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An Important Key to Continuous Sobriety


August 2013

I heard a story the other day, from a friend, about how he’d been let go by a therapist.  Now it takes a lot to get booted by a therapist but it’s not always that big a deal.  Trying to help someone recover from drug or alcohol addiction comes with an investment on the part of the therapist, counselor or even more so by a sponsor or mentor (in certain circles).  I think I may have fired one person I was mentoring in the last 18 years and I’ve heard of it happening dozens of times.  Also, with one guy I had to decline help after several attempts over years availed nothing – for him it came down to this (and this is exactly how I explained it):  Every nut has a wrench and I’m simply not your wrench.  He found someone else and remains sober to this day.  Lesser people would be upset by this.  The thinking would be that I wasn’t good enough to help this guy out but they were, there must be something wrong with me.  That’s silly but thinking often goes that way.  I simply wasn’t the right fit.  It happens, and I’m thankful every time I see him that he found what he needs.

On the other hand, to be fired by a professional, now that’s something.  I’ve been to a lot of counselors and therapists in my day and I’ve paid attention.  When I take steps to work on myself and fix the problems that I create, things go well.  On the other hand, if I look for excuses, if I place blame outside of myself to justify how I “feel” or act, I’m cooked.  This is the only reason I know of that a therapist, counselor or shrink would give up on a patient – the patient simply won’t do the work necessary to fix the problem (and my problem is always me, by the way).

In the circles I run we call this “remaining teachable” and remaining teachable has all to do with the ego.  Some may assume that because I’ve been sober for more than twenty years that I know what I’m doing and therefore can simply rely on past knowledge to continue living a happy and enjoyable, sober life.  That is most definitely not the case.  I must fight, sometimes on a regular basis, the urge to rest on my laurels and become complacent.  Complacency breeds relapse.  If I had a buck for every time I heard, “I figured I had it under control so I stopped doing the work – before I knew it I was drunk” (or some variation of that), I’d be retired in a nice little home on the ocean in Palm Beach.  There is one main chorus that remains a constant, only one:  I am a two-fisted drunk.  When I drink, I’ve got a can in each hand and the case sitting between my legs.  This important truth will not rest, it will not change and it will wait patiently until I let my guard down.  With the opening it was waiting for, with my guard down, it will leap from the shadows and consume me whole, usually before I realize what just happened.  Within a few short weeks I’ll be right back where I left off.  Unemployable, homeless and dying a slow, agonizingly sad death.  Those on the outside will weep for who I once was, those on the inside, those who know me and live with me, will run like hell from the tornado of wreckage I’ll strew about.

To remain teachable means this:  I don’t know every damned thing no matter how long I’ve been sober.  It means I must keep constant vigil over who I am and what I do – hell, call it “staying right with the universe”, so that I can keep my soul bathed in light, relegating that monster to the deepest crevice where only a sliver of shadow remains.  If I refuse to heed this advice I am surely doomed.

Now to change the pace a bit.  In the context above, remaining teachable is easy – it’s that or death.  What about something more mundane?  Let’s say I lead a relatively decent existence but I have to fight with a bit of depression or anger from time to time.  Certainly not wanting to get off the couch for weeks at a time or going off on a tangent won’t kill me like alcoholism surely would!  Therein lies the rub and the glorious nature of being a recovering alcoholic.  To me, all of that shit is a killer.  It all leads to me, drunk in a ditch, dying with a shriveled up liver.  I remain teachable because I know what it’s like to be one step from that gutter.  I can get to a place in my head where flying off the handle in anger will kill me if I don’t fix it, now.  Most people don’t have that luxury so remaining teachable is just some babble or pap on a blog post.  To me, remaining teachable is the key to the Kingdom.

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