Repost from two thanksgivings ago.
November 30, 2006 - Thursday
the wisdom to know the difference.
my dad celebrated 17 years of sobriety last night. it's always a touchy subject. he seems to embody this total dicotomy like no other, maybe it's just a dad thing but he balances this tough-guy badass motorcycle man with a super-softy and sappy underbelly. i know them both well. but he is still an enigma to me. i guess that is the way it is. i mean, as he stood up in front of this room of fellow alcoholics, all of whom had kind words to say about him, he was at once a total stranger and dear friend. there is so much i don't know about him, about his life, about his addictions. but as i heard him talk i realized that in the same way that he doesn't know everything about me and my life and travels, it is ok that i don't know it all about him. i guess it's a defense mechanism of sorts, but you really have to be discriminate about how much you divluge to people, especially those you love.
interesting enough, i don't usually assess the impact of my parents sobriety on my life. they have both been sober for the last 17-odd years and so my life has peppered with a myriad of 'celebrations', 'steps','traditions', 'sponsers', al-a-teen and al-a-non. i have gone to a whole hell of a lot of AA meetings as a result, not for my own benefit though they do serve as a reality check for the times when drinking seems to be an escape rather than an enjoyment. but i guess i have to say that i am really lucky that they took care of their shit early on. i was reminded of this just a couple days ago.
i was at starbucks the other day and ran into a friend who was cornered by a drunk/prostitute (yes, at the upper montclair starbucks of all places). i decided that since i was there killing time and knitting i would go over and sit by my friend to save her from the torment of this lonely woman. the woman mentioned that she had just turned 50 and it struck a note in me since my mom is turing 50 next week. i studied this woman and as crazy as she was she gave me a good idea of what my mom, and even my dad for that matter, would be like if she had not gotten sober. this woman was hanging at starbucks with her low cut shirt, reeking of smoke and booze, staggering and rambling. her face has sores on it and her hair was dirty and matted. but there was something so sad about her beyond her appearance. she was still a person, longing for something, maybe to feel something, but she was just so broken...talking about her 'husbands drinking problem'.
i am reading this book called the gift of pain that explores the idea of how our culture views pain and the extent that we go to to not feel it. it uses examples of people that have leprosy and how the mechanism for the sensation of pain is what they lack. here in america (land of the free, home of the brave) we are filled with different ideas of pain and control. we take anitdepressants so we don't have to feel the pain. and when it comes time to get off them we are too afraid to feel. beyond that there is the whole drug industry that seeks to eliminate pain completely.
i am not saying that we should all live with pain, but maybe there is a reason that it is there in the first place. an example from the book showed a man with leprosy who would pick yams out of burning coals who later lost his fingers. if he could feel, he would obviously not have done that and in turn not lost his fingers. the problem is that it's hard to deal with the pain, it involves us taking responsibility for our emotions and actions....and the pain is way beyond physical. but the more we numb ourselves, i think, the further we get from being happy and whole.
at the end of my dad's little talk up front he said that 'the program' took away his pain. i think he got that backwards. there was a lot of pain, i remember i lived through it. i felt it too. but the difference was that he was in an environment that fostered facing that pain and reacting to it in a way that didn't just numb it like the drugs an alcohol did before.
i am grateful for this, in this time of gratitute and thanksgiving. each day we are faced with decisions to feel or to numb. choose wisely.