And then there was that one time when I was in high school and in a car wreck. Of course I was drinking so the details are all a blur. I had huge gash on the top of my head after hitting the windshield. I would tend to believe there was enough blood to make people worry.
My friends and I are outside the car and the police are there and it’s all a big commotion. The car’s smashed, there’s broken glass.
And I’m just there acting like an obnoxious prick. It was one of those times where I felt like I could act like a jerk so I did. Entitlement can come in all forms. I’m still surprised the police didn’t put me in handcuffs.
So then the ambulance came and my friend and I are taken to the hospital. I remember being in an operating room and the staff, doctors, nurses, or whoever are trying to stitch my head up and I’m continuing to act like an asshole. Cussing, swearing, an all out belligerent jerk.
People were just trying to do their job and I was making it 10 times harder than it needed to be. Lashing out at them because they were there and I was drunk.
And why was I so angry? I don’t know. As a teenager I think mostly what I felt was just frustrated. Not really being in touch with my emotions I couldn’t even tell you back then that I was frustrated. It was just what I felt.
Annoyed, discontent, restless, irritable, those are the reasons why I listened to so much angry music in the late 80s and early 90s. It was a conduit, an outlet I could plug in to that helped release just a little bit of that overall emotional cramp. Put on the headphones and have the music so loud I couldn’t hear anything else. Including the very things going on inside that wanted to get out. That would set me free.
Looking back decades later I know why I was so distressed at 17. Because I never dealt with anything. You’ve all heard that before. Garbage bags of hostilities piled up inside from situations I was in that I never allowed myself to feel. Bullies in school, spiteful older brothers, or whatever. Take your pick.
And as everyone knows volcanoes blow when there’s too much pressure. I hate that analogy because everybody uses it but it fits.
Back to the hospital. Frankly I’m surprised that people even work in emergency rooms in the middle of the night because I’m sure I’m not the only drunken asshole they’ve had to fix. People like my mom, my sister, my niece, people like Sara. Nurses who dedicate their lives to caring for souls, toxic and warmongering.
I don’t remember what happened after my head was stitched up. I don’t remember going home or remember the next day. Probably because it’s been so long ago. But what I do remember is that nothing changed in me because of the wreck or because of my behavior that night. I just went back to being my quiet self and throwing fits when I got drunk enough.
What I’m most ashamed of is that night the girl who was sitting on my lap during the crash ended up with a broken neck. And nobody knew it at first because I was out there being my worst self.
After I got sober I saw handfuls of kids when speaking in treatment centers and lockups who were filled with the same kind of rage. Subconsciously waiting for someone or something to pull the pin from their grenade.
And I think that once someone goes too far down the angry path there’s little we can do to snap them out of it. Frustration layered over hurt, the torment, the pain with no where to go, those are too powerful of forces for us as parents and adults to pull them out of.
If only we could touch them with a magic wand like the fairy godmother and Cinderella’s pumpkin and take away their pain.
But we can’t. We can only love them until they can love themselves.
And don’t worry moms and dads. We as parents can only hold the bow and aim for the bulls-eye. Our kids as the arrows will go where the wind blows. Or however that saying goes.
Even after another car wreck and broken nose, countless stitches and staples, too, I somehow turned out all right.
Toward the end of my drinking it was like treading water. Never going anywhere, not having any fun, just struggling to do the bare minimum to stay afloat. A soggy, pathetic, emotional mess.
I was well past my reckless youth, going out and getting into trouble, wrecking cars, being thrown in jail. Well past the padded room I chased an orderly out of with a safety pin. It was just me, the liquor, and myself. Paddling in a sea of cold air in a dark, damp basement.
I’m going to mix and match reality and imagination. Analogies and metaphors. Because that’s what you do when you’re me.
So to continue with the useless swimming metaphor, I would watch people up on the beach barbecuing, playing frisbee, soaking up sun rays. My family was there, too.
And there I was, what felt like miles away, growing physically tired of the repetitive stokes. And miserably alone. Really though, everybody was only a few feet away, just up and around the stairs.
