Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

So simple. So beautiful. So effective. So powerful.

Just like a pythagoras theorem to mathematics, a Charles Dickens to English literature or ‘Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman’ and Mozart to whatever. Simple… effective. You can translate it to any or all languages spoken by human beings, and yet the meaning and the power will not be lost.

This is the prayer recited by every addict who is attending any 12 step program or meeting. It can be said any time when one is in need of guidance. I have started saying it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I was unaware of these powerful words throughout my life. My introduction to them was at my first rehab. That time, I did not comprehend the meaning of these words, as I was having trouble with the very first word itself. I never had any religious preferences or biases, but I always had trouble with the whole concept of asking something from God. Why should I? He never did anything for me? In fact, He made things tougher. In all honesty, if he had just let me be, not meddled, I would have been ok.

I kept on fighting, and kept on loosing. All I had to do was to replace the word God with my understanding of a higher power. Every addict knows that what he is doing is wrong, yet we continue to do the same thing over and over again. Simply because, we do not take time to reflect on what we are doing. We do not take guidance. The words prayer, spirituality, serenity just turn us off.

Somewhere during my second rehab, I decided that let me not dwelve on this too much. I decided that I will not say or recite the prayer. I decided that I will just read it. Again and again. When I did that, it dawned upon me the meaning. It gave me hope and it made me free of the guilt and shame that I was always carrying with me. To me, the first key word was ‘Accept’. I realized that acceptance will lead me to freedom. There are times in life, or for that matter even in a war, where refusing to fight or to surrender is the first step towards the victory. You accept your shortcomings and you buy time for an earnest retrospection.

The second key word to me is ‘Courage’. After you accept who you are, comes the courage. The courage to face the things, the courage to change the things.

The third key word, according to me is ‘Wisdom’. Tall order… isn’t it? Here we are, still with drugs in our system, and we are talking about wisdom? But, have patience. Just say these words… and as long as you are not using the drug again, wisdom will follow.

I am not sure if the author of these words actually planned/wrote it the way they are written, but the very order in which these words occur in the prayer is very important. Unless you accept, you cannot ask for courage, and unless you have both the concept of acceptance and courage, you cannot have wisdom.

Life becomes simple. You no longer fight. The weight on your shoulder is lifted. To me, this prayer should be part of every text book everywhere. There is no religious undertone here, no ambiguity and no preferences. Just words and just thoughts.

And, if you are interested, here is the rest of it:

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.


I have started saying this prayer in all walks of my life… the first part of it. Sure, it does not solve the problems or issues, but it lifts the weight from them. I feel liberated. I do not care about what will happen in future, but I give my best shot in tackling the problem. This is where I have really started to understand what Bhagvad Geeta says… about doing one’s work without thinking about the results.

The second part of the prayer, I say it whenever I am at peace, content or happy. I don’t know why or how, but I can feel the smile on my face (though I have not checked myself in mirror).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Suicide… the story and related thoughts

Am I going to attempt again?

I don’t know. It all depends on how tough I make things in my life. It is same as asking a recovering alcoholic: Are you going to drink again? The honest and the only answer to the question is “I am not sure”.

What I can tell you about suicide is that it is a pretty damn tough job. No matter what people say or perceive, no matter what has been written about it… it is a fuckin’ difficult thing to do. Especially for people like me… who have young kids, and one of them is with special needs. You go through the motions of weighing it daily, thinking it over and over. You die everyday. You fight the moral dilemma and the stigma associated with it. You analyze yourself… am I being a coward? Can’t I just fight it off? Is it worth it?

You are a son, a brother, a husband and a father. Not to mention the in-laws relationships you have. I am as much accountable to my in-laws as I am to my parents and siblings. What about my friends? Or for that matter, what about my relationships at work? Sure, they will fill the void created by me (that is the only time one can use the word creation while talking about death), but is it not unfair to them that I just decide one day to not to show up?

Despite all of these thoughts, with nobody around you, with whom you can confide or anyone who can understand where you are coming from… the decision becomes a simple one. You take care of notes and letters for the police and the insurance companies. You write a letter to the woman of your life… and a letter to the kids (which they can read when they turn 16 or 18).

