General Non-Fiction posted May 26, 2018 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Put one foot in front of the other and keep on climbing.

A chapter in the book Shaking the Family Tree

Against all Odds.


Wrapped up in the genetic stitching that weaves its way through her family's predisposition for alcohol addiction, Dallas accepts the harsh realities of the disease and discovers recovery.

The statistics of those who make it into recovery and stay are as varied as the number of resources that can be found in studies devoted to the history of alcoholism and addiction. It is a proven fact that the odds are stacked against long-term abstinence. Yet when I totaled the number of years gifted my family, hope looms. One hundred and twenty-six years is a tribute to the recovery stretch that once seemed unfathomable. In addition to myself, my sister, brother-in-law, and son, my second son has put down the drink for two years and before my father passed, he donated five years to that total.

It hasn't always been a piece of cake. Learning to face life on life's terms without a crutch can be painful, confusing, and in some cases, seem damn near debilitating. In my search for sobriety, I discovered a plethora of other addictions was lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. And attack they did.
Shape shifters

In the graveyard of my misery
Shape-shifters are shadow dancing
Addiction seeks another guise
To cultivate this soul's unrest.

Nicotine, food, and exercise taunted me. One year into recovery, I decided to quit smoking. Before I succeeded, I was chewing Nicorette and sneaking cigarettes. It didn't matter that the combination could cause serious heart problems. Every time I took a break from work, I would slip downstairs and have a rendezvous with the vending machine, stuff my pockets with Reese's cups, then smuggle them into the restroom where no one could witness their annihilation. I still wasn't convinced that I had an addictive personality until my sponsor noticed how it flexed its muscles at the gym.

Anger drove me to the gym. I was eight years into recovery and smarting from my second divorce. I didn't want to drink and knew I needed some kind of release. A rigorous exercise program would be just the ticket. I could kill two birds with one stone; vent all of that simmering anger that was about to erupt, and lose weight at the same time. I was so pumped up that I was making an intelligent choice that I couldn't see the warning signs cropping up along the way.

In the beginning, it was fine. I chose a simple routine, charted my progress and stuck to it for a couple of weeks. I wasn't dropping pounds fast enough so I began adding more machines and increasing my sets and reps.

As I worked my way up from burning two hundred calories a session to three hundred, I decided I could treat myself to a few (well, maybe more than a few) snacks. Everyone needs a reward, right? I became a slave to that chart; licking my lips and thinking about how I was going to spend that reservoir of vanishing calories as I documented my progress. By the time my sponsor burst my bubble with "Gee, that sounds just like addiction," I was up to four days a week, five hundred calories a session and only three pounds slimmer. I finally saw the bigger picture. I could become addicted to damn near anything.

Addictive Personalities

Drugs and booze may be arrested
But that doesn't mean we won't be tested,
Addiction doesn't fade away
It hibernates until the day
It thinks we might be led astray.
A candy bar, just one, no more
Too soon turns into three or four.
We find we're just a drag away
From lighting up a pack a day.
The opportunities are endless
To enslave us one and all,
From relationships to exercise
Kching-kching casino's call.
Addiction never takes a break
It's a ghost,
Disguised inside denial
It thrives inside its host
and threatens our survival.

Addiction is far-reaching. It contaminates every heart and soul it touches. It is devastating the very fabric of our society, as well as rupturing our values. It rips open the seams of trust and devours hope as it whips us into servitude. And if that isn't enough, it dominates the obituary columns with the unspoken stories of young people dying way before their God-granted time on this earth.

The alcoholic and addict are rarely able to define that point in time when the fun and socializing aspect of using becomes one of need and slavery. The progression of the disease, often unnoticed or denied, slithers like a poisonous snake down a dead end road, its sight always fixed on the final strike.

The good news, however, is that like all other journeys, there are safe detours around those dangerous areas under construction. There are a variety of paths offering hope: Signposts bearing the name Religion, Rehab, Therapy and AA and NA. Recovery is poised at each of these stations, eager to lift the burden of despair and to offer relief to every alcoholic and addict bearing its weight. Recovery is usually three-dimensional; choosing one path exclusively seldom does it. Sometimes, it requires the merging of several roads to lead us back into the light.
Crossing the Bridge

One by one, they circled the parameters of sobriety. Driven from their comfort zone by the scent of death and the gravity of isolation, the pack became fragmented. It was no longer cohesive. It couldn't protect them from the inevitable.

As they clambered across the bridge of uncertainty, the escapees paused and cast pleading glances across the abyss, encouraging the other members to join them. But it wasn't their time, the wounds weren't deep enough, the scars not yet committed to the annals of shame and regret.
the force of the storm
doesn't always rip away
every leaf that clings.

Those who dare to take a leap into that scary, unknown territory called sobriety have a long, hard fight ahead. Every step forward is often followed by two steps back. People, places, and things have to be changed and new support systems erected in their place. Mental and physical cravings must be dealt with. Facing life on life's terms without a substance to rely on requires a commitment to self that goes beyond the norm. The process of getting sober can be a tug of war. But the rewards are so numerous and the joy so overwhelming, that a few rope burns are a small price to pay.
a taste of spring
followed by a harsh winter
is my season of hope

The single most important thread that weaves its way through the fabric of recovery is the addict's desire to stop drinking or using. Not the desire of his parents; his significant other; his siblings; his children or his employer. Even though they may be the reason that sets him on the path, they must be left at the door. Why?  Because many of those relationships may not endure the process. Seismic changes often take place in family dynamics.

For years, everything revolved around the disease. A survival template unknowingly evolved that allowed victims to cope. Maybe they got comfortable in their individual roles. Once the alcoholic or addict is sober, he may appear to be even harder to deal with. Perhaps, he is no longer apologetic and can no longer be controlled by guilt. Maybe he is so involved in his recovery and spending most of his time with people in his support group that loved ones feel abandoned.

Adapting to these changes isn't easy. Everyone has become ensnared in the grip of a disease that refuses to simply back off just because the alcoholic or addict is abstaining. Once it plants a foothold, it hangs on for life, trampling everyone in its wake. However, the same avenues of recovery are available to co-dependents. The same rule of thumb applies. To succeed, the focus must be concentrated on their own recovery, not the alcoholics or addicts.

It's damn near impossible to express all of the gratitude I have for the multitude of blessings that have been showered on our clan via the miracle of sobriety. My sister Gerri, who started it all, has been the benefactor of a twenty-year marriage most would kill for. She entered into it sober and brought to it all of the tools of recovery that enabled her to work through a variety of problems, including her husband's P.T.S.D. issues. Sobriety allowed her to confront and solve the kinds of difficulties that can gnaw their way through marriage vows. That union has served as a prime example of how it works for all of us.

I continue to remain in awe every time I think about my dad's courageous five-year excursion into recovery. How proud I was to be seated next to him at an AA meeting, knowing full well just how difficult it was for this strong, dignified man of seventy-eight to admit defeat in order to succeed.

The biggest miracle was Luke's transformation. At twenty- eight, the disease had beaten him to a pulp. Unable to draw a sober breath; deteriorating health; hallucinations and loss of hope, he was teetering on the brink of death when he finally surrendered. The road back was a steep climb. He grabbed his hiking boots and began the long, rugged ascent. With the support of my ex-brother-in-law, Jack, and sister Gerri, who already had three years in the program, and the love and support of our family, Luke walked through the doors of AA, determined to do whatever it took to take back his future.



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