Jun 27, 2008

All Spokes Lead To The Hub


Dear Friends, I'm a alcoholic and I haven't had a drink for almost 30 years...I thought it would be a good idea for me to document my "story" here for all to see...it's lengthy, but don't fret, I don't expect anyone to read all of it and there will be no "pop" quiz...thanks for being patient and allowing me to tell you more about myself:


"I'm Len/Leo/Leonardo/Lenny, and I'm an alcoholic who has not had a drink since age thirty-five. Now I am almost 65 years old and getting emotionally/spirituallly healthier every minute, one day at a time. This is quite a miracle, considering I love alcohol, thought it was chic to drink, and couldn't stop drinking it. I used it to help me feel better about me, to help me get to know you, and to soar to higher heights of imagined personal security, happiness, and greatness. I also used it to calm my terrified, troubled, and hung-over insides. I became an addicted mess somewhere along the way. I tried to pretend everything was wonderful in my life and I was fine. I was trying to hide a severely sad emotionally ill guy. I was also very neurotic. I wanted to die. I was terrified in my secret world of loneliness, despair, and self-loathing. I often felt dead-ended. I wanted all of you to think I was doing great! I was played pretend for years. I lived with a forced smile on my face while I held down real feelings of fear, anger, panic, despair, and pending doom.
My last night drinking, I was alone and very drunk on my living room floor. I crawled to God and pleaded, "Take this away, save me from this!" God did. I went upstairs, went to sleep, and went to work the next day. The first day of my new life sober and and living in reality was December 13, 1978. A few days later, a co-worker told me, "You will drink again if you don't come with me to a 12 Step program." I knew she was right because I knew me. I went with her to my first meeting. I hated it, but I knew I had to be there. Mary L. was in her twenties, gorgeous and had been sober for three years.
I grew up in a "perfect" little family. Mom, Dad, an older sister, and a buff colored cocker spaniel named Taffy. My mom and dad were very attractive and congenial people and quite social in their world of middle-class, aspiring-to-the-American-Dream worker-dreamers. We lived in a neat new white house with dark green trim. Our lawn and gardens were well cared for, we had nice manners, we didn't fight (openly or much), and we wore nice clothes every day. We were a nice family. I thought of it as "Betty Crocker's" house. Everything was ideal, except I always felt different from "them." I was a misfit from the start. I didn't feel unwelcome and I did feel loved; I just felt oddly unique and out-of-step. I was different! I am homosexual. Even then, I knew it was not going to be an easy thing to be. I was trapped. The only thing I knew to do was hide my thoughts, actions, and feelings and pretend things were different than they were. Deceit came easily for me when people got critical and started glowering at my existence.
I pretended while growing up. I did my best to deliver to people what I thought they wanted from me. I pretended to be what I thought you insisted I must be. I tried to say what I thought you wanted to hear. I delivered. I was never a liar to myself. I felt shame and disgust because I believed hateful remarks about people like me. I embarrassed easily and took any comment directed toward me very seriously. I knew vindictiveness. I was defensive. I was no stranger to self-pity. I paid attention so I wouldn't fall into any heterosexual trap that would result in some new version of demoralizing ridicule amongst friends or anyone. I always protected my very fragile sensibilities. I was/am sensitive to scorn directed toward me or any other minority person. I dislike injustice toward me or others in a magnified way.
My college years brought heavy drinking, first in my fraternity and later in off-campus living. I went to school near San Francisco. I drank in the bars of San Francisco starting at the age of eighteen. Drinking allowed me to be the real me. The real me also worked while going to school. I worked in a department store and advanced in the Executive Training program quickly and easily. I became a young Retail Fashion Buyer before finishing school. At college I studied fine art. I traveled for work to the "markets," and I drank alcoholicly almost every night. My life was quite a variety of "grown up" experiences. I almost always had plenty of energy and plenty of friends, and the money was earned so I could pay my own way. My parents paid for my tuition, books, allowance and lodging. Money was available most of the time. I always pushed very hard to be successful and important at life. I needed to be a "someone" fast! I never wanted to look at self-loathing in me. I ran from those earlier sickly feelings as hard as I could! It was the early 60's and I felt set free while simultaneously I drank more.
I was a department store buyer who loved his work. I moved from San Francisco to a new job and more money at a glamorous and "upscale" Speciality Department Store in Arizona. I drank more, too. Often, I would stay out all night in New York when I was there on "buying trips." I would be so shaky and hung-over in the morning that I would call the hotel physician for vitamin B-12 shots and Valium™. Then it was off to work.
I did well on the job and got promoted, I still had the energy to try and cover my alcoholic tracks and "be" somebody. I drank more. After a few years a new store president arrived. I didn't like him, and he didn't like me. He promoted a rival buyer to be my boss. I had never liked her either. I quit the same day. They asked me to "please stay" three times that day. I arrogantly said no, went home, and then I drank much more.
