Tag Archives: buddhism and recovery

relapse.

I’ve planned and executed a relapse for over a year. It started in Barcelona in November 2011 when I slipped up after a mere five months of sober time. I admitted that to the people I love most, and I started all over again counting the days. I didn’t drink again until Copenhagen the following year, and while I felt an awful guilt after both occasions, I chalked up the incidents to being out of the country. They didn’t really count.

Right.

Right.

I picked up again last summer, the second theoretical anniversary of my sobriety. It was, once more, an out-of-town experience. But I drank enough to be wicked to my sisters, with whom I was vacationing, and to feel like utter shit. Still, I never brought it home. That made it ok.

Fast forward. Accelerating signs: the slow withdrawal from NA and AA; the loss (or purposeful relinquishing, I don’t know) of writing as an outlet; the poisonous thinking that alcohol wasn’t really the problem; the good stressors of a new house and a new position at the company I’ve been with for five years.

SXSW is probably the worst possible place for me to go, ever. I went. On the plane, I said to myself that I wouldn’t drink: This is domestic. If you excuse drinking here, you’re done. Don’t fuck up. I did.

I remember a glass of gin with a cucumber prettily placed on the rim, and I remember hating it. I know that I was confused, that I became lost. I know, only from an early-morning phone call from the woman who somehow acquired my credit cards, that she put me in a pedi-cab around 10pm. I am certain that I wandered for hours, but it may have been 5 minutes. It is a mad blur that only an alcoholic recognizes.

I have barely made it through the past three days. The hangover was killer. The shame and guilt have been far worse. I am embarrassed, but not just about slipping. I am embarrassed that I have not been completely honest all along. That everyone believed, with no objection from me, that I was a blazing light of sobriety. I have rationalized and justified my behavior. I have told half-truths.

Writing this down is not something I thought I would do. What I would have preferred is to hole up my house with Sex and The City reruns and a blanket – for a few weeks.

Repeat.

Repeat.

But it feels better to tell. Whether it’ll feel better or worse after I’ve shouted it out here, who knows? I’m chancing it.

It’s a funny (haha?) thing because I have no conscious craving for alcohol. I don’t want it. I just got lax and lazy and believed that it was time to test the waters again. How stupid, you fucking alcoholic. The waters are never safe. I knew that, but I sold myself the same lie over and over again until I halfway believed it, long enough to pick up a drink.

This is my rigorous honesty. This is me admitting that I have a terminal illness. This is me saying that I am shitfaced powerless over alcohol, that I fell down, and that I’m working on getting back up.

“I once heard a sober alcoholic say that drinking never made him happy, but it made him feel like he was going to be happy in about fifteen minutes. That was exactly it, and I couldn’t understand why the happiness never came, couldn’t see the flaw in my thinking, couldn’t see that alcohol kept me trapped in a world of illusion, procrastination, paralysis. I lived always in the future, never in the present. Next time, next time! Next time I drank it would be different, next time it would make me feel good again. And all my efforts were doomed, because already drinking hadn’t made me feel good in years.”

― Heather King, Parched

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I Got Your Spiritual Solution Right Here

I just woke up in the worst.mood.ever. I’m finally heading out to Winston-Salem this morning, and I’m fighting myself on the annoyance I feel on that. The vibrating buzz of my mobile woke me, and I was instantly pissed off. Who texts at 8 AM? I threw my phone and immediately felt contrite because that’s just a shitty attitude. Shittier because I sheepishly checked my phone history, and juuuust yesterday, I sent the following texts before, oh, 7:30:

Exhibit A: You at home?
Exhibit B: Hey. I’m gettin soccer junk todayaaaaaaa!
Exhibit C: Get up and bring me some coffee, ya prostahtution whore.

Hey Sara, how 'bout you stop being an asshole?

Realizing my annoyance is obviously misplaced, I made some coffee. While I work on feeling a little less homicidal, here’s the blog I wrote last night about spiritual solutions (wahahaaahaha):

I took notes at tonight’s NA meeting. I haven’t been to one in about a week, not for lack of want, but because life has been crazy hectic. While I’m learning that I need a meeting the most when the chaos is peaking, I’m a slow, stubborn pupil. Lately, when I go I seem to hear precisely what I need to hear at that particular moment. It’s nothing short of a spiritual experience, revealed to me through imperfect humans.

For the first time in many, many months, I’ve rather sanely, competently handled a number of difficult situations. And my friends and family continue to badger the hell out of me about whether or not I’m, “really ok.” I think their fear is justified, coming from knowing the ‘using’ me, and that person vacillated between two states of being: numb and manic.

Now, I’m learning to deal with life on life’s own terms. You know — like normal people live. It’s one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. That’s all I can do, and I’ll profess to do no more. I’m calm in sobriety and at least somewhat more able to field the slings and arrows of fucking outrageous fortune.

What I’m most grateful for today, I think, is a growing ability to find spiritual solutions to gross situations. I’m coming to understand that it’s not really people, places or things that shape my character – it’s how I look at those people, places or things that move me toward better or worse.

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Quiet Mind

It’s possible that God is talking to me through my kid. Since I’ve been sober, the Kaiser talks incessantly about God. Granted, most of his thoughts are less along the lines of, “Does a perfect God exist and if he does is he a personal diety?” and more along the lines of, “Does God have a stomach?” It’s still there. The idea. The pushing. It’s hard to ignore the possibility of God when there’s a four-year old following me around yapping in my ear about whether God is able to pick up our house.

Second-step stuff. I’m comfortable with the First Step, admitting that I’m powerless over the addiction, admitting that my life had become unmanageable. Noooo shit. I’ve got that.  But do I believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity? I don’t know. Father Martin said so and Father Martin was a rad (yes, I did) human being.

My spiritual program is lacking, but I’m working on it. Well, I’m thinking about working on it. I don’t know what my higher power is. For a while, I said love, but that sounds idiotic and I don’t even really know what I meant when I said that. Buddhism makes sense to me, particularly in relation to the 12 Steps and understanding suffering and attachment.

For now, as I limp along through spiritual growth, that’s enough. My primary concern is getting out of my own head. I’m compulsive and obsessive. I’m an addict. I withdraw, disconnect and torment myself  — clean or not, it’s what I do.

Feelings, desires and cravings come and go. Sometimes I can sit with them. Sometimes I can’t. As I work on a more empty-handed approach to life, I’m hoping to better my experience without filtering everything. Isn’t that what acceptance is about? A clarity of vision that allows me to step out of my mind and observe an emotion with objectivity, watching it float into nothingness.

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