Don’t Be Like Him

Not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I have a new job.  Well, it’s not that new now-I’ve been doing it for several months. I am a manager on duty at an event place that does mainly weddings.  I rotate dates with 2 other people.  Basically, I get here before the vendors, the event planner-whoever and get the lights turned on, the doors unlocked and set the climate control. I’m here during the event and then close up at the end after everyone else leaves.  I have to say, this is the polar opposite of catering.  It is SO FUCKING BORING!!!   But! It pays pretty good and they direct deposit into my account.  I bring a ton of food-as I’m here usually around 10 hours.  Today, I watched the Champions League Final on my iPad.  To be honest, the first few times I worked, I felt like I was going to get fired for slacking.  But there really is nothing to do.  Except for poking my head in every once in awhile, there’s no reason for me to be in the room where the event is going on.   And, I have to say, at the end of the night when I’m watching the caterers and the event people break down and load up, I am SO GLAD it’s not me.  Also, not to give myself a pat on the back, but to give myself a pat on the back, I realize that compared to a lot of the caterers that come through here, I was pretty damn good!

Needless to say, as these are wedding receptions, there’s alcohol involved.  For the most part,  everyone behaves.  But, there’s always a one or two that drink too much and are pretty sloppy at the end of the night.  To be honest, at times I see myself in some of these people.   However, for the most part, I’m in an office and not really involved except at the end of the night.  And so, like now, I can get on my iPad and do what I want.  Like write a blog post.

So, here I am tonight.  The ceremony was to be outside in the courtyard at 5:30.  Of course at that point it was over 100 degrees out-but hey, that wasn’t my call.  Anyway, all of the guests were seated and the bridal party was lined up to proceed with the procession.  I walked up to the front of the house and saw this guy come in late, really kind of frazzled, with a cup in his hand.  He asked me how to get to where everyone was seated and I pointed him down the hall to the open door where the bridal party was making their way out.  The bar was on the way and to be honest, I wasn’t surprised when he stopped at it.  Made a snap judgement and thought something to myself along the lines of “Yep!  He’s a drinkerprobably been drinking all day!” And then forgot about it and him.  Then later, as I was making another round of the building  ( I walk about 5000 steps over the evening-which makes up for the half pint of Ben and Jerry’s Karmal Sutra I just ate) anyway,  he was back in the kitchen- where no one ever goes.  And we started talking.  He was saying how he was nervous because he didn’t drink and everyone was drinking.  What a struggle it was and he LOOKED like he was really having a hard time.  I said that I’d quit drinking a few years ago and that I never woke up and wished I’d gotten drunk the night before.  We talked about how things that used to seem fun drunk weren’t anymore. I said how I always wanted to stay the longest and now  I was always ready to leave after about 5 minutes.  I mean, this guy was struggling with being here-around all these people he knows that he used to drink with.  I asked why didn’t he leave and he said he came in from out of town for this, blah blah blah.  But then, he told me that it’s been like 20 YEARS since he quit!  20 YEARS!!  I was blown away.   Not that I showed it, but to see him and talk to him, I would’ve guessed that he was in the early days of sobriety.  I mean he looks like a hard core drinker in the throes of detox. He was sweating, almost twitching, nervous. This got me thinking.

The first thing that came to mind is that I need to quit making snap judgements about people.  The other thing was, while I don’t know if this guy is in or ever was in some kind of program, I don’t think he’s done the work.  By this I mean either following the steps or done some kind of inner work.  I really felt for him. He just seemed in so much distress. I’m hoping that in his day to day life he’s in some kind of situation where he’s cocooned.  But is that really living? I’m not saying we should go into situations that make us uncomfortable, but at the same time, life happens.  To come to a celebration like a wedding and be so distressed about being around people that are drinking-it’s sad.  It almost seems as if it’s missing the point.

Of course health reasons and issues are a huge part and a very good reason to abstain from alcohol. But it’s also about living a fuller, more balanced life.  It’s about going through life “unmedicated.”  Being sober does not mean acting soberly in all circumstances  Now while I don’t know this guy’s story and I also realize that I’m projecting, I’m gonna go with that for a bit.  To me, this was an example of just hanging onto sobriety by your fingernails.  What joy is there in that?  I realize that for some, quitting is the main thing.  And, that’s a good thing.  But it’s just the beginning. And I think it has to be in tandem with really doing some inner work. Facing up to the reasons why.  Acknowledging whatever hurts and pains we’ve experienced in our lives.  Being honest withourselves-at times brutally honest.  It’s about working through our issues and  making a commitment to making the changes in our lives so that, not only do we quit drinking, but we are able to to release the reasons why.  We become self educated in recognizing the things that trigger our negative behavior-We learn to love ourselves enough to stop the self harm.  We learn to accept ourselves-all of our parts and idiosyncrasies.  We become familiar with what makes us whole.  What makes us feel good about ourselves. We learn to become comfortable in our own skin.   While all of this may include cutting some people out of our lives and even boycotting certain situations, it does not mean to exist by hanging on by a thread.  Where’s the joy in that?  And that’s the word. Joy.  I believe that we are here in order to experience this thing called life in the fullest way possible.  All of it’s ups and downs-all the good and the bad.  Doing this kind of deep inner work takes commitment.  It’s scary.  It can be draining.  But at the same time, it can lead to an unbelievable freedom.  Not that working on ourselves really ever finishes.  We will always have issues.  There will always be people and situations that punch our buttons.  We can always choose to look at these situations and grow from them.  Wonder why our reaction to something is so strong.  It means taking steps to find the right kind of help-again for some that may be “working the program”.  For others, it may mean seeing a therapist or joining some kind of group therapy situation.  Living sober should be about experiencing a kind of freedom that’s unknown while in the midst of an additction. The joy is under all the muck.  That guy at that wedding, he wasn’t free. He was missing out. Don’t be like him.