A few years ago I used this same metaphor but in that story there was an anchor and a chain weighing me down. In the years since first writing of it I’ve change my mind. That rusty chain implied an external force that had me moored. But that’s not true. It was only me and my inner turmoil that kept me treading water on the futon.
Every now and then my ex-wife would tell me that I needed to come in from the water, be with them up on the beach. Sit with them. But I never listened. I couldn’t hear what she was saying over the water and my splashing. It was all too loud. It was all but impossible to listen. I couldn’t focus when I was drunk. My head sunburnt with hellfire hangovers. My eyes closed after my favorite sunglasses were washed away.
I would often think to myself, this is it. I’m not gonna die from exploding diving tanks in a fiery crash. I’m just going to be stuck here treading water, corroding over the decades. Because I can swim against the tides all I want but there’s no escape from the thrashing whirlpool, the sticky tarpit of fate.
And then maybe one day when I don’t have any strength left I’d just slip away. Lethally injected with alcoholic strychnine. In yet another metaphor. Poor me.
Anyways, one day in between waves (or days depending on your makeup) I’m spying my family up on the beach and then she starts packing up the car. I cried out in panicked silence as my insides unfroze.
“Holy shit she’s really gonna leave. She’s not playing around this time. The trunk is open and she’s actually putting the picnic basket and shit in there.”
And then I freaked. Swam to shore like a true Olympian. Like a flock of sharks were nipping at my toes. Whatever cosmic harpoon that had me tethered to myself had finally been cut.
When I reached the sand and the shore and the safety of solid ground, dear lord, the panic didn’t stop. It multiplied. In color. I hadn’t done the whole sober living thing since 152nd Street. And I sucked at it.
So I ran up and down the beach like my hair was on fire in a full blown, year-plus-long panic attack. Being out of the water and on my feet was messy. My eyes needed to adjust, my fingers needed to dry out. I needed to catch my breath.
And then I got a new futon. Because the old one had been torpedoed to death. With bullshit.
So I guess my point to this story is that when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change, we will swim for our lives. Fate be damned.
Alcoholics can related to this. I’m not sure if others will…
But one of the things that made it so easy for me to continue drinking was that I never had any real consequences. I never was in jail for more than a day or so, the bank never threatened to take my house. My jobs were always more than supportive and somehow I still have all my fingers and toes.
It’s not that I didn’t think about the consequences. I could think about them all day long, but if it were in my head that I was gonna drink, there was simply no stopping me. I didn’t resist at all. There was no debate, no trying to convince myself it was the wrong thing to do. I never tried to talk myself out of it. All of that internal yammering was too painful and willpower is nonexistent when I’m drinking. It was easier to just give in, give up, quit fighting a fight I’d never win.
Even just the “knowing” that I was going to drink gave me instant relief. Like pouring water over an Alka-Seltzer tablet. That immediate, fizzy, bubbly chemical reaction — that’s the uplifting, scientific relief I felt whenever I gave in to alcoholism.
A counselor told me once that I should “play the tape all the way through,” meaning that before I started drinking to stop and think about what would happen from start to finish.
Erm. That’s not how alcoholics do. We don’t have forethought before drinking or willpower when drinking. Consequences are irrelevant. We only see the next drink and never the dominoes falling down afterward.
Seriously, when it comes to drinking my thought process is this: I’m gonna get drunk and I don’t care what happens. My house burns down? Good, now I won’t have to pay the mortgage and will have one less responsibility. That may sound ludicrous but that’s the kind of disconnect I’m talking about here.
Yeah, life could taunt me with blackouts, jails, whatever but none of it mattered once the drink was on or even the decision to drink was made. I was at peace and nothing could touch me.
And then there was that one time I walked into the liquor store door. Like I walked up to and in to the door. And then bounced backward off the glass because it was the exit and it automatically opened for people leaving. I’d like to say that it was a simple mistake but really I was pretty much lit from head to toe.
