Ah, my favorite subject, about which I seem to ramble on and on, investigating all the past, wondering about the future, and searching for the answer to the question that I had not yet properly formulated. How else to work hard and not get to the point, and more importantly, the answer?
And so, let me summarize where I am right now, which is where I have been many times before, which is: The Answer.
The Answer, no matter what the question, is to stop attempting to solve a seeming problem by repeating the same process that has failed to answer the question before, many times, and that is: "Stop Drinking Alcohol."
However, I have an agile Irish temperament and flexible mind, and like to play with ideas and thoughts, always intending to find the answer buried somewhere in my distant past, amongst the dark corners, cobwebs, rusty memories, and uncompleted actions from my very fluid and gradually fading past.
I prefer to remember my past as a story to be told, sometimes accurately, sometimes embellished to make me look better and smarter than I am, with a bit of humor to take the edge off the dark canyons that I have tried many times to leap over, mostly unsuccessfully.
However, I have succeeded at many other things (I say to myself), and shouldn't that count for something? I mean, give a guy a chance, for crying out loud! (I also concurrently and parenthetically wonder where that old phrase came from.) And then I realize this is all pop-cockery, bullshit, and deflection. I have always - always - come to the conclusion when the inevitable failure happens, that the only way to stop is to - wait for it - actually stop; really STOP.
So simple, so hard. I have tried every method, system, and process to do just that, except the only one that works: Simply, Completely, and Fully Stop. And so with lots of "encouragement" from Liz, I did do that, and have continued for two months as I write this in the early part of November, 2021. I intend to continue in the same direction forever, or until I get a sign from God. (She is a very crafty and somewhat obtuse God, in my experience, and speaks often in parables.)
That is it, and that is what I did and am doing. It was not even hard, nor difficult, because "this time" I really meant it. I mean, I really meant it. Lots was at stake: My health, my relationships, my attitude, and my life. That seemed to be enough, at least for now, and with good fortune and a solid commitment, that is what I did, and will continue to do.
And so I, after much reflection, inner work, and a major attitudinal shift, decided that the easiest way was to always remember not to have a glass, jar, bottle, dropper, or syringe of alcohol enter my lips and allow the alcohol to proceed down my gullet to my stomach. What had I not thought of that before, I recall wondering.
And so I did, and in fact I stopped, and with a bit (okay, a whole lot) of commitment, it worked beautifully.
The problem is: Stopping is easy; staying stopped is quite difficult and hard. The devil is invariably, and always, always, in the details. However, it is self-reinforcing, since I have discovered a "self" that I did not think possible: light, playful, content, open, funny, perceptive, and happy. I write this so that I can refer to it when the "devil" comes lurking, which he/she/it will invariably do, and I will have a reminder. Hopefully I will listen to me, this time.
It has been pure bliss since - this is not an exaggeration - and I came into a place within myself that I had almost never visited before. As I write this, it has been maybe two months since that time, and I think I might be on to something.
Now, my mind was saying, why did that not happen that way before? Well, there is this entity we humans have called a "mind," which should never be confused with a "brain."
And so, as a reasonably good - if old - engineer, I decided to actually look up a definition or two in the time honored spirit of cognitive scientific research, and here is what I found, literally, from my old friends, Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster and all the editors following in their wake:
Brain: An organ of soft nervous tissue contained in the skull of vertebrates, functioning as the coordinating center of sensation and intellectual and nervous activity.
Mind: The element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons.
I then began to see the problem. It was clear as a bell. It was the epistemic difference between "thinking" and "doing." And it was also right out of Werner Erhard's "est training," now modified and reconstituted as the Landmark Forum. (This is a shameless plug; check it out.) I received great value from all of his programs, and they continue after many years (through my memory) to produce remarkable and impressive breakthroughs in mine and even everyone's abilities to make a huge difference in both their professional and personal lives. And you may therefore consider this a hard-core sales pitch, although I never was, nor am I now, on the payroll - always an unpaid volunteer.
What I have experienced in this last period is a greatly improved ability to communicate, a huge reduction in worry and effort about accomplishing what I wanted to do, a seeming levity and lightness in the face of adversity, and a much closer relationship with the people and even animals and plants with whom I came in contact (truthfully, and said as an engineer).
My mood is lighter, more playful, I talk about twice as fast (no more southern drawl, it seems), I seem to think more quickly and accurately, and I have much more levity, openness, and am light hearted about most things. When on those rare occasions I get angry, it is sudden, penetrating, strikingly focused, does not demolish my protagonist, and disappears immediately. Should this be mental illness, I am happy that I have found it, as my relationships have improved greatly. And my most important relationship - with my Self - has blossomed and come to full fruition - so far.
In short, I became the person I always thought I could be, wanted to be, but thought not possible. Life has been a joy to experience, my sleep has been much sounder and better, my dreams are wonderfully pleasant, and almost ecstatic. I had never experienced this before, except perhaps as a young child, and yet it was a place and experience that I knew might be possible, but not likely to be achieved in this man's lifetime. Sounds sort of like a pitch for a new drug, I suppose, and likely it is, in fact. Free, awesome, and readily available, with a bit (okay, perhaps a lot) of commitment and purpose.
