Saturday, December 5, 2009

Get REAL! I'll never steal grapes again....

Well, folks, I am now a phase 3 guy. I learned that I was approved to phase on Wednesday and I had the phasing ceremony on Friday, its official. I will tell you, if you asked me 6 months ago about getting to phase 3, I would have laughed and said 'Probably not,' and yet, here I am.

One of the perks of being in phase 3 is getting our cell phones back. I checked mine on Friday afternoon and had a text message from a girl friend, a former co worker, and someone that I consider a great confident, that said, "I need to talk to you, but can't right now, can I call you later?"

It sounded urgent so I texted back, "Sure, is everything OK?"

The reply, "Yes, I read Tina's article."

The shock this sent through me was immediate. I had done a fairly decent job of working on my rehabilitation and not having this bleed into my other life, the life I planned to leave in tact so I could return to it, seamlessly, and no one would be the wiser.

When we finally spoke, she brought it up, and her reaction was one I had not prepared for. I had prepared for the snide comments, and the mocking comments, I had prepared for the concerned comments and the comments from people who were wishing me well.

Her reaction was almost apologetic. She said, in a somber tone, "I'm at a loss, I didn't even know that you were having any problems, I feel like I should have known," And the shock this sent through me was super charged. We spoke and she told me that she read my blog and I mentioned my cousin who killed herself, and she told me that she had a close uncle who did the same thing this past June, less than 6 months ago.

Her story and her comments were familiar to me. She spoke of the confusion of not knowing, of the loss, of the resentment, of the sadness she felt, she spoke about her regrets with it, and how that death has put her life into some semblance of order, she prioritized things.

And what struck me about this conversation is that, it seems to me that everyone has a story to tell about this. It seems to me that everywhere I look, once people know that I am doing this, other people are eager to describe their anguish, loss caused by addiction. I know that they tell me this because I am someone who will not judge, and I think they tell me because it might help me to feel that I am not alone. I will tell you, living with my addiction was the most alone I have ever felt, and recovering from it is the most comfortable I have ever felt. The support is amazing, and when people learn that you are being real about it, they seem to come out of the woodwork and help you get through it.

And I mention this because I have been getting a lot of letters and comments about treatment, good questions like, "Is it like prison," "Do you guys chant," "Is there a lot of therapy circles, touchie feelie stuff," and I am glad people are asking - when I considered coming to rehab, these were the kinds of real questions I also had. And I hope this blog addresses some of those things. Its not scary, its not a bad environment, my experience has been positive - but I have had to work at it - and work very hard - and dig - and reach out - and face certain realities about myself and my past and my heart and soul that haven't been fun.

But, in the end, I am healing. And the people around me are healing. And there is no better reason to do this than that. There has to be an end in sight, then you jump off the cliff, and you do the work, and then you get the reward - health, happiness, forgiveness, and you get to be real - the real you that you know you are.

We are beginning a component of therapy called 'Band of Brothers,' and this is a spiritual look at the roles we have as men once we're sober. This part of the therapy deals with things like what kinds of husbands, boyfriends, sons, brothers, fathers, friends we need to be. It kind of gives us a blueprint of how to apply the things we learned about living like a decent human being to our relationships with people. This isn't about repairing your past, its about preparing your present and future.

The thing about this component is that it really helps us to remove some of those deceptive masks we wear as addicts and make ourselves vulnerable to reality. We wear masks to get people to believe we are a certain kind of person, we wear them because we are often afraid of showing who we really are, and removing those masks is about the only way to live, its how we become real, take it or leave it, like us or not.

I thought that I had already been doing this, but one thing about the past week is that I am finding that people, like that girlfriend who didn't know I was even having a problem, are still looking at the mask. It felt cathartic to have the article in the paper, but the masks to my close friends and family still remained, and this component on the ranch is about removing these masks. It's raw, and it's real.

It doesnt mean calling everyone up and making a bunch of uncomfortable statements either. Geezus, I hate when drunks do that. I mean, that can get a little bit creepy if you ask me, and just because I am here and exposed doesn't mean everyone else is in the same place emotionally - in fact, most people aren't. One thing I can NOT stand about a recovering addict is how they try to force their changes, their rawness, their new perspective on other people. For chrissake, I will NOT do this. No one wanted to hear my emotional episodes when I was drunk, I can guarantee no one wants to hear about them now that I am sober.

Real change doesn't mean that you need to wear this on your sleeve. It's not about making everyone see that you have changed. Living the change is when you know and believe in your own progress. Living as a new person, living according to the standards I set for myself and have put in place through my recovery is how I maintain change. I don't need to spend my time proving my changes or looking for opportunities to enact these changes at the pleasure of my audience. If I decide I am not going to walk around the grocery store and eat grapes out of a bag before I've paid for them just because it's right, and not because I am afraid of getting caught - well, thats a perfectly acceptable reason not to do that. Right? If I decide that I am not going to drink ever again because I don't like what it does to me and not because I am afraid of loss or disappointment, well, that's perfectly acceptable.

True realness is looking at the man in the mirror and saying "I kind of like the guy who's staring back at me."

And, these days I do, but it hasn't been easy and it hasn't been fun.

Oh, so I got a job, I am excited about it, I begin next week. Its great to begin living like a real person again and saving money. I am also running an 8K race next week, my first official race. I was reading this blog a few days ago, and I joked back in May, 'Hey wouldnt it be funny if I ran a marathon by this time next year,' and.... well, this plan looks like it can happen, the Colorado Marathon is in May of 2010.... This plan is real.
Reality seemed so scary at one point, and now I'm happy to embrace it. The thing about reality is that you don't really have much opportunity to escape from it, it's there, its not even a matter of hiding from it, it is what it is. And the thing I like about what's happening is that we are being taught that who we really are isn't all that bad, and that all that time I spent trying to not be me was pointless. This is how sobriety has to work this is how recovery works - I've identified the problems (physical and emotional and biochemical), I've faced many issues, I've solved many issues, I have rectified where I could and let go where I have had to, and now, the solution isn't a nice neat package, its a jumbled hodge podge of things that I could fix and things I couldn't, but either way, it is what it is, and I have to live with it. That's real life, baby.
It was such a waste of time, all that drunkeness. It makes me laugh at myself through a few tears - I just nod my head in disbelief sometimes. I like this life now, it's real.

Anyway, have a great weekend.

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