The whole door wobbled and complained during our encounter. I’d also like to say that I was filled with shame but any embarrassment was muffled by my drunkenness. Because drunkenness is like a wet blanket over the fire, a soggy forcefield that keeps the inferno of reality from being real.
So after solving the automatic door riddle and making it inside, two cashiers and a customer were staring at me with slight alarm. I ignored their stares and made straight for my aisle, as fast as I could while maintaining my composure and balance. Only momentum kept me walking in a semi-straight line.
And then back at the checkout aisle one cashier was still around. He was an older, taller guy wearing concern on his face. Like he wanted to say something, to ask me if I was okay because I obviously wasn’t. I wasn’t fit to be walking let alone driving.
But he didn’t say anything. I’m sure it was because working in a liquor store he’d seen the likes of my kind before and learned the last thing you wanna do is confront an alcoholic when they’re drunk and after more. That’s like poking a bear after his honey.
I don’t remember what I bought from the liquor store that day, only that I made an ass out of myself and was too drunk to know it at the time.
Anyways, see: no consequences. I have a grab bag full of stories just like this where there weren’t any consequences for my actions. Almost always nothing happened other than I got drunk. I was rarely even scolded.
But wait. There were consequences even if I didn’t think about them. Even if alcoholism kept me out of touch with them.
There was the perpetual guilt so harsh that I would cringe, close my eyes, and hang my head. Soaked in regret for the constant humiliation I handed out to my ex-wife and then following it up with gift-wrapped sorries and promises that I’d do better.
I tried to be a good person when I was sober, had all the right morals and so on, but drinking drowned them all. Suffocated every shred of decency. I’d be doing and saying things I would never do sober. After five or so drinks I would be uncontrollably careless. I’m an alcoholic so I’d have twice that and then the real fun would start. I’d say things to people that I didn’t mean, completely smashed, flirting with other women, right in front of my ex-wife. Passing out at a friend’s party at 8pm because my party had started at 8am.
Then I’d wake up plumb full of shame, anxiety through the roof. Should I say something to that dude? Do I owe that girl an apology? Most of the time I wouldn’t say anything at all with the hope that they’d just forget. But you commit enough crimes and people stop forgetting, shit stops blowing over. People start looking at you differently.
And then I’d start drinking all over again as soon as I could and it was like magic. All the guilt and shame would be washed down the drain like dirty bathwater. Alcoholics have mastered tuning out the guilt when we’re turning the drunk dial to 11.
I drank to get drunk from the time I was 15. The last few years I did try really, really hard, though, to keep myself in check, to keep myself from doing stupid shit. But that never happened. I’d stumble around the house, fall into shit, make jokes that weren’t funny. I absolutely hated feeling embarrassed the next morning. All I wanted was to drink, feel that drunken serenity and not make an ass of myself. Lubricated but not falling over if you will.
That’s not something I can do though. My drinking always led me to a black hole I couldn’t pull myself out of.
And there was that piper to be paid.
I read something years ago about civilizations that’s always stuck with me, or it might’ve been on a documentary on TV or whatever.
It was about one of those cities that set up shop at the base of a volcano. And of course the volcano blew its top because that’s what volcanos do. People were running around with their asses on fire and all that shit. But guess what? That’s exactly what the civilization needed, a major catastrophe to make them change. It took a volcano spewing lava all over their whole damn city before they decided to move.
It wasn’t until my ex-wife said that I’d “taken it too far last Christmas” on a Sunday afternoon that I experienced my own desperation, that smashed my cherry, fizzy glass of Alka-Seltzer into a thousand shards. She didn’t say anything more than that but that was enough. She had been on her phone with someone else and I saw a look detachment from her that I’d never seen before. A broken heart set free. She had let go and moved on.
The panic and fear overtook me that afternoon. I was sure that she was going to leave with Maggie, that she had found someone else, that she’d never come back from that day emotionally. The terror was endless, the horrifying possibilities and outcomes laid out before my eyes rattled me to the core. Shook my bones and instilled a fear of rejection in me that I hadn’t felt for a long time.
