Sunday, February 2, 2014

My 3 year (other) birthday: Liberation from the Bottle, and an Ode to Seymour H

I just thought this picture was overly melodramatic and cool.
It was a cold snowy January day in 2011. As usual, I was running late en route to work, and lucky for me there was an accident on the road on the way in. The perfect excuse for being late, I snapped a picture on my phone as additional proof; evidence for manipulation.

This was how my brain was functioning. And no, I am not proud of who I was and the direction I was headed. What I didn't know was that I was about to lose my job.

A week before my 33rd birthday and I was about to have nothing, to be on my ass and not know how I was going to pay the rent. That morning my boss, who had also become a mentor and friend - let me go. A mounting list of indiscretions on my part had been compiled. I won't go into details, but I had it coming.

It crushed me. I did not see it coming from a mile away. Shocked, dismayed, and utterly broken and confused I went home. I felt sick, how was I going to go forward? I knew something was very wrong, very, very wrong. Not with the world – but with me.

I was an alcoholic.

This wasn't a surprise, the surprise was how progressed I was. I was completely deluded as many of us with addiction problems tend to be. I needed help.

Going to AA was not something new to me, I had known I had unhealthy drinking habits since I was in my teens. However the great illusion of every drinker is the delusion that WE can control our drinking. I had been testing the waters in recovery since I was 30, so I had been to meetings, and had a temporary sponsor. I had never done the 12 steps, but that was about to change. I went back to AA and found an amazing sponsor and got to it.

My first meeting back I felt like Bambi on ice. I felt so broken. After a few meetings I started to feel better – I was not alone. And as tragic as I thought my story might be, it was nothing compared to some of the other people in the rooms, who had seen severe tragedy. People who had killed people, lost everything and gone bankrupt, pushed away the ones they loved and cherished most.

The 12 steps of AA became life or death to me. I HAD TO FIND ANOTHER WAY. I had to give up, and completely surrender to a program that wasn't mine, a huge fear, giving up the illusion of control. After six weeks of sobriety I had completed the bulk of step work and had made a circle of friends that are still in my life today, and will forever be.

I won't get into the whole AA thing here, though I will quickly dispel some of the myths. Most people conjure up an image of a bunch of disheveled, stinky drunks, sitting in a circle shaking off the DT's. Or they see people crying and sharing. Whatever the perception, the truth is, that those rooms have been some of the most sacred and holiest spiritual places I have ever been. I have felt the presence of a higher source speaking through others, their shared experience being exactly what I needed to hear to get healthier, stronger. Better.

I believe that alcoholism as with many other addictive behaviours, is a need-to-fill-a-spiritual-void disease. It's spiritual warfare out there on planet earth. My own journey into my spiritual war started young. I was a single mom kid, I grew up poor, my mom left my dad when I was 3 – she saved my life, and for that I am eternally grateful. I won't get into the details of my father; he struggles with his own demons. Mom had the wisdom in her early twenties to see that the impacts of that struggle would have carried over to my brother and I. However this fracture in my early family life, coupled with my mother's anxiety created a pattern in me. A disconnect.

I felt a lack, a lack of love, of belonging. Not for my mom, she was a loving parent, and as all exceptional mothers do, she put our needs ahead of her own. Nonetheless a spiritual fracture had begun, and there was a void. As I grew up I tried to fill that void – I always felt different, like an outsider always looking in. I still feel that way a lot of the time, but instead of trying to cover or bury these feelings, I meet them head on as best I can. We also live in a time where the material world is the obsession and focus of most “advanced” societies on the earth.

Us human beings are so disconnected from the spirit world, particularly those of us in the first world. We live hectic, go-go-go lives, connected cybernetically, but so disconnected to living things. I heard recently that an amazonian tribe calls our world the “dead world”. I get it; look around you. Everything around you is likely the dying remains of things that once were alive. No wonder addiction continues to rocket upwards in its trajectory. Where is the aliveness in our environment? And in ourselves?

Before I go off on a tangent, which I will reserve for another potential post, alcohol for me was a way to feel alive, connected, relaxed and to fit in.  There is a reason why alcohol is called spirits. But like a sheet of wood grain veneer slapped onto particle board with glue, the alcohol was only a surface implement, designed only for a short term disengagement of feeling my emotions. I had begun to medicate at least 4 or 5 times a week, near the end, almost every day.

I have new tools to challenge problems, new ways of taking care of old business, and being sober for 3 years has been a true rebirth for me. My sobriety has left me with deeper insight, wisdom and taught me how to confront my demons in a healthy way. Yes, life is fucking hard, but it is amazing. There is nothing better then overcoming a challenge, especially when we grow new wings and can be an inspiration to our selves. I can honestly say that being sober for the last 3 years is one of my greatest achievements.

Admittedly, social engagements are a whole different beast. I was at a party last night, drinking a four-pack of near beers, and I had fun. Coming out of my shell was such a challenge for me, and alcohol was my best friend, it gave me liquid courage, but it would wear off, and it wore me down with it. I've had to relearn how to “be” at parties, and social events where booze is ubiquitous, but I get to be MYSELF – all the time. That my friends, is a blessing. I've learned to love me, who I am, social awkwardness included.

So what does this have to do about a guy in a camper writing a blog?

This is a spiritual journey, life is. Being sober has made me so much bigger on the inside, and after 3 years, I look forward to the rest of life sober, with a clear head, and an open heart.

Addendum 1:

Today Seymour Philip Hoffman died, as many addicts tend to do.  Many of us are charming and unbelievably good at hiding our addiction, it's kind of an art form really.  The tough and sad reality is that many of us don't make it through the hell of addiction.   It took me SEVERAL attempts to gain any traction in the sober world - and it wasn't easy.  I send a prayer out there for any, and all souls who struggle with any form of addiction, may you join us on the other side - it's worth the price of admission.


  1. You should be proud. Eventually we all come to learn dependence on any substance is an obstacle. Well done.