Thursday, January 11, 2018

When anger died

Wise people will say that alcohol causes more pregnancies and divorces than anything else and I admit, that while I never got pregnant while drunk, it did cause more than one relationship to end; usually in a gigantic ball of rage and determined rightness, broken things, third party interventions and the like.  Not everyone who drinks suffered this fate as often as I did, some people have allergies and break out in spots, my allergy to alcohol used to make me break out in handcuffs.

Oh, the wonderful boundless energy of the alcoholic mind, the delusions, grand designs, dreams and skirts to chase. Me, I spent most of my time being delusional and chasing skirts, I had designs and dreams too but mostly of the unattainable kind  because I let life interfere. Being sober when you are an alcoholic is BORING, dealing with the job, the cable bill and a relationship are just too much to bear, so drinking, either to enhance the dreams, performance or to sedate become the norm.

There is a  point at which alcohol enhances performance and a point at which the desire increases but performance decreases.   Nothing wrong with either thing really and I'm not here to get all preachy about what's right and what's wrong. I think being a drunk is fascinating  and, honestly, I'm not the least bit ashamed of it. No more than I would if I had prostate cancer.  I don't brag about it, but I recognize that a simple chemical can so completely fuck up my perfect life. 

I don't miss it. Almost eight months without a drink, lots of opportunity to drink, but I don't. The reason I don't is very simple, I quit drinking, I quit being mad.

So really I quit two things: being mad and being drunk. I was never one of those happy black out drinkers, even when drinking alone, which was most of the time, I'd find some excuse to be angry at SOMEONE! Somebody had done me harm and God Damn it I was going to show them.  When I quit the booze, and eventually stopped being an asshole a whole brand new world emerged. 

I found Karma.  Nothing in the spiritual world, and the difference between spiritual and religion is: Religious people are trying to avoid hell, spiritual people have already been there,  has ever been a better relation for me than this concept, which, in my case comes from the teachings of Tibetan Buddhists as translated and interpreted by Koshok Lobsang here in Edmonton and by the writings of Thubten Chodron, a Buddhist monk in Washington state. I did not have to go to Tibet to find an answer that made sense, I went to  the Gaden Samten Ling (GSL) Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society, I took a course from my old friend Kushok on how to meditate. It was awesome.
When I was in politics I helped GSL get some money to build the center, a quarter million dollars if I recall and I honestly think it was the reason I was elected. I didn't know it then but recently when a friend asked me why I would run again in 2019, as in, what was my motivation? I meditated on the question in class one night and realized in a flash of insight that GSL was the reason I ran in 2008 and maybe there was no reason yet shown to run in 2019.

This aside from the problem of what party I would run for, since the UCP and NDP don't  appeal to me, I said publically that I'd only run if I could be in opposition and it would be very cool to be speaker, but these are not enough reasons to run, so I'm probably not going to. 

Now Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)  believes that one has to turn their life over to God, as you conceive him to be,  if they are to be successful staying sober and Buddhists believe there is no single God as we Catholics know him, rather they believe  consciousness is eternal and much like how the bible doesn't talk about what Jesus did in retirement, the concept of "eternal" is  a mystery.   Like all good mysteries, belief is an adequate substitute for data. 

So in my AA journey, I turned my life over to God and in turn have morphed into turning my life over to consciousness and  the Buddhist precepts. Now some of the precepts are pretty basic: show compassion for all, don't kill, don't steal, don't drink, stay celibate, etc.. If I were getting graded on killing bugs or celibacy, for example, let's just say "I'm not a monk".

What I like about Buddhism, like all faiths, is that it is subject to scorn and oppression, check with the Chinese government on this if you have any questions, which says to me that if the people in power are afraid of it,  something good must be going on. 

AA is not aligned with anything; no religion, politic or philosophy beyond the importance of sobriety and the ide that while drinking was the public manifestation of a problem, the real issues are much deeper and if I am going to stay sober I have to go there too.

So, about not being mad anymore: 

AA has a prayer, called the Serenity Prayer and we have all heard it:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

I say it, sometimes a hundred times a day, it helps me deal with the people who are not conforming to my world view, despite the fact it is obviously what is best for them.  I found the prayer lacking because, while I do have to accept certain things as being the way they are, I do not like to see people suffer, standing idly by has never been the hallmark of an old volunteer fireman.  We tend to rush into things whether we are in harms way or not. Its a hard habit to break, but break it I must if I am to achieve anything like a calm inner demeanor.

This is where I think the Buddhist philosophy came to the rescue.  I still have all my hair and I don't wear robes or shun worldly possessions, these things I leave for the more devout, but there are some great ways, in meditation to deal with anger and the concepts of compassion, the following quotes sum it up real well:

"Rather than going to the extreme of despair over the state of the world, we generate compassion for all sentient beings thinking "How wonderful if they were free from all unsatisfactory circumstances and their causes."" (1) 

This is another reason  why running for public office might be off the table, this does not appear to be the platform of any party, quite the opposite actually. Maybe I could change that from inside, but what I know of caucus discipline, I doubt it. 

Compassion is a very cool thing, very cool indeed. Service to others with little or no regard for reward is enlightening. There is nothing more enlightening than thinking "I can help this person" helping them and then getting shit for it. It's enlightening because it says more about me than them. It's a tough nut to crack. 

Make no mistake, we are all self centered, and the more people say they aren't, they are.  My favourite Weird Al song line, from the song Amish is "I am way more humble than though are" kind of says it all. 

Being self-centered is ok to some extent, If you are actually conscious of it, alcoholics aren't usually conscious of much, let alone being the center of the universe, but any decent alcoholic or addict does have one trait: The sole concern of their next drink or high, it is a completely self-centered disease.

Until I recognize a pattern, it will continue.  The use of depressants or stimulants to counter deeper psychological problems is the study of masters.  The masks I wore either while drunk or looking to get drunk, or to justify being drunk, where phenomenal in their scale. I mean really fucking outlandish and the damage I caused to so many people, myself included forced me to take a completely different path. 

Human beings are nothing if not resilient, changing a way of life, thought or deed is possible and very useful.  I first recognized there was something wrong with the old way. If I don't think I have a problem, then no early power is going to convince me otherwise. 

So yes like everyone I have problems, but I wake up now and am happy that I am doing so, there are still elements of my life that need compassion, but none so much as before, because now I can see the reality of my own limitations and I am not afraid of them.  I am. for example, no longer frustrated that I will never be a jockey. 

None of this is easy, but things that are worthwhile seldom are:  let forth the light that shines within you, that you might take the darkness from others. 

(1) Good Karma, Thubten Chodron, 2016