Swimming Together, Not Drowning Alone

I really like Christmas, but I know not everybody does. One group that Christmas can attack with a vengeance is people who are early (for this, let’s say 1 day to 2 years) in their recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Another group in danger is folks who are solidly recovered and at an intermediate point, say 2-10 years. A final risk group is those people with 10 or more years of recovery. In short, Christmas/New Year can be a hell of a hard time for anyone who’s discovered the joys of use and the sorrow of addiction. Non-addicts may have a hard time understanding why this is so, so let me talk from my own experience.

Feelings are really scary things for all of us. They come out of the blue and fill us with positive or negative juice, fill us or empty us of ourselves. I learned a long time ago how to control this random influx of emotions—I drugged and drank. When I was afraid feelings might be on the horizon, I reached for beer, wine, whiskey or, later, mouthwash, and experienced true ease and comfort once I got three drinks in me. This feeling I was on top of the world, six feet tall and bulletproof, might only last for 20 minutes or 20 seconds, but it overrode the complexity of natural emotions. Once that initial rush was over, as long as life was going as it should, I would have enough additional alcohol in my system to achieve numbness. It was an easy connect-the-dots: imminent feelings connects to drink connects to euphoria connects to more drink connects to numb, a pattern I followed for years. Even at the end of my drinking, homeless and hopeless, I still felt that surge when I got the right amount of stolen generic mouthwash in me.

When I got sober, I had to figure out ways to manage this whole process without the drinking steps. For non-alcoholics, that’s part of growing up, part of learning how to be an adult. For me, at 47, that seemed insurmountable at times. Luckily, as soon as I’d detoxed off alcohol I was introduced to a program of sobriety that remains central to my life. Through friendships with other recovering drunks, a strong relationship with a man I respected and lots and lots and lots of listening at meetings, I learned how to do slowly what booze had enabled me to do immediately, only now I was experiencing feelings instead of painting over them.

Which brings us to Christmas and New Year’s, a one-two punch filled with feelings. To a drunk, the fear of feelings doesn’t differentiate between joy and terror. When I see a bear in the woods, I don’t try to identify whether it’s black or brown, male or female, well-fed or famished—I flee. Same with feelings. The fear I hadn’t bought enough or the right Christmas presents? Drink. The painful nostalgia of childhood Christmases? Drink. The joy of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story”? Drink. The upcoming party to celebrate the New Year? Drink. The sense my life wasn’t adding up to anything, as evidenced by the nothing I’d accomplished looking back? Drink. The excitement of waiting for midnight? Drink. Every oncoming feeling could be avoided by drink—until I got sober. Then, like a boy raised in a bubble and released, I was faced with viral emotions and an immune system that had no way to process them. It took a few years for the holiday season to lose its ability to bat my sober gyroscope around, for me to learn how to deal with each second as it came and as it went. Luckily, for those years—and ever since—I had the emotional support of an Alcothon—first in Nashua, then in Manchester.

Alcothons, the things that helped me save my sobriety, are 24-hour meetings for drunks in recovery. Typically, they run from 7 pm Christmas Eve to the same time Christmas night—the prime hours for alcoholics who are just keeping their noses above the waves to whisper a quiet (or loud) “F” it—and take a drink. Instead of giving in to that self-destructive drink, though, the recovering drunk can be surrounded  by others who face the same struggle, and we swim together instead of drowning alone.

Between Tide and Traffic:  Alcoholics of My Type

My problem has never been alcohol. If alcohol had been the problem, I wouldn’t have needed to recover.  I would have just quit drinking and my problem would have been put on the shelf.  There it could stay forever—never again would it need to trouble me as long as I didn’t drink.

My problem was not alcohol.  My problem was that my only solution to life was alcohol.  It may have been a solution that carried lots of future complications, but alcohol was the one surefire way I knew to feel significantly better about life.

I know algebra drives some people crazy, but let me try to illustrate this

If, ALCOHOL = My Problem, then when I remove the left side of the equation (ALCOHOL), then the right is balanced by removing My Problem.

If, though, ALCOHOL = My Solution to Life, then removing alcohol simply leaves me adrift, alone and answerless.

