The Gospel According To Quint And Clint


We ain't got no bottle openers, Chief, but I gots me a shark scratcher instead

We ain’t got no bottle openers, Chief, but I gots me a shiny shark scratcher instead.

I’ve been feeling like a grizzled vet lately.

Not sure why, but it’s perhaps the ever growing grays and the unruly beard, the persuasive yet gentle “I’ve-had-it-ness”, and the general malaise of “meh” that seems to cloud my approaches to things.  The grizzled vet is an archetype in many ways – films, video games, sports teams, books of certain genres, etc. all have their version of the “been there, done that” guy.  He’s the guy that’s seen it all, shakes off what others may cower or fret over, and tends to take things in a methodical and not so emotional way.  He’s the “Christ’s Sake, not again,” dude, while finishing off an alien with a semi-automatic laser-powered weapon and lighting a smoke at the same time.  He’s the captain of the team who bunks with the rookie, or just gets the rare privilege of bunking solo while the team is on the road.  He’s the one who covers the rear of the pack or doesn’t wear a life jacket just because. He’s intolerant of being tolerant.  Calls it like it is, and cares not for the swooning of the womanly wiles that may swarm around him.

Not to say that I am all those things – far from.  But I have this low level being done with a lot of stuff.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Perhaps a forensic psychic autopsy in an Area 51 stainless steel table will illuminate things at a later date.  Until then, I am here.   I actually joked with my wife the other day that when the boys are 18, I am just going to leave this planet.  I will officially be done with things.  She then mused aloud about starting a Lavalife profile for herself.  I said go for it – activate it sooner than later, just in case she has to do a lot of filtering for stalkers and trolls.  She also joked that on my tombstone she will only have one thing written on it: DONE.  I like the ring of that. It’s a nice way to finish things.  Clean.  Final.  No room for discussion.  But then she had to bring up grandchildren.  So I decided to hold off until the grandkids are old enough to play lawn darts and Parcheesi on their own before clamming up for good, washed upon the shores of good tidings.

The original grizzled vet.  Sufferin' tarnashin boy, fetch me ma britches and gorget!

The original grizzled vet. Sufferin’ tarnashin’ boy, fetch me ma britches and gorget!

I feel this at work as well.  I like to remind the new employees, usually out of college, that I have shoes older than them, and that they weren’t a twinkle in their daddy’s eye (or twitch in their daddy’s pants…for the cruder set) when I was already married.  It sets the tone for them…and me.  I say it with a smile, a pat on the back, and then a smear across my psyche as I realize that I truly am forging ahead in this so-called life.  The other day, my two sons, 5 and 3, were playing with pillows, and some white fluff came out.  The oldest put the fluff on the youngest one’s head and said “Now you look like Papi [Daddy]!”  I thought that was the funniest thing he’s said until yesterday afternoon when taking the kids back from swim camp. They requested the sun roof be opened and we obliged, which often prompts my wife loves to tell people about the time a bird pooped on my head when we had the sunroof open (true story) and told it to the boys.  My oldest then asked if that’s why I have so much gray in my hair.

Sigh.

I also feel this sense of having already stood up around the corpses in recovery, to some extent.  And it’s affecting how I approach others, and it has me wondering at times.  When I first started doing the sober thing, I was very, very patient and understanding of those who were new to it.  Comrades-in-arms. In real life and on recovery forums, I was very genteel and all Doc Holliday meets Doc Joyce with everyone.  If I could stroke someone’s hand or put a gentle grip on their shoulder to  let them know it was going to be OK, I would have.  I really took the time to extend myself and wrap my words in authentic empathy and really focus on what their needs were.  I would give as much as I could before spinning around the room like a deflated balloon, spent, bereft of anything else.  Needless to say, it was tiring at times, even though a part of me was sparked, rejuvenated.

