Per a reader’s request (OK, my husband’s), here are all 3 parts of “Bodies In Motion” together in one post for easy reading. Thanks again for reading!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way life has its ups and downs and periods of animation and stagnation – you know, bodies in motion tending to stay in motion and bodies at rest tending to stay at rest and all that. It’s long been a fascination of mine the way things can stay the same for the longest time, and then bam! Something happens, and everything is changed forever, life being what happens while you’re busy making other plans and what have you.
The truth is, I’ve never been much of one for plans, because all of that business comes packaged with so many expectations, and I fear expectations. We have so little control over anything, except ourselves and the choices we make, and even then we’re on shaky ground. Why push it?
Then there’s the matter of how we plan to spend our lives – whether we choose to become bodies in motion or at rest, for example, and what either thing entails. Many of us stay in the same places doing the same exact same things because we like them. They make us happy. OK, well, if not…”happy” exactly, then they at the very least offer the seeming comforts of the known, and the mundane known is still better than some terrifying unknown…right?
We also stay in the same places doing the exact same things because we’re in a rut and don’t know what else to do, or because we know darn well what to do…but just don’t believe that we can actually do it. Then, of course, there’s the case of buying into the utterly delusional proposition that doing the same thing over and over again will produce a different result each time, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Conversely, there’s also often much confusion about whether our doing something different every once in a while either adds some welcome variety to our lives or essentially adds up to nothing, because that’s what making a decision to do something without doing anything to back it up amounts to.
And that’s what sobriety was to me for the longest time: This giant amorphous, intangible thing one half of me desperately wanted but had no idea – other than simply waiting for it to happen to me – how to go about getting , while the other half desperately needed me to keep drinking at all costs. I tried just about everything out there people who don’t go to rehab can try on their own. I tried moderation, which worked well until I got halfway through the first of the two beers I’d decided to allow myself at night and realized that would never do, but which I did succeed in attempting at least every other night of the week for about a half a decade.
I tried cutting down. When that didn’t work – and it never did – I tried to just stop worrying about it so much and have a little fun! After all, isn’t that the point of drinking? Then I’d spend every night crying in my beer (before I passed out, that is). In between these little exercises in futility, I read just about every recovery tome I could get my hands on, some of which I read over and over again (the extremely yellow highlighted passages throughout my dog-eared copy of “Drinking: A Love Story”, which turned out to be most of the book, have faded only slightly over time). Thanks to “6 Weeks to Sobriety”, I tried taking an elaborate and expensive array of vitamins and other supplements which, when ingested multiple times daily over a period of 6 weeks, would rid me of those pesky cravings for alcohol and put me squarely on the straight and narrow. And I’m sure it would have worked wonders if I hadn’t caved in somewhere around day 3…
I attended meetings of every recovery-related organization in my immediate area that I’d ever heard of – including AA (which, much to my dismay, didn’t work for me even though I really, thoroughly worked it) – and some that I hadn’t (at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church-related recovery group, “Celebrate Recovery”, you spend the first half hour of every meeting watching a series of Christian rock videos where all the songs sound disturbingly the same as everyone takes turns to “Praise Jesus!”, then all participants break up into smaller groups led by recovering members. My group’s “leader”, a recovering meth addict, dominated conversation with ample description of her recovery through Christ and would then, when it was someone else’s turn to talk, lean over to the leader of the group next to ours to resume what sounded like a long, ongoing argument over important group-slash-church business. Suffice it to say, I never managed to make it back to that one, not even for Jesus).
I wrote to other organizations not in my immediate area and thus did not offer face-to-face meetings, such as “Women For Sobriety” and “S.O.S”, to inquire about the possibility of future meetings there and got about as far with that as those things tend to go (which is to say, not very).
Then, finally, a little over 6 ½ years ago I got a computer, started surfing the internet and, thanks to a delightful fellow who calls himself “Agent Orange” at a site entitled “The Orange Papers” (Fair Warning: There is some, um, AA-averse content scattered about here and there), I quickly found the home in LifeRing’s web forum and e-mails lists I’d been told I’d find in AA but never did. The people I met online started to become known quantities to me in the most surprising of ways: I could feel their personalities shine through the words they’d typed on the screen so that they became, via our shared connection, a community; I could see who had their shit together by the way they offered the benefit of their wisdom and experience without the sense of a judgement or an assumption that those of us still struggling were just dumb assholes who would never be able to figure it out without them; they respected that part of my recovery was learning how to say things out loud, and instead of telling me to shut my hole, they included me without hesitation, reservation or prerequisite in our conversations; the intensity of their honesty staggered me.
None of this kept me from being scared to death. I was – I’d experienced far too much failure not to be, and I had a lot to lose. But thanks to these most supportive, wonderful people, I managed to slowly but surely extract myself out of what had by then become the deepest, most monotonous rut of my life: Trying, on a daily basis, to find a way to both control and enjoy my drinking, and failing miserably. I’d ultimately, after years of conducting this experiment like some mad scientist in a Monty Python skit played on a continuous loop, come to the conclusion that those two things – control, and enjoyment – were simply incongruous for me, and more importantly, always would be, no matter what.
2 I’ve always been a slow learner – slow to pick things up, slow to put them where they belong. When I was a kid and convinced of my intrinsic worthlessness, I didn’t know that about myself – I thought that, unlike all the other kids I grew up around, for whom so many things seemed to come so easily, I was basically just not capable of very much. Ever stubborn, however, I beat my head up against the brick wall of my inadequacies in almost any way I could find for the longest time. This was never more true than in the area of sports, for which I lacked an abundance of natural gifts, and my inability to participate in them with even a hint of the brilliance displayed by all the other girls on my grade school T-ball, softball, and basketball teams was the bane of my existence. After a while, I learned to cut my losses not only with sports but with everything else worth doing, too, and quit early – and often.
Alcohol wasn’t like that for me. Drinking was something I was going to learn to do, dammit, even if it killed me. I decided this when I was 12 years old, drunk on a Saturday night and barfing my guts out on some cheap wine a few friends and I had lifted from a Safeway, but even back then, it simply seemed a matter of prudent dedication, and time. I thought, “Everyone drinks and they don’t barf their guts out, they have fun. How hard can it be?” Over and over and over again I pounded my head on that one, and ugh, it was a doozy.
Prior to getting sober, I’d tried to simply stop drinking, but the main reason why that never worked is nothing else had changed, and I didn’t do change. When I finally figured out I that getting sober was going to take at least as much effort, energy and devotion as drinking did, I poured myself into it with single-minded gusto. I discovered another part of me that I’d also failed to acknowledge as a kid: When I finally do get something, I get it as well as if not better than anybody.
You learn pretty quickly that a couple of things that worked well on Days 1, 2 and 3 will continue working just as well on Day 29: Don’t take the first drink. Take it one second, minute, hour and day at a time. The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and you keep your focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Reach out and engage with your support group, listen to what the successful folks have to tell you about what worked for them instead of what the little monster in your brain is telling you, etc. etc. etc., so on and so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat.