Have You Met My Friend Jack?

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I didn't know Dick and Jane were into the creepy stuff.  Seems sorta fetish-y, don't ya think?
I don’t know – this seems to be a grab for the the fetish-y kids, don’t ya think?

“I’ve got news for you pal, you ain’t leading but two things right now: Jack and shit… and Jack just left town”.  – From Army of Darkness.

While not exactly the most elegant quote, someone in a meeting used a variation of that one the other night – that there were only two things he knew out there while drinking and that was those two things. This same man, always done up with cowboy boots, cowboy hat, macho scraggly beard and stilted gait borne of age and drunken trauma, sat next to me at the meeting.  At this particular group, we are asked to go around the table and give our name and length of sobriety.  I mentioned 27 months, and then when it came to Roy Rogers, he blurted out “28 years”.  Yikes.   Listen, I am surrounded my long and old timers a lot, and their numbers, although staggering to me at times, don’t often shock me.  But for some reason, this Buffalo Bill caught me off guard…like my six shooter got snagged in the holster or something right there during showdown.  I think that this had to do with where my head space has been lately (a frightening place at the keenest of times).

In the first year of sobriety, it was all about getting and staying sober.  I wasn’t too concerned with new developments in the Pythagorean theorem or creating new slipknots for tie making contests.  I just didn’t want to die.  A noble cause in some circles, yes? I found that I enjoyed living, so I made that my focus.  I took the steps (aren’t I clever, Mr. G?) required for me to reach a place where death and boozin’ weren’t on the radar any more and actually started to turn things around.  That was year one.  Year two was a process of looking up from the top of the dung pile I had conquered, eight inches off the gutter flooring, and asking “Now what?”.  And so began the unfolding of looking at life in a different way, of unwrapping what was in front of me and pulling apart the leaves and uncovering, discovering and discarding what didn’t serve me.  I started to get a stronger understanding of the forces that surrounded me and my role in the Greater Scheme Of Things.  Play right sized, play fair, play nice, the play’s the thing.  Seek and be sought out by others.  Eat enough fiber.  Sleep well.  Don’t take candy from babies.  The sort of things I learned in kindergarten type stuff.  New to me, really.   I also started to mentor and sponsor other men – showed them that they too could get a swank view from the top of the poop heap.

This is how I felt like in my first year...except I didn't dress as well, unless you consider Lulu Lemon pants chic.
This is sort of how I felt like in my first year…except I didn’t dress as well. Unless you consider Lulu Lemon yoga pants chic.

I had a friend of mine from treatment text me not too long ago, to the effect that he felt that he was taking his sobriety for granted, that he was feeling almost entitled to his recovery, and wasn’t doing all the things he normally did – prayer, meditation, hitting meetings, etc.  And I think that is the best way I can describe how this third year has been for me so far, at times.  I have been shaving a bit of time off some of the things that have been working for me thus far.  I have been allowing distractions to, well…distract me.  I have been getting the feeling that I am not quite as connected as I should be.  At the same time, I have been enjoying a certain sense of living life a little more fully and presently.  Living with a sense of being grounded rather than feeling that I will be lifted off the ground at any time by a sudden gust of wind.  Being more ensconced in the daily rather than being flimsy in the Holy.  And the low level rumbling of being  bit more balanced in an overall scheme of things.  But, there is still this fly in the ointment that beckons me to examine if I truly am starting to feel entitled to this miracle that has been bestowed onto me – recovery.

And how did this recovery, this sobriety, come to me?  With a full and utter demoralization of myself, a smashing of what little pride and ego I had left in me, an all-on Dieppe-like raid on my already wounded self and spirit.  And with that came the choice between dying an alcoholic death or seek a spiritual path.  Easy pickin’s, right?  Well, to many of us alcoholics, when given that choice, there is a voice inside of us that asks “So…how does an alcoholic death look like?  Is it something I can get on Google Images?  Is it painful?  And if so, how painful?”.  But I was given the Grace to follow through on a spiritual Ghoster Coaster kind of thrill ride that has brought me to the place of submission, surrender and acceptance.  And freedom.  So, then what?  I move forward through life, try to navigate it, skip over the landmines, tend to the wounded, call for medics, brew coffee, eat my rations and avoid trench foot.   But where is this all leading to?  To extend this tired metaphor, why is it that I get to a point where I feel that perhaps I don’t need my helmet at all times?  That I don’t need to carry my rifle or put balm on the hurty-burty bits or keep Charlie in check?  Why is this idea of entitlement creep in, as if Eden were being interrupted by a mariachi band?