tumblr_l7gw0w5Er91qciesyo1_1280

But it feels that these days, I cut to the chase quicker.  I don’t lollygag.  I don’t hold court the way I would try to in the past.  I don’t sweeten things up too much.  I call it as it is.  Especially at work (I was called “blunt” the other day by one of my staff.  Me? Blunt?  I used to dance around stuff in a way that would make Baryshnikov blush).  It seems that my workplace for is a training ground for me.  Work is where I test the ideas of boundaries (what a concept!) and setting limits.  It ‘s safe to do, as at work, I know what I am doing, for the most part.  I have plenty of experience, and there are no emotions (or very little) involved.  I am management, so I have leeway with certain things.  I can call the shots and let the repercussions, if any, fall on me.  I can be firm, but fair.  These are the things I learned to do in recovery – stand up, have the courage to change the things I can, and overcome fears.  I am certainly not perfect in that regard, but I have gotten much better.  I am not Eastwood in my demeanour, but I share that grizzled outlook at times. Make my day, punks…indeed.

In recovery now, I feel that I am getting to that point where I too am starting to call it like I see it a bit.  I am not the hard-nosed old timer at the back of the room (yet), but I am inching towards his no-nonsense and bristled approach.  A little Brillo pad love, some firm thorns in the Aloe Vera, a touch of sandpaper and grit in the washbasin.   The BS detector is dusted off, hums at full capacity and like to spit out fortune cookie quips that are short and sweet and sour.  Perhaps it’s because I have already seen so many people come and go, so many people get sick, so many people fumble their back into blackness and pain, so many pick up a drink and never been seen or heard from again.  And that hurts to see.

Sad story.  You got a smoke?

Sad story. You got a smoke?

I ran into a counselor (and now friend) from my old treatment center.  I am a contact there, which means that when a man leaves the house, he is given the phone number of someone who lives in their area and can help transition them to other meetings, introduce them to other, take them under their wing, etc.  I am usually told ahead of time when I am going to be contacted by a new guy.  So my friend and I were talking and told him that I was lucky to be called one out of every ten times.  “That’s pretty good odds,” he said, taking a drag from his cigarette.  And he’s right – a small percentage of us alcoholics / addicts don’t make it out, let alone make it out for good and all.  Grim prospects. And perhaps that is why I feel the need to tell it like it is, because I don’t want to be guilty of coddling or hugging someone to death.  And it happens.  And yet, compassion and tolerance and empathy and love is also called upon. Balance and fair play come to mind as well.

So just because I have been there and done it, doesn’t mean that I always have to act like I have been there and done it.  But that’s where I am right now, correct or not.  I have had to shore up my shares of being green / raw and saddle up to the healthier side of things, where hurt feelings can sometimes save lives.  I care for the person, not for the illness.  And those two being intertwined, what I say sometimes comes across as not-so-Disney.  Or Disney, but on ice – a little cool and designed to have one sit up and take notice – but it comes from that place of looking out, of having been in that place.  I speak from a place of experience, not opinion.  I come from the understanding of how powerful denial, rage and apathy can be.  It come from knowing that this illness kills.

Blade: How do you feel? Whistler (pictured): Like hammered shit

Blade: How do you feel?
Whistler (pictured): Like hammered shit

As I sit and write this, I check my twitter and read people’s struggles, I read blog posts where people are unsure of where they’re at in their struggle, I get a call from a guy who is giving me an excuse as to why he can’t meet this weekend to discuss doing work on the steps…and all these things give me pause in how I come to these people, these situations.  This grizzled feeling isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It doesn’t mean I am not open to new experiences, or shutting the door on the past.  It’s precisely because of my past that I have been able to grow another layer of skin, another ring in the trunk, another perspective on this disease and life in general.  It’s just that the tint of my glasses have changed.  The prescription is different – far sighted rather than short sighted. And they will change again, no doubt.

When someone calls me out on my BS, when I am called out on ego, when people point out something that is keeping me from growing…that to me is love.  That is the pointing-to-the-spinach-in-my-teeth love.  That’s the “Papi, you need to shower” from the kids love (I just rode my bike, gimme a break!)  There is of course the thought that different approaches work for different people.  Agreed.  I like to think that there is a compassionate undercurrent in my ways, and there is a part of me that just screams and hopes and wishes and prays that someone else would just get it – but that’s not my job. My job is to just carry the message.  Carry the message of hope.  That’s all I can do.  And whether hope is enrobed in Hershey’s Kisses or barbed wire, or a bit of both, it is still hope…and hope that the person can get well.

