I feel a strong connection to the Dandelions. They really know how to adapt. When life comes at you with a lawnmower, you can either bend and stay alive, or resist and get cut down.
~L. Johnson (The Aunt).
When it became clear to me that I could not continue to destroy myself from the inside out, I had to make a few adaptations.
I'm a smart guy.
I realized that my life, despite the obvious problems in it, was a good one--enviable even. But as good as it was, it was fraught with the trappings of debauchery and insatiable desires.
To lead a truly fulfilling life we must be true to who we are. Failing that, we must be true in our decisions which will determine our future, for someday we will know we have arrived, and we will be thankful we took such steps.
If one's calling is to be a circus clown, one cannot fulfill their hopes, dreams, and goals by working as a bio-physicist. It would be distracting at best to have your red nose fall into the Pyrex flask of hydrochloric acid. And floppy shoes, while inherently hilarious, could prove to be a detriment when working alongside a lab partner wearing size 9 1/2 loafers.
"I'm sorry I tripped you again, doctor. Please, let me help you clean up that mitochondria."
No, to become a clown, one must go to clown school and then hopefully join one of the many circuses currently touring the world. They must adapt their plan of attack from what is expected of them by others in society, and follow a path that will lead them to their eventual goal ...
... even if that path is lined with elephant dung.
And so, if I planned to continue the path I chose for myself thirty years ago--making and performing music--I was going to have to adapt to a new set of challenges; a new approach to relaxation and creativity; a new M.O. to get out of the house and get into the van. Because if I couldn't do this, I knew what would happen. I'd stay angrily sober for a while, reluctantly go to A.A., look down on everybody who was using, get called a hypocrite, get extremely jealous, pick up, fall down, get arrested, go to jail, and hang myself.
Adapt or die.
It was a pretty easy choice.
I never once said to myself, "I'm going to have to stay away from the bars I used to play at, or get a whole new group of friends, or move to a dry town, or go on a crusade to label drugs and alcohol evil and all powerful," (which I will always contest that I do not believe. They can be extremely positive and empowering for a while. Then, if you do not find a way to retain control and enjoy them in moderation, they will kill you, or worse).
No, instead of changing the world in which I lived in, I needed to change the person living in that world. But before I could start that magnificent metamorphosis, I needed to find the equation which provided the answer to why I did what I did--both good and bad--and figure out why pain, regret, anguish, debt, and embarrassment--on a daily basis--was not enough to make me change.
It's no big secret, the reasoning behind it.
I was afraid of the unknown.
I was terrified of a hypothetical situation.
I was unwilling to adapt.
I was scared that the way of life which I lead now, would be too difficult to get used to; too full of worry and paranoia; too rife with cravings and withdrawals; too intertwined with triggers.
But when we get through our infatuation with new products and their never ending deluge of bells and whistles; when we have satisfied our craving for having a million and one options at our disposal; when we tire of the endless and unnecessary decisions forced upon us because have too many choices ...
... we always go back to simple.
My life right now is amazingly simple.
I write, I read, I perform, and I spend time with family and friends.
I don't wonder if I'm missing out. I don't feel like there was some kind of unfinished business that I need to attend to at the bottom of a bottle. I don't experience pangs of regret that I can't spend all my money on junk that's going to leave me even poorer in mind, body, and spirit.
The problem I have with A.A. and N.A. is in the fundamental belief system that no matter what we do, we will always be vulnerable to go back to our old ways. That no matter how good our lives get; no matter how our health improves and our acumen sharpens; no matter what new relationships and bonds we enter into and maintain ... that we are apt to forget what we have and be lured back into the depths from which we crawled and fall into the pit of despair and perish.
What a bunch of drama-queen rhetoric.
If you start to believe you are prone to do something--especially by a group with good credentials--then you are that much more likely to actually do it.
If you wake up each morning and intentionally avoid behavior--simple behavior like reading Rolling Stone--because you're afraid that it might "trigger" you, then you're already thinking too much.
If I see an ad for peanuts, and I know I'm allergic to peanuts, then I'm not going to buy a bag of peanuts. It won't matter to me whether I developed the allergy late in life and have fond memories of eating them, I'm not going to eat them because I know that it will make me extremely ill and that is not a good way to be.
I associate them with a problem.
I adapt how I feel based on my present situation.
But if a giant group of people tell me that no matter how bright I am, and no matter how clearly I understand that these peanuts will make me violently ill, that statistically, I'm going to eat them anyway ... then guess what? ... I'm going to be on the lookout for that eventuality and maybe even provoke it a little so I'll feel like I fit in--which is why a lot of us are in this boat in the first place.
We, as humans, have a horrible tendency to do what we are expected to. Especially if we are told that it is inevitable.
"Well if it's inevitable, then it's out of my hands."
What if it's not inevitable? What if we don't give ourselves that leeway. I wonder how many relapses could have been prevented if those with the coercive megaphones refrained from shouting about how many of us statistically will end up at square one, and how we're going to become complacent after the first stretch of success and then we're going to crumble and fall, possibly never to return. I wonder how many relapses could have been prevented by imparting, instead, the idea that, "You're going to want to go back and use, but you won't. You won't, because you will learn in time to be true to yourself--to value what you have and remember how you got it. You're not going to dwell on it. You're not going to hide from it. You're going to find a new way to deal with the situations life will inevitably throw your way. You're going to learn how to shake it off and keep on going. You're not going to freak out about what you haven't done yet. You're just not going to do it."
Just adapt. Plain and simple.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not not worried about relapsing. It's always a possibility. Just like it's a possibility that I'll run out into traffic on Main St. and get killed. It's right down the road and no matter what side of the street I'm on I can think of something on the other side I could use. But I know that pain is uncomfortable at best, and death is counterproductive.
So no matter how much of a hurry I'm in, I just won't do it.
It's when I disregard the idea that if I run out into traffic on Main St., that I'll end up in the hospital or worse. If I rescind my belief that I don't want to get hurt, that's when I run the risk of serious trouble.
But I'm smarter than that. And that goes for a lot of people.
I'll be patient. I'll use the crosswalks. I'll adapt.
Substance abuse trains a person to be the most selfish entity in the universe.
When someone becomes overcome by the evils of addiction they don't let anything stop them from using: not work, family, lack of transportation, health problems, legal problems, the loss of good friends, or anything.
I feel like we should take what we have learned about being selfish from actively using and apply it to our fight for sobriety. I think we should harness that relentless obsession and use it to our advantage.
I think that we should put our red nose on and paint our faces. We should gather up our juggling balls and stuff them into our pockets. We should pull that blue wig down tight and get ready for the lights to come on. And when we hear the music play and we come running out at full speed with our horn honking and our arms flapping and our size 25 shoes stomping on the bigtop floor, and we run right smack dab into that gigantic pile of elephant dung ... well ... we'll just make the best of it and add it into our schtick. We'll take that otherwise unfortunate event and use the skills we learned in clown school to turn it into an unexpectedly hilarious facet of our performance ...
... we'll adapt.
Thanks for reading.
PS: "Honk! Honk!"