This is the 730th day of my sobriety. It seems almost mythical. In alcohol rehab. the two year sobriety point was a sort of mid-range holy grail. In addiction literature they write that at two years there is a neurological healing in alcoholics. We (especially I) have paid a great deal of attention to this approaching milestone. It is now here.
I have done a lot of considering and searching over recent weeks about what it is I can say for myself at this point in terms of who I am, and in particular, my sense of spirituality.
Yes, you are about to be subjected to another lengthy rambling manifesto of serious, not very BDSM or adult consensual spanking oriented, self-absorbed, discourse about my personal growth, development, feelings, and thoughts about life in general.
I have come to realize that throughout my life my sense of who I am has been defined by others perceptions of my social role. Ask someone who they are and you’re likely to hear something akin to doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, bricklayer, student, teacher, parent, child, man, woman, young, old, etc. We are, each of us, in our minds, what we do. The way others react to what that is mirrors to us a reflection that we, all too often, interpret as “who we are.” I have done that all my life. I have been a social role player...objectified by my role. One is objectified to the extent that one becomes what they perceive others’ reactions to them are.
As children we all become, to ourselves, what we feel is mirrored of us by the feedback we receive from our parents, our siblings, our peers, teachers, etc. I was sickly, fat, prone to be bad, stubborn, slow-both physically and mentally, angry, hostile, and able to be made good if I suffered enough pain. I accepted those realities as my own. My secret was that actually I was quite bright and could develop control to mount a counter campaign of guerilla warfare against adults and all authority, and I did, and felt occasionally great vindication when I could cause retaliatory pain to adults and gain some measure of control.
Gaining power through pain has been a theme in my life. (This is one part of this that may sort of apply to those who are oriented to or exploring SM.) Pain was a constant companion of my life. My parents were huge believers in its transformational and redemptive powers and wanted me to never be deprived. My teachers, who were some of the first practitioners of special education, prior to anyone’s ever writing about dyslexia or ADHD or having any knowledge of those learning styles, knew that my failure to respond to school as most children did, meant I was willful, stubborn, bad, and stupid, and they too felt I needed transformation and redemption. So they frequently augmented and cooperated with my parents’ efforts to facilitate my development.
I learned early that pain is a social institution. It is a response learned through conditioning. Its experience is often relative. I learned for example that if one shut one’s eyes, or didn’t look at a teacher when they punished you, you could avoid most of the unpleasantness and just not care....and WIN. That never worked with my parents but their relationship was more seminal. I knew the worst pain was not physical but was emotional. I learned that when my mother had me go out to play wearing a sign that proclaimed to all my friends, “I am stupid,” I felt very deeply that in fact it was the truth. I wondered why I was alive and wished desperately I could stop being...stop hurting.
In time one learns to make friends with pain, to recognize its power to remove barriers and, when shared, to create exceptional intimacy. One eroticizes pain and what with frequent childhood experiences one eroticizes spanking. It becomes a sensual/erotic orientation that is intertwined with the woof and warp of one’s sexuality. In its acceptance as a part of identity, it becomes a disempowerment of its initially attendant harm.
I grew and finally became emancipated from my parental home. My life became pursuit of pleasure. Pleasure meant something that was not pain. It was smoking, drinking, drugging, rebelling, thinking and learning (but refusing to demonstrate learning in ways that would result in good grades lest I satisfy authority figures in some way.)
I found a young woman. She was the first woman with whom I had not been terrified. I assumed this absence of fear must mean soul-bondedness and love. This was a horrid mistake. Fortunately she was a good mother to our children.
Eventually the seductiveness of the intellectual offerings of my university succeeded in getting even to me. I became a straight A student. (My undergraduate transcript is a sight....three years of grade point averages which always ended with my being in a student status labeled “dropped,” followed by two years of successive 4.0 grade averages) I’d finally matured enough to learn that my withholding gratification in academic pursuits punished me and no one else........DUH:)
I was the consummate long haired hippie druggie in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, dedicated to fighting cops in street actions against the war and society -- Ronald Reagan’s worst nightmare kid. As I walked down the street the feedback I received from others, whether adulation from peers or horror from “straight people,” was hugely gratifying to me. I felt a sense of self-worth for the first time. I subsisted economically, but independently, enough to go to school, get drugs and books, and to rebel. I was married. LIfe seemed good. I felt better than I ever had.
I learned there were careers I could get into that were involved with changing the social order and which could give me economic growth which would afford a more comfortable lifestyle. My then wife finished school and became a teacher. I went to work in social services. I always focused on work in the administrative control/political portion of the agencies where I worked. Eventually I found my way to work in advocacy agencies...agencies whose purpose was the fomenting of social/political change. I felt powerful. I no longer used illegal drugs. There was too much to lose by running afoul of the law. I loved and reveled in the communion of drinking. I was proud of my ability to drink much “better” than just about anyone.
My two children were born. I adored them. Their being ”gave” me a new identity that validated my existence. I did all I could to be super-dad. I was progressive, and gender role liberated. and hard working, and loving, and strict, and providing, caring, teaching, and on and on. My wife didn’t need me. I had performed my function. She had her children. I no longer served a purpose in her life and was completely expendable. I did not fit her identity.