What I felt in one word was despair.
Tony calls it the “gift of desperation.”
There’s times when we see things off in the distance and they don’t mean much. We don’t pay much attention to them. Because they’re way, way over there. And then there’s other times when things are right in front of us and everything is all too real. We take those times seriously.
There comes a time when we, as alcoholics, know it’s time to stop. We turn a corner and everything changes. The desperation moves us along.
I played dangerous games, took incredible risks and lost. The consequences caught up to me. People went away and then I was sitting on the floor in an empty bedroom a couple of weeks past Valentine’s Day. Sitting with nothing but my own thoughts and cat hair tumbleweeds.
Maybe it’s obvious now that nothing, I mean nothing could plug my jug other than desperation. I’d fritter about and be sober for a day or two, a week here and there. But for longer spells, I really needed to be punched hard in the soul. I needed to wreck my car and not be able to drive away. Well, that never really happened. I always totaled the cars but you get my point.
I had to be filled with desperation from head to toe to fundamentally change, to get to that “soul shift” point. Where I didn’t want to drink any more because the pain of staying the same was greater than the pain of change. As it goes.
And then the good news to counter my sad is that if I, as an alcoholic, continued to drink like I did, continued living at the feet of a volcano, when I least expected it the volcano would erupt and my alcohol fantasy land would collapse.
So why did I write all of this since I’m so far removed from it in the here and now? I don’t know. A few paragraphs from this were originally in an email I sent to a friend a few years back and I needed to put it out there to the cosmos. If you’re an alcoholic, struggling with despair, you’re not alone.
For much of my life I’ve been internally combustible and physically uncomfortable. I felt ill and under and unequipped just being human. Even trying to be human. Too much shit gurgling in my stomach. Never ending mallet beating my heart. Intestines put on backwards and inside out. My thoughts whirling and jerking back and forth by some restless, mechanical bull.
I’m melodramatic, I know.
But when I found drugs and alcohol as a teenager that fixed me, that calmed the bomb and made life tolerable, comfortable. The whole reason why I drank as much and as hard as I did was because drinking brought me relief. And not only that but it took me to a place of adventure, a place I was fond of, a place without restraints. A feeling inside and out that nothing mattered, nothing could touch me, and I just didn’t give a fuck. If it was sunny outside then that was perfect and if it were raining then that was fucking awesome, too.
Of course being alcoholic there always comes a point where the watered down solution becomes a problem in itself. Becomes more of a problem than the anxiety I was trying to do away with.
And then when I did stop drinking the pressures of everyday life were back. More painful than ever. I didn’t have many skills to deal with them and oh boy, did the mechanical bull launch full throttle again. The first year and two I was sober I felt the craziest that I ever had my whole life. Like every nerve in my body was exposed, every sight a cause for alarm.
Am I going to be able to drive all the way home? I can’t even fucking think straight.
And every sound twice as loud.
Why is everyone talking through a megaphone?
In related news, it feels like there’s been ringing in my ears since I was nine.
Freshly sober my anxiety would have me up at 4:30 in the morning, pounding down the coffees. Other times I’d be up well past midnight, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Day and night making my combustion worse by not sleeping and pumping more toxins into my system.
In the here-and-now, even well into sobriety, when I’m uncomfortable my go-to reaction is to fix how I feel. Reach for cigarettes that aren’t there. Look for something outside of me to soothe the unrest within. Something, anything to take away the worry, the doubt, the paranoia. Unplug the melodramatic bull.
After I got back into 12-step recovery one of the most valuable tools that I learned was the cosmic pause. To take an interlude. To stop. For a moment. To breathe.
And also to learn how to feel my feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones. I’m sure I’ve quoted Tony before when he said, “those that make it are the ones who learn how to be uncomfortable.”
