A One Way Ticket To Palookaville

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Things are already looking grim here.  Nice abs, though.
Things are already looking grim here. Nice abs, though.

I often hear people talk about “battling” alcoholism.  We “fight” for our lives, that we “take on” this addiction and often we “overcome” it.   I understand what they are talking about.  We as a society love a good ol’ dust-up or even a donnybrook.  We like to see the David’s topple the Goliath’s.  We like seeing Rudy get onto the football team.  We are taught that anything of any worth is worth fighting over.  We combat illness, we joust with sickness, we cross swords with the Big Bad Things that want to make us their prison byatch.  We are a society that loves an underdog victor standing alone once the dust has settled and the blood congealed.  A gladiator nudging the corpse to see if it moves on final time.

I don’t have that experience when it comes to my own alcohol problem.

At all.

But let me back up a sec.

When I was drinking, I was a battler extraordinaire.  I was a Milquetoast Mothra with a hate-on for myself and everyone and everything else.  Alcohol, at the time, was both the fuel and the antidote for that anger.  Roll one of those Dungeons & Dragons dodecahedron dice and that’s about as unpredictable as I got.  My underlying emotion in any reaction or thought was rage.  Rage was a nice plush carpet that I dug my toes in and felt safe on.  I rolled around in it, revelled in it, made rug angels in it.  Some carpet burns for sure, but it was my anger.

My poker face (with apologies to Lady Gaga). Underneath? A cauldron of snake eyes, bat toe clippings and simple fury.
My poker face (with apologies to Lady Gaga). Underneath? A cauldron of snake eyes, bat toe clippings and simple fury.  Dinner is served!

And so I fought.  Not in the fist-to-flesh sense…although I was known to actually do that to myself (self-abuse manifested in a sick way of treating myself).  I fought myself and others through mental and verbal abuse (hi sarcasm, how are you?), passive aggressive behaviour, inappropriate punishment, over the top reactions and raging manipulation.  If you had nothing for me, I immediately disliked you.  I tried to railroad you.  I blocked you from kind things.  I played victim and blamed you.  I put you down behind your back and dabbled in the black arts of gossip and rumour mongering.  I cut you down at the knees…just after I did the same to myself.  Put you level with me, because if I am going down, I need a dance partner.

When I got down to it, my battles with others was really a way of finding a target other than myself.  The cross hairs were always dead on me, but I needed target practice to hone my killer bayoneting abilities.  And I had mad skilz to pay da bills, if truth be known.  So while I played it cool on the surface, I had my war paint on my little inside Johnny Tomahawk.  I was ready at all times to take on who and what I needed to just feel a little bit alive.  I was a walking George A. Romero extra, but used barbs as brains to keep me going.  Just for a little while, at least.

How my brain works...without the killer chapeau.
How my brain works…without the killer chapeau.

So where did this all lead?  Fatigue.  Emotional and mental draining.  A sense of me versus the world. A losing proposition and stance at best.  The greatest casualty was the true me that was meant to be, not the one I manufactured.  My sense of self, my sense of worth, my sense of value plummeted.  Tearing down others was an act of self-sabotage, in the end.  Containing all the fury and fight ate away at my spirit and soul.  It eroded my faith and my love in the Creator and others.  It compounded the loathing I already came of of the box with (Barbie sold separately, batteries not included)

And what of alcoholism?  Oh dear.

I fought my alcoholism like Tom fought Jerry.  But nowhere near as reconcilable.  I thought I had it under control.  I thought that I was just on a run of bad luck.  I refused to let something like that – a clear liquid – beat me down into submission.  There was a greater chance of Tony the Tiger eating rice cakes with seaweed spread for breakfast than me not having and not lording dominion over booze.  My ego wouldn’t have any of it.  For simply to admit defeat would mean that my whole little conception of me and the world was wrong.  And I didn’t do wrong.   Even when I erred, it was something else – the sun was in my eye, or someone was out to get me – that was the real culprit.

I just used to stretch the truth...but this guy.  Wow, he takes things to a new level.  Reminder to self - need to get supplies from Staples.
I just used to stretch the truth…but this guy… wow, he takes things to a new level. Reminder to self – need to get supplies from Staples today.

It wasn’t until I had gone round after round after round in the ring with the bottle that I realized that I truly was done for.  I got tired of the stinging sweat and puffy skin around my head and my bloodshot eyes.  I was worn down by the duplicitous and arrogant nature of my own nature, going against nature, if you will.  No matter how many rounds I went, I came out worse than I did the time before.  No matter how much I came up with new ways of beating it, alcoholism had tried-and-true ways to circumnavigate my cunning.  No matter how much might and deftness I put into my attempt to manhandle the alcohol, it came out of the corner with a ferociousness unmatched in previous bouts.  No matter how much I tried to out think it, it outwitted me like Kasparov on Red Bull.  More like Raging Bull.

