Friday, May 21, 2010

Whats the solution? "Eh, I dunno."

Spring time on a farm means one thing, baby animals! We have a new baby sheep on the farm, a lamb who is making quite the splash around this area. Churches want him to come visit, schools want him to visit, heck even a restaurant (maybe they are sizing up the next veal special).

Phillip was asked to take the lamb to a congregation in town this past Sunday to show it to a bunch of kids. Lambs are biblical to say the least and it’s a cool way for a church to get kids excited about something Old-Testament-ish. As a general rule, most children don’t much care for the angry vengeful God of the Jews.

So Phillip pranced this happy little lamb into a crown of adoring kids while the Minister began to explain the biblical significance. It just so happens that at this point in the lambs life, the tails are removed. They get in the way, they get damaged, and they are unneeded. The method top remove a lamb tail is like castration; we tie a band around the tail, cutting off the circulation until the tail eventually falls off.

Which is precisely what happened, while a baby lamb was being showcased by Phillip at the church. The ensuing pandemonium of terrified children, screaming as a sheep tail spontaneously popped off the lamb and began to squirt blood all over the church floor was certainly Old Testament inspired and could hardly be planned.

Children, parents, and the church elders were shocked as Phillip tried to calm the lamb – who was by this point, was equally as terrified and running around the church, squirting blood all over the floor and walls and chairs. When he finally calmed the sheep, and parents had finally calmed their horrified children, Phillip explained why we do this to sheep and it seemed like a somewhat acceptable answer. In fact, one girl asked, “If God didn’t want sheep to keep their tails, why didn’t he just make them without tails?” To which Phillip replied, “Because we must all have some suffering in our lives.”

He has a way with kids.

The next day, Phillip graduated the program and his speech was summed up basically by saying, “Well, you know in life, sometimes shit happens. You just gotta deal with it”

And no one could argue. It was a good graduation and ended in an appropriate manner.

This week, graduation fever has hit the ranch, with FOUR graduations in one week. The first was Phillip, and then Kevin. Kevin had been in the program once before, 7 years ago – and he never lost sight of his goal to be sober. The 7 years between stays in the program were hard on him and he admitted that he may not have been ready to stop the first time.

This time, he worked a wonderful program and he is a happy spirit. At 49, he says he is ready to start his life again. I think that there are some of you that read this and may say, “WOW, 49, that’s old,” but as far as I am concerned, there is no ‘right’ time to get life in order, you just do it when it feels right – any age. He can not look at the wasted years with regret or it will destroy him, he now has to look at the decades he has left with hope. There is no turning back and I firmly believe that when you leave the ranch, you are allowed to leave all that crap in your life there – like cosmic compost, it will fertilize the new guys that come in.

And this week marked two other graduations; two which have had a profound impact on me.

The first two guys in the group of five that I came in with and grew so close to graduated this week. Now, when we began the program, we were determined to finish it together. We were told by so many people that, statistically, only one of us would make it. We were told that we would probably not remain friends – but we confidently worked the program with the support of each other and we have built a foundation of friendship that will leave with us as we leave the ranch.

We came in alone, broken, and lonely people. We grabbed sobriety with a zest, we opened the next chapter of our lives with enthusiasm, and we never left a single guy in their moment of need. Over the past year we learned a sober way of living and we learned the value of friendship. It is comforting to know that loneliness, so long a reason to drink, will have four other souls to answer to before it comes to grab me again.

Marty was the first. His graduation was marked by a quiet speech in which he thanked everyone, including me, Brian, Lane, and Curtis by name. This was a grand moment to watch him be the first to complete the program (I will be the last and have the good fortune to be able to say good bye to each of them because of that).

Later, he got his Jeep, and I ran into him as he was leaving the ranch – his jeep loaded, his bike on top, and him sitting in the drivers seat. I was walking behind him on the lonely dirt road that runs down the middle of ranch and I began to run behind and wave enthusiastically– and he was driving away and waving back at me.

As he left, I felt the loss immediately. While I am sure we will remain friends when we leave, this important, overlapped, section of our lives is over. We will no longer live together here, we will no longer have parallel experiences here. What brought us together is now what is forcing us to part. Now is the time when all that we learned about sobriety, about our new lives, about our friendship gets put into practice. It’s unnerving. But I also know that Marty is on a journey, a vision quest, and the ranch was not the end of his journey, I believe it was his beginning. He needed to get sober, and now he can seek what it was inside himself that wanted to kill him.

I believe that he has something lurking and tormenting him and he needs to find it – its addiction at its most poetic – the tortured and wandering soul. But now, I believe he’s got some weapons and a taste of freedom, and I think he will confront it when he’s ready and I hope he will end his soul ache.