Sound off like you got a pair!
Sound off like you got a pair!

Simply put, I feel that the more I am learning about myself, this illness, this thing we call sobriety / recovery, my connection with the Creator and life in general, the less I seem to know.  Perhaps I feel that shifting things around will shift things around. Addition by subtraction.  More questions than answers.  And for a while there I thought I had a lot of answers. Deep, powerful, insightful answers, and really, in the final analysis, what I had was just a lot of Things That I Think I Know At The Moment – more like Coupon-of-the-Week rather than Book-of-the-Year type answers.  Where I sought the resolute, I found the inconclusive or the good for now.  And that is something that I am finding on this journey – there is no peak, there is no tome of Absolute Answers – there is only what works for me, my truth…THE truth.  The more I seek, the less I find, and yet, the more I am gaining through the seeking, if that makes any sense.  It’s the driving of the Jeep through the jungle and wrestling with the tigers and snakes that makes me an adventurer, not the heads mounted on the wall.  So my ignorance actually serves me, as it drives me to seek further and to widen my asking circle. And with that, my sobriety strengthens, or at the very least, doesn’t roll back on me.

So this entitlement that I have felt or at least feared, is for me, a new place for growth.  It’s a place where I am grateful for what I have – a sober life, free from the shackles of self-loathing and wanting to drown in my own vomit and filth – and where I know that any sort of letting down my program is my own self getting in the way of things.  And the great joy is that I get to learn to get myself out of the way!  Get out, ya punk!  Move off the road, grandpa!  The Great Imperial Pop-A-Wheelie is driving this Mack Daddy, and He doesn’t need pant wetters taking the wheel.  I have taken that wheel before and just ran myself over and over and hating the driver.  And of course I have to keep on eye on this sense of entitlement.  I am not better nor worse than anyone out there.  I ain’t nuttin’ special, y’all.  I am a drunk who was shown the solution and has been blessed by having been given that.  And I need to keep at it.  That’s all.  I make it so much more complicated than it is, and I get caught up in the web of self-scrutiny and piousness and smugness and ego and scrupulousness and self-pity.   No thanks – wore those coats for far too long and they chaffed me way too much.  Got the Polysporin scabs to prove it.

I don't know...I tried this book to get sober, and it didn't work.  I got to keep the cool face mask though.
I’m entitled to this, aren’t I?

So when I hear Hopalong Cassidy say he’s got 28 years – almost one year per one of my months – it gave me pause to wonder… just how much do I really know?  I feel that I have gone so far, and yet, how much further is there?  What are the limits?  Will I have the wherewithal and spiritual fortitude to keep on this journey?  I mean, I know a good part of me will, and part of me will resist at times, like one of my sons when I am trying to pry them off of a checkout stand impulse buy chocolate bar.  But I don’t have a crystal ball, and frankly, I need to just focus on where I am today and in the present.  But this ever opening loop of unknown-ness spills about me like a ripple and behooves me to watch the wavering water cascade out into the once still pond of my spirit and mind…what’s out there?  What will it affect?

I don’t have to have the answers right now.  Or perhaps ever, really.  This all dovetails into the Bigger Inquiries of life – what’s my purpose, why am I here, etc. and I am not going to even tackle the Senior stuff when I am still stuck at Fisher Price (TM) My First Questions Kit.  This whole things is a gas, in the end.  Where I was once obsessed about picking up a bottle of vodka or heavy wine or ale, I now get to ponder the things that bring me joy and relief and freedom.  I get to walk several paths, some of which may continue to confound me, but will entice me to dig further, get to the swollen roots.

