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Egret and crab

Friday, March 30, 2012

One day at a time.

I had never been pals with him, had seen him around, a mostly friendly face on a barstool. Had a dustup with his kid once that I don't really need to reset. Just thought of him as basically another happy idiot in a room mostly full of idiots, where the scenery never changed and every night was a continuing installment of the same long running movie.

Having grown up in a house of alcoholics, I was never much of a drinker. Drink a little bit for show, but always with a foot on the brake pedal, never wanting to do much harm to the machinery. I like the lodge as a place to grab a bit of local color but understand that it occupies a much larger space in many of the regulars' lives. Fun to get stupid every once in a while but it is a conscious and sometimes difficult decision for me to surrender. Enjoy a glass of a full bodied red now again because they taste so delicious but have always been very conscious of limits. Normal jitters, I suppose, after taking a fair amount of collateral damage in my younger years.

Anyway the man I am discussing showed up at the gym one day about a year ago, stone cold sober and beaming with the glow of a man who had found a better path for himself. Freshly scrubbed and born again. I commended him for his choice and he confided about how happy he was to have come to grips with his alcoholism and for having made the change.  I gave him a lot of positive support. He was now in the program, like many of the early morning gym rats, and the change in him was truly remarkable.

It is tough for somebody who drinks any amount of alcohol to talk with people in A.A.. I get the feeling that deep down that they think that anyone who is drinking any booze t all is an alcoholic. Alcoholics can not social drink. It is every alcoholic's dream to be a social tippler or occasional drinker but we all know that it can't be done. They have to stop completely.

I was amazed and supportive of this man's decision to right his ship. He was almost evangelical in his new relationship with life. That is why it surprised me to hell to hear that he had relapsed. I heard about it, of all places, at the bar the other night. "You must be talking about somebody else, I said." But more details were supplied and unfortunately it was the same guy. Had come into some money and was getting a divorce and he had fell off hard.

I ran into him yesterday and he admitted that the train had indeed come off the tracks. He was once again trying to live on the straight and narrow, showed no shame in his coming up short and was going to try again. Good for him.

We got into a pretty deep conversation about the ins and outs, you know how I like to pry and reconstructed his bender. And what I found interesting was that it was a very similar tale to one that a couple of my best friends had undergone several decades ago. Both were married and both wives left when they got sober. Neither wife drank but both wives had alcoholic fathers.

As long as they had the role of enabling angels everything was okay but when the dynamic shifted and their partners got sober they were left without a comfortable or familiar part to play in the movie. Have to find somebody new to never save. Kind of strange how it works.

I am pulling for this guy to make it. Drink was not helping him and a clearer view of his life demanded changes. He is not so doe eyed and squeaky clean as he was at the beginning of his path to sobriety, understanding that he is facing a long protracted battle with himself. Maybe he needed to fall once again so that he can finally draw a bright line. One day at a time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Terrific piece on your alcoholic acquaintance. Writing that isn't full of implicit judgements and condemnation doesn't come around much. I particularly like your point that AA folks need to be respected and allowed to fix things their way. Compassion seems to be getting rare in this day of "Don't Tread On Me" flags.