Saturday, February 4, 2017

The “Joy” Of Hitting Bottom

In Chapter 9 of my book, How the Bible became the Bible [ISBN – 978-0-7414-2993-3, Infinity Publishing, 2006] I described a little of my story as an alcoholic: During the last year [before I stopped drinking], I was drinking about a fifth [of vodka] a day and a half-gallon over the weekend. I had to have alcohol in my blood at all times, twenty-four hours a day, just to feel normal. That meant I had to have a drink every four hours or so—even in the middle of the night. And during that whole time it never dawned on me that this was abnormal.
Eight or nine months before April 17, 1987 [my sobriety date], I awoke one morning at three with severe indigestion and had my son take me to an emergency care facility. My diagnosis: critical, acute pancreatitis. “An ambulance is being arranged to take you to the hospital. Oh! By the way, your blood alcohol level is 2.8!” I had gone to bed (a.k.a. passed out) at 10:30 p.m. that summer night. If I had a blood alcohol level of 2.8 five hours later, just how drunk was I when I “went” to bed? In the mid-to-upper-threes? That’s well into the range of toxic, fatal alcohol poisoning.
I had done that night after night after night!
That was my life and that’s what I thought I had to do in order to “cope.” I thought I was relatively normal under the circumstances. After all, if you had my life, wouldn’t you drink, too?
I was relatively normal. I was a relatively normal alcoholic—a maintenance drinker who had lived for thirteen or fourteen years drinking a pint of booze every evening between 6 and 11 p.m. Then, all at once, I needed more. My sense of control left. Sometimes I could drink almost a fifth and appear outwardly sober. Other times I could have only several drinks and I’d black out. This loss of control terrified me because it threatened my ability to maintain my pretense—my front—to the world: that I was successful; that I had an important, pressure-packed job; that I was a good father; that ... well, you get the picture. Anything that would crack that shell and let the world see the awful mess and hollowness inside me was to be avoided at all costs.
The last year or so of heavy drinking began with intermittent shots of vodka during the night. I’d wake up at 4 a.m. in a cold sweat with the shakes. Later, leg cramps would come as well. I’d go to the bathroom and then “snitch” a swig of vodka. Soon, that 4 a.m. pattern became a 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. pattern. I didn’t understand that I was experiencing alcohol withdrawal. It seemed that three or four hours was about as long as I could go without a drink—day or night, asleep or at work—day after day. I began carrying a flask with me to work because I couldn’t last all the way to the two double-vodka gimlets I had for lunch. I kept a bottle in my car so I could make it home after work (as well as one in the trunk—for emergencies! Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to imagine the nightmarish, stark terror of being stalled in traffic gridlock—alone—with the thought of no vodka.).
Within the blink of an eye I was having mid-morning and mid-afternoon grapefruit/vodka cocktails at my desk. I now believe that those two small cans of grapefruit juice were providing me all the nourishment I’d get some days. Co-workers and clients began to complain of alcohol on my breath. I would explain I had a prescription throat spray for my sinuses. I bought a pair of self-darkening prescription glasses to help hide my red, puffy eyes.
Rule number one: Keep up the pretense. Rule number two: There are no other rules.
It took all that living, if you want to call it that, to get me to a place where I finally gave up. Gave up what?  The pretense, the vodka, the illusion that I could handle myself, the belief that I could manage my life.
I really believe that without “hitting my bottom,” I would never have made it to Alcoholics Anonymous and witnessed the hope, happiness, and serenity I found there. Today, I am very grateful to be a recovering alcoholic.
I think my story may be a very apt analogy to what is happening in our country. In order to wake up and seek real transformation, we have to “hit bottom” as a nation, just as I did as an individual. Although sometimes I wish events in my life had taken a different course, I know in my heart that it took all that happened to me to get me into those rooms where I found an acceptance that transformed my life.
What happened to me has happened to every recovering alcoholic who, in working AA’s program of recovery, will readily admit they would never have become a grateful member of AA’s Fellowship without having hit their bottom. So, perhaps ….
  • ·      … we have to have Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and Mike Pence work to eliminate the recent regulations that protect water, air, natural resources or our wilderness areas.
  • ·      … we need this Administration and complicit Republican Congress to roll back civil, religious, LGBT, workers’, women’s, and minority rights in favor of business and evangelical Christian beliefs.
  • ·      … we need to have this Administration and its Republican congressional support move back to the pre-Obama financial regulations to control Wall Street and lenders (including credit cards) just as the Bush Administration did. This way we can openly enjoy a repeat of the 2007-08 financial crisis.
  • ·      … we need to come face-to-face with our very own ignorance in determining the difference between fake and factual news, as well as determining that voter participation and political awareness is both a blessing and a responsibility and non-participation carries with it a very severe penalty.

Be grateful, be aware (without fear or anger), and begin in your own way to work for our national recovery.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

#4 Jan 2017

Copyright 2017

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