Saturday, May 09, 2009


Joy of Death cold
Originally uploaded by candy rudolf

Gillian’s idea of venting anger in a healthy way has us all perplexed, wondering if the next thing any of us do will be interpreted as stepping out of line. We’ve all just been chastised by her for not taking morning meditation seriously. Guys are complaining, not commenting afterwards on how it affects them, not choosing to read at all, leaving a number of books abandoned. When Gillian gives you that scowl, you know not to get on her bad side.

Gillian D. is a talk black woman from Kentucky. Sporting grandma glasses and a low-maintenance afro, she’s here on this weekend to do one thing: get us motivated. She is wise and kind beyond imagination, but this morning she is definitely not the latter. An African American grandmother is the toughest soul.

She splits us up in three groups of three, gives us each a daily meditation book from her private library, then asks us to read it and, “…I’ll be back.” After the chastising we’d all received, there’re no protests. Arriving back, she demands, “Now each of you write your interpretation of the reading. You have 20 minutes.” She disappears again.

When she reappears, she orders us to sit in a circle, collects all our papers, and distributes them to others to read as if they were the author. That last bit is a little odd to contemplate, but again, we’re all walking on egg shells, so no one protests. When we read each of each other’s letters we are role-playing. She calls on us by the author’s name and asks us to then interpret what each letter meant to us.

Dustin V. reads my letter on Joy:

“When one full of joy enters a room, some is bound to spill out. It’s contagious. When joy comes through you, it’s shared with others. If you wake with joy in your heart, just for that day, expectations will not become resentments. People in hatred will not overcome you, and may be affected by your attitude in a positive way.”

“Joy is also a way of seeing things, not filtered through rose colored glasses, but seeing the positive in some event that would normally appear negative. Yet another learning opportunity is at hand.”

“Joy can make all the difference.”

His verbal interpretation, even through the tears, gives a positive spin on the hell he’s endured over the last week. Dustin’s mother, grandmother, half-sister and her husband all died in an unfortunate car accident 1500 miles away in California. Dustin himself is mentally challenged, speaks in a monotone voice, and generally has a difficult time making friends. This on top of the challenge we all face here at The Station with addiction. Four days after the accident, his sister with three years sobriety ODs on heroin over the trauma.

What he said blew me away, “This was exactly what I needed to read today.” Those letters were distributed at random.

I learned at last night’s meeting that Neil S., who just received his one year medallion, had too lost his sister. She’d just got back from the hospital where she’d recovered from a drug induced coma. She then settled down with her drug of choice to unwind. The crack she smoked caused her heart to explode. “It’s never enough until your heart stops beating.”

I have 85 days sober today.

-- Without Wax

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Free Child Walking

on White Round Spheres

Balance Creative Commons
Originally uploaded by Pink Sherbet Photography
The disc continues to skip as a frustrated Manny presses the eject button on the DVD player. “I know what the problem is.”

I’m sure you do.

“It’s the alignment of the seek heads of this player, not the reading heads. See the seek heads are responsible for finding the correct track for the read heads so…,” he continues his seemingly endless rapid-monotone explanation of basic laser media mechanics. “…I’m not sure if it’s these scratches on the disk or the fact that this player gets beaten up so often,” this 5’ 1” skinny middle-aged man continues. I don’t dare interrupt his ramble for fear of throwing him off concentration of his desperate task at hand.

“Peanut butter smeared on a scratched DVD or CD can mend it…” How I’d like to smear peanut butter on your tongue right now. “…But I think replacing the DVD player would be smarter since they’re only $30 and the cafeteria only has chunky peanut butter, not smooth. Those digital artifacts are the cause of…”

Just fix the bloody thing in silence, please! If you hadn’t just had a UA, I’d swear you’re on something.

Manny P. is perfect a example of the need for balance in ones life. He’s a reminder of how difficult it is for me. For all his faults, we are talking about a man who has achieved three months of sobriety, earned a scholarship to Dunwoody Technical School, and found housing. From the look at him with his receding hairline and mustache, you’d assume he’s just a normal, white, everyday rational man. It’s only once he speaks that the illusion is shattered and the fear of an endless one-sided conversation occurs.

It frightens me to think of how tortured his mind must be to function in this manner. He is doing the one thing he knows will keep him safe, productive, and sober. He also believes that God will do for him what he cannot do for himself. But Heaven help him if he ever encounters an obstacle in the road that gives him an excuse to use.

A balanced life has harmony between a professional life and a personal life. Before I moved my life to be with June W. (my ex-wife), I worked hard twelve-hour days, yet had no personal life. Once moving in with June, my life with her was my addiction and work took a back seat. Once my work began to suffer, the excuse to drink about it became so compelling it soured every other important thing in my life.

Alcohol brought everything down to a level where nothing was in balance. There were times I had to climb mountains at work. There were times I didn’t recognize the extra energy needed to put into my relationship. Eventually, alcohol was the only thing I was doing well. If that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s probably because you’re not an alcoholic.

I have a need for a balanced life that takes into account friends, work, love, family, play, private time, recovery time, and spiritual time. Anyone of these things ignored for long enough could go dormant, just as any one these things obsessed over will suffer exhaustion. It is also noted that normal people, like June, can add liquor to that list with no detrimental consequences.

Alcohol in my system will always unbalance me. Now that I’m 78 days sober, I’ve come to realize these things about myself and balance: I have no inner voice to guide my balancing, I must learn how to live a balanced life, that this inherit character defect is not something normal people endure and that I will constantly have to monitor this for the rest of my life. Laying it out in the open like that doesn’t seem so daunting a task, just as long as I am willing to work on it.

For myself, recovery is like returning home from exile. I eagerly dive into the task of putting my life back together – securing a job and place to live, paying off debts, restore my driver’s license, rebuild damaged relationships. These external needs are all important, but the strength to consistently follow through on them comes from my spirituality – my relationship with God. By taking time each day to acknowledge His presence and to ask for the Power to do His will, I find a new sense of balance. And with balance comes serenity.

Diabetes is one of those things that can throw ones diet out of balance. It’s an ironic thing to have your body crave sugar when it needs it the least. Yet, since I’ve never really had the instinct to eat a balanced diet, my newly acquired eating requirements does balance out in a beneficial way; I’m loosing weight at least.

“Today, I will examine my life to see if the scales have swung too far in any area, or not far enough in some. I will work toward achieving balance.”
-- prayer from The Language of Letting Go, April 30

Manny acquires some smooth-spread Skippy peanut butter, applies it to the disc, and it plays flawlessly. For most people, the relief of completing such a challenging task successfully would follow solace. However unfortunately for Manny, it only leads to his next segway into yet another one-sided discussion on how “…the next generation of DVD players uses a much shorter wave-length laser light, blue rather than red, to read even finer detail pits from the disc; hence the trademark, Blue-ray.”

I nod in understanding. I didn’t have to heart to tell him that Sony does not have an exclusive on the usage of blue lasers on media, that Toshiba also uses them for their HD DVD players.

In conclusion, empathizing with Manny causes me to think like him, if not for a bit. My use of the slang term segway to describe his imbalance and the description of the financially unsuccessful personal transport vehicle Segway is ironically humorous: a self-balancing personal transportation device.

-- Without Wax