Let me give two concrete examples of what I mean, each of which took place long before I got sober.  In 1978, in the Army in Germany, I was using a lot of alcohol, primarily powdered alcohol although a fair amount of liquid as well.  The powdered alcohol that brought me down for a 10-count was heroin.  I’ll detail elsewhere this time in my life, but let me say I was lucky enough to have a commanding officer whom I could go to and explain I was addicted to dope and ask for help.  Instead of starting discharge proceedings against me, Captain Baines referred me to an intensive 28-day rehab program at Landstuhl Army Hospital.  Despite the program’s having no intellectual, spiritual or theoretical center—it used a widely-discredited treatment called Scream Therapy—it helped me stop using drugs.  (Once I was out, I simply transitioned to an all-liquid alcohol regimen, but that’s another story.)  My only problem during the 28 days was they wouldn’t let me use any of my solutions to life.  Of course, after four or five days I was safely detoxed off my physical addiction to heroin, but that didn’t stop my need for a solution.  Little by slowly, like a man in an airproof room recognizing he’s running out of oxygen, I began to lose my mind.  By Day 26, without having a clue this might be related to my need for something, anything to help me get out of myself, I slashed my wrists in the bathroom so I could watch the blood pool on the floor.  Of course, I was discovered, sent to the psych ward and observed there for a week before being allowed to return to rehab and graduate.

In 1986, I was a seminary student at a conservative graduate school, a married Baptist minister, who couldn’t let people know I drank at all.  It hadn’t been so bad when I’d lived 45 minutes away from the church—I could still have a few beers when I felt like it (or get drunk and pass out on Christmas Day on my in-law’s couch).  My wife at the time and I, though, moved to be closer to our church, and once again I became the man using up oxygen.  Within a couple months, I had invented a new sport—throwing myself face-first down flights of stairs—started feeling I was crazy and cutting my wrists.  I ended up in another psychiatric hospital—where I was treated for depression but not asked in any detail about my drinking. I managed to complete my stay in that psychiatric hospital, get a divorce, leave the church and begin drinking again—like a gentleman.

Again, if my problem had been alcohol, I wouldn’t have needed recovery.  I would simply stop drinking, my problems would dry up and I’d go about my business.  My challenge was that drinking worked in an immediate way—with alcohol, my life might be unmanageable, but without it, my life was in danger.  My experience taught me avoiding alcohol led to suicide.  Like a man living on credit cards, I might know in one part of my brain that this couldn’t continue, while the rest of my being cried out not to stop.  I got very good at ignoring that first part of my brain and continued drinking for another 20 years, sometimes more, sometimes less, but with a steady upward climb.  By the end of my drinking, I was a man on the Golden Gate bridge, trying to decide whether to jump left into the bay or right into the oncoming traffic.

I’m not a God guy today—whether there is a Big Joker in the Sky or the universe is an unsigned masterpiece makes little difference to me—but I know something happened to me at the jumping-off point, so that I sought help instead of destruction.  Instead of drowning or jumping into traffic, I got off the bridge.

And so can you.

This very moment, you may be reading this with the shock of recognition, of identification with my predicament.  It may be you have grown used to headaches in the morning, an ever-increasing sense of dread deep in the gut, the knowledge you shouldn’t go on but you CAN’T STOP NOW.  It may be you’re contemplating suicide, homicide, uxoricide (a real word—look it up), bossicide (a made-up word—sound it out) or any of a number of –cides out there.  It just be that alcohol and drugs have drained the color from your world, and these shades of gray offer no excitement at all.  Whether you think you might have a bit of a drinking problem, or you know you’re an alcoholic, you can get help—not just from professionals with letters after their name (although they are not to be scoffed at) but from other men and women who have been where you are, where I was, and where you don’t need to stay.

Go to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (NH Meetings:  https://nhaa.net/  National Meeting List:  https://www.aa.org/).  Call the AA help line (Go hee for local help lines by state https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-local-aa).  Hell, if you can’t bring yourself to do those things, write me (keithhoward@gmail.com) and I’ll find some way to connect you with help.

Or you can stay on the bridge, choosing between tide and traffic.

 

Alcohypochondria–You Saw It Here First!

I’m not sure how one goes about declaring the discovery of a new disease, but I imagine describing its symptoms comes near the front of the train.  The other night, sitting in a meeting, I mentally coined a word, alcohypochondria.  While playing with the pleasing sound of it, I realized I had hit the triple crown:  I’d created a word, discovered it was a disease and found I was Patient Zero.  Let me explain.