My last divorce was certainly uncomfortable and plenty difficult for everybody involved. Every time I would get a text message from my ex-wife my heart would race and I felt like I was holding a bomb. My hands would shake as I was pummeled with nervous, dizzy emotion. And it would all happen in an instant. Maybe kinda like a panic attack. :)
Then of course I would immediately read/react/reply, and the text messages would explode with overflowing wells of anger. Puke and shit everywhere. It was the same story with my first ex-wife except we’d actually be calling each other all frenzy-like since cell phones weren’t an everyday thing.
And then somewhere along the way the cosmos gave me some insight.
I didn’t have to respond to someone’s messages right away. I didn’t even have to read them right when my phone popped up an alert. Hell, I didn’t have to read them at all if I didn’t want to. Fucking spiritual revelation.
When I get in those kind of tense situations where I’m feeling nervous or unsure I do my best to simply pause. Accept that whatever I’m feeling is how I’m supposed to be feeling at that very moment. And then say a little prayer, sometimes a big one, and ask the cosmos for direction. I breathe out and imagine I’m exhaling the anxiety. Blow it out like the smoke that used to give me so much comfort.
On a side note, imagine taking a drag off a cigarette and then never blowing out the smoke. That choking feeling, that suffocation is how I feel when I only hold on to my emotions and don’t process them.
Anyways, absolutely not doing anything when I’m in a mess is almost always the right thing to do. I’m not good at reacting under pressure. Even more so when there’s barbed history. I usually make the situation worse if I act on that first impulse. I can easily freak out and go some place emotionally I don’t like being. So I pause and ride my emotional, mechanical bull until it powers down. Afterward the feelings subside, if not pass altogether, and then I’m able to make sound decisions with a clear mind.
My solution is always divine. No amount of material things will ever fix me. I need to reconnect with the cosmic spirit if I want peace. By letting the cosmos care for and guide me I don’t have to take on the burden of trying to fix myself, trying to manage my anxiety. Control whatever situation I’m in or even control how I’m feeling. I can just let go and know that the answers will come so long as I allow myself to be a complete human being. With uncomfortable feelings and all.
And back to that “holding a bomb” feeling.
The funny thing is I know now most of that was pretty much all about me. My gears grinding and circuits working overtime. My heart would beat so fast and there I was the one holding the mallet.
Mechanical bull up in my head, glaring eyes of red, snorting steam they said.
I can’t speak for my ex-wives or anybody else but it wouldn’t surprise me if both felt just as nervous as I did when they reached out to me. My behaviors and responses were unpredictable. At best. And divorces are messy, too. Emotions high. Feelings hurt. That in itself is reason enough for anybody to slow way the fuck down.
Most of my messages in the here-and-now are light and nonchalant. I’m overall calm. I don’t feel the mechanical bull winding up and bashing me around when certain people message me. I do my best to stay consistently plugged into the cosmos and walk that spiritual path. When I am and when I do, I’m not as eager to race ahead and react to fear, perceived or not. If I stay ahead of the anxiety game I’m less likely to lose when it’s time to play.
When I’m plugged in nothing can touch me either. I’m on that spiritual journey and get a text message bomb, then it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. Other people can behave badly and I don’t give a fuck. And that feeling of being okay is what I was after the whole time I was drinking. I was trying to get okay. I just made the mistake of using man-made fixes.
Physically uncomfortable and internally combustible. Life doesn’t have to be that way. More importantly, life’s not supposed to be like that.
I needed a better way to live. My solution has been always divine but there were things that I could certainly do.
So when I stopped chugging coffees after 8 pm was when I started closing my eyes and falling asleep come bedtime. When I stopped taking things so damn personal, when I stopped seeing people as threats was when I finally was able to relax and life wasn’t so loud anymore.
When I stopped analyzing and scrutinizing every detail and started trusting in the greater good of my fellow humans was when l started building meaningful, long term relationships.
When I stopped worrying about getting hurt was when I was finally able to love you guys.
When I stopped using quick fixes for the major problems was when I started to heal.
And then when I realized that most of what I thought was important in life was irrelevant, when I finally let everything go was when I was finally set free.
