Getting Lost

“How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you? […] That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.” –Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Some time ago, within this past year, I was asked to lead an A.A. meeting. I’ve led several before, and after, but at the time I was deep in reading this book by Rebecca Solnit, and wanted to focus on something more immediate and personal with the meeting than whatever reference to The Big Book I could muster. I used A.A. literature as a platform, but jumped off at some point in making reference to this quotation, using it to relate to where I was at at the time.

I wasn’t “lost” in the sense that I was losing myself to addiction, and wasn’t sure about how to proceed in recovery, but I was lost in that I had never been to where I was before. I was in new territory, exploring ground which was completely foreign to me. I was in the unknown place of being healthy, productive, and stable, and not being sure of what to do with any of that. Lost in recovery.

Several people came up to me after the meeting, consoling me as if I had just told them I was suicidal. I guess I didn’t do a good enough job in explaining what it was I was trying to communicate.

There’s a different feeling to that quote today, though, as what sits with me is a recognition of how much now calls to go back to the safety of the harbor, rather than once again push off into the sea of the unknown. It calls to me, that “safety,” the allure of the known entity, no matter how little I actually want that sort of “stillness” in my life. It’s a safety I can do without. But how do “you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” You let go. Damn, there’s a lot of resistance to that some days.

Garden State [2004]

I'm trying to sort out what sort of strange influence "Garden State" has had on me, and who's to say for certain, but having just finished watching it for the first time in at least a decade I'm not liking what I'm feeling.

"For the first time let's just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are." Lines like that, spoken from Zach Braff's character "Andrew" to his father, had an impact on me when the movie was released. They had to. I was in my early twenties then. They're presented dramatically, and **sound** so empathetic and insightful.

For good or bad, movies have the potential to teach us things about life and ourselves, and when watching "Garden State" as twenty year old it resonated because it reinforced a way of feeling that felt "right" to me. It's only in hindsight that I'm seeing what that feeling was.

The entire movie is shot from Andrew's perspective, and from that perspective, no one exists when Andrew isn't present. It's his decision to leave Portman's "Sam" at the airport, only to return to her, that makes her feelings about him real. It's his single action that somehow confirms everything she's been through with him to that point. Hell, the last scene in the airport there really aren't any other people, save for one person walking off in the distance. The rest of the world is on pause because it doesn't involve him. While it wasn't his decision to be sent away from his family and friends as a child, one he was, they stopped existing to him as people.

Again, who's to say, and maybe there's no connection at all here, but that sure sounds like my twenties.

House of 1000 Corpses [2003]

The backwoods psychopath aesthetic of "House of 1000 Corpses" isn't without its charms, but it's improved upon with several of Rob Zombie's subsequent movies. The visuals and plot become more extreme with each release, as well. It has its moments, but this movie feels like a first film from someone who didn't seem to anticipate making a second, packing in as much as possible, leaving the final cut just shy of feeling entirely incongruous.

Enter the Dragon [1973]

"Enter the Dragon" exists in a strange place for me, with barely-there thoughts of watching the VHS as a kid lingering in my memory, while my interest in the movie now is driven primarily by a much more recent reintroduction to Bruce Lee's philosophy. What's striking this time around, having not seen "Enter the Dragon" in (probably close to) two decades, is the general bore of the plot. No matter how influential they may be, the action scenes feel lethargic compared to the hyper-aggression of modern cinema. This isn't a "bad" thing, but without a mindful eye for the details of his craft, the unhurried pacing does tend to obscure Lee's scenes. Considering he's the lone reason to watch this movie now, therein lies a problem.

Friday After Next [2002]

A friend in college worked at a video store one summer and came back to campus with a bunch of posters which we plastered the walls with. He gave me the poster for "Friday After Next," and we connected over quotes from the first movie in the series. I still have fond memories of that poster. The movie? Not so much. And you know this, maaan.

Next Friday [2000]

Just as Chris Tucker's sidekick character "Smokey" kept "Friday" afloat, Mike Epps was the highlight of "Next Friday," playing the supporting role of "Day-Day." I'm slightly embarrassed by how many lines from the movie I still remembered, but it holds up as far weaker than the original.

Friday [1995]

It's easy to forget how fantastic Chris Tucker is in "Friday" — his energy is phenomenal, I love John Witherspoon, Bernie Mac is great for the split-second he's actually in the movie, and Ice Cube isn't half bad, either. I recall "Friday" to be more of a comedy, but what helps it stand apart is its heart. I never anticipated that being the lasting sentiment I'd take away from the movie. I'm not even fully sure what contributes to it, given the ridiculous context of how "Friday" ends. (Further thoughts.)

