Friday, January 22, 2010

Draining The Swamp

In AA we say, avoid then the deliberate manufacture of misery. Remember that God didn’t do it. If trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize on it…

That is not so easy to do, for guys like me, anyway. It is neither easy to avoid self created disasters, nor to cheerfully navigate my troubles. I would feel especially miserable about this except I know I am not the only one, not even close, not even among the worst of them by a long shot. Staying alert is part of the solution. Defusing the inner turmoil is also part of the solution.

However, I am leery of outright positive thinking. I am not sure I am qualified to take it on, fairly sure that I am too susceptible to fantasy for the positive attitude stuff. I used to be sure positive thinking was just wrong, but I have watched it work for others and so have come to the conclusion that it is my quirky challenge. Positive thinking when it works is a tremendous tool. I guess it doesn’t work for everyone. Nothing does. So I am left with how imperative it is that I know myself and what works for me. It is my survival that is at stake.

I am not sure about the rest of you. I know about people like me. We never get far from mortal risks and are in the business of remaining alert to the unkind and implacable parts of staying alive. People like me seem to lack the capacity to distance themselves from the territory close to outright disaster. I admit it is a little more exciting to live near alligators. Lacking that capacity to achieve sensible distance away from alligators is not really that serious, certainly not hopeless, but it does sober one up.

Draining The Swamp

I keep forgetting
and this is no joke
when alligators lurking
are just inside me
waiting to burst out
through my freaking skin and turn
snapping at something
precious I might hate
to lose - need to stay alert.

March 22, 2009 9:14 PM


  1. Someone very close to me who is an alcoholic tells me she is always "scanning for danger." Unfortunately, I think that as you state in your poem, her greatest danger is the alligators within.

  2. Yes, Karen, it is in inner work precisely where we are called to scan for misery and trouble the most. We have access to a simple daily practice that makes this not the onerous task that it might seem. It is not that hard to get a holistic grasp on what is required, though the details are ever varied and complex.

    The trouble arises in the simple fact that almost nobody likes it. The task goes against alcoholic temperament in a basic way.

    I have noticed in my time, that this dislike is not really an alcoholic trait. Not wanting to live this way is almost universal. If you are seriously alcoholic, then it may well cost you your life to refuse this kind of lifestyle and your refusal may eventually cause your family and friends to pay a steep price as well. There is no possible way for alcoholics to avoid the spillage into other lives.

    It appears that people of other temperaments often can pay lower prices for refusing to live on the alert.

  3. for some sobriety is unreachable. :(

  4. I have roses in the front yard. She can come and lick my roses anytime.

  5. For some sobriety is a blessing and a bitch...often all at once :)

  6. Sobriety may be nothing remarkable to those who have never lost it in this devastating way that alcoholics lose it, and in losing it stand at risk of never ever getting it back. Sobriety is transformed in the amazement of recovery into something precious and miraculous. Yet in the end it is simply ordinary daily life that has become precious and miraculous. That includes the awkward parts, the tangled complexities of the ordinary.

    Recovering, recovered alcoholics have received the gift of seeing the miraculous in the ordinary. They will lose that gift of insight if they do not practice one of several possible kinds of simple disciplines of living. If the ordinary becomes merely ordinary, losing the sheen of the miraculous, the risk that they drink again will increase markedly, perhaps even inevitably.

    This truth of long term sobriety is covered in the aphorism "grateful alcoholics do not relapse".


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