.” Obviously I told them nothing of my heretical views on coughin’ on the cabbage during recovery. I told them a brief summation of what led up to my admitting my alcoholism and deciding to do something about it, and that I feel better than I’ve felt in years and that I have all of them to thank for the relative ease of which I’ve coasted through the last 30 days.

After the meeting, I talked to a guy named Ian whom I’d met at my very first meeting there. He asked how it was going, we caught up and all that, then he asked whether I had a sponsor yet. I’d gotten the impression he was offering to be mine when I first met him, but this time I asked him. He said he could be my temporary sponsor at least (he didn’t totally elaborate on that). I said, “Well, if we’re going to do this, I have to start by being honest with you.”

So I told him I smoke, that I have no intention to stop, that it’s pretty moderate, and basically everything else I already said about it here. He seemed very non-judgmental but genuinely concerned that keeping that as a crutch is going to keep me from really getting at the root of the problem. Ultimately, he told me to finish reading pages 1-164 or something in the Big Book (the AA Bible) and then call him. He wants to help me through the 12 Steps, which is half the reason you’re supposed to get a sponsor from what I’ve gathered.

He’s a cool guy. He’s young, he likes Rhymesayers, and he seemed like a good match from day one. But if he’s going to require me to stop puffin’ on the purple in order for him to sponsor me, I’m not going to do it.

That probably sounds quite bullheaded. Well, bulls are cool and strong and get a lot of nookie, so whatever.

I’m reading a book which Rob (the drug counselor) loaned me the other day called The Four Agreements. It’s basically a book of philosophy and wisdom based on some of the spiritual principles of the lost Toltec civilization. The first “agreement,” or guiding principle, is “be impeccable with your word.”

This is much broader and more complicated than it sounds, but one of the meanings of this is to be true to yourself.

I’ve stopped drinking successfully so far partially because of the support and principles I get from Alcoholics Anonymous, but also because of my own strength and willpower. If I were to stop suckin’ on spinach just because the majority of them say I have to in order to really recover, or because some dude I think is cool won’t sponsor me if I don’t, that would be giving into a mob mentality and being untrue to myself. I wouldn’t be impeccable with my word.

There are three other pieces of wisdom I will use to support my stance here.

One is actually a saying which is popular in recovery — “Take what you need/want, leave the rest.” Basically saying if there’s something in a 12-Step program or any recovery program you don’t understand or agree with, e.g. believing only a higher power can keep you sober, work around it. Work the other steps. Take what helps you, ignore the rest.

And directly from the opening ceremonies of every AA meeting, everywhere: “The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking.”

That’s pretty specific. One could argue, “Well, what they really meant is…” or “If it was written now it would include…” just like people do with the Bible or the Constitution. But I’m going to go ahead and take a Ron-Paulesque stance on this and say it says exactly what it says and it is not our job to reinterpret it.

Finally, as my dad’s good friend Denny, who’s a champion and veteran of the program, said when I went to a few meetings with them two years ago, “There’s a lot of assholes in AA, just like in life.”

Anyway… I wanted to write a little bit about how outpatient treatment is going. You may be surprised. But this is getting long, the clock’s getting late and I hear music calling me, so I’ll have to leave that for the next post.

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