Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Right from the get-go, I was blindsided by the attraction, seduced into a cozy, symbiotic relationship.

The shy, approval-seeking young man with choirboy politeness transformed, magically into a fun, cocksure, sexy bad-boy! Intoxicated by this new, renegade, ‘don’t-give-a-damn’ attitude, I flung myself, at quick-speed velocity into the fire. Several times, throughout the rocky liaison, I pledged separation. On a trial basis. But, the mere thought of saying good-bye sent chills of expectant loss so intense I’d hurry back, dismissing any crazy ideas of parting. My Life developed into a comfortable dependency and denial -- my annoying, arrogant friend – cemented our bond of lifelong togetherness.

Now, after 30 years of faithful, reckless devotion, I am ending my relationship with Alcohol.

The long good-bye accompanies intense sadness and loss. Who am I without my loyal companion, my liquidly soul mate?  The comparison to a lover is provocative yet interestingly accurate. What began as nonchalant flirtation at the age of twenty-six blossomed into a lifelong burdensome secret? Even my marriage, with its untimely ending and ultimate divorce seemed easier to handle. The emotional pain experienced over the loss and separation of a liquid heart far exceeded the damage endured by the abandonment of a beating one. Alcohol was there, available and eager for my affection, offering me that slight rush, that enigmatic ‘click,’ and finally that pistol-ready release into the gallows of uninhibited darkness.

I would never allow myself the privilege of hitting ‘rock bottom,’ as twelve-step programs refer to that identifiable moment when addiction crushes the human spirit making a Life no longer able or willing to continue living in such a wretched state. Nope, not me. I performed my role perfectly. Always. I never lost a job, never arrived late, never lost time at work, never, never, never… admitted my vice and called myself an alcoholic. Me? Heaven’s no. I was above all that.

Was I what ‘they’ refer to as a functioning…one? Probably. My defense mechanisms -- state-of-the- art artillery – buried deep in my structured unconscious guarded the lurking monster. Did I want to admit it? No. Of course not. I teased with it for years, danced like Nureyev around the topic, avoiding all truth and any inevitable confrontation. Instead, I looked forward to that next chilled martini glass, that salty rim of a margarita, knowing the forgetful ‘click’ was only a few icy sips away. Deceptively delicious, indeed.

I scrambled headlong into the arena of my self-destruction. What was left, after the effects of Alcohol wore off was regret, a letdown, loss of integrity, respect and, let’s not forget, shame. Instead of pondering these feelings, I sprinted like a world-class athlete back to its solace. Alone, I could bury myself in its languid grip, wait expectantly for its recognizable take-off, hover dangerously overhead circling for deliverance and then, with reckless abandon, plunge myself into the absent abyss, that surly void where perfection failed to exist. The lack of calculated awareness allowed me a defiant, proud and defensive posture, a cover up to continue the abuse -- a slow-suicidal routine as scheduled and relaxed as drawing an evening bath.

Alcohol had no agenda. I was the taskmaster playing the slots, unable to balance my odds, eager to lose myself in the bells-and-whistle payoff -- I thought -- a win-win situation. I lost, of course. Years later, I realized the odds were never in my favor. Are they ever in self-delusion?

I have been given, by grace, the elegant choice to surrender my need. I am in deep gratitude for this option, this awakening into mindful awareness. As Sami Saxton expressed candidly in A PERFECT HUSBAND:  

“But those days are over. Too much drama, too many lost days, and too many missed opportunities catapulted me into soberness. A shaky sobriety. One, I fight daily. One, I often lose. I’m aware of the symptoms, what sets me off. And I try, like hell, to heed the warning signs.”

I find Sami’s admission honorable. Honest. I too, will fight the good fight for the rest of my Life. I refuse to go back. My path is forward, my direction clear, my intention for the future…to heal.

All in good time. All in good time…

“…the ideal spiritual journey needs the balance of ‘gloriousness’ and ‘wretchedness.’ If it were all glory, just one success after another, we’d get extremely arrogant and be completely out of touch with human suffering. On the other hand, if it were all wretchedness and we never had any insights, and never experienced joy or inspiration, then we’d get so discouraged that we’d give up. So, what’s needed is balance. But as a species, we tend to overemphasize the wretchedness.”

Chogyam Trungpa