My Balancing Act

WWritten in 2015. I left the neurologist with a clean bill of health!


“If the world were to end tomorrow would you get wasted?” That was the question that got the table laughing and got a resounding “yes” in response from the others. I had just finished chairing a meeting at Bellevue hospital, speaking to those still in the terrifying grips of this illness so the others would have to excuse me if I didn’t share in their excitement. I wasn’t angered by the question nor did it change my opinion of those who answered it differently from myself. This hypothetical only has one thing to do with this essay: The question compelled me to consider how we respond to fear and it made me notice something that has changed within myself.

To say that I do not have an ego when it comes to my sobriety would be a mistake; my actual self is genuine and confident however it is mixed with a lot of self-criticisms, which is where most of my old ego can be found. Throw in the occasional self-congratulatory feeling followed by hours of beating myself up for having said feeling and there you have it, there is my old dysfunctional ego! This being said, the change that has occurred within me has gone far beyond the surface and my understanding of most things has been rebuilt. My desires have changed and the things that once excited me now upset me for the most part. I believe that within me there has been a psychic change, a spiritual shift. I have been changed at the core of myself; The change has worked itself throughout, redesigning my way of thinking. And this design doesn’t grasp the appeal of questions such as these because the anticipation to escape the world no longer has a meaningful place in my mind — at least not at the moment.

The compelling part in all of this for me is that I have been able to surrender my arms – the fighting and the debate have ceased. I no longer feel as though the world is lined up unfairly against me; The life that I live is actually a life that I want to live. There were moments in recovery when the struggle could be found in just leaving the house and the fear of falling back into old habits was always present. It is an exhausting and continuous effort for what you believe is right but at your core still aren’t totally sure you want. The confusion is powerful and it is difficult to trust in your own thoughts.  The miracle happens when this fight stops and the desire to escape these thoughts aren’t there because the old desires are no longer there. And for me, at least in this moment, the fighting is over.

A different kind of fight will be upon me very soon, however. This Friday I am returning to the neurologist who first told me, just over a year ago, that I have brain atrophy due to my many years of active alcoholism. The images of my brain revealed to her the damage I have put my physical self through over the years and left her more than a little concerned, comparing my brain to that of a 60-year-old man. She told me that this type of atrophy is reversible through sobriety though it is difficult to say what other areas could be damaged or later manifest into something more serious. I have taken neuropsychological exams to determine my cognitive ability, struggled at times with memory loss and speech and have experienced brief moments where I am utterly lost and confused. I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that my brain shows signs of what could be the beginning stages of multiple illnesses including epilepsy and muscular sclerosis. And of course the ever-present, always lurking illness of active alcoholism; the doctors do not need to remind me of the dangers it presents. I have all the information and the idea is to see how prepared I actually am; how do I react if the news is something unexpected? This is when the winds of change begin to roll in; will I roll with it?

So, if everything changes on Friday and my future becomes less certain, would I want to throw it all away? The way I view this question is similar to how I view the first question posed: To me, each question is essentially asking what you would do if there were no consequences due to a perceived lack of hope or meaning. If I answer yes to the first question, if I would head to the bar the night the world ends, I am telling you that I do not see the value in the life I have at this moment. In answering yes I am ultimately saying that, given zero consequences, the feeling I truly want is one of loneliness and isolation from others. To answer yes is to tell you that this life is an unwanted fight for me, that if given just the right set of circumstances I would change everything, and that the value in clarity is not all that important to me. But this is not how I feel, and so my answer remains no, I do not want to feel loneliness the way I once felt no matter the lack of consequences. That feeling is nothing but pain and suffering and the obsession to reach something beyond it is no longer there. I do not have an excuse to return to my old habits.

I understand that sometimes we cannot see the excuses we use to behave without reason or meaning. I know that there are times when it feels there is no way out, that life is too difficult to bear without numbing yourself. I have been through tragedy and I have used it as an excuse to act with reckless abandon; Sometimes you go through things in life and people will give you a pass, people will forgive you more easily for acting out, but nobody here has the authority to approve my reckless behavior.

I am asked why I focus so much on my sobriety. Some wonder if my sobriety has become my identityPerhaps this is my identity; if my identity is an honest, dependable person I will take it. What was my identity in the past? I was a ghost. Many who are in the throes of active addiction want to know how they’ll be rewarded once sober! I tell them that they get to be sober for another day and down the line they may realize how incredible that reality would be for them.I am committed to living a certain way because it brings forth the most positivity and meaning I can offer to the world and to those around me. I have found value and purpose in life, easily overwhelming any desire to escape; I am no longer fighting, I am living. So on Friday, when life happens, I will be ok with it. I will be able to continue the life that I lead because I know it carries value, more value than I have ever had. My life means something not only to myself but to others. I have been put in a place where my strength and desire to live a life of happiness can inspire others to continue fighting until it no longer feels like a bloodbath. My entire life lies beneath my feet, and this moment is one I choose to be connected to. In order to thrive in this world, I had to find my place in it. I had to find a purpose that I don’t want to give up, something that carries meaning and love. Life will happen however it happens, I have given up the idea that I control any of it, and ever since my life has been beyond comprehension. By relinquishing control of the world I find a new control within myself, a power and purpose that pushes me to live a life that I see fit. I know that life is difficult, it isn’t always comfortable and sometimes it’s altogether exhausting. I am finally a part of this world and I have every intention of enjoying this life, no matter what it throws my way.

I am committed to living a certain way because it brings forth the most positivity and meaning I can offer to the world and to those around me. I have found value and purpose in life, easily overwhelming any desire to escape; I am no longer fighting, I am living. So on Friday, when life happens, I will be ok with it. I will be able to continue the life that I lead because I know it carries value, more value than I have ever had. My life means something not only to myself but to others. I have been put in a place where my strength and desire to live a life of happiness can inspire others to continue fighting until it no longer feels like a bloodbath. My entire life lies beneath my feet, and this moment is one I choose to be connected to. In order to thrive in this world, I had to find my place in it. I had to find a purpose that I don’t want to give up, something that carries meaning and love. Life will happen however it happens, I have given up the idea that I control any of it, and ever since my life has been beyond comprehension. By relinquishing control of the world I find a new control within myself, a power and purpose that pushes me to live a life that I see fit. I know that life is difficult, it isn’t always comfortable and sometimes it’s altogether exhausting. I am finally a part of this world and I have every intention of enjoying this life, no matter what it throws my way.

Life lies beneath my feet, and this moment is one I choose to be connected to. In order to thrive in this world, I had to find my place in it. I had to find a purpose that I don’t want to give up, something that carries meaning and love. Life will happen however it happens, I have given up the idea that I control any of it, and since my life has been beyond comprehension. I had always felt a need to control every aspect of my life, lest I collapse in on myself, wasting chunks of my life in fear and worry over things that have nothing to do with me. The instant I released my grip and let go of a desire to control I felt harmony as though for the first time. I am finally a part of this world and I have every intention of enjoying this life, no matter what.

1 Comment

  1. My pug. Your last sentence brought both laughter and a slight tear to mine eye. Ha. I love your writings and your messages. Love Daddyo

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

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