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?