This makes just as much sense.  Calling Dr. Freud!
This makes just as much sense as anything else. Calling Dr. Freud!

As I write this, I watch my son playing with his Lego set.  The pieces are all there – different shapes, colours, sizes.  There are no wrong pieces – just pieces that don’t fit into what’s being made.  He also finds that what he started to make has grown into something grander and more wonderful than he originally started out with. Sometimes he gets frustrated and smashes it all down to it’s components and starts again.  Or just walks away to return to it later, with a new outlook or different take on it.  It’s like what I do, but on a different level – all that I need is around me, within me, in reach of me.  There is no wrong or right – just how I decide to look at things.  What doesn’t work for me gets broken down and I try something else, a new path, a new construct.  It’s all been there for me all along.  I was just too drunk and holed up in myself to see the bits there before my eyes.

I am not here to know everything.  Just enough to move my way through a way of life where I find joy, peace and serenity.  Just enough to pass onto others who are new on their journey.  Just enough to see through my own BS.  Just enough to know when I need someone else’s help.  Just enough to keep me from falling too far away from where I need to be.  Just enough to know that I don’t know Jack and I don’t know shit.

Ride ’em, cowboy!

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. REDdog says:

    Sometimes what we’re going through isn’t so much about us as it those who are looking on. Same goes for approaching the enormity of the unknown, the humility required to approach the unknowable. Finding the answers is nowhere near as important as asking the questions…many reading will take hope in just knowing of someone who is asking such questions and that will be enough for them to continue their journey until they get there too. Top shit, as per, brother. Respect REDdog

    1. Thanks REDog…you have some deep thoughts there. The enormity of the unknown…great phrase there and very apt, of course. Deep thoughts going on at your corner of the world too. Love it.

      Cheers
      Paul

  2. jrj1701 says:

    Good one Paul, although I am in a different camp, I want to know the answer to life, the universe and everything (wasn’t satisfied with 42) yet to obtain those answers I must acquire some skills and abilities that can only be obtained by me through my spiritual practice. You are getting some of those skills even though you state that you aren’t after what I am. I find that immensely cool. So you are one of those that I watch because there is an infinite amount of learning to do and today I am an eager student. Keep up the good work.

    1. Anyone that references Douglas Adams is a true friend and seeker…ha ha. I think that at some point I will be where you are at. Looking for the Big Enchilada. Not sure I am up to it at this moment, but after reading your comments, I wonder if the sum of the questions I seek response too eventually lead up to the Big Stuff. Hmmmm… I too am the eager student and look in your direction. We help each other out, yes?

      Blessings and thank you for the wonderful remarks 🙂

      Paul

      1. jrj1701 says:

        “We help each other out, yes?” That is one of the wonders of life, that there are indeed those that are willing to and heed the call to help each other out. You are working some things out and getting yourself ready, and getting what you need, as I am. You have a voice and are adding it to the song, and I like what I am hearing, so I let ya know so that you won’t get discouraged and quiet that voice, because there are others that need to hear it. Keep up the good work and don’t give in without a fight and remember “Don’t Panic”.

  3. risingwoman says:

    Yep. I get this: all the pieces are here, and I am still (almost 9 years later!) moving them around, puzzling over how to fit them together, deciding which pieces I want to reject for now, and which ones to reject outright.

    And I like doing it – it’s fun to figure out who I am. After all, I was a stranger to myself from about the age of 18 to 33. I have a lot to get to know about myself… like you 😉

    1. Spiritual Jenga? We should probably do a prototype and see if the people at Oprah, Hasbro or The Cheesecake Factory would like this…lol. Anyway, I like what you say here. I too was a stranger to myself until…probably now, and still am a bit. I don’t have the time you do, so I am perhaps still a neophyte at this phase…larvae. But seeing that you are still at this gives me great hope!

      Thanks Michelle – love seeing ya here…I know you’re a busy woman 🙂

      Paul

      1. risingwoman says:

        I’ll always have time for you, my friend!

