Things Turn Around

2014-09-28 11.35.22

After I ordered that Gin and Tonic when I had meant to order a Diet Coke, I made the decision that I liked liquor better than I liked Prozac anyway. What kind of stupid drug only works if you don’t drink? Besides, I only planned to have a couple. What could that hurt really? There may have been times during my long and illustrious drinking and drugging career when I actually “had a couple,” but for the life of me, I don’t remember when that might have been.

(I’m really trying to get to present day with telling you the story of my relationship with money and finance so I’m going to do some fast-forwarding with the drunk-a-log at this point. I do want to come back and tell that story more completely but this will have to do for now.)

Remember Waverly had offered to help financially if I ever decided that I needed to get help with my drinking? Well, I decided to take him up on it. I checked into a treatment center in Birmingham, Alabama and my road to addiction recovery officially began. I went to one of those 28 day spin-dry programs but I could only afford to stay two weeks. The price tag on even that was $16,000 and I was beyond broke. Waverly wrote a check for the entire amount. That was quite a chunk of change and he wasn’t willing to pay any more. Two weeks was enough really though because it was time for them to medically detox me (which I badly needed) and to plug me into the recovery community at large. After many, many years of dealing with the fight against addiction I can now say that having seen the most high-end treatment centers and some of the grungiest, the most successful ones are the ones that plug people into long-term and ongoing treatment through permanently joining a community of other recovering addicts and approaching it, as the old saying goes, one day at a time.

To tell the truth, I took to it right away. I did everything the told me to do to stay sober and loved doing it. At this point in my life I was an avowed atheist but I heard the people at the treatment center saying that if I was going to stay sober I would have to find a “higher power” of my understanding. Although I knew that I no longer believed in the God of the religion of my youth, I was willing to do anything not to go on living like I had. I got down on my knees in my hospital room and said a pray that went something like this: “I don’t know if you’re out there or if you are, what you are— but if you are, and you care anything at all about me, I could really, really, use some help.” And that was it. That little bit of willingness put my feet on a path that continues to this day.

As is often the case with me, the first thing I wanted to do now that I was sober was save the world. I was grateful for the second chance at live I’d been given and now I was going to set about saving all the other people who were suffering like I had been.  I applied and was accepted at The University of Alabama at Birmingham with a letter explaining why my performance at The University of Alabama had been so dismal. I decided to major in Psychology and my plan was to go straight through to the PhD level. Then I would open a treatment center of my own and like Moses himself, I would lead all the Children out of bondage. That was my plan. And fact, things rolled along  pretty merrily for a while there. It’s amazing what happens when you’re not too drunk to go to class, when you actually show up everyday, take notes and pay attention. I loved studying and thinking about human behavior and learning about how the mind works and my grades reflected it.

My finances started to improve too. Although I was commuting back and forth from my parents’ house to school, I also took a full time job waiting tables at  Grady’s, the fastest casual dining restaurant in Alabama. If you’ll remember, I had had some experience waiting tables. But this was different. I actually loved working at Grady’s and my chipper disposition based on my newfound sobriety must have shown on my face because the customers virtually threw money at me in tips. I traded in my “drunk car” and financed a little Toyota 4×4 that I loved. I made the payments on time and (with some help from Mom and Dad) started to chip away at the mountain of debt I had acquired. Life was pretty good. I tried not to be afraid that it would all be pulled out from under me. The other people in the recovery community who had been sober longer than me assured me that if I just kept following those few simple principles I had learned about when I first got sober, I’d be just fine.

They did keep talking about this “higher power” though and some of them even talked of “God.” This was particularly annoying to me because I could ramble off by rote this exact reasons I did not believe in “that kind of God.” But in truth I guess I always did have spiritual beliefs and my prayer in the hospital that night proved that I was at least willing to continue on with an open mind. I started to think about the church I grew up in and although I knew I didn’t believe as they do, I had to admit I really missed the community of “like-minded spiritual seekers.” My drug use for the most part— let me clarify that— my drug use other than alcohol, for the most part had actually been about spiritual seeking. You may laugh at that but I was infinitely more interested in taking hallucinogens and crawling around through the woods than I was taking “party drugs” and going to a club. I once heard someone describe drug addicts as “spiritual seekers that went to the wrong address.” That continues to resonate with me to this day. Alcohol had been another story. I needed it just to get by. I needed it to not climb a tower with a rifle. But I digress. Back to my spiritual search.

I decided I would set out to find a community of people who were seeking to better understand spiritual matters in a way that resonated with me. At the restaurant, since most of us were students, they actually had this pretty cool system whereby we made our own schedule for the quarter. I scheduled myself off for all the Sundays in that quarter and decided that I would visit a different church, temple, synagog, or lecture hall each week until I found someplace where I felt at home. I asked around the sober community about ways people supplemented their spiritual programs by gathering with other groups outside of our meetings together. I kept hearing the words “Unity Church” and it was usually from people that I found weird in the sort of way that I like people to be weird. I looked in the Birmingham Yellow Pages, found the Unity Church there and on the next Sunday I did what I had not done in many years, I got up and got dressed for church. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what I found when I got there, so with that I’ll say…

See y’all tomorrow!

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