Some of you will remember George Carlin. For those who don’t, he was a stand-up comedian (one of the best) back in the days when we still hitched our chariots to dinosaurs. In one of my favorite Carlin gags, he would walk onstage, stand in front of his stool and do a funny little wiggle and jerk, saying,
“Sometimes I do this…(pause)
“…and then I wonder why!”
When I was still acting out in my various addictions, I just thought that was funny. Carlin, who passed away in 2008, had his experiences with some of the issues I struggled with. He was no stranger to the world of doing strange things and then wondering why. Now that I’m a bit more introspective, I can see how George’s shtick totally applied to me then – and how it still does now, from time to time.
I suspect all alcoholics and other addicts can relate. Often we do impulsive things and then wonder why – especially in early recovery, but (in my case) pretty often even “a few 24 hours” in. I tend toward verbal gaffes myself, being now of an age when free-fall parachuting and extreme banjo-picking aren’t really practical, but there have been times when the credit card was smoking a bit for what later proved to be questionable reasons. The phrase “It seemed like a good idea at the time” still applies more often than I’d like.
As for early sobriety, I clearly recall an endeavor when I blew a lot of money on a pyramid scheme that I never came close to recouping. I think there are still a couple of water filters around here someplace.
When we’re active in our addictions, especially the chemical variety, the parts of our brains that control our decision-making are suppressed. When we start getting sober, it takes them quite a while to come back to normal (if they ever were normal to begin with). Some of us never completely develop those internal controls, and continue to experience impulsive behavior. Let’s not even talk about substitute addictions and continued suppression of our control functions.
I need to remember that. I was “in recovery” for a long time, and then I dropped my hidden addiction and started getting truly sober about 23 years later on. My thinking was that of an addict for probably more than 60 years, because my dysfunction began early. I still get those “wonder why” moments occasionally, and they rarely enhance the quality of my life.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe we aren’t checking out our bright ideas with supports. Perhaps we’re (still) not pausing to think for a moment before we speak, especially when we’re angry or frightened. I’m not suggesting any cures for that except mindfulness, working our programs, and generally checking in with our sponsors, therapists, and other supports – maybe even our partners – to talk about our issues and get some other folks’ perspective.
I realized some years ago that I was nowhere near as sober as I thought I was, and sometimes the unskillful ways slip back in. I still need to be careful. Do you?
I was at a meeting on Saturday (online, of course). We had a discussion of the good things that have come from the pandemic. I’m not going to mention specific things that were brought up, because I don’t want to do your thinking for you. However, I challenge you — and perhaps your group — to consider the matter in some detail.
It’s easy to bitch, moan, and complain. “It’s not fair!”, “Someone should…”, “Why me?”, and similar laments are the default setting for us addicts and codependents, and stresses like we’re suffering these days — so alien to so-called normal behavior for most of us — can bring them out in abundance. One of our default behaviors is to automatically look for the worst scenario and then fixate on it. The pressures of confinement, especially close confinement with family and partners, money worries and the other things that plague most of us these days are guaranteed to challenge our sobriety and strain our sanity (in the sense spoken of in Step Two).
So let’s pull our minds out of the mud for a few minutes and really consider carefully the possible things we’ve gained or have the potential to gain from our current circumstances. I’ll bet if we actually stop and think about it mindfully, we’ll discover that things could certainly be worse and that some things may even be better.
I wrote this some years ago. I’m re-posting it, with some minor editing, because “There, but for the grace…”
I don’t spend much time regretting the past. There are a lot of things I’ve done that—given the opportunity—I’d probably do differently (or not at all) but you have to be careful what you wish for. The Law of Unintended Consequences is nothing to mess with.
Today I’ve been thinking about my friend Bill. I met him during a period in my early twenties when I was driving airplanes for a living. We were drawn to each other by a mutual love of airplanes, flight attendants, and the bars of the Fort Lauderdale area.
This was not too long after the Bay of Pigs, and there was a lot of stuff happening in Africa around then as well. The company we both worked for had, at one time, some clandestine connections with interests in the Caribbean, and shady characters of some repute still wandered around the small airports of South Florida and the islands to the south. I found this moderately interesting. Bill found it fascinating. Continue reading
Everyone’s lamenting the inconveniences, horror and/or fake-newsness of the pandemic, but not too many folks outside of us oddballs in the recovery community seem to consider the things we have to be grateful for. So I thought I’d make a list of some of mine.
- Even though I’m in a high-risk category due to my age and health issues, I’m still alive.
- I’m not unemployed; I’m retired with a little bit of income.
- I’m on Social Security, so unless Mr. Trump and his gang manage to wipe out all the “entitlements” I’m not going to starve or lose my home.*
- Since I’m pretty-much a stay-at-home anyway (not to say an introvert), I’m not terribly inconvenienced or troubled by home quarantining and social distancing. I’d like to be able to visit my kids, grandkids, and a couple of good friends occasionally, and I miss face-to-face meetings – although I think online meetings have much to offer and I’m anxious to see how they change the face of the recovery community in the long run.
- I don’t have to walk the cats.
- I’m quarantined with my best friend, squabble though we might from time to time.
- My Kindle and smartphone.
- The Internet, flawed and troll-ridden though it is.
- My supports in my recovery fellowships.
- Air conditioning. Living in Florida is both a blessing (Winter) and curse (the other 9 months of the year). I managed as a kid without A/C, but I’m totally spoiled now.
- I live within a mile of 98% of the stores I need to visit occasionally, including a Publix, Aldi’s, B.J.’s, Target, CVS, and several decent takeout joints.
- Mail-in ballots.
- A reliable car.
- The little lake we live on, and bird-watching out the bedroom window.
- Living in a community of older folks without boom boxes and drive-by shootings.
- Now I’m starting to sound like an old fogy, so I’ll stop. But you get the idea.
Did you make out a gratitude list of your own lately? Might it be time?
*Damn right I’m entitled. I paid into that fund for over fifty years. It’s not my fault that politicians used the money on things for which it wasn’t intended.