I wrote a post the other day about being honest with oneself, the importance of rigorous honesty. Well I thought I’d follow that with a good example of the stupid things people say in recovery, Bgddy Jim Edition. Indeed, to thine own self be true.
So to set up the scene, it’s November 18th, 1992. Approximately 9 am and I haven’t had a drink in 8-1/2 hours. Thankfully I haven’t started shaking yet but I know that’s coming. I’m just twenty-two years-old and sitting in the hallway outside of the president’s office of the toughest in-patient treatment center in my State, with my mom. I stink. You can smell the liquor seeping out of my pores. It’s my first stint in-patient and I’m here to avoid a jail, maybe even prison, sentence (if you don’t know the difference between jail and prison, consider yourself Blessed). I have no desire to stop drinking and fully intend on completing the program and heading right back out to get hammered, several months from now. I was told, a year ago, that my liver enzymes were so messed up I’ve probably only got about eight years left on it. That’s seven years now and I don’t care. Besides, what do doctors know anyway.
My mom, sitting next to me, starts to cry. She says she doesn’t want me to have to go through this and I see a splinter of light through the dark haze. I try to convince her that I don’t have to stay, that I can change without treatment if she’d just take me home (thinking hey, I might be buzzed yet tonight). She says she wishes we could just go home but that I need this. The light at the end of that tunnel was a train and it ran me over.
I’m called into the office and we begin my intake interview. The whole thing is a haze anymore except one question: “This is a difficult program. What makes you think you can make it through”? I answer, “I have a lot of willpower” – and I meant it.
Two hours later I was in the middle of a gnarly hangover shoveling pig shit (think Hangover, 1 and 2 only worse [but no transvestites – good God in Heaven]).
It took six months of sobriety before I figured out how full of BS that answer, and I, was. On the day of that interview, I couldn’t go two consecutive days without a drink. I have the willpower of a potato. I’m a weak, fragile drunk, just trying to get out of trouble. I’m a liar and a cheat. I’m one of those guys who would steal your dope and then help you look for it, cursing the loser who took it. I am lower than a snakes ass and I know it, left to my own.
Not any more. I know my flaws. I know my weaknesses. I know how important honesty is. I know that self-knowledge, awareness, is helpful but ultimately useless against a drunk. Twenty-one years later I can laugh at that interview. Now I can participate in events at the farm as a winner, as one of the success stories. I can donate corporate money to the farm, from my corporation. Two years ago, at my first Ride for Recovery, I spoke for a moment with Jim (still president of the farm) and thanked him for saving my life. I introduced him to my wife and told him about my kids and how great my life was, nineteen years sober. I think this year I’ll ask him if he remembers my willpower answer – I doubt he will because I’m sure he hears a lot of stupid things said there, but it sure will be a great laugh if he does.
I had a bunch of great excuses for being a drunk at my disposal, if I had chosen to cart them out. In the end, they’re all bullshit and I know it. Excuses are like opinions – only they stink worse. In the end, I can stay sober if I want or I can be a drunk if I want. I can be fat or thin if I want. Now it’s all a choice, because I know one thing about my excuses: What I use for excuses are just things that happened to me. They’re just a genetic predisposition. They’re fake. They’re what I use to get you to shut the hell up so I can do what I want to do without you giving me s#!+ about it.
To thine own self be true. Anyone can believe the lie, that you’re a drunk, or fat, or depressed because mommy sat you on the toilet seat sideways. I’ve used them all and I finally know better. You’ll have to sell stupid somewhere else – and don’t feel bad about the desire to do just that. I didn’t feel bad, and believe me, I tried to sell that crap everywhere. The only difference between someone stuck in their own shit and me is that I was lucky enough to have people in my life who didn’t buy it… And let me know they didn’t.
Now, is being straightened out comfortable? Of course not. It would be much more comfortable, in the short term, to be a victim. Of course, I’d more than likely have died by now, and that would have sucked.