On Celebrating 32 Years of Sobriety
1st August 1982 -1st August 2014
Read More: Addiction, Alcoholism , Clean And Sober , Sobriety , AA
Thirty two years ago today I woke up in Oz Park in Chicago. I was there because I had cut myself off from life as I knew it and was reduced to panhandling and running to the liquor store to buy cheap vodka. I had been in the park for several months and thought this was yuppie camping. It was of course homelessness. I could not connect the dots between homelessness and addiction. I drank a lot. I did not want to quit drinking. I had used a lot of cocaine and other drugs but I thought that was what people did. I had never thought of quitting but I did want another address. I wanted clean clothes and a shower and a mail box! I called the twin sister of my old drug dealer and she sent her friend Larry G to see me.
Larry was eloquent and intelligent. An addict of what I know to be of our kind. He shared his story and led me to ask myself if my problem was addiction and he gave me numerous good examples. Oh, I tried like hell to talk my way out of it. Sure I drank a little too much upon occasion - but only when I was bored and lonely, as embarrassing as that was to admit. But something always dragged me back into the dark, depressing nether world where I was comfortable with my existential isolation. No matter how firmly I tried to stand, this undertow of addiction was always stronger than me. He used the analogy about crossing the invisible line and I did not understand it. As he left he invited me to an AA meeting, I thanked him politely as I had further research to do.
Four days later in desperation I walked through the front door of the Mustard Seed in Chicago and life changed forever. Thirty-two years ago, however, I wasn't as spiritual or as kind. I learned a saying in AA: the definition of a drunk is someone who can be lying in a gutter and still look down on people. That was me. But my grandiosity was really a cover for fear - fear of being found out as a fake. A fake smart person. A fake caring person. A fake person. The fake police were always waiting to get me. So I had to hide whatever my "true" feelings were. I had lost contact with the children from my first marriage when they were three and one, it was now 11 years later and I was wracked with shame and guilt. I had no idea what my true feelings were – and I was certainly not ready to feel them.
Of course, I was also afraid to find out what those true feelings were - unless it was in the name of creativity. I had so many yucky feelings that I had simply stuffed that I was in danger of exploding. I always wanted to live on the edge, get close, real close, but never tip over. Surf through waves of tumult and mystery and the occult and feel splashes of insanity hit my toes - and then I'd kick back to safety. Or wind up in some hospital or crash pad. But alive.
I thought that if I got clean and sober I'd have to give up my individuality. I'd have to surrender my precious independence. I'd have to be whoever "they" wanted me to be and forsake forever my entitlement to be me, whoever "me" was at any given time.