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New year resolutions : Hope, flaking, spiritual warfare...and a Monster

The Stand
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A great many things in life change when the sober bug finally starts kicking in and the pain of leaving a really nasty crutch begins to diminish next to the overwhelming love and support that comes with sobriety. Life does indeed get better the more it is lived within the scope of “life on life’s terms,” that is for sure.

I used to hate holidays. Usually because I couldn’t remember what I did… and what people told me I did wasn’t exactly that memorable, if you get my drift. Holidays were usually a sad time for sad pandas, exclusively reserved for monstrous pity parties (is there any other kind?) on my end, which of course, left very little room for others to participate. That is all part of another story so I won’t lapse into a morbid digression more than necessary, and that is indeed, all that is necessary for this set of scribbles.

This particular holiday, that being the New Year holiday, I took a certain amount of extra relish with a side of joy in, more than most others these days. You see, long term goals aren’t exactly on the short list for addicts. Long range goals usually exist until the end of the day, and anything beyond that is far too advanced in the future. Usually it is this lack of planning piece, at least it was for me, that affected my life more than most other consequences as “life on life's terms” demands that we exist within the boundaries of schedules ie. work, play, school, kids, relationships, bills, bills, bills etc. etc. I mean, the world revolves around the human perception of time (meaning a clock) and if most of us had to operate without a clock, depending solely on the sun and moon, we would probably fall off the edge of the world or at least the bed! nyuck nyuck.

So at any rate, the New Year is all about goal setting…er… for the MOST part it is about goal setting, which is something I lost track of long ago as I have largely been putting out proverbial “fires” these last few years that sobriety has indeed blessed me with. The “fires” now seem manageable, suren by the Grace of God, and long and mid-range goals appear more likely to be handled by the end of this year than any of the past 10-15 years combined.

With that as a backdrop, I offer you my New Year's plan for 2014. Not exactly a resolution, as I am not that detailed of a personality, but I will offer you the Big Picture of what I will be working on this year and what I hope to accomplish.

I have several pet projects I am hoping to further buttress as well as continue to advertise. Backpacks of Hope being one of those, is a fine fine program that is easily one of the most “boots on the ground” charities I have come across in a long time (There now. I just started on that resolution. This stuff is kind of easy eh?).

I would also like to make some significant progress in following through on time spent with those that matter most, my friends and family. I have an irritatingly persistent problem regarding the scheduling of appointments with folks that I do indeed have a full intention of meeting, but when the time comes, have neither the time nor it seems the energy to follow through with. This laments me greatly as these folks are the people that actually do indeed deserve my attention and deserve to give me their attention as well. Meaning…I am tired of being a flake with regards to my serious relationships and would seriously like to stop that noise.

OK. So those are the easy ones. Let’s dive into the meat of things. Sobriety is a major accomplishment for any of us but it is, generally speaking, contingent upon our spiritual condition on any given day. I have been running from small group fellowship for quite a long time and I miss it. Full disclosure Statement------> I do not in any way, think that my spiritual condition depends upon my church and/or meeting attendance. I am not a behaviorist/legalist kind of a feller. However my spiritual condition does in fact depend upon (to a very significant degree) a fellowship of likeminded folks dealing with the same things that I myself struggle with. The proverbial “change your playpens and playmates” infers that you leave your old playmates and sandboxes. That is true enough.

Check. Did that.

It also means though....Find some new ones! I seemed to have stopped at "leaving the old haunts behind" and am now limbo…ing along without a home group in of course…limbo. This has produced some very close calls in my sobriety (don’t fret too much, every day has at least one close call for any recovering person; stepping out the front door is a close call for most of us) and I do NOT wish to compromise that for anything. I have a bad habit of isolating and it seems that my isolation is growing more and more problematic over time. It is a yearning that emanates from the bad wolf in the good-wolf/bad-wolf scenario. Isolation is nourishment to the bad wolf so to speak, ya ken?

Therefore, I am resolving to find a home group and never, in all my travels, have I come across a program that fits the remedy of my particular isolation ailment the way the good folks over at Celebrate Recovery did once upon a when, and it seems, still do. Celebrate Recovery used to be a home for me until I decided to go prodigal on the program. I had grown afraid of trusting (imagine that) for quite some time and the lack of trust had grown into an excuse for staying away. I do in fact stress the excuse portion of that statement. Lack of trust is but an excuse to...well...isolate, which is what my addictive mind wants from me. The Good Lord has decided that my prodigal…ness… has now come to an end and whether I like it or not, CR (amid a small group setting) saved my life on more than one occasion and my amends to CR for being in a state of “prodigalness” had better be rectified soon or I will miss the end of the race as it comes to certain things. It was a lot like someone telling you to get over it…only…it was God...and the get over it part seemed to have the force of a mountain behind it and I was certain there were lots and lots of lightning bolts and my hair was sizzled a bit, if you get my meaning. It hit me like a rogue wave to be honest. My conscience no longer seems to be supporting a pity party with regards to the why and wherefore of the way certain things in my past had developed and hence, amends are now on the short list for some very important people in my CR past that were there for me, picking up the pieces when my dark night of the soul had run its course. That's a pretty personal and specific resolution, and I apologize for being detailed when I said I wouldn't. See? Flaky!