  4. Great stuff here, Paul. You know, the old-timers around my part of the world all say the same thing when I congratulate them on their sober time. They say, “I have the same amount of time as you… today.” To which I smile and laugh, while in my head say, “Bull!” But, the point is maybe this… we do only have today, and when we bring our focus back to that point, life becomes a whole lot simpler!

    Thank you for the reminder to stay in the present, it will really help me today!

    1. Some of the old timers do that here too…look at the watch and say something like “nearing 24 hours…” or some hokey thing like that. Are we gonna be pulling that nonsense ourselves one day? lol.

      Thanks Josie for the comments…awesome!

      Paul

    1. I have a weird inclination right now to watch Roy Clark and the gang at Hee Haw. Hmmm….

      Thanks Sherry 🙂

  5. You are indeed clever, for a Canuckle Head. Thanks for the scattered knowing winks. Oh, wait those were to the gal in the Lulu yoga pants behind me. Er…that’s awkward.
    First off, wow. “Being more ensconced in the daily rather than being flimsy in the Holy.” Nice. And then next thang ya know that thar varmint Holy done pops its head out of some weasel hole!
    Yeah. When I stop striving for that sublime, transcendent moment and just clean out the lint trap, it sneaks up behind me. Blows a party streamer under my nose.
    But it’s hard for me, pally. I always catch myself grousing to The Creator, “C’mon Pops, don’t be such a skin-flint with my allowance of mystic knowing! Sure I’m getting by with the insights you’ve been doling out, and it’s not like I don’t appreciate it. But the Nepalese kid down the street is learning to germinate seeds in the palm of his hands. So cough it up.”
    But like I said, I catch myself, then empty the dishwasher. Pair up some socks. Try to put together one complete Scrabble set out of the three missing-pieces games I have under my bed. Count out the tiles. Make sure I have the right amount of letters. Total pain in the ass, but feels good after I’m done. Knowing there’s no way in hell I would/could have done than when I was drinking.
    Nobody is going to give me a medal for it, but I know what a big deal that is.
    I realize that I may not know everything, but I know enough to handle what’s right in front of me. If it’s how to take care of a simple chore or what to say to make a hurting friend feel a little better, I intuitively know. And as long as I stay connected to that invisible cosmic CB radio, I’ll always know.
    So I don’t have to figure it all out now. I don’t have to know all kinds of extra stuff for just in case. I can finally chill the F out.
    Oh, besides the Dieppe reference, I also enjoyed this little nugget of Eternal Truth. “There is no wrong or right – just how I decide to look at things.” That’s not for the neophyte. Potent mind-blower that one. But one safely out of the hands of those who would can’t handle it, simply by the fact they don’t believe it. So that’s good.
    So is this whole piece, dude. You know what you are, Pauly? A wonder. I’m serious. In so many faceted ways. So shine on crazy diamond. The fun is just beginning. And you are entitled to all it. Even if I kind of think you aren’t. Too early in your sobriety. Just jealous, I guess. I wish I was at where you are at, when I was there.
    I’d be germinating seeds in my palm by now. And shit.
    Now I’ll Lego your ego, and let you get back to being just a boring old holy man.
    Love,
    Marius

    1. Mr. G – I am deliriously exhausted even after two days of being back at work from my two weeks off. One of my guys gets arrested while at work for doing some stuff to another person who works for me who is laid up in a hospital bed. Bad vibes, overworked and trying to keep in the soup of the spirit. But after re-reading your comments here, I had to say something, brother. Your comments kill, first of all. You know that. Your corner of the world there is a playground for this kind of stuff. But what you said – mind blowing in itself. You are that Nepalese kid. You got the whole damn forest coming out of lefty’s palm there. Kind and mystical words you have – and damn clever too.

      i laughed about the lint trap and the Scrabble bits there. Try explaining to someone who buys your kid a 1000-pc toy that the pieces stay together approx. 4.78 nanoseconds after the kids rip open the box and get bored eight minutes later. I will be picking those pieces out of my tomb. So the mundane brings forth a mysticism or some sort of transcendent forms that go beyond the pale. I love that in what you say…and it’s true. Listen, I couldn’t do the basics, like shower, for example, when I was active. So screwing in a lightbulb or putting gas in the car was a great leap of accomplishment for me. Still is. ok, so the bar needs to be raised a bit higher – maybe reach out, play the fool, plant a tree, scrub the shoreline, eat a peach properly. But it’s all there, pits and all, I suppose. You’re the peach, Mr. G – good for us, a little fragrant, a bit bruised up and a little warm and fuzzy on the outside.

      thanks – I have to frame this one. Along with every other comment you’ve made here.

