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  • The coolness of that Fall was especially hard for me to bear. That summer had ended on such a light note, I just wanted it to go on forever. But, my determination to get a firm foothold in “reality”, and tackle this problem of stability in my “real life” was becoming greater. My lack of progress in this area was becoming ever more frustrating to me. I figured that all of this work I was doing for N.A. was heady stuff and all, but I needed to start figuring life and recovery out. I knew I still didn’t have it, whatever “it” was. My life was becoming ever more unmanageable.

    College classes started back up, and I threw myself into school and work. Our house had become the gathering place for the “N.A. clan” – there were always recovering addicts crashing there, and all night parties after midnight meetings (these were “clean” parties), sometimes weekend long “addithons”, with meetings and speakers and fundraising going on the whole weekend. Whenever someone from out of town was in the area, they always stopped at our place in Ivyland, and usually wound up staying there. In short, I was living in an out-of-control zoo. It constantly chipped away at my ability to make any headway in my efforts for stability, and balance. A part of me loved the “togetherness” of it all, but it felt like I was going back and forth between living in the idealism of the ‘60’s and living in the realities of the ‘80’s. I just wanted sanity in my life. Was that too much to ask? That’s what I was working so hard to achieve, but it was like trying to run in quicksand. The harder I tried, the deeper I sank.

    After struggling for a couple of months with the job and school, I would inevitably give in to the pull of service, and blow off another job and just dive into whatever the latest service activity that was needed by the fellowship. I just didn’t know how to say no. This time, there was a big gathering of all the literature people being held in Memphis for Thanksgiving Week, and they kept pushing me to come out there. This was to plan the final steps to get the book ready to be published. My resistance was worn down to shreds at that point, and I just said screw it, blew off another job, blew off some school assignments that were due, jumped in the car, and balled that wheel on a 20-hour-straight-through shot to Memphis. On the road again! This time, I knew the whole time that it was a mistake and I was going to have hell to pay when I got back home, but it was just like addiction – I felt completely powerless over it. I could resist for a time, but when that call to go got strong, I just had to go. And, like addiction, it would get much worse before it ever got better. Much, much worse.
  • I came back from Memphis and managed to get another job at a bearing distribution warehouse about 5 miles down the road, as an order picker. I only managed to finish 2 of my 5 classes at school. I was so broke, I couldn’t afford gas for my car, so I was riding my bike back and forth to work, in the snow, ice, and bitter winds. It was one of the coldest winters on record. Despite all of the great and wonderful stuff I was involved in, my life situation was clearly getting worse. I was really feeling it, the failure of it all. I made New Years’ resolutions to get everything back on track. This would be the year I would find that elusive stability! Shortly into the year, that resolve was blown completely beyond all recognition.

    I got a call from my good friend, Terica, shortly after New Years Day. She always reminded me of Janis Joplin, for some reason. She had the kind of free spirit that Janis had the reputation of having, and had been a real wild child when she first showed up in the program. She was now one of the hard-core literature junkies, and someone who I’d hit it off with instantly. We were best pals, and she lived right down the road. She excitedly informed me that she had volunteered our farm house for the 7th World Literature Conference. “You WHAT?!?” “It’s the conference to add stories to the book, which is the last thing we need to do before we publish it. It has to happen this month. Everyone was trying to figure out where we could possibly hold it, on such short notice. I piped up and said, ‘We can have it at Pete’s house!’ Everyone loved that idea. You don’t mind, do you?”

    “Don’t mind? Don’t Mind?!? Are you freaking kidding me? 30 – 50 people are going to invade my house, from all over the country, spend 4 sleepless days working on stories for the book, and you hope I don’t mind? You volunteered it without even checking with me? No way! We can’t have it here. Forget about it. My roommates will kill me”. “It’s too late, Pete – they’re already making all the plans. I thought for sure you’d be o.k. with it. It’s going to be in two weeks. Bo wants you to call him. ” And that was that. I was having a literature conference in my house. It felt like a bad dope deal, through and through. I felt like I had been sandbagged – only because I had.

    So much for my attempt to get back to reality. Next thing I knew, I heard from Bo, the literature guru. I was trying to just ignore him, hoping it would all go away, but he called me. He asked me if I could chair the conference. He said, “We couldn’t bring Mohammad to the mountain, so we decided to bring the mountain to Mohammad!” (I’d only made it out to 1 of the previous 6 World Literature Conferences, as I was actually trying to have a life). Of course, I was so flattered by that, I forgot about how mad I was. I actually let it seduce me.

    This wound up taking over my life for the next 3 weeks. We had to rent 3 large-scale Copiers and have them delivered to our little farmhouse, we ran up a phone bill of $800.00, making calls to Japan, Hawaii, England, and some other country (stories were dictated over the phone), and our place was jammed with people, in every crevice and corner. Bo and his wife Anita literally slept on the floor of my bedroom closet the whole weekend, using sweatshirts and my shoes as pillows. It was completely insane. But, we got the job done, got all of the stories completed for the book. They were pushing me to submit my story, but I just did not feel like I could do that, since I knew in my heart I had yet to find whatever “Recovery” was, and as the chairperson of the conference, I thought it would be a conflict to include my own story.
  • I of course, blew off another job that weekend. I was up to about 11 jobs in less than 2 years’ time. I had somehow gotten elected the Vice Chair of the World Literature Committee in the middle of the conference, which I had no idea what was involved with that. I wanted to be angry as hell about how my life had been taken over once again, by this thing, against my own better judgement - but I was once again on such “high” from the whole thing, I rode that high for as long as I could. Man, it was better than dope. I mean, how many people have a World Literature Conference in their own living room? It was wild beyond imagination, something I would always remember – but, the part of me that was trying to live a sane life had just completely gotten tossed overboard, and was in utter despair at what was happening to my life.

    I spent about a month after that in some completely alternate reality. That’s the best way I can describe that period. One of my roommates, Jerry S., had talked me into enrolling to this college where you created your own curriculum, Lesley College in Massachussetts, developed your own course of study, and worked with advisors who would advise and assist you as you completed your work. It started with a week in Ippswitch, Mass, at this large retreat house there, where you worked with the faculty and decided on your course of study. One of my first assignments as the Vice Chair of World Lit had been to begin putting together the History of N.A., which had actually been around for 27 years at that point, although it had only begun to experience serious growth in the previous year and a half. So, I wound up deciding to study the History of Addiction, and of the various attempts to treat it. This made perfect sense to me, and everyone there loved the concept. I delved into my research and began writing my thesis.

    I came back to Pennsylvania, and reality just smacked me in the face, as I crashed hard from the lofty heights I had been perilously perched on. My job situation got really desparate. I finally was having trouble even finding a job, and I wasn’t even eating – I couldn’t afford to. After a pathetic, failed attempt to hitchhike down to Atlanta for a Convention being held down there, I dragged my ass back to Bucks County, Pa, and decided it was time, once and for all, to get down to the business of living.

    Finding a job became a priority. I vowed to find a decent one and to stick with it. I went to a head-hunter, and they found me a job as a warehouse manager for a joint called “Windowizards”. My last good job had been as a warehouse manager. This job would require my full attention, and I had so many delinquent financial obligations at this point, I just threw everything into making it work.

    History would have to wait. I hated the job, but I was determined to give it my best, and worked 60 hours a week, and stopped doing everything else but go to meetings. Life became stable, but terribly boring. I was o.k. with that, for a while at least.
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