Thursday, March 4, 2010

The dark side of the moon

This blasted ranch is finally beginning to thaw and it is almost spring time, this means the volunteers are beginning to show up. Every year, volunteers from around the country come and work for a week or more on the ranch, you may recall I wrote about them with fondness last year; this year, it is with a little more contempt. I will say it did get annoying when 15 year old girls would pat me on the shoulder and say, “You are on the right track,” I mean, for chrissake, 15 years old? Really? What the hell do they know. I tolerate them, but only slightly. This is a common feeling of all the guys in my phase, the new guys still see the novelty in having them on the property.

As I write this, I am somewhat unnerved by the idea that I have less than 100 days left at Rehab Ranch. I met with Art, my case manager yesterday and we started speaking about my transition planning, and what my life will look like the day I walk off this farm for good. There is a bit of apprehension I feel in myself, the idea that this experience will be completed soon.

And then as I walked to the chow hall yesterday after my meeting with Art, I began thinking about this season, I began to notice the days are getting longer, and how it was this time last year when I began preparations for moving up here. I was still drinking, but I began to accept and mentally prepare for the next step in my life’s journey, the one that would happen only after I came up on this farm.

I remember last year when I started this whole thing, the concept of being here, at this time, it escaped me. Forward thinking is one of the first things an alcoholic loses when they begin to drown in their addiction. Successes are measured in pints and liters and gallons, not in weeks or months or goals met. So here I am, winding down, watching the newer guys as they move up through the program, understanding their progress.

But the volunteers. They signal something. They are the manifestation of the progress of time to me. They have returned in full force. The cycle is nearing the end for me, I am nearly complete. I use the word “complete” intentionally. In Greek, the word Telios means ‘complete’ it also means ‘perfect’. When you study Greek philosophy and literature, you will often see people referred to as ‘teliotic’ or having achieved ‘telios’ and while we translate this to mean ‘prefect’, I prefer to think of ‘perfect’ as ‘complete’ – This is also, ironically, what the dark side of the moon is referred to, the telios of the moon.

So, I am nearing completion, but after my talk with Art, I had to decide what that meant, what does complete mean to me? It could mean that I don’t drink, I have a well rounded life, I have things to keep me free from the isolation of alcoholism. Existing in isolation, it’s what hurt the most for me. Completion could mean that a journey has ended, and therefore I will be ready for the next one. The next cycle.

There is something else though. Completion for me, in this program, isn’t ‘having it all,’ or even ‘just finishing’. Here’s how I see it. My life isn’t a circle, I am three dimensional. My life is a sphere. When a sphere is exposed, there is one part that everyone sees. Like the moon, it is the part of the sphere that faces the world, it is what I think of as my reputation. My reputation is the relationship I share with everyone who casts a bit of light on my life – indeed, the whole rest of the planet. This is where so many of us shine. Indeed, even on this blog, in my ‘about me’ section I write about how I ‘shine in the spotlight.’ I look good in direct light, I might say – in other words, I am pretty good at working my reputation, I parcel out what I want people to see.

In a 12 step program, one of the steps is to admit to God and to another human being the exact nature of our wrong doings. I speak candidly about things I have done, people I have mistreated, situations I regret here in this blog. I share it with over a thousand people a week. I don’t do it as a response to the 12 steps, in fact, I find that I follow many of the steps unknowingly, but they work in my recovery, and they work for millions of people. (I know, can you believe it, I had a nice thing to say about AA) But I spoon feed my new reputation, and you should know there is a LOT more going on inside that I don’t share, there are many things in this orbit that only I know about myself.

My proverbial days are getting longer through this process. I am exposing more and more for public consumption and this has an ability to free me from my addiction. There is a sense of escape when I lay it all out on the line like this, like as soon as I give it away, it is gone. There is a bible verse in the book of Joel, 2:25, that I love, ‘I will return to you the years the locusts have eaten.’ I love this verse because it is a sort of promise of redemption. I have gone from sobriety, to recovery, and now, I hope to move to a state of redemption. So many years I have lost to a bottle of gin. So many opportunities that escaped me. So many moments which were clouded by the saturation of intoxication. And these are returning to me, my years are being returned. I have become sober, I have healed, and now, I want to get some of what I lost back.

Through all this, I feel free from the shackles addiction. While I will always be addicted to alcohol, I need not let that control me. I am not controlled by the thought that its almost Friday and I need to get a drink. I am no longer controlled by the having to come up with excuses for a poor job at work, or missing a family event. I am no longer controlled with transportation to and from the liquor store, or blocking out part of my morning for the expected hang over. I am not controlled by this, I have my frickin life back and I want more of it.

And this all seems really great, but there is that unlit part. This is the part that people don’t see, the part that only I see. This is where addiction might hide – on the side of the telios. It is not seen, it is not viewed, it isn’t even noticed. No one has ever seen the dark side of the moon from Earth, the same side of the moon we see every night always faces the planet. But, surely there is another side to the moon. It is a sphere, it is complete, it is perfect - telios.

This is the side that I call integrity. It is the part of me that only I see. Integrity also means wholeness, completion, how strong something actually is you may note. When we discuss a building, for instance, we always talk about ‘structural integrity.’ What kind of person am I? Integrity is not a conditional word, it is not open for interpretation. It does not change with the wind, the cycle of the moon, or if I am out at a bar with friends, or if I am trying to impress someone, or if I am simply home alone and no one will ever know what I am doing. It is what it is, integrity is what I see when I wake up and saunter to the mirror, it is my inner image. If I look in the mirror and I see a man who does not cheat at life, then I know that I never will.

I fully believe in living this kind of life, a life whereby I am sober because I want to be, not because I feel like I have to show it to people. I am all for living in the dark side of the sphere, I am all for integrity if only because life is short and a good reputation is not always easy to come by, and, just like the moon, sometimes it shines bright, sometimes it shines in little slivers, sometimes it doesn’t even shine. But the other side, its constant.

The benefit is there is no tension to all this. If I make a mistake, I own it, if I do something and don’t get credit, no big deal. The stress of managing my reputation no longer impacts the side of the sphere where I live, and that is the kind of stress that makes me want to drink.

Integrity is not a difficult concept. Babies know it. Babies are real, what they are on the bright side is the same as who they are on the dark side. As I have discovered through this whole thing, we tend to make simple things way too complicated, including sobriety.

So perhaps it is good that I am almost complete with the program, I am almost complete in becoming the person I have become. I might even lighten up with the volunteers, I might look past the frozen ground or the resulting mud puddles. Telios, means complete, whole, perfect.

Yea, it feels perfect. It feels pretty damn good.

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