grif -

grif -
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
September 17
One of my favorite places to go is about 12 miles out in the Atlantic my little 20 ft. skiff. The clear water is a deep emerald color and the sunlight bounces around and shimmers randomly. I meet survivor sea turtles, bow-riding dolphin, silent sharks, giant rays rocketing out of the sea and backflipping, schools of porgies, sea robins, slashing blues and Spanish mackerel, the occasional whale, and stray birds. I love the quiet and solitude and vastness. I am a way too veteran educator - special education teacher, high school principal, college professor and some other fun waystops. A political junkie, a cowboy in a previous life, a lover of synchronicity in daily life...meditation and prayer, and a believer that the best days are still ahead. My plan is to finish strong. ************************************ I love following politics and current events, but they all take second place to watching a hockey game. I write occasional Op-Ed pieces - usually on educational issues. My two kids are the true loves of my life. ************************************

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MAY 15, 2012 10:59AM

Sober and miserable: A moment of clarity and prayer

Rate: 23 Flag

This post is another in a series of occasional installments describing my early recovery and treatment for alcoholism.  The most recent prior post is Anesthetized to life: Thirty years of drinking and now this?   Others may be found in the “My Links” section on the left side of my blog. Every time I post one of these stories I hear from a number of people struggling with alcoholism/addiction – either theirs or someone in their family, or a friend.  I am grateful for that as my primary purpose in telling my story is to carry a message of hope to others who are dealing with this killer disease.  

 It also makes me humble and grateful for my sober life and recovery program.  I mention AA periodically as that is what works for me.  I am neither a spokesperson nor do I represent AA in any manner. There are many ways to get clean and sober and it doesn’t matter to me how one achieves this.  Simply put, this is my story.  I appreciate you taking time to read it. 



 St. Patrick’s Day, 2002

I have been asked to “tell my story” at an AA meeting.  I have been sober for about eighteen months.  I have gone to literally over 600 AA meetings, found some work, lived in a sober group home (Oxford House), moved back home, got kicked-out on my one-year sobriety anniversary and moved into an apartment, got into a “relationship” that I-had-no-business-being-in-but-it-felt-so-good, and learned to navigate a series of bus transport systems. 

I just wasn’t “getting it.”  I knew that much.  I didn’t really know what “that” was; but, I knew something was still very, very wrong.  My sponsor had recently said to me one day “You look really bad.  You must be thinking of yourself again.”  Now that got my attention.  I acknowledged his rightness (again) and just kind of looked at him with a “now what?” face?  He asked me if I’d be willing to try something new and he reminded me that the only condition of our relationship (sponsor-sponsee) was honesty.  I hesitated and then replied “Sure.”  I really didn’t know what I was saying; but, I was desperate for anything to help me feel better.  He said “I want you to try prayer.”  He might as well have just told me to jump off a cliff.  Prayer? Is he fucking kidding?  Me?  My truth was that I was an angry, self-centered, intellectualizing atheist agnostic who was certain of only one thing in this universe.  There was no “God” and prayer was for weak people. ..or stupid people. ..or those people with that “look” in their eyes.  You know the look.  And then he added “I’d suggest you just say a prayer for someone else – not yourself.”  My quick response was “Like what?”  He suggested a simple payer for someone else’s welfare.  Okay.  Got it.

So I went home and “prayed” for all of thirty seconds for someone else.  And the next day I did it again and then found myself praying for several people’s welfare at least several times per day.  Several weeks passed and nothing much changed.

I am now standing in a room in front of about 60 people and beginning to tell my story.  The standard format is to describe “what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now.”  I remember beginning by asking everyone to observe a moment of silence with me as I got focused.  They did.  Running through my head was a prayer that I borrowed from my sponsor.  He told me how every time he talked to a group his last prayer before he started was simply “God don’t let me fuck this up.”  So I silently repeated it and began with the standard “My name is…”

I spent the first twenty minutes describing my early drinking years, relating some serious consequences of my drinking, and getting ready to tell “what happened” that got me to stop drinking when I was suddenly overcome with a wave of simple good-feeling-gratitude.  I paused a moment, a very long moment, and began speaking again.  I described how just that moment I had become aware that despite all my external troubles I had never felt better in my life.  As I stood there I was searching my mind frantically for how this could be true.  How could I possibly stand in front of this roomful of people and feel so good?  What had happened?  Then it hit me – the prayer thing.  I had a clear thought that all I had done differently in recent weeks was begun to pray for others.  I was astounded.  I shared this out loud and moved on with my story.  Here I was with all my external problems still there and I’m feeling so good.  This was totally new.

I finished my story by relating what happened the day I quit drinking and how life had been since then.  No pretty picture.  No phony images to make people think I was successful.  Just a pretty raw account of early sobriety.  I finished, thanked everyone, and took my seat on the side of the room.  I had been one very much used to employing “contempt prior to investigation” and I had also been one who “came to scoff and remained to pray.”

My life path took a sharp turn that day.  A genuine moment of clarity.  A humble realization that I was one-among-many.  And, that was just fine…for now.


I have been writing excerpts of my alcoholism and recovery story and posting them on OS for quite a while.  Some reading this today are “new” readers and I appreciate you taking time to read this.  This all occurred about ten years ago.  My life today is a total miracle in so many ways, and I want readers who may be struggling to know that there is hope and that it takes time.  And to be certain, my life today has its struggles and hardships; but, that’s just life. 

And to you “veteran” readers of my story, I continue to offer you my most heartfelt thanks.

