Two Years


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Two years ago, I took my last drink.

A loving God separated me from alcohol on May 4, 2011, and for that I am eternally grateful.

If I knew it would be my last drink, I would have made it a fancy one.  But we all know that our last drinks are rarely festive.  Our lives and our drinking at that point are way past anything celebratory, and have spiraled down into deep and dark places.  Places where many of us don’t return from.  Places where we finally see ourselves in a way that we never thought we would see ourselves.  Broken and hopeless. And as I finished up my final quiet, sad, pathetic and lonely drunk, I found myself  in that place.  I couldn’t go on drinking, I couldn’t go on not drinking.  Dark place indeed.  No matter how far down the scale we go, we get to that place.  For some of us, it takes more pain and loss and damage to get there.  For others, the ride stops soon enough to a merciful end.  But we are still in the place.  And there is nowhere to go but up.

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I will probably tell my story here one day.  I have revealed glimpses and cracked open the box a few times, but there are no secrets, really.  There are no real salacious details, mind blowing experiences or earth shattering episodes in my drunken life to share that would excite or make a great A&E epic showpiece.  I drank.  I lied, I cheated, I stole, I made bad decisions and even worse judgement calls.  I hated everyone, mocked everyone, taunted everyone, wounded everyone, manipulated everyone, lied to everyone, and took many people hostage in my day.  I took my first real drink at 15 and finished up 25 years later.  A once bright, energetic and ambitious boy reduced to rubble and blood and dirt and vomit.   Cheers to that. There was no cheering when I made the decision to end it, to concede to my innermost self that I could not drink any more, to surrender to the thing that wanted me dead.  There was no cheering when I finally saw that I was a mere shell of a man, a hurt boy in an adult’s body, a void bereft of light.  Suicide by installment plan.

My first year of sobriety was pretty much about me.  I don’t mean that in a selfish way.  Or maybe I do.  But what I mean is that the first year was me learning to walk.  I was like a newborn foal trying to find its legs, trying to ground itself, trying to break free from its protective womb that no longer served it.  And learn to walk I did, as I came to recovery on my knees, crawling.  These days you will find me on my knees in prayer – for thanks and for strength and guidance. In the first year, I learned all the things that I never knew how to in my entire life up until then – to love well, to forgive, to treat myself properly, to treat others with dignity and respect, to step into the sunlight, to feel my face against the wind as I sought the horizon, to hug, to hold, to fumble, to see that I was not a mistake in God’s eyes, to see that I was exactly where I needed to be.

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I had to first learn how to just spend a day, then a few days, then a week, then a few weeks, and so on, without a drop of alcohol.  Not one drop.  Sometimes I had to count down the hours with sweaty hands and racing mind.  Sometimes I had to distract myself.  I used to go to up to five meetings a day, walking the streets endlessly, eating and reading to distract myself, hiding out, avoiding things that I had alcohol associated with – which was pretty much things like air, sky, ground, gravity, and days that ended in “day”.  Not easy.  But I got through it, and I slowly learned to deal with things as they came up.  I learned how to not over react, to not jump to conclusions, to not think the worst, to not beat myself up, not to blame others and eventually, was able to grown and stretch slowly into my own skin.  A first for me.

I worked the steps with my amazing sponsor, James.  He showed me what a man could be – sensitive, in touch, generous, emotionally available, respectful, humble, loving.  And still be a man.  This is a man who looks like a biker, who did time, who is a bouncer, who looks like he could rip a phone book in half (and probably could).  And this is a man who cries when he needs to, reaches out even when it’s inconvenient to him, and gives of himself to anyone, and I mean anyone.  I haven’t been able to approach his wonderful way of living, but I am hoping to get closer.  He is one of my true heroes.

AA

This second year has been about giving back.  At least, that has been my aim.  I sponsor men.  I talk to newcomers.  I do service as often as I am able to.  I meet other men for coffee and talk recovery.  I go to meetings and share.  I help others outside the rooms too.  I try to keep my ego in check.  I often fail.  I try to be unselfish.  I fail in that too.  But I keep at it, and realize when and why I am getting back into old habits.  I try to show other men what I have done, and continue to do.  I learned to blog and share here.  I go to my treatment center on alumni nights when I can.  I write for their newsletter.  I go to conventions, and do service there.  I make my amends when needed.  I offer my experience to mothers and fathers of alcoholic children, I offer my experience to those online who are suffering or have questions.  I do my best to get me out of the way.

