Finding Who I Am.
At my men’s meeting last night, the chair mentioned “returning to the man [he] was.” It struck a deep chord with me. I talked about how I didn’t really start drinking until I was about 21. I had some time as a young man before I was a drunk. And so I thought I knew something about who I was and what I stood for and against. What I wanted in life. Now, like just about every early 20-something, I was wrong about must, perhaps most, of that. But I had a self I had developed.
Then came the drunk years. I lost myself in some really complete ways. My ambition. My confidence (such as it ever was). My eagerness to learn. The education I’d cultivated. All went down the memory hole.
But when, at the age of 33, I gained my sobriety, I felt that I was returning. Returning to the life and vigor that I had once had. I was startled and dismayed by what I had become: obese; smoking; sedentary. It took me a year and a half to quit smoking. I gained more weight. I sat.
But I worked. The first thing I did was get a job. It was a post-doc like position working as a concierge engineer for the chief of staff of a local hospital. It was a good job. It didn’t pay much, but it was enough to give me direction. As a sober man, doing something I was trained to do, I excelled. I was rapidly promoted. I felt like I was getting my life on track. I’d just wasted about 5 years worth of time. I should have been starting my career at 29, not 34.
My wife decided she didn’t like me. That was ok. She had married and entirely different man than I became as a sober person. I won’t speculate as to why she didn’t like me sober. She didn’t. That’s enough. We divorced when I had been sober a little more than two years. I haven’t heard from her now in about four years. I hope she’s well.
But despite the fact that I felt I was returning to being someone I had been before my alcoholism hijacked me, I don’t know that that’s really true. Because I am that alcoholic. Just as much as I am an engineer. A scientist. A runner. A piano player. A romantic partner. A traveler. All these things are me. I don’t get to exclude alcoholism just because I don’t like who I am when I indulge it. I am a drunk, just as I am a sober man.
I am a drunk. But I don’t do drunk anymore. I have new paths forward. In AA, we talk about “trudging the road of happy destiny.” There’s a lot of discussion of that word, “trudge”. I don’t think it’s a depressing word. I don’t think it’s a difficult word. It’s about moving forward through whatever terrain we find, slowly and surely. I have trudged a long way. And I trudge on in many venues in my life, discovering who and what I am.
And somewhere along the way, I discovered I can run.