I’m between a rock and a soft place, that coincidental cusp that only happens twice a year when back-to-back 31-months leave a recovering alcoholic with neither 90 days nor three months sobriety. I can’t tell which is the rock or the soft place, the 90 or the three. But on this 91st day of sobriety I’ve been asked by George D., my first sponsor, to proudly announce in our Ultra Defective meeting my achievement. I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t jinx the whole thing by asking me to speak of what I haven’t achieved yet, but who’s kidding? It’s Sunday night in Minnesota. Bars are closed and the closest liquor store is in Wisconsin, an expensive cab ride away, one I would have to take after he drops me safely off at The House. But it didn’t take much effort for my daemon to hastily put that plan together.
Having survived Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in various stages and places of recovery, I felt it relieving to share my discomfort. Thanksgiving was probably the worst, since I’d checked myself into treatment the day before and for the next five days listened to people whine about missing family because either they weren’t welcomed or locked up in this short-staffed treatment facility. Not having family to miss only added to my resentments. Nothing happened. For nearly half of my short twelve-day stay in Treatment I neither got treatment nor mugged. I guess that’s something to be thankful for. Christmas and New Years were markedly better having by then moved into The House. I was simply happy to be spending the silly season in a nice warm house then under a bridge.
Prior to this day, I was so close to completing Step Three and was wondering what was holding me back from deciding to turn it over? Why couldn’t I give my will over to a God of my understanding? I was almost so willing, but there was something holding me back.
This morning of the cusp I had a spiritual epiphany. Having woken at 4:00am and could not get back to sleep, I decided to read in the study as not to disturb my roommate with my reading light. Making a short kitchen detour for coffee, I snuck the beverage illegally into what is now referred to as the upstairs TV room. A slight bang on the thermostat ignited the cement logs within the gas fireplace next to which sat a fairly comfortable armed chair. It was there while reading Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons that I learned of it’s first murder victim’s oxymoronic calling: a Catholic priest physicist. His belief was that God’s existence could be proven scientifically. Closing my eyes, I threw my head back in disbelief. When I opened my eyes I was staring up at the illuminated Saint Paul Catholic Cathedral. Having all at once realized where I was and how I got there, I came to the understanding that if a physicist could be a Catholic priest, a computer geek could believe in a God of his understanding.
I’m now ready to start making my list.
When I got the news Friday from my doctor that all major organs’; liver, kidney, pancreases; test results had returned negative, you’d think I’d be happier. But I know my daemon. He fooled me once before. However, my doctor put it very sternly: “Wax, this is not a license to start drinking again. Just because your blood work shows no sign of damage doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It means we can’t detect damage with these tests and doesn’t justify to an insurance company paying for a liver biopsy, which would clearly identify the damage you know exists.” Dr. Chris J. is my new doctor, and came highly recommended by my previous doctor who left the Twin Cities to pursue an opportunity up north in Duluth. His endorsement, although not disappointing professionally or in any other respect, did leave out one minor detail. Dr. Chris, despite lack of chronological maturity, does seem to have experience dealing with substance abuse patients that demonstrates compassion, knowledge, and temperance, especially when making the patient feel comfortable about sharing intimate using experiences without empowering them.
“So what’s your plan?” Taken aback, I can’t help but think this comes from some experience with recovery programs. This delivered austerely from the comfort of deep warm brown eyes, attractive round dimpled face, short obese stature of a young brunette woman showing serious concern. My first female doctor, the detail my previous doctor failed to mention. He’s known for his sense of humor, but crossed ethical boundaries just a tad. I’m going to have to retaliate somehow by pulling a George Clooney on him. Yah, that was really funny when that lady doctor stuck her finger up my patutey. In her defense, she did offer for a male nurse to perform the rectal exam, saying, “You’re forty Mr. Wax and you need this.” Weighing my options, I chose her by responding, “Just strap on the latex, play some romantic music, and I think things will be just fine.”
Sensing that I’d crossed some ethical, moral, or couth-like boundary, she replied, “We don’t do that here Mr. Wax.” Be cool. It’s not the first time a beautiful woman had her finger up your butt. Okay, this is probably going into the TMI range.
“My plan,” I explain, “Is to continue going to meetings, call my sponsor everyday, get employed so I can stop feeling sorry for myself and can get into a sober house, and read the Big Book.”
