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Prisons, Institutions, and Graveyards.

24 November 2012

A friend still new to the program shared with me today that she spoke at a rehab. I know next to nothing about it, of course, except that it wasn’t a fuzzy-slipper sort of a rehab. It was a paper-trousers sort of a rehab. I’ve been to a meeting at one of those. There’s a half-way house and rehab here in St. Louis run by a man who was instrumental in helping me get sober. Helped me see that there was a light somewhere on the other side of the dark place I was in. That I had some kind of hope. That people who drank like I did could recover.

The title of this post is slightly modified from a phrase commonly used in AA: “jails, institutions, or death.” These are our options, usually, when we start to seriously look at recovery. AA had done a miraculous job of raising the bottom, or as my friend likes to put it, giving us a  soft landing. But still, we are inevitably in dire circumstances when we finally reach out to honestly seek recovery. When we are willing to do whatever must be done to change the way we’re living our lives.

I’ve been to jail. I was arrested for driving intoxicated. I’ve been to an institution. It was a glorious, expensive, and luxurious institution. But make no mistake. It was a place for people who have lost the ability to act as responsible members of society. A place for persons who have abandoned themselves to addiction, but remained in possession of some kind of monetary privilege. I am convinced that the last place for me, the place I will go to next, as an active alcoholic, is the grave.

I am healthy, today. I am fit. I do not smoke or drink. But I am four inches from the grave. Yesterday, as I drove around running errands for my upcoming job interview, I passed a store called the “Wine and Cheese Place.” I used to go there a lot. I bought expensive wine, and expensive cheese. I imagined myself a gourmand. A connoisseur. I was a drunk. Later, I would buy 1.75 liter plastic bottles of vodka and hide them in the linen closets.

As I drove past, my foot twitched for the brake. “Why not go in and buy some cheese or sausage?” I allowed myself to think. I would have been there to look at the wines and the new artisanal beers and the elegantly bottled spirits I like to imagine I would drink if I were normal and sophisticated. It wouldn’t even take a whole afternoon before I’d be back where I was, dying in a rocks glass.

Four inches. Four inches is the distance from my accelerator to my brake. The time it takes my foot to release, shift, and engage.  A split second. That’s the time, the distance, that separates me from a miserable, alcoholic death. From prison or institutions or a graveyard. Those four inches are the whole battlefield.

But I don’t fight these battles anymore. A split second is plenty of time for me. Plenty of time to arrest my involuntary response and engage my mind. Four inches is a far enough excursion to halt, and retreat. I know that journey. I’ve seen the end of the road, the road that goes that way. Worms and granite.

My road? I don’t know where that leads. But I am not wearing footpaths to the undertaker. I am lifted.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Syd permalink
    25 November 2012 07:59

    A brave, honest and sincere post. I’m glad that you didn’t stop there.

  2. 25 November 2012 11:24

    Shame about the cheese, though.

    • 25 November 2012 14:06

      If I am interested in Cheese, I can go in. Luckily, my sister sends me some!

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