Don’t Forget to Breathe

Dear Hope Nation,

Please remember to breathe.

When you do, you’re doing yourself good. Although it’s been a long time since I got my gentleman’s D- minus in high school biology, I seem to remember respiration being one of those things that contribute to staying alive, along with getting enough sleep and eating Flintstone’s vitamins. Apparently, breathing is one of the best ways to get oxygen into your body and carbon dioxide out. Who knew?

Please remember to breathe!

I know how ridiculous that injunction is. Thanks to our autonomic nervous system, we don’t need reminders to breathe. We breathe because we are alive. We are alive because we breathe. Just as we don’t will our hearts to beat or our bodies’ temperature to remain in a normal range, we don’t need to tell ourselves to breathe.

It’s a stretch, but I am nothing if not flexible regarding knowledge, but by the end of my drinking, I had developed autonomic instruction to consume alcohol. Not once did I need to tell myself, “Please remember to drink.” That was a given on a daily basis. Alcohol had become as necessary for life, or at least the life I was living, as oxygen or water. When I went grocery shopping, I never put booze down on the list. Honestly, booze was the reason I went into stores—the box of cereal, block of cheese or package of crackers were just ballast. I didn’t want any nosy cashiers surmising my life if the only thing in my basket was a 30-rack of beer or a box of wine.

Interestingly, when I was about a year sober I got a job working with adults with developmental disabilities. A couple of times a month, I’d “coach” one of the guys who worked as a bagger at Hannafords. Since the job primarily consisted of making sure Tony didn’t wander off or make too many comments to shoppers, I had a lot of free time. I started noting the items being put on the belt and after about 20 minutes, I was hit in the head with a fact I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t been my own data gatherer: most shoppers, the vast majority, even, weren’t buying large quantities of alcohol. Oh, every fifth person would have a small bottle of white wine, presumably to go with the boneless chicken breast in the same order. About as often, someone would have a six-pack of Sam Adams along with all their groceries. I was shocked beyond reason, at least my alcoholic reason: normal people didn’t buy booze the way I had. They bought it like normal people.

Please remember to practice your recovery.

While I never needed to be reminded to drink, I still need to remind myself that my recovery needs care and attention. Every Wednesday, I go to a recovery meeting and every Wednesday my mind comes up with some reason I don’t need to attend. Luckily, while I have no autonomic recovery system, I do have enough memory and experience with what happens to people like me when we don’t put our recovery first.

Please remember to practice your recovery!

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

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