“Well listen: If you go back out there and start drinking again, it wont be like last time. Your organs will fail much faster. You may not be able to recover as successfully as you have this time. I’m worried about you,” she confesses.
Head down, I utter, “I know.”
“You have to rely on your willpower!”
“No,” I solemnly say, raising my eyes to meet hers, “My Higher Power.”
“Whatever...”, sounding too much like a Valley Girl, she catches herself and continues, “...works.” That all too familiar Darwinistic tone proudly exhibited by young medical students fresh from the trenches of biology courses. Call it evolution-on-the-brain. A glance at the rear of her car would probably reveal her multi-legged Ichthys symbol with the word “Darwin” inside.
She’s now probably labeled me a bible thumper, but if she really knew the spiritual, theological, and scientific battle that’s ensuing in my mind, she wouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’d explain to her that the phrase, “Thy will be done, not mine,” has guided me through more potential lapses than sheer willpower ever did, but I thought I’d save that speech for someone who needs it; one of us.
The good news of my test results were more expected, so I was less excited about them, and I shared that with the group at the meeting. That would explain why I was not happy upon hearing of the results; nervous would be the word. I’m afraid my daemon is smarter than I. Why not? We share the same brain.
The cusp has passed and I’ve set out this morning to celebrate my three month milestone by receiving a medallion at one of my favorite alanos, Frost House. If you’re still working on the immediate-gratification-character-defect, there’s no place like the ‘burbs for medallions. Every alano has their pin day, usually the same first given weekday of that month, where they properly present medallions. The person presenting the medallion would be someone who knows the graduate a while, hopefully their sponsor, and has witnessed his/her progress. But I thought I’d throw caution to the wind and see if I might pick one up at my favorite morning alano, The Frost House. It could very well be the last weekday I visit this alano in a while, since I’ll be starting first-shift work soon.
My Higher Power must’ve been willing to entertain my eccentricities today, for he has sent me an angel: Paula T. Paula was the first person to recognize me when I came back to Frost House after being out for two years. An attractive lady with a good heart who’s maturity has been kind, and intelligence that defies her blonde roots. Although I had been visiting the Frost House on a weekly basis, time and financial restrictions have made it more difficult to attend. This has made the chance of encountering Paula slim, but unbeknownst to me she has been following my progress.
She was one of the first persons I spied when entering the house and she lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw me. I bee-lined to her and whispered in her ear, “Could you present my three month milestone?”
“I’d be happy to. Let me grab a medallion,” she replied. I’ve got to stop doing this!, I thought, but justifying that it will be a full three more months before I’ll ever receive another medallion, I just chalked it up to yet another unresolved character defect: immediate gratification.
When she presented me, I was shocked when she revealed that, although we hadn’t seen each other much, she’d been following this blog. I told her of it when I first started it two months ago, but she’d never left a comment, so I’d totally fazed it out. I was hoping she wouldn’t reveal it’s URL to the group, as she wisely didn’t; attraction rather than promotion. If AAs want to find this blog, they’ll have to search for it.
I spoke of how I did it and included how this blog has helped me. One day in jail while we were on routine 23-hour lock-down in my cell all alone, I had a major craving for Jack Daniels. It was bad. There were plenty of inmates I could talk this out with just yards away, yet not within speaking range. Solitary confinement is an inmate’s worst nightmare. Some men just can’t handle it. That’s what books are for. Forgive me Big Book thumpers, but no book can help you when you really need to talk something out. That’s why Bill W. created phone lists. But phones are not available during lock-down. I was looking forward to an all-night longing for whiskey. So I journaled. I frantically wrote for an hour and in half that time the thirst was gone. I’d discovered a way to kill the craving. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. The less people in my life that know about it, the more openly honest I can be in it.
As of press-release time, I’d read far enough to a point in Angels & Demons to read this spoiler (be forewarned, this is giving away crucial plot material):
The uncertain shadows that had fogged Langdon’s mind all morning, in a single instant, solidified into a vivid image. As he stood there in the swirl of confusion, he felt a door inside him open...as if some mystic threshold had just been breached. The ambigram. The murdered priest/scientist. The antimatter. And now...the target. Leonardo da Vinci Airport could only mean one thing. In a moment of stark realization, Langdon knew he had just crossed over. He had become a believer.
Five kilotons. Let there be light.
It seems our main character has too had a spiritual awakening.