Pride and Poteen

“In times of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” — -Author Anonymous



Guess Speaker: Kevin K., Tallahassee Florida.

I had been drinking alcohol for forty-two years before ever entering the rooms of AA. I was fifty-eight years old when I attended my first meeting, it was in a hospital, and I was not a visitor.

Pride stands upright on a pedestal always looking down in judgement never looking up. As it does so, it does not recognize that anything could possibly be above it. Pride knows its talents, enjoys competition to highlight itself and to render the skills of others as insignificant. Pride does not surrender, it simply perceives that it is perfect, a God.

Beauty may have killed the beast but pride is what took me straight to hell. I chose alcohol as my primary physician. I used it to mend all the broken parts in my body and my world. I am powerless over alcohol, as are other people because alcohol alters our being our wholeness. Whether speaking of alcoholism or not, alcohol and other addictions change the perception of reality and therefore life becomes a lie. I embraced my plan to stay drunk and as comfortably numb forever. I damned near met that goal; I had confused pride with courage, by rejecting self-discipline, I thought I was free.

I thought that I was justified to be proud. I had earned what I had through my talents and morals. I had a thirty-year marriage, three wonderful children, good job, and six- figure income, five-bedroom house with pool, three cars, and lots of stuff. Professionally I received awards and appeared on various media outlets. Secularly, I was successful. I had fame and fortune, but life is funny, nature merciless.

In the end, my reliance on self, lead only to trouble. In 2004, my wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. We were told it was incurable and to get her things in order. She fought that disease for five years, enduring, suffering through surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Doctors, nurses, tests, and remissions the suffering went on and on and on.

My mother and wife both died in June 2009, my mother in New York and my wife two weeks later in Florida. During their struggles with disease, they packed as much joy into their lives as possible in the time they had left. They were role models in courage and charity. They needed compassion not pity. I was devastated. Yet I was to endure additional deaths of family, friends, and business associates, mostly to cancer all within the upcoming year. I was toast.

For the next eight years with my pride and alcohol, I created a living hell on earth. All things pass, people die. Change happens, slow, fast, drastic, or subtle. I tried to keep anything else from changing and I could not. More drinking was the solution.I thought I had been ready for anything the world would throw at me. Today with newly earned humility I can say, boy was I wrong.

Pride rears up grasping tightly for control of the driving wheel of life. I started on this road to avoid legitimate suffering and grief. Over the years, it turned into deep depression and apathy. What starts as fun or logical does not ensure that it is going to end that way. Somewhere along the line, I disregarded the Ten Commandments and the eight Beatitudes. The Seven Deadly Sins transgressed into my life along with the 3-D’s, drunkenness, despair, and debauchery.

The hardest thing I ever had to do was to
stop drinking.

Alcohol had always been in my life. From teething-pain whiskey, to libations at rites of passage, weddings and funerals, it was a lifestyle. To stop drinking was not merely “to stop drinking” it was to stop living life, as I knew it. My sobriety date is Friday 13 October 2018, a lucky day.

Pride had made me feel I was above discipline;
humility allowed me to admit I was beat.

Today with humility, I ask for help and listen. Then put one foot in front of the other and do what I need to do. With humility, I realize and accept that I cannot do anything of and by myself. I could not stop drinking, accept life on its terms, and adopt the Twelve Steps alone. Life simply does not work that way. With the support of the AA fellowship, staying open-minded, willing, and honest, I have not had a drink today.

I had fulfilled the destiny of jails and institutions; death was the only one left. I needed to start to listen to someone other than myself; I was not an effective counselor, but an affective one, affecting those who loved me and whom I loved in a negative manner.

In his book “The Road Less Travelled,” Dr. Scott Peck M.D. identifies four principles within discipline. They are delayed gratification, truthful reality, responsibility, and balance. I was undisciplined, practicing none of these.

I am guilty, no denial, no one to blame, or point a finger at, or judge. While I was undisciplined and ungrateful, this did not mean I was about to surrender.

I look back at that time; it was psychological and spiritual warfare. It was my Waterloo, my Stalingrad.

