Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thoughts on Tolerance, Part 2: About getting drunk

I don't jam my beliefs or practices down the throats of others, but those beliefs and practices are literally a matter of life or death for me.

That's how I ended part 1, more or less. It's important enough that I repeat it here, and expand and extend.

There are some things I believe that aren't really a big deal. I believe my decision to ride Honda motorcycles instead of some other brand has been a good one. Am I right, or wrong? Even I don't care very much about that. It mattered more, back in the day when I was riding with a club, because everybody thought their own motor was the best. Now, doesn't matter much. In fact, a little while ago, I told my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, that I was going to sell the house and buy a Harley, with a nice heated back seat for her comfort, and we were gonna hit the road. Never gonna happen, but it shows that my belief about Honda motorcycles isn't that big of a deal.

With some other beliefs, though, I'm rather difficult to move. I'm a Southerner of Scottish heritage, and that appears to include a strong genetic tendency toward the importance of military service. My grandfather, father & uncles, cousins & brother-in-law and myself, and now my son and his cousins; every generation has included military service. A belief in the importance of military service seems to be one of my core beliefs. I don't know how or what would make me disregard that; I suspect it would be impossible.

More vitally, there are some beliefs and practices that keep me breathing, day by day.
As I mentioned earlier, one of them is my commitment to continued sobriety,
through maintaining a program of recovery,
one that demands rigorous honesty,
and an affirmative commitment not to harm others by my actions,
but if I do, to make immediate amends to them,
except when to do so would injure them or others.

I'm 62 years old now, and took my last drink on January 1, 1988. When I was 34, I could not go more than two days in a row without drinking.
What drove me to drink was
anger at harm others had done me, and
guilt at harm I had done to others, and
fear of who I was, what I had become, and what I was becoming.
I wasn't sleeping face down in the gutters; in fact, I was Marketing Vice-President of a small computer company, had a M.Ed. in counselling, and was married with a beautiful young son. That didn't mean $#!+, though, because I drowned myself every single night in a pool of Jack Daniels. I'd never been fired from a job because of drinking, had no DUI or any other kinds of legal trouble, but that was just waiting for me. It hadn't happened YET (and that is an acronym for You're Eligible Too).
When the program of recovery was offered to me, I grabbed it like a drowning man grabs a life buoy; in fact, at that point, I really didn't care if it was a life buoy or an anchor, because I had to either get better or go ahead and die.
Well, I got better. To make that happen, I had to confess lies I had told, return tools I had stolen, and work to repair relationships that were catastrophically damaged by my deceit. It took three years before I was able to say that I had honestly done everything possible to make amends to those I had harmed. And I have to live my life that way today, every single day. It ain't been no bed 'a roses, I can tell you that. BUT: in the face of a lot of adversity, I held to the course, because I had to do that, or return to the despair of drink, and drink was going to kill me in the end.
Here's one of the FIRST things I learned: not everyone is an alcoholic, just because I am. That should have been pretty apparent to me already, mostly because it was rare that I could find someone who could keep up with me drinking. Even the friends that I drank with, talked to me about how much I drank; so, once I stopped drinking, it was pretty easy for me to accept that this was MY problem, and not my wife's problem or my friends' problem. Being around people who drink has never bothered me. There is some behavior I've seen in others who over-indulged that I found distasteful, but I actually believe that alcohol is one of the great gifts that God has given us, to allow us to enjoy life and have some good moments of relaxation and cheer with our friends and family. But I'll pass, thank you, and toast you with some lemon-flavored water.

I added that as an aside, but it is really not an aside. It's half of my main point, I think.
I THINK my main point is this: It is a matter of life and death if I drink, but I could not care in the slightest about whether anyone else drinks.
And thus, I find that I am returned to the point made by the young man in the Army 42 years ago: I appear to be a tolerant bigot. I hold it to be an absolute TRUTH that I cannot drink alcohol unless I want to destroy myself, and I will not deviate from that belief; so I guess that makes me a bigot. On the other hand, I do not care IN THE SLIGHTEST about whether or not someone else drinks, so I guess that makes me tolerant. Over the past 27 1/2 years, I have been approached by some people who ask me about drinking or drugging, and with THEM I am happy to share what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now. Some of them sought additional support from me, others didn't, and that's okay. My program of recovery is based on attraction, rather than promotion, and it is not my business to try to run someone else's life.

I thought I might be able to finish this tonight, Internet friends, but I can't. I've got one and a half more things to say, and the pitiful little lung I have remaining is telling me it's time to stop. So, until tomorrow, love & kisses,
Papa Pat

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