Well I made it. 6 years sober. As we say in meetings, “How’d you do it?”
I almost didn’t.
See, a few months ago, I was reassigned to a new position at work. As it turns out, no matter how much I hate to admit it to myself, my brain damage is real and there’s many things I simply cannot do. One of those things is handle the integration of a multitude of factors of varying skill sets into my poor little brain all at once and expect the seamless integration of all those factors into a finished product called “satisfactory performance of my job.”
This was a problem with HVAC and it’s a problem with being a veterinary assistant. Honestly, it’s going to be a problem with a great many things the rest of my life.
And I simply cracked.
One day, I was waiting to hear if I could start working at a brain and spinal cord rehab facility and was informed that HR at said facility wanted me to start volunteering first, then we would collectively consider the possibility of collecting a paycheck from them.
And when I stared into the abyss and the abyss stared back, in a flash I saw three options:
I could go call my sponsor. I could go home and try to find some sort of solace in my dog and my girlfriend.
Or I could just saunter on over to the sports bar across the way and sit down and get hammered. Then I would go into my old home group meeting the very next day and sit down and introduce myself as a newcomer with one day sober and feel absolutely no remorse about that.
I just wanted the pain to go away, even for a few hours. The pain of having to live under with brain that can’t remember things and can’t process information the way other, unbrain-damaged people do.
The pain of the new normal. Because frankly, the new normal sucks eggs.
But I didn’t.
I kept going to meetings. I talked to my sponsor. I reconnected with a great friend whose been my friend since the day I walked into the ¾ house 6 years ago.
And I redirected.
I am good at redirection. But instead of going to the gym or meditating or walking my dog, I owned up to the fact that for these 6 years, it has felt like I have had the temptation to drink and smoke pot perched on an invisible ceiling right above my psyche. I have tried to go to school to be a veterinary technician and failed. I have tried to satiate myself with the HVAC industry and I hated it (I didn’t fail that one, but I wasn’t exactly setting land speed records either.) So, I went back to animal care, trying my hand at veterinary assisting and I failed at that. I was lucky enough to work for a place that kept me on anyway because of my work ethic.
And I walked to the edge of the cliff and … well …
I read a Zen koan the other day that really summarizes it. A man stumbles on the edge of a cliff and just before plummeting to the rocks below, he sees a tiger come to the edge where he just was, licking his chops. Then the man sees another tiger waiting for him far below the vine. And in the midst of all this, he sees a strawberry growing on a ledge on the side of the rock wall. He braces himself, then manages to pluck the strawberry. And it tasted so sweet!
So that’s what I did, I looked at the amazing life I have with Kim and the Z (my dog Zimmer) and that I have enough food and a roof over my head and all my five senses are firing and I have all my limbs and digits.
And I made an appointment with a shrink. I did a little research and discovered that many, many people who suffer a traumatic brain injury suffer depression for at least awhile. So I talked to my doctor and got a prescription for an anti-depressant.
And I decided to get started on a new project. I’m doing the requisite research and I’m going to take a class and I’m reading books and looking into starting a Go Fund Me campaign. I’m starting a new blog with an adjunct YouTube channel. The content of all of it will be the things I’ve learned through 6 years of immersion in meditation, exercise, nutrition, activism, and connection with other alcoholics. The two principle subjects will be Traumatic Brain Injury and addiction because those are the two things I have passion for and, 13 years after one and 6 years of recovery from the other, I think I have at least an intermediate knowledge of. The two things that have been my worst enemy and my greatest asset. The two things that I live with every day and must make sense of every single day of my life.
Will it bring me monetary reward? Possibly. Will it bring me connection to other alcoholics and survivors of brain injury? Hopefully. But it will bring me peace and give me fire again. It will give me the same fire that drove me to run a half-marathon two years ago and sustain the first year of raising a puppy last year (which I will say right now that, while probably not with the same lasting effects as raising a child in their first year, it’s still pretty damn trying).
So, I will relay the progress of building the new blog on this blog. I will relate the perils of GoogleAds and WordPress and Squarespace and GoFundMe and hopefully my readership, meager though it might be, will follow me into the podcast and the new blog (which I can’t release the name of because you never know who might steal it. I’m watching ALL of you.)
I hope you come with me. Because today I celebrated 6 years sober. Here’s to another 24.