By God’s grace, I am here today, with a daily reprieve that I must nurture and work at every day. My pride had two sides, the outside, the one woven of little sins, minor crimes, misplaced transgressions and the inside lined with self-pity, loneliness, and demoralization. There is no earthly mercy for behavioral amnesiacs or pity for apathetic drunks. My cloak of deception and veil of lies had failed me.

Pride hung on my head, a tarnished crown. No one saw the inside of me until the self-destruction was affective. Alcohol did the job of hiding my broken self. I no longer cared that cause and effect had blurred my world, it was an exciting maelstrom, then it turned chaotic, then dangerous.

To forestall more craziness I isolated myself from society for three years.

I could drink in the comfort of my home. Isolation is not contemplation when I have a bottle of whiskey as my prayer companion. I wanted to be alone; I needed to drink to be at rest. People told me that I was suffering too long and for the wrong reasons. My pride would not allow anybody to tell me what to do or feel. Whether I was isolating in my house-fortress or in a healthcare facility, I wanted to be alone and have everything my way. I was intent on squandering my time and life. Looking back it is sad but I do not wallow in remorse.

It took only two and a half years to go from success to being one-step ahead of homelessness. It took another six years to be sober. I would not surrender. Pride and I went down the road of despair together until I accepted and befriended humility. If I did not I would surely would have died a slow and horrible death. I will always love my children, family and friends for standing by me, what they did for me I am eternally thankful.  I thank God today for my daughter’s love, my son’s honesty, and family, friends, and counselors’ perseverance.

Step 1 is the only one that has to be done perfect. This may well be, we are powerless over alcohol, and as the perfectionist, I had my own idea of whether or not my life was unmanageable. This attitude only delayed my surrender.

I was like the soldier not knowing the war was over but stayed isolated ready to defend a world that no longer existed.

When I first heard that to remain sober I had to change everything, I thought I could hold on to some things that I thought important. Over time I found that I did, indeed, need to change everything,  about myself because I was the problem. Welcome to Step 1 in humility.

Today I am in recovery from almost a decade long battle, recovering from a neurosis that ineffectively shielded me from legitimate suffering and pain. Life is full of challenges both good and evil, but by consciously avoiding the agony in life, I also shut off access to insight and growth.

I adopted an honest reality that having less and giving more is truly freedom. It is not about who dies with the most toys.

After bankruptcy, unemployment, and foreclosure, I moved to an apartment rather than a house, I had to let go of the accoutrements of success. True freedom is the humility to let go, laying down the tools of self-destruction.

I adopted an attitude that good is good enough and there is good in everything. There was no need to strive for perfection.

Perfection is admirable in its perseverance but fruitless in its realization. Every day I fail at something, this however does not make me a failure. I have also embraced an “if not now, when?” philosophy. Drinking was a form of procrastination and television was another. Neither one are part of my life today. When I act with the “if not now, when?” idea, I have found it is easier to decide what is important or urgent, resulting in my becoming more efficient in using my time getting things done. It also helps me to practice patience, and responsibility.

I also started writing to sort through the emotional chaos. I chose to write poetry and explore a variety of subjects that I needed to address. I found that to write better I also had to increase my reading time; I write and read every day. James P. my friend and sponsor always reminded me that whatever the situation, the key was, to “enter into it and go through it.” Not to be afraid. Start new tasks without fretting about various outcomes. Concern myself with today, which is enough. James passed away in June 2018. As a sponsor, James was great, as a friend, irreplaceable.

Consciously I continue to seek discipline in my thoughts and actions. By practicing self-disciple as outlined by Dr. Peck, I am able to honor those who I have lost through death. I was able to take what they had taught me, apply those skills, virtues, and behaviors into my life, and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Love, the extending of oneself for spiritual growth of others and myself fosters compassion, patience, and simplicity. These behaviors are at the center of A.A. practices. Faith, my basic beliefs, and truths are what I model my choices on today. Hope as action, is my power to not only accept the mutable but to work to alter my destiny. This is not wishful thinking. Magical thinking is what got me into recovery to begin with.

