Monday, September 5, 2011

Clarity and Closure

I recall when I first got sober in 1996. I was maybe 2 months in at the time & I had a dull shuffle mien and a blank expression on my face. An old-timer came up to me and said, “The good news is, you’ll get your emotions back. The bad news is…you’ll get your emotions back.”

He was right. Old-timers in sobriety usually are.

This time around, I am sitting here with 3 ½ months since my last drink. Overall, I feel great. This is the fourth day of an extended long weekend and so far I have played golf twice, went to a movie, got my car fixed, bought a new computer, did a fantasy football draft, played cards, slept in, took naps. And hit 3 meetings (so far). Very relaxing.  

My mind is clearing well too. Hell, just look at the number of stories I’ve posted to this blog since late May. Sixteen and counting. My imagination’s fired and streams of thought are turning into torrential floods. Sometimes I cannot process things quickly enough. At work I’ve turned into a more lucid, ‘with it’ worker, able to think well on my feet. Mentally, it’s all good.

But the emotions. Oh my.

There’s a guy in the rooms with 23 years sober named Al. Every time he speaks he says the same phrase – “This is an emotion-driven disease!” The first few times I heard that I nodded semi-knowingly, since the brain was still foggy. Now when I hear it I just laugh. At myself. Because I now see how my emotions dictated my actions. If I felt a certain way, I acted on that feeling. Which, hey, is great if you’re with a partner that likes spontaneity, but as a general rule of thumb does not lend itself to long-term contentment or serenity. How many times, when asked why you did something did you answer, “I don’t know”…?

The real answer is, “Because my emotional state at the time made the decision.”

And why is this so bad? Well, for so-called normal people, it isn’t, since they more or less have control of their emotional state. They recognize irrational fear as a make-believe boogeyman that doesn’t need acknowledged…let alone acted upon. They don't process a look from a person as 'That bitch hates me'. They don't equate getting cut off in traffic as a reason to get shitfaced. That’s not the case with people in active addiction or early recovery. We feel it, we act on it. Subconsciously and automatically. And much like firing a shotgun blindfolded, we sometimes, by pure luck, hit the intended target. But much more likely, we haphazardly miss and make a mess in the process.

This is why there is a Ninth Step. To right those wrongs we committed by the scatter-shot approach we lived our lives, inflicting the damage on the innocent bystanders that had only the misfortune of being in our way. To make these amends, we need, first of all, clarity of mind. Second, we need to be spiritually fit – the amend is about our wrongs, not the other person’s, and if we are not fit spiritually, such an action can turn into an argument. Or worse. And lastly, it requires some modicum of control, or at the very least, acknowledgement, of our emotional state.

I am in the process of righting these wrongs. The family was pretty easy – they know me & I know them, and on my trip last month to Ohio I was able to do so. Siblings that wanted to hang me by my nuts four months ago I can now have normal relationships with again. People I’ve owed money have been repaid. Those were the easy ones.

But then there are the tougher ones. And one in particular. The ex-girlfriend. I have tried but she is unwilling to accept it. And that is okay – I hurt her and she still has the scars.

And this is exactly where my emotional state is critical. Do I engage in ‘old behavior’, which consists of demanding she listen to me, to see what am I trying to do…or do I just accept this is how she is and move on? The answer, to everyone not with an addictive mind, is obvious. To people like me, it takes some processing to get there. It takes reliance on the advice of a sponsor, a lot of meetings. It essentially takes a re-wiring of my thinking. And this is what I eventually conclude through this process - 

I cleared my side of the street. Time to move on. 

And you know what? It hurts. It hurts that this person, who so loved me, wants little to do with me now.

But that’s what happens when you fire a shotgun blindfolded.

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