Archive for July, 2016

Getting Through

Today is Saturday.  It’s still a bit early, so it is difficult to know, in any sort of complete way, what Saturday will hold.  And yet, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Saturday is going to look, essentially, just like Thursday.  I know that the same way I knew that Thursday would look just like Monday.  Monday, by the way, looked just like the previous Saturday.  All my days, so far, have been, for all intents and purposes, the same.  The same in that I achieved on each of the aforementioned days the singular goal I set out to achieve on each of those days.  And that goal was getting through the day.  Getting through.  Making it to the end.  Staying upright and relatively sane and not letting my anxiety drive me into the waiting arms of the local asylum from sunup until I allow my eyelids to drop shut and give way to the land of dreams.  Does that sound sad?  I think it does.  I mean, it doesn’t so much sound sad to me as I have been doing it for 44 years now.  But I’m pretty sure it’s sad.  I’m almost certain that the ideal way to be a human over the course of a lifetime is not to have your sites set centrally on simply making it through the day.  But that’s what I do.  That’s how I appear to be wired.  Each day basically appears to me to be a challenge; and not one I generally find myself looking forward to.  A challenge to take me down; a challenge to finally do me in; a challenge to retain my sanity and not fall headlong into madness.  The mornings are the worst.  So many hours left to fill.  The goal line feels a million miles away and I cannot wrap my brain around the possibility of surviving until the early afternoon; and the night seems an impossibility.  But, as it goes, I make my way into the 2-3 pm range and I start to feel a small sense of hope.  By 6, I have an almost cock-sureness that I am going to make it.  And by 8, I run straight through the red ribbon with arms raised aloft in victory.  Again, sad right?  I think it is and I think it isn’t.

It may sound like I am proclaiming that I have a miserable life and I just mope through the seconds and minutes of each day trying not to off myself.  Not so.  This may seem like something of a contradiction, but I actually have a truly blessed life.  My wife and I have been together for 20 years and she is an absolute gem.  We have had our trying times to be sure, but, overall, it has been a remarkable journey together.  We have produced two wonderful girls, currently ten and thirteen.  They can be a handful, yes; and at times they drive me bananas.  But they are the light of my life.  They are both well-developed, kind, willing, open-minded, creative, funny; they both have strong collections of good people who they call friend.  They both do well in school.  And I have yet to get an angry or distressed call regarding their behavior from a parent, teacher, principle or authority figure of any kind.  We have a humble but beautiful home.  We have two cars less than two years old.  We have a spunky English bulldog and two docile cats.  I have a truly incredible group of friends and my support network is rock solid.  I have been sober from alcohol and illicit drugs for nearly nineteen years.  I am saved and redeemed in the blood of Christ.  And I work for the Lord; greatest job there is.  Between my work as a life coach, sponsor, pastor and evangelist, I have had the opportunity to make way for God to change literally thousands of lives through my words and actions and love.  I have no foundation on which to complain.  But, nonetheless, as I walk through the splendor of all these gifts day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, I am always aware of the time.  I am always aware of exactly where I am within the sixteen or so hours of waking life in each given day.  And regardless of whether I am taking someone through the 12 Steps, watching a show on Netflix, preaching the gospel, walking the dog, playing with my kids, reading the Bible, or just staring off into space, my anxiety level waxes hard early on and wanes as more and more hours pass.  Even when I am absolutely reveling in the day, I am still simply getting through the day.

Perhaps this isn’t as unusual as I surmise it to be.  Maybe most people have this experience.  Maybe all people have this experience.  But I seriously doubt it.  I don’t have any data with which to doubt it; I just doubt it.  I’ve never heard anyone else speak about it, although I suppose I don’t speak about it that often myself.  I just don’t suspect that most people view each day on earth as fundamentally daunting.  I always have.  I have always had this deep down suspicion that everything is just not quite o.k.; and that everything is bound to turn out not quite o.k.  This, again, is something of a contradiction.  Because I am a Christian.  And I don’t mean that I am a Christian in the sense that my parents are Christian and I grew up going to church and it says “Christian” on my Facebook page and “Jesus is just all right with me.”  I am a full blown disciple of my one Lord and savior.  I am born again in the blood of the lamb.  I am an ardent follower of the one born Emmanuel (God with us).  Therefore, I know that God’s sovereign plan is perfect.  I know that I am watched over and ideally taken care of.  I know that all my sins, the ones from my past, the ones I am presently committing and the ones I have yet to commit are paid for.  I know that I have been imputed Jesus’ righteousness and when the Lord looks down upon me all He can see is Jesus.  I know I need fear nothing.  I know the worst thing that could happen to me is death and that death is the best thing that can happen to me as I am destined to spend all eternity in the Kingdom; the new Heaven and the new earth; wrapped in the Creator’s loving embrace for all time.  I have no fear whatsoever of dying.  It is living that I find challenging.

So how can I know all this and still have the sense that everything is not o.k. and will not be o.k.?  I have no idea.  I just do.  The two things are concurrently true and I don’t know how that is possible but it must be because it is happening to me even as I write this.  It is currently 11:00 am.  I feel far calmer than I did when I woke at 7:30.  I have a 12:00 pm client and I know that will get me to 1:00 pm, which will put me only 3 hours from work which, while itself fills me with a level of anxiety, will take up about 4 hours.  And the thing about those 4 hours is that the quicker they begin, the quicker they will end.  And when they end, it will be somewhere between 7 and 8, and  I will take my victory lap.  Then I enter “all is well” time.  Let’s say I get off work at 7 and go to sleep around 11.  For that four hours, I am free; truly free.  No matter what I am doing during that time, it is all good.  Sleep awaits and there is no reason to rush to get there.  It is available.  It is at my disposal the moment I desire it.  Everything is closed down.  No one wants anything from me or expects anything of me.  The night is dark, the crickets are chirping, and I feel exactly how I constantly crave feeling.  Serene and peaceful.