So in the end, bloodied and torn and having nothing left in me, jobless, arrested, hospitalized, separated, detached, ignored, beat down, fatigued beyond reproach…I did the one thing left in me.  I did the one thing I promised I would never ever do.  I did the one single thing that I felt would never occur – I surrendered.  I surrendered to my alcoholism.  I waved the white flag, put my head down, and cried like I never cried before.  My soul cried out for something that it never had before, something that it craved and yet never found.  It cried out for peace.  Serenity.  Love.  Compassion.  A life away from the imprisonment of my own mind and the bottle.

On your knees, punk!  And hurry...I need to pee.
On your knees, punk! And hurry…I need to pee.

It was then and only then was I able to start the healing process.  Then and only then could I start to see the wreckage I left behind from the scorched earth crusade I had been on.  It was then that I could see that I didn’t need to fight any longer.  I never did.  I was always in reach of getting to the rest stop.  I just needed to make that decision.  Or in my case, the decision was almost made for me.  I just needed to give up what little was left.  My ego had to succumb to the one thing it feared above all else – looking bad, not winning, admitting it didn’t have all the answers.  And in doing so I was given a gift.  The gift of freedom.  Of relief.  Of being able to stand outside of my own shadow and shackles and feel sunlight on my bruised and battered frame.  I could start to see a glimmer of hope.  I could almost feel what it would be like to not have to drink again.  Frightening, but freeing.

It didn’t mean that things were going to be perfect.  Or that I was absolved of everything.  There was a lot of work to be done still (and is ongoing today and evermore), but I had that first baby step in hand – that I could not drink like a normal person, and more emphatically, that I could not drink again period.   My fighting days were done.  Gloves hung up and on ebay.  My battle axe and shield were laid down at my feet, hands free to hold on to others for support and to support others.  I was on a different path.

Making peace with the Beast of Burden.  Milkbones optional.
Making peace with the Beast of Burden. Milkbones optional.

What this meant for me is that I no longer have to carry the burden of armor or Jedi mind tricks to just enter the day.  I wake up with the freedom in knowing that I have a path that brings me to a place of peace and serenity.  I have to do some heavy lifting at times, but that is often to unload what no longer serves me.  Alcoholism and what it represents – oppression, anger, fear – no longer defines me and puts me in danger.  I am not tethered to the feeling of uselessness and abandonment.  In surrendering, I gain victory.  In laying down of arms, I gain strength. In backing down, I gain clarity and respect for myself.

It’s now about ego stripping, not ego tripping.

And in that, I learned to accept that I cannot drink.  That I am nothing special.  That I am just a person who realized that he was licked, and did what was needed.

I fall to my knees and thank the Creator for this gift…of surrender and hope.

I fight no more.

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Debbie says:

    Wow, that was beautiful. Just what I needed to hear today. Blessings and ((hugs)) to you.

    1. Thanks Debbie…and blessing and hugs back 🙂

      Paul

  2. zachandclem says:

    I’m thinking this is eye opening for me, ’cause I definitely tend to think of my life and its challenges in terms of BATTLES. In my head it’s We-Were-Soldiers-like scenarios with explosions behind me as I wade through the swamp and make it out of danger. It’s fucking bullshit, nobody’s out to get me or targeting me.
    You just gave me a mirror and handed me my flaws on a platter. I need to be less defensive and stop believing I’m on some special mission against Life Who Handed Me No Candy. Lol. That trooper is so cute.

    1. I laughed at the Life Who Handed Me No Candy…hilarious. I laugh because I know exactly how you feel. I have to steal that one 😉

      I think it’s the whole conditioning thing that we are fighters, we are brave and we battle. And in many ways we do, and it is totally fine at times to stand up for ourselves and take back the night, etc. But I guess for me there are times I just need to surrender and say “no mas”.

      Great comments!

      Thanks

      Paul

      1. abbythecatandclemthehuman says:

        Yeah I agree 100%, I just have to figure out how to do it. Surrendering is not actually something I’ve EVER learned how to do, I’m a “surviver” (see that vocabulary betraying my fighter attitude? :p). Darn it.

  3. lifecorked says:

    Great words, Paul! Surrender – sounds so simple, yet so hard for so many of us who have lived our lives controlling and fighting life. Surrender for me means peace and serenity. Such a beautiful thing!

    1. Ah yes, Chenoa, peace and serenity…what else could be better?

      Thank you for the reminder!

      Paul

  4. soberorbust says:

    Wow! This is so profound! Your words are so eloquent. I had all the same thoughts and you have put them in writing for me. I am def saving this. Not that I will forget where I came from but so I can read it in black and white which makes it so concrete.

    I was consumed with rage and self hatred. I never wanted to admit failure. I didn’t have a choice, I surrendered. I can remember saying ‘I wave the white flag’ in detox. Wow.

    Thank you for writing and sharing Paul!!

    1. Thank you for the kind words. 🙂

      Admitting failure…who *does* want to admit that? But there are times I do have to admit it…and learn and move on. Even today I fail miserably at some things and I have to push ego aside and find out what I can gain from that trip.