“I never knew I had anxiety. I just knew I needed another cigarette.” I don’t know who said that on NPR but I was all like “YES” when I heard it. ↑
Text-based conversation is possibly one of the worst things that has happened to modern communication. It lets people write things that they would never get away with saying to another person face-to-face. ↑
Just to throw this out there, some people need medication. I’m not saying that everybody can get by on a spiritual solution alone. But for me much of my anxiety was driven by how I lived my life. ↑
“…we are our very worst selves in fear. We are the most dangerous to ourselves and to each other.” -Brené Brown↑
This lady was eating popcorn with complete disregard for public safety
I was sitting in a room full of people that obviously have the same kind of interests that I do. But I didn’t know anybody. So I did the next rational thing which is to get on my phone, post on Facebook, and visit the event website. For some reason I had it in the back of my mind this was all related to anime or Pokémon or something.
I was quite wrong. It’s more akin to TED Talks but it gives everyone a chance to present. “Great!” I thought non-sarcastically.
We believe there is nothing social about online social networks, so get out from behind your screen and get to a live event, with real people, real communication…
So there I was at a live event, reading from the event website that I should put down my phone and socialize.
This is a tricky scenario for me. I don’t do well in groups of people, even more so when I don’t know the humans. It’s part of the story when I relapsed. I want to hang out with other like-minded people but group settings make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. Overstimulated. Like I’m in a swimming pool and there’s constant splashing. And too many people talking. And I have water in my ears. And there’s beach balls flying around. And I’m trying to keep myself from drowning. Maybe it’s not exactly like that but it’s close.
Drinking makes social gatherings easier. It lubes the conversations with people I don’t know. It feels like I’m wearing a life jacket when I drink. It takes the edge off. And I have too many edges. Too much shame and too many bullies when I was a kid or something. I doubt if I’ll ever feel confident or at ease in public.
And then also drinking makes me feel normal around other people. Like I fit in then. I’m part of a tribe that I’ve never belonged to. When I relapsed I was in a similar situation, a venue serving alcohol, surrounded by creative people enjoying themselves. And I was out of place. Without social skills. I didn’t know how to swim. And then I got a drink. And then the pool party wasn’t that hard. It wasn’t really a pool party but you get the analogy. And then that one drink last for ten years.
But I wanted to be at tonight’s PechaKucha event, wanted to get to know people in the area other than those in recovery. Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter but I also have a magnetic attraction to another set of people, ones who are artistically passionate. Because we’re similar. Same expressive wavelength. The art makers and art lovers. I’ve got something to say creatively, just as they do.
When I read the “get out from behind your screen” line I knew that I was doing it wrong. So I put my phone away and walked over to the greeter who had taken my money when I came in. I asked her how I could get one of the name badges some people were wearing. The lady told me those people were either helping out with the event or presenting that night. I asked her what time would I get to present. Because when I feel awkward I make jokes. She smiled and told me that I needed to fill out a form and maybe I could present at the next event in February. That was good enough.
I then saw Jaime and his wife across the room. He had invited me so I was happy to see him. And he wasn’t with a group of people. I hate when I feel like I’m standing on the perimeter, waiting for my turn to talk. I won’t even bother with that anymore.
Anyways Jaime, his wife, and I had a nice chat about the event and then meditation which was kinda surprising. But cool. Then the presentations got underway.
I left the event a little early to go to a 12 step meeting. I enjoyed myself at PechaKucha, got a dose of artistic socializing but it’s important for me to remember that if I hang around non-alcoholics too much there’s a good chance I’ll start to think that I’m non-alcoholic as well. But I’m not. When I drink at social gatherings I continue drinking afterward at home. On a Thursday night, well past my bedtime. And then when non-alcoholics are having their morning coffee I’m having a morning drink.
So I guess my takeaway for the night is that it’s important for me to get out. Replenish my artistic well. If I sit at home I’ll have nothing to write about, nothing to talk about. Other than my sad songs from yesterday. Well that’s not completely true but you get the point.
And finally social skills are like any other. I won’t be good at them unless I practice. Put myself out there. Go outside. (Albert gasp).
