Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Day Five (or is it day one?)

There is a story told in the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous about a man named Jim.  Jim was a young man who was in many ways a successful person.  He was also an alcoholic.  He'd made several trips to the asylum because of his drinking.  He'd also came into contact with the early AAers and had, at the time of this story, come to understand his problem and had managed to stay sober for quite some time.

But one day he'd had a difficult encounter with a co-worker and decided to hit the road to try to make some sales.  Along the way he stopped at a diner for some lunch, a place he'd frequented and where he thought he might also be able to make a contact and, perhaps, a sale.  He noted in his story that he'd had no thought about drinking -- he'd just ordered a sandwich and a glass of milk.  He'd eaten here several times during his period of sobriety.  Nothing wrong here at all.  Nothing to be worried about.

And then, he notes, "suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn't hurt me on a full stomach.  I ordered a whiskey and poured it into the milk.  I vaguely sensed I was not being any too smart, but felt reassured as I was taking the whiskey on a full stomach.  The experiment went so well that I ordered another whiskey and pured it into more milk.  That didn't seem to both me so I tried another."

As the Big Book notes, "Thus started one more journey to the asylum for Jim." (Jim's story can be found on pages 35-37.)

Notice these parts of his story:  he'd gone into the restaurant with no thought about drinking.  No urge; no cravings.  As far as he was aware he was just going in to get some lunch. And then a thought "crossed [his] mind" -- he wasn't consciously aware of thinking this thought, he felt as though he were a passive recipient of it.  He was even conscious of a "vague sense that he was not being any too smart," but this thought that came upon him unbidden was more in charge than he was.  It's no wonder that addicts often personify their addiction.

So on Sunday I was rushing from the activities of my busiest day of the week knowing that I was on my way to take my 9 year old son to a friend's birthday party at a local pool.  I was hungry.  It was the third day of the fast so I was feeling a little depleted.  And I decided to eat a little something to "give me strength."  Instead of going to Burger King, however, I went to Food of All Nations and got some sushi.  Not a terribly unhealthy thing to do, even if it did technically break my fast.

But yesterday, coming in for a meeting of the church's executive committee, having myself, as I now realize, had an unsettling encounter with someone, I decided that it'd be okay to have another bit of sushi.  It was okay yesterday -- why wouldn't it be okay today?  But when I went in to the store they were out of sushi.  And suddenly the thought "crossed my mind" that because I'd come in to buy some food I might as well still do so, and that that chicken and linguine dinner looked fine. And so did those cheese sticks.  And as with Jim there was a "vague sense that I was not being too smart," but that vague sense couldn't argue against the stronger sense that this was somehow okay.

Of course, there's no asylum for me.  On the way home, when the urge to swing into Seven Eleven to get a couple of their giant hot dogs was particularly potent, I was able to regain control, take a swig of water, and keep driving.  A slip is not necessarily a fall, and even a fall is not necessarily failure.  There's always an opportunity in each moment to make a better choice.

A month or so ago a member of the church shared the pulpit with me and eloquently spoke about his own addiction and his powerful recovery.  We named that service, "Do You Know What Tomorrow Is?" because Mike likes to ask the question, "Do you know what tomorrow is?" and then give the answer, "it's the first day of the rest of your life."  An important lesson that can be surprisingly hard to learn.

Yet I would like to change Mike's question a little bit.  Instead of asking what tomorrow is, I'd like to ask, "Do you know what time it is right now?"  The answer, of course, will be the same, "it is the beginning of the rest of your life."  Right now.  This moment.  Choose.

So today is Day 5 of my juice fast.  It's also Day 1.  As will be tomorrow.  And each of the tomorrows after that.

In Gassho,


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Mark Hoelter said...

I'll pass this along to someone else who needs it, and thanks much!

Cheery DB said...

I've tried a few recipes on your juicing handout, Rev Erik, and they are DELICIOUS! Thanks!

Ann Salamini said...

I can't tell you how many times I've been through this cycle in my life! Let's help each other get back on track.