With Love

*after meeting this guy, I rushed in to my iPad and wrote most of this post. just finished it  today…


Live A Great Story

In the photo below is a decal thingy that is posted randomly around Austin-where I live. This particular one is on a piller under a freeway on the lake that runs through town.  It’s called Lady Bird Lake-after President LBJ’s wife who did a ton to beautify Texas roads and highways.  This lake has a beautiful long hike and bike trail.  It’s a very Austin place. There’s even a larger than life statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan at the other end.

These things are all over town-in the weirdest  places.  (Fun fact: there is a long time movement and lots of bumper stickers that say “Keep Austin Weird”)  Yesterday I saw one of these decals on my way back from taking some friends to the airport in a delapidated vacant lot.  They’re thought provoking. They’re a reminder. A nudge. Something to ponder on a long walk.

Is my life a “great story”?  In comparison to say, Cleopatra or Joan of Arc it’s pretty mundane.  Or Elizabeth Taylor.  Now she lived a great story.  And much of it drunk or stoned. As I write this though, I do see  some similarities.

Did you know that Cleopatra and Marc Antony formed a drinking society called “The Inimitable Livers”?  Wow! I’m pretty sure that I would have been a member in that club! They had nightly feasts and wine binges! Sounds au courant to me!  Cleopatra was also adaptable.  Her family was a long line of Greeks who hated the Egyptians and refused to speak the language.  She learned it and spoke it.  Then had the chutzpah to say she was an incarnation of Isis! My kind of woman!  Not only adapts to a situation but claims herself a Goddess!  As all women are, I might add!

Now Joan of Arc!  There was a strong woman.  She didn’t actually participate in war.  She rode alongside the troops as a kind of inspriational mascot, brandishing a flag instead of a weapon. My God!  I feel like I do that every day in countless ways-supporting friends, my SO…She also had a volatile temper.  Moi at times! She outlayed strategies and directed the troops. Sounds like catering!  She also tried to find diplomatic solutions to problems with the English.  Well, hello!  I have an Englishman in the house that I am often having to be diplomatic with!  Not to mention there’s a language problem! He does not speak American English!  However, unlike the English that Joan of Arc was dealing with who never accepted her solutions, my SO is always (almost) open to suggestions.

Elizabeth Taylor! Now SHE was something else!  Beauty, brains, talent, loads of fun and a stark raving alcoholic for most of her life.  She was certainly a very well heeled drunk-especially when she put the bling on!  I’m sure that made up for tons of bad behavior. But, she fought.  Stopped for awhile. Started back up.  Went to re-hab several times and we don’t really know what else.  She was a businesswoman, a humanitarian, a wife-like a gazillion times-a mother, an actor.  God!  And most of that while drinking!  Just think what she could have been had she been sober for most of her life!

And, little ole me!  What great story am I living?   I know I won’t be in any history books or any kind of world press, but just writing this post and talking about these three women and seeing that I have some elements of each of them is kind of mind boggling.  That wasn’t my intention when I started and the three women I’ve focused on just came to me-like that! Or not, if you believe that everything is as it should be.  So, I don’t know exactly how “great” my story is to someone else.  Or if it’s of any interest, but one thing I do know is that I am now living this chapter soberly!

I feel I must also mention Stevie Ray because I brought him up earlier.  I’ve always loved the blues and he is one of my very favorites-of course the fact that he was a fellow Texan and played around Austin in the early days, makes me swell with pride.  And, like so many extrodinarily talented people, he had a drug and alcohol problem. Which he licked! (no pun intended!)  The thing he was most proud of at the time of his life when he died was not his music or all of the awards he’d won for it.  No!  What he was most proud of was that he was sober!  That he had overcome addiction and was still an amazingly talented, creative person.

Are you living a great story?  Are you living the best story that you can?  Are you discounting your story?  Is your story a broken record of the continuous cycle of addiction?  It’s your story!  You can create it, change it up as many times as you want, live a new chapter every day, rewrite it any way and every way you can imagine.  Let it have a happy ending.  An ending of overcoming, an ending of winning, an ending of not “living life by the drop”.