There Is a Solution, Part II

Back on February 24, 2010, I wrote the following paragraph in a post titled “Emotional Pain: A Source of Hope, A Prompt to Love.” To this day, that paragraph offers as much solution as I can muster from my own experience in sobriety (and I’m committed to sharing only my experience):

“As my current marriage inches closer and closer to its own end, I hope to draw some valuable lessons from the losses I’ve both experienced and witnessed these past 50 years. First and foremost, I hope to wake each morning with a firm commitment to ‘trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.’ If past experience has taught me anything, it’s that a failure to rise up and DO is a sure-fire prescription for emotional suicide. I continue to wake each morning at 5 so I have time to meditate and hit the gym before I leave for work at 8. I endeavor each day to leave my emotional issues at home to the best of my ability and commit my focus to work while I’m there. I continue to play, read, laugh, and work with my kids in all the ways they’ve come to expect—as much for my sanity as their protection. And, I hope, to the best of my ability, I continue to respect, and maintain an appropriate level of civility with, my wife, whom I still count as a great friend. None of these efforts is perfect nor do I perform them in absence of that often gut-wrenching pain that accompanies impending loss. I’m not always fun, and I’m not always patient. But I force myself to try to be when I recognize I’m not. I’m far from perfectly civil or perfectly respectful; I’m just as capable of anger and resentment as ever. But any time anger wells up, I try like hell to squelch it (or call my sponsor), knowing full well if I indulge it, I’m the only one who is likely to suffer. I am way beyond those days when I could unleash my own wrath and enjoy it or walk away from it without consequence. Another sign of hope, I think.”

I’m not normally prone to depression … not in the absence of alcohol anyway. But these past 18 months, I’ve woke more than once with little or no desire to “trudge the happy road.” I hadn’t experienced that kind of debilitating malaise (the kind that straps you down and makes getting out of bed seem monumental) for well over 10 years. During the divorce, however, I woke many mornings feeling this way. I would often lie in bed after the alarm went off and play the “maybe-I-don’t-need-to” game. “Maybe I don’t need to meditate today; if I don’t, I can get an extra hour of much-needed sleep.” Bullshit! “Maybe I don’t need to go to the gym this morning; I’ll head to work early and squeeze the workout in at the end of the day.” Bullshit! End of day workouts haven’t “worked out” for me for years. If you’ve had a morning routine that works in sobriety and you find yourself playing the maybe-I-don’t-need-to game during tough times, start playing the NO BULLSHIT game instead. I learned to will myself out of bed and mindlessly back into my routines. They had worked for me in good times for a reason, a reason I didn’t need to understand. I just needed to learn to wake up willing to DO and not question. It’s no different than willing myself to a meeting. I don’t know why meetings work for me. They just do. They work their magic in spite of me, so I mindlessly will myself to meetings on a regular basis.

Some mornings I’d wake up suffering the Great Ache, that low-level ache in the gut that, left untended, could make me nervous and even nauseous with the realization that soon I’d be divorced, soon the kids wouldn’t be in the house with me every morning, soon my life would be a life I no longer recognized as my own. Again, my antidote to the Great Ache was, and still is, the same as my antidote to the maybe-I-don’t-need-to game: Get up fast and DO, do something. Once I’d willed myself out of bed, I’d will myself to meditate. Often times my meditations were worthless, my mind wandering or obsessing, my body failing to relax. Didn’t matter. Going through the motions of prayer and meditation, however mindlessly, was far more effective than staying in bed spinning yarns in my head and nurturing aches in my gut.

Once I’d made it through meditation, getting to the gym was much easier. I was awake and actually hungry for the energy I knew the workout would give me. By the time I shaved and showered, I was ready to be away for the day–somewhere I could give myself a mental and emotional vacation from the heartache. Work, golf, a trip to the park or grocery store with the kids, any of the simple activities that used to weigh me down in my drinking days, proved to be the best antidote to fear of the unknown in those final months before the marriage ended. Finally, as I have for the past 12 years, I hit 4 or more meetings a week and kept current with both my own sponsor and the guys I sponsor. Nothing has done more to insure my sobriety and my sanity than “intensive work with other alcoholics.” Nothing ever has; nothing ever will.

I don’t mean to suggest that doing what I’ve always done to stay sober made divorce any easier or less painful. Only that it did make the process more tolerable. And I certainly don’t mean to suggest for a moment that I “have” the solution. I only wish to remind all of us that there is one. It’s in our basic text, “Alcoholics Anonymous.” (Which reminds me of something I’ve heard Johnny H. from California say almost every time I’ve heard him speak: “If you want to hide something from an AA member, stick it in his Big Book,” implying most of us don’t spend nearly enough time in the book.)