Inglourious Basterds [2009]

I seem to recall seeing this movie when it premiered in theaters, but the Blu-ray transfer is far more beautiful than anything I remember. I've seen it at least once or twice since then, but the brutality of Inglourious Basterds has failed to stick with my memory of the movie. Even compared to my memories of the more graphic scenes from Kill Bill or The Hateful Eight, this movie outdoes the best of 'em. The characters in Quentin Tarantino's work do tend to be caricatures, and that holds true here as well, but they're just so damn good.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure [1989]

There are so many angles to how this movie has influenced me over my lifetime. We had a taped VHS copy of it from the time I was in early grade school, and I’m pretty sure it inspired my appreciation for time travel (I love movies like “Primer” and “Timecrimes”), Van Halen, and maybe even George Carlin. (Few have had as big an impact on my philosophical leanings as that man.)

That said, there are some sketchy aspects of the movie which leave me questioning why I was allowed to watch it on repeat as a kid growing up, like Bill & Ted’s casual homophobia, Bill’s dad being a bit of a pervert, and “69, dudes.”

Elsewhere, there are plenty of funny moments I could never have picked up on as a kid, which I appreciate now, like when Bill turns down Sigmund Freud’s offer for for psychoanalysis, saying no thanks, “just got a minor Oedipal complex.” "Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure" is just one of those movies that I'll love forever.

Blades of Glory [2007]

I tend to forget about "Blades of Glory" when considering my favorite Will Ferrell movies, but it is a really funny movie. It's got plenty of solid comedic moments throughout, though it just seems to lack the quotable one-liners on par with "Step Brothers" or "Anchorman." This isn't to downplay the work of Jon Heder (who takes up his best role outside of "Napoleon Dynamite" here), Will Arnett, or Amy Poehler - who are all great, as well.

They Came Together [2014]

"They Came Together" follows the same wry sense of humor from director David Wain's comedy troupe Stella, with Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black - which I generally love. It bears the same awkward appeal as "Wet Hot American Summer," which Wain also wrote and directed, this time crassly satirizing romantic comedies by mocking cliches and outing routine plot points.

Enter the Void [2009]

To this point in my life I've never experienced anything like "Enter the Void." I first viewed it several years ago, on my laptop... it's an entirely different experience on a larger screen. The message has yet to sink in, and the plot is the opposite of linear, but the themes blended consistently and I'm excited to learn more about whatever the fuck it was I just watched. The director's cut is a marathon, coming in at nearly three hours, but it's only the lightweight in me that wants to criticize over a creatively indulgent run time. "Enter the Void" is an original. There's nothing like it. More thoughts here.

Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood [1996]

There's one hilarious scene in "Don't Be a Menace" that still cracks me up, where the Crazy Legs character (who's wheelchair-bound, with tiny deformed legs) daydreams about dancing on stage to MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This," marionette-style. Being a satire of the times, "Don't Be a Menace" is full of references that lock it into a very distinct time period, but unfortunately the dated references get no better than that. Even looking back through a lens of nostalgia finds it translating as flat.

This Is the End [2013]

Danny McBride is everything in "This Is the End." The first apocalyptic sequence makes me want to hate everything that is this movie, but somehow painting the most enjoyable guy of the lot as the least likable works: His lines are hilarious and all add a sharper element to some of the more two dimensional performances (Seth Rogan's, Jay Baruchel's). With "Bridesmaids" still fresh in my mind, having just recently re-watched it, there's an interesting relationship between time and memory going on between these two comedies: I remember "Bridesmaids" to be far funnier than it was this time around, a few years removed from that original viewing, while "This Is the End" plays as the opposite... I don't remember taking much away from it the first time around when I saw it in the theater, while now it felt full of laugh-out-loud dialog, and even had a few points worth rewinding to watch a second time. The plot is worthless, of course, but "This Is the End" succeeds as a gag-reel topped with absurd visuals and ceaselessly novel cameos.

