Monday, June 23, 2008

Ten

©2008 by LeeZard


June 10, 2008: ten years – 3,653 days. Who’da thunk it? Ten years ago on this date I walked – very drunk – into my first for real meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I took my last drink on that date.

Oh, I’d stuck my toe into AA in late 1984 but I wasn’t ready then. I signed up for an outpatient recovery program mainly to get the wife off my back. It didn’t work, neither the recovery nor getting she-who-shall-not-be-mentioned off my back. I knew I had a “problem” with pot but I really loved it. I drank just because; well, maybe just to boost the pot high. I knew deep down I wasn’t really ready to give up either one.

When you enter a recovery program, they do an assessment. It is a list of questions and you can either be honest with (yourself and) them or you can just bullshit (yourself and) them. For some reason, I decided to be honest.

“Well,” the counselor said as she looked over my questionnaire, “it appears that you are an early-to-mid-stage alcoholic.”

One of the symptoms of alcoholism is denial and, I had a very complex system of denial. So, when I heard that assessment, my sick little brain said, “that’s great news; I still have a long way to go.”

Little did I know at the time how prophetic that thought was. Little did I also know that the long way I had to go was down, down, down.

Part of that program required attendance at two AA meetings a week. I hated ‘em. Everyone at the meetings smoked. All the men were older than me and the few women at the meetings all looked like burned out country singers and talked with cigarette-raspy voices. But, what I really hated was all the talk about “God this and God that” and how they all quit drinking and their lives got better. “What horse shit,” I thought



After about six weeks, there was a Bruce Springsteen concert. I went with a couple of buddies, some good weed and a few dozen shots of tequila. That was the end of my “recovery” in 1984. I went back out and did 14 more years of “research.”

By the end of 1997, I was a mess. But, my complex system of denial was still at work. Over the last few years of my drinking – and by then I knew I had a drinking problem – I kept telling myself I’d do something about it when “things got bad enough.” Except, I always ignored the signs that things were, indeed, bad enough.

My marriage was in the dumpster and I was alienated from my kids. I was working out of my home office as a consultant-without-clients. My main purpose every day was to get high as soon as I got the wife and kidlets out the door and stay that way until I either passed out, threw up, or both at the end of the day. I was 50 pounds overweight, had bled internally where the alcohol had begun to wear away the lining of my colon and, I wallowed in deep depression. Finally, on one dark, dank November day, I called the only person I knew would understand, my doctor.

Doc, although more than ten years younger than me, was a died-in-the-wool Deadhead — BIG Grateful Dead fan to the uninitiated. As such, he was always the backstage MD on call when Jerry Garcia and the boys played Seattle. There was a doc backstage at every gig the Dead played; nobody wanted Jerry to OD or die from a heart attack in their town.

I was so damned good at being an alcoholic and druggie that nobody outside of my immediate family knew, including my doctor. So, when I called him that fateful day to tell him the booze and pot were kicking my ass, he was astonished. But, he immediately recognized the depth of my plight and referred me to a psychiatrist.
Interestingly, the shrink told me right off the bat, “I’m not trained to deal with your alcoholism and drug use but I can certainly help you with the underlying issues.”

With my complex denial system still trying to take over, I replied, “that’s fine, I’m not quite ready to deal with the drugs and alcohol. Let’s start on that underlying stuff.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t know it at the time but when an alcoholic stops drinking, traces of the poison are found in the central nervous system for up to a year afterwards so, I wasn’t yet in shape to deal with anything but my addiction(s). Still, it was those initial months with the psychiatrist that helped me inch-by-inch shut down my system of denial which eventually allowed me to walk into AA the only way that allows success – willingly and desperately asking for help to find a sober way of life. After 33-years of drinking and drugging I was finally ready.

I won’t bore with any more detail; I’ve probably bored you already. But, I want to put this day - this celebration - in context. Many of you have heard me call my life today a miracle. It is that, and more!

Had I continued drinking, I would probably be dead today; might have taken a few others with me. I loved to drink (and smoke dope) and drive. I was so very good at it. There’s another miracle, no DUI’s and no drink-related accidents but many near accidents. By the way, I have a buddy who says any time someone drunk wrecks a car it’s no accident.

When you walk into Alcoholics Anonymous they tell you if you follow their 12 steps, or “suggestions,” you will earn a life you never dreamed possible. Their suggestions are akin to, “If you jump out of an airplane, it is suggested you pull the ripcord on your parachute.”

I've followed those suggestions for ten years.

Today, I have the life I never dreamed possible. At the risk of bragging or sounding prideful, I own and live in a lovely townhouse in a shaded, quiet neighborhood just a block away from a river trail that goes on forever. I walk that trail every day with my two buddies, Brando-the-Wonder- Dog and the newly acquired Trooper-the-Super-Pooper.

In my garage is the sports car I’ve dreamed of owning since I was a teenager and never thought I’d be able to afford. I just landed a dream job. When I entered recovery, I estimated I was at least a decade behind my professional peers. With this job, which I happened to start during my birthday month, I’ve more than caught up – in title, responsibility and salary.

I’m dating a woman and we are just having a blast. It's been five months and it just keeps getting better. We laugh alot, share a deep mutual respect and gentle, soft growing love. So what? So, plenty! This is the former King of Dysfunctional Relationships talking.

I’ve become active in my community and very quickly been recognized as a leader. I am considering a 2009 run for the city council.

Do I have crappy days? No! I merely have crappy moments and, with a very strong faith in a power far greater than LeeZard, I know there is very little out there that I can control. What a relief; I don’t have to try to control people, places and things I never had any chance of controlling in the first place. Life happens. Today I have the spiritual and practical tools to deal with it.

I live in constant gratitude for everybody and everything in my life – including life itself. It’s a much better way to live.

Happy Birthday to Me…..Happy Birthday to Me…..Happy Birthday dear LeeZard…..dumdedumdedum......