My name is Paul, and I am 43 years old.
I have a wife and two young boys. A dog. A house. I go to work. I pay taxes. I cook, clean and help to manage the household. I help neighbours when needed, I support causes when needed, I rest when needed.
I am also an alcoholic. Recovered. I do recover-y things like go to meetings, write, read, do stuff online, help others. I pray, meditate, do daily reflections. I do my best to eat well and exercise.
A few odds and ends perhaps still need tying up from the past, but all in all, I have a fairly tidy life. Nothing Interpol would be interested in. Or the RCMP. Or even the security guard down at the local mall, guarding cell phone cases and discount shoes.
I don’t consider my life boring, but it certainly isn’t an episode of Hawaii-Five-O. Or even The Golden Girls. On the outside, it might seem dull. Anyone that asks me what I do and where I go and how I play, will hear my response and will usually concluded aloud that I am not very much fun. I’m a bit Ned Flanders in their eyes. And that’s Okily Dokily with me. I too use ice to add flavour to water.
The reason I bring this all up is two-fold.
The first is that I no longer judge myself against others and their own lives. I certainly do compare at times – that I will admit. I might find myself a bit envious of the younger chaps doing their things (or having their things done), or of others my age who are doing their fourth Iron Man competition while raising nine children and running a kennel for wayward Irish Terriers, writing seventeen novels a year (none with the letter “e” to make it more challenging) or remodelling their apartment for $150 and still making the cover of Home & Decor magazine (“SupaStahz” edition). Then again, this is the sort of Facebook glossary of our lives, indexed to the shiny and glamourous bits. Reality need not apply.
I also don’t go out much – I am a bit of an introvert and still have difficulty talking to strangers or getting too close to people. Also, I don’t have anywhere to go, frankly. Other than meetings, or hanging out with family, I don’t have any need to go anywhere. I don’t go to pubs or drinking parties (why would I?) nor do I have any sort of club-like interests like macrame circles or Fight Club (yeah, I am aware of the first rule.) But then again, that is my choice. There is nothing stopping me from joining a Civil War Reenactment troop, or learning to play the lute, or being a part of a competitive cheese eating league. If there is no sparkle and fizz going on with me, then the man in the mirror is to blame.
Now, there is this thing that says that in recovery we are dullards. Same in and out every day. No colours and hues to the picture. A drab load of laundry in a glittery ABBA-esque masquerade ball. You know, feeding the thirteen cats before watching a few episodes of Coronation Street and some lovely biscuits before bed at 8 pm. (I won’t lie – that kind of appeals to me.) It’s the feeling that perhaps the lights of life fade away to a dreary wash of grey and we stroll across a minefield bereft of drama blasts. Might as well perfect shuffleboard now and get on with the Denny’s senior’s discount card application forms, right?
I know what you’re saying, you young, hip, newcomers to team sober – where’s the F-U-N? “You’re married, you have kids. You have obligations and responsibilities. You have things to do. I don’t,” you’d say, with your “You Go Girl” Friday night outfit on, wondering whose heart you’re going to break tonight. And yes, you’re right – I do have those things. And yes, you’re right – I don’t have to worry about dating, moving in or out of places, relocating to different cities for jobs, going to social events where there is booze, etc. You see, I enjoy my life precisely for those reasons. I am grounded in something different. I have a center. I have a place that I am supposed to be. I am taking care of people who mean the world to me. I don’t have to worry about the next kegger or consider if that woman in the Match.com profile is really who she is or if she’s really a psycho, or if my ironic hipster beard is the right (or wrong) length. Do I have enough Axe body spray on, and where are my quarters for the laundromat?
I know I am not selling this, bear with me. Maybe it’s a middle-aged thing, but from this side of the field, on the bleachers and out of the game, so to speak, it’s all good. I enjoy the lack of drama, to be honest. I don’t enjoy the web of lies, of lies upon lies. I don’t miss the arguments, the lack of sleep, the lack of serenity, the World War going on in my head all day, the drain of energy trying to be a chameleon, the constant sheet of black ice that was my self-loathing. Sure, there were some gin and tonics thrown in that mix, and I may have actually enjoyed a few. But in the end, there was no joy. More importantly, where does my happiness lie now?
