I’ve Still Got It, Baby.

Photo Jan 27, 11 35 57 PMI did it. It happened. I drank.

And — fuck man. Coffee is good.

All it took was one quintuple-shot-Americano. And, after nearly three months without coffee or caffeine, one sip was all I needed. GAME FUCKING ON. Caffeinate me. More. MORE! And, there it is, right in front of me. I’ve still got it, baby. After all this time, it remains — all or nothing. And, I concede; moderation is something that I just can’t do. I stand face to face with the thing I’ve known for years, but, I still want to ignore. — I’m an addict.

But, really, addiction is just the squeaky wheel. Pretty soon, what was an innocent squeak sends the car flying off the road, and then, everything gets stuck. Before anyone knows what happened — I’m back in a rut. But, it wasn’t the coffee. I swear.

And, we allow this. Our drinks and our drugs and our sex and our coffee and our food and our sugar to literally halt us, to pick us up, and to force us to try and hold on to something that can’t be held. But, not just anything — it’s this one thing. This. We break from everything — for this. There is solace in obsession. And, here, in my coffee cup, I can taste it. Yup. I’ve still got it.

Sometimes, I forget that the obsession was the cure. It wasn’t the bourbon or the bong or the fuck or the soy latte or the entire bag of Oreos or the handful of jelly beans. — It was the planning and the ritual. It was the reward. The supply and demand. Addiction offers something else — it hoists us up just long enough for us to see what we’re missing before letting us go — dropping us back into the mud. Addiction plows elaborate paths that lead nowhere. And, trudging back to the open road is exhausting. It can take everything you have. Frustration will ooze from old, muddy wounds and things will begin to spill over the sides of our ditches. It’s inevitable, our unattended ruts will flood.

Sometimes you’ll get stuck for so long, that you’ll forget what it felt like when you weren’t crawling through the sludge. Ruts hold us in a steady cycle. But stability is misleading. — Sometimes, it’s nothing more than limbo. Doldrums. Drudgery. Dread. — It goes a step beyond pessimism, because you are an active participant in the attempted escape from your rut. But, the same motion that’s needed to set yourself free can sometimes make you feel that you’ve lost yourself in an unstoppable flow. There is an actual rhythm in this kind of being. — It’s battle. And, as an addict, I know it. — I once felt that the only way to return to normalcy was to let my addiction take the wheel. Everyone gets tired of driving.

But, there has to be a moment where we finally see clearly. We learn to steady the wheel. Sometimes we find that moment in sobriety. Or, that moment is the one that gets us sober. Or, it’s an even smaller happening, one we can’t put our finger on. But, however we’re made to see it — it’s the way out — a point in time that’s absolutely pivotal to our awakening. It’s the place we must reach if we’re to keep moving forward. It’s the only way to get un-stuck.

So, we learn to harness our Chi and we stop treading water — we begin to throw our proverbial sandbags into the trenches and let the process of sopping up the excess begin. And, somehow, here, we find the tools we didn’t know we had.

Maybe, some afternoon, you’ll find yourself ordering a quintuple-shot-Americano and your hands will shake with anticipation at the end of the coffee bar as the barista pulls the espresso. And, while you’re waiting to receive your hot-paper-cup in its smooth-cardboard-sleeve, maybe, you’ll suddenly understand where you’re going and where you’ve been.

And, as you drop your empty coffee cup in trash can, you feel the caffeine hit you. — ZING!

Yeah. — You’ve still got it, baby.

 

 

 

 

Just My Imagination

Photo Jan 21, 6 58 59 AM

I still imagine my way back to the bottle. It can’t be helped.

You know the feeling. We’ve all found our way back to something we’ve left behind. Not because we want to slide backwards, but, because it’s necessary to remember certain things before we can move forward. There’s something inherently human about leaning on the things we know — for better or for worse. If nothing else, it’s familiar. Comfortable. The past provides a static level of understanding. A foundation. A trail of breadcrumbs. We’ve been here before — we know it. We’ve mastered the idea of it. And, every once in a while, we have to get close to it again — just to confirm that we still understand. We’re compelled to test the water. We’re curious if things still come to us naturally.

