#overdoingit #recovery #getalife


Ya overdid it, dude. But I just want to hang my dry cleaning from his ears, though.
Ya overdid it, dude. But I just want to hang my dry cleaning from your ears though – is that a bad thing?

I was visiting a dear friend of mine the other day in the hospital.  He was dealing with some heart problems that brought him to the emergency room earlier in the week.  This man, who has 20+ years sobriety, and is one of the sweetest, kindest souls I have encountered on my Earth Time here.  Soft spoken and soft hearted, he told me about his recent history of taking too much on – too many commitments (AA related), too much time taken with the program, too much of well, everything.  He told me he had started to build resentments as a result of his attachments to those commitments.  He felt that his recent heart condition was a manifestation of these recent stresses and his overdoing of things.  

I nodded and “yes, of course” ‘d throughout his talking to me.  I alternated between looking in his eyes and observing his delicate frame outlined in his gown.  Noticed the wrinkled knees and darkened toe nails.  I followed the snakes of tubes emerging from his arms and to several drips and machines.  My eyes landed on his as he continued to tell me about his recent amount of activities and obligations he took on in the name of recovery.  As I nodded once again, he looked over his glasses, and in his gentle retired-school-principal voice, asked “Are you listening to this, Paul?”

I sat gobsmacked for a moment.  This man knew me very well, even though we have known each other for only a few months.  He knew how to reach me, and reach me he did. Cautionary tale jammed down into my inbox, thank you very much.

Throw a few alkies in a hospital at once, and it can get pretty darned excting
Throw a few crazy alkies in a hospital at once, and it gets pretty darned exciting.

You see, I have been having a bit of an issue of my own lately.  Nothing like the drink problem, but related to it.  The best way to illustrate it is to hear what my wife recently told me.  She is going away to Africa for a work trip soon.  I have taken vacation time to watch the boys.  But since they are both in school, it leaves me a lot of free time.  My wife’s words to me?  “Don’t just do recovery stuff when you’re off, ok?”

Alright, so just because I think of recovery when I wake up, try to get in as much recovery time in my spare time (and even at work), meet up with people for recovery, go to places where other people are doing recovery, go on websites and boards that are just about recovery, read about recovery and feel that if I am not doing recovery, I will feel a bit empty inside, doesn’t mean anything, ok?

Now replace the word “recovery” with “drinking” in the above sentence.  See a problem?

I’m a recovery junkie.  And I have known this in my gut for some time now.

My gut instinct never steers me wrong.  It's subtle, isn't it??
My gut can yell at me now, but wait until I have suicide wings later on – he’ll be sorry.

In addition to all the things I mentioned, I also blog (d’uh), hit as many other blogs, am active on other recovery message boards, hit my treatment center alumni meetings when I can, speak at meetings, sponsor men in real life, email and skype, pray, meditate, listen to hundreds of AA speaker tapes, read spiritual books, watch recovery docs and movies (I see only 2-3 fictional movies a year at most), rework the steps and hit any AA commitments I can.   I also take phone calls from newcomers and from treatment centers.

I don’t mention this as a #humblebrag  – a way of bragging couched in a manner of false humility.  I mention this because I know that these are somewhat Draconian measures taken against myself in the name of something that is supposed to be positive and life-affirming.  It has become yet another “reach” of mine in where I am clutching onto something that is temporarily blocking me from something even greater.  It’s a safety blanket that is becoming soiled and tattered – it’s initial use long expired and holding me back from moving on.  It’s my pathetic way of achieving some measure of control over things…and we all know where my best thinking got me eventually. It’s my identity.

