Trapped: Afraid to Live, Afraid to Die

Many January reflections align with various versions of Step 1 of 12. Most speak of ‘acceptance’, ‘surrender’, ‘letting go’, and for me the most troubling of all ‘admitting complete defeat’. These remind me of painful awareness. Suicide ideation. Hoping to just not wake up. At the core of this, I began to see that I was trapped. Too afraid to try living and too afraid of dying. It had become clear that I had created a past full of shame that I could no longer drink away as in Saul Bellow’s, Henderson the Rain King.

“I wish my dead days would quit bothering me and leave me alone. The bad stuff keeps coming back, and it’s the worst rhythm there is. The repetition of a man’s bad self, that’s the worst suffering that’s ever been known.”

— Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King.

The notion of surrender was bitter as in Mary Gauthier’s , “I Drink”:

“…I could not have written “I Drink” if I was never addicted… The character has become resigned to living this way, resigned to drinking, mostly alone, till the bitter end…Writing “I Drink” required a perspective that an active alcoholic is not capable of, and a non-alcoholic cannot fully comprehend. I needed to go through what I went through to write it, and today I would not change a thing even if I could, because for me, inside the curse —lives the blessing.”

My journey to recover, began with seeing the reality of my past and my present, and then with help, buoyed by stories shared round the tables, imagining a future where as Townes Van Zandt sings “to live is to fly, low and high” from High, Low and In Between – to be gifted rather than cursed.

Trapped Afraid to Live Afraid to Die

Afraid to live
Afraid to die
No going back
For this is
The jumping off place
The way forward
I know but
I cannot see
So I