      I’m glad you’re here!

      Paul

  5. soberorbust says:

    Forgot to add, I made rug angels too. Reading RUG ANGELS made me crack up 🙂

  6. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Excellent words, just excellent.

    Fatigue. Yep. Fatigue.

    1. Thanks Noeleen…that’s very kind of you to say. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

      Paul

  7. I totally get this. I do, however, relate to the concept of battle in terms of battling my lack of discipline and desire to do whatever I want whether it’s good for me or not. I do sometimes go a few rounds in the ring with my complusion for instant gratification. But the answer for me is surrender too. I’m much more of a lover than a fighter!

    1. There are certainly things that I *do* have to battle, as I mentioned to zachandclem above. I do have to get past my fears and some of my limited thinking and that takes a certain bravado and courage.

      Glad you’re in the lover and not so much fighter category 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  8. What freedom to be able to wake up and not feel you are in a battle with the universe. And I love how you found victory in surrender. So powerful!
    The problem with the battles when you are drinking is that you will never win. I lost every single time. I still lose a few battles in sobriety but I have my fair share of victories now. Wonderful post. Thank you Paul for reminding me that every day without a drink is a winning day 🙂

    1. Thank you Carolyn for these wonderful words here. There was certainly no winning in drinking…and Lord knows I have tried many ways. I got beat down more and more. And thank you for saying that you lose a few battles in sobriety, while winning a lot…good to hear, as I need to hear that we still fail and yet still win in a certain way in those fails.

      So glad you’re here 🙂

      Paul

  9. Good stuff. Throughout. But I REALLY liked the way you danced it out in the end. From where you broke with “Ego stripping,” and perfectly tapped it to “I fight no more.” Fancy hot-footin’ there. For sure. Hey, before I lose myself in the craft, and neglect the message- Admitting defeat is the hardest. But then what happens? Right. The best thing. So, now I try to admit defeat all the time. I’m a defeat machine. I eat defeat for breakfast. And while I still need a nap usually around 2pm or 3, I have a lot more pep in step.
    And my laugh lines are getting deeper.
    Anyway, it’s great that your writing talent and wit can be at the employ of our great recovery movement. You’re a good soldier–in the fight we charge to in complete surrender.
    Man. Crazy ironies abound.
    Let’s let them, I say.
    Your southern kamrad.
    Marius

    1. Marius – your battles have given you manly scars and given you grit around those laugh lines…great balance. Warrior poet stuff to you, kind sir. Thanks for the nicies my way. Means a lot coming from you. You had me howling at the defeat machine / eating defeat. I am not sure I am at machine level like that, but in a weird way I look forward to it. Ego loves to see defeat as..well, defeat. Less than. A shot to the machismo. And of course I can’t afford to see it that way. Defeat has to be in a winning way, if that makes sense. As long as I see it in the light that it needs to be seen in, I am ok.

      Crazy ironies abound indeed.

      Thanks for this…makes my day.

      Paul

  10. Erika says:

    AMEN for this WONDERFUL post!

    1. Amen to YOU, Erika! Thank you for being here 🙂

      Paul

  11. Hi Paul…

    This is a beautiful post, but you already know that because of all the amazing people above me (in the comment section) telling you so. So I will not be redundant.

    However…

    I have headed over here directly from Lisa’s blog, and I am, sorry to say, about to lecture you the way I just lectured Lisa. Before I do though, new words I need to incorporate into daily language? Perspicacity and Pedantic. No idea if I even spelled them correctly, and do you have an affinity for the letter P? But I digress….

    As I wrote to Lisa, if you change one bit of your writing style, I will be really, really, really upset. And I know I will not be alone in that emotion. I look at your blog as such a gift in my life, I treasure every post your write, and I bask in every bit of feedback you give me. Seriously.

    There is probably not a blogger in this world that questions his or her style, myself included, but, at the end of the day, we are most effective when we are authentic. Your current style is so clearly your authentic self, it would be positively criminal to tweak it in any way.

    Alright, I will now switch the “off” button of my lecture mode. Seriously, Paul, I may be slow in my responses, but I wish you could see the smile on my face every time my email notifies me of a new post… if you could, you would never question yourself again!

    1. Thanks Josie. I saw your words to Lisa as well, and my post there was me catching on the coattails of her question of keeping things plainer, to make things more approachable. And I guess that is what I have struggled with for some time now, and it was great that Lisa was thinking along the same lines. Thank you for your kind words. And of course you’re right – everyone has doubts. I am not special in that regard. I suppose I see my writing as elitist at times – unapproachable, wordy, over the top, too clever, trying to hard, inauthentic, etc. Really, this is old self popping up and causing me distress and alarm at a low level. Ego is cracking the whip on this one.

      Ugh.

      Nonetheless, I have taken your words to heart.

      Blessings,
      Paul

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