I have had spiritual growth spurts and times of regression.  I have gone through slumps and bumps and being a grump.  But I have also soared and felt like I was touching the (pink) clouds and felt so at ease with myself that I thought I would just melt on the spot and soak into the fertile ground beneath me.  I have had breakthroughs, like when I forgave myself  or when I saw that my role here was to help others, period.  I also had mental slips and emotional breaks, where I wallowed in self-pity and allowed myself to block myself from the Sunlight of the Spirit, where I let ego run wild.  But in this year, I have felt the subtle sense of humanness permeate through me, that I am neither perfect nor am I one of the Creator’s damaged afterthoughts.  I no longer feel that I belong on the dented can shelf at the grocery store of life.  I know that I am where I need to be at this moment, and right now this spot is me typing these very words at this very second.  Enter. Carriage Return.

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I was once that man on the bed. I am now one of the men by the bed.

I never thought I would see two days or two weeks let alone two years.  I have to sometimes remember that I was a very different person back then.  Even a year ago, I was very different than I am now.  Being an alcoholic who has recovered is like having two lives in one lifetime – what a gift, what a bonus.  It’s like the pain and suffering I endured and put on others was like the prep work needed to put me where I am needed now.  I truly feel that without having  untreated alcoholism, burning my life down to ground, and then recovering, I wouldn’t have grown in the way I have so far.  I would have gone the rest of my life with my eyes closed.  I don’t have them fully open, but I am gazing across the land and I like where I am going, even if the terrain is a bit rocky at times. I have a lot of work to do, but I am on the pitch at least.

So, today my prayers go out to the still suffering alcoholic.  They can be found in the rooming houses, the rooms of AA, the classrooms, the boardrooms, the motel bedrooms, the mansion dining rooms, the rooms with a view. They are among us, drinking, abstaining, sobering up, recovering.  From park bench to Park Avenue, from Yale to jail and everything in between.  My prayers sing loudly with hard, quiet love.  My prayers go out to those want to stop but can’t.  My prayers go to all my friends in the program, to all the men who I have worked with and all the men and women who have shown me the way, and continue to show me the way.  My prayers go out to the man or woman who thinks death seems a better way than living the way they are.   My prayers go out to those who don’t know that just by being alcoholic, I love them dearly.

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My one year medallion

My blessings go out to you, kind reader.  Thank you for helping me on my journey.  Thank you for being in my life.  Thank you for your wise words and inspiring thoughts.  Thank you for being you, because you being you is just perfect enough for me.

Paul

43 responses to “Two Years

  1. Dear Paul… I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and can’t even begin to describe how they touch me to the core. You are a brilliant and gifted writer and I feel so blessed to share in your blog posts. I absolutely love the line you used “I no longer belong on the dented can shelf at the grocery store of life”. Wow, Wow, Wow!!! I could see this as a title to your book. I believe that people such as yourself have been put on this earth for the exact reason that we are seeing here and that is to touch so many with your story and wise words. Incredible. Thank you for the copious amounts of time and energy you spend here and blogging/commenting on other blog writers. It truly is an amazing journey we are on.

    Lots of love to you Paul.

    • I think this is one of the comments that surprised me the most – there is usually certain wonderful folks who are supportive in making comments regularly, but this really warmed my heart to hear from someone who has been reading and then making a comment like this beautiful one. You are much too kind, and I am honoured to have you read this. You have a kind heart and I am so glad that I was able to hear from you and what you have to say. I am blown away.

      Lots of love back,
      Paul

    • I feel that I have come so far, but at the same time I feel there is a core part of me that is the same. We’ll see what is revealed later on! That’s something we all can see in ourselves. Thank you for your courage in starting your blog too. I am following it now 🙂

      Paul

  2. I am thinking that you too are a wonderful writer of your personal truth and I admire your insight and courage. I resonate with much that you share though I do not regard myself an alcoholic; I would say I had a fickle dependency on alcohol and at times of high stress. I binge drink. I do not know you but still I feel proud of you and your massive personal achievements thus far. Two big thumbs up and thank you for posting. In case you are wondering I am a 59 year old female living in the UK.