But, like any of the pieces that I’ve left behind — my drinks are only memories I visit. Stories I tell myself. Because, really, there is no going back.

So, instead, I imagine it: Cheers! A birthday toast. A new job. Bad news! I pour a good pour for my crap day — and a better one for my good day. I feel the energy that the cork is suspended in. Then — Pop! All that pressure evaporates. It bubbles over and spills down the sides of the bottle and over my knuckles.

They return to me — moments where I sat at the bar and drank cocktails with purpose.

I’m watching the bartender pull the beer. He paints a semi-circle with his damp bar-rag before he places the glass down with a well-rehearsed sweep of his arm. My partner-in-crime puts his lips to the edge of the pint glass and little bubbles rise up and cling to the tip of his nose. I smile and I sip my bourbon — the kind that’s aged in sherry oak casks. It coats my tongue with wood and vanilla and something else — something smokey, something spicy. My lips curl into a telling smile that, without effort, contains the entirety of this moment. I try to remember why I’m here. Maybe it’s some kind of celebration — or better still — maybe it’s just a regular day.  Either way, I look happy.

Then, I remember. The ending. My face sinks when the very same man who’s handed me my perfect drink tells me that he won’t serve me any longer — not tonight. The same toast to which we raised our glasses will spill on the floor when I slip from my bar stool, looking back at the bartender with a face that is half humiliated and half apologetic.

I wake up on my couch in all my clothes at a strange hour and wonder how the day got away from me. What did I say? Was I mean? Funny? Did I complain about work or the weather? Did I insist I was fine to drive in slurred, sloppy sentences? Next time, I expect the bartender will greet me with the oh-it’s-pitiful-you look as I pony up to the bar. But, I won’t care. This routine. — It’s comfortable.

So, I allow it. I make make space for it. I give in to the bottle. The old one, that still tastes good. I dream about bar stools and other people’s liquor cabinets and white teeth stained with good, red wine. I allow myself these moments. Moments where, eventually, I recall that the time I spent happy and drunk — well, that was imagined too.

So, I find myself back here. In this moment. Because, a trail of breadcrumbs will only take you so far. And, now, here, sober, I allow for my greatest re-imagining. This moment, it’s uncharted. Maybe it’s some kind of celebration — or better still — maybe it’s just a regular day.

Either way, I look happy.

The Conditions of Desire

Photo Jan 14, 6 47 43 AM

For a time, I misplaced the meaning of desire.

At my worst, drinking and desire became inextricably linked. Back then, I was certain that being wasted was a sure-fire, all-access pass to the things I most longed for in my life — Love. Acceptance. Meaning. But, it didn’t take very long to discover — I was wrong. And, when everything collapsed, I struggled to begin again. Even with a clear head, I had trouble deciphering what it was I really wanted.

Long after getting sober, I found myself wondering why things continued to fall apart. All my desires, even my most deliberate and cognizant ones, lead me astray. And, later, I would learn that — I had completely missed the point.

Gratitude.

Gratitude is the point. Perhaps the most notable of all my epic lessons is that — no matter where I stand in life — there must be gratitude there. It is the cornerstone. Because if we cannot love, at least in part, what we already have — there is no point desiring more. It’s a lesson that took years to learn. I denied it. I fought it. But, I never outran it. In my ungrateful state, I continued to meet disappointment, regret, and tragedy again and again. — Without gratitude, we become bitter and selfish.

The only way to tap into gratitude’s thick, gooey center is — Love. The unconditional kind. — But to know love unconditionally, you first have to tolerate things that are conditional — and it’s painful. But, every Yin will find its Yang.

