Inevitable

I always knew it. I’ve known it for years, but I didn’t want to admit it. But after diving into the model of addiction as a profession, I’ve realized that I am no different than the people I work with.
I am an alcoholic.

All the signs are there. As we say, the circumstances vary but the progression is the same. There is no exact template; you don’t have to drink every day, you don’t have to have hit “rock bottom”(I believe absolute Rock Bottom is death), you don’t have to lose everything, you don’t have to have experience “blackouts” nor do you need to have crushing consequences of alcohol use. You merely have to admit that alcohol has affected your life irreparably and that is a problem that you have no control over.
That’s me.
I have been drinking at an unhealthy level for 40-plus years. I haven’t always consumed alcohol every day and I haven’t always gotten drunk. But it has been a destructive force in my life. I have drunk at the expense of my health. I have lost my temper with my family and other loved ones. I’ve driven intoxicated more times than I can count (the words “incredibly lucky” come to mind) and I know that I have set a terrible example for my children. I have made an ass out of myself in front of friends and co-workers more than I want to admit and I have wallowed in shame and regret more often than I care to consider. Even now that I’ve been able to achieve long periods of sobriety, I think about it every day. Not a day goes by when I do not think about going to buy a bottle. When I do buy one, I may not get plowed that day but I will drink out of it every day until it is gone. That means that working out, blogging, preparing meals and any other worthwhile pursuit will be left by the wayside as I feed an old, tiring habit. And I get zero value or reward from it.
It’s time for a change. I feel good about it. I don’t enjoy it anymore, I rarely get intoxicated, and when I do I beat the hell out of myself emotionally during and after.

Alcoholism is about control. I no longer have control over it. Being able to avoid it is a mild accomplishment but I need to change my mindset and work towards a healthy and fulfilling life. Yes, I already crave this, anyone who knows me can confirm it. But I can do better.

I always tell my Clients that the key to embracing recovery is to not look at it as a continuation of the Old Life, but instead to look at it as a new beginning. It has occurred to me that I may be full of shit when I offer advice but I know I’m not. I am knowledgeable of the model of addiction and can speak with some conviction. But I need to go one step further and join them in doing the work. I can live the life that I want for them by joining them in the battle.

Today I am beginning the 1st of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am admitting that I am powerless over the lure of alcohol, and that I currently live a life that is unmanageable. This is an important step in my overall goal of being an honest, accountable person of substance. It makes sense finally.

A matter of days

Tuesday was one of my worst days to date as a Case Manager. It was only exacerbated by my anxiety being in full flare. The stars collided perfectly and tragically, as it were.

Case Management in Addiction is a numbers game. Simply put, while there is never an expectation of 100%, if the successes outnumber the losses (we don’t use the word failures) then it is a rewarding use of your time. Even a ratio of 51/49 is fairly aggressive. For the sake of this conversation, success is a patient who buys in, makes an effort to dedicate themselves to healing, or at least surrenders (addiction treatment is about relinquishing control above all else) themselves to the process and completes all or most of the recommended continuum of care. We have ZERO control over what happens after they leave us but the numbers support that a full stay tends to lead to a more positive likelihood of positive outcome.
Tuesday I myself seemed to have ZERO control of ANYTHING. I was pushed to my absolute emotional limit. I went home questioning everything. Fortunately, I didn’t go home alone. I had Miss Anxiety with me and she was piling on.
You should quit!
No, I love my job.
Then why are you so upset?
Because I have no control.
Like your patients?
They have to be there…
You think you do too. Maybe you don’t?
I can handle it. I think.
Can you?
Fuck you, I have skills.
Not today you didn’t.
You’re right…
Of course I am, I’m always right. Especially when I tell you that you suck.
Tomorrow will be better. LEAVE ME ALONE BITCH!

I questioned everything and argued with myself for hours. I was low, lower than I’ve been for a while and it bothered me. Then it came to me. Late of course, as it always does.
Change your mindset. Do what you tell your clients. Worry about what you can control, put behind you what you can’t. Stop trying to save the world, help the ones that let you.

For the last 2 days I managed to keep the duct tape over the mouth of Miss Anxiety and focused on positivity. It must have oozed out of every pore of my aura because the last 3 days were so much better. I came home tonight knowing that I did some good and at the very least did nobody harm. Perhaps most importantly, I know that I did the absolute best that I could. And that, on a anxiety-free day, is all that matters to me.

Everyone matters

I watch too much TV. I know it. I’m not even proud of it. Sometimes, after a very challenging week I am mentally toast and I spend a good part of my first day off chillin’ in front of the idiot box. But I do try to watch something that stimulates me. I resist the temptation to watch the movies and shows that I’ve seen a gazillion times and instead try to watch something new or at least something with a takeaway. I’ve noticed that I find a takeaway in almost anything, so it works out for me. Takeaways are important to me; they serve as revelations, correlations, validations, and sometimes even epiphanies.
So imagine my joy today when I stumbled upon the show I’ve been seeking for a long while. Cold Case.