It might be something innate in alcoholics.  I am not sure.  But I know when I was growing up, I would find one thing – one, not several, but one – and hang onto it and burn it out and drag it out until it no longer served me.  Then I would move on, never ever going back to that one thing.  One of those was magic.  When I was a young boy, I got my mother to buy me all the magic kits out there.  I pretended to be a great and fantastic magician.  The David Copperfield of Downsview.  I also borrowed books from the library, dressed up, held little magic shows in my backyard and even dreamed of being a magician

Hi little boy!  You're gonna be a wizard at making bottles disappear like magic!  POOF!
Hi little boy!  One day you’re gonna be a wizard at making liquor bottles disappear like magic! POOF!

But once the shine came off of the magic gig, I dropped it and moved on.  Karate, playing the flute, beer making (ha ha), death metal…all examples of things that I nerded out completely on and when they didn’t make me feel the way I wanted to feel, I moved on.  Looking back, the seeking I found in these activities of my youth was no different than the seeking I found when I was older, and no different than the seeking I found in alcohol.  What I sought was completion, for a sense of being grounded in something, of being whole.

So while I don’t think of alcohol per se now, I think of recovery, which of course ties into alcohol.  At first it was something I needed, and now it’s something else.  Not to say that I don’t need recovery.  I do.  I have heard way too many stories of those who decided to go it their own way after working the 12-steps, walking away from the thing that saved their lives, and then soon after relapsed.  That is yet another cautionary tale that is at top of mind.  So for this alcoholic, it’s about balance (what’s that?).  I need to find a middle.  I need to seek a place where recovery is a way of life, and yet is not my entire life.

And it’s a bit frightening.

Only time will tell how my hanging onto things will work out.
Only time will tell how my hanging onto things too long will work out.

It’s no surprise that I have no hobbies or real interests right now in my life.  I have work, family and recovery.  Oh, and sleep.  Not a healthy way of being.  But it’s a matter of letting go.  It’s a matter of trusting God. It’s a matter of knowing that I will be ok.  I had many old timers recently tell me that they all went through this phase – usually around 2-3 years of sobriety (what? I am not special?) and that it passes as long as we are awake to it.   At least I have that going for me.  I need to stop and smell the roses, even if I get pricked now and then.  I need to be gentle to myself (what’s that?).   Letting go of this will be as challenging as removing the alcohol problem, if not more. It’s a quality problem, I suppose.  But I need to get a life.  Seriously.  I just don’t know where to start.

I never had a normal life, from the inside out.  I lived my life from the outside in, and it was as hollow and empty as a discarded vodka mickey. So this is brand new territory I am staking out.  This is pioneer stuff for me.  This is taking the training wheels of and getting ready to bump and bruise and yet fly and cruise.  I’ve been piloting on the ground long enough, it’s time to take wings and fly, baby.

I just need a map now.

I think this or afghan making is next on my list to try.
I think this or afghan making is next on my list to try.

This coming week will certainly by a (non-pressured) test. For an alcoholic of my type having free and easy time early in my recovery was always a challenge in not indulging in drinking.  It’s ironic now that my challenge is not indulging in recovery whilst I have the extra time on my hands.  How did that happen?

So stick with me, dear reader.  If I am not tearing it up on the blogs as much as I used to, maybe it’s because I have started starting a collection of paper mache of busts of the last 15 Canadian Prime Ministers, or started to making hand-crafted, artisinal bug repellent / shoe polish.  Perhaps I will find joy in underwater skeet shooting or learning to play the saw.  Maybe there is spiritual merit in learning Estonian folk dancing.  It’s just a matter of trial and error.


“Are you listening to this, Paul?”

Yes…I am.


30 Comments Add yours

  1. PourMeAMilk says:

    Great post and super easy to relate to! Thanks much!:)

    1. Thanks for swinging by! Glad you could relate.


  2. I would suggest crossword puzzles, given your extraordinary lexicon!

    Paul, I know I’m going to blow your mind here (sarcasm, of course), but you just described me to a tee, the idea of latching onto something, obsessively sucking the life out of it, then moving on. I can get like this with certain foods, currently soft pretzels are the “it” thing for me, and I want to eat them and nothing else. Until I can’t stand to look at them anymore, and, if history repeats itself, I will move onto the next food obsession (fingers crossed that the next obsession is a lettuce leaf). I guess in recovery, it is progress to recognize the behavior, but, like yourself, I want to move beyond recognition and into action… I want the word “moderation” to make sense in my vocabulary.