My home life was filled with parties, drunks, and drugs and people like me. I often took diet pills to keep myself in shape and looking good, I thought. I drank more alcohol in order to sleep and sometimes took sleeping pills. Alcohol was not working as well as it had before. I seemed to always need a little more. I was twenty-seven years old.
I went to a psychiatrist to find out why I was so nervous and neurotic. I spilled my guts to him. He told me that "all spokes will lead to the hub." He told me the same thing, every Friday afternoon, over and over again. I never did figure out what the "hub" was until after I stopped drinking. I drank more.
I moved back to Northern California with a job at a smaller and family owned department store. I concluded that my prestige had been greatly reduced. My roommate from Arizona came for a visit. He brought a "pretend" girlfriend and his parents with him. The parents went to sleep after dinner. The girlfriend, my friend, and I went drinking at my favorite local bar. My friend smoked some dope that night in addition to drinking. Late in the night he slipped on ice plant on the twenty-five-foot cliff in front of my beachfront house. He died two days later from blood clots on the brain. I drank much more. I couldn't stand the emotional pain.
I moved to Los Angeles. I loved my new job in L.A. I was finally in the atmosphere that gave me believable self-importance again. I was finally away from my very "wronged" and "tragic" past. I was a resident buyer in the California Market. We represented many department and specialty stores nationally and internationally. I lived in a lovely area of the city. I had wonderful success and fun at this remarkable new job. I drank more. Didn't everyone?
I drank for years, more and more, until the night in my living room when I pleaded with my God, "Please don't let me drink anymore!" I couldn't pretend I was "fine" anymore. I wanted to kill myself. I was not in danger of losing my job, just my life! I was still trying very hard to make my life "work" right up to what would have been my end.
I went to 12 Step meeting in recovery and hated them. I thought it was a place filled with the strangest weird people. I thought I was not lacking in good character as I'd never had a drunken driving arrest. I thought I was a honorable kind of guy. I had always, worked extra hard, paid my taxes and had always been gainfully employed. But I heard them say, "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." That was it for me. I didn't want to fail. Rarely became my word of hope. I wanted to live. Sobriety was my only choice for happiness and I knew it! Rare exceptions would be the "them" and not me! I didn't know how not to drink. I would stay in recovery!
Sometimes I was bored, dazed, and ungrateful, but I stayed. I didn't drink. Many sober members tried to be warm and helpful. I kept my mouth shut. I thought disdainful thoughts. I had nothing much good to say about them, or me. I was afraid of what they might have expected of me! I didn't know what they wanted from me! I got sponsors. I worked the Twelve Steps. I didn't drink! I started healing. I felt so good. I had never felt so good. After a year, I got a great new, bigger, and better job. I traveled internationally as a product development specialist and president of an import company. I made more money! I fell in and out of love. I became a happier person, a devoted loved one, an better son, a better uncle, a better human being. I kept getting more blessed even though I was becoming, and not hiding from, the real me (imagine the surprise)! I did not drink. I did service work sometimes. I started to help others. My fear and anger began to fade away.
My sober life has taken me to a place where I can view reality without pretending it is something else. I am now able to face truth, about me and about you! I can view things more objectively and make a decision about what I find. Prejudice, bitterness and hysteria fading away. I feel centered and comfortable (mostly) and emotionally sturdy. Today, I am able to say I'm a full participant in my own life. I don't drink anymore, and I thank God for that.
My dearest friend and partner was murdered over 10 years ago. I was able to experience normal feelings of grief. I didn't drink. I lost my financial security in sobriety and then lost my fear of the financial insecurity that I didn't even know I had! I didn't drink. There was an "earthshaking" time when I thought I was falling through the cracks of my own sober life. I had an eye-opening emotional shakeup around the fifteenth anniversary of my recovery. It erupted because of my old fear of betrayal and humiliation on sexual issues. I got betrayed, but I didn't drink. I didn't foster paranoia, and I didn't take revenge. I have been betrayed financially while sober, too. I have lost a chain of stores that I once owned and stayed to face the music when a minor business partner fled with the money. I've experienced emotional growth, I am accountable and responsible and I have not drank. I have not held onto things that are out of my control. I have accepted my circumstances whenever they have changed. I find that I can rather easily adapt to major change...what a nice surprise.
I became more mature and healthy after gaining on recovery year after year. I got "outside help" from a psychologist for a period of a few years. She presented very interesting new views on "letting go." I didn't drink. I always remain sober, and I always grow and become happier, more joyous and free. I have trust that my God will continue to Grace me with sobriety. God always carries me on to the next part of my sober life, the part, it seems, where I always need to go.

