I was running yesterday in a nearby park area and stumbled across a makeshift memorial site.  A young man, who lost his life several years ago, still being kept in memory by still-fresh flowers and keepsakes.  I had to stop and take it in.  I also had to keep in mind that this memorial was located at the bottom of a bridge.  A very high bridge.  What made this young soul decide to jump at that time is unknown to me.  But the pain had to be scorching enough to end it in a gruesome fashion.

Post-run shower had me in tears.  Unexpected tears. Sure I was heartbroken at this lad, but I was more overtaken by the emotions of both gratitude and grief regarding the deadly nature of alcoholism.  At the meeting the other night I saw people who I thought “had it” standing up and getting chips for a month or two of sobriety.  People who I understood to be strong members of the program, but perhaps were not as such.  Perhaps they felt they had done enough.  Perhaps they felt they had it licked. Perhaps they were without that mental defence against the first drink.  It’s not for me to judge.  But what struck me was how fortunate and blessed they were to make it back.  Because so many don’t.

I thought about how this illness takes so many people – through suicide, heart disease, liver failure, car crashes, drunken accidents, alcohol-induced violence, etc.  This is a killer thing we have and I am sure as hell am grateful that I am where I am right now.  I know we joke about it sometimes, and try not to get too morose on the topic, but I have to remember that this kills.  It ruins lives.  It ruins family lives.  It wrecks everything in its path and takes no prisoners.  It takes hostages, which it later tries to execute in a grisly way.

In my own struggles, I could have easily taken a life.  Several lives.  I could be incarcerated right now.  I could be making a trip to a memorial such as the one I ran into.  I could be the one that has his name on a weathered placard, where dogs come to sniff while their owners walk them.  I could have been in heaps of trouble.  But I have Creator’s Grace to thank for this, and I don’t ever forget it.  Even in the meetings or online when we laugh about crazy stories, I have that kernel of understanding that things don’t always turn out well.  That often people lose lives or take lives.  What centers me is the horrific nature of this illness.

One doesn’t need a rap sheet or numerous stays in hospital or detox or the psych ward to have this illness.  One doesn’t need to be divorced or homeless or have severe health issues to have alcoholism.  One prays that we don’t get there.  Some figure this out earlier than others.  Some go to the bitter end and never take action.  I am lucky.  I am blessed.  Those people who laugh in the rooms or out here are lucky.  But we work at this.  Complacency has taken its toll on others, and I know I have been guilty of that too.  But I refuse to allow myself to lapse on all fronts.  Action is what got me here and action is what will continue to propel me to well being and contentedness.  Serenity is what I seek, and like my sponsor James talks about, clarity.

I was once like that young man standing on that bridge, staring out at the hard dirt ground below.  I was on the teetering point of my life.  I was suicidal.  I was also killing myself slowly with booze.  I also didn’t know how to live without alcohol.  Bridges and subway platforms started to look good.  But in the end I knew I was put here for purpose.  I just happened to understand dying the death I was headed towards wasn’t it. In the end, surrender was the key to my recovery. Willingness, honesty and open-mindedness opened doors that I never knew existed.  I stopped fighting and allowed myself to fall into where Creator needed me.  And I continue to do that to this day.   Some days are better than others, but I have come to a peaceful place where I can feel, I can love, I can be transformed and I can do my best to help others.

I wish that for everyone who reads this.  We don’t do this alone.




48 Comments Add yours

  1. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Thank you for these words today, Paul. I needed to read them.



    1. Hugs back my friend. We’re not alone 🙂

  2. Dear Paul,
    This might be yet another favorite of mine. What strikes me is the empathy (not just sympathy) for people who cross your path. Your gift is actually a bit of a burden sometimes, right? To feel that much for your fellow man can be draining and all-encompassing. That said, you find gratitude and blessings in everything and everyday and that’s a rare gift, indeed! xo

    1. Thank Michelle. Burden…interesting word. I find that I probably could use more empathy in general, in more measured amounts. But certainly this journey has opened me up in many ways. I think you have that gift in spades, my friend. You find the joy in everything. That’s born into one.


  3. Thank you, I now understand the intention of the ‘stop fighting’ that I see coming along a lot.

  4. Paul – this is one of those posts that I copy and put into a special place to read over and over. This is a post that really makes me take a second and third look at this terrible disease and not take my sobriety for granted. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Trish

    1. Thank you Trish. That means a lot to me. I like what you said about not taking our sobriety for granted. I thank Creator daily for that. I sometimes forget though.
      Blessings to you

  5. sherryd32148 says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.


    1. Thanks Sherry – hope you’re well. Miss you out here.

  6. themethadonemaze says:

    What a great post! Very thought provoking, love it!