And while this is not necessarily about the perception of “boredom” in recovery (that’s another topic), it does tie into what I am experiencing these days. The idea that my life, now sober, is forfeited of fun, is ludicrous. The externals may have changed, the playmates and playgrounds may have change, but that is immaterial. What has given me a hall pass into happiness and contentment is being comfortable with who I am, and not what I think I should be comfortable with. Or what my social media splash page should resemble. For this cat, life isn’t all fireworks crashing and splashing the sky with vibrant shades of shooting orange sherbet or snazzy turquoise.
Life is sparklers. Lots of little ones. A laugh at the dinner table, a pat on the back, a smile to a stranger, a helping hand in the yard, a kind note from a fellow alcoholic, an unexpected hug, a made jump shot on the first try, a recipe that worked better than I thought, a call from an old friend, a handshake from an older foe. I hold a sparkler when I find peace within the madness of a long lineup, I hold a sparkler when I read something that touches me, I hold a sparkler when a friend teases me about something only because he or she cares about me.
My sober life is as dull as I make it. And redefining “exciting” was all a part of seeing things in a new way.
Which brings me to the second point of this whole stepping back and hitting “pause” on it all. Or at least, “check batteries”. This new life that I have had the blessing to have, this two-point-oh version that I get to embark on is something that is still new to me, and I still don’t fully get the why and how of it. It’s like a new pair of jeans just washed – tight fitting, but knowing that at some point it will give and allow me to feel more comfortable in it. It’s about walking about and trusting the process. Trusting that the material will soften a bit, stretch out. But it requires me to move about. Taking action. Seeing a point in the middle distance and making my way too it. The jeans won’t release by sitting down and thinking about walking.
So what does that all mean? I guess where I am at in this journey is the wonder of where does it go from here? I know that my life was saved from one of ruin for a reason. I could easily be dead, or in jail or still suffering a slow painful death out there. I was given a reprieve for a reason. I know it in my heart and much as I can look to the horizon and see the clouds rolling in just before the storm. I know it in my heart as I can look into my son’s eyes and know that he’s about to break out into a smile and then lunge at me, landing a big karate chop into my belly (he does that a lot lately). I know it as much as I knew that I needed to stop drinking.
And that’s where the word “patience” comes in for me. I know that there is something in the works for me. The Creator has set something out. He’s stamped something on my spirit that echoes and taps at me, but I am not quite sure what it is. I believe we all have it – that special something nested in our hearts ready to be unearthed when the time is right. I just wished I knew the time. And the treasure. Perhaps it’s something already in front of my face, but my ego or my unwillingness disguises it. Perhaps it’s already in play in my life and I have yet to meet it on the terms He sees fit for me to have them meet. Perhaps my heart and mind are too closed at the moment to see the real reason for me being here. Or it’s just not time for it to be revealed.
It’s in our hearts and spirit that the answer lies in. I spent my life looking for this thing in the external world – booze, jobs, women, status, etc. What I have come to see is that it was always an inside job. I just don’t have the whole picture right now. I liken it driving down a road at night – our headlight can only illuminate the next ten yards, and that is all we see, but somehow we drive hundreds of miles on the road. Ten lit yards at a time. Trusting in the process, again. Trusting that things will be disclosed as needed. And I have to find the patience to find that trust and hold it close and know that all will be fine.
So I live my life, and sometimes it feels that it’s measured out in school lunches, or dishwasher loads, or the work punch clock. But I know that there is something greater at work, and that my life is being measured out in those sparklers too. One shiny, shooting sparkler at a time. Lighting that road up ahead of me, getting me to my destination. I wish I knew the reason for the ride. I wish I knew the pit stops ahead. I wish I knew what I was really meant to do in this new life, this life 2.0. I wish I had the owners manual for this new way of being. I wish I had the answers so that I can get a jump on it and really go to town on it. I wish, I wish, I wish. But I just trudge the road of happy destiny. More will be revealed. I have to wait. Sit in the stillness and just listen for it.
You hear that?
That’s the sound of a new life…and a new way of being breaking through the darkness. Like a sparkler, or the light seeping out from within.