I wish you all well, wherever you’re at in your journey.

Signed,

The Grizzled Vet

P.S now get off your ass and get to work 😉

Selfie

Selfie

22 responses to “The Gospel According To Quint And Clint

  1. Sounds to me like you have left the pink cloud and have gotten down to business. You have been the newcomer inhaling all the info you can and sharing it. You have been around the old timers enough to see how they have maintained their sobriety. You are at the place where recovery has molded into your life and settled in. Enjoy it mr. grizzly.

  2. HAHAAAA! Excellently written, you have the superbly crafted wit of the wise and the take-no-prisoners attitude of the experienced, bloody brilliant combination. World needs more of ’em (us?), especially in the busted-arsed corners of it. Respect brother Rd

  3. Tell it like it is! I’ve got no problem with that. I have become much more to the point the older I get. The other night I was with a friend who was hemming and hawing about asking his son to come home at certain time (this man is 53, his son is 16). It made a difference in the plans of two couples and he was waiting for his son to text him back and tell him what HE wanted to do. I finally said, “For gawdsake. If you want to let a 16 year old run your life, fill your boots. But I’m not going to. Man up or don’t come with us.” He was a little sheepish but eventually told his son what he expected. Grow up people!!!

  4. The latest to join my team asked me about why I made a decision about leaving my first job. It was 1986 her parents were still at school!! I’m too old for this shit!

  5. You got me thinkin’ about Willie and Joe, the grizzled American G.I.s in Bill Mauldin’s cartoons. Reading those as a kid really got to me. I think I based my entire personality complex on a couple of resigned-to-suffer comic strip characters. Looking back, I should have picked Bugs Bunny. I would have been happier.
    The proverbial wrong turn in Albuquerque.
    Ah well, you play the hand you’re dealt. (bolts back a shot of pretend whiskey)
    See how quickly I slipped into grizzled vet mode? Seen it all, Done it all. Some of the really bad stuff, twice. So yeah, I totally dig the archetype. I wish my age didn’t facilitate playing the role. I wish my life didn’t either, come to think about it.
    Anyway, I think it’s a good sign when you start to feel that way around in the rooms. It means you stuck around long enough to get there.
    Sure some of that new fish enthusiasm may have dimmed, but at least we’re still around. I still talk to newcomers, but find myself able to economize on the hand-holding. You know, here’s the deal, if you want to do it, I’ll help. But I’m not going to be leaving you a bunch of voice mails, dude. We get a lot of replacements around here, and most of dem don’t last thirty days, unnerstan?
    I think it’s okay. It’s a natural response to seeing tons of people come and go, and come and go. And come. And go again. Besides, there’s plenty of newer guys ready to charge the hill. Who can forget some of their early bayonet charges?
    As for me, these days, I like to wait for my socks to dry. Finish my can of C-rats. I can hold off on moving out, until the artillery stops shelling. Then I’ll scan the landscape for white flags. See who wants to surrender?
    And if I see they’re really ready to wave the hankie, then old Sarge will sit down and listen to them. Pour ’em some coffee I brewed in my helmet. Hear their tales of woe. Some daffy dame in Detroit dat had done him dirty. A mother that was not emotionally there.
    Nod along quietly, while the war rages on around us.
    Thanks again, Paul. For doing all that you STILL do.
    Okay, HQ says we’re moving out!

    • Ugh. I had written one of my longish replies…the kind of banter that makes the comments section that much more lively and my computer ate it. Needless to say, it has some wit, outlandish spins and a touch of the esoteric. Sort of like how your responses are. But nowhere near them in terms of actually groovy content. I blame the helmet coffee. Or the Solid Gold Dancers. Like a good alcoholic, I need to pin the blame on someone, as how dare I look elsewhere, Sir G?

      Regardless, you paint a splendid picture of battlefront surrender. LIke a young Jack Coggins. Plenty of folks ready to charge up that hill, but as to how many make it…well, that’s to be seen.

      thank YOU, kind sir for leading the charge.

