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.


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.

The Lake (6)

May 14, 2020


My Michelle

Her amazing body was all the ID she needed. But you were 16 years old and looked it, despite the balloon pants, tight shirt and shiny shoes she’d seduced you into wearing. She liked them on you and for her you would look stupid. Sometimes the bouncers let you in as a “favor” to Michelle. More often they did not. Either way you felt belittled. Frankly, getting in was even worse. You hated the music. And you especially hated watching all the men, twice your age, ogling Michelle at every turn.

In the beginning, Michelle had been okay simply hanging out and getting high or going to the movies but such adolescent activities clearly bored her. She was beyond it. You began stressing out over how to keep her interested in you. But with little money and less experience you had few options.

Trying to repeat the magic of that glorious afternoon you took Michelle to the lake. This time Rex was all over her, and short of getting into his car she did nothing to stop him. The other girls resented Michelle’s presence, disdaining her company, shunning her. Michelle gave two shits about them. She knew jealousy when she saw it. You were the monkey in the middle. You could not play the alpha male even if you tried.

To be continued…

A Chorus of Sirens

March 5, 2020


Everyone, you think, is some kind of addict. Be they active, recovering, or on the brink. Passions which are good become obsessions which are bad. People are self-seeking. This is the human condition, the result of Original Sin. Yearning. Craving. Lusting. Demanding. Wanting. Needing. Soothing. The seeds of addiction are there, have always been there. Many are able to temper these urges, denying the seeds what they need to flourish. But they’re still there. Waiting for a deluge, a perfect storm of misery or even joy… or just another shitty day. Then boom! Out comes the Hagen Das. The lonely housewife turns on the TV and never turns it off. An old man retreats to the garage for a smoke. Some concede to only a few addictions. Maybe they are harmless ones – a gardening obsession, collecting figurines. Or weird: like hoarding. Hidden from the world. In others the seeds erupt as soon as they touch a nerve, like weeds in a vacant lot. Out of control. You’ve met no one who has not succumbed to something. Drugs and alcohol are the poster children for addiction. But plenty else is out there.

Most of the jobs people do are motivated by addiction. The salesman would like nothing more than for everyone to be addicted to his wares. Many are called dealers. They give out samples. The chef wants you to crave his cooking, the barista her coffee. And so on. If one deconstructs any vocation creating and/or satisfying needs and wants were at its core. Your job in particular was culpable. In more than a poetic sense advertising worked every one of the seven deadly sins. The theme for your advertising blog: We make you want what you don’t need. Indeed. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a litany of demands that must be met.

You suppose teaching is not inherently linked to a type of addiction. Considered noble and selfless, teaching gets a pass. Undoubtedly, there are other clean human activities. But you are not trying to win an argument; you are merely making an observation. As an addict of many things you are wont to rationalize your behavior. This theory of yours is likely an example.

It’s late. You sit outside smoking your Swisher, a cheap “cigarillo” that dope smokers also use to lace their weed. On this night, as on most nights, you hear the coyotes wailing from the adjacent hills and valleys. They sound hungry or horny. Wanting something badly. Like a chorus of sirens. In Chicago, you would lie in bed at night listening to the police cars and ambulances, wondering where the fire was, if anyone was dead or dying. At the time you did not realize how much they sounded like coyotes. A thousand miles due south, where California ends and Mexico begins coyotes are what they call the nefarious men who smuggle illegals across the border, often using the same hidden paths and dried arroyos that the drug smugglers use. Illicit desires. Unsavory dealers. Whether it’s for a better life or merely a bag of heroin, there is unmistakable craving shot through all of it.