So, the circumstances and challenges life throws at us may change (and certainly are likely to continue to change), but the solution doesn’t seem to waver much from its path. We’re handed a simple kit of spiritual tools when we arrive at AA. All we really have to do is will ourselves to pick it up.


4 responses to “There Is a Solution, Part II

  1. Maybe there is a reason (other my caffeine addiction) that has me up this late. I so needed the kick in the ass I just received from reading your post. I used to be this amazing morning person…up by 5 without an alarm. Annoying all those I would come in contact with at that hour with my instant chipperness. Yet, I have given into the maybe-i-don’t-need-tos. Yes I am sober and yes I love going to meetings but that drive I used to have to pop out of bed every morning is gone. I don’t have a recent divorce to hang it on and the only thing I can come up with is that I am lazy. I dodged a bullet last week and was one of the fortunates to come out of a sales division merge with a job. I told myself last week that “placed” or “displaced” I would look at this as a new beginning. Now I have a strategy for pulling myself out of this life funk I have found myself in – the NO BULLSHIT game. I can’t escape wrapping so much of my self-worth up in how I perform my job, so I need to rid myself of, what seems like constant, giving ins to the maybe-i-don’t-need-tos. Hell, maybe this is just the catalyst I need to get me off my ass on taking action on a number of areas in my life. I know “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, but damn, if I could make some positive changes in my life just by saying “NO BULLSHIT”, I’m all in.


  2. One of the many mantra (proper pluralization?) of early recovery was, “It’s in the doing”. Simply meaning that real growth happens when we do the work of 12 step recovery, versus just talking about it, thinking about it, or reading about it.

    Doing includes all of these and more. For me, doing means changing behaviors. Physically with my hands, feet and body, going to places like meetings and get-togethers with other members, writing out the parts of the steps where needed, phoning and meeting face to face those to whom I owe amends, and many, many more actions.

    My head often fights me all the way and tells me what I am DOING is pointless. Never once was my head right when it told me these things. Even if I missed the mark, God always brought something useful out of my best efforts to obey and DO.

    Eventually, my head started to come around and be convinced by what my body was doing. Today, my unrecovered thinking directs far less traffic in my life. It still kicks up a fuss from time to time, but when it yells to loud, I just drop everything and call for help… another one of my DO activities.




  3. Sue, Chaz, Thanks for keeping the dialogue alive. Kayko


  4. Thank you for the honesty and perspective. I think you articulated very well and I related to pretty much your entire recap of the divorce experience down to getting up at 4:40 to be at the gym by 5 and use physical exertion as a means of coping and bettering self and working out some of the pain. I went to a meeting every day for 6 months in the beginning because although I didn’t want to drink…… I was angry and hurt . Felt I held up my end of the deal so WTF….. If this is the outcome when I honestly did the best I could and really tried to keep it together than what is the point of even trying , yes depression got me and got me good. Emotional sobriety was a concept and one I understood but felt like was the luxury of others and something that may elude me forever , 13 years of sobriety and this was the result…..
    So I prayed and I opened up to people like I never had before. I was always afraid to rely on, call or honestly let people see what was behind the facade. When your proverbial ass is falling off though you surrender in ways you didn’t even realize you were still holding on to.
    1.5 years into this I have to say I am a stronger , kinder more humble version of me than I ever knew possible, I got a job promotion, made new strong friendships that Have carried through, got honest with who I am and learned to trust that in all this God can work through me. I have love through friends and family that I never knew I could have and it is based on who I am not how I hope I will be seen
    To steal a line from a movie I recently saw
    Ruin is the road to transformation
    My lesson is I can stay sober no matter what I can become a stronger version of myself and I am humbled by the grace I have been shown that has allowed someone as pissed and hurt as I was from finding myself in a divorce to being so very greatful for the chance to have a fresh start at life a rebuild filled with hope love support and the realization again ( still learning this ) that my peace comes from god and isn’t something I will ever find anywhere but in my heart
    Thanks Greg for an honest and genuine dialog about life and things that happen along the way and how to move through it sober and with grace and dignity when every fiber of your being wants to just quit
    Don’t leave before the miracle or after it either !!! It will get better!!! And if you allow it ; it can get worse too
    But for the grace of god