While conducting my fifth step with a holy man on the plains of Nebraska, He asked what it was that I was seeking; I answered peace, wisdom, and abundance. To be at peace with others and myself, have the wisdom to know my limitations and have the capability and willingness to share. He was the first miracle of recovery that I encountered. My time with this man has left me with an unending humility and gratitude for his freely given spiritual gifts.

I also came to believe in God as the omnipotent force of everything.

Not a kind, nor angry God, not a God in human or mythological form but God as the ultimate Creator. I was then free to choose how I interpreted that Force. I need religion and I seek its solutions even when I am in doubt of its ability to rescue and save me. Ultimately, I believe we all worship the same God. He may be addressed by different names and have different roles but God is God. I believe the purpose for religion, and spirituality in particular is to recognize that God is Divine Light. When lost in the dark, we will always, inevitably walk towards the light. I do not memorize Scripture chapter and verse, nor page numbers in the Big Book. However, the precepts of those texts I take to heart and mind and try to apply the concepts every day.

Meetings and having a home group have undoubtedly helped me. The fellowship of those in the rooms who have battled the same demons offered refuge. One hour a day, sometimes more the rooms are a safe place where I share some of my experience, strength and hope. There are days, too, when I say nothing, sitting with eyes closed and listen. Learning to listen, reconciling my truths, and being spiritually safe are three benefits of meetings along with fellowship.

Today I am vigilant about my desires. What I desire, is not a guarantee that it is good for me. What can be good for me, I do not always desire, another of life’s paradoxes. Temperance is a valuable virtue and as with other virtues is a balance.

If abstinence, one extreme of temperance is called for in one’s life, it is imperative that it be filled by a replacement of equal weight as soon as possible. I can fill that side with anything but alcohol, it is analogous to the rule in The Garden of Eden that, “You can have anything but don’t eat that apple”. (Genesis 2:16-17)

Today I accept with humility and gratefulness that I am here and can be of service. When I fell into that hellhole, I never knew where the bottom was. Once I was there, I certainly had no doubts of where I was, other than in the abyss of my making.

One of the best methods of staying out of that hole is service work.

Should I have free time the adage of “an empty vessel must be filled” holds true. Each day, I choose what to fill it with,  keeping pride in check. Accepting of compliments is something I must remember to do. Being humble, meek as the Beatitudes say, has nothing to do with a rejecting of a healthy self-esteem. Humility is not humiliation. Experiencing other people’s challenges, performing mundane tasks, giving of my time, talents, or treasures I see firsthand that I am blessed. Charity is extending myself to assist, to be part of spiritual growth for others and myself.

I thank God for everything. Throughout the day, I set time aside for prayer, and start and end my day in prayer. It may be a short time about a minor situation, but this prayer time allows me to let go then get on with the day or a night’s sleep in a positive attitude. This practice addresses Step Seven in the Big Book, “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings,”  while the pause in the day helps to keep life balanced. This time out allows me to strengthen my character and pursue my true spiritual purpose and not temporal possessions, by which I am tempted with every day.

Step Seven for me is the epitome of humility, the act of asking for help and therefore strengthening the seven virtues while weakening the seven deadly sins. The pride I now carry is in what I do to contribute to peace and compassion in the world while retaining my balance.

Each day now I  find tasks, thoughts, or words, that cause me to stop a few seconds. I explore the options and make a decision. Then I pray words of thanksgiving and for courage and strength. In essence, I have turned my whole day into one of contemplative prayer and meditation.

I realized one day that the chains had fallen off and I was secure, sober, and serene. The happy conclusion is that I am not drinking today and with God’s Grace, I will not drink tomorrow.

Thee were many opinions, truths, and lies in my experience. To change, it was my responsibility to go with what I knew was the truths and took them one-step at a time. That was all I needed to hasten towards God. It does not matter where my starting line was or where my spirit will wander. In the end, I am on the journey of life with sobriety, it is hard, but the way remains clear. Today is a good day to be sober.

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