Drive [2011]

The veneer as substance aesthetic to "Drive" is scribbled about critically as its main drawback, but that's what I most enjoy about it. Enjoy is unsettling here, now that I think about that scene where Ryan Gosling's character stomps the face off a hitman, but enjoy is still the word I'm sticking with. Online criticism seems to challenge the director's — and in some instances Gosling's — professional and artistic intent, but none of that really matters to me. The final product does, and in "Drive," respect is shown as cold between its characters, affection is always distant, and the colors always soft. Emotions are surface level, molded around a hollow plot, and that's what strikes deepest: the emptiness of it all. Therein lies what I take away as the point.

Imperfection in Recovery

“Never in our lives, long before we had a drink, were we able to settle for status quo. Nothing that was normal ever merited our attention for more than a split second. If it wasn’t better than normal, we didn’t like it. And that’s before we ever had a drink. So, we had better jolly well grasp and develop, because a happy sobriety will turn into a drunk unless we develop.” —Chuck C., A New Pair of Glasses
I know that voice. The one that says it’s never enough. Only, it’s not a voice — it’s a hum. It’s a feeling. It’s a reverberation that rings heavier with each echo. It is words, it is tension, it is desire. And there’s a gravity to it. But that gravity’s conditional: It gains strength only when leaned in to.

I can lean in — believing the status quo isn’t worth settling for, the moment is flawed, the results aren’t coming fast enough, the potential for change is limited — and by feeding that voice of what it wants, that gravity gains in force. That feeling becomes an obsession. The options for escape become limited. The discomfort, if I can call it that, becomes something that needs to be turned off by something outside of myself.

Or I can lean out — believing the current state of affairs isn’t that bad, the results are coming as fast as they can, the potential for change is evolving — and by starving that voice of what it wants, that gravity loses force. That feeling of obsession drifts. The options for escape become vast. The discomfort, if you can call it that, becomes absorbed by something greater than myself.

It used to be that if the voice got too loud and the moment got too heavy, the best way to turn it off was to drink. To drink heavily. To drink when I woke up, and continue drinking until I was no longer awake. Because drinking to a point of oblivion made me feel better than normal in both times of success and times of failure alike. It made me feel above average even while life was anything but. But that doesn’t happen now. And that hasn’t happened for a long time. And it all began when a friend helped me lean out when I couldn’t do so by myself. Then, with the help of more friends, I was able to lean harder. I didn’t think leaning out like this was possible, or that I’d even ever want to. But here we are.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still know what that voice sounds like. I know, because that voice continues to exist within me. The voice that says nothing is ever enough. That’s the insidious nature of this thing: It always seems like it’s gone forever… until it isn’t.

Sometimes I lean in. When I do, it isn’t for long, because a puzzling side effect of knowing better seems to be doing better. And recovery is teaching me the knowing better part. It’s teaching me to take positive action when I need to inspire positive thoughts, and rely on others when I feel like I should go it alone. And in doing so, the occasions which prompt me to feel like I can do nothing else but lean in seem to come at far more infrequent intervals than they used to. But they still happen. Because I’m not perfect. I’m human. And my recovery is a human recovery. The wonderful thing is, I’m starting to learn that means it’s enough.

Uncle Buck [1989]

When I was a freshman in college I was held up in a dorm room with a football player from Texas who brought with him a large trunk full of VHS tapes. This has nothing to do with "Uncle Buck," John Candy, or anything movie-related, but he constantly used Nair on his chest and body - the smell still lingers in my memory. Bringing us back on track, all throughout that first year he insisted on falling asleep while watching a movie, which usually landed on either "Forrest Gump" or "Uncle Buck." At least he gave me that much: An appreciation of John Candy to accompany the ungodly scent of burning man hair. The first half of this movie has stuck with me as one of my favorites, and between Candy and Macaulay Culkin's characters, the one-liners are endless gold. "Uncle Buck" has since become a bedtime go-to for me, though it still holds up even when I'm not halfway asleep.

Gone in Sixty Seconds [2000]

Thinking back, I'm fairly sure I saw "Gone in 60 Seconds" in the theater, and I'm also fairly sure I spent an ungodly amount of money on buying the DVD when it first came out. I have a soft spot in my heart for it because of that, but the movie itself doesn't really hold up almost two decades later. The whole time watching it I was thinking: I should really be caring about Nic Cage by now, or whether his crew gets away with this great car theft caper, or whether or not Giovanni Ribisi's character dies - but at no point did any of that ever seem to matter. I remember "Gone in 60 Seconds" being more fun, but I also remember Angelina Jolie's faux dreadlocks to be far sexier. Bad electronica, bad hair, nice cars: That's the movie in a nutshell.

