honesty w/self

IMG_6548-300x200Three months sober, I went hiking in Jasper. Well, honestly, I rented a cabin in Jasper. Hiking was an addition to that. I had a crazy summer with jobs coming and going, relationships up and down, plus there was plenty of stress of not drinking while temptations were everywhere I looked. I needed a break from that insanity before it was time to get back to school. So, I booked a cabin and in August I went for a somewhat controlled environment adventure in the mountains.

Several days in, me and the small group of guests had a hot day hike. On the way back to the cabins one of them offered me to share some beers with him and his wife. First thought that came to my mind was “Crap, I should have stayed at home in the city, in the environment I could certainly control and have a better way to handle temptations.”

The second thought was less fearful, yet much more dangerous: “Hell, no one will know I had a beer or two! Plus, it would just give me a buzz. No big deal!” I knew though that I would obviously know. And I will remember. And I will suffer, because of the guilt that I broke down so easily. Also, I would suffer due to the more than likely serious mental maelstrom that will follow after the fun of intoxication subsided. I could hide even that, from others, but not from myself. I was new in the program and I didn’t know how you come back to AA meetings after a relapse. I didn’t want to find out.

All these thoughts went through my mind with a lightning speed, like in a Stephen King book, where there is an odyssey seems to pass through in the character’s head, and yet in reality only several seconds have gone through. I was about to look up to the fellow hiker and give him my answer when I thought of something else – how will he take my answer? Will he laugh? Will he say I better have some self-control? Will he do something that will make my isolate in my cabin for the rest of the week? I didn’t want to deal with any of that. And yet the good time of sobriety that I have enjoyed so far, no matter how difficult the time was, prompted me to speak my mind. All that thinking took another couple of seconds, I guess, and I finally made up my mind not to waste more of my companion’s time.

“Um… actually… I’m in recovery. So… um…” I tried to speak like nothing in the world could bother me, although I don’t know if it was working, “I am not going to join you… but… umm… have a good time!”

His reaction was not something that I expected.

He produced the biggest smile that a person could without wrecking their face into parts. In an instant his eyes shone brighter than the sun did all day. He shook my hand, saying: “Good for you! Keep it up” or something in that vein. It was quite a while ago, I can’t remember it quite well. Yet what I do remember is that conversation gave me a tremendous boost to keep it up with sobriety.

I was even happier with not taking a beer farther on that day, because the owners served wine with supper, which is something I’ve forgotten about. Refusing a wine at the table was easy. Refusing a beer when it felt like it was begging for you to accept it after a long hike in the sun, that wasn’t as easy. And a couple of beers followed by some wine… shit, it would do me in physically after ninety days of not drinking and then mentally, with all the thoughts I’d have to deal with. So, I was near ecstatic about the fine job that I was doing, keeping it sober.

That episode keeps coming to my mind in the summer. It’s the season I’ve sobered up, it’s the hiking and camping time. It keeps reminding me of the right choices that I’ve made, and how it keeps paying up for the life of sobriety, and because of that, of freedom. Freedom from hurting myself, freedom to be comfortable in my skin, freedom to speak my mind and to ease my mind from thoughts of however others choose to live their lives.


the image was copied from http://www.ecolodge.com/where-you-play/, the website of Rocky Mountains Escape where the above mentioned adventure has taken place. I went back there many times.

bravery

80a898dac48e313dfc891418ea61b4faWas it an act of bravery when you gave up drinking?”

“I never really gave it up,” she said. “That isn’t how alcoholics do it. They can’t do it that way. You employ a lot of sideways thinking instead. One day at a time, easy does it, live and let live, all that. But the center of it is this: you give up believing you can control your drinking. That idea was a myth you told yourself, and that’s what you give up. The myth… What I do – what we do – to keep away from the first one… it’s not that kind of bravery. In spite of movies like The Last Weekend, I think what we do is pretty undramatic.”

Stephen King, Library Policeman, 1990

The first time I read this story I was in ninth or tenth grade and didn’t start drinking yet. I tried it on more than a couple occasions, yes, but I had not even come to buy it or have been to a single drinking party. So, I don’t even remember reading this chapter where the protagonist Sam meets the couple of people who turn out to be problem drinkers and who he’s yet to find out are going to cooperate with him to beat the ultimate evil of Eternal Librarian and Sam’s greatest fear, the Library Policeman. I don’t remember alcoholics or the candy that Sam used to beat the evil, so to speak, but I do remember getting freaked out a bit. After all, Sam’s greatest fear came from a very real situation of being raped by a person in position of power, something he denied has happened to him for decades. Thankfully, he didn’t become alcoholic himself to deal with that experience.

When I read this book again earlier this year, the above passage struck me between the eyes. It is always kinda nice and kinda freaky for a bit to come upon something you’ve missed in the process in the past. It happened to me writing a story 17 years ago about a problem drinking who eventually dies from it, and not realizing that I wrote a cautionary tale to myself.

I always respected Stephen King for his writing, freaky or not, but I came to respect him more after finding out he had a serious drinking problem and addiction to prescription pills, and that he was brave enough to come through by joining self help groups like AA and kept going forward after that, keeping his family and keep writing great books. His writing about problematic behaviors, family violence, and addiction in his scary stories always made more freaked out because I could feel the real terror of it. The real horror is not the ultimate evil with fangs and bat wings, it’s what people do to each other.

And the real bravery and relief is learning that people do get through those experiences and still manage to have a good life after, learning from trouble others cause and from their own errors.

p.s. as for The Last Weekend movie, I think I wrote it before, maybe I should revisit it one day 😊


the image of Stephen King’s face made from the covers of all his books is amazingly done and an amazing idea and it was copied from https://za.pinterest.com/pin/533676624577675719/. thank you.