      Paul

  6. That settling in feeling of, “Cut the shit – just tell me like it is.” I have always been “blunt” and to the point and most people loved that about me. But after I got sober I found myself second guessing every damn thing that came out of my mouth. Now I find that I’m a kinder, softer version of my younger self but I still don’t have time for bullshit.

    I do think that some of it is age though…and I really don’t like that. But I cowgirl up and ride anyway.

    Another wonderful post.

    Sherry

    • I really like the description of the softer younger, yet not time for BS. And I think you are right, some of it does have to do with age. No more time for pussyfooting around. We aren’t getting younger, so no need to dance around things at times. I have to learn to watch it too now that I have found this sort of freedom to be blunt at times. There is a time for kid gloves and gentleness. Not everything is a nail and I am not always a hammer.

      Thank you for your awesome comments 🙂

      Paul

  7. ” … that to me is love.” Great line! Interesting how so many are just offended. Reminds me of the movie (?) when Cruise (?) says to (?), “you can’t handle the truth.” (Apparently my drinking has effected me worse than I previously thought.) Anyhow, I see this is my work all the time, but they always come back and say “thank you” ….. good good stuff my friend. Even as I read this I am learning some truths about me and I’m so glad I am willing to see and learn.

    • I too have to apologize for the lateness in this reply, Lisa. I do my best to get to them in a timely manner and I dropped the ball on this one. I will do 3 sit ups as penitence (3 is a lot for me). I know the movie you speak up, but am too worn out from my sit ups to Google it. But I get what you are saying.

      Glad you’re here 🙂

      Paul

  8. Good Morning!

    The movie is A Few Good Men, I know this because that quote is in regular rotation in my circle… not sure why? But we do like to say it in Jack Nicholson’s accent when we say it…

    While I feel bad sometimes how long it takes me to read and respond, I am also thrilled to be able to read everyone’s comments! This is such a great way to start the day!

    Paul, I almost want to say congratulations on your promotion, except that I know we in AA are not in a class system. But for real, it does seem like you have gone to the “next level,” which is entirely cool!

    I am such a Polly Pockets type of gal, I can’t imagine ever getting to that point of telling it like it is, but, then again, I can’t really imagine you doing it either, so maybe there’s hope for me yet! I’ll tell you this, I believe you are doing the newcomer more favors by being a reality check than by painting a rainbows and lollipop picture, that’s for sure.

    Now instead of picturing you as the 70’s guy, I will picture you with pillow fluff on your head… hilarious!

    • Miracle and Message …. Out of curiosity do the two of you know each other already or are you cyber friends? I love being part of the friendship. Just wanted you to know. My favorite thinkers … the two of you. xox

      • Hey Lisa – no we don’t know each other “on the outside”, just know each other through the blogosphere…the way that you and I know each other. Cyberfriends, as you mentioned. You are certainly an important friend, cyber or not. Why put labels?

        Thanks for being here and there. 🙂

        Paul

    • ps. I just decided (this morning) that I’m no longer apologizing for getting to post replies “late.”

      If, in truth, God is with me wherever I go, then He is with me when I am not replying “timely.” And since God is never late and I am with God, there is no such thing as a late reply to cyber chat.

      There i said it. Now I just need to stick to it. I see a post in here somewhere about “apologizing.”

      • Great reply, Lisa. I like that. Old habits…I was a constant apologizer. I would apologize for the Hindenburg if I could back in the day…it alleviated any inner tension or guilt and fed into people pleasing. I will join you in this. Stretch out a bit 🙂

        • I joke you not … I was just sending a text message and typed the words “sorry for not getting back sooner ” … I deleted it so fast. It took all of 20 minutes to forget my promise to self.

          This is going to be more challenging than originally understood. Thanks for joining.

          My motto today “I not sorry. I’ve done nothing to be sorry for.”

          “The Hindenburg” lol … you’re killing me 🙂

      • Is it wrong that I want to apologize for apologizing?

        I joke, sort of! More seriously, I love this thought, because I do spend a lot of time feeling guilty for not doing something, not doing something fast enough, not doing something thoroughly enough, the list goes on and on. I will commit this thought to memory and take it with me wherever I go!

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