Courage and Self-Kindness

“Knowledge is important, but only if we’re being kind and gentle with ourselves as we work to discover who we are.” —BrenĂ© Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
While an undertaking the likes of making a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” brings with it a tremendous potential for self-knowledge, participating in such a thorough appraisal also tends to encourage an influx of guilt and self-loathing. And if reflecting on past misconducts is proven to produce any consistent feeling in those who venture such a path, that feeling is shame.

This isn’t specific to a single step, but so much of working through A.A.’s framework has to deal with developing a sense of forgiveness of oneself. If I could have truly absorbed the ways of kindness and self-love by reading about them on my own, those lessons would have sunken in years ago. But such is the case that it took working with another person to begin the process of learning how to be gentle and kind to myself.

Working with a sponsor in this way helped me put a lifetime of resentments and fears aside long enough to see that underneath them all was a person who was just trying to do their best. The principle behind Step Four is recognized as courage for numerous reasons, but one that sticks out to me deals with the courage it takes to open your heart to self-forgiveness. That takes courage because once the seal on self-kindness has been cracked, it’s hard not to start seeing the world through a similar lens. And for anyone who has gotten used to the cold and lonely spiral of addiction, letting go of self-hatred can be truly terrifying.

Bridesmaids [2011]

The outrageousness of "Bridesmaids" feels a little dull a few years removed from the movie's original release. The shining star of the whole production remains Kristen Wiig's performance, even amid a strong ensemble cast. The catch is that the charm of her screen presence stands out more than the romantic storyline or any of the jokes.

Police Academy [1984]

At some point when I was a kid my family had taped a VHS copy of Police Academy off the TV, and I cannot tell you how many times I watched it. I loved it so much. (What that tells you about the maturity level of many of the jokes should be obvious.) But the thing was, the version I knew was an approved for TV edit...

I think the first time I watched the original cut was in college and my friends and I couldn't believe some of the more racist and homophobic lines that were used to build tension between the characters. It's so interesting watching something like this movie as social norms continue to change. I don't know where to go with that other than to just mention how some of this movie provokes feelings now that I could have never understood had I been confronted by them the first time I'd seen the movie when i was a kid.

So much of Police Academy still hits for me though - the individual characters are so fully unique and many of the jokes that hit me one way when I was younger land with a completely different (yet still funny) angle now. The Blue Oyster scene was amusing then because of the novelty of seeing two men dancing in a silly way, but now...

"Well, men, what took place in there?"

"Dancing, sir. Mostly dancing."

It still has its charms.

Out Cold [2001]

There's a scene where Zach Galifianakis' character passes out and his friends place him in the driver's seat of a car, then (as the roads are covered in ice) they spin the car, get in, and start screaming as if Zach had passed out while driving them home. Zach wakes up and frantically trying to make sense of what's happening while he cranks the steering wheel, trying to regain control of the car. The first time I saw that scene it killed me - I couldn't stop laughing. It's still funny now.

There's nothing incredible about "Out Cold" - I mean, it's a Millennium-era snowboarding comedy ripe with T&A jokes and adolescent humor. But so many of the jokes land and do so with (at least a little bit of) charm... Take, for instance, this exchange - which occurs a few days after the bartender character, Lance, reluctantly comes out:

Lance: Hey! Hot sluts with tits. Rick: Lance, you don't need to do that anymore, remember? Lance: Oh yeah. Sorry. Old habits die hard. Oh what the hell - I LOVE MEN. Who wants me? Rick: Well you don't need to do that either...

It's stupid, but not mean spirited, and the jokes don't linger - they're allowed to just blow by, and if you aren't paying much attention it's easy to miss some of the gems. Late in the movie, David Koechner's drunken tall-tales-telling mountain man patriarch character is helping with the plan to "save the mountain" and shouts from a distance, "Rick! I'm your father!" Rick, just keeps on with his business, noting "OK" before things move to the next scene. I love it.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back [2001]

My assumption was that this would be the last time I'd watch this movie - the first time was when it was released in 2001, and I probably haven't seen it in a decade or so. I picked it up in a lot of DVDs off eBay a few months ago and figured I'd be trading it in after bearing with the first few minutes of self-referential Kevin Smith movie universe nods. Then again, that's what drew me to it when it was released - I got the references then, and the whole premise of the movie is self-reference on a level of "I can't believe this is actually a thing." It was crazy when it was released, and the version of me who was in his late-teens at that point felt like he was in on the joke.

