Thursday, August 26, 2010

"This is our lives we're talking about..."

I think the emotion that surprised me the most tonight was anger, but it was just one of many I felt concurrently. Combined, all those feelings seemed seductively familiar, like climbing into bed under a deliciously warm electric blanket on a cold night. Why I find comfort in this weird mix of sadness, anger, and envy, I'm not sure. But comforting it is, even if I'm at a loss to understand it.

So. Just what is the "proper" mood, I wonder, when you hear about the death of an ex-sponsee from a drug overdose at the same meeting where you're celebrating a sponsee's one-year birthday?

The discussion leader and chairperson mentioned John's death. When I shared, I mentioned that I had once sponsored someone named John and I'd check after the meeting to see if it was him. But they told me then and there, during my share, that yes, it's the same guy. It made for an interesting moment, I suppose. I don't remember much about the rest of the meeting.

Afterwards, I had to leave right away to pick up my kid so I was unable to get the details. For all I know, John could have died today or five years ago. I hadn't seen him in years.

I was John's first sponsor, way back when, and he made it to nine months. Then, about the time I started to fuck up my life, he started slipping away from the rooms. John had an impressive resume and was eager to be somebody once again now that he had his shit together. I had no luck whatsoever convincing him to be "just John" for a while instead. Eventually he got another sponsor (by then I was in no shape to sponsor anyone). I saw him maybe three times after that. And then no more.

My kid and I called him "Sailor John" because of a shirt he wore when we all went to a movie one time. She still remembers him fondly, even though she was only about eight or nine years old when she saw him last. A politician and activist at one time, he was friendly and easy to talk to.

They say the program isn't for people who need it, it's for people who want it. But I've seen lots of people who want it desperately and still can't stay sober. John was one of them.

Recently I heard someone say that this program is not for people who need it or for people who want it. It's for people who do it.  That, it seems to me, is more accurate.

But this post isn't about John. It's about me, and those old familiar feelings. I felt the same thing when one of my students committed suicide. I felt it again when my sponsor went back out. Both times it lasted for weeks. Sadness. Anger. Envy. All combining into a morbidly alchemical desire to jump in there with them.

In other words, triggered. 

I recognize the trigger now, and hopefully that will lessen its power. In the meantime, though, my disease is "doing pushups" in the back room, and it's working on concocting a new trigger that I won't recognize.

The fact is, I haven't been doing the program lately. Plenty of service work, yes, but not a lot of recovery. I haven't been calling anybody. I've been too busy to get to enough meetings. I stayed safely in the middle of the bed for a long time, but lately I've been wandering over to the edge now and then to peek over.

So with news of John's death, I see that now it's time to make a choice: do I keep loitering near the edge of the bed?  Or do I scramble back into the middle where it's safe, where my sponsee and I can properly, joyously celebrate an entire year of continuous sobriety?

This is, after all, our lives we're talking about.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Way of Living, Meet the Wreckage of My Past.

They say the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. With that in mind, it was a completely rational, utterly sound decision. It was probably even compassionate. Surely it left everyone, even me, feeling some relief after the fact. Still, it was hard to hear the words: We don’t want you. Not now. Not later.

I am thriving in my new life, but that doesn’t make me any less possessive of the old one. I have kept it carefully wrapped in tissue paper and tucked away like I might keep a lacy blouse that no longer fits. I don’t want it back - not really. I keep it "just in case," so I'll have the illusion of control. Every once in a while, I’ll take it out of the drawer and try it on, as I did this week. And every time, it fits worse and itches more than the time before. Still, I ignore the obvious.

But it turns out that the wreckage of my past has a very long shelf life. So just about the time I think, “Gee, I’ve really left all that meshugas behind me; maybe I can get some of that old stuff back,” I’m reminded – rather abruptly -- that many people still only know me as a crazy, undependable mess with a graduate degree in self-sabotage. I can protest all I want that I'm not like that anymore, and most of the time I'm not, but here’s the real truth: Given the wrong set of circumstances, I’m still capable of being exactly like that. And it’s obvious even to me that this would have been the wrong set of circumstances. 

So here’s what I know, and I suppose I should give myself some credit: I prepared thoroughly. I did the footwork, and then some. I returned telephone calls. I was ready to show up, even though I knew this particular effort was probably doomed. I behaved with a modicum of grace. I prayed. In short, I acted like the person I strive to be. Only, it didn’t work out the way I wanted.

Today God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.  Apparently there's a surprise in store.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Busy-Ass Librarian Thursday: Hooray for California!

Well, by now you've heard the good news: a federal district court in California ruled that Proposition 8, which prevented gay couples from marrying, was struck down yesterday.

I was going to give you a fabulously cogent layman's analysis of the decision itself, but the damn thing is 136 pages long and I just don't have the time to read it right now. So instead, here's a link to a good article that will provide you with the lay of the land, brought to you by Scott Graham at The Recorder, a California legal newspaper.And here's the court's website for the case, with links to the evidence, opinions, and a lot of other nifty stuff. And the Wikipedia article.

It appears that the judge went much further (farther?) than he needed to go, which is great news for the gay community. It looks like the judge made extensive findings of fact that will, if accepted by other courts (a big if), will help us a great deal as we move forward in pursuit of equal rights.

As you celebrate, though, keep in mind the following: First, although it is a federal opinion, it is not binding anywhere except in the Northern District of California. It does not mean you can now get married in a red state! 

Second, it's gonna be awhile. This case will surely be appealed, preliminary injunctions will be sought, blah blah blah. It's what lawyers do. Plus it's gotta wind its way through the court system: first, the flurry of motions, then on to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which may send it back down for some reason or another. And so on, and so on. It could well be years before the Supreme Court gets its hands on it.

So celebrate! And then, let's all get back to work.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

So, I'm an attention whore...

Today I am celebrating 29 years clean and sober. I've posted it on Facebook, I'm posting it here, and I'm gonna pick up chips at every meeting I go to this week. So there!

On the other hand, I'm also celebrating a whopping 19 DAYS of abstinence from destructive eating. Truth is, that's been just as hard. Actually, it's been harder.

I'm really glad I get to be a newcomer in one recovery program while I'm an old-timer in the other. It's a little harder (though by no means impossible) to be a "bleeding deacon" when I'm struggling hard just to get a 30-day chip - for the first time ever - in the other room.

(a few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a very nice but slightly condescending woman who was trying to teach me about the traditions. After I hung up, I found myself saying, out loud, "So how long have YOU been sober, you bitch?" Not exactly elder statesman material!)

My addiction to food - which has taken me pretty much all the way to the bottom - also reminds me of what awaits me if I decide that drinking or using is a good idea. and conversely, my sobriety gives me hope that long-term abstinence is possible.

The fact is, no matter what the addiction, I only get a daily reprieve at best. So what if yesterday I single-handedly saved 56 drunks and jumped over 103 treatment centers in a single bound? It's what I do today that will decide whether I'm still clean and sober when I wake up tomorrow morning.

The bottom line for me is this: Whether I'm working on 30 days abstinent or 30 years clean and sober, the prescription is the same: I must put my recovery first, not just when it's convenient, but all the time, every day. And I must also remember that in both cases, the odds are definitely against me, So I must never take for granted even small bits of relief I receive.

(This inspirational message is available on CD for use at churches, synagogues, mosques, wiccan rituals. and tupperware parties for the low low cost of $500 per use.. All rights reserved.)