    1. Thanks…muchly appreciated 🙂

  7. greg w says:

    Reblogged this on club east: indianapolis and commented:
    Not too long ago we lost one of our own. He reached a point where there was less pain in putting a gun to his head than putting a bottle to his mouth… again. And he lived just a few block away from me. So part of the responsibility is mine. I’ll own that. And certainly one of the thinks that struck me in the days following that numbing event was how many of the oldtimers sat hunched over their coffee in the cafe thumbing through the names over the years who had done the very same thing. I’m still challenged in the imagery of these conversations because the truth is we all have a responsibility to let the struggler know he/she is not alone in this battle. Now to be fair, the man at the top of this ‘graph had people around him. But i think there’s a serious difference between simply having people around us and having someone in our life with whom we can truly be naked and unashamed.

    1. Thank you Greg for sharing that painful story (and for the reblog – very kind of you). I have heard that way too often and untreated alcoholism often results in what happened to that poor soul in your area. Reaching out is what we do, and I do get complacent in that. Just today I prayed to take the actions needed in finding a sponsee. It’s been over a year and I realize just how much having sponsees has helped me in the past.

      Blessings to you.

  8. jrj1701 says:

    I always have to remember EVERYDAY,

    But by the grace of God there I go also.

    Thanks for reminding us Paul.

    1. Thank you JR…I need that reminder too….blessings.

  9. Art Mowle says:

    Great post Paul. We can never let our guard down. Damn this ugly disease. I too am thankful that they made it back, as you said many don’t. I guess it never gets better out there. Take Care

    1. Yeah, Art…I have yet to hear anyone say that it got better when they went back out. It’s that whole belly full of booze and head full of AA thing perhaps. And the insidious nature of this illness to continue bringing us down.

      Thanks for sharing and being here.

  10. annegillion says:

    Can you read my mind, Paul? You’ve hit the spot yet again. Somehow, your words touch a place inside me and help me to understand why life is a gift – and worth living well.

    1. Thank you Anne. I hope you are well. I am glad that this resonated with you.
      Abundance of blessings to you 🙂

  11. runningonsober says:

    Beautifully written.

    1. Thanks, Christy. Hope you’re well.

  12. Life is a gift. We see those who struggle and tries with all their might to hang onto it, and those who want to give it away. Those who are thankful and those who aren’t. Those who appreciate it and those who think it is a curse. I am so glad you have come so far to appreciate life and still empathize with those who struggle. Powerful post.

    1. Thanks, Tiff. It’s always interesting to hear your POV considering the folks you deal with on a daily basis. Thank you for this perspective.

  13. ainsobriety says:

    Beautiful. Surrender was my key to. To get out of my own way and to stop trying to run the world.
    That’s where the serenity truly lives.
    I’m so fortunate, blessed, that I finally opened my eyes and saw through the illusion alcohol was creating. Fear kept me paralyzed for a long time. But not today.

    1. So well stated. Self-centered fear is what often freezes us in our selves. Still does for me, but I appreciate those who help me through it and having the tools too. Thank you for being here, and so glad that surrender has helped you as well. Have a beautiful day.

  14. llpetunia says:

    Beautiful post, Paul. It reminded me to be grateful that I stopped when I did, and before I did irreparable harm to myself and my family. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank YOU for being here and adding to this. Gratitude often pulls me out of self-pity and other ugly characteristics of mine. Blessings to you.

  15. furtheron says:

    Thank you for a touching post. Second post today about grown men crying – I shared on that one a day a couple of weeks ago when I watched a documentary about 10 addicts trying to work together on a classical music composition and performance – I was in tears with that knowing my own pain and thus some of their pain. It is good to cry…

    Like you say I could have been the memorial – would someone have kept it alive like that for me? Who knows, but I do have a loving family who I ignored totally when I stood at the top of a cliff in my last dark days of drinking and tried to will myself to jump off headfirst to the concrete sea wall 150ft below. I couldn’t do it – not for the love of my family I simply was too scared that I’d fail and just end up badly hurt – how selfish is that. So I headed off to the pub again and another round of drinking to numb the pain away.

    Another night also comes to mind. Late – I’ve been drinking most of the day. My wife had been at a company do and I’d gone to meet her and accompany her home safely – how noble of me… no – just another excuse for me to drink really as ever. However we were running late and I dashed down the stairs onto the tube platform I tried to get to the doors of the tube train to stop them closing. I failed bounced off the doors and … straight down the gap between the train and the platform. Luckily my wife screamed louder than a banshee – a huge South African guy (clearly a rugby player) realised the issue. He pulled the doors open and dragged me up as the station staff berated us all for delaying the train. I lay on the floor of the train, suit ripped and torn, covered in all kinds of filth and realising as I stood to leave some stations later that actually that stuff all over my shoe was blood from a long gash in my leg – my wife was dabbing away the blood from the cut over my eye. Simply put – if that had been a day without my wife there, the guy hadn’t forced the door and stopped the train moving … well… many tons of train vs me…

    This disease kills – and it rarely says alcoholic poisoning on the death certificate

    1. Thank you for sharing all this, Graham. I understand exactly these things you talk about. Even that about the addicts and the classical music. I get it all. I can still understand those feelings of not necessarily wanting to die, but of not wanting to live. Which is why I think many of us stop taking that final last step.