I debated this whole thing for over 3 months. To do or not to do. How should I go about it? I was not able to get a gun. Yeah, I know, I am in US of A. I tried the shady areas and tried meeting their inhabitants… no good. Anyhow, alone at home, I put some blankets and pillows in the bathtub and got a pair of knives from the kitchen. I took some serious gulps of alcohol to make me numb. I needed alcohol because I needed the courage. You see, with a gun in hand, things are straight forward, but with a knife, it is a whole different ball game. I had time on my hands. Wife had already moved out of the house with kids and all the belongings. So, with alcohol now roaming inside my veins I put on some songs, reminding me of my wife, on my phone. Then I settle down in the bath tub. I wait and wait, still listening to the songs. I take more alcohol. Then I pick up the knife. I have no courage in me to look at it… so with looking nothing at particular but reliving the past, I make the first cut on the wrists. Man it hurt. It burned. Even without looking, I knew that it was not deep… my body jerked and the knife slipped. Still, I could see the blood coming out. I close my eyes and gave a second shot at it. Good… I could feel that I am going somewhere with it. I kept my eyes closed… and slowly drifted into sleep, the music still playing next to me.

Not sure how long I slept, but slowly I regained awareness to my whereabouts. Took a look at my left hand wrist… blood was still coming out, but very slowly. I then picked up the knife… no good man. It is kind of blunt. This is not going to work out. So I took some more gulps of alcohol, wrap up my wrist with a handkerchief, and get out of bath tub. Need to drive and buy a brand new knife.

So, I do that. Come back at home. How I did it, I don’t know… I was drunk, I was bleeding and yet I made it back. This time, I was quick. I had learned from my recent past. I just needed two quick, deep and sustained cuts. The warmness of my blood engulfed me. I closed my eyes… I could not keep them open… and soon, despite me drunk, I could feel the moistness of the blanket around me. I knew the last two cuts were fatal… now it is just a matter of time.

Woke up again… this time to some yelling and pounding. Opened my eyes, tried to comprehend what is going on and who are these two people in my toilet. I realized that they are from ambulance. They lifted me up, carried me over to the stretcher, and then to the ambulance. On my way out to the ambulance, I see my wife surrounded by cops. I knew instantly what had happened… and I knew that I might not survive, but I am not going to die.

You see, what happened was, that God knows for what reason, my wife stopped by the house to see me. She came inside, but could not find me, so she left. I was in the toilet unconscious. Then, after about 2 hours, sensing something wrong, she came back again and started looking for me room by room. And then she found me. And then she called the police.

Am I ashamed of my doing? No, I am not. I had opted for this after some serious considerations. You see, I was anyway not with my kids and wife for the past one year. They, my wife and the kids, had learned to be without me. If I came back again in their lives, I was not doing them any good. In fact, with me dead, the insurance money and the social security benefits would have done them far more good than I could have. I have been fighting my addiction for so long and I was getting nowhere.

What I did learn from this was that I can be sober and can attempt to regain my life back. I can see my kids and my wife. I can help other addicts. I did not see any bolts of lightning or a man with white beard, but I did realize that life can be fun even if you are living in pain. What matters, at the end of it, is what you give back to your kids and to the society. You don’t have to be successful, even a failure can give something back to the human race.

Getting back is not easy. You cannot resume from where you left. You have to start all over again. There are roadblocks everywhere. Trick is not to give in, but to avoid them. Take it easy. Think, Think and Think. Life is tough only if you make it to be. Keep your desires realistic and choices simple. Life is just like at a cards table, you play with what you been dealt. Sure, things are tougher on you than others… and I am putting it mildly here, but that doesn’t means that you can make the most out of it. Instead of comparing what you have and what you could have achieved, measure yourself with how many a lives you have touched upon. You don’t have to be a social worker, you still can touch lives. The power of the technology allows you to help others, and in helping others you are helping yourself. They say that you cannot love others if you don’t love yourself first. I don’t totally agree with it. I think that you don’t have to love yourself, that is not a prerequisite in loving others, but you have to respect yourself first. As long as you can look yourself in the mirror and not feel guilty or ashamed about your actions… you’ll do fine.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First Visual

Attempting to wake up….. Thoughts of a recovering Alcoholic

Society, in general, is forgiving…May be because there are no expectations involved. As long as you are paying your taxes, bills and handing out cash, you will get served. The local grocer, the cab guy who picks you up or even the old man walking on the sidewalk... they never judge you. You are always greeted with a warm smile and a hello. Sure, they know about your addiction. When I was drinking, I thought that nobody knew about it. Now that I have not taken a drink in a while, I know how wrong I was. I can see it in their eyes that they gauzing me. Yet, they are happy for me. After all, who would want to mildly ruin their day by feeling sorry for a looser? It kind of perks them up a little bit.. that, I am not drunk. You can sense the energy. Does it make me feel bad or does it make me overcome with shame? No. It doesn’t. Back when I was drinking, and if I got the feeling that the other person is sizing me, it would make me mad. Now, I just accept it.

