Apr 5, 2010

Resurrection, Renewal, Grace and other Miracles: The Gifts of God include learning how ¨to be¨

A Easter testimonial to renewed life

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas 1978 and I was a 35 year old guy sprawled out on the floor in my living room very late at night/into morning. I was wired, depressed, anxious and I had been tossing and turning in bed earlier. I couldn't sleep...I was drunk, I was miserable, I was lonely, I felt deathly sick.

I went downstairs to drink more to passout because I had to go to work the next day.

I felt isolated and scared and the booze hadn't been "working" as well in recent years as it had before. I was alone. I was neurotic and felt the end of my life was closing in. I had failed to become the person I was striving so hard to be for all those years of memory...I wanted to die but I was afraid I would die. I wanted to kill myself but I couldn't and wouldn't and I knew I shouldn't...I was a disgusting coward too in my opinion. It was all very confusing and it was a ugly and depressing low/dark emotional "place" where I had "been" before. Except: After 17 years of non-stop alcoholic "social drinking" (since College) there was no longer anywhere left to hide from the real me or from anyone else either...the message was clearer by the moment and I was trapped in the split-second-of-clarity and reality of seeing the ruined person I had become...not the person I "pretended" (exhausting) and wanted to be...my focus was on the drunk that was me. No more denial...no place to run and hide in drinks, drugs or romance(?)...I finally could see what had become of me...it was like standing naked in front of a full length ¨fun house¨ mirror of creeping dark memories. I needed to drink more...I did.

That night I knew for certain I wasn't the person I insisted I *was* (or at least pushed so hard to be)...I was clearly only a self-loathing mess that had been incapable of being honest with himself or anyone else...especially anyone else that I desperately wanted to be "close" to. I knew the *kind* of person I wanted to love and have as a partner would never love the pathetic and drunken me. I was twisted, sick and not "good enough" and I didn't know how to escape from the fear, anger, lonliness, longing, endless striving and self hate...I had to keep trying to drink those feelings/fears away...selfpity running wild! I drank more.

I never could stop drinking for any long period of time since College. I needed alcohol to help me live ¨freely¨ and without restraint. I was a frightened and a sick-and-tired single Gay man who felt guilt, despair and tried to cover my deep insecurities/shame with illusions of feeling good/right. I felt "second class" all though I always insisted I was "first" and never wanted anyone to know who/how I really was. I had bad hangovers everyday and I didn't want anyone to know about them either so I tried to act "normal"...that was hard when I thought I was dying inside most every morning at work. I had terrible anxiety! My solution for curing hangovers was to drink more at lunchtime and take traquilizers too. Inside of me on that December 13th early morning, on my living room floor, it was my souls voice crying out for God to SAVE me from *this*...I meant it this time...I meant it more than ever before but I had cried out to God before too. I drank more.

There was no longer a way out from under even though I had a good job, looked fine, had friends and plenty of "stuff." The party was over and I kept drinking more and I wanted to die...I was very emotional and physically sick. I drank a little more.

I had reached my "falling off place" of my life and I instinctively knew it. I was terrified. Worse and incomprehensible demoralization was next and I felt it.

One more drink should make all the fear go away. I drank it.

Alcohol, over-striving/wanting to learn how ¨to be¨ and defensive arrogance had told me they were my best friends all during my young adult life. I was a survivor up to that moment. I believed whispering voices in my head when they told me I must fight hard to "be someone." That night I felt betrayed by best thinking. My self-hatred wouldn't go away...I didn't know it but my self-deceiving days were almost over at that moment too!

I pretended "I" was ¨normal.¨ I'm fine! Everything is O.K.! "It" wasn't! I wasn't! The alcohol didn't/wouldn't work anymore and I was falling out/drinking out of control (the first time in my life I couldn´t stop drinking each day).

Panic attack! The truth wouldn't go away....I was a out-of-control and sick alcoholic who had to have yet one more drink. I drank it.

Then, the miracle occured! "It" was over! The drunken out-of-control drinking was gone! I slept. I didn't drink anymore! It was the end of my active alcoholism! I'd received the gift of sobriety and I didn't drink anymore...right there on my living room floor pleading with God!

My seventeen year long alcoholic obsession was "lifted" from me on my that floor December 13, 1978. It was early in the morning and I was "dead" drunk. I staggered upstairs, I went to bed, I woke up and went to work...the God of my understanding graced me with sobriety...I didn't finish the rest of that last drink.

I went to a 12 Step Group about a week later because a co-worker asked me "did you stop drinking?" (I was annoyed she noticed). I said "yes" and then she told me "you will drink again if you don't come with me and get support at meetings." Mary was 27 years old, a stunning platinum blond and 3 years sober and clean.

I knew me, I knew Mary L. was right as I had never been able to stop drinking before.

How did I recover? What about my recovery?