As an alcoholic with no desire to moderate or, silly boy, cease my drinking, I found I had quite a few physical maladies and ailments.  Had I been a rational scientist or doctor, I would have tried to determine the cause of these problems; as an alcoholic, I needed to protect my ability to drink.  In the battle between reason and booze, liquor always wins.  (Before you rationalists get too hurt, alcohol also triumphs over family, friendships, self-respect and food.  Drink trumps all.)  Given my need to avoid examining alcohol, I still needed to find reasons for these newish medical problems.  Let me give three or four examples, along with my diagnoses, to illustrate:

Late-Onset Hemophilia

My best adult friend had hemophilia, so I’m aware it’s a genetic disorder apparent from birth—until I needed to discover its late-onset (say to a man in his mid-40s) variety.  This was the only explanation for the amazing number of unexplained bruises all over my shins and forearms.  It wasn’t that I drunkenly walked into tables and chairs or lost my proprioceptic senses while flailing my arms about—I had an elegant, even royal disease that hadn’t started until I was middle aged.

Nocturnal Vertigo

During the day, I had no problem standing upright, but come the evening I found myself falling fairly often.  Not daily, but often enough that I needed an explanation.  I had acquired a particularly rare form of vertigo that manifested only after dark.  I’d be walking, say, from the kitchen to the living room, my 12th or 14th glass of wine in my hand and without warning I’d find myself falling down, sometimes hitting my head, making this disorder co-occurring with late-onset hemophilia.

Horizontal Cranial Blood Pooling

I have only the vaguest idea of how the human body works, which I suppose is a shame, but it does make it much easier to identify new disorders.  For the last 10 years of my drinking, I woke up every morning with a King-Hell pain in my head, like my brain pan had been scooped out and filled with a a diseased egg yolk.  My explanation for this was that when I lay down at night, blood was somehow pooling in my skull, causing pressure on my cranium leading to headaches.  As I stood, my blood flowed back to where it belonged and the headache was relieved.  Toward the end of my drinking, I discovered  swallowing blood thinner helped quicken this process, so I should reveal to the world that vodka, wine and even a large bottle of vanilla extract are excellent blood thinners.  I do hope this doesn’t put the manufacturers of Coumadin out of business.

Single-Symptom Diabetes

I’m adopted, and my biological mother had diabetes so severe she’d lost a foot before she was 20, so this was a natural.  I had inherited only part of her diabetes.  I didn’t have increased thirst or hunger, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in my extremities.  Instead, my single symptom was increased urination, particularly in the late evening.  Often, this urination would continue throughout the night even as I slept.  I accepted this condition with aplomb, glad I could live with wet sheets and wouldn’t need to have it treated.

I realize much more research needs to be done into Alcohypochondria, primarily by those in the field of psychology.  It’s not likely to appear in the DSM until DSM-VIII or IX, but I trust the process will begin today.  I also understand I’m not likely to be given credit for its discovery, but I do ask, Constant Reader, that you remember this:

I saw it in me first, and you saw it here first.

 

Three-Dimensional Russian Roulette

I used to be addicted to heroin.

I am addicted to heroin.

I will always be addicted to heroin.

Verbs melt and blend and lose their meaning when talking about addiction.  And so does life.  No matter that I have not been physically, medically, existentially addicted to heroin in decades.  Once you’ve found the way to eradicate pain, you never forget the path.

I was 18 when I first used heroin.  I was in the Army and had already been shooting speed for a while.  I loved the energy, the awareness, the LIFE crystal meth gave me.  I could do things never been done before (like spend a full night bending metal coat hangers by hand to make an ashtray holder of exactly the right height), write things that never been written before (like a 30-page taxonomy of hunger) and think thoughts never thought before (like “Every single person on this train wants to see me dead, my carcass torn apart by dogs in the streets”).  I’m not saying meth gave me good or worthwhile deeds, words or thoughts, but it sure gave me a lot of them.

My friend Chuck introduced me to heroin, as a break, a respite from speed.  From the minute I pushed that plunger and the dope started flowing through my veins, I felt I’d finally found home after living life as a castaway.  Even vomiting that first time felt so damn good, I knew I’d released all tension in my body, my brain, my soul, tension I’d not even known I had.  I knew comfort in every dimension.