Most of those jokes fall flat now (especially the "we're being homophobic, but we totally get that we're being homophobic so it can't actually be homophobic" stuff), but the humor does find its moments, largely with Chris Rock and Will Ferrell's parts. As a whole, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back comes off as a movie written by adults for teenager versions of themselves. Joey Lawrence Adams' line in the closing scene bookends most of what contributes to that feeling, saying, "That was just another paean to male adolescence and its refusal to grow up."

Resisting Gravity

“Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. […] What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well.” —Alcoholics Anonymous
It seems like such a laughable concept, resisting gravity. But how many time a day do I try to do just that? The laws of the universe aren’t as malleable as my place in it, yet from time to time I tend to get that confused.

How Life Should Be

“Egocentricity is having a better idea about how this moment should be. […] Ego talks in terms of ‘This is right… This is wrong… I have to do this… A person must…” — phrases like that. When we are listening to egocentricity we have the feeling that we know beyond doubt how we should be operating and how life should be.” —Cheri Huber, That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek
A therapist once told me that if we start ‘should’-ing everywhere, eventually we’ll should all over ourselves.

Every single day at some point in time should returns, steadfast with its reminder of the way things aren’t. The thing is, how life should be will never compare to how life is because should is a trap. And as long as the voice of should is fed, now will never compare to what could be, friends will never be friendly enough, work will always be too much work, and I will never hold a candle to what “living up to my potential” might look like. But should doesn’t exist anywhere but in the mind. Whatever this is though, right here and now, actually does. And that’s OK, even though should would never agree to as much. Should is a feeling of scarcity, self-doubt, and fear. Should measures the value of life relative only to my place in it. Should isn’t aspirational and should certainly isn’t certainly constructive. Should is only a saboteur.

Restoration vs. Renovation

I heard someone comment on an interesting distinction last night, noting the difference between a renovation and a restoration. The latter is a reclamation of a past state, a return to its former self, and a way to make new again, while a renovation is really just the process of fixing something up. In a renovation, we're probably not going to outfit the project with top of the line materials, or ensure that the work is always done with precision and care — the goal is to simply get things looking better. With a restoration though, we're going deep. We're stripping away years of build-up and refining the foundation, rejuvenating it, and bringing what once was back to life.

In looking back, for a very long time I've gone about healing by way of renovation. Where things were broken, surface-level repairs were made in my life that afforded the appearance of improvement. The goal was to look passable to the outside world. The aim now is a deeper transformation, a reinstatement of self. A thorough restoration. Recovery.

Addiction Creates Suffering

"Suffering is the stress created by craving for more. Suffering is never having enough to feel satisfied. [...] Suffering is the thought that I cannot be happy until I get... Suffering is the anguish and misery of being addicted." —Noah Levine, Refuge Recovery
With each return to addictive behavior there's an implicit denial of self acceptance, which boils down to some type of self-rejection. It's hard to think that the habits that lead us to those places weren't always there. Things didn't always work like this, and we didn't always flail, reaching for something external to satisfy some underlying internal feeling of incompleteness. In part, that's what recovery is: A reclamation of what once was — that feeling of being whole which has been drowned out by a constant craving for more.

Numb the Good, Numb the Bad, Numb the Ugly

"We don't want to feel the hurt anymore. And so we numb it. And we numb it with everything you can imagine. But what happens when you numb the hurt and you numb the grief, is you numb the joy and you numb the light. You cannot selectively numb affect." —BrenĂ© Brown, Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice
One of the best parts of an addiction-riddled mind and body sobering up is that, in their return to health — their recovery, their ability to feel feelings is restored. One of the scariest and most painful parts of an addiction-riddled mind and body sobering comes in the reality of what it feels like to actually feel those feelings.

The Elephant and Being

"Becoming becomes a denial of being." —Bruce Lee
A few weeks back on a trip to New York, I was explaining my elephant tattoo to a new friend. It's not always easy to articulate ideas that have rattled around in your head for a long time, and admittedly I probably did a poor job at explaining the aim of it. For clarity's sake, the idea here is based off a passage from Leo Babauta's The Power of Less,
“Choosing the essential is the key to simplifying — you have to choose the essential before you simplify, or you’re just cutting things out without ensuring that you’re keeping important things. 
How do you know what’s essential? That’s the key question. Once you know that, the rest is easy. 
Once you know what’s essential, you can reduce your projects, your tasks, your stream of incoming information, your commitments, your clutter. You just have to eliminate everything that’s not essential. 
It’s like the old joke: how do you carve a statue of an elephant? Just chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant. Well, first you have to know what an elephant looks like.”
Several years ago when I first read that, it coincided with a time in my life where I was ripe for leaving things behind. I had moved on from my job, said goodbye to friends, and was heading back to Canada to start fresh in a return to my hometown. What I was really doing, though, was bailing on my work, abandoning friends, and fleeing a city with the hope that old habits wouldn't migrate with me to new surroundings. Either way, I was "cutting things out" in the name of essentialism, while entirely missing the point of what that's all about.