      And yes, the death certificate rarely says alcohol poisoning. And yet, it kills in how many ways? You’ve outlined just how it can be.

      Thanks Graham.

  16. momma bee says:

    This too was my saving grace…..
    “In the end, surrender was the key to my recovery. Willingness, honesty and open-mindedness opened doors that I never knew existed. I stopped fighting and allowed myself to fall into where Creator needed me.”

    Beautiful post Paul~ thank you this was a great read for me this morning!

    1. Thank you MB. Glad to see you so involved in recovery and spreading the word about your own story. It’s very inspiring. Blessings, Paul.

  17. Erika says:

    Paul, heartwarming and perfectly written: Paul’s style. I am still around. Hope you are well. Lots and lots of love!

    1. Oh Erika…always wonderful to see you. I do miss ya, but I know life has tugged you into its lovely embrace. Lots of love back.

  18. Amazing, as I’m sitting down to write a draft of something clanking around my brain, I get to read this beautiful passage, and it gives me pause. I will reflect a bit before I continue with my thoughts.

    This is important stuff, Paul, and I hope all of our comrades get a chance to read it 🙂

    1. Thank you Josie. I look forward to what you have to say, as usual 🙂

  19. Court_Knee says:

    Beautifully written

    1. Thank you so much. Hope you are well 🙂

  20. mike says:

    Happy Sunday Pauly.

    You are a pretty decent writer.

    You think you could craft something on “isolation”?

    Looking forward to the read.

    Take it easy, my man.

    1. Happy Sunday Mikey.

      Thanks for kind words.

      Isolation? Could write a book on that.

      Will do, brother 🙂

      Have a peaceful and loving day.


  21. nonotesnotes says:

    Thanks. This really struck me. I’m struggling, and this is a well written reminder of why I shouldn’t relapse. I don’t want the drunk driving, the suicidal thoughts, the feelings of hopelessness, the accidents and self inflicted injuries..

    “I was put here for a purpose”. At the very least, you’ve made a difference for me, today 🙂

    1. I am glad this resonated with you…and thank you for being here (I apologize for the late response!)

      You have made a difference for me!


  22. Sober Sister says:

    Thanks for talking about this. My brother took his life three years ago. He too suffered with alcoholism. I am sober now for the third time. His memory fuels me. I must be vigilant in recovery work. I never want to get there. I want to live my recovered life. I wish so much we could recover his, we never will. But he is my reminder. That is his last gift to me.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your brother, sober sister. And I am glad to hear that you are sober yourself. I can’t imagine how that must feel knowing your brother was in that much pain to do what he did. But as you said, we remain vigilant in our recovery. We do what we need to do to not only just stay sober, but to be happy and comfortable in our own skin. He certainly did not die in vain.

      Blessings to you and thank you for sharing this painful story. It will stay with me.


  23. Mandy Le says:

    I love that I fell upon this post today. I have been sober for 3 years. This year my son lost his father to an overdose…my ex that I used to use and booze with. It hurts. We are now states away from him so we would only see him on occasion when we would travel back to visit family. He never called, never wrote. It was heartbreaking to see him stuck in the lost world of addiction which ultimately lead to his death.

    We just went back again for Christmas. On that trip we saw a lot of his family and spent a good chunk of time with them. Unfortunately his brother still uses and was crazy high. It was heartbreaking to watch and it instantly threw me back into the memories of the chaos of my once so called life. All of the memories became alive again. My brain turned that switch back on.

    I watched him move all around my childhood home. He came over to visit my son, his nephew. I watched his pin pointed red eyes as they darted topic to topic, while is brain fired thought after thought into existence. It was sad. It made me vomit.

    It reminded me of the grace that has been freely given to me and to others. I pray life for those still stuck daily, sometimes even minutely. I’ve learned how to become a “normal functioning adult” whatever that means and is, and for that I am ever grateful. I look into my son’s eyes and almost burst into tears daily at the darkness I put him through in his first years of life, while at the same time so overjoyed that he can stand in front of me and claim me to be THE BEST MOM EVER.

    So thank you for your words, that I stumbled upon today, a day when I needed to hear that others have the same struggles and thoughts as I do. We are never alone. Happy New Year!

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