I was afraid I would drink. I DID know me. My attitude about ¨meetings¨ was not good but I got myself to them and I stayed through them...I remained in my ¨recovery¨ seat and listened to a lot of stuff about the 12 Steps that I didn't think really applied to me...afterall, I was gainfully employed and I was such a splendid fellow (forgetting of course how drastically damaged and emotionally sick/suicidal I had felt just a week before)...I mean, for as many years as I could remember I was ALWAYS trying to regroup, be *someone*, be beloved by friends/associates, be more handsome, taller and richer and well liked...I was never the person that I actually was/am.

I couldn't stand the thought of a glimpse of PERSONAL REALITY (well, I could if I was the not-so-silent victim that I pretended to be, regularly) especially as the active alcoholism took me to some intimacies where I CERTAINLY didn't ever intentionally want to GO and my REAL opinion of myself was one of self-loathing and unhappy/panic-stricken desperation sometimes I shuddered after my antics...what had I become? Was there a core of decency still perking inside me?

So, in my case it took plenty of time for clarity to set-in and the fog of years of active alcoholism to ¨lift¨...I simply "kept coming back" to meetings and for a very long time (maybe a couple of years before I "liked" the meetings, and never ¨loved¨ them like other people said they did) as I didn't want to be at Meetings even though people were very nice/helpful/respectful to me and I was FEELING GREAT and doing well. I was frazzled and disoriented when it came to HOW it WORKED for me specifically (I could see that many of YOU needed the "searching and fearless moral inventories" though, of course some of the others did because they were telling truths about themselves and I noted they were quite nuts).

I needed to heal and clear physically and THEN I got more glimpses of me emotionally as I lived in the world of new and unfolding REALITY that was happening around me...the REAL world with REAL feelings connected to REAL daily life...all of my feelings started appearing within me and there was no where for me to hide...well, there was my NEW, and successful, job after one year sobriety that consumed me for over eight years BUT in the end that wouldn´t cover my feelings either and I was back to emptiness and frustration after a very successful working/living experience.

I was POWERLESS over more than alcohol I was powerless over trying to HIDE from life and accepting the REAL me (however in the meantime I had deep revelations regarding aspects of my sexuality)...I had to keep working the 12 Steps with a NEW vitality after a partner was murdered...I had to find out who was/is, in fact the REAL me and not some conjured-up, make-shift, for-appearances-only human creature that I had shaped into trying to be a more idealized version of me...I learned how to cry, naturally. ALL of me was the quest, all means all...and that is what I RECEIVED FREE and what was delivered to me through the process of my LIVING ROOM MIRACLE, LIVING MY LIFE SOBER, attending Meetings, Listening to others (everywhere), being of Service (especially in small and anonymous ways), allowing myself to make all the choices that I wanted to make (and then remaining sober through the outcome of those choices), Reviewing the 12 Steps (suggestions only as the orginators realized ¨we know but a little¨) but most through the Grace of God because, trust me, I didn´t know how to NOT DRINK.

I've had the benefit of wonderful sponsors/guides turned dear friends over the years...several of them have died...sober. I always ask people to be my sponsor who have longtime sobriety and appear to be cheerful and somewhat "happy, joyous and free." I don't like overzealous know-it-all types and I don't like dictators or feardriven advisors who won´t face life outside of their pre-recorded ¨safety zone¨ or grandstanding ¨old timers¨...I like REAL not-so-everyday people with good intentions who are responsible and helpful to others by sharing of themselves and their REAL life experiences, their strengths/vulnerabilities and hopes.

I discovered what I was always reaching/striving/pushing for was to learn how to be the authentic me that God created me to be...I had never learned how to just ¨be¨ me...now I know and I would have drank/used anything to feel as self-knowing and complete as the person I am today.

Thanks be to God I was saved from the ¨lost soul¨ addicted version of me.

¨The Episcopal Church Welcomes Everyone¨

·Thanks to David Green for the Pride/Episcopal Shield
·Thanks to Mary L. (wherever she may be)
·Thanks to Spiritual Advisors (of every stripe)


Grandmère Mimi said...

Leo, what a powerful testimony and a beautiful witness to the power of God to transform lives and make resurrection real for us creatures, whom God continues to love, no matter how often we get things wrong.

In answer to the question, "Are you saved?" I answer, "I need saving every single day of my life."

Love and blessings.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Today must be the day for it. My 2nd year medical students got to listen to the story of a real live "impaired physician" as part of their awareness day of impairment. He has now been sober about 2.5 years and he told stories that peeled the paint off the walls. They needed to hear it.

Thank you for telling your story today, too.

it's margaret said...

God bless you Leo. For your integrity and courage.

My beloved has been clean and sober for 15 years. I know Easter and Resurrection because of that journey we had together.

Feliz Pascua dear brother.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Thank you wonderous Margaret...can´t wait until you resurrect in Central America...how long, how long dear Lord?

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Dearest Leonardo, this makes me so grievously sad and at the same time so hopeful ;=)

Thank you for this!

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Göran, thank you for the comment...there is a very extra good thing about identifying with one another...we can see better...I always feel the kindness of you in your words.