Sunday, October 20, 2013

Old Timer

October is a weird month for me as months go. 23 years ago I had just run my second marathon in 6 months up in the Twin Cities. I ran my first marathon in April. I was reaching the end of my drinking life and the marathons, when I look back on them, were an attempt to prove that I could control things such as how much and when I drank. I had this notion that some kind of mystical transformation would come over me as I crossed the finish line and the urge to drink would be lifted, if not rendered more manageable. Neither happened. My first thought in St. Paul that October afternoon was "where's the beer tent?" I recognized that uncomfortable feeling of apprehension and anxiety that only a drink could level. 

It was over.  I knew what I had to do. A few phone calls and a meeting with the EAP at work led to my enrollment in a evening treatment program. On October 27, 1990, after nurturing a relationship with alcohol that began in high school, a love affair that had left me battered and bruised both emotionally and spiritually, I took my last drink. October 28th, 1990 was my first sober day. 

At my Saturday morning meeting this week, the topic was "what do you old timers do to maintain your sobriety differently than when you were first getting started?" Immediately I started to formulate my thoughts on that question hoping I would get called on to share, because  I had good stuff to share.  But it's a large meeting and several members talked more than they should  (sorry, I'm taking their inventory, I know). So I'm going to share now and when you are done reading, could you please say out loud in a monotone voice,  "thanks, Dan". That's what we do at those meetings.

"My name is Dan and I'm an alcoholic". You can say "Hi Dan" as you read this, but feel free to say it silently in case there others around you. It's kind of fun once you get used to it, but it's sounds pretty weird at first, like you've just joined a cult or are at a Toastmaster's meeting.

Old Timer. Am I an Old Timer? I don't think of myself as an old timer even though I've been doing this deal for some time. I'm not sure what qualifies a person as an old timer...20 years? As far as I'm concerned, anyone with more sobriety than me is an old timer.  But if you want to call me an Old Timer,  I guess that's OK.

A woman at our meeting was celebrating 90 days of sobriety. (round of applause here if you playing along). 

She told of having 5 years of sobriety at one time but started drinking again and was out there for several years before she found her way back.  She said she thought that with 5 years of sobriety and all the tools she had acquired along the way,  she could drink responsibly again. That was not the case. I needed to hear that. 23 years of sobriety and all the tools and experience I've gained has not taught me to drink responsibly. That's a lie. She spoke the truth. What I have learned is how to live responsibly without alcohol in my life, plain and simple.

Then she shared about how hard it was for her to come back to the meetings . She knew where we were but she just couldn't bring herself to walk back in. Driving by the meeting houses and seeing people gathering, she talked about being on the outside looking in...again and again and again. Yeah, I know that feeling. That was my life 23 years ago. On the outside looking in. I needed to hear that too.

My life is really different today than it was 23 years ago. I need my program of recovery as much now as I did back then but for different reasons. So I try to keep it simple and follow a few basic routines-show up on a regular basis and offer encouragement to those who need it, remain teachable and humble and with a little bit of luck, get another day. And before I knew it, 23 years had passed.

So am I an old timer?  I suppose, but I'll leave that up to you. You can call me whatever you wish, just don't call me late for dinner (rimshot-cymbal crash here).  Speaking of dinner, I hear Georgette in the kitchen putting the final touches on yet another wonderful  Sunday evening meal so it's time for my boot heels to be wandering. That's all I've got. I'm glad to be sober.

(This is where you can say " thanks, Dan" if you are still playing along)


Syl said...

Thanks, Dan.

My name is Sylvia and I'm an alcoholic. Maybe I'm an old timer, too, Dan, I've been gratefully sober for 22.5 years. But that's a good thing, right? I mean what is the alternative?!?!? :)

I'm glad we're here!!


Suzi said...

Thanks Dan.... !!

- Suzi

Suzi said...

Thanks Dan.... !!

- Suzi

Dan K said...

Syl, I knew there was a reason I liked you! You are right behind me so that makes us double old-timers!