Heroin was my opiate, but I know any opiate offers the user relief from the pain of life.  Once I’d gotten high on heroin, all other drugs seemed like they’d just been misguided milestones helping me to find THE ANSWER.  I’d never have guessed the answer consisted in giving up questioning, but now I knew how to make life fit me.  Just a shot and life wasn’t a loose garment; the shot let me know that going naked was perfectly okay.  Everything was perfectly okay.  I was perfectly okay.  I mean, I was playing three-dimensional Russian Roulette with my body, my brain and my soul, but that seemed like a slight risk to take when compared with the absence of pain.

If life required inner resources I’d never found or manufactured, heroin was a credit card that let me spend the way I wanted to spend.  Of course, like the charge card in the hands of a college sophomore, after the freedom, after the spree, after the peace comes the day of reckoning.  For the sophomore it’s the first unpayable monthly statement; for me, it was recognizing I no longer just wanted to get high, I needed to get high.  Soon, I wasn’t even getting high, really, I was just keeping away the empty terror of not being able to score, to use, to keep from jonesing.

My experiences are mine, I know, but I think most addicts recognize what I’m talking about—the script has been flipped and instead of chasing joy, you’re running from fear.  And when addiction is the hellhound on your heels, you blow right past a whole graveyard of “nevers.”

“I’ll never share needles.”

“I’ll never buy dope from someone I don’t know.”

“I’ll never steal to get dope.”

“I’ll never sell myself for drugs.”

You’re so busy running, you can’t even look back to see those nevers.  At some point, “I’ll never say never again” makes a hell of a lot more sense.

As I say, heroin was my opiate.  I’m an older (but not old) man, and didn’t have access to pharmaceutical painkillers, but I suspect today’s disappearing nevers are simply the same old poisoned wine in new wineskins.

I write this from a rest area in Lincoln, New Hampshire, just some thoughts that wouldn’t allow me to continue driving until I got them out.  In the last year, I’ve been to eight or nine celebrations of life, celebrations of people in their 20’s and 30’s.  The cause of death?  Overdose or suicide, and I know it would take an insightful philosopher-coroner to figure out which.  Close friends of mine, some of them, some just people I’d met in meetings of various kinds.  Each and every gathering, though, had that fog of regret at the brevity of the deceased’s life.  Too soon.  Too soon.

I don’t have the solution for an attraction to a powder/pill/liquid that takes away all pain—at least for a while.  I wish I did.  I do know I’ve escaped, or at least put enough distance between myself and those dogs that I can live a quiet, normal life without disappearing nevers.  Still, as far away as the baying of those dogs may be, every day I remember:

I used to be addicted to heroin.

I am addicted to heroin.

I will always be addicted to heroin.

 

 

I Wasn’t an Alcoholic–I Just Drank to Stay Sane

Before I got sober, I’d only gone without alcohol for more than seven days three times since I was 13.  The first two “extended dry times” led me to attempt suicide and end up in psychiatric hospitals—the third included talking mice, fireworks and long conversations with princesses.  Let me explain.

In March of 1978, I’d been stationed in Germany for a little more than a year and had quickly progressed from smoking hash to smoking opium to snorting speed to shooting speed to shooting heroin.  Through each of these promotions, alcohol was my loyal aide-de-camp, always at my side offering comfort and condolences.  By the brass ring of heroin, I recognized it was time to leave the drug merry-go-round, but dope has a funny habit, like gum on your shoe, of not wanting to be left behind.  I went to my company commander, Captain Baines, a nice enough man I’d not spent much time with, and asked for help. Luckily the military’s pendulum regarding drugs—the brig or rehab—was firmly in the “get this soldier some help” position, and I was sent to a rehab program at Landstuhl Army Hospital.  The SHARE program was a lot of things, but effective it wasn’t, at least for most people.  I was one of the lucky ones, and I have not used any opiate since 1978.  Unfortunately for me, alcohol was also verboten at SHARE.  I knew I had a minor heroin problem, but banning alcohol seemed harsh.  At the time, I didn’t recognize alcohol as an issue, but being separated from it seemed to make me go mad.  Literally.  After a couple weeks at SHARE, I decided I was in love with my married therapist and, while her husband was visiting, brutally slashed my wrists in a bathroom to demonstrate my love.  It didn’t work on any level, and I was put in the psychiatric unit for a couple weeks, tested and determined fit for duty.  I was discharged, returned to my home unit and dramatically increased my booze intake for the remainder of my tour.  No heroin, though, so I was a success.