Once, at the end of a relationship, I was told that we hadn’t made it because I hadn’t loved unconditionally. At the time, I believed I had given everything. Because, in some way, I had — I had given all I had to give. But, the condition of having given enough won’t save a relationship — or anything else for that matter. If love is truly unconditional, there is always more. There must be reciprocity, because — true love returns to itself. Unconditional love is without breaks or cracks. It’s cyclical. In the end, conditions will only breed resentment. And, where resentment grows — gratitude cannot.

Releasing my own conditions, giving of my heart as it beats today, and allowing that exchange to be enough — was a game changer. It made space where I once had none. I learned to adapt. In rewiring my heart for gratitude, I found joy in what little remained. At my rock bottom — it was meager — but it was a start.

There’s a line from an Elliott Smith song that has stuck with me from the moment I first heard it years ago: “You’ll take advantage ’til you think you’re being used. ‘Cause without an enemy, our anger gets confused.” That line continues to define my inner addict. I have to remember, daily, that nothing has been done to me. We do things and we allow things to happen. And, if we listen to our desires — truly listen — we can walk toward or away from anything with ease. Even the booze.

A grateful heart will treasure the scraps it finds in the soot and ashes. Inside my own guarded heart, love picks all my locks. And, when the latches release — it’s me who pushes the doors wide open.

On the other side, I find my desire again. In gratitude, I am shown the good of all my things — my people. Cyclical. Reciprocal. Gratitude is unconditional.

Today, I throw my love to the wind — without its old conditions. And, love sent out with gratitude returns like a boomerang.

So, throw open the doors to your heart. And when your desire returns — let it love you back.

Unconditionally.

The Same Old Song

Photo Jan 07, 6 09 27 AM

The New Year looms.

I washed back 2014 and I toasted 2015 with a glass of Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider. It tasted good.

I sometimes wonder if I’m experiencing some strange form of reverse insanity where, somehow, I no longer find myself missing booze. And, as my life starts to settle into some semblance of stability and comfort, I find myself searching for it — not the bottle — a feeling. The thing that’s at the core of what I believe my alcoholism to be — some unnamed emotion that won’t let sleeping dogs lie. I’ve had this feeling before. I know this feeling. And — drinking is the cure. A cure that, in the past, facilitated an allowance of brief moments where I happily let myself be taken off guard. A cure that became a kind of permission I granted myself. And, without it, something feels untapped in me.

I still lace my boots too tight. I still have trouble giving myself away. But, I want to feel it — happiness. I know it’s there. But, it shies away from me like a nervous child, disappearing behind her mother’s knees. And, I don’t blame her. She’s had the rug ripped out from underneath her before. And now, my movements play out like an old song — one where my happiness sings out the melody and my caution keeps the beat.

It’s not that I want to go back. I don’t want to go back. Sobriety has offered a liberation that I could never take for granted. And, the freedom I enjoy today, far exceeds the freedom of Jim Beam White Label. But old weight is still weight. It holds me an inch too close to Earth. I find myself wondering how to recreate the trust and untethered hope that years past have stolen. I want to feel without losing too much. I want to let go. I want to learn how to keep my head in the clouds and my feet on the ground.

The more present I become, the more I see how this strange and ambiguous feeling can rule me. Alcohol was the great equalizer, equipped with it’s own system of checks and balances. And, without it, I still struggle to even the scales. Inaction has held me back for as long as I can remember. And now, sober, I am making up for lost time.

I’ve tasted happiness and I know that it’s a cure more potent than any other. I remind myself that it’s attainable. But, more than that, it’s something we are all worthy of — our birthright. So, when I feel it in my stomach — that need to disappear behind my mother’s knees, I decide to step forward instead.

It’s a New Year, and, my song may sound the same, but I am choosing to hear it differently. I focus on my melody while the cautious drummer keeps time. Because, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that when I adjust my perception my reality adjusts too. So, with some hesitation, I make the decision to let go. And when I do, I find myself where I’d always hoped I’d be.

Head in the clouds. Feet on the  ground.