      Canadian hugs,
      Paul

  6. Sober Chick says:

    Great post. I like your sense of humor. It’s not too often I laugh out loud when reading a blog. I loved the picture of the men on the bike. I wish you the best in your sobriety. I will be back to read more. God bless!

    1. Oh thank you, SC! I sometimes like to inject a but of humour – wonder if it takes away from what I am saying sometimes, but what the heck, it goes in – that’s just who I am I guess! Thank you for being here – means a lot!

      Blessings,
      Paul

  7. dawn says:

    As a CD counselor, and working with adolescent boys, I’m thinking of this one in particular who habitually replied “I know” after everything I told him. I would stop him, explain that if he “knew” he would not have landed in 90 day intensive care treatment.
    When presenting him with his medalian on his last day I kept it short and simple – have a feeling he’ll hear my voice as time marches on.
    I said, looking him right in the eyes (something adolescent boys don’t typically dig) “M, you do not have another use in you, next time the needle goes in your arm, you’ll die – stay tight with your sponsor , , , oh, and M, YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT”
    Having a zero tolerance for bad language in my group it shocked everyone when I said this, but got a laugh too, which I needed as I was on the verge of tears with this kid – got pretty attached to this one….
    I’m a work in progress – learning everyday!

    1. Hi Dawn – I loved your story there – was laughing in recognition and how you handled it. Fantastic. “I know” and the variations “I know, but” are very common in our lexicon, especially when we’re active. Thank you for sharing that with me and everyone here. Your experience is wonderful, as is the work you do. My hats off to you 🙂

      Signed,
      An even greater work in progress

      Paul

  8. Mrs D says:

    Thankfully I find sobriety and all that unfolds endlessly fascinating so I will be continuing on this sober journey no matter how uncomfortable it sometimes is just so I can find out.. what’s it like at 3 years? What’s it like at 10? what’s it like at 28?
    xxxxx

    1. I’m with ya, Mrs. D. Who knows what will happen. Those with long time sobriety sometimes see the first FIVE years as just getting out of the fog. yikes! that means I am in the soup still. Ha ha. I can actually see that at times. I may look back many years from now and see my handwringing and navel gazing here and think “what the hell was wrong with me back then?” lol. Or not. Who knows – it’s a journey. We all start somewhere and where we go is where we go. Can’t rush it.

      Thanks for being here:)

      Paul

  9. byebyebeer says:

    Cool boat and marina or whatever the neat thing is to the side.

    I can relate a lot to this post. Something happened when I reached 2 years, perhaps, some loosening or slackening that comes from being used to not drinking anymore. It’s a habit and my brain knows that to the degree than alcoholic mind can know such a thing.

    It’s definitely not as hard anymore and I think “I can do this” because I have been doing it and enjoying the many perks. I see no reason in this moment (or most) to give up all the valuable gifts and prizes of sobriety.

    I do not feel recovered or fixed or really all that different at the core than how I felt before I stopped drinking or even before I started. I have a long way to go in some areas and beat myself up over this on bad days. I do notice subtle changes, such as more patience or at least that quiet voice that tells me the right thing to do when I listen for it. I am a better parent, worker, etc. The process continues to slowly unfold and I worry I’m not doing enough or the best thing and then I have an absolutely beautiful fucking day and I am pretty sure I’m doing okay.

    I like year 3 so far. 28 is pretty impressive, but even after day 1 (okay, day 10) I felt in my heart that I was on the right path. It isn’t predictable or easy, but it is an adventure.

  10. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Your photos in between are just hilarious, crazy.

    I really, really appreciate reading your works. I love your honesty, your thoughts, your openness. All the best, continuing.

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