Eight years later, I was a seminary student at a conservative graduate school and Baptist youth minister, two roles that make secret drinking a necessity.  I’d struck a balance, living 10 miles from seminary and 45 miles from my church, so I could still claim sanctuary and drink in the privacy of my own bedroom.  The church, though, thought it would be great to have me closer, and helped us find a place to live right in that town.  Now, I was stuck.  Baptists have a finely-tuned sense of smell when it comes to booze, fellow students at seminary were similarly attuned, and I’d made a vow never to actually drink in a car.  I had to stop altogether—except when I could get away for a couple days and get sloppy drunk.  Still, between church and seminary I couldn’t drink the way I needed to, much less the way I wanted to.  I quit . . . and slowly went insane.  After a few weeks, I had invented a new sport—stair surfing I called it—that involved throwing myself face-first down flights of stairs and body-surfing to the bottom.  Soon, I was back to slicing my wrists—not as horrifically as at Landstuhl, but still leaving wounds difficult to explain to fellow students or parishioners.  Finally, I was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital for two months, where I was diagnosed with depression—yuh think?—put on medication and discharged.  I resigned from the church and withdrew from seminary, found new work and returned to drinking like a gentleman.  A gentleman who drinks too much, but a gentleman nevertheless.

The third time, with talking mice and rolling pumpkins and princesses?  As a single dad, I took my three young daughters to Disneyworld, where we spent a week busy from dawn until near midnight.  I’d just been fired from a job for drinking—and behaviors related to drinking—and needed to convince myself I wasn’t an alcoholic.  Proving to yourself you’re not an alcoholic is one dead-sure sign you are, but I determined not drinking at Disneyworld while alone with three kids under the age of 13 for seven days was proof enough.  We returned home with me as a certified, in my mind, non-alcoholic, and I embarked on a six-month bender.  But at least I wasn’t an alcoholic.

Razors and Reciprocating Saws

Yesterday morning, I was in the shower at my daughters’ apartment, sort of/kind of using a razor to clean up the hair on my neck.  (While in the Tiny White Box, I take showers two or three times a week—I believe I’ve complained about their inconvenience—so being able to get in a hot shower in a warm room and actually relax instead of focusing on the shock of cold to come is heavenly.) (As another aside, my daughters have, between them, probably seven kinds of shampoo and five kinds of conditioner.  As you may recall, I’ve sworn off hair products, using just a slurry of water and baking soda on my hair—which I’d unfortunately left in the Jeep–, so being in this luxurious shower, with so many empty promises in brightly-colored bottles right at hand was much like being an alcoholic left alone in a bar with no video camera recording him.  Which, after much writing in circles, brings me back to the razor in my hand.)

As I moved the razor down my neck, and looked at all the shampoos in front of me, I thought of alcohol.  Not that I wanted to drink alcohol—or shampoo—just my relationship to alcohol.  Normal people can have a drink or two to take the edge off, to relax and transition from the day into the evening.  Holding the Harry’s razor (this is not an endorsement—they’re not a sponsor—but I do use Harry’s razors.  They send me new blades every few months, and now that I’ve given up daily shaving, I will be rich beyond my wildest dreams in industrial-grade, precision-engineered sharp, shiny metal), I removed the neck stubble, and realized normal folks use alcohol like that razor—they take just enough off of the days hair and then those folks put the razor away.  While alcohol may at some point have been a razor for me, I’d misused and abused it long enough that I had transformed it into a Sawzall, a reciprocating saw.  For those not familiar with reciprocating saws, here’s an apt description from handyman.com:  “Reciprocating saws make demolition easier and more fun. You can struggle and rip it out with a variety of crowbars and hacksaws or you can use a reciprocating saw and just cut it free. It’s the ultimate demolition tool. Windows, walls, plumbing, doors and more—just cut and toss.”

Exactly how I’d used alcohol for at least the last five years of my drinking.  Instead of trimming my neck and putting the razor away, I’d used it as “the ultimate demolition tool,” just cutting and tossing away my self-respect, my relationships, my financial security and any shred of hope.  Pretty damn effective, I’d say.

Standing in the shower, I was glad I could keep my hands and lips away from that reciprocating saw.  Shampoo is not booze, but I was also grateful I was able to keep my hands and hair away from any of the smells, textures and dreams inside those bottles.  I simply rinsed my hair with water and went on with my day.