In explaining the story of how this translates to a tattoo, I might have focused too much on the idea that there was some sense of further action required (more chipping away yet to be accomplished) before that sense who I was could really be felt. Rightly so, the new friend challenged it and asked why I couldn't just be? Why was there such a drive to eliminate and refine in an attempt to discover what's already present?

I remember the feeling in that moment. Something clenched up in me because I felt like I was wrong: Why hadn't I thought of that in the eight years I've been considering getting this tattoo?!?! I felt embarrassed and tried to back-peddle to an explanation of what I meant, but no one cared as much as I did and discussion rightly moved forward.
"The problem with the Western approach is that it attempts to explain life, as opposed to revealing how to experience it. [...] If the goal of dancing were to reach a certain spot on the floor, then obviously the fastest dancer would be the best. The point of dancing is the dance itself. And so it is with life." —The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee
Maybe what's impacted me most, since then, about that feeling is the realization of how true that idea is: I really don't spend enough time be-ing.

To me, the elephant has come to represent the process of becoming. The most difficult part in explaining that to someone who hasn't struggled with addiction, though, is communicating just how strong the desire is to shed its heavy burden. To change, really. The elephant signifies growth, both the nurturing and development of what I truly want out of life, as well as the stripping away or elimination of that which isn't. But in all of that constant "doing," what might be most essential of all here is being present and aware while the shape of that statue continues to find its form.

Believed to Be Seen

Believed to Be Seen is a writing project I published in February of 2013, when I was twenty-nine. At that time, I surmised its aim to be that of documenting “my evolving experience with the American addiction treatment industry, and how I finally found my way out of its maze.” The obvious angst of that statement might speak to where I was at in my own recovery at the time: I was frustrated; I was searching for an identity; I was rejecting my past; and I was rejecting “the system.” In essence, I used it as a means of researching my way sober.

When writing of my experience, at that time, the extent of my exposure with Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Steps was reading The Big Book and reaching the "second step" before parting ways with my short lived “sponsor.” I still hold many of the positions explained in Believed to Be Seen (I still struggle with the “disease concept of alcoholism,” self-admission of being an “alcoholic,” and a relationship with a “higher power,” just to name a few) but have now “worked” the steps all the way through. This time I did so with a new sponsor, who has since become like a brother to me. I've also paid that service forward by walking someone else through the Twelve Steps as they were taught to me. I recognized, and wrote of, the value of working with others to get sober at the time of writing the book, but still neglected to take advantage of that, myself. In doing so I missed out on some of the potential for real connection which lies at the heart of A.A.’s “Program.”

Certainly, after its release, I became confused about what the unforeseen consequences might be related to sharing “my story” online in that way. I was fearful about whether it would show up on an employer’s background check, or what others might think of me if it showed up in a Google search for my name. So I deleted it and removed it (where I could) from the online outlets where it'd been published. Around that same time, though largely unrelated to that decision, came a move to drink again. I was sober for nearly two years at that point in time and what followed was a year of mayhem which nearly led to my end.

In hindsight, my intention behind the book feels flawed. I used it as a means of defending why it was I thought I didn’t need anyone’s help getting sober rather than what it could have been: An outreached hand extended to others who also need help. I regret that decision, but recognize that's what I needed to do at the time to get where I'm at. And in this space I hope there's value in sharing it now. I wrote my way into sobriety only follow that up by nearly drinking myself to death. Looking back, I feel like that happened because I tried to recover on my own. I couldn’t. I still can't. And if anyone who reads this is struggling with that same challenge, please reach out.

Prologue: Letting Go
Chapter One: Surrender
Chapter Two: One Nation Under the Influence
Chapter Three: Untreatable
Chapter Four: A Crisis of Identity
Chapter Five: All or Nothing
Chapter Six: Reconsidering A.A.
Chapter Seven: Adaptation
Chapter Eight: Clarity