Which brings me to the final, most challenging goal of the year; my spiritual warfare….

We all have our demons. We all have monsters to slay; whether they be fear, anger, depression, addiction or what have you. In fact, a precondition for the malady of being human it seems, is the presence of those very specific haunting demons that come with one or all of the above. And of course, said fear, anger etc. seem to have our number…every time…and know exactly how to push our metaphorical buttons unless -and until- they are addressed...entirely. Otherwise, they apparently fester and take on ludicrous proportions. We are only as sick as our secrets comes to mind. I have been managing my fears for quite some time and depression for me now is, at worst, a little bit of sadness shaded by the blues, all of which go away when my children or mother give me a call and tell me “keep it up!” Or, I just meditate and that suits me quite nicely. Or, I have chocolate (don't ask, not going there yet).

However!..... (this is the confession portion and the admittance of my perceived powerlessness)

This past year I have (sadly) discovered, Big Trav has an anger problem. Or, more truthfully, I have accepted and admitted to an anger problem that has been around for quite some time. I had just never recognized it for what it was, until '13. It took losing a computer (as well as ripping cords out of the wall and ruining several pairs of speakers because they were linked to the computer I had taken a hammer to after it dumped 56.78 pages of my book! –gratuitous venting-) to realize, it seems, I have a rage inside of me. It is rare, but it does seem resentment is living down there in the deep parts of my mind….lurking around my hypothalamus (prolly my spleen too)… and growling…and biding it’s little time to lash out at unsuspecting computers.

(the computer is just an example. It will suffice however, as I do not really wish to talk about the rest. Anger is quite expensive, financially and emotionally, let’s just say eh?)

“It's hiding in the dark, it's teeth are razor sharp
There's no escape for me, it wants my soul, it wants my heart
No one can hear me scream, maybe it's just a dream
Maybe it's inside of me, stop this monster

I feel it deep within, it's just beneath the skin
I must confess that I feel like a monster
I hate what I've become, the nightmare's just begun
I must confess that I feel like a monster” Monster – Skillet

This makes complete sense to me, and of course, that is the problem. I completely grok this bit of prose from one of my all time favorite growlers. But! Along with said understanding comes acceptance, however painful and humbling it may be. I get it. It's me. Stop shouting this song at me! Or something like that. -Big grin on my end as I wrote that-

It is a cold hard slap from reality’s back hand when you resonate with words that generally speaking, you would never think twice about listening to. Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid Skillet follower but the deep growling stuff had been, up to this past year, a foreign language to my conscious mind. Apparently though, resentment is an intimate compadre of my subconscious mind. When these words first came out in song and metal, I most certainly tried to avoid it (overly so, which should have been my first indicator) until I couldn’t avoid it anymore and now, after finally sitting down and giving it a full listening too, the danger lurking in the shadows it seems, has been given light and is anger dilemma.

Why is this problematic? Everyone gets angry, no?

Let me just say that my issue with anger/resentment is the most important resolution I will be working on this year. It is a make or break goal in all honesty. It is said in the Big Book of a certain Anonymous group that anger and resentment are the number one significant problems for every recovering alcoholic/addict and if left unresolved, the presence of resentment is a guaranteed ifs, ands or cigarette butts about it. Anger unresolved, is a drink waiting to happen. It is not a matter of if, but of when.

In the words of Master Yoda (yah, I’m one of those)…

“Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”

There never is a justification for anger. Or, I should say, there never is a justification for anger unresolved. Everyone gets angry; not everyone takes a hammer to a computer in hopes to teach said computer a lesson though (even if it was behaving horribly and happened to have been programmed by a passive-aggressive at Dell, I am sure of it!). Anger is to be met with the full force of love and an appreciation for what it (anger) is, a fleeting set of emotions based on high (and unmet, that is what produces the frustration) expectations that usually do subside after a few deep breathes and a ton of patience...and some really super tech support from a dear DEAR "You can do anything!!!! You're in charge of TECH!!!" kind of a guy. And of course, Joe, my computer genius and tech support, can do anything. He most certainly is in charge of my particular tech issues. Thanks Joe! (Joe is a spiritual 'puter whisperer I am certain of it!).

So there you go. I have laid bare a certain portion of my heart, and have challenged myself to climb a mountain I have barely even begun to acknowledge an existence of. I encourage everyone in any situation to continue the good fight of faith, hope and love, confronting the demons that continually press down on your chains, twisting and turning them until you break...or you break them. It matters. It matters more than you know when love dominates the thinking of good friends and of course, good audiences and readers. I seem to have been blessed with the best readers any writer can be blessed with, those that accept me for the work in progress that I am. Keep on keepin on kind folk, and may we all meet on the happy road to wherever fate may lead us, but let it be complete, pursuing the prize of that fleeting happiness, chasing the dream that only each of us can determine for ourselves. Live free, and be whole. Many many blessings and warm wishes from me and mine, to you and yours.

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