    • Bernadette – what a pleasure to meet you 🙂
      Thank you for sharing your honesty here – I love that. I too was a binge drinker…then it got worse from there. I hope that things don’t progress for you – it’s a progressive illness. We need not forget that. But I am glad that you are following and hopefully reading other people’s experiences – you might find someone telling “your story”. It’s a blessing having you here. Thank you for being here. And if there is anything I can help you with, please contact me. I am always around! Give my regards to beautiful UK

      Love and Light,
      Paul

  3. I’m so glad for you my friend. And I’m so blessed to know you, that you take the time to share your words, to have you along on this sober journey. Hurrah for two years! Cheers! 🙂

  4. Congratulations! This is a milestone to be celebrated. It is so encouraging to read of someone that felt the same way in early sobriety as I do be able to put together 2 years of sobriety!

    Your humble nature is so comforting and although I can relate to almost all of what you said, there is one thing that struck a cord in my heart.
    “My prayers go out to the man or woman who thinks death a better way than they way they are living.”

    I did not consider suicide but I often wished I would die so I didn’t have to live that way anymore. But I don’t have to live that way. Without the grip of alcohol on my soul, I am actually living. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Thank you for being an inspiration!

    • I hear you on just not wanting to live like that any more. Suicide is something that I have discussed a few times, and it was something that I never thought would cross my mind, but the pain of living the way I was brought me to that point…that is how desperate I was. It’s unbearable. So I totally get what you are saying. But we break free of that, and it becomes a distant memory. Thank you for being here, and thank you for your new blog as well. I am a follower and fan 🙂

      Paul

  5. Congratulations! Any time sober is to be celebrated. I identify with so much of that you reveal here similar start age and similar length of drinking career just to start and the lies etc.

    I pray you have many more year.

    • Thank you very much, Graham! I pray for another year for all of us…and more! 24 hours is the record for being sober. Let’s match that one today 🙂

      Paul

  6. Congrats Paul! So very happy for you, and I am truly amazed at the transformation that you have been thru! Your words of kindness and positivity are a joy to read! You have helped and continue to help and inspire many who are still struggling or just need a pick me up. And your gift with words often has me feeling exactly what you write! Congrats again, wish you many more, one day at a time!

    • Thank you so much, SL. You are much too kind. I guess I just put forth what my truth is – I never expected to really have many (or any, for that matter) people read it. I am constantly blown away when I even get one comment, let alone several. But I learn so much from others – and from you I have learned what the path is ahead of me…and I like what I see 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  7. Way to go, Paul! Two years is Huge because that’s when our sobriety becomes a choice and no longer an obligation. You’re an inspiration, brother!

  8. Pingback: Following through | Recovering by Grace·

    • Thanks Destamae! And the award too? That’s some cool beans….thank YOU for that – very kind of you. Thanks for being in my recovery world and recovery life – so glad we connected 🙂

      Paul

  9. Beautiful piece, my friend. Written from the heart, as always. Honest and true. A real milestone gem.
    Well then,congratulations, Paul. Got yourself a deuce, eh? Right on. Let me give you a warm hug, delivered with moist, but happy eyes. (I can’t do that over at my place, I have this tough guy thing I’m still trying to keep up over there) Anyway, I am deeply impressed by how involved you’ve gotten. It’s the way to go alright. Gotta really take the Nestea plunge. Just saturate the organism in recovery juice. I’ve found that staying active in The Program cements my surrender. You know, puts my money where my mouth is always running off to. (I’m just going to let that participial dangle).
    I remember at six months I volunteered at our local Central Office answering phones during a Thursday night shift. Some nights you wouldn’t get a single call, so I’d bring books and writing paper, a movie player, with snacks and sodas to make it like a solo sleepover. It was fun.
    One evening, I come in for my shift, and Leo, the guy who ran the place, has a bag of 12,000 milestone chips and another bag of 19,999 little key chains that need to be threaded through the chips.
    Oh no. I didn’t like what I was seeing. .
    Sure as shit, he asks me to do just that, while waiting for calls.
    Great. Fun Night just got cancelled. I’m going to be rigorously honest and say I was pissed. I knew I couldn’t say no, so there I sat for four hours putting little chains through holes and snapping them together like a North Korean factory worker. Very tedious. But also meditative, and thus conducive for receiving insight. .
    One of the foreign thoughts that managed to penetrate said, “You ungrateful wretch, this program has given you back your life, and a much better one at that, and you can’t sacrifice a few hours of that life, the life you wouldn’t have in the first place, to give back?”
    Ouch! I was humbled. And I hate to be humbled. Especially by something that speaks in run-on sentences. But the voice was right. My babyish diversions weren’t going to keep me sober. Only service to others, in whatever diluted form.
    Today, I sometimes still hear that voice. Whenever I belly-ache and whine about some commitment I don’t want to keep, or having to meet some guy for coffee when I want a nap instead. But now it only has to ask, “Really?” and I get moving. In a contrary direction.
    Glad we’re trudging there together. Getting to meet people like you along the way has blessed me beyond measure.
    I am proud to be able to call a man like you, my friend.
    Wishing you, not just many more years, but as many as you want.
    You’re definitely worth it. Shine on, crazy diamond.
    Marius

