I Couldn’t Afford to Drink
(but I Drank Anyway)
There were many times in my using that I couldn’t afford what my drinking habits had become.
There was a time in the beginning that I could, really I could.
You see – starting out by acting the big shot when going into the bar, always giving over more money to the barkeep in the hope that they remembered me the next time around. Always acting like I had “It” to give away.
Gave me the false sense of security that I seemed to need at that time.
Now don’t get me wrong, there really was a time that I had the means to have “It”.
Thinking what I thought was a good time – not a very long time – but it was there nevertheless.
As my using progressed so did my spending habits.
It seemed at the time if I worked more I’d get more, so I could spend more, so I worked more.
Never seeing the vicious circle my life had become.
But as I drank, the alcohol started to take more of a need to drink.
Becoming what I have found for me and heard in the halls of recovery that it was no mere habit.
I think we all have some sort of story of this behavior.
One of mine in particular stands out and this happened way before I came into recovery.
I headed out one afternoon taking the last five dollar bill off the counter of my home, knowing that that had to last til pay day – which was two days away.
I sat down in my favorite bar chair and had my first drink.
Trying to get my thoughts in order.
You know those priorities that we have.
The ones that stood in front of my drinking.
Telling the barkeep all my woes – how life isn’t fair.
How and get this – how I didn’t have enough money to get the things I needed or better yet, what I thought I deserved in life.
Just to give over the last five dollars to pay for my drinks and heading home.
Pulling into my driveway thinking – what was in the house to drink.
Trying to remember if I had any alcohol that I “placed” for that rainy day.
Getting in the house to hear that question –
“Did you pick up the milk and bread that I asked while you were out?
I saw that the money was gone off the counter top –
You didn’t forget did you?”
It still amazes me how when I was in the thick of “It” – my using
– when I didn’t think I affected anyone but myself, how wrong I was.
Enough time has gone by since then and I can still see the look of disappointment on my partner’s face when I had lied,
– that I had forgot
– I’ll be right back
– looking in vain for some change under the seats of my truck – the floor mats too.
Saying that prayer, “Just enough, please God – please be enough.”
So I could afford the things that I – no – that we really needed.
I think we all have stories like this one.
This is just one of many stories of what alcohol cost me most of the time.
That I Couldn’t Afford to Drink (But I Drank Anyway)…
Every so often, when I sit by myself is the time when my mind can go south.
Falling into those thoughts of, “Not measuring up.”
Not just to the folks around me – but those messed up thoughts of myself.
Being overly sensitive to the things around me.
People, places, and things.
Saying that serenity pray, not just in the morning – but throughout the day.
Even after all this time in a program of self help.
I’ m still hit with the, “What the hell is this all about?”
Not that I think I’m any different.
Oh sure, sometimes in early recovery there was a lot of that.
But I really do try today on changing those ways.
Just how much of turning the other cheek is one supposed to do?
My friends tell me, “A lot!”
But come on, learning to pray when the tuff times hit, is all good and dandy.
But it’s not about that.
When I first took those certain prayers something wondrous happened.
Later as I learned to implement those prayers in my daily life things started to change. Okay, wondrous isn’t the first thing that pops into my head – more like the realizations that with certain prayers, most of the things I go through can be made better with, grace, honor and dignity.
Oh, and throw in some serenity prayers throughout the day really helps a lot too!
For those certain prayers, It’s not so much as the prayer themselves – it’s the belief and faith when we say them that matter.
I was always a pitch hitter when it came to prayers.
“God, help me get that job.”
“God, get me that car.”
“God, why can’t you make them see what a great person I am.”
‘Til I was saying, “God, get me out of this mess.”
Or, “God, I hope they have what I need.”
To, “God, please. I can’t go on.”
It’s not that I didn’t have a relationship with a higher power.
I just never had a relationship with a higher power.
That sounds so weird – but it’s the truth.
When I’m in my head too much, over thinking of a situation.
Either at work or home, with family or friends.
Going over the day thinking, “What did they mean by that?”
“Why isn’t this working?”
To, “What’s wrong with me?”
Having a God of my understanding today is what helps when life gets me down.
Not only the good times where I have to watch out for my pride and take all the credit.
To wallowing in self-pity where I’m not living in the solution.
I’ve talked to many people through the years in and out of recovery about faith.
About what they practice on a daily basis to there ritualistic beliefs.
When it comes to prayers.
There’s are so many different ones.
Ones I’ve come to use, either on a day to day routine or just because of the moment. When I started out praying many years ago in recovery.
I started from the ground floor.
My building of a relationship with God was slow and steady.
My spirituality, as I often say, “Is not the same as yesterday.
Last week. Ten years ago. It’s constantly changing.”
As I rely more on God. My relationship grows.
The more it grows, the more beliefs I have, and as that happens, the more faith comes forth.
But self doubt does come in.
Over confidence raises it ugly head.
Still showing me that there’s still times when I’m growing.
