Monday, July 27, 2009

It's ALL in the Container!

Well, the weekend away on my pass was certainly a busy one. I was under the impression that three days would go by very quick, but in fact the opposite is true. Most of what I thought about this weekend wasn’t accurate. The people I thought would know how to treat me were unclear how to do it and those that I thought would find my gradual metamorphosis unnerving were completely unphased by it. And while at first glance, this would seem like an unlikely inconsistency, it actually makes more sense this way.

It could be that the people who I thought would know how to react, people who I thought knew me well enough to instinctively adapt ACTUALLY DO KNOW ME. They are the ones that witnessed that person I left as, and can see the person that I am becoming. And because they care about me, I need to give them the opportunities and tools and time to adjust. The people I thought would be shocked by the change, PROBABLY NEVER KNEW ME. These people I am the same person and they didn’t need to adjust the way they treat me.

The weekend went well. Along with the down time I spent with family, I witnessed and heard about the kind of drama that fills my close friend’s lives, the kind of drama I was once a willing participant in, and the kind of drama that seems like such a world shaking event when its happening to you and the world exists in the small bubble that we all, as people, tend to create.
I thought that by coming to the ranch, with limited access to the world, and limited access to people and restrictions on my freedom that I would feel suffocated by the smallness of it all. But in fact, the opposite is true. My circle has grown so large because now I feel like I am being given the time to put things into perspective. My world view is a vast panorama of the possibilities. In horse training, you're told, when you take a horse out on the prairie, if you intend to get very far, you only pack what the horse can carry. You learn to travel light. When I came here, I got rid of a lot of baggage and I’m travelling pretty light. My sister wrote to me about this a while back, that she believes that letting go of things was a critical part of my recovery – and it shall remain a critical part of maintaining sobriety forever. When you have a bad apple in a small basket, all you see is the bad apple. But when you put that same bad apple in the middle of a deep canyon, the apple seems like a speck of an issue.

And my problems were like the apple. And all of this comes as such a GIGANTIC shocker to me because I thought that my recovery would be focused on the contents of my basket, not on the basket. And, while many guys here (and many people out there) want to focus only on this bad apple (how do I fix or deal with my problems) – I’m achieving a good amount of peace by learning how to deal with the container instead (in the big picture, is this really worth this much emotional effort) – the basket vs. canyon approach. (Hmm, this may explain what a ‘basket case is’…. Doubtful, but this makes sense doesn’t it?)

But I realized that the problems I had before – the problems like ,”Am I going to get that job?”, “Is so and so sleeping with so and so?”, “Am I too fat, am I too short, am I funny enough, am I popular?”, things like “You didn’t text me, you didn’t call me, are you cheating on me?” All these things were big issues for me, and I do not discount anyone for dealing with them. But stepping back for a while, it becomes harder and harder to see these temporary problems as the types of things that require the energy I once invested in them. [But, don’t give me a computer virus when I am trying to upload photographs on myspace twenty minutes before I have to leave because I will nearly blow a gasket. (inside joke)]

Because now, I’m beginning to think more and more that happiness is only part of the equation. I know, weird, huh. Everyone just wants to be happy – and I say JUST because I want to point out the limit of JUST HAPPY here for just a minute. Most of my life, I have considered myself happy. Most recently, I had a long relationship with someone who made me very happy. I had a job that made me happy. I had a nice place, a good car, friends, a new cell phone, clothes, a great family, and I was happy. But I’ve only recently achieved JOY. And the feeling of joy is different. I think you can be sad, but not sink into depression. I think it’s possible to be happy and not live joy. And there is a certain joy I feel now.

You remember when I first started writing this blog, I said I felt like I needed something and I couldn’t understand what it was. I kept saying I had a blockage and needed to numb a pain and so I drank – well, drinking (for VERY short times) briefly synthestized the kind of joy I feel now naturally – an undercurrent of euphoria – not overwhelming, but sustainable. It fills you up. But I feel this joy, not because I am sober – instead, because by being sober, I have been able to take the time to see things and feel things and understand things that I once hid from. And I’d like to think that, by travelling on this journey of reflection on the path to lifelong sobriety, I can keep my idle speed in my heart’s transmission on Joy. It’s a nice constant current to experience.

