Drop the Paddle

Days: 97
Hours: 2,337
Minutes: 140,260
Seconds: 8,415,669…

This is a neat calculator from the AA Grapevine website. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself lately. And healthy. Very healthy. Mental, physically, emotionally. The best I have in, well, forever. At least the forever that back dates to my drinking life. Ok, it wasn’t so long ago. Yet I’m proud and feeling good (Nina Simone, I love you) in this moment. I know the road ahead is going to be rocky, long, steep, but my sobriety makes my walk so much more real. Purposeful and intentional and yes, it’s true what they say, spiritual. Thank you Higher Power for giving me this gift of a life to walk thru, to journey, to explore, and savor every step of the way.

Today I went to a noon meeting. It was a large group and a “speaker” meeting. That means an alcoholic got up in front of a podium and told the group his “story.” I didn’t think it was too bad. But he had no wife or kids. To me, being alcoholic with the kind of responsibility that marriage and motherhood impose, carries a higher price tag once accounted. This is not to say his story was any less significant for him or his audience. You take what you can get. As I grow in my sobriety, I find the value in almost anything, everyone and every experience.

My home group meeting on New Year’s Day provided another valuable experience. Dan, an older man resembling Santa Claus, but in a trucker’s hat with the words “Love One Another” printed on the top gave me an image to think on. This meeting happened to be called, “New comers” so many in attendance were very fresh in their choice to quit drinking and using. A pretty girl (young woman, if you will) with 2 weeks in began speaking about her struggle to quit or not to quit (that is the ‘question’). Ah, yes. How I remember those days. Lies, lies and more lies the alcoholic brain offers up. “You can drink socially”; “You can have a few” ; “You can control it”; “You aren’t a problem drinker”; “I can stop anytime”.

No, if you were able you wouldn’t be an alcoholic/addict and attending an AA meeting and working the “program.” But this was a common story I told myself for many years. Her inner turmoil or conflict was quite familiar, yet gracefully far away from me now. I could tell her, “You’re lying to yourself sweetheart. It’s not gonna get easier or better. No matter how many years you continue to drink or use with that story you’re telling yourself in your head, you have an addiction. It only gets worse. ”

In fact, alcoholics with many years sobriety warn us, “the disease does push- ups during your sobriety, it doesn’t rest” Scary but heed the warning. One drink is all it takes. As an aside, this is making me laugh thinking of how we are told “it only takes one time…” as sexually active teens or adults. But back to this meeting and Dan’s advice to the pretty girl. He said, “Let me describe it like this…you’re playing ping-pong in there [points to his head]. Back and forth, back and forth. Drop the paddle.” Oh Dan, how right you are. Dan has a few years under the belt. If you put down the paddle, you can’t play ping-pong. You have to engage in those thoughts, those lies. Actively thinking you can or cannot drink is not the way out of alcoholism. Another AA anecdote is “Quit thinking. Look where it’s gotten you.” Drop the paddle. Don’t engage in thinking. Engage in doing. Doing things like praying, reading, biking, hiking, typing, running (see my post). Play with your kids, clean your closet, go to your job, call your sponsor. Write your fourth step. Brush your dog’s hair or clip his nails. Pack your lunch for tomorrow. Step outside and breathe in and out. Listen. Be still. But don’t pick up that paddle.

It’s an exhaustive waste of my energy and effort. I know this now, but I remember being her. That’s why I keep coming back. I need to be reminded of that pain, the internal war games. Fuck ping-pong, when you’re ready to get sober, it’s Battle ship or Iwo Jima. It ain’t ping-pong. IWO JIMA

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