Rage, Rage Against The Dying

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I should have known that it would come rolling in like a thunderstorm across a plain when I pulled the Five of Cups (a tarot card that deals with grief and disappointment) three times in one week. The first time I pulled it was before any actual climax but all the weeks leading up was wrought with enough worry and fret, there was bound to be a tipping point. I’ve talked a lot lately about wanting to change the way I feel, I’ve also talked about acceptance. Even while working through some things on the page I can still present well, maintaining my “I’ve got this” face, but that’s how it happens. We get blind-sided by something or it’s a culmination of little things, like a thousand paper cuts, but they say a relapse starts long before you take a drink. Luckily, I only drank in my dreams but whoa, I threw it down.

A week ago while on a short trip to a most loved place in the Texas mountains (yes, we have mountains), my husband and I took an early morning hike. I almost passed, but there was a never-before-experienced thick fog that had settled into the range, so I reconsidered at the last minute. The normal breathtaking vistas now made invisible by the fog invited our eyes to take in the details and a few steps after we pulled off the trail to take photos of this amazing spider web, my husband stepped into cell range (we get very little cell coverage out there), and his phone exploded in foreboding chimes. One phone call later and the thing we were holding our breath over happening happened, Mark’s father had passed away around 4 that morning. He spoke to family, we spoke to each other, we held each other and cried on the top of that fog enveloped mountain. It was like poetry we could never have written.

I said I wasn’t at all worried about Thanksgiving. The presence of alcohol has become neutral to me, just like the Big Book mentions (page 85) and even that morning, I hadn’t given it a thought. But as the day wore on, the more I felt I was being drank AT, feeling my resentments boiling over not being able to check out over the loss of this person who although was only related to me by marriage, I had a special connection with as we shared recovery. I am now evolved enough to see my ego when she comes out to play and yet, I sat in the back seat for the hour drive home and did nothing but imagine that warming, red liquid sliding down my throat.

In times of crisis, mantras and anecdotes don’t do much for me. It’s just the way I’m wired (enneagram 7, perhaps). In fact, throw any one my way and I’ll pick it apart until it loses all meaning. For instance, “You’ll never wake up and wished you’d drank.” “Perhaps I wouldn’t, but if I was really successful, I just wouldn’t wake up, would I?” Bleak dialogue I know, but as you can see, they don’t always work for me. To be true to thine self, one must know thine self and I know that only fresh ideas and new connections penetrate my heart when I’m in crisis mode. A walk in nature can do it for me, there is always something new to see, especially in the change of seasons. I will search for something I’ve never seen before, see proof of God outside of me until I can feel the connection inside of me.

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I found myself on my city’s 12 step meeting list and my eyes landed on a meeting I didn’t even know existed, existing only a block from my house. As I put on my shoes and trudged down the street, heading for the church which housed my daughter’s former preschool, my spirit nudged the body memory. How many mornings had I walked that same path, holding my little girl’s hand, so hungover and praying I could slip in and out of that same hallway without having to look any other adult in the eye. Another poem I could have never written, only by grace, I received.

Books also (and always) seem to come when I need them. I finally picked up Russell Brand’s book, Recovery, and his smart and fresh take on the 12 Steps have landed exactly where I needed them to, exactly when I needed them. I also randomly picked up Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal, written when she was so young but so wise, “Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon I see and myself is the Earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am would or could see, but what I am afraid of, Dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that is blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know you, God, because I am in the way.” I’m not sure if a request for conscious contact has ever been described in a more beautiful way, but I do know that without contact, I would most surely be drunk.

There are those happenings that some call God winks, but then some appear as a not-so-subtle burning bush. There is so much, volumes of books’ worth in fact, that I do not know. However, I do own a slim volume of things that I do know. One of those things is this: the winks and the fiery bushes have always been around. I know I’ve noticed a few before I got sober and looking back, I can see they always marked a pivot. The difference is that now I can see them as they happen, like in real-time, as I write the narrative in my head, “You did not mince words, dear Sondra. You put out the Big Fear SOS and here’s your answer: wherever you go, there I am and that will take you to all the way, to the very end.”

The morning after our hike, my husband and I went outside to watch the sun rise up through the valley. The fog had rolled out as quickly as it had come in and even with the sky half lit, we could see every star (and an unmistakable planet or two) available. I’ve seen plenty of shooting stars and never in a half-lit sky, but we saw two that morning. I guess it’s all a miracle or nothing is, but I think that looking for the miracles is a choice and one that I’ll choose again, for today.




Day One

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. --Albert Einstein

So what does this mean, on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, the day after one of the most divided Presidential elections I've seen in my lifetime? Because I need to find the miracle in this. 

Choosing love and compassion every damn day feels like a miracle to me. And when I say that, I am not just talking about compassion for the marginalized, but compassion for the ones with whom we disagree, and even the ones we fear. Because when we are talking about the marginalized, as much as the white, liberal, educated elite (which includes me, by the way) don't want to look at this, we are talking about the unemployed or underemployed, uneducated, and sometimes addicted white person that voted for the one person they thought was listening to them. My kids are watching me and they are acting how I act, doing what I do and I can't teach compassion unless I'm doing it. There is a miracle in that.

If we've hit rock bottom as a country, and many of us know a lot about rock bottoms, the only direction to go from here is up. And being in recovery, I also know that that requires change and making good choices and showing up and staying present and pushing up my sleeves to get to work. If there was ever a time to be sober and present, it is now. If there was ever a time to ask, "Where does it hurt?*", it is now. I can't ask that if I'm shackled to the throes of self-absorption and pity-parties that I was in when I was drinking. There are miracles in rock bottoms.

So what do we do now? I'm going to look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would say. Helping always yields miracles, without fail. I will continue to speak up for injustices, to not agree with the unagreeable, but I know I need to be a listener. Because that is what feels right. There are miracles in listening. 

*This was a question asked by Ruby Sales in an interview she did with Krista Tippett on On Being a few months ago. I highly recommend listening to it, twice even, as she talks about non-violence, public theologies, finding true middle ground and really makes sense of the spiritual crises in white America (and why that white America would elect a man like Donald Trump).