Serene and peaceful have eluded me my whole life.  Although, let me be clear.  My peace and serenity is ten times what it was twenty-five years ago.  I lived those first twenty-five years (well a solid fifteen of them) as an active alcoholic and drug addict.  My addiction created a life that was sheer madness by any standard.  By the end I had a solid $150 dollar a day speedball habit (mixing cocaine and heroin for those not in the know).  I was high round the clock and dealing pot on the side to finance my narcotics addiction.  My anxiety in those days was a rabid lion.  Of course, the lion was regularly being tamed by the powder entering my nose and veins and the smoke streaming out of the glass tube stuck in my mouth.  Today, I can’t tame the lion in that manner.  But God is a much better lion tamer than drugs.  And, let us not forget, I am not exactly without drugs.  I am without illegal drugs.  I am chock full of legally prescribed drugs.  Yes, they have been prescribed due to a couple of real pathologies that I suffer from, but they bring their own batch of trouble.  In truth, my med cycle is awfully problematic.  The pharmacological cocktail that I daily intake pretty much controls the flow of my emotions and I often wonder if it does me more harm than good.  That is thing with taking medication.  You are always trading in one set of problems for another set of problems and then trying to denote which set is more palatable.  I go back and forth on what that answer is for me.  Anyway, as I was saying, my peace and serenity situation is far improved as a sober, Christian man over what it was as a junkie non-believer.  And yet, the “progress” I have made in my emotional and spiritual life, to a large extent, shows up more on the exterior than on the interior.  That is to say, I am assuredly a better person this way.  I don’t steal (well, I illegally download music), I don’t lie (very often), I don’t cheat (much at all), I don’t physically hurt people, and I am not maniacally running rampant through the world creating disorder, confusion and pain wherever I walk.  I’ve gone from being a part of the problem to being a part of the solution.  That’s an inarguable fact.  And, most assuredly, my insides have changed as well.  I am no longer completely selfish and self-centered.  I no longer spend all my time thinking about me and how do get my needs met.  I no longer think I know everything or that I am right all the time.  I am no longer judgmental of others.  I have elements of empathy and compassion and caring and love and hope that were simply never there before I got sober.  I have a hunger for purity and a desire to serve God that has become the gas for my internal engine.

And yet, despite all these radical changes, there is still the one stubborn corner of my internal wiring that does not appear interested in budging a single inch.  Every day, at its core, is centrally about getting through.  So much so, that I continually find myself surprised when I manage to get through.  That is, the sun goes down and evening finally rolls around and I kind of think to myself, “Huh…I made it…cool.”  I don’t know why I am surprised that I made it.  I am generally unaware of anything in particular that was standing in the way of my making it.  In fact, short of an unforeseen tragedy, like me being struck by lightning or getting hit by a semi crossing the street or being taken down by a massive aneurysm, there was seemingly nothing at all which stood much chance of keeping me from making it.  And still, “Huh…I made it…cool.”

There’s no doubt that a genuine factor in all of this is that I have a very real fear that I will go insane.  I have written about this before so I won’t prattle on about it.  See, the thing is I am frightfully intelligent.  I have an unusually high I.Q.  If I had the slightest bit of interest in joining Mensa (which I don’t) I am pretty sure I’d be a shoe-in.  I’ve come to learn that there is no shame in admitting this, as I once thought there was, (1) because it is not something I accomplished.  I just happened to come out this way, (2) I truly don’t understand it to ultimately be an asset.  I may, in fact, qualify as genius-level (you know what’s funny?  I originally misspelled “genius.”  Better yet, I misspelled “misspelled”)  And history shows that a solid percentage of the world’s geniuses have ended up going utterly bonkers or outright ending their own lives.  It is a burden.  It really is.  Part of me thinks that I might trade with someone for an 85 I.Q. in a New York second.  Still, a wise man once told me that one truly knows they are progressing spiritually when life stops being about having what you want and starts being about wanting what you have.  I’m pretty much there.  I’m not really looking to trade places with anyone.  If me and a thousand other people made a circle and we all threw our problems into the middle of the floor, I am pretty sure that I would take mine back.  I believe that the way I am; I was meant to be this way.  I am something of a tortured spirit and always have been.  Alcoholics Anonymous and the love of Jesus and counseling and psychotherapy and E.M.D.R. and inner-child workshops and group relations conferences and spiritual retreats have all helped me cope better in the world.  But they have not seen fit to undo my tortured spirit.  And so I must conclude that this is my true nature.  I know for a fact that the transparency and authenticity I have seen fit to enact in terms of my tortured spirit have been a help to many, many people; scads of which had tried various other kinds of help to no avail.

So, there you have it.  This is me.  Unconventional, eclectic, eccentric, “marching to the beat of my own drummer” me.  And I guess I’ll keep being me until the good Lord decides that it is time for me to stop being me.  Honestly, I am looking very forward to that.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suicidal or anything.  But I cannot wait for the day that God decides that my work here is complete and brings me to the place where there is no sadness; there is no suffering; there is no pain; there are no tears; there is no anxiety.  On that day, I feel confident that I will have my first serene and peaceful morning.