    I guess, for now, we can console ourselves with the certain knowledge that there are worse obsessions to have, and that we know the journey, we just need to take the first steps!

    I will be thinking of you, and praying for you, that you have a wonderful week with your boys!

    1. Funny enough, crosswords *were* a big thing I used to do. I have dabbled since, but not committed (story of my life…lol). You’re right about there being worse obsessions in life. Some would say that there is no such thing as too much recovery, and I see their point, but there has to be balance. Moderation – oh why are you so elusive???

      Thanks for relating – makes me feel a bit better 🙂


  3. byebyebeer says:

    These addictions sure are addictive. I don’t think this single-minded obsessiveness is unique to alcoholics, but when we get sober maybe we drown in the newfound time and energy. Anything to feel better or just different. They certainly beat the alternative.

    You’re bright. You’re self-aware. You’re hopeful. You’re thoughtful. My thinking is you’ll do just fine. Your friend is telling you this after 20 years sober so you don’t have to go that long (and he sounds like a great friend, btw.)

    Enjoy your free time, whatever you choose to do with it.

    1. You’re right in that this single-mindedness is unique to us. We may not hold all rights to it, but I have yet to meet an alcoholic who isn’t of this mindset at one point or another, regardless of the target of that obsession. Thank you for the kind words and sentiments. I know I’ll be fine…I am just impatient at times (I want balance NOW! ha ha).

      And yes, John is a wonderful friend.

      I will let y’all know what I get up to (no pressure, right?)

      Love and light,

  4. furtheron says:

    Bridge to normal living. That is what they say but takes some effort.

    I do try to have some balance in my life. Then I feel guilty I am not on the programme 24×7.

    Great post.

    1. Bridge to normal living. Never heard that! I am going to use that one 🙂

      Thanks Graham for the comments – means a lot!


  5. Well said as always. Very well said. Hope you enjoy your free time!

    1. Thanks! I will try to not obsess about not obsessing now.



  6. runningonsober says:

    Yep, I am listening to you and what I hear is music to my ears. There’s that two year, branching out theme again. Sounds like what we’re going through is totally normal my friend.

    Paper mâché, soduko, painting, volunteering at an animal shelter, photography, even reading *fiction* (I hear there’s a dude named James Patterson who writes) are all options. The world is your playground, Paul, go explore!

    1. James Patterson ….you made me laugh there. I forgot about that (I saw someone reading one of his books yesterday too – I guess selling a few billion books makes you well known a bit?)

      Like Dora, I am going to explore. It will take me some time to release, but I know I will get there.

      Thanks Christy – love having ya here!


  7. Belle says:

    it would make sense, also, that if you had a sucky bottom (which you admit to), and if you’ve found something that works (your current way of being sober), that it would be plain old scary to begin to do something else, to make any changes, however small, even if ‘for the good’. makes total sense to me. new = scary. doesn’t mean that new = bad, it’s just weird and unknown. there are lots of tangentially zen things you could engage in that might give you a happy ‘solidly sober’ feeling … like swimming, jogging, some kind of tae kwon do stuff, or gardening. but something that is productive AND soothing at the same time. dog grooming. (ok i’m reaching here.) tea blending. recipe testing. it’s like a big Christmas present waiting to be opened, and it’s labelled Paul – The Next Chapter. how exciting 🙂 can’t wait to see what you decide to do 🙂 thank you for honestly exploring your journey in a way that we can all relate to! hugs from me.

    1. Hey Belle – you’re right about new = scary. There is an unwritten script that tells me that I am perhaps not worthy of finding joy in other things, that I have to be relegated to recovery robot or something. But that is something I have to change from within, that idea that play is a part of life. It’s also all new to me…the unknown as you put it so well. I like the idea of something productive, tangible. You have me thinking now….

