God Is… or isn’t.

June 25, 2020

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It’s one of several lines in the Big Book you balked at. There aren’t many mind you. But this one feels religious, not spiritual. God didn’t make this claim. He, She or It wouldn’t. A person did. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Almost every idea, if not word, in Step 2 belies the absolutism of God is or He isn’t.

God, like truth and love, are big ideas – the biggest. But they are still only concepts and therefore open to interpretation and gradation. We must tell people the truth “unless it would injure them or others.” Truth could be parsed. Contradictory statements may both be true. Homicide might be murder or manslaughter, voluntary or involuntary. Which is truer becomes a matter of opinion. Conditional love is still love, is it not? Maybe not pure love but better than no love at all.

The ultimate leap of faith, God remains unprovable. “Coming to believe in a power greater than yourself” is a process, not an outcome. Many people have gotten sober without subscribing to an all or nothing God, including you. Scores have achieved long-term sobriety without God at all.

There is a devout atheist at your gym. You know this because he always wears tee shirts proclaiming his atheism. You’ve counted three different shirts so far. It’s weird. Unsettling. You would feel the same way about someone wearing a worshipful tee shirt. Promoting such a personal belief strikes you as, if not wrong, off putting. That said, one of the atheist’s tee shirts makes you laugh: In the beginning man created God and then all the problems started. Is it funny because it’s true? Maybe. Yet wearing the joke on his sleeve seems inappropriate. Even to you.

 

Switcheroo

June 22, 2020

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Remove the Christian gravy from AA and it’s just a program of substitutions, a replacement strategy for better living. Replacing barrooms with fellowship, selfishness with service. Honesty replaces duplicity. And so on. First and foremost, however, one had to replace the booze. Here Bill Wilson made a crucial decision: the surrogate for alcohol would be God, later amended to a Higher Power, as you understand him. The amending was due to the polarizing nature of God. Bill understood (correctly) most drunks; “self-serving in the extreme” would be put off “turning their wills over” to a deity, especially one from their neighborhood church. The amendment was added to make the program easy to swallow, like booze. To this day the God thing remains the biggest obstacle for people entering the program. Certainly, it was for you. To get there you had to concede that the bottle had become your higher power, literally bringing you to your knees. That was the easy part. You were powerless over alcohol. Duh. Replacing this Godhead, however, would not be so easy. It required serious magic from a talented magician… God. Even if you didn’t believe in Him, Her or It, the grandness of the plan made sense. How could it be otherwise and work?

Radar

June 16, 2020

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You‘re different around people, seldom for the better. For the longest time you believed it was you alone who’d suffered this way: the flutter in your stomach, the faint patina of sweat on your brow and, regrettably, the overcompensation of self. Make men laugh. Turn women on. You had to create an impression… or else.

You had ludicrously sensitive radar, capable of detecting and amplifying all manner of human behavior. The way bats and sharks sense their prey or a dog’s keen sense of hearing. You too were so blessed. Beyond just moods and personality, people brought energy into a room and you’d sense it. Hand gestures, the way a husband touched his wife at a party, or didn’t. Eye movements, when a pretty woman glanced over your shoulder at someone else in the room. Her perfume, his aftershave, and the perspiration it hid. The argument they had before coming to the party… or to work…or to your house. Anywhere. Anyone. You could feel all of it, or so it seemed.

Hating this feeling, you assumed a couple pops might loosen you up, make you more comfortable, more social. A common strategy for others for you it never worked. Liquor didn’t quiet your nerves as much as gave them somewhere to hide. Temporarily. Inevitably, they would erupt from your mind like the roaches in that storage unit. Then you said cruel things or acted out, alarming friends and infuriating loved ones. Booze did not quash the radar. Instead of simply being nervous you became drunk and nervous. Why this had taken so long for you to comprehend was a mystery of alcoholism. You smoked weed for over 20 years, even though it made you uneasy and paranoid. It was the same with Cocaine. In the end, you chose the bottle over people. Alcohol wasn’t the problem, they were. Alcohol wanted you alone. So, that’s where it took you.

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In the waiting room, you walk past an older woman, no doubt Mia’s next appointment, flipping through the pages of a magazine. She gazes up at you. Tired eyes. Thin lips. She has the face of someone forgotten, lost. You sense irritation as well. You were yet another man taking up her space.

“I’m sorry,” you say, offering a feeble smile. “If it’s any consolation you’ve come to the right place.”

You exit the dimly lit complex into the bright parking lot. The sun burns through the morning fog, like it always does, only the hint of mist still remains. All the cars glint as if in a showroom. Shielding your eyes, you squint to find yours. You’d forgotten where you’d parked it, like you always do.

New chapter coming soon…

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More truth.

“So, me not crying is steeling myself against future pain?” You phrase it as a question but it comes out an answer.

Mia confirms it. “You developed a way to cope with pain, to numb yourself. Which is why you don’t cry in AA meetings and you close your eyes when others do.”

Eyes Wide Shut is the name of the last film Stanley Kubrick directed before he died, a strange story about a couple confronting their sexual fantasies. You don’t remember the movie very well, or having liked it, but the title resonates with you now. The logline: Sometimes a man can see more clearly with his Eyes Wide Shut.

You look at the clock. Your fifty minutes have evaporated. Mia let the session go long. The courtesy embarrasses you. You violated the contract. You rise, quickly.

“Sit down,” she says. “I know what time it is.” Mia knew how you felt regarding this relationship and your desire never to take advantage of it. She was also aware of your propensity for flight when things got real.

You sit.

“I have a cushion between appointments.” Mia explains. “Normally I use the time to reset, to go the bathroom, whatever. But in this case I’m making an exception. Because I feel this is important…” She looks at you, directly. “Are you okay?”

At first you don’t answer. Then, softly: “Is this intimacy?”

Mia continues looking right at you, with compassion, with the eyes of a caregiver. “You are not a sociopath.”

To be continued…