 

 

There is No God but that Doesn’t Stop Him From Working

A dear friend wrote me last week, expressing her spiritual jealousy of my life in the Tiny White Box.  Cate, who is much wiser, more centered and much, much more in tune with the universe than I ever dream of becoming, talked of my bravery and purity and purposefulness.  All very kind eggs, but placed in the wrong basket here, I’m afraid.  Let me mea culpa for a while.

Some of you know, and most of you will be shocked to hear that I attended a conservative Protestant seminary, Gordon-Conwell, and was a minister in a Baptist church, focusing on teenagers.  During this time, I believed the Bible was inerrant, down to every last jot and tittle, and it contained answers to all of life’s questions.  During this time, also, I didn’t drink alcohol in public—although I was an embarrassing drunk when away from the congregation.  In other places, I’ve talked of my kind of alcoholism, but briefly, if alcohol had been my problem, then being a Baptist minister would have presented a solution:  stay away from alcohol and stay away from my problem.  Unfortunately, alcohol was never my problem; it was the solution I used for any other problem in my life.  Drastically reducing my alcohol consumption, instead of leading to a life in balance simply led to a buildup of dread, foreboding and suicidality.  By the end of my time in the church, I was throwing face-first down stairs—stair-surfing I called it—cutting my wrists and planning suicide.  My wife at the time, who had no idea what kind of madman she’d yoked herself to, drove me to a psychiatric hospital, where I was treated for depression and where I walked away from Christianity.  And where my wife walked away from me—as she should have.

Having sailed in fairly rarefied waters in the church, I still had some kind of spiritual hunger, not quite as gnawing now that I was able to drink like an alcoholic in training.  I read a few books on Buddhism, and started thinking of myself as a secret Buddhist.  For what it’s worth, my first and only CD, put out under the name Pus Theory and long-since disappeared down some Internet black hole, was called “The Sound of One Mind Snapping:  Spirituals from the Zen Baptist Tradition.”  (If anyone really wants me to, I’ll sing any song from the CD at weddings, bar mitzvahs or barn burning.)  This flirtation with Buddhism, given my unwillingness or inability to sit and meditate, ultimately became the equivalent of a boxed game of Monopoly, kept tucked away on a spare-bedroom shelf and pulled out on a rainy Sunday, only to be shoved back when the sun came out or I recognized this activity takes focus and dedication—and a desire to get all the green properties.  But I digress.

By 2007, when I was drinking mouthwash for the alcohol and back to contemplating suicide, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a group of former drunks who had found a way to treat their alcoholism.  Unfortunately, part of their system involved having a higher power (or Higher Power) or, honestly, God.  Because I am powerless over alcohol—the way I drink when I drink—and my life is unmanageable—it dissolves into chaos, resentment and suicidal dreams when I don’t drink, I needed a higher power, and I needed one pronto.  People in the rooms I was sitting in told me I could have the group be my higher power—their lives were certainly more manageable than mine—or a light bulb—it was brighter than I was—or a door knob.  You get the picture.

Having been a Baptist minister, with a belief in a transcendent God whose biggest concern in the universe was whether I was lusting or coveting, I couldn’t really worship any of these things.  Instead, for no earthly (but perhaps heavenly) reason, I thought back on my junior high algebra class, with its introduction to quadratic equations.  Without going into a review of quadratics (says the man who is likely incapable of such a review without sitting down for an afternoon and rediscovering them), let me just say the solution to the quadratic

 

X2 + 1 = 0

 

Requires the use of an imaginary number, represented as i, which stands for the square root of -1.  It’s imaginary—for negative numbers can’t have square roots—but once we’ve imagined it, it turns out i is indispensable in solving that problem.  From that insight on, my higher power became an imaginary number, represented by a lower case i, and referred to as the square root of negative one.  My higher power didn’t exist, couldn’t exist, yet once it was imagined, it became indispensable in solving my problem:  how to live without alcohol and how to live a semi-manageable life.

So Cate, who coincidentally, is an ordained minister as well as being a seeker after truth, beauty and justice, dreams of the life of contemplation, while I sit here in the Pittsburg sun (it’s a balmy 60 degrees right now), contemplating whether to get back to the memoir I really do need to make progress on, the essay collection that’s not likely to write itself, the thriller novel I’ve been enjoying creating or the political fiction that’s the most saleable potential property.  Or take a nap in the sun.

I don’t know what it says about my spiritual fitness, but I hope I have pleasant dreams.