      Thank you so much for commenting – lots to chew on 🙂

      Hugs back,


  8. sherryd32148 says:

    What a great post Paul. If I’m honest (and I’m always honest) this is one of the things that kept me from really getting into AA when I was going. One evening, after I had spoken at one meeting, gone to speak with a group at a rehab on a previous night, and volunteered to do coffee at an upcoming meeting, I suddenly had a vision. It was a vision of me – leading meetings, sponsoring countless sponsees, getting there early and leaving late, doing all the social functions, graduating to the national level.

    And that scared the shit out of me.

    I knew that it wouldn’t take long for me to be where you are right now…only worse. I have those same traits you mentioned (maybe you’re right – maybe we all do and that’s why the program works) and I knew that I already had enough going on in my life. Some self-preservation thing kicked in and I stopped going to meetings.

    Maybe one day, after things ease up in other areas of my life, I’ll go back and really immerse myself. Who knows? Right now I’ll stick with being addicted to these blogs and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.

    BTW – I really love the way you write.


    1. You know, I was going to mention this in the post, what you said about AA. I have read a lot of posts on recovery boards mention that AA people all get obsessed about recovery (“all” being their word). There is certainly a great scale out there in terms of how much time and effort people bring to the table in their recovery. I guess I am at one end of the scale, trying to get to the middle. What you saw as frightening, was something that I was doing, and even I had to realize it was getting a bit much. So I can see how people get a bit put off by the program, I can say that I am probably one of those people who others don’t want to be, in terms of nerding out on recovery 24/7.

      But it also comes down to what we need when we need. The one thing that I used to do when I got into the program was go to an insane amount of meetings a week – about 15-20. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone, but that was what I needed at the time. It was the only way I could prevent myself from drinking. I had to absolutely immerse myself, or I wasn’t coming out of it. And I guess I continued to immerse myself and now I realize I need to get out a bit – like when we find our fingers getting wrinkly from being in the bath too long. So it’s a process for me. It’s different for most others – most other guys that I knew early on never went to those extremes I did. And that works fine for them. I would be envious of that. But now I can see I can let go of the handlebars here and stop pedalling so hard.

      Thank you for bringing this up – so important.

      And also thanks for the kind words on the writing. I do my best 🙂

      Blessings and namaste


  9. What an honest and vulnerable post! I say kudos to you for being exactly where you are. For I suspect that it took alot of self-control to get here. Pat yourself on the back for all that you have accomplished. You’re not done yet, you are only beginning. The next day, the next moment of your life and wow, just think of the possibilities. Hang in there. You don’t have to be perfect. You only have to be present in the moment.

    1. Wow – thank you so much for this wonderful support! You are absolutely right – being present in the moment is something that is vital, and yet I do struggle with it. I am much better than I used to be, and do my best throughout the day to stay present to the present. Even breathing for a few counts and focusing on that helps me. I *do* feel that I am at a beginning as well…just a slow one 🙂

      Thank you for being here and commenting – made my day.

      Love and light,

  10. Sober Life says:

    Lol! I thanks for the giggle, at the end there, I sure needed it! I have never just got all involved in one thing, for me, I tend to get involved in a million things at the same time! Lol! I found that the same thing happens in the end… I forget what day it is, or what time it is and or happened yesterday…. Sounds familiar? Lol! I remember in rehab they told us that we may pick up few new obsessive habits to replace the drinking and we actually had few meetings were “positive addictions” were discussed. – but you know, in the end, I guess once in the while you just got to stop and smell the … Coffee! Lol! I am trying to learn how to do that…

    1. Groovy comments – you’re right about sometimes delving into a million things at once. I think that is the flip side of the single mindedness that we get into as well. I have about 10 books that are unfinished, half-read. I have a problem committing to one. So I guess it goes both ways too.

