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  • My new N.A. friends really welcomed me back with love and acceptance after my “relapse”. I threw myself into the program with everything I had. George suggested I get more involved in “service work”, taking on a commitment with the group, so I became the Sunday Step meeting’s Secretary and coffee-maker. At a Step meeting, we would read from an AA book about the 12 Steps, a different step each week, and members would share their experience with whatever the book talked about. The secretary would take minutes at the group’s monthly business meeting.

    At work, I had nicked my right middle finger with a utility knife, and it had become badly infected. When I went to a doctor to get the infection treated, he took me off the Lithium, concerned that that might be affecting my system’s ability to heal. (He really had no idea what he was doing). What followed in relatively short order was a total emotional roller-coaster. I was all over the map. Not only didn’t I have my accustomed “pot highs” to take the edge off, anymore, but without the Lithium, any semblance of emotional stability went right out the window. But, I decided that I didn’t want anything coming between myself and whatever this spiritual experience they talked about was, so I stayed off the lithium, even after the finger healed.

    Things got really crazy at work. The energy I used to pour into my job was now being poured into my N.A. and A.A. “program” activities. I began acting rather bizarrely at work. I was going to meetings everyday now, drinking a ton of coffee, and was really wired for sound. I wasn’t getting much sleep, as a result, and my ass was really dragging at work. But, I was staying clean and sober, which became my new obsession!

    I did find a guy at the N.A. Step meeting to be my sponser, and he started helping me out with the 12 Steps. He seemed to be the only one I’d met in N.A. who had experienced the steps. Most of them were just going to meetings and being what they called “clean and crazy”, with the emphasis on the “crazy”. I was down with that part – after all my time in semi-isolation, sitting in my apartment after work, getting high alone and playing stratomatic baseball with myself, brooding over my friend’s death and the meaning of life all winter, I was ready for some craziness with a bunch of kids who acted the way I felt. We did all kinds of crazy stuff together. I loved it.
  • I was also suddenly getting more involved with women. It seemed that now that I wasn’t feeling like this emotional “Tin Man” behind the lithium veil, women were responding to me, emotionally. I wasn’t looking for any serious relationships, and neither were they, so there were a lot of short-term involvements, kind of a new thing for me, aside from when I was in my full-blown addiction back in my Navy days. A big difference now was, I would remember everything the next day. Sometimes that was a good thing, and sometimes I wished I didn’t. I had no idea how to handle all the new emotions that seemed to be rushing at me, and through me. The mantra became “just don’t pick up and go to a meeting”. The second part of that was a lot easier than the first. I found myself constantly fighting the obsession to get high. It was torture, but I really wanted to stay clean.

    The relative stability that I had enjoyed in my life the previous 2 years just went out the window. Life became very chaotic. It didn’t take me long to blow the job that had been one of the stable things in my life over the previous two years. I’d somehow gotten involved with painting the AA Clubhouse one night, and it turned into an all-night job. I had to work the next day. I wound up falling asleep on the job, and they decided to fire me for it. It was clearly an excuse to get rid of me, as management was not very happy with some of my bizarre behaviors of the previous few months. I was devestated to suddenly be out of work. I couldn’t even collect unemployment, since I had been fired for cause and they fought my claim. I had enough saved up to get me through a month or so, but I had to start scrambling for a job.

    It turned out that the sponser I had found in N.A. only had experience with the first 5 steps. After that, he had turned to therapy, so he helped me with those steps, and then I was pretty much on my own. I tried a couple of therapy sessions, but that clearly wasn’t what I was looking for, and messed me up more than anything. I had to do something else.

    The program was going through a sudden growth spurt in the Philadelphia area, and all over the country, that year. While there were only 10 meetings in all of Eastern Pennsylvania when I started going to meetings, within that first year, it would grow to 81 meetings in Philadelphia, alone. There was this sudden burst of energy surrounding N.A., and it was growing like wildfire. I just tapped into that energy and let it carry me for awhile. I hoped that I would eventually find recovery, but for the time being, “clean and crazy” would have to suffice.
  • I found a job for the summer at the Fort Dix Laundry, which was quite a drive. It seemed like I was constantly driving now, back and forth to work, going to meetings every night - there was never any time for rest or reflection. I was constantly on the go. I was probably drinking 15 – 20 cups of coffee a day and smoking like a fiend. Compeletely wired for sound. There were many nights where I was fighting off obsessions to get high, despite all the meetings. It would just overwhelm me, and I would get myself to a meeting, somewhere, anywhere, no matter how far I had to drive to one. This little poem I wrote at the time reflects how things were going for me:

    Night of Obsession

    Out on a back country road,
    Driving into the deep, dark unknown,
    Searching for a moment of release,
    from the pain of being all alone….

    Sobriety has its days of doubtfulness,
    Serenity comes and goes as it pleases;
    Insanity tempts me into believing
    I could find my way without Jesus...

    Back home, now, I sit and wonder
    How long I will carry it on,
    Fighting obsession with an aching hunger,
    Praying just to make it ‘til dawn….

    I just couldn't find the key to that spiritual side of recovery that I knew was out there somewhere, so the only thing to do was dive in and get more involved with the service activities, of which I was finding N.A. had plenty to keep me obessively occupied.

    (Pictured above: me with my new "clean & crazy" crew - I'm second from the far left, George is on the far right)
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