People always say that the 12 steps are in order for a reason. I guess I never really paid that much attention to that statement until after I was in recovery for a year or so. Looking back on my experience with Step 4 I know there’s no way in hell that I would’ve been able to write a searching and fearless moral inventory if I didn’t have a concept of God that I believed in. I just wouldn’t have.
Writing them was hard (I’ve done two) and I felt all kinds of feelings with the second one. Anger, shame, guilt, regret. Horror. Felt all the things that drinking kept me from feeling. I had burning resentments and sexual traumas. Had broken friendships and ruined relationships. And more.
I needed to pray for the strength to make it through, pray to that God concept each and every time I started writing. All those feelings I’d kept hidden under blankets and in boxes in the basement came up and out. Like boiling bubbles in a stock pot. I was finally feeling what I should’ve been feeling all along when I was drinking. Being in touch with that hideousness forced me to lean on, rely on that Higher Power. Reaffirm my decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God. Remember that a better way of life lay on the other side.
And I was willing to feel and deal with all my monsters if that meant that I didn’t have to drink again. If that meant that I didn’t have to be the person that I’d become. Be the person that I hated. That I was. I was willing to work the Fourth Step if it meant that I could be somebody new. Be a sober me.
Back in the Second Step it talks about being restored to sanity. Writing the Fourth Step is part of how and when that restoration happens. It’s part of how my life became manageable again.
This step also gives us the freedom to make our inventory however necessary, with the guidance of a sponsor of course. It doesn’t even say that we “wrote” it but only that we “made” it. I pay close attention to the wording of the steps as they are the program, they’re how we get and stay sober.
As an aside I got into a minor debate once with someone regarding if everyone should actually “write” their inventory. We need our sponsor’s input on how we make it and that doesn’t always mean that we write it. Why not? If a person is blind or if a person can’t read or write, then they need to do what works best for them to make their inventory.
The most important thing is that we make it. Don’t complicate or procrastinate.
I was also relived to find out that we don’t need to make a complete inventory but only a “searching and fearless” one. I wrote the best one I could at the time and the Tenth Step allows me to self-analyze and follow up on issues later as needed.
And after I put the pen down (because I wrote mine), I realized that doing my Fourth Step hadn’t kill me. It was horrible for sure but I made it through with only a deflated ego. And that was one of the best things that needed to happen to this alcoholic.
I also finally got some real relief. The kind of relief that drinking never gave me. Relief at the spiritual level. All of my secrets were no longer secrets, they were out in the open. At least on paper. After carrying around emotional trauma for so long it felt good when I was done.
So I made an inventory the best I could, took a look at the things that were holding me back, that were standing in the way of me being the best me that I could. And I thank God for the help I was given. Without God, I wouldn’t have been able to write those words.
Last night I heard an Al-Anon speaker say that she was very angry with her husband while he was drinking. But really she was scared. Scared for a variety of reasons, if he was going to really hurt himself, and so on.
When I was drinking my ex-wife was also very angry. The kind of anger where it felt like I couldn’t do anything right. And I took that very personal because, to me, it just seemed like she was constantly upset with what I was doing and what I wasn’t doing.
It really struck a chord with me, what the speaker said yesterday. Looking back now I can see that my ex-wife was also most likely scared. And frustrated. And hurt. I wish I could’ve seen through to her fear at the time. Seen her hurt instead of her aggravation. Seen her loneliness instead of her judgment.
I feel sad that I only saw her madness and didn’t or couldn’t see what was underneath.
After I’ve moved on and things have passed, it’s easier for me to have an objective look on what was really going on. But in the moment it’s too hard to detach from the then and there, even more so when emotions are high. We’ve all heard that anger is just a cover up but I only see the rage when it’s directed at me.
I started to tear up listening to the speaker because I felt like if I would’ve seen my ex-wife as simply being hurt and scared I would’ve done things differently when we were married.
Instead of reacting defiantly to her anger, I would’ve tried to react lovingly to her pain.