      Smell the coffee…perfect. Doing that now.

      Thanks again for being here…have a wonderful day 🙂


  11. Great post. Let me know how the Estonian folk dancing goes…!

    1. I can’t wait! Perhaps I will specialize in single hop, rather than double hop Estonian folk dancing. Or Medieval pot sludging. We’ll see 🙂

      Thanks for the support 🙂


  12. Al K Hall says:

    i’ve developed a little mantra for those times i face this in my recovery:

    Be sober to live, don’t live to be sober.

    1. Al – once again, short but sweet and full of wisdom.

      How do ya do it?

      Thanks – great mantra, kind sir.

  13. One of my friends on one of the several message boards I follow and post on is taking an extended leave of absence and today I posted to him, “You are part of this family, but every once in awhile all of us need to leave the nest and soar unfettered by others’ needs.”
    I’m feeling the need to spread my wings too, let’s go fly, we’ll come back better for it.

    1. Very well said and poignant, Kary May. Thank you for this.

      I too have seen people on message boards saying that they are taking a break from the boards, and while I never understood that then, I can see why now. I have certainly started to cut down in the last few weeks, actually, not allowing myself to get sucked into every single thread that is started (I used to do that). So no wonder that my post count is in the thousands in just under 8 months. And that is just one of the boards. I have another one I go to as well, but visit now much frequently. I can see myself at one point just floating along, engaging when something really captures my imagination or am guided to respond to. Again, I want to balance my life with that of encouraging and helping others.

      You made me think. Thank you.


  14. losedabooze says:

    I think we all have this in common in terms of having ‘addictive’ personalities so when we let go of the alcohol, we look for something else to dive into. I am just starting with the blogging and reading up on other blogs, but I’m trying to keep it all in balance. I’m looking to rekindle some of the passions I had as a kid/teen – like dancing, crafts, and just plain getting out more to do ‘normal’ things around normal people.

    I don’t know you well as I have just started following, but it sounds like you will do fine by the simple fact that you recognize it’s time for a change (and PS sounds like your wife is a smart cookie to nudge you as well).

    1. Welcome to this little corner of the world…and thank you so much for your comments.

      I certainly have jumped into other things when I lost the alcohol – caffeine and sugar were the big ones, along with recovery. Caffeine is good. Sugar is back and forth. And recovery is now next on the list. Who knows if I am picking up other ones. Sigh. But I hope to replace and balance these things with more positive, life-affirming stuff (hokey, but true).

      I am glad to hear that you’re looking to rekindle the things that you used to do. I would have to dig deep for me on that one, but perhaps that will spark something else.

      Thanks for the kind words, and I look forward to reading more on your blog as well 🙂


  15. destamae says:

    Once again- you hit the mark- right where I was thinking and a point my therapist JUST hit on this last week. He said ” you know, not ALL of your friends have to be recovery friends. You CAN have non-recovery friends, that’s ok. In fact you SHOULD.” I was like, huh? I was telling him how I just can’t relate to people who haven’t been through what I’ve been through- that they just DON’T understand. Much like your post- most of my life right now is all through the lens of recovery. Recovery this, recovery that. Recovery everything! Which is great, but what about all the other great people I do have in my life that want to be a part of it, but aren’t necessarily recovery peeps? Once again, my therapist was right and really got me thinking- and then, THIS post! Whoa! GREAT timing! 🙂 Spot on as always!

    ENJOY the time with your kids and other non-recovery ‘stuff’. It’s good and it’s healthy.


    1. Thanks Desta – your reply was spot on for me too. I like what your therapist said there. I think it’s very important that we both follow your therapist’s advice (I’ll pay ya half for his services…lol)! I have a few more days before my wife leaves, so I can start thinking of things I can do (i am not planning to paint the town red – baby steps!)

      Thanks again for visiting this corner of the blogosphere 🙂


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