    • I’ll take the hug, ya big lug 🙂

      Thanks for this post, Marius (something got in my eye when I read this – who knew dust storms came all the way up to Canada?). You’re a true amigo. I love the story of doing the little keychains. And I understand that voice. I have been having that voice yammering a lot lately, so I have had to do some action lately, and the voice is quiet for now. And I feel a whole ton better, spiritually and all. I have to not rest on my laurels (were laurels ever meant for resting – don’t they hang them or something?). You are a reminder of what grooviness lies ahead for me. If things are good now, I just need to see the Super M coming up, warts and all, and know that things will work out fine.

      Thanks again, kind sir – you make recovery a smashing thing.

      Paul

  10. Congratulations on your two year anniversary. You have a delightful and compassionate approach to sobriety. You are always easy to read and comprehend. Like so many others have already said, thank you for sharing your wonderful words with all of us. With gratitude, Lisa

  11. Paul, I have been mulling over your most recent post, more on that when I get back to it, and I found this one, I somehow missed it on the day you posted. When I contemplate what to write to someone like yourself, as you celebrate this milestone, one AA phrase keeps repeating itself in my head…

    If you want what we have…

    I think that of all the wonderful things I could write to you, this is the thing that would mean the most. I want what you have. Your dedication to recovery, your willingness, your honesty, your commitment to service. You are a role model for all of us on this path, and I am so grateful to have “met” you. Here is to another day of sobriety!

    Also, to show you how much I aspire to be like you, I have crafted the following sentence, because I know how much you will appreciate it:

    Paul, I am beholden to you, for a plethora of reasons. Your coercive writing style, your trenchant insight, and your largess to all your fellow bloggers make you an invaluable resource, and a paragon in the WordPress community!

    (can you imagine how many tabs I had to open for that sentence?!?)

    • Thank you so much for this, Josie. (Sorry for the delay responding, by the way). That was very kind of you, what you said. I think commitment to service is your crown, not mine…but thank you anyway 🙂

      I LOVED the paragraph there. Ha ha – I had a good laugh at it, and also had to look up “paragon” – so you had me opening a tab too! I haven’t used “trenchant” in a while – will have to snooker that into a new post 🙂

      You make my recovery that much better, and I am blessed to know you.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  12. Congratulations on your two years of strength and courage. And thank you for helping me to keep in touch with my alcoholism. If ever I need a reminder of how things used to be, I simply come over to your page and find honesty, openess and the promise that sobriety is good. Wishing you many many more years of living in the light 🙂

    • Thanks Carolyn! I hope to live in the light until my time here is no longer needed 🙂
      Thank you for your wonderful support and lovely words, as usual.

      Paul

  13. Paul,
    I am such a dork at this blogging thing, still – as I haven’t been able to catch many posts the day they come out. I am JUST reading this, and I am tipping my hat, raising my coffee in a toast, skipping down the street and then doing a cartwheel for you. What an amazing journey, and an incredible strong, kind faith comes from your words. I am so proud to know you! Thank you for all you do here….Duuuuuuuuude, you ROCK!

    • Thanks! My turn to get the duuuuuude 🙂 Thanks for the light and kindness your way. Don’t hurt yourself with the cartwheel- this blog has no insurance.

      Have a wonderful day 🙂

      Paul

      • Cartwheels, I can do….it’s the ripsticking I think I need to quit. My ten year old son was trying to teach me how last night. Good god. I am too old for that kind of shenanigans. If you don’t know what one is…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBZyt1oIvsQ

        I think one must be under 15 to try this…not 46….:-)

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