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Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Letter of Honesty, and We Wait

Mike Runner is my Sunday Guest Contributor, and he brings a perspective to Wings Like Eagles that is unique and challenging. 

I normally cover topics relating to the horror of having someone else bring darkness into the home.  Mike covers the same topics, but from a completely different angle.  He was the one who brought darkness to his family.  Mike is an alcoholic.

It is my hope that the perception of what we think we know about Family Crisis is shaken up a bit.  Because there is far more involved than we think.  Much can be understood by examining the other side, and I deeply appreciate Mike's willingness to help us gain understanding as he shares with us the mind as it is affected by alcoholism.

He isn't just an alcoholic.  He is an intelligent mind, has a bright, hopeful future, and he is my friend.  And this is his story.

An alcoholic walks through the front door of a bar and says to the bartender, “Gimme a drink!”  The bartender looks at the man and says, “Sir, you are already drunk so I cannot serve you.”
The alcoholic grumbles and walks out the door.

Five minutes later, the alcoholic walks back in through the side door of the bar and says, “Bartender, gimme a drink!”  The bartender says, “I have already told you, you are drunk and I cannot serve you.”
Ten minutes later, the alcoholic walks in the back door and says, “Bartender, gimme a drink!”  The bartender, clearly annoyed, says, “Listen, I have told you twice that you are drunk and that I cannot serve you.  If you don’t leave I am going to call the cops!”  

Utterly dumbfounded, the alcoholic takes a step back, looks at the bartender and says, “Geez, how many bars do you work at anyway?”
I will finish On Assignment next week.  My apologies as I know some of you were looking forward to Cell Block 14 today.  

When certain things come up in my life that relate to alcoholism, I like to share them at the time while the emotion is strong.  In recovery, we talk about dealing with the wreckage of our past quite a bit.  When we get sober, it doesn’t mean situations go away.  It has taken a long time to destroy the trust of loved ones, create deep financial and legal problems, etc.  

It may take years to fix things to the best of our ability, but we accept our responsibility and face our consequences. 
There are also normal life issues that still remain as well.  I wish that I could tell you in recovery that there is a single “poof” moment where all of the past and present problems just go away.  I can’t.  There isn’t.  What I can say is that as time goes on we become more and more equipped to take these challenges head on and with less fear.  
For me, problems mounted over many years due to my grand solution of drinking all problems away.   They would go away for a while until I sobered up and realized that they were still there and had actually become slightly worse.  The solution?  Drink more and they will go away again.  

I wanted to write about one such wreckage issue this week that I needed to face.  By day, I am a commercial insurance broker and I am licensed through the State of California.  Every two years I have to show the Department of Insurance that I have taken a certain amount courses and fill out a renewal application online.  I did the online application two days ago.  I could almost hear a siren going off at the CA Department of Insurance when I answered Yes to the question, “Have you been convicted of any crime since your license last renewed?”  Though the system took my money for my renewal, it then told me everything was pending based on their decision after they reviewed my situation. 

I have been doing what I do for 20 years.  Unfortunately, I have had issues with California on these things before as this was not my first time getting into legal trouble.  Right now I am feeling anxious, fearful, and have a case of the “what if’s”.  What ifs are bad for me because they are always negative.  What if I lose my license, can’t get another job, can’t support my family, etc.  I used to live in what ifs and I try to catch myself when I do it because the answers to my what if questions are always lousy.  Normally I would be drinking at a time like this to make the emotions go away.  Now I am able to not only face the situation, but face myself and how I am feeling.  After putting it off for a day, I wrote my letter to the Department of Insurance.  I needed to think and pray about it for a day as my career is in their hands.  This is what I wrote them:

Dear California Department of Insurance,

Per our conversation, I am writing to explain my “yes” answer to the online renewal question regarding crimes committed since my last license renewal.  The renewal has been paid.

On April 16, 2011, I was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.  Please note that I was in a restaurant parking lot on a Saturday evening.  I was fortunate that the police stopped me before I was able to drive anywhere.  

After being tied up in the court system for many months, I pleaded guilty and was convicted of misdemeanor DUI on 6/20/2012.

I lost my driver’s license on November 25, 2011 and will be unable to drive for some time.  I have not driven at all in the past nine months and my cousin takes me to and from work and to appointments which has been a seamless transition.  I spent seven days in county jail as part of my punishment.  Beginning next Monday, August 8, 2012, I will start a house arrest program for six months.  In my case, house arrest consists of having to be in my house from 7:00 at night until 7:00 in the morning on weekdays and I have some free time on weekends as well.  I am fully able to go to work during the day and have no restrictions in doing so and it will create no problems.

I pleaded guilty for a reason.  I was guilty.  As my record shows, there is no doubt that I have struggled with drinking off and on for the past ten years.  I have had times of recovery but I have never worked a strong program and always relapsed.  In many ways, though it has been a difficult process, I am glad that the incident happened.  That was almost 1 ½ years ago and that night I finally came to terms with the fact that I suffer from the disease of alcoholism.  It takes what it takes as we say.  I am an alcoholic and I cannot even take one drink, period.  It took that night for me to finally accept my condition once and for all.  I gave up fighting it.  Through Alcoholics Anonymous, a very good outpatient program, and a highly trained psychiatrist who specializes in addiction, this last year and a half has been wonderful.  I am myself again for the first time in many years.  My relationship with my three kids (16,11 & 8) has gone from fine to phenomenal and I would not trade that for anything in the world.  I am grateful.

I also have fairly severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Bipolar disorder which are now being properly treated through medication.  I have learned in treatment that brain issues and alcoholism/addiction often go together.  In my case, the alcohol would shut down the racing and obsessive thoughts in my head.  It was the only thing I knew that would work.  Through both medication, a lot of prayer, talking with others, and using techniques that I have learned through therapy and AA, I am in complete control of my mind once again.  It is amazing.


I have a few more paragraphs at the end of the letter that mainly have to do with my job history.  I go into having no customer complaints in 20 years, my designations, and other things specific to commercial insurance.  I did not include these paragraphs because I have no desire to lose my entire audience forever. 

So now I am doing my least favorite thing in the world.  I am waiting.  It could take a week for them to get back to me or it could take a month.  I want an answer and I want it right now!  What I want and what is actually going to happen are two different things and I can choose to either accept that or I can drive myself crazy like I used to.  I wanted to share with you that I am freaked out, a little scared, and I am having a hard time in getting certain negative “what ifs” out of my mind.  I am continuously telling myself to slow down, pray, and realize that there is nothing more that I can do today. 

The possibility of losing my license is my last unknown hurdle regarding the wreckage of 4/16/2011 and it is a big one.  If this were going on in times past, I would most likely be drinking nightly and all day on the weekends to get the thoughts and fear out of my head until I had an answer.  I might be taking off work… calling in sick… on some days so that I could be in an empty house all day with my bottle of 100 proof vodka.  It seemed like the only way to get through things without going crazy.  I don’t need to do that anymore.  I have other options.  At least for today, nothing I am going through is worth drinking over.

Next week: Back to jail.  Unless any other things come up.

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