Okay…I get it. With a post header like that, I know that I can’t wax philosophic or whatnot before getting to the story. You’d skip anything I wrote off the top anyway just to find out the dirt on what I am alluding to. I get it, gentle reader.
I was on the tail end of two back-to-back BBQ’s this weekend. The first was at some good friends’ house. Some family were there, and it was all well until the wasps drove me in. I am a notorious coward when it comes to things stingy and wingy. And of course the insects know this and target me in their hoverings. They just KNOW. It’s a delicious cocktail of fear and some special blood type of mine. They love it. I don’t. Nothing exciting so far.
The second BBQ was at my brother’s place. They have a large backyard complete with trampoline and swing set. I was standing with my folks and my wife talking about this and that. I had stuffed my face already, so I just wanted something to drink. I asked my wife to grab me a bottle of water. She came back with a can. “They didn’t have water,” she said, ‘but there is this grapefruit sparkling water.”
The can was pink and had a lovely image of a glistening sliced grapefruit. She opened it and asked if I wanted to try it. Sure did. It was sweet (I don’t normally like grapefruit – too tart) and bubbly. Dang right down delicious! She tried it and agreed on the delicious-factor. She went to grab one for her self. I took another sip as I talked to my parents.
Then for some reason, I looked at this can I had never seen before. It was a regular sized can. Not like those monolithic Arizona Iced Tea cans or anything like that. I scanned the can and then saw a word I haven’t seen in the palm of my hand for years: vodka. Now here in Canada, everything has to be labelled in English and French. It’s the law. I had the French side facing me. A big part of me was hoping that “vodka” in French translated into “freshly squeezed” in English, but I didn’t think so. I turned the can to the English side. Oh yeah, it’s vodka! It was a cooler!
Well, I had swallowed. I told my wife about this, and she and my folks were horrified. She paused, quietly announced that she was going to dump both drinks and she did. She instructed me to have some water. If they had water I wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place, I joked. So I had ginger ale.
I know this sort of stuff happens all the time. I don’t go to parties or many gatherings where there is heavy drinking. I usually stick to water or the occasional soft drink. I am not worried about picking up a stray glass of wine by accident. I am pretty keen on what I am ingesting. But I didn’t think to check something that my wife handed me. Why would I? (Unless she has some nefarious insurance scheme going on).
I have to admit in being a bit thrown off at the time. I shared what had happened on Twitter and the alcoholics / addicts that I knew were very supportive. Call your sponsor! Hit a meeting! It’s not a slip! I know I was fine. I just needed to have others know the deal. And I know that I would talk to my sponsor later. In the meantime, I just put it out of my head and thanked Creator for giving me the wherewithal to check the label.
I worried that I would awaken the beast with that tiny bit of booze in the belly. Thought about puking it up. If I had drank half or more of the can, I would have jammed a mud-caked, wasp-infested twig down my throat to get the poison out. But I knew that I was okay. I just felt it. And I was.
I spoke to my sponsor that night. We had a good laugh over it, and of course he told me about a time when something like that happened to him. It involved white wine in a Perrier bottle. Spit it out in the sink. Won’t drink a Perrier unless he hears the snap of the lid. Smart man. He told me he’s rather drink the toilet water than take a drink from a stranger.
He heard me talk about throwing up alcohol if needed, and he said the same. Then he paused and laughed. He said “it’s amazing what lengths we will go to to remove this stuff from our system now, considering what lengths we used to go to to get that stuff into our system…and as much as possible!” Truth.
Then our conversation turned. And what he said really struck home.
He talked about us being the last line of defence. That is, of course we have to be certain that what we put into our bodies is safe. I am usually a stickler for reading labels for many reasons, so I understand. I didn’t this time because my wife had given me the drink. Lesson learned – I will be vigilant in that regard from here on in.
But he also talked about people in his life who he’s had to remove himself from recently. He spoke to me about some toxic relationships in his recovery that he had to expunge. He shared with me about the difficult, but necessary, journey of respecting himself and taking on only what serves him and his serenity. He gave me examples of what he’s done in his life to get the toxins out of his mind and spirit. Of his heart. His continued path of letting go.
“Paul, we have to be the last line of defence in everything we do. We have to be the last line of defence in what enters our body, our hearts and our minds.” And that got me thinking. He was right, of course. I alone can allow things to get to me, to affect me, to stick with me. I have that choice. I am the one who gets to make that call. Of course I take actions in alignment with Creator. I don’t always know what is best for me (or never!). But I do know when I listen to and heed that wee voice inside that says “Paul, that’s probably not a good idea…think again,” I usually come out feeling clean and serene. Without the residue of past behavioural build-up. I always know that I am doing the right thing for the right reasons.
While I may not be in charge of my life per se, I am in charge of my actions. Or lack thereof. I have power over people, places and things – power to choose my reaction to them. I have that power from a higher source. From the tools afforded me in recovery. From that conscious contact I have with my Higher Power. So with that in my armoury, I am the vanguard to what I allow into my sphere.
This doesn’t mean the unexpected doesn’t show up. That’s life – unexpected. Things out of my control happen. And even then I am the one who can change his perspective on what’s going on and how I react to it. I am equally able to remove any poisonous parts that are in my life, whether they be internal or external. I need to do the work and the triage and see what serves me, what will allow me to be of service to others, what will bring me peace. And what doesn’t. More clarity.
In the end, this was an accident that brought things into clearer focus: my recovery is the most important thing for me, and from that springs forth everything else in my life. I need to value and protect it, just as I need to value and protect the things that bring peace to my spirit. I alone am responsible for that, but have a whole army of folks out there who I can lean on and be supported by and vice-versa.
I am grateful (not grapefruit-full) for this.