Sunday, November 5, 2017

Seven years at midnight, without a drink. Some poems and a story written during recovery about recovery

 Usually when I hit a milestone, I have something to say, something to blog about. Each day is the miracle, waking to midnight. Hell, usually I'm in bed by ten, so it's less than one day at a time. So tonight at midnight, on a lazy Sunday it'll be seven years sober. It's such a lazy Sunday I don't want to find the links related to my story but you can either go to the search box on the top right and type in "sober" "alcoholic" "recovery" etc. and get the results. 

To are some previously published work, written during recovery about recovery. I always worried that I couldn't write anything of any worth sober. There is a solution and I'm always willing to help.

The Shutting Door   

We are solid oak doors that shut
on our past, close on dead mothers,
sons, daughters. These doors swell
often, won’t open. One midnight

we walked towards woods, the moss
cold under our toes, as we were,
caught in the light for a moment;
a glimpse of half full. We are dim

lights on dark nights, sending out calls
to the wolves howling at the sun
because the moon hanging there,
yet never seems to hear them.

If I should need to step back to see
how you glow in this light,
illumination, I can be at one with that,
us, growing like violets in the dark

 1. The Shutting Door-Written in 2011 during year one. Originally published in Red Fez Issue 43 as "All the Days And Nights". Also the titicular poem in my book of recovery poems (mostly) published by Ibbetson St. Press 2013. 



When I raised my hand
told a gray room the reasons
I started drinking, I wanted
 to start again immediately.
Told people, whose faces looked like
The End of the World, the truth.

Then I told them I would pour a girl
I’d lusted after, down like whiskey,
her lovely legs spread
until they snapped,
so I could feel like I used
her, an orgasm, I gulped,

running down my neck
like streams of veins.
Oh, I said I never used dope,
when I asked her for it, nicely,
she said,  No, she would never

give it up, just got up, waltzed
out of my life. So I begged:
Please, God, stay with me tonight,
here in this church basement.
Please, I can't picture heaven.

2. Missteps, written very early in sobriety, published March 2012 in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Also appears in The Shutting Door. A favorite of my friend Christy Marx. RIP .  


It can exist
drink coffee

milk, three sugars,
stirred with a straw.

Sit on the sofa,
legs curled under

view the oil paintings
hung boats and fields

thousands of brush strokes

 3. Sobriety. Written in 2017-published in Chief Jay Strongbow is Real, 2017, Big Table Publishing

But you forgot, To remember

It rains cats and dogs
and images of baby animals
made the blues go away

Billie Holiday scratched
to the end, the needle dragged
never piercing her center, which

was glued on, nevertheless,
I related.  Her story intrigued,
I never understood the song’s

connotation, why the singer’s depths
of despair, strung me along with
desperate notes, desperate measures.

Lady-you once spoke to me,
but never knew me, all the times
I slipped this record into the sleeve

Keep sending me stars and the sea
distant is not an obstacle,
for what I believe.

4. But you Forgot to Remember-written in 2013. Published on the Mass Poetry webpage in 2015. Also published in Chief Jay Strongbow is Real, 2017, Big Table Publishing. Metaphors are badass. 

 Coffee maker 

Al took the job as the coffee maker as the last one person holding that job died. It helped to bolster Al’s sobriety by giving him responsibility. He’d lost more important jobs in his life, but he wasn’t about to lose this one. It was a very important job.

Al would show up at 6:30 in the morning and reconstruct the percolator. Fill the pot up three-quarters of the way with water, then place the stem, basket, canned coffee in, then cover and plug the cord into the socket. The outcome was that the brew was watery and bitter, so most people brought their own to the meeting anyway.

“Hey, old-timer,” Al said to one with a Dunkin’ Donuts cup. “Why not try some of mine. I take this job very seriously.”

“The coffee is terrible here,” he said. “It’s been terrible for years.”

The old-timer was one of the nicer ones. Many of the others that came in drooping would just swear at him or his coffee and Al would internalize it. It made him want to drink vodka instead of coffee, and Al realized how bad it would be if he let that happen.

Al used to own his own business in the real world. It was a moving company where he would supply the truck and help the client out with half the labor. He called his business “Al Co-Haul: Rate Negotiable” and he never realized how his love of booze ended up ruining his business. He found he was drinking more than he was working, which led to his truck being repossessed and him having no income. It was time to turn his life around, but failing at his new job of coffee maker wasn’t helping.

So, as his head cleared up he thought about replacing the crappy brand of coffee. The group’s kitty did not have enough money to pay for the pounds of ground Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, so he looked into ways to roast his own beans. He chose a three step method.

Step 1: Choose a roasting method
Al picked a radiant drum roaster for large amounts of beans. It was symbolic. His life used to simmer and slowly everything would turn and the voices he heard in his head were echoing like sounds in a drum—telling him to drink…drink. The company that made the roaster offered to sponsor Al as long as he mentioned their name once a day during the meeting. He accepted them as a sponsor.

 Step 2: Choose green coffee

 Al used to wake up green in color. He loved that the beans to roast were the exact same color. He asked the company for help in selecting the type of bean, and that was a good step for him to take as well—asking for help.

Step 3: The Roasting Process

            He wanted a dark, rich finished cup of brew, something that went from nothing to a wonderful finished product. He called an expert to help him perfect his beans, and he was open to suggestions.

                                              *   *  *

Al’s addiction ruined his family life. He thought that recovery would fix everything, but instead his wife now resented the fact that all his time was being taken up in his bean roasting job. They would fight about it. “You don’t understand,” he said. “My recovery has to be the most important thing in my life and without that, I can’t be any good at anything else.” His wife was able to let go and walk to another room. She’d been through worse with Al.

Instantly Al’s coffee became a big hit. The early morning meeting was running out of chairs, and no one brought in any outside cups anymore. The word was spreading as more and more people were coming in to get help. Some only needed a small amount of help, such as fixing their inferior types of coffee by drinking Al’s. Many of the folks that came weren’t even alcoholics either.  They were there for the best coffee in town.

The old-timers from the group started to get angry. When the coffee people raised their hands to share their story there was never anything about drinking alcohol, it was more about coffee drinking The former beer and whiskey drinkers were getting out numbered. When they voiced their objections they were told that the fellowship was not there to judge and categorize others. The old-timers began to attend different meetings that they could relate to more and Al began to modestly charge for his drinks and found someone to print fancy designs on the cups. It was remarkable that everyone said he was a changed man.

At Al’s one year celebration, he stood up in front of a packed house. He told them how he succeeded in the coffee business by attending meetings, asking for help, and getting sponsors. Al’s wife presented him with a silver bean, mounted on a chain for him to wear around his neck. He accepted with gratitude and closed by suggesting that every morning begins another day and if ever the job of coffee maker opened up, it would improve someone’s life the same way it had improved his.

5. Coffee Maker. Written on my one year anniversary and published in trnsfer magazine Issue 5-on the 500th day of being sober. Also will appear in the upcoming Every Day There is Something About Elephants, a book of 108 flash fictions. In sobriety it's ok to poke fun at things, as long as you're not taking your recovery for granted. Here I satirized the job of coffee maker in AA and what if the coffee was so damn good, people came to the meetings just for that.  

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