- August 1998
I hate this photo. Who the hell takes a photo of somebody in rehab? Like it belongs in an album? Although, I am glad I have it. A reminder of a tormented soul. Somebody who can not stop fucking their life up in every way imaginable.
Nobody sets out to grow up to become an alcoholic or a drug addict. It happens gradually. The line in the sand keeps getting crossed again and again, until eventually the idea of any line at all is gone, washed over by tides of mayhem and despair. In my case, I believe it is a mixture of nature AND nurture. Maybe I was born one. Maybe I was made one. Maybe I was just drawn that way. I've come to the conclusion that there's no point questioning how or why. It is what it is. Same as I have red hair and wear glasses. It's just something in life I have to cop.
Today I received two emails, from different people. Both reaching out to me for help, asking how did I do it? What was my rock bottom like? I wanted to reach through cyberspace and hug both of them, tell them I know where they are and how badly it sucks. I know.
Every thing in my life I owe to my recovery. Everything. The other day I sat in a womens meeting - there were only four of us. And Rocco. He was going ballistic, running around, tearing the place up. Grabbing chalk and writing on the table. I was trying to share, and sighed. I asked them - "Look does anyone care that he's doing that? I promise I'll clean it up." Nobody minded one bit, all laughing at him, trying to get him to come over and say hi to them. "CAR. CAR. BYE." He wanted to go. I gave him a biscuit in each hand, tried to get him to please shut up, mummy needs to share.
These were women I've known for over ten years now. We all had time up, so we just shot the shit together. All I wanted to talk about was how fucking awesome the apples from the orchard were.
"I swear these are the best Goddamn apples. They are so juicy and sweet. Dave and I took the kids to the orchard on the weekend, and there's something about doing things like that that always makes me catch my breath. Because there was a time when buying a box of apples from the orchard would be the most boring thing on the planet. Nothing could fill the terrible hole inside. These apples, man .... they have nothing to do with my recovery, but they have everything to do with it. My recovery colours every single thing in my life. I'm just so bloody grateful."
A year after the above happy snap was taken, I got off the recovery train. Now THERE'S a hell ... knowing there is another way you can live your life. Head full of program with a bellyful of booze/drugs. People often feel so desperate at that point that they kill themselves.
Why would I pick up again? Why do junkies go back again and again? Why do alcoholics with wet brain keep drinking?
BECAUSE IT FEELS FUCKING FANTASTIC. Full stop. The end.
This is why people destroy themselves. Because it feels great. It takes you away from yourself, is numbing, makes you feel powerful, makes you feel nothing, helps get you laid, get the job, get the guy. When I drink or drug, I can not stop. I am a bottomless pit. One is too many and a thousand is not enough.
But the honeymoon eventually draws to a close. "Quod me nutrit me destruit" ... "What nourishes me, destroys me."
There's a line in a U2 song called "Moment of Surrender" that was written about being a junkie
"Playing with the fire
Til the fire played with me."
It burns. I listened to my friend share the other day, about how she came to terms with the incest that had occurred when she was a young girl. She spoke about not wanting to know the truth, hiding from it. About how somebody can come right up to you and tell you the Truth - about anything, really. But if you are not ready to hear it, if your Higher Self wants to protect you, you will hold the Truth for only a second before letting it go because it is burning your hands.
Recovery is turning around and facing the Truth. You hold it with both hands and it burns your skin, melts through it like a hot coal. Leaving a beautiful, invisible stigmata. You need to let go of how you live your life. "Surrender to win," they call it. Put your weapons down. The war is over. Admit your fucked. Talk to other people. Let someone in. Dare to send an email to somebody further along in recovery to you, asking for help. Do you know how much strength it takes to admit you are weak? A lot.
I look at people in the first few months, years of recovery ... and am in AWE of them. How do they do it? What's the magic secret? There is no magic secret. If there was, it would be easy peasy to get clean. I started out with nothing to lose. Now, the stakes are huge. I have so very much to lose. I've also had so many drinking dreams lately ... there's probably a huge part of that wants to chug back on a few gallons of red wine. (And I don't even know how much a gallon is but it sounds like a lot.)
So I've stepped up my meetings, made a conscious effort to do my daily readings, hugged my boys. I now know, instinctively, what I need to do to get back on track. I do not want to mess with my sobriety. It's the most valuable thing I have.
Years ago, an aunt watched me dancing with my new husband at my wedding. She turned to my sister, and pitifully asked, "So she can never drink again?" Shaking her head like it was a tragedy. I can do anything ... anything I want to in the world. Except drink or use drugs. I can fly to New York. Sing in a talent quest. Rap to my stepson. Eat apples straight from the orchard .... anything at all.
I'd say that's a pretty fair swap, no?
I promise you this ..... if you are starting out in recovery, it is the best thing you will ever do in your life. It's not easy ... but it's very simple. A simple program for complicated people. Go to meetings. Talk to people. Reach out. Get honest. Get real. Like the Velveteen Rabbit ... you can get real.
I am beyond jaded with the world. I still think it's a dreadful place. I'm still so fucked up, I don't believe in many things. But I believe in the power of recovery. It's real, and it's cool. It's not boring, I promise. The Universe kind of opens up and you get to hold it in your hand .... your battle-weary hand. You see things differently - mate YOU SEE THINGS. It's getting cool where I live, the changing of seasons is amazing. Who knew that the leaves turn yellow and fall?
I heard a story once about how Spirit needed to hide the Secrets of the Universe. The secrets got put in the place that humans would look last - inside themselves.
There's a lot of friends of Bill out there. Stefanie has not long surrendered. She turns her blog over to a recovering alcoholic every Friday. Cecily is amazing. The legendary BHJ. The American living down under, Free Man.
Man I could keep writing about this forever. I should write a book, as soon as I work out how to return emails. And comments. And phonecalls. And how to live this stupid life. My life is a boa constrictor and it swallows me whole, nearly every day.
This post is dedicated to E. And C. And you .... yes you. Years ago, I was crying to my sponsor on the phone. "It's so hard! I can't do this! It's just so hard! Why is it so hard??"
She said, "Eden, the best things in life often are."
"I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control."
Think you might need some help? Not sure? Here's a 20-question pop quiz. It was the only time in my life I scored top marks and didn't do an ounce of study!