The gentle alarm sounded - my fourth "where are you?" email this week. So I am following instructions from my sister-of-the-heart Erin to stick my head up and let folks know what's going on.
It's been a long month - a long two months, to be honest. I have been wrapped up in myself, and the challenges facing me and my family - and, as the old saying goes, a man wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package. I have been spending an awful amount of time working - perhaps hideous would be a better word - and for many days, the absolute last thing I have wanted to do after 14-18 hours sitting at a PC is to turn from the work PC to the home PC and write. So that has been part of the my absence here in cyberspace.
Part of the struggle has been the crashing return of what the recovery community calls "fear of people and of economic insecurity," that stuff that's supposed to leave us after a while. The week of Thanksgiving (a peak time in the insanity cycle at The Evil Empire), sister Sue got word that the job she'd had for almost 19 years would not make allowances for her to be in a light-duty position - and so she joined "the job placement pool" of soon-to-be-laid-off employees at the hospital she works at.
That same week, my brother-in-law's employer of 25 years told him, "We might have to lay you off, this year," and then followed through the following Friday. So, having come to Ohio to "help out," to hold up one corner of the structure here, I find myself the sole means of support for my family. Oh, there are options, and there is hope, but for a while it seemed pretty ephermal. Not exactly what I signed up for...
At times like this, there are two phrases that get over-used and mis-used in recovery - the first being trudging the road of Happy Destiny. The contradiction in the phrase, of course is that trudging has always painted images of walking through a vat of molasses with wading-boots - every step an effort...while the road of Happy Destiny seems more suited to a Nike or Irish Spring advertisement.
It also evokes the Dunkin' Donuts ads of a decade or more back, when the DD baker is literally trudging along, with his hallmark phrase, "Gotta make da' donuts..." It's corny, but in many ways it's exactly where I've been for a while. Just puttin' in my time, trying to make it through the day.
The second dangerous phrase in recovery is one day at a time. The classic Al-Anon passage Just For Today says,
Just for today, I will try to live through this day only and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.The danger of that, especially as I've seen it this last two months, is that I often end up putting-up-with appalling circumstances for a whole lotta 12-hours, and found myself in states of mental, spiritual and emotional deprivation that I would never have put up with if I'd know about it going-in. That's definitely been my story since Veterans' Day...
It's appropriate to be returning to posting today, too, because today is my sixteenth sobriety anniversary. In some ways, I've struggled as this date approached, because I haven't felt like I've been at a very good point in my recovery. My meeting attendance has been limited, my general interaction outside of the virtual-work environment has been nil, and very few people would look at where I've been recently and use the words Captain Serenity. The recovery text says, "If you want what we have...." - but I've felt like I wouldn't even want what I've had over the last two months. So that too, has kept my voice low - both in meetings and out here in blogger-land.
By the same token, I've had the opportunity over the last week to reflect on the high-points and low-points of those sixteen years - and it has been interesting to be here, so near the place where it all began, at this stage of my life. While I would choose to be in vastly different circumstances, there is much to be said for being, as one friend says, "sunny-side up, suckin' air, and sober." I am not where I'd choose to be - but I have ample evidence that I am not where I used to be, either.
And I have seen, especially in recent meetings, people who have been so gravely affected that they are mentally incapacitated...wet-brains, or close enough, who seemingly have no control over their minds or their actions. That is a cause for gratitude right there. I have to admit that while gratitude has been a little harder to find in recent days, it has been coming easier the last few days.
Today is also my one-year anniversary at The Evil Empire. And it is, as they say, the first day of the rest of my life. In this last week, there has been a reinforcing of the image that the firm really doesn't care about personal sacrifice - any more than a vampire is concerned with their victim's anemia. The Empire's motto seems to have become Use 'em up & toss 'em aside. On sites like JobVent and Yahoo!Jobs, the conversations appear to be pretty uniform: (1) The EE is sucking the life out of everybody, (2) there's no sense in giving them loyalty or service, because no good deed goes unpunished, and (3) if you haven't been laid off, and you don't already live in India, you will be. It is oh, so very very Dilbert-ian.
So today, I asked my co-worker if he would cover for me tonight on the late shift. I called my local AA sponsor, and made a date for a meeting and dinner - and then actually went. The meeting topic was finding faith and maintaining it, which was perfect. Then I took Bob S. (who was my very first sponsor when I got sober here) to a wonderful Italian dinner at Biaggi's in Perrysburg, and generally spent the evening making one long gratitude list. It was time well spent.
Just before I left for the meeting, my sister stopped in to say that she was ready to throw in the job-search towel and take the first job she was offered - this one through a temp agency, with no benefits. I feel badly because being sucked into The Empire's daily drama overdose has left me less capable of "being present" for Sue in her job search. So the time from 11:30 PM to 1 AM this evening was spent asking her what was going on, and trying to find some answers to questions about timing and benefits and what the job would mean to her wage-continuation package. She's depressed, both about her health and her unemployment, which is not compounded at all by her husband's unemployment. (Yeah, right.)
Which brings me back to the image at the top of this post. I can remember as I left for seminary, wishing that I could see the road ahead, and see around the bend so I know what was coming. But, as the photo shows so clearly, I can't see around the curves. I can only see a little bit ahead, and see a bit of the curves that life has headed my way. I just have to keep on going - and continue to ask God for some direction. I haven't been doing that as much as I should, lately, but it's getting better.
I've also struggled with posting here, because it seems that all my life right now is just making it through the day, rather than anything beautiful or uplifting. So much has been left aside, lately - and (as the AA text quote says) I haven't felt that I had much of anything to pass along. But one of the lessons that my dear friend Tom S. has pointed out is that my primary purpose is not to teach or to share but simply to be. It's still a slow lesson for learning, for me...
Tonight, at the meeting, this young fellow spoke up. He said he'd been 6 months sober, but 5 of those were in jail. He was 2 days out of the joint, and didn't feel "a part of" the fellowship, or life in general. And once again I heard the call...to welcome, to encourage, to bring a smile and a handshake. So I gave him my number - and more importantly, I got his number. And when I go to the Thursday night men's gathering, I'll invite him along...not because I'm some kind of saint, but because that is what was done for me. The task, as I understand it, is simply to pass it on. Who knows if he will go - but it's clear what my part is.
So begins the next phase of the journey. I know in my heart that the time from now until January 8th is going to be a challenge at the Empire, but I also know that I am called to be alive and "a part of" each and every day. So I will trust that this passage from the last page of the recovery text is still at the core of what will be right and true - and try to do a better job of following instructions...
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you - until then.