Cold Case is a truly unique show. Its primary theme is of solving old, or cold, cases. The show was done brilliantly and stylistically. It not only shows the forensic side of investigating crimes, not unlike the flashy CSI or Bones or documentaries such as Forensic Files, but it focuses on what I crave in a show. The humanity of it. Unsolved murder cases are depicted as old, open wounds that continuously inflict pain and heartache on those left without answers. On the flip side, it brings to the surface the secrets that burden those guilty or merely complicit, and of course it poignantly exhibits, on full display, the truly alarming capacity of man to commit horrible acts and then keep the secret for as long as necessary. The conclusion of the show always brings us satisfaction as the guilty are finally brought to justice. But the most emotional aspect of it is when we witness the closure for those who finally have answers to the unknowns that have haunted them.

Here’s the takeaway. It ties in directly with my fascination with the paranormal. Hauntings, to be precise. I am a believer in the spirit world. Not fully, but I am very open to it from the perspective that hauntings are manifestations of souls who are not at rest. I am open to the possibility that there are souls that are in limbo for some reason. I am receptive to the concept that souls linger in our realm due to, I’m just spitballing here, unresolved issues in their former life perhaps. Under that premise, isn’t it possible that a spirit in limbo is stuck until it achieves peace? Resolution? Even closure?

That is what is great about Cold Case. They do justice to the dead by always carrying with them the belief that every story should be told. Justice should always prevail. That nobody should ever be forgotten. And that everyone matters.

Purpose

I blogged about legacy recently. I came up with what I consider to be the components of a life well lived. A life well lived is a good legacy after all. Here’s what I came up with.

Who are you?
What is your purpose?
What are you doing to achieve that purpose?
What do you stand for?
How did you make people feel?

I touched on the whole “who are you?” question. Now I want to explore purpose. For as long as I can remember I have asked big questions within. While I never outwardly projected as particularly educated, worldly, or intellectual, I always knew that I was capable of deep spirituality and able to ask profound and meaningful questions. Unfortunately, I did it within myself. So as I outwardly led a somewhat meaningless life I was at all times looking for my place in this world. I’ve always believed that everyone has a purpose, well maybe not everyone. Some people seem to occupy space without offering anything that resembles rent. But then it also occurs to me that maybe someone thought that about me! So touche’ I suppose. But I digress.

Finding one’s purpose is the ultimate goal of existence. If you are a believer in any higher power it logically follows that you are here for a reason. It is our obligation to realize the why, learn the how, and then put it to work. The first mistake you can make is to assume that one’s purpose is large in scope. A tiny rock thrown into a lake creates a ripple that grows and grows. One person standing up can start a movement that can topple a regime. One act of kindness could save a life and inspire a movement. And apparently, a shitload of cliches and platitudes can become a blog. Sorry, I had to.

God gives everyone a purpose, it is up to us to find out what it is. I found my purpose around the time I found my identity. When I dropped my hardass image, my Limbaugh-Conservative anger, and the “I’m in control and don’t-care-what-people-think” persona and recognized that it’s ok to be a nice guy with a good heart and open mind I found liberation. Nothing less. All of it occurred due to my story.

“He [God] doesn’t promise our stories will make sense, but He does promise they’ll find their greater purpose if we’re patient.”
Father Stu.

There it is. My story is who I am today. It didn’t make sense to me for a long time. But “why me?” eventually evolved into “why not me?” and the humbling journey into the pit of chronic illness taught me lessons that nothing else could ever have. I have lost almost everything in my life and I found positives in all of it. I will not lie and tell you that I was always upbeat but I always found a way to claw my way back to it. In the process, I became a person that some found inspirational. My story, and the consequent person that I became from it, became my purpose. Now, I use the new attitude of gratitude to help other people. I can only do so because I have finally found peace with who and what I am. To hell with big houses, big bank accounts, and big egos. Here’s to living within my means, seeking just enough, and small gestures to make the world a better place. I have found my purpose.

Legacy

Here’s an intense topic for Tuesday.
Legacy.
What will people say about me when I’m gone is something I think about often. Now, before I continue, it needs to be said that I don’t care how many people show up and how many “likes” the inevitable FB post about my passing may get. I just want to be a fly on the wall and see if five words are used in conversation:
“He was a good guy.”
That’s it, that’s all that I want. It seems that after all of those years of keeping up with the Jones’s, trying to climb the corporate ladder and make obscene amounts of money, and being a high-profile member of the many fraternities and groups that I belong to, it seems that my only goal now is to be a good person.
OK, so where is this going you ask? It is an extension of my earlier conversation on identity. I have come to realize that your identity is not a singular entity. It has many components:
Who are you?
What is your purpose?
What are you doing to achieve that purpose?
What do you stand for?
How did you make people feel?

If you can be consistent with all of these concepts, you will have achieved a legacy to be proud of. You will be remembered well.
Be someone that is remembered for the right reasons.
Be someone that is known for accomplishment, and serving a purpose.
Be remembered as a person that risked something to serve that purpose.
Stand for something so meaningful that you may have died for it.
Be someone who is not only remembered, but someone who will be missed.

As a fly on the wall of my own funeral, if I don’t hear the words, “he was a good guy”, then at least I hope I don’t hear, “he was a useless asshole”. There, I have opened up what may end up being a very big can of worms.
Brace yourselves.