It is the ones whom you have shared your self, are tough on you. After all, I was the one who broke their trust, their faith and their confidence in me. They are not forgiving. It is almost that they are on some kind of revenge spree. All along, when I was suffering… drowning myself in bottle, they wanted me to get back on my feet, to get well. Now that I am somewhat capable or now that I am attempting, I can see their indifference. It is almost like that they want me to suffer… and that this was the reason why they wanted me to get well. Think of it in another way… what is the point of punishing a person who is not in his senses? Make a person suffer when he can feel the pain… that is what gives the real pleasure to the people who are inflicting.

Kids… they are different, especially if they are young. They love you. They haven’t reached the age where they can qualify or quantify love. They give it in abundance and expect it the same way. But, if you look closely, you will notice that they also have changed. A little bit of apprehension creeping in. They are holding back a tiny bit.. because they are not sure when you will leave them again… either by passing out in a drunken stupor or by checking into a rehab. They are happy to spend their days and nights with their aunt and cousin… because that is what they started doing when you were not around. Yet the joy on their face and the untainted love rubs on the soul. A fellow addict, a very knowledgeable one (we all are, the addicts, you know), told me at one of the rehabs that your kids will always be your kids. No matter if your wife separates from you and has their custody, no matter if you go far far away... every time they see you, they will be happy. You will always be their Daddy. And, this is what you should never forget, for the rest of your life, because this is what that will keep you on the right track.

Work is also same and different. The relationship you had with your Boss is now not the same. It is strained. Your Boss, just like your wife, can never trust you. The other high profile guys at work, like the VPs or the Directors… with whom you had good relations, even though they were way up the ladder, are now uncomfortable when you are around. No body is sure how to react. They just try to focus on the work that needs to be done and the conversations are limited to it… and that is the way it should be. You shouldn’t feel offended. These are the new rules of the game. The game has changed… simply because you had opted/forced it to be changed. Learn... show patience… like taking baby steps. There is no humiliation… you are back at work and that is what is important. At least, you are lucky enough to have this chance. Some days it will be tough… either because people have lost confidence in you or because you are fighting your own demons… but remember to break it down… one day into one hour… and if needed to one minute.
What is comforting, and a very well needed change, is the unexpected hugs and handshakes you get from people with whom you were friendly with (in a professional way), but never expected anything from. The handshake which lingers a second or two longer, the nod when you pass by and the hugs with the bosom… it keeps you going.  Not only do they understand what you have gone through, but they also understand what you are going through.

Addiction always tests the addict, as well as the people around him. It tests your will power and your desire to live. For people around you, it tests their patience. Of course, it is unfair to them… why should they be tested at all. It is not their problem. Yet, that is what it is. If you are lucky to survive the damages addiction has inflicted upon you, or, to put it correctly, the damages you have done to yourself, you will know who is with you and who is not. Who genuinely applauds your attempts and who has disdain for you.  Not that there is anything wrong with the latter. Everybody is different. Everybody has their own limits. Who am I to judge?

They say life is tough… hell yes it is. Every single fuckin’ day, consciously or unconsciously, you got to keep tabs on it. It can easily slip away… just like your better half. Coming to the better/fairer half… you miss her, but she is not interested in you anymore. You beg… for a second chance… or for forgiveness. Nope. Nothing is happening. But think back for a moment, shall we? Can you, in all honesty, forgive yourself? No. Then how can she? You were away from her, her daily life, her problems… for more than a year. In old times, when a man went to war and was away for years… chances were, when he came back, the wife would be with somebody else. It was natural. Everybody needs company. And to think of it, you were not in a war, not even on an assignment… heck… you were drunk. How cool is that!!

When not drinking for a while, you can see how slowly life passes by… you feel every hour, every minute… like a trickle or a drop… tick tick tick. The depression, the lack of self esteem, the feeling of uselessness… it is all there. You really have to soak all that in. You have to embrace them. They are going to live with you for a while. They are not going away soon. You have invited them anyway. Don’t fight… surrender and accept. The only hope you have to survive is to not pick that bottle again.
You start noticing small things like finding personal space… in a social gathering. You never knew that such a thing existed. While acknowledging your presence, nobody bothers to include you in!!
There is constant dilemma…constant war… Are these people judging you OR Are you judging them? Are they really judging you or is this the case of them carrying out the sentence?
Be honest to your self… in your thoughts and deeds, do not judge others… for you have forfeited that right (for now, at least). ACCEPT. Accept the things the way they are. New rule of the game is to always be Humble. Never raise your voice, never expect anything… learn to live like a hermit. Just like the toxins from drugs and alcohol take sometime to flush out from your body, the other aspect of addiction e.g. psychosocial behaviors will take their own sweet time to get back in order.