What does that have to do with your latte?
Nothing, except that the barista ringing in your order used a computer register, and computer registers, like all other computers, uses binary code. (Unless you go to a shop that embraces the abacus still and employs a posse of Howler monkeys in the back to smash coffee beans against rocks. Giddy up then.)
For those who are unfamiliar with binary code, it’s a system of 1’s and 0’s. Every computer language and instruction boils down to binary code. It’s all that computer processors understand. 1 or 0. On of off. String a few of those bad boys together in the right order and you are on the road to either programming the next Halo sequel, teaching a robot to weld bolts to an aircraft carrier, or instructing a phone to dial mom the day after mother’s day (oops, my bad). It’s the basic, basic code for all machines.
I’m no computer (yet – the Borg are still a possible threat), but I identify with the 1’s and 0’s in a way. There is that old tale of going to a party or large gathering and being told by 99 people that you’re great, you’re wonderful, you’re a pleasure to be around. But there is that one person who doesn’t care much for you. You know that one? The person who, for what ever reason, just dislikes you or doesn’t make you feel welcome? Guess who I would take home with me in my head when I left the building? The One. And in my drinking days, I collected Ones like I would collect empties.
So throughout my whole life, I stored these Ones like a memory card or computer chip. I let them embed themselves into my conscious. They became a part of me, and they never got dusty because I constantly pulled them out for inspection and polishing. Holding those Ones in me became automatic. I resented these people, I worried about what I had done to have them not like me, I tried to figure out what I had done wrong. I wanted them all to just love and adore me. But it wasn’t to be. So I hated them. I called them names, whistled the Kill Bill whistle while I did atrocious stuff to them in my mind. Most of all, I cherished them because without those Ones, I was nothing. I was a zero.
This collection of mine was borne out of a million fears and resentments. It was the Mylar that kept those Ones fresh and away from the daylight of rational thought and emotional maturity. That cherishment held me back from developing an emotional and spiritual level. It cut any progress I may have had at the knees and still asked me to get up and dance. I despised this collection and yet I clutched onto it and let it absorb into my cellular structure. And the more places I went, the more I ventured out, the more of these Ones I picked up.
And I found more and more of these Ones the sicker I got in my alcoholism. Work, public transit, neighbours, store clerks, imaginary beings…more foot soldiers to add to the battalion that hacked at me all day and night. I fed them with my sick thoughts, my unwavering attention, my obsessing over them. I brought them to life every time I put them on trial, when I kicked up the emotions behind the resentments, when I played the tape over and over and over and over again. I cradled them like delicate eggs in a nest.
And the zeros? Well, speak to an alcoholic of my type and the zeros are easy to peg. Start at self-esteem, self-worth, self-value. Continue down the aisle and experience the vacancy on the shelves of self-love, compassion and empathy towards others. Circle around and comb deep to find empty vats of serenity, contentedness and peace. Zeros abound, and we get used to them. It’s par for course.
So I hunted and gathered these Ones, I nestled them amongst the Zeros, I arranged them like notes on a newly composed sonata. I designed a new code every time I got out there and threw myself under life’s wheels. I programmed myself to feel and to not feel. I programmed myself to stay chained to a bottle that I didn’t want and yet craved. I programmed myself to be less than and yet greater than, to stay self-contained and yet wanting out. Algorithms that even the most basic Atari would crash with.
The funny thing with having such an non-auspicious and dangerous collection such as I did was just how much capacity I had for the Ones and Zeros in my life. It felt that it was boundless in terms of how much I could endure. The resentments and fears buoyed my illness and kept everything negative and harmful afloat, while sinking what few positive and dear things that may have made the mistake of coming up for air. There was no plan of action when it all started, but like the mythical and theoretical perpetual motion machine, it seemed to put out more energy than I was putting into it. And it spun out of control, eventually.
And frankly, I might as well have been a machine. I felt empty inside…not even a fan to cool things down. Booze tried to cool things down, but got into the gunk and jammed it up more. Another set of Ones and Zeros processed and caked onto the motherboard. More pain, more ouch. No IT dudes to fix things up. At least I didn’t have a clue about what could help reset my system.
You see, in the end, there truly was only one One which I need with me at all time. As it says in the Big Book – “Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find Him now!” And it wasn’t until my system burned out and crashed that I was able to see this. My Ones were just garbage, clutter. They kept me focused on the wrong things, and drove me deeper into self and self-absorption, selfishness and anger. And in turn helped to create new code for my alcoholism to read off like old punch cards. Archaic. Dodo-like stuff. Unnecessary. Defrag material.
Today I get to shake those Ones out before they accumulate. I learn to let go, to detach, to not take things personally, to show compassion and love, to have tolerance, to help others, to have communion with the Creator, to gain my strength and power from Him, to share my pain, to set boundaries and limits. And when I do get a stowaway in the old cranium and ticker, I have ways of extracting it – I delve deeper through inventory, or talk it out with someone or meditate upon it until the answer comes. It’s usually about asking that the thought / resentment / fear be removed and turn to help someone else.
I have a new hard drive. I have soft heart. I have a new One. I have new Zeros. The Creator has hit the big Reset button on me. And I am ever so grateful for it.