Tired.

April 20, 2021

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know what the f–k I’m doing. Sometimes, I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing. The operative word is “feel” because that is the variable, the thing that changes. Otherwise, I’m pretty much doing what is in front of me. But, man o man, I hate feeling like I don’t know shit. And lately, that feeling is all too common. Especially when it comes to the myriad details required to maintain a semblance of order in this chaotic, digital, diseased and polarized world. Just today I got another form letter from the IRS saying I owe X dollars for some miscue from 2019. I think it’s bullshit. But its on ME to prove otherwise. And you can’t just call the Feds. It’s a rabbit hole. A matrix. And then my insurance sends me another notice of denied coverage for an office visit my daughter made in 2020. Again, bullshit. again, on me to prove it. Every day these mosquitos invade my serenity. Add that to my full time job caring for sick people and trying to stay healthy and trying to work out and trying to try. A man gets tired. You feel me?

The Endless Friendless

February 19, 2021

Chasing friends was humiliating and losing them even worse. Yet, the pattern of loss was real. And you were the common denominator. Was Sarah right? Were you too sensitive? Are you an asshole? Your estranged brother seemed to think so. The letters from your father had been unequivocal.

It wasn’t just old friends. There were the people you had helped professionally. And now, when you needed a lifeline, they were ghosts. One man, call him James, lives only 5 miles from you. He runs an agency in San Francisco, whose parent company you’d gotten him the job at.  When his career had been faltering, as well as his marriage, you recruited him to Chicago and made him a partner. You saved him. James knows you need work and he knows what you can do. Yet, he’s not called you once.

Why?

You have beaten this horse to a pulp in therapy. You shared about it in AA. You discussed it with Sarah, your father, the man on the moon. Endured their subtle damning explanations, pointing at you.

People in the fellowship like you. What do they see that no one else does? Like most, you present the best version of yourself in AA. Was that it? Still, had your second best really been that bad? Enough to alienate Tom, Peter, David and James? Maybe your mother’s theory would explain this great mystery. You sure as hell couldn’t.

Your mom has been talking non-stop, about the harrowing and narrowing life of a 77-year-old woman, living alone. Brave yet often frightened, rarely lonely but leery of isolating, doing the best that she can. She’s thrilled that you called. She loves you. Goodbye.

Paragraphs from the Edge

February 13, 2021

ONE

“Hi sweetie!” your mom warbles. Abruptly, she asks you to hold on while she adjusts her hearing aids. A clattering of noises the dog yipping and she’s back. “Sorry about that!” Like always, her voice wavered between desperate and defiant. “These new hearing aids are supposed to fit my ears but they keep falling out.” She’s having a rough week, dealing with health issues, a sick dog, and the even sicker tenants at her assisted living facility. The theme was incontinence, to one degree or another. In the process of telling you about an old man who peed his pants in the elevator the call drops. Maybe she inadvertently pushed the wrong button. When she calls you back you do not ask her to repeat the story. You got the gist of it. Getting old sucked. Twenty-five years her junior and you were experiencing it for yourself. Bad eyes. Trick back. Chronic Indigestion. How long before either of you are pissing on elevators?

TWO

A chubby kid, you had no choice but to accept lesser status among your peers. It was the price of entry. Still, you once considered David your best friend. Sometimes he treated you shoddily. Other times he was nice. You were like his overweight girlfriend; he only hung out with you when no one else was around. You hated this injustice but you believed in the friendship. Underneath the bullshit you were certain David liked you. Came a morning you rapped on his door. You knew he was there. His bike was on the porch. But it was his mother who answered. Is Dave home, you asked? She replied he’d gone to the movies. It was a lie. You could hear him telling her to get rid of you. After that, things were never the same and the same hadn’t been that great in the first place.

The girls.

Despite your many defects, or just the one, the girls still wanted you home. You had evidence to support this. They didn’t mind nor were embarrassed you were a recovering alcoholic. They might have even thought it was cool. The night you drove Callie and her friends to In & Out, blasting Guns and Roses. Your girls respected your commitment to AA, and presumably to them. They knew you once were the shit in advertising; it still had currency, as both a point of pride as well as providing the means to pay for their horses, vacations and private schools. 

That said, you doubt they’d accurately processed your misadventures. One day they might understand. For now they were not even going there. Denial, forgiveness or something else their true feelings about your transgressions would likely never be fully revealed, and certainly not to you. Bottom line, they still loved you. And you would always love them.

Bill W. conceded that becoming entirely ready to remove our shortcomings may take time yet we should never say to ourselves, ‘This I will never give up!’ He underscored the word never. As in never shutting the door on possibility. For the path to right living lay just on the other side. There was a crack. You’d seen the light and were moving towards it, slowly. When Sarah went out for the night or on longer trips, you stayed home reading a book or watching a movie. When Sarah was home you spent time with her, talking about her day and yours, instead of retreating to your office. You forced yourself out of isolation, joining your family, for dinner or just conversation. Did you deserve a medal? Of course not. But doing the right thing did not come naturally. You must learn normal behaviors until they turned routine, acting as if they were natural until they became so. You had to reverse-engineer your humanity.

In the throws of your addiction, you couldn’t imagine stopping drugs and alcohol even though you knew they were killing you. The same for any addict, beneath the craving was a matrix of false assumptions. The first being that life wouldn’t be fun without booze and that you wouldn’t be either. But being an addict was no fun at all. You had also believed you would not be as creative straight, that your Libertarian right brain would go fallow without an endless supply of intoxicants, the same myth that wrecked a million artists, authors and musicians. In fact, you had to completely rewrite your first novel because you’d written it inebriated, its paragraphs rambling on like a drunken floozy at the bar. Had Ernest Hemmingway, Dorothy Parker and Charles Bukowski required spirits to write? If they hadn’t died ignominiously they might well have answered yes. But they were addicts and addicts have always justified their addictions. They had been blessed with talent before pouring alcohol on top of it. Not the other way around. Regardless, you were not Ernest Hemingway and would never be. Drinking like him only insured you would die like him, if not sooner. Countless other false beliefs permeated the drinker. It was a social lubricant, it helped you with the ladies, it gave you courage, and so on. Maybe for some people some of the time but for the chronic user those beliefs usually just lead to an ass kicking in the alley or whiskey dick in a motel room.

This I cannot give up…

February 1, 2021

If we place instincts first…we will be pulled backward into disillusionment.

The line is from the Twelve & Twelve – a book Bill Wilson authored some twenty years after writing the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Cliff notes for the 12 Steps. He suggested recovering alcoholics begin removing their character defects lest they fall back into drinking. In keeping with the program’s Christian pedigree, defects were defined as the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride.

Lust wasn’t first on the list for nothing. Bill Wilson wrestled with his sexual appetites before and after getting sober and writing his manifesto. He adored his wife, revered her. But history suggests he liked the ladies, too. In the Big Book substantial text was devoted to prurient urges run amok. “Now about sex,” he wrote, “Many of us need an overhauling there.” You love AA was written by a man whose flaws did not go away after putting down the bottle.

Perhaps we shall be obliged in some cases still to say, “This I cannot give up yet…”

You’re not so depraved as to think this a loophole for misadventures. But you’re not willing to stop all of them either. You hadn’t been pulled backward into disillusionment. You were not bewildered by your actions. Yet. You were not dying inside. Yet. Nor were you drinking and using.

Yet.

The word clung. You didn’t need a sponsor to tell you how thin the ice was getting. You knew that you were playing a dangerous game, not only with your sobriety but with your family as well. In fact, you talked about it with your sponsor. Told him everything. He knew the primary reason you hadn’t stopped. You liked it too much.