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Clarity is a precious commodity, far more precious than gold, and far more rare. The first thing to understand is that clarity doesn't guarantee the success of any endeavor; it's simply the realization that one can do no other.

To cite an example of what I mean, I give you Obama's decision to send troops in after Osama bin Laden. Obviously such a decision isn't made without considerable forethought and counter-argument, not to mention a great deal of trepidation. In such a situation, the odds are powerful against success, and the consequences of failure are almost unimaginable.

Yet for the person who achieves clarity, once the decision is made, it is made with no hesitancy and absolute resolve. That's what true leaders do.

The very purpose of alcohol and drugs is the opposite of clarity. Their purpose is to obscure, and at their worst, to obliterate careful consideration, to substitute wild abandon for calculated risk, to substitute intense immediate gratification for measured long-term gain.

It's my view that the Masters of Greed on Wall Street suffer from this condition -- substituting wild abandon for calculated risk and intense immediate gratification for measured long-term gain. Whether they do this with or without mind-altering substances is somewhat beside the point -- their judgment is impaired by the high that comes with success. But when they fail -- and eventually, like most any other inebriate, they will -- the hangover is immense, and sometimes deadly.

Sadly, the rest of us must suffer their hangover with them.
tom is right, clarity is what it is all about.
it is the space in our head, free and clear for a little while,
when all is possible.
even happiness.

"A genuine moment of clarity. A humble realization that I was one-among-many" is part of it.
that is comfort, and it can be a source of comfort forever.

it brings responsibility as well. for one as intuitive and
intelligent as yourself.

the journey has just begun. the good that you could do.

that we all could do, with more
Thank you for sharing your story with us, grif. Alcoholism "runs" in my family for lack of a better way to describe it and for privacy's sake, I will not be able to share with you who in my family has suffered most from it. I'm sure your experiences have helped and will continue to help countless people.
Grif, I can't help but rate you and yes, there is a God, he's one angry old man who likes to mess with his children A LOT!! :D

But he LOVES to take road trips in the Lexus, we need to get on the road again with God, drink some soda pops and talk about girls we see!!!

I can't add anything constructive to your moving story. Thinking about others is often a good way to shed the binds of one's personal problems. May you stay strong and continue to provide inspiration for people who continue to struggle with alcoholism.
Clarity is indeed precious.

I thank you for being willing to share your clarity with all of us.
Tom – I appreciate your comment and was struck by this sentence: “The first thing to understand is that clarity doesn't guarantee the success of any endeavor; it's simply the realization that one can do no other.” Also intrigued by your Wall St. comparison. Reminds me of a 20+ year-old book titled Grace and Addiction (May) and how our addictions block us from our real work (personal growth work).

James – nicely said and appreciated. I do think/believe that clarity frees us up to see the possibilities.

Erica – always appreciate you dropping by. Alcoholism is in just about every family to one degree or another.

Tink – ahhhh…for the good ol’ road trip days. Those Lexus ventures up north (and I think we went to Mexico once too) were godless trips – the best kind! And what’s he so pissed off about anyway? I’ll be at Exit 266 on I-75S at 8:00am tomorrow.

Cranky – much appreciated. Thinking about others just isn’t my normal – but it sure does help things move along better.

Mary – appreciate the kind words. Always good to see you.
My problem was depression and other-directedness was the key to my coping with it, too. I am so impressed by your ability and willingness to write about your journey. I'm sure it has often been a lonely one.

I loved this. I love that the big moment is one of simplicity. And I love that you feel so good. R
Great stuff, grif. Takes guts to share honest comments.

Prayer as wishful thinking is actually destructive but as a way of channeling energy can be quite constructive. You obviously did the latter. is my first time to hear about your background. It explains to me so much about your compassion that you have for others. Getting clean is one thing, and living sober is another, which is why I love your title.
I think I know the feeling--on a much smaller scale--when being sober still doesn't feel good yet. Things are clear, but you ask yourself what's next.

Best of luck on your journey.
Lezlie – you are so right about the lonely comment. Thanks.

chesyre- interesting take on prayer and well put.

BP – thanks for visiting and commenting. Getting clean and living sober are indeed different. Very different.

Con – wishing you the best. Thanks for taking time to comment.
Grif I rated and ran earlier, not really knowing what to say. But I come back to see you made EP and cover, Congrats, old friend.
Your searingly honest recollections have to be tough to write and see again. Kudos for all of it Grif, for the journey, the writing and the sharing.
Grif, you never cease to amaze me with your stories and your fortitude. I wish I was as strong. Be well, old friend.
Seer – beautifully said. Very beautifully said.

rita – I have some longtime OS friends that I want to meet someday. You are one of them. Thanks for coming back and commenting.

Boanerges1 – you are very kind and you have been with me for a long time and that means a lot to me. You are someone I’d like to meet in person someday.
I loved this! I especially love your sponsor's prayer--it is so heartfelt and honest and reflects the idea that any God worth believing in is okay with people just being real and saying what they really need.
Very moving account. No, I don't believe in God, but I can still see value in uttering a "prayer" for the wellness of another. I believe that an attitude of gratitude and concern for our fellow living beings does help lift us up and makes the world a better place for it.
Someday Grif, I will get to shake your hand for these pieces of your soul you lay bare for us all here.
And whisper a word of thanks and understanding and blessing.
As fine an example of "paying it forward" as there ever was. Your realization that you were one among many, and sharing that realization, will ripple outward and will surely help someone else. I think that's all most of us ever want - to know that our struggle is a common one, and that healing is possible.
Thanks Grif. I enjoyed this a lot.