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Fit Recovery’s Recovery Dictionary:  The Definition of Terror.


February 2017

Have you seen the movie Clean and Sober?  Michael Keaton starred in that one.  How about Leaving Las Vegas?  Nicholas Cage did that one.  Less than Zero?  Robert Downey Jr.  And thanks to the Unironedman for reminding me about Flight with Denzel Washington…

I just started watching Everything Must Go.  Will Ferrell’s new twist on an old theme.   I could only take the first 30 minutes and had to shut it down.  I’ll have to recharge and give it a go at a later date.

Fit Recovery’s Definition of Terror is the jumping off place.  It’s that wonderful spot where you’re afraid to drink because it’s killing you and you know it, and you’re terrified to not drink because you need it.

I am not an emotional person.  I don’t let life happening get in the way of my enjoyment of my sobriety.  I drank a lifetime’s worth in a very short time.  I’ve been sober multiple times longer that I drank – like four or five times longer….

I still feel the terror of being at the jumping off place though, like it was yesterday, and a good drunk movie takes me back instantly.

Without getting into spoilers, I can relate to Ferrell’s character in that every decision I made, viewed in hindsight, was one of two things:

  • The opposite of the right thing to do at any given moment.
  • The dumbest thing a person could do at any given moment.

The movie starts there, where no stupid decision goes unpunished, and that’s where my pain started.  The first beer consumed in the movie, and I could feel the twinge between my cheeks and gums that accompanies the first sip of the first beer of the day.

And that’s where I started getting squeamish.  Less than five minutes into the movie.

Now most normal people would think that twinge between the cheeks is the Pavlov’s dog response.  You’d be wrong.  The Pavlov’s dog response is the terror that comes immediately after.

Twenty-four years of sobriety, I’m only one stupid decision away from flushing all of the good in my life down the toilet, because I know me.  If I start, I will not quit until quitting is the only option left.  The terror is true powerlessness.

I watched until I couldn’t take it anymore.  30 minites, if that.

I shut it off and prayed.  I asked God to take away my defects of character so I can remain happily sober.  I asked for five seconds of sanity before I did anything stupid.

Then relief washed over me.

And I thanked God for showing me compassion and answering the call.

Then I wrote this post to share my experience.

It never ends, you know?  The drinking dreams, the temptation, the terror…  Thankfully it only takes a movie to show me how fragile the ground underneath can be – and I know exactly which steps to take to reinforce the foundation.  It starts with One.

I am powerless over alcohol.  I am sane and in tune with my emotions and my surroundings (the five seconds prayer works – try it, you’ll like it).  I can give my will over to the care of my Higher Power.  Take a small inventory of the situation, call my sponsor… a little six and seven… then ten, eleven and twelve.

Now I’m thankful for having had the experience.  For seeing the weakness, for recognizing it, for feeling the powerlessness, for feeling the terror.  My disease may be in the background doing push-ups but I practice karate, and my karate is good.


  1. unironedman says:

    In which case, I strongly recommend you give ‘Flight’ a miss, with Denzel Washington, even though it is a most excellent film. You would need strong Kung Fu watching that one! Be good.

  2. saoirsek says:

    Or Lost weekend… those rats. Thanks again for the post and the reminder, whilst I wear sobriety like a loosely fitting top I am in NO doubt that it would all go to shit pretty quickly if I drank again. Plenty of ” not yets” out there( why I believe meetings are so important) I just remembered reading your post that I was slightly obsessed with reading books and watching films about addiction/alcoholism before I stopped. Always looking a reason to say”but I don’t do that” , now I just identify…i

  3. mmpalepale says:

    Wow, a very powerful post. Makes me feel like an asshole when I was chiding you in a previous response on a different post about “giving in every once in awhile”. Granted, I think I was talking about cupcakes or something, but…I still feel like an asshole.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Don’t! I didn’t take it personally. Now you know why I can’t give in once in a while, eh?

      It tends not to go very well. Thank you, too. I appreciate it.

  4. Paul S says:

    You know, I can’t watch movies like that. Talking to other folks in recovery, I know I am in the minority. I just can’t watch them. I get embarrassed for the drunk character, I cringe, I turn away…I just. Can’t. Watch. I spent a good chunk of my life making one crappy decision after another, watched myself burn my life down to the ground, and to watch it on the big screen or TV? Why? Maybe it’s a shame factor, but it just brings me back to how crappy a life I had. And those friends of mine will often tell me – yeah, but it ends happy. I don’t care! I can’t watch the bottom falling out on even fictional character. The funny thing is that I have heard countless stories at meetings and online, and I can deal with that, because I don’t have a front row viewing of it.

    Anyway, thanks for this – glad to know I am not alone!


  5. fitnessgrad says:

    I almost wanted you to give huge details and give me more spoilers, but that would be asking for too much when my lazy ass can just watch it myself! lol — I figured this is what you would be thinking when and if I would ask.
    Although, I have not dealt with any type of addiction that can be compared to yours, I feel like some of the emotions I can relate to when it comes to other things in my life, like the feeling of doing something dumb that could ruin one whole thing .. which has happened during my college years (thankfully wasn’t dumb enough to keep me from graduating) but since then I have tried to teach myself to think things through and to look at pros and cons of my decisions because all them will have a place in my life at some point. Although my fears are different from yours, I feel like we all have something that keeps our heads spinning and praying just a little bit more to keep ourselves from falling off the edge. Good post Jim.


  6. Gail says:

    You get across your point so effortlessly but at the same time it resonates with me as a kid that grew up with an alcoholic father. You parse things down and don’t make your reasons complicated…much like Trump does. Probably why I look forward to these types of posts from you. 😉

    You help me understand why my father could NEVER stop drinking. He did not have your critical thinking skills. He could never see the consequences of his actions, and if he ever did for even one fraction of a second, he did not care. Ever.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Gail, what you had to go through sucks. My mom (as a kid and as a wife) went through it and so did my we, my brothers, sisters and I, with my dad. Fortunately, I didn’t wreck my family. I sobered up long before I married, so the cycle was broken.

      As for simplifying things, I was handed a napkin after sharing at an AA meeting, maybe six or eight months sober, that had written on it, K.I.S.S. The man who gave it to me was my sponsor’s sponsor and a very good man. I asked him, after the meeting, what it meant. He took the napkin and wrote down from each letter… Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.

      I took it to heart, and so I do. Most people would get angry and storm off, complaining about the crotchety old goat who insulted them. I just wanted to get better so I did as I was told.

      • Gail says:

        God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening has never gotten me into trouble. My mouth? Many times.

  7. Archetype says:

    My best friend Brian is a cyclist too and recovering since 1990. He echos much of what you say Jim. It’s a constant battle whether it’s in the conscience or the subconscious. Those times we may feel invincible, masks the absolute hard reality that we are indeed fragile beings, with many flaws and weaknesses we often do not like to admit. It’s life in flux as I like to say…
    Great post, I think it’s one of your best.


  8. Sue Slaght says:

    As long as I have read your blog it is your raw honesty that always keeps me coming back. Powerful stuff Jim. Cheering in your corner always.

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