General Non-Fiction posted May 3, 2018 Chapters:  ...4 5 -6- 7... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Running out of excuses. A call to surrender.

A chapter in the book Shaking the Family Tree

The final round: Shadowboxing


Wrapped up in the genetic stitching that weaves its way through her families' predisposition for alcohol addiction, Dallas accepts the harsh realities of the disease and discovers recovery.
The Final round: Shadowboxing.

I was about eight months into the program when, in an attempt to disprove it, I made a list of all the reasons I couldn't be an alcoholic. After the Thursday night meeting, we headed to Ho Jo's. I was unusually quiet as we waited for the waitress to take our order. I knew it hadn't gone unnoticed.

Sara had a quizzical expression embedded in her question. "Is something wrong, Dallas?"

"No, not really." I wanted to wait until we were served. I didn't want any interruption when I proceeded with my litany.

When I couldn't stand the silence any longer, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the crumpled piece of paper from my jacket. "I need to read this to you, ok?"

She nodded her head yes, without saying a word, relaxed and became a deadly sounding-board.

"I've been tossing this around, and I wrote down why I don't think I am an alcoholic." Then I captioned it with, "Now, I might drink alcoholically, but that doesn't necessarily mean I am a real alcoholic."

1. Everyone needs to unwind. (alcohol's better than drugs, right?)
2. I still go to work every day. (Don't drink till evenings. Except on weekends.)
3. Always took care of my kids. (If I'm out drinking, I call Nick from the bar to check on him.)
4. Never had a DUI. (Only had a few minor accidents. It was icy when I ran into the church and knocked down the gutter.)
5. Only get really loaded on weekends. (Mom lives right next door if there is ever a problem.)

By the time I was halfway through, the echo bouncing off her silence was deafening. God how stupid it all sounded. I gave Sara a sheepish look, shrugged my shoulders, and realized there could be no retreating back into my fantasy world.

Neither of us said anything. She gave me a hug and we called it a night.

The following Thursday at the meeting when it came time for me to speak, I looked Sara in the eye and said without hesitation, " I'm Dallas, and I'm an alcoholic."

There may be other roads to recovery. Some find it in extended rehabs, others in religion, and there are those who attempt to achieve it with therapy alone. But for me, those meetings had a proven track record for those who were serious.

I learned how to pick up the two-ton telephone and check in with Sara of my own volition. Opening up to another woman was difficult; trust was an issue. I didn't seem to have any difficulty in sharing some of my drinking escapades, though. After all, I had heard worse around the tables.

But sharing my feelings, that was a different story. Half the time I couldn't identify them. If I were given a test on cash register honesty, I probably would have passed with flying colors. I didn't have a clue about self-honesty, about what I truly thought or felt. Those emotions were foreign to me, buried in some far off archaeological site called childhood. And they needed to be excavated with the greatest of care. What if they were toxic and alienated everybody?

Everybody should be handed a brand new dictionary when they enter recovery. So many of the hard-learned concepts about life that we drag behind us have to be traded in for more positive, constructive ones.

Moving on, Sara suited up in her Tonto garb and began clearing away the brush. She dipped into her bag of tricks and attacked the overgrown tangles that stunted my progress. She spread a table of love, understanding, and acceptance and invited me to dine. She shuffled flashcards and affixed new insights into old beliefs embedded in the negativity that lurked in misguided perceptions, penned by myself and others in my old dictionary.

"What does surrender mean to you, Dallas?" Sara asked one day.

That was an easy one. "It means to give up, the other person wins." I continued on to say, "But that is something I don't do. When I was a kid, I loved playing tug of war. As a matter of fact, if there was an uneven number, I always chose the side with the least kids." I grinned. "I told you I was tough."

Sara was amused. "And where did that get you?"
I thought for a moment. "Well, sometimes it got me rope burns and skinned knees."

"In the program, sometimes surrendering is the very thing that makes us strong. For instance, until we can resign ourselves to the fact that we are alcoholic, we can't recover."

I needed to mull that around for a while.

I found out that gratitude was more than just saying thank you, or spitting it out and then, later on, regretting it because you felt you were indebted to someone when they showed you a kindness.

And humility had nothing to do with shrinking from responsibility because you felt you couldn't do it perfectly.
"We call that one ego, Dallas."

Did I say I had a lot to learn earlier?

I was moving forward, but it wasn't always painless. As the fog lifted, there were unpleasant memories lurking in the unvarnished truth. They were tucked away in pockets of yet-to-be-acknowledged regrets, released in sporadic flashbacks. They struck like bolts of lightning, and when I least expected it.

One Saturday morning, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor when out of nowhere I began to feel shaky. I sat down in the middle of that chore and was suddenly catapulted back into an uglier Saturday morning.

I had been out drinking all night. But like the good little homemaker I professed to be, even though I didn't hit the bed until 5:00 a.m., I set the alarm for 7:00 so I could get up and continue my charade. Everything always had to look good to the outside world; one example of how the mind struggles to protect the disease.

I remembered having that same shaky feeling and bemoaning the fact that I couldn't crack open a beer for at least another hour. (It was a proven fact that only alcoholics drank before noon!) My anxiety and irritability were mounting by the minute. When Luke ventured downstairs to ask for breakfast, he had no idea he was about to step on a land mine. I verbally exploded all over him, then left him to his own devices to remove the shrapnel while I reached into the fridge and snapped the cap on the only thing that would bring me relief.

For lack of a better word, I used to call those episodes hang-overs. Everybody had them. Or did they? I began to wonder if they could have been withdrawal symptoms. Was the difference merely a word preference, or was my interpretation another notch in my well-honed system of denial. If I never got anything else perfect in my life, I had managed to whittle denial down to a fine art.

Thank God, I wasn't assaulted all at once with a barrage of my well-disguised crap. If I had been, I probably wouldn't have made it. There was a greater plan at work.

As I continued with Sara and began to feel safe in our relationship, little by little I became strong enough to recognize the truth as it was revealed to me in bits and pieces. This is the process of recovery.

One of the slogans in the AA program is HOW. It's an acronym for honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. HOW worked backward for me. Early on, total honesty wasn't possible. I was still saturated with alcoholic thinking, shame, and guilt. Until I began to work through these issues and learned a little bit about the disease, it's ramifications, and the recovery process, for the most part, I remained blind to the truth.

But I was willing.

That is what allowed me to come into the rooms; strap myself in, take the cotton out of my ears, and begin to put aside my biases about alcoholism. Eventually, a small crack appeared in my thinking. And as that crack slowly opened, I found myself tuned in to a brand new radio station. I was receiving and assimilating the kind of support and information that would, with the help of a sponsor and the fellowship, unlock the door to my prison. Honesty was no longer a threat that hovered as an ominous boogie man threatening to convict me.

By the time I was a year into the program, I had a vague idea of how it worked. The twelve steps that I first saw posted on the wall at Chit-Chat and are referred to in the program as a design for a living began to make sense. So, following the advice of my sponsor, I agreed to tackle them one step at a time.

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Twelve Steps are reprinted with permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. ("A.A.W.S.") Permission to reprint the Twelve Steps does not mean that A.A.W.S. has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication, or that A.A. necessarily agrees with the views expressed herein. A.A. is a program of recovery from alcoholism only - use of the Twelve Steps in connection with programs and activities which are patterned after A.A., but which address other problems, or in any other non-A.A., does not imply otherwise.

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