Friday, August 30, 2013

"And now the great work begins."

I'm writing this on Wednesday, August 28th, two days before I am released after two weeks at the nervous hospital. I'm more clear-headed and energetic than I've been in years, and I'm also as fragile as a light bulb filament. It's been incredibly hard work, but the great thing is - and I say this as a new-found fan of hard work - is that it's still the easiest part of the whole process. I've got five weeks of intensive out-patient therapy ahead of me, and after that, ninety AA meetings in ninety days, and after that, more meetings and sponsors and sharing so far into the distance that the horizon blurs into the sky, sfumato-like, before I can even begin to see the possibility of a true and sober life. But I've been given powerful tools in this place, and I've decided to ask my friend Hannah to teach me how to aim and shoot a gun, because I have a metaphorical one in my holster now. It has twelve chambers, and each one of them is full. I'm locked and loaded and if this disease comes towards me across a field again, it better be prepared to take a bullet to the fucking heart at twenty paces.

There are two roll calls in the morning at this particular treatment center: one at 7:30 and another two hours later, with breakfast and bed-making in between. When I first arrived, I sat on the outside ring of neatly arranged chairs and quietly peeped "here" each time. But over the course of these two weeks, I have been pondering those "heres." They're not just acknowledgements of physical presence. They're declarations of intent. I am here. I am present. Which are things I have not been able to say for a very long time. I have been nowhere for a very long time, tied to some long-lead dog tie-out, numbly running in circles. By this near-end of my in-patient treatment, the seemingly rote calling out of a single "here" has become a promise to myself, so I boom out a hale "I am here!" twice each morning with vigor and eagerness. They're just four letters that don't add up to much in Scrabble, but it's as clear as a windowpane that every morning, the most powerful thing I can do is string those letters together and calmly announce to the world and myself that I am here.

It's only been two weeks. I am not an expert. Indeed, I'm barely a beginner. I don't have a certificate suitable for framing. But if you read this on the day it posts, I'll have been sober for nineteen days, the longest sober time of my life since my early twenties. It's a tiny drop in the very large bucket that is the remainder of my life. It's nothing. And it's everything. If writing this seems premature, I can only say that it's another way of holding myself accountable. The most I can do is to not drink today. And then not drink tomorrow. And then not drink the day after that. I cannot say that I will be sober forever, but I can say that I will be sober today. I'm lucky to have had a group of friends who cared enough to help me disentangle from the briar patch that I had let grow up around me, and I can't wait to show them I've chosen a different, better life. Right now, I can only tell them that; no one will believe me until I prove it with actions. I'm going to do this and I will be amazed before I am even halfway through.

It veers from "official" AA literature, but I chose the title of this post very carefully. "And so the great work begins." It's pulled from Tony Kushner's Angels in America, and though I appropriate it slightly out of context, the intent and urgency so nestle with my current state of mind and sense of willingness that I can't help but lift it. Each word of it is chosen so carefully, especially that last: begins. Kushner doesn't write "and now we do the work" - there's an implication of finishing a task in that. Instead he chooses "the great work begins." No hint of arrival at a destination, no sense of self-satisfaction at work completed. Only mention of the beginning of an ongoing process. We can only begin the work and share the load of it with others until we evolve into a different, better species that won't tolerate the suffering of a single addict more.

I'm DG and I'm an alcoholic.

My morning view for the past two weeks.


Kate Maloy said...

This whole post makes me smile. Good going, DG--and I love the drawing.

Kaethe said...

" We can only begin the work and share the load of it with others until we evolve into a different, better species that won't tolerate the suffering "

This is a message I take to heart. You're just impressing the hell out of me.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I'm happy to see you doing well. In addition to everything else, you're also one hell of a writer.

Kaethe said...

Allow me to repeat what Lauren said, and raise a "hear, hear".

Unknown said...

I've missed you on fb. I suspect your ability to spend time writing, drawing, and being creative will be enhanced, and I look forward to that. I'm so happy and hopeful for you. MB

Carrie McGee Sprouse said...


Katharine Weber said...

So proud of you, DG.

teacher cindy said...

Excellent post; I love your outlook. I think no matter what bumps are in the road you are on, you are going to make it. Hang in there.

Kristjan said...

Bravo DG

ChuckHargett said...

I love DG! What a beautiful sentiment to where you are RIGHT NOW. Call me and I'll be right beside you. 646.853.5724

Mignon said...

Ruth sent this to me earlier today and I read it and didn't know what to say, and a whole 4 hours later I still don't know what to say.
The biggest thing I had to ponder this past weekend was if it was stupid to build a stone mosaic in a yard owned by a ninety-pound dog without a lick of sense in his head.
And then I read this, and looked at your sketch.
Let me know what I can do for you. Thank you for sharing this.

Alan Herbers said...

I'm glad you are here, DG.
Thank you for the introspective; you are quite precocious... i mean precious.
Stay as sweet as you are.
Keep on posting your progress.