I want the fruits that grow from my spirit to be peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and love. Against these things, the harshness of the raw world has no real ammunition and the safety I once sought in a fake barrier of inebriation is becoming a real barrier of emotional safety created by JOY. I still have work to do – In my mind, at times, I found myself reverting to some old ways of thinking while I was away for the weekend with what I thought about people, but I was able to come back here before I was lost in these thoughts. Baby steps… and each time I go away from here, I hope to be given the challenges to apply new skills – like practice tests for when I make the launch back into the real world. My peace is not dependent on my sobriety, my sobriety is dependent on my peace.

And when I was there, I saw so much discord from so many friends – relationship problems, etc. One very special friend to me is being consumed by the bad apple in his basket – and as a result, he is changing. He told me its because ‘he just wants to be loved,’ and this makes sense because I chose drinking because I couldn’t notice everyone who loved me. And someday, I can only hope he will look out and notice he is loved already – by many people – and suddenly the basket becomes the canyon. And while my immediate reaction was to save him, I’ve realized that its his journey and no one who tried to save me from myself ever succeeded. Not One Person. And accepting change isn’t easy. In fact, its God given. In fact, the only people ON THE PLANET who love change, who anticipate it, and who welcome it, are babies and children. Somewhere we learned to dislike change, but children and babies JUST LOVE IT!

So saving people can not be part of my recovery. I think its ludicrous when an addict begins to “convert” other people and I WILL NOT DO IT. As if I am standing on a chair and I see someone in trouble. I may want to pull this person up on the chair with me but I have to have a lot of substance, a lot of strength, a lot of balance in order to do this. And I am not there yet and may never be there. So instead, I can just wait and step to the side when this person decides to climb up on the chair on his own.

This weekend, I also noticed that I feel AWESOME that I can now be a source of happiness to people where I was once a source of frustration. There were times that I would be in bed and I could hear Alex crying because I was drunk. I would fall or stumble and once Alex put me safely to bed at night, Alex would cry. Alex doesn’t know it, but I could hear it. And one good thing about the way things are now is that I know that at night, Alex no longer weeps because of me. In fact, when I saw Alex this weekend, there were smiles, there was happiness, light, and we hugged. And I am sorry I ever made this person cry themselves to sleep. Never again.

In terms of recovery, I don’t think that making amends means calling someone up and apologizing, sometimes, it means correcting something you did by making someone feel the way you always wanted them to feel anyway. Making Alex feel like this wasn’t how I really felt – but living a life of deep deception is standard for an addict or alcoholic…. Very little is real. In fact, you don’t ever take drinking to the point of alcoholism unless you are a master of deception whether you know it or not (a true master of deception manages to deceive even himself). And generally, once you’ve deceived your way into addiction, suddenly the curtain falls and no one is convinced except yourself. This is when you should probably get some help.

But, all in all, the weekend was great. The three days were enough. I did what I went there to do and came back unscathed and happier and a new vigor for doing what I am doing here. On the way back to the ranch, I stopped to see Alex and I ran in to a co worker. And at first I was uncomfortable that the co-worker knew where I was and he was asking me about it, this person who was no more than an acquaintance to me greeted me with an enthusiasm, with a support, with so much dignity and respect – and I realized from an almost stranger, that there is no shame in rehab, there is no shame in what I am doing. I realized that when that curtain of deception falls, and people see that the wizard is just a man…. Its quite OK.

So the drive home was shorter than I thought, and when I got back, it was indescribable. From the moment that I got out of the car to the moment I got into bed, I was greeted with ‘WELCOME HOME,’ “We missed you,’ by the guys who are on the new life journey with me. And it was all sincere. And I spent the evening laughing at the countless stories the guys wanted to catch me up on. I felt like I missed so much! The jokes, the events, the stories, they were all eager to bring me back in to the fold and make me feel safe.

And so last week I was nervous that I wasn’t going to fit in to my herd after I visited them this weekend; but like so many things about this weekend I was wrong about, I realized that I DO fit into my herd. And MY HERD, here, was so happy to see me when I got back to the ranch. Again, it was the container that needed to change.

Oh, I started the education component this week, so I will be blogging more frequently because of more access to the computer – which means the blogs will be shorter – I know, WHEW!! (But probably more frequent.)

The only regret I have is that on Friday, I never got a chance to watch Bonnie Hunt’s show…. And so…


Peace all.

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