Thanks be to God and Thanks be to The Episcopal Church for including everyone at all levels of Churchlife....The Episcopal Church welcomes everyone."

8 comments:

Padre Mickey said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, Leonardo.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

I wonder how Part II will unfold...lol, just kidding, I'll take it as it comes...thanks for the kind words Padre.

flotsam said...

wow, quite a story, leo. Helped me stay sober today. Your friend from AAG.
peace and Hugz
Mark In SoCal

fs said...

An amazing story, Leonardo. You were so accomplished, even when drinking, even when your life was going out from under you. I thank God for the night you prayed to him for his help. You went through so much to stay sober, and it made you the person you are now, an incredibly rich, REAL, lovable and loving, inspiring man.

Later today, I will be visiting a friend who had her 20th anniversary of sobriety yesterday. She, too, is amazingly real. Maybe that's what AA does for people.

Thank you for sharing this, Leonardo. God bless your journey.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Thank you Mark and fs,

I do think that "self-searching" helps keep one in the REAL...lol, it's just that, for me, I keep noticing a lot of the REAL in other people too and I could do better in the "tolerance" department...makes me wonder if one suddenly wakes up one morning and no longer "reacts" to nonsense? Hope to find out and thank you fs, for the Elephant in the living room comment elsewhere...those elephants are especially annoying during this election year.

Lynn said...

Leonardo,

Every story told can be a life saved. Save a life, perhaps then the soul.

Yes, though I became a confirmed earth person very fast, I always have though - it's the stories that start it all. God is smiling.

Fred Schwartz said...

Leonardo,

I read and am awed by your life. The strength and courage that has been given to you and the fact you recognize and use that strength and courage for the good of Christ. It is my fondest hope to rejoice one day with you in person!

Someday a tall Norte Americano will come knocking on your door. You may not recognize me but that shepherd is hard to miss!

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Thank you FRED, I'll recognize you in a second...don't be silly, I knew you the moment you wrote your first posting over at Jake's Place (I'm still miffed at Jake for folding his tent but I ought be a bit careful because I may have been one of the "strident voices" that wore him out...forgive me Jake!

The DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN for you and yours Fred...I've got a lovely guest room too!