Friday, April 3, 2009

Staying on the Path

Day 87

I knew they kept the hard liquors in the back of the cupboard, and no one was looking, so I checked. Rum and some kind of liqueur. No thanks. Whiskey would have been tempting, maybe vodka. Never was interested in beer or wine either. By the time I suck down enough to do the job I'm ready to puke. So why the hell did I find myself drinking a beer? Half of one to be exact. Not enough to feel a damn thing except gut wrenching shame, regret, guilt. Waves of nausea came over me as I imagined telling Linsey I'd slipped again. Then the nightmare ended and that's how I started my day.

Ninety days is looming on the horizon and it shouldn't be so ominous but it is. I still maintain that I'm not afraid of the number, that there must be some three-month psychological cycle that comes around, working its way into the cracks in my program. Maybe even a syzygy of mental and physical and emotional rhythms, sympathetically amplifying each other. Knocking me on my newly sober ass every three months with a tsunami of doubt and resentment and agitated recklessness.

Here's the symptoms: Obviously, the nightmare. And the way that young women have burned holes in my retinas for the last few days. The way they've activated that hot dizzy place in my brain that bleeds over and obscures my other senses, like feedback in a sound system. Also, the exhaustion that turns bed into an irresistible magnet every hour I'm awake. And the nagging drive to escape rather than to live.

Here's the causes: I haven't called my sponsor in too many days. I haven't blogged in too many days. My reading and step-work have been patchy. I've become comfortable in sobriety rather than actively and intentionally pursuing it. Mostly, I've allowed myself to get too busy and distracted by life to focus on my sobriety. With it, I can be of use to God and others. I can be a part of the limitless and varied beauty all around me that beckons with mystery and possibility. Without it, nothing matters; all is darkness and loss.

Here's the cure:First of all, listen. To those who know. I am not alone, and the many voices in my circle of sobriety recently came to a consensus: In this disease of body, mind, and spirit, it's my spirit which has dragged me down too many times. I've committed to meetings, to reading and step-work, to phone calls. But to really transform and strengthen my spirit, the two pieces I must emphasize are helping others and daily conscious contact with my creator. Service and prayer.

Second, I must remember that neglecting my sobriety is never okay, and it's always deadly. I have a daily reprieve from insanity and death that doesn't care if I'm a church music director and it's the week before Easter. If my efforts take me away from the work of my sobriety (the routines and phone calls and quiet time) then they are a waste. Because once I'm in my addiction, my art and spirit are muted.

Tomorrow I will post practice mp3's online, score a few more songs for the band and choir, call the piano tuner and a million other people. I'll make detailed notes for the tech crew about lighting, audio, power point and video cues. I'll rearrange the amps, music stands, and microphones on the platform and label each channel on the mixer. I need to adjust a bunch of the stage lights. I need to actually practice the songs.

But first I will do my recovery stuff: call, read, write, pray. Practice the principles throughout the day, and make time to go to my Friday night meeting. Then, even if I do wake up from a nightmare, I can take a deep breath and remember that today is a gift, because today I'm sober.

[Photo by cleverdame107 under C.C.License]


  1. One of the bloggers that I follow just slipped big time after nearing 90 days. I'll post a link so that you can read how it went: downing a pint, then a bunch of beers, pissing himself on the couch, wife leaving, etc. Stay the course Eli. It ain't worth the cost.

  2. Why are we so afraid of "making it?" Of success? Do we not feel that we deserve it? Will there be a higher standard to live up to if we make it past those landmarks? I think one day at a time, we can be GENTLE with ourselves, gently lead ourselves past the landmarks and love ourselves for staying on the path each day that we do. Deep breath.

  3. Great post, Eli. Glad you are aware of the danger and getting back on track. Sending positive thoughts your way.

  4. Hi Eli,
    thanks for sharing your heart with us here and also for your encouraging words on my blog.
    I'm glad to have found you as well and look forward to the day when we are all free from this worldly chain of sin.
    Love you brother and stay strong, IN HIM.

  5. Eli my husband used to have those nightmares, that he had taken a drink and all was lost, failure upon him, - he would wake in a sweat and shaking as if it had really happened...

    That was early on last year...since he hit 500 days he has had fewer and fewer dreams that are like that... I often wonder if it was'nt his body craving it -and his mind fearing it all at the same time?

  6. After being sober for over three years I still have those dreams, although not as frequently. It is very common. i some say it is your disease coming through your sub-conscious, God reminding you that you are an alcoholic and so on. It's a dream. I always wake up feeling very, very grateful! It was only a dream, Yeah! Thank you God!

  7. It used to amaze me how quickly I fell back into old patterns when I got too busy for daily prayer, meditation, daily affirmation. Then I realized those patterns have been around a lot longer than my new resolutions.