Other than my mother – no one really ever showed me how to pray.
Some through the years have told me how to as they do.
I’ve heard, “Fake it ’til you make it.”
Or, “Pray to something. As long as it isn’t yourself.”
We all can see miracles’ everyday as long as we’re willing to see them.
One in particular was towards the lasts days of my moms life.
She was very spiritual.
She had her foundation on solid ground.
By the time she passed on she had been bed redden for about three months.
As her health slowly slipped away, she ended up having bed scores.
As the nurse, myself, my father, and partner would take turns turning her in bed.
Keeping her clean.
Washing and disinfecting her wounds.
She would be in and out of moments of clarity.
Some moments she was very with it – others well she would mistaken her husband or me for someone else.
Those moments when she would say that she’s on the second step.
We would ask her what she meant. “Being on the second step?”
She would look at us saying, “That God (Jesus), is not ready for her yet.
That she was being healed before she went home.”
I can tell you it was very surreal, very weird, and sometimes even spooky.
My partner and I along with the nurse and dad would talk about how my mother beliefs in God were.
I saw that her faith never wavered.
Even at its worst and here’s the kicker.
One day the nurse and I were washing her up.
As I was cleaning a bed sore on the back of her calf, I said to the nurse,
“Look at this, it looks like it’s okay!”
“Don’t pick it!” The nurse said, “Those are deep wounds.” She added.
“I know, but it looks much better.” I told her.
Taking the wash cloth and slowly cleaning around the edge of her wound, it started to peel away.
Too our amazement the scab fell away and we looked at brand new skin.
“This shouldn’t happen.” She said aloud.
“I’ve been doing this type of work for many years.
That was a deep wound.” She said once again.
My mom then spoke up saying, “That God (Jesus), was healing her for her journey home.”
I prayed a lot through the years, but I can tell ya seeing miracles is one of a kind.
Hearing my mom tell us that she’s on the second step, almost there,
was beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.
By the time she did pass away, there was not one bed sore left.
Her beliefs never wavered,
her faith grew so much stronger and her prayers always grateful – even at its worst.
So when I’m in my own head.
Having those, “Poor me’s.”
Letting people, places, and things run around in my head,
I can fall back on that relationship with God.
Building that foundation with a high power.
Keeping me right size.
There’s a saying that goes like this, “We all go out the same way, shortness’ of breath.”
It’s what I do with those breaths in all those in betweens, as I say my Prayers…
There I was standing behind my friend – helping him clean up at the sink in our home.
Leaning over him cleaning my hands with the hot water running from the faucet, when he started to reach out with one of his hands.
Stopping him with the concern that he would burn himself with the hot water – he started reaching out with his other hand as I placed the first one back onto the sink.
“What are you doing?” I said to him, “Stop messing around. You’ll get burnt with this water. It’s hot,” “I told him again.”
You see, when I met this young man he was living in a group home.
A home provided by the state that helped him with his disabilities.
His so-called maladjustments to life.
His body may not have been sharp, but let me be the first to tell you that that’s where it stopped.
He was bright all right, bright in the sense that he knew what he wanted and how to get it.
That’s for sure.
The young man that I was taking care of was non verbal – meaning – and for lack of any better words – he was unable to speak in any traditional way.
But let me say this right off the bat, he spoke in volumes.
With signs that were modified by him that he knew. It was up to us to learn and interpret what he was asking or wanting.
Oh, sure, he knew how to say please and thank you. Drink or more. One of his favorites was the sign for milk – lots of milk.
You knew if he was happy and believe me – you knew if he wasn’t.
He knew how to write phonetically on a Qwerty board. He would spell out things that he wanted or needed or just to say hi.
He even asked for his room to be painted red – all red. But that’s a story for another time.
When I met him a few years before he lived with me, the people that ran the group home told me he was unteachable.
That he had learned all that they were able to give. That he had reached his potential in his learning with his disability.
I think of today in my recovery – had they told me that I was unteachable.
That I couldn’t – for whatever reason – that that was it.
That you’re hopeless to learn how to stay sober and clean.
Sorry we can’t help you, thanks for coming.
But they didn’t – they said, “Just keep coming back; it gets better.”
They were right.
Looking back now and seeing with somewhat of a clear mind. There were teachers all around me or better yet – and I love this – agents of God, as I call them.
People that came into my life to show me things, anything really.
From my parents to my brothers to my school teachers of my youth.
To my heroes of life. The cowboys and firefighters to the astronauts that I would look up into the night sky dreaming on flying to the moon with them.
To my favorite comic book writer. To the people that would show me how to do the things to live a happy, useful life.
Then there were the ones that showed me the road or the door on using – by their own actions this was shown. How to get it and where.
And there came a time that I did it all on my own. Just think – no more teachers, I thought.
Learning all I needed to know for my life seemed right back then.
Heedless of where my drinking or what my behavior was doing to me.
But no one showed me the end.
Oh, I’ve seen people get sick or even pass away. But that wasn’t me.
The denial of this disease is wider then any ocean I’ve seen.
But when the end comes – as it surely does with us – there are some lessons that can’t be taught – they have to be lived, or we die.
Now I have new teachers.
Ones that have done the things that help me on this road of life.
The changes – the up’s and down’s – showing me by example what to do on a daily basis to live happy, joyous and free.
Teaching me the ropes, as they say, on cleaning up my life – and there have been many.
Thank God for that too. I just stopped looking or thinking I needed them.
But they were there.
Being open and willing was just the beginning to this journey that has many ways to live a happy life.
I really only have two types of teachers today.
What to do and what not to do.
Being teachable, willing to learn new things about myself. Staying in the now.
And there I was standing behind my friend.
Helping him clean up in the bathroom of our home. Thinking he was the one I was showing what to do when that God moment struck.
I stepped back and said, “What is it you want to do.”
He slowly reached out and started to turn the faucet on. Taking my hand into his to feel the temperature of the water – not too hot – not too cold. Just right.
Seeing him slowly reaching for the soap by the side of the sink and it hit me like a freight train.
“Do you want to wash your hands?” “I asked?”
With a big smile and a sign that said yes. We washed our hands together.
I had stopped being the teacher and was being taught. They say, “When you’re ready, the teacher will appear.”
Here was someone that when meeting them for the first time they said he was unteachable.
One only has to be open and willing to see that the only one teachable was me.
That I just had to let it happen – being open to learn from the Unteachable…
Fishing in the Soup Bowl
Get a grip, someone told me once when I started telling my side of the story.
Still talking to that half way point ‘til my brain catches up to what was said to me.
Mouth hanging open. Think – did they just tell me to get a grip.
What the heck was that .
Where did that come from.
I mean I know where – the person right in front of me, but the comment – get a grip.
Seeing the last 24 hours, hell, the last week playing over and over in my mind like some screwed up projector playing one of those films that always skipped that I remembered from school.
The ones like “The salmon swim up stream to mate, overcoming great obstacles – including death” or “When you hear the sirens – fall under your desk with your hands over your head”. Yah, that would stop the blast.
But get a grip.
I’m hanging here by the seat of my pants and all they can tell me is get a grip.
Yah – that’s what I said, oh, and breathe.
You’ve been holding your breath.
“God. I have haven’t I?”
When I was talking to them I was explaining how in the beginning I was looking for the easy way out, telling them when I started fishing in the soup bowl of life I’m bound to end up with something I’d rather not.
Every time I said something to my sponsor he would give me a suggestion and I would say to him sure, then go find someone I could explain myself to – cause obviously he didn’t understand what I was saying.
Every time I start looking for something in life – new car – new job, even a new hair cut – I always found something different.
It seemed I always fished something else out of the soup bowl.
My father was a cook – so I heard many times how too many hands in the broth could spoil the stew.
Never really paying too much attention to that, even when I came into the program.
‘Til I started down this journey of recovery. Always going to too many people for the answer that I should’ve taken by my sponsor in the first place.
But that’s not how it worked out for me. I’m not the poster boy for the program. I’ll leave that up to the ones that seem to like the lime light.
For me it was like every time I’d go out to get, I don’t know, say a belt, I’d walk out with a job.
Going out to get my hair cut and being in a twelve car pileup and a fancy new leg brace to boot.
Always something different than what I was fishing for.
Just the other day I was with some friends and one of them asked when did I know that I was powerless over my alcohol. Oh, that’s easy I told them.
When the path of destruction I left behind started to catch up to me.
We all laughed at that. You know this is the only place that I’ve known that when we share about how bad our lives were we all pretty much nod or smile.
Sometimes laughing at some of the worst things I’ve ever heard while out there – using. Sometimes bad things happen – not a lot of people nodded or smiled, some – well, most were horrified that I would even be talking about it.
Let alone be laughing at it.
To them I was the oddity.
To the folks in the Halls of Recovery – I was just another clown on the bus.
Even in sobriety I have found that I still can go fishing in the soup. Throwing my line out – seeing the bobber go up and down – thinking I’ll get a nice chunk of meat when I would pull out a soggy piece of carrot.
When I’m not taking my sponsors’ advice and I’m looking for that out – the easier, softer way at the time. Going to two or three different people fishing for that answer that I wanted right along. That’s when I was in trouble.
The soup has many flavors and many ingredients, too.
You’ll think I’d know by now not to go looking – but just let it happen.
God’s time – not mine.
Well, it’s easy to say the words, but to put them into practice is another thing entirely. How often did I set out in doing something and always looking for the result that was going to be – just what I wanted.
How often did I set up the game board of life – to make sure I would win.
When I think of all the times I spent on making me look good. The results were just the same. People will always judge by actions, not intentions.
As soon as that came around for me, things started to get better.
As long as I stopped Fishing in the Soup Bowl…