Monday, March 8, 2010

Survival Mode

I've learned some things over the past few years. I've learned what it feels like to have homes snatched from under your feet. I've learned what it feels like to be discriminated against for everything from having addiction/mental health problems to becoming unemployed, utilizing food assistance and even losing my health insurance. Somewhere along the way I kicked into absolute survival mode: How the hell do I get through the day with so much uncertainity, when nothing is stable, least of all me?

I've learned that when you're the one attempting to survive, when decisions have to be made according to food and shelter, you start becoming free from other people's opinions, unlocked from their discriminations, uncaring of what you may or may not look like to someone else. And when other people's opinions begin to matter less, you wonder why they ever did. The world starts looking completely different.

My father told me something the other day that stuck in my mind. He said, "They haven't taken your life from you, Angela. How you live your life is still your choice. No one can take that from you." He's always been brighter than your average dad.

Coming to understand how I contributed to the chaos does nothing to change that it's occurring, but still it tugs on my mind, inviting me to fall into yet another rabbit hole when what is really called for is courage and perserverance; peace of mind and compassion. I think our dear departed Michael said it well when he said start with the one in the mirror. When that is intact, begin to move out - chin up, head high, just looking next for what needs to be done. AA calls it "doing the next right thing." I like that.

As loss began to permeate the very air I breathe, I began to feel other tugs at night, other callings. I heard her moan and followed into deep mysteries, transfixed; stunned even. What have we been doing? To ourselves? To our clan? To her? When are we going to stop it?

Even if the destruction stopped right now today, even if wealth were distributed equitably and we stopped raping and pillaging the earth today, would it be enough? I swear. I wonder. Too many people. Too much damage. Not enough caring.

And yet each day I personally feel stronger, more centered, more sober, more playful, more alive and more healthy as I begin to see what really is instead of what I wish were. I still hold the vision of a highest good for all, but I work with what's in front of me. Alcohol makes that impossible. Society needs the addict/alcoholic to be distracted and unaware and without thought except for where the next fix comes from. Because when they start waking up, they can see how things are and they won't settle for it. I won't. Will you?


thailandchani said...

Nope. I've never been willing to settle for that. There's something inherently wrong with the social system we've developed. Time for it to change. While I don't believe that everyone has to be "the same", I do believe everyone needs to be okay.


Anonymous said...

I also really like "do the next right thing." That phrase is a tool that has helped me many times.

Anonymous said...


I have been reading your blog for sometime, and I think you are very brave to share your day to day trials with the world.

Recently, you have written several times about "society's" need for you to continue to use, as though keeping you ill is making things better for someone else. One of your commenters asked about it a few posts ago, and I was concerned about your answer.

I encourage you to consider that you using helps no one (well, maybe the bartender or the pusher, but I don't think that's what you meant by "society").

As a small business employer and a recovered alcoholic, I am sometimes faced with the hard decision of knowing what to do with a relapsed employee. I understand that someone can have a problem--I did--and I provide insurance so an employee can get the help they need. If however, treatment isn't effective, I'm faced with a terrible dilemma. I know what an addict is capable of, and I can't be responsible to my business (and the livelihood of the rest of my staff) by putting myself at risk from theft, property damage or worker's comp claims. So if a worker relapses, that's usually when we part company. It's not discrimination or me feeling superior, it's natural consequences for behavior.

Some have told me that an addict can't help himseslf. To that I have to hope that losing a job is a consequence that will help the addict hit their bottom. If I enable someone's using it only prolongs their disease and puts me in a bad position.

I also lost a beloved home. And friends, and jobs, and self respect. Once I lost it all, I was ready to admit that I needed to change. The employers who fired me or the landlords who evicted me did so because of what I did because of my using. And taking responsibility for my actions and stopping the blaming of other people for what I did went a long way toward rebuilding my self respect and the trust of others.

I wish you well on your journey. Keep it simple. Smiles and hugs.

Angela said...


Thank you for your comment. I understand your view and I wouldn't want to be in your position myself. It would be very difficult. However, I've never stolen from an employer, damaged an employer's property or filed any sort of claim except unemployment. I have, however, been sexually harrassed, put down, underpaid and unappreciated. Unfortunately, my family and friends have been hurt the worst by my addiction/mental health problems. What I want to know is how you would perceive me if I weren't writing about recovery and the problems I'm having. If you didn't know I had a drinking problem that I've struggled with on and off most of my life? Would you even consider that I had brought those things upon myself?

Thanks for visiting. Come back. Leave your name.

Anonymous said...


I don't mean to offend,so please consider the message before reacting to it.

I find it very hard to beleive that you have always been completely reliable or never under the affects of your drinking at work (even if you weren't actually drunk). It's nothing against you personally, but if you had your drinking under that much control, you wouldn't need to persue sobriety, right?

How would I perceive you? If you worked for me, do you mean? If I knew you were an addict and it became obvious that you had relapsed, I would be very concerned. But it's not just addiction. I would be concerned if one of my workers who I knew had poor eyesight suddenly stopped wearing his glasses, especially if I saw him drive away in a company vehicle. If an employee with high blood pressure told me they stopped taking their pills because they didn't like the side effects, I would be concerned.

As I said before, I don't think it makes sense to say that "society" wants addicts in the throes of their addictions. Using behavior is unstable and expensive and anti-social. You are probably correct in thinking that you have suffered in your career because of your addictions, but recovery is the chance to rebuild your reputation and become worthy of trust.

I hope you can work through your resentments, they have a way of clouding what's true.

Out of curiosity, is it easy for you to admit making an error? I'm guessing that is a problem area for you. It was for me for a long time, but very freeing once I gave myself the ok to be wrong. And I'm wrong a lot!

miss*R said...

dear sweet Angela.. you must, simply must disable anonymous comments. xoxo

thinking of you always... and I adore, love my rosary beads xo (I emailed you)

I often wonder if some of my self esteem issues of worrying about people's opinions of me so much.. does that stem from my alcoholic upbringing? i wonder. my dad loved me I know he did but when he drank, he became a different person. I love your dad's wise words :)

thailandchani said...

Anonymous, I've been following this thread and I think you're not seeing the big picture. The way I interpret Angela's observation is in the more global social context. Does the social system we live in right now require an underclass to survive? You betcha! This is basic economic reality. Addicts are judged and pushed into the underclass because there is a fundamental lack of compassion at the root of our current competitive system where some have to be on the bottom for others to remain on top.

No one is saying you should be reckless in hiring people. On the other hand, since it involves people's livelihood and ability to take care of themselves, I'd be very careful how you use that power. Power without compassion is tyranny.

I like the idea of self-sufficiency as the basis for a social system which one of the root values of permaculture. It breaks down that power structure.


Anonymous said...

What a fascinating thread. I love it that both sides can be presented calmly and respectfully.

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating thread. I love it that both sides can be presented calmly and respectfully.

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