I have a friend who is a drunk.
Even though it’s been a very long time since his last drink, that’s how he refers to himself.
One day I had to ask why.
“I recovered from my disease but it’s like it’s in remission, only unlike other fatal illnesses, I have the opportunity to keep it from rearing it’s ugly head ever again”
In my mind a ‘drunk’ was a guy without a home looking for change to buy his next bottle of Golden Nut sherry.
Some poor dude with questionable willpower and a weakness in character.
But my friend raised 8 kids and was loved in his community.
Ya, I said 8 kids!
No shit he drank!
“Disease?” I questioned
“ The ignorance surrounding the alcoholism is limitless“ he said subtly pointing out that I was once again acting in judgement prior to investigation, and he continued;
“In the sixties the American medical community acknowledged the genetic component of “alcohol use disorder” resulting in many like me finding a path to recovery.”
While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the disease idea, in my experience a lot of the opposition and steadfast refusal to see addiction as a disease comes from people who have suffered greatly at the hands of active alcoholics.” he shared.
“ In any case I just choose to remember that once pickled you can’t go back to being a cucumber”
Finally! Now he was speaking in a way even I could grasp – with analogies!!
Yet I was unconvinced. I mean I have known this guy since high school and let me tell you he could drink! So I decided to see how convinced he was.
“So you will never ever have another drink?” I asked.
“Not if I want to stay sober no” the answer came quickly and he followed,
“Look, you know how you are with cookies ?
Now that wasn’t fair …though I have been known to pilfer twelve at a time while at his place watching the playoffs, he does make a crazy peanut butter cookie!
“ or chips?” He added leaving me completely defenseless.
“Well that’s how I am with booze … One leads to five. Then five calls on eight and eight invites my inner asshole to come to town. It’s like posting a house party on Facebook …I lose the ability to choose!
“Its kinda like an allergy-once I have one I really can’t say where it will end but we all know it doesn’t bring out my best self so why would I want to go there?”
It is true …he really became a dick at the end of his drinking days.
But I had to press (that’s what friends are for right?)
“ So what if they told you that you were dying?”
He looked at me and framed my question back to me.
“ If you somehow knew that tomorrow would be your last day what would you change ?”
Would you stop wearing those stupid Hawaiian shirts ?
Would you finally quit trying to prove your value to others?
Would you really continue to give a shit about winning the business game?
Would you really want to be identified in your last hours as a great strategist with business acumen?
Is that what would you draw your attention to if you knew this day was going to be your last?
In a flash my true heart values surrounding those I love that I would choose to spend my last hours connecting with came to mind.
With this awareness all past pain and current fears from past harms endured retreated, laying bare the activities I was so consumed by.
From this perspective I saw that all the things that I mindlessly let define me were truly minutia in the big pic.
“No” I replied “I see now most of that shit is just for sheeple”
He uses that word for humans who mindlessly follow the flock – not by choice.
And IPhone users. Then he gently went for the jugular of the debate
“Me too… but we don’t really know when our last day is do we?”
So when I put drinking into the right perspective the only solution I could adopt was to try to focus on one day at a time sometimes one moment at a time”
We went back to the playoff game in progress yet thought about what shared for a long time .
And I thought about how he said that when he had his first drink he lost his choice over having the second third and tenth.
Then it occurred to me that while I enjoy the thrill of business I can’t let it overshadow the simple fact that it is not my sole choice for what will not define my life.
Just like I can agree that a glass of red wine may go really well with a plate of penne puttanesca, a bottle before and after will make the meal less memorable.
I admire my friend’s awareness that his ultimate gesture of power is surrender.
Inspired by the lessons of that day I surrendered to the truth that I have no idea which will be my last and that all I can do is remain focused on a grateful heart for the time I have been given.
Which left me practicing gratitude (while often failing) for the most important things to me in my life.
Remaining mindful as I move through my day of the following paradox:
Is there really any other way to practice gratitude for all the days in our lives- other than living each as if it was the last we might live?