In the early 1970’s I drove a taxi in New York City. The fare meters were mechanical, not electronic. They were driven by two moving cables. One cable measured time, and the other measured distance. Whichever cable moved faster drove the fare. If the cab was stuck in traffic, the fare still went up, driven by the “waiting time”. If the cab was moving briskly, the meter went up, pushed along by the distance driven. That image comes to mind when I think of gratitude and resentment.
I recently listened to a radio episode about addiction on the program “This American Life” by Ira Glass. The episode was entitled “Dopey” and talked about Chris and Dave who conducted a weekly pod cast about addiction. Both Chris and Dave were in recovery. When they started the podcast, they made an editorial decision to not really stress “recovery”. Their reasoning was that recovering was boring and people really didn’t want to listen to addicts talking about being clean and sober. Instead they would run through their favorite drug stories and regal the audience with humorous accounts of how they got high, picked up by the police, stole, etc. They called this philosophy “The Rope-a-Dope”. People would tune in for the humorous stories and stay for the recovery.
I never asked this question when I was getting sober, but I have heard other people ask it. I thought they were raising unreasonable objections to getting sober or expressing resistance to recovery. Over the years, patients at Hazelden and guests at The Retreat have spoken of their reluctance to recover by saying that they are afraid to recover, because they are afraid of who they might be if they stop drinking or drugging. What will happen, they ask, if they get sober and don’t like themselves, or don’t like who they have become?
Watching someone you love struggle with addiction or alcoholism is extremely painful. I often liken it to watching someone dig a deep hole.
At age 19, I had all the evidence I needed that I was an alcoholic. On one terribly cold, windy, January day, I was kicked out of college. That event made me homeless. I was standing in front of the dormitory that used to be my home, almost broke. I had sixty-nine cents in total assets, all in coins in my pocket. I had nowhere to go. I was drunk, even though it was still morning. I was so drunk that I couldn’t stop peeing my pants, and the frozen pee was sticking to my legs.
Oh, the holidays! When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads! Snow! Family! Food! Togetherness! Traditions, old and new! Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together. Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into our worst-case scenario.
This time of year always finds me reflecting on the men and women who have served in our Armed Forces. Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor Day, the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the anniversary of the Tet Offensive all take place at this time of year. Additionally, from now through New Year’s Eve we will see TV commercials from service women and men who are overseas wishing loved ones back home a merry and happy holiday season.