Things are a little tangled in my head today. I’m tired after a long shift in the ER last night, and I’m recognizing that being sleep deprived really is a trigger for bad thinking on my part. So, I see this funk as a sign that it’s time to write some of it out. To be honest, there are some days when I wish I didn’t have to fight so hard or make myself do the work. I want to relax and just take the day off. But, there are no days off. Which seems unfair, but actually, with the right perspective it is really awesome. I don’t skip days where I make my health, my life a priority. It sounds better when I reframe it that way. It becomes a privilege and not a burden.
There will always be that voice in my head that wants to think “you’re better now. You can stop struggling so hard. You could probably moderate now” The same voice that wants me to revert to isolating, being headstrong and obstinate. Doing things the old way instead of the new.
So, with that in mind, allow me to introduce the frog that I met the other morning in my pool:
He looks innocent enough.
But, this, ladies and gentleman is the most “I do what I want” amphibian I have ever come across. He was gleefully swimming all over, diving down and skirting away from attempts to catch him in my net and I swear if he could have given me the finger, he would have (actually, in the picture above I think he may be). He simply had no idea that if he kept on swimming in the chlorinated water that eventually, he would drown. There was no way to climb out without help. He couldn’t see it.
After about ten minutes, I finally got him out. Exhausted from his attempts to elude me, he sat for a minute on the warm concrete where I had gently deposited him. And then, he HOPPED RIGHT BACK IN to the pool. Where we then had another game of chase and he did everything he could to avoid my attempts to catch him and save him from himself. I finally got him and carried him out to my garden, far from the pool and gave him a stern lecture about not even thinking about hopping his obstinate butt back into danger.
Folks, this is what we do when we are in denial. We have this idea that somehow we will be the exception. Sure, other people who drink as much as I was end up dying way too early. But I’m special. I’ll be that exception. I’ll be like that 100 year old person who smokes unfiltered cigarettes and eats bacon and drinks Jack Daniels all day every day and somehow defies the odds. We stay cocky and stubborn, even when we start to suspect that we are totally screwed if we don’t stop.
When the truth is, I’ll end up a dead frog floating if I don’t stop swimming in a pool of alcohol and disordered thinking. So many people are stuck in endless day ones, afraid to accept the help of others who are holding out the net, and instead keep diving down deep away from what looks scary but is actually salvation. Humility. Admitting the need for help. It’s tough. But it’s necessary.
So I have to remind myself daily: Don’t be this frog.
Which in a round about way brings me to oysters.
Stay with me.
So, this past week I watched a movie called “Burnt.” It probably got lambasted by the critics for being a little one-note. But the addict in me really resonated with the main character, played by Bradley Cooper (a real life alkie in recovery). He’s a dry drunk, a chef who fell from grace and lost his restaurant due to his addictions to drugs and alcohol. It is written as a redemption story; how he attempts to rebuild his reputation and his life (without actually truly making reparations for the things he did when drinking or embracing specific principles). At the beginning of the movie, he’s in New Orleans “doing penance” by completing his goal of shucking a million oysters. He’s not working a program, is still woefully shortsighted and unaware of how his actions have hurt others. He’s a human wrecking ball, and while he announces that he’s been sober for two years, 2 weeks and six days at the beginning of his quest to return to greatness as a chef, he’s an untreated alcoholic through and through. He’s a self absorbed loner, a bully, volatile, and short-sighted. He just doesn’t drink or do drugs.
Ultimately, through loss and failure, and from relapsing (which comes as no surprise) he gradually learns to accept community, help and belonging as key to healing and moving on. Which made it satisfying to me as a newbie in recovery (and lots of beautiful food which just makes me happy). But I think the thing that sticks with me is how this movie made me ponder what it means to not just stop drinking but create a meaningful life. Or as my friend in my online sobriety group put it:”Staying meaningfully sober is different than just quitting drinking.. Just shucking a million oysters ain’t gonna do it.” Outward actions without inward changes ultimately are meaningless. We can not drink and white knuckle and be miserable. Or we can not drink, grow, reach out for help and give it in return.
Some days we are the frog, and other days we are the net. But we don’t go it alone.