Lane also graduated. He asked me to speak, to which I gladly obliged. Lane is an artist and I believe he DID find what was torturing him. Lane operates on a vibration of sensitivity to the rest of the world that few people can imagine. He is hyper aware of every nuance in behavior, of every slight, of every hurt, joy, pain. I believe it was his hypersensitivity that caused him to drink. I think he tried to numb this.

Over the past year, Lane has done something quite remarkable. He first identified, then grabbed that sensitivity, that very quality which was killing him – the quality of destruction – and he boldly faced it. He harnessed it, and he controlled it and now, what once nearly put him in the ground has BECOME the ground which great creations spring. His art and his talent is amazing, he has turned his curse into a gift he shares with the world.

I believe that the weight of a blessing will crush you if you don’t accept it the way it was intended. I believe that God instills in each of us something of tremendous value. Inside of Lane was this vibrant sensitivity, his ‘gift,’ and it almost crushed him. Inside of you, there is something you are supposed to share with the rest of us and I hope you understand your role in the harmony of humanity, your duty to develop and share it.

Some of us know how to use it and give, and there are others, who perhaps are bestowed with almost angelic abilities, divine gifts with tremendous magnitude and potential, must figure out what to do with all this – but this is where greatness comes from, this is where a regular life becomes a great legacy and these are people who are chosen by whatever creates the universe, to continue to create. Lane is a foot soldier in the process of creation and I am honored to have a front row seat to all this.

It is our cosmic mission to learn what to do with our gifts and blessings. I believe that, armed with a handle on his newly discovered and harnessed cosmic mission, Lane no longer NEEDS alcohol.

Its interesting to me, these two guys, how different they are – one so far from his destination and the other, already on the road to the next one. One needed to stop drinking so he could discover himself, the other had to stop so he could share himself. Mind you, it was addiction which brought them here. I am glad that I have been able to see them graduate at the same time because in all this one thing I realized is something which I have begun to suspect.

There is no magical answer to what I am doing here, there will not be one magical solution to the end of my time in rehab. I might need time, like Marty, to tend to some unfinished soul business. Or I may be like Lane, settled in to a new contentment with sobriety. Or something completely different.

But the fact is, I don’t have to have the answer and I think that up until now, I have felt that time is ticking and I am running out of time and damn it, I need to figure a few things out still!! WHAT IS MY SOLUTION, I STILL DON’T HAVE A FREAKIN SOLUTION.

And then I realize that I don’t need one. The fact is, right up until my last breath, there will always be questions, always be things I don’t get, always be things I just have to accept I will not know. And leaving this ranch with absolutely no clue about why I became an alcoholic, why this fell on me, why I was the one who couldn’t escape it – well, its OK for me to just not know. Some things we just don’t know. And its OK to not know. But I am not going to find the answers lurking at the bottom of a bottle, either.

Which brings me to my final story. My friend Matt went on a weekend pass this past weekend for the first time. Up to now, he has not wanted to go on pass because he feared the boredom and the down time and not having anything to do. He knew he didn’t want to drink, and maybe he wasn’t ready for the time afforded by a pass – a time to be left alone with the demons in our hearts and head – a weekend without the distraction of the ranch is daunting and really long.

But he went and he had an absolutely, amazingly, boring time. Seriously, he said he did nothing. He was alone, he was bored, he did very little other than watch TV and start bidding online for a laptop.

But he also didn’t drink.

After dinner Monday night he and I were walking back to the dorms and talking about his weekend. I asked him, “So why didn’t you drink.” To which I was expecting the usual barrage of, “I like my life now, I don’t want things to change, I am accountable to people, etc. etc. etc.”

But Matt quietly said, “Eh, I dunno.” He then almost brushed off the question.

Inside, I found this to be the most remarkable answer, the most promising answer, the best possible answer to that question – perhaps a solution. Because I know that on weekend pass, I come armed with a laundry list of reasons not to drink. I have already thought about drinking and had to talk myself out of it. I say things like, “I like my life now, I don’t want things to change, I am accountable to people, etc. etc. etc.”

But Matt apparently did none of that. He didn’t wrestle with the arguments pro or con, he didn’t struggle all weekend with rationalizing sobriety. He just didn’t drink and there wasn’t any particular reason.

I am trying to digest this past week – a week of dynamic changes, which will kick off a month of significant changes in my life, culminating in my OWN graduation on June 18 – and I think to myself, I have nothing I wanted to figure out, figured out. But, if you ask me why I am not going to drink, I hope I can say, with the same amount of disinterest in the question as Matt… “Eh, I dunno.”

Its simple and easy and I like simple and easy. And that is something I know.

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