The fog of renewing sobriety


The opinions expressed (on both “outside” and inside issues) are those of the writer – that would be me! – and ought not be mistaken as being necessarily appropriate for a meeting (although they may well be, I do not know). Besides – hello! – while I may have more than 17 years of sober experience I am but seven days sober.

One week ago tonight, on Tuesday, June 19, 2007, I had my last drink – and I hope (and know that it is possible) that forever, one day at a time, it can mean that June 20, 2007, the last day of spring, will be my sobriety date. May that be so!

It was around this time in 2002, when I was four years clean and sober for a second time, that Tom John asked me to be his sponsor. He had seen, in me, the hope of recovery from a very brief – but profoundly alarming – episode with drugs (other than our common, and longer, histories with the drug of alcohol). Tom, too, was HIV-positive and had also been sober for many of the same years that I was before my drug relapse which started, and finished, on the May holiday weekend in 1998. His drug experience, a few months longer than my own, ended just before Pride of 2002. Interesting, and this had not occurred to me until now, that this was five years ago this month!

Even with his long-term HIV/AIDS diagnosis Tom’s death, due to a heart attack, in 2005 was – as it was worded in his obituary – “unexpected”. By then he was three years clean and sober again, we had worked the 12 steps together, and he had been such a support while I was recovering from my 2003 accident. However I had fallen away from “the program” when I learned of his death.

I picked up a drink while touring Canada’s Atlantic provinces in 2005, a trip made possible only by the legal settlement which followed the aforementioned accident (See Chopin, Roman Polanski and a cab.)

My drinking did not seem, to me, to be out of control then. I had learned so much about myself through therapy over the years, particularly in post-traumatic stress counselling, and had made the connection between childhood trauma and my “coping” via alcohol. I was convinced that – though not yet diagnosed Bipolar II – I was drinking moderately, notwithstanding the fact that I had been sober for ten years, followed by the lost weekend with drugs, and then again for seven years.

I have always felt there was deeper meaning in life and have been connected with a faith community, of one sort or another, from my infancy. Yet one of the misgivings I had about recovery, as I began to slip away following the accident, was that “God as we understood Him” was actually code for God as YOU understood Him which, in many cases, I had difficulty with.

The very first problem was assigning a gender to God. I do not believe that God is male or female unless God is both male AND female or, even better, completely gender-free. The childhood stories about God have a deep impact on what ought to be an exploratory connection between those of us who are self-described “seekers” and the inner peace which we seek – no matter what religious trappings may be part of our respective cultures.

I admit that the “God as we understood Him” line may simply just be not perfectly worded, penned by fallible human beings as it was, and may indeed be much less of a problem for the majority in recovery than it has been for me. It is not something sufficiently offensive today to drive me to pick up a drink. Yet it was one of the things which contributed to my drift, I admit that.

God, as I understand the concept, is indescribable at best. I believe it is, as I understand the Jewish tradition, something which cannot be named (hence their G-d expression). However I also do not believe in the interventionist type of G-d as described in both the Old and New Testaments. The idea of a puppeteer-style force, picking and choosing who lives or dies, suffers or thrives, is rich or poor, makes no sense to me.

(Keep in mind that Craig died under tragic circumstances and, although I had believed my drinking to be somewhat “controlled” in recent years, I completely went off the rails upon my return home, in late May, from the family’s time of mourning.)

I describe God as Mystery. Divine Mystery. Unimaginable yet, for me, Undeniable. It is not a man with a beard. It is not something which resides in an unearthly place. G-d, The Mystery, The Divine Mystery, The Unimaginable, is right here. Available and accessible to me, and whomever else would wish such a connection. What is wrong with admitting how little I know about G-d, even whether or not there really is such a Force (or force)?

It has been my experience – difficult, self-willed, stubborn and potentially deadly – that I am incapable of living on my own. This is not to say that I cannot function without a room-mate or loving partner. In fact I am quite accustomed to doing so. However I cannot survive – physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually (as wide open a concept as that is) – without a power greater than myself.

To those who, having read this, must be thinking, “Keep coming back, Kenn” – whether or not you’re rolling your eyes as you do so – I would add, “Keep coming back and, better yet, STAY!

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