Our marriage ended as did my parenthood for all intents and purposes. My status as parent that had been so important to me was smashed. I was devastated by this loss. I drank and worked and flailed about in search of relationships within the then emerging BDSM community. I was seeking a new identity.
My career blossomed. I became an advocacy leader who was powerful, sought after, and successful. In my private life I found my t and my swan and over time we became a family.
If I drank enough I could forget my childhood perspective of myself; I could numb the pain of the loss of my children. I lived in my profession and was a very much loved Master in a poly triad M/s intentional family. I was, I thought much more than good. I was unique. I was a rebel who controlled the least rebellious of social constructs...social institutions, and turned them back on the society that had formed them to foment change and progress. Simultaneously, in my private life, I lived the antithesis of our social order.....polyamory and BDSM. I had huge power in both professional and private domains, and I was strong....hell brilliant....and BOY, WAS I DRUNK!
Things went well for years but the gyroscope of my life began to wobble just a micrometer or two. My parents became aged and ill, and I was their primary life support. Eventually, my Mom was in an alzheimers center. My terrible lifelong obesity problem was taking a huge and potentially fatal toll on me and we decided to make a radical attempt to save me. I had gastric bypass surgery. It went badly as a procedure but was ultimately transformational in terms of my life. (On March 23 2009 I weighed 330 pounds and had a 54 inch waist. This morning I weighed 154 pounds and I have a 32 inch waist.) I had another subsequent life threatening emergency surgery 9 months later secondary to my gastric bypass, but eventually got past that as well. In the last few years I’ve had a knee arthroscopy, two total knee replacements, a total reverse shoulder replacement, and an emergency bowel resection due to obstruction besides, my gastric bypass surgery. Those health issues and the eventual loss of my parents caused the multiple spinning plates I had kept spinning in the air to come crashing to the ground.
As those plates crashed, so did my career. No one ever questioned that I was a successful advocate and leader, but I lost sight of managing the business aspects of a very dynamic nonprofit in the midst of the economic upheaval. In June 2010, I was unemployed for the first day in thirty-five years. My parents had died. I lost in very short order my identity as son and caretaker, professional, leader, and my body image, while improved, changed so radically as to become almost unrecognizable to me. I was in pain and I dealt with it by numbing it with drinking. At least I was still Dominant in my family. As I drank more my behavior became more erratic. It turns out that gastric bypass surgery makes handling alcohol very difficult if not impossible, and then only when consumed carefully in very small amounts. I was neither drinking small amounts or carefully. I became erratic and eventually violent. My family called the police and I went to jail. The Dominant role that was the last vestige of my “identity” crashed and burned.
I started this piece talking about how influenced I have been all my life by believing that feedback I received from others mirrored to me my self-worth or lack thereof. In 1995 the Ohio legislature passed a joint resolution honoring me as one of Ohio’s finest citizens for my leadership in organizing constituents to work with the legislature on behalf of people with disabilities and their families. I felt like I was a wonderful man. In 2010 I was removed from being kept nude in jail isolation and dressed in orange pajamas, full body chains, and flip flops taken through the snow and dragged into court charged with domestic violence and inducing panic. I knew I had become totally worthless and my life was over. Further I knew I was there because of my family (despite the fact that my family was fighting valiantly to get me out and to help me.) I was destroyed, and worse yet, I would never be able to use alcohol again to treat my pain. I could never drink again.
The last two years here on this Blog have chronicled my/our story since.
After the worst passage of my life, thanks to my family, and treatment, and my psychotherapist, and lots of searching, I AM ME. I suspect the recent medical development of adding l-methyl folate supplementation has corrected a fundamental neurological problem in my life permitting me to overcome longstanding undiagnosed (prior to two years ago) depression.
I feel I am me. Not me because of what I do. Not because I am retired, or treasurer of my homeowners association, or a father, or a husband, or well-educated, or Dominant, or Top, or bottom, or switch, or professional, or experienced, skilled. criminal, alcoholic, gastric bypass patient, thin, sixty-three, dry drunk, social activist,
Executive Director, BDSM practitioner, former jail inmate,. rebel, probationer, or whatever other descriptors. I have been all these things. They have effected me. They are not me. I am me.
I am made up of an almost unquantifiable number of cells which are all comprised of atoms. These atoms are 99.9 % blank space. This blank space is, we now know, comprised of energy, i. e., power. We all are. Everything that is, is made up of atoms comprised of 99.9% space, energy, power. The universe is patterned after this model or else, who I am is modeled after the universe, or we both share this model, or they both just are. But in any case this is what is.
I have spent much of the last year questioning what “spirituality” is. It is the effect of invisibe forces on physical reality. It turns out just about all of physical reality is, in its very essence, unseen force----i. e., energy. I am an integral part of all that. We all are. Everything is. I realize this lacks a lot of the voodoo which the spiritual perspectives of many contain. It is mine...now.
I , my ego, is, my conscious perception of this reality....whether my personal reality, or the larger macro reality. I am not a social role. What others perceive me to be has no effect on who I am. I am just me. I may play or not play whatever piece I choose to in participating in the social role game. Still, I will always know I am me. Even if I do something that counts, it cannot change who I am. I cannot become greater or less.
I am me. I am an integral part of everything.
I feel the best I ever have. I am sure my sobriety is making me feel better than my drinking ever did or could have.
It is day 730 and I am me. Being me is a new adventure.