I would not trade this life for any other that I have yet experienced, and I recall wondering as a child if something like this was really possible. And as I re-read this, it seems unbelievable to this engineer steeped in hard data and raw experience, but it is what has actually has happened, and does not appear to be transitory, at least for now. When the old me reasserts its ugly head, I pat it kindly, smile, and ask that he go away from me. As the old sarcastic joke goes: "Now I get high on life." I have become as a child, once more, and am forever grateful. The devil, however, continues to lurk in shadowy and dusty corners, mostly in my memory, but he is now my friend and protector, not my adversary.
And if it all goes away, so be it. At least I experienced this bliss at some point, it was real, I remember it, and shall always be appreciative, regardless of what happens in the future.
And so there it is, hiding in plain sight, as always. Who knew?
And as an added attraction, I hereby submit some in-depth musings on this whole subject from some time ago, shortly after I quit drinking.
Here it is, in all its glory:
Some time ago, I had an experience that has stayed with me, and it recently has occurred to me that it would be worth documenting in case my memory somehow failed in the future. As you read this, you will see why it is worth repeating for my future use.
I had given up alcohol for a number of reasons, all very good ones, and had done so several times before, yet kept coming back, as the allure somehow beckoned me in that wistful way the Sirens of the ancient seas beckoned sailors to their doom on the rocks and shoals of the ocean. (Interestingly, the “old” Navy used to have a book filled with rules and regulations about expected behavior of sailors named “Rocks And Shoals.” Interesting that I just remember that now.)
To make a long boring story delightfully short, I quit, and stayed quit, and life transformed itself into a wonder that I had not experienced for a long time, likely since I was a young man or even a kid. I was active, always present in the sense that I was fully aware, jocular, friendly, giddy – almost -, and had the world at my beck and call. I was up for anything, did not despair, was actually a nice person to be around, and really liked myself and others (not always a description of me that was pertinent or accurate when drinking).
Life was good, I sailed along, and all was well. This is a great way to live life, I recall thinking.
Then “The Devil” who had been lurking in the shadows showed up unexpectedly and whispered in my ear: “Hey, El Loco (we are now on a first name basis, due to our numerous interactions), wouldn’t it be good to actually relax a bit, let your troubles go, and sort of coast downstream and go with the flow, and feel really really good again?” And so, I thought, as an engineer and scientist, of course, that an experiment was warranted (only in the interest science, and of the greater good, of course), and it would be instructive to compare this experience with others, since I had obviously moved on past whatever my troubles or issues were long ago. The little red devil that lurks in my brain smiled and nodded his assent, said that was a very, very good idea (with a knowing slight wicked smile that he has), perhaps one of the best I have ever had, and I should go for it!
And so, I did. Liz was gone traveling, and I proceeded to have a glass or three of my favorite vodka, listened to some music, and read, and began to feel the glow of my old best friend coming back once again, and I welcomed him/her again (my best friends refuses to be defined by the somewhat limited human descriptions), and I sank into my bliss. Ah, peace at last, peace at last, Great God Almighty, peace at last (to admittedly plagiarize someone else)!
After a time, I thought it would be an excellent idea to have some more, but I had promised myself that I would not (and had actually taken good care to make the first pour what could charitably be called “substantial” which is my term for “massive” so as not to be thrown into the kind of situation that I now found myself, where I would have to break my commitment to myself). So, I let it ride, did not take another taste, and after a while, went off to bed to seek eternal bliss. I recall thinking that this was really easy, I should remember this for the future, and I congratulated myself on my excellent judgement and great insight. What a wonderful idea this was, I recall thinking as I drifted off to dreamland.
During the night, I noticed that my sleep was not the usual sound peaceful sleep, as I tossed and turned, and felt somewhat “out of sorts” to put it mildly, and awakened with a very bad “hangover” which did not fit my plan at all. I did get up, went about my day, but I did not have the same sense of well-being that I “normally” had (meaning when I was not drinking) and began to think that perhaps I had misjudged something or other, and maybe, just maybe, I was not as smart as I thought I was. I do recall thinking that I have been in this particular space of existence before, perhaps many times.
And so, it continued, although diminishing over time, as I sat with the results of my experiment that did not comport with my original thesis, and concluded that I had made a great mistake, and was now suffering the consequences. How could this have happened?
And so, at this late date, after a great amount of time has elapsed, I thought I best to document my experience only for myself to read later on, when the sirens of lovely feelings came calling at my door and beckoning me to the maelstrom that awaited me as I approached the bottom of the bottle.
And so, I have now done so, and I will print this out, and likely put it on a website at some point in the future as a reminder of how the mind can do funny things at times, and in particular, my mind, which is a crafty son-of-a-bitch who is sneaky and does not have my well being as its primary motivator. I often forget that last part as I sink into eternal bliss, only to awaken in hell.
And so, I have done so, and now commit this effort and experience to the universe, and perhaps later to a website, which I am now doing, so I can read it should a similar situation occur again, which of course won't. I hope..
Thank you, Michael, for the lesson.
And, as a special bonus feature for those who might be looking for more detail, horror, humor, and perspective, the link below will take you to an earlier website of mine that has some of the more interesting and embarrassing details, always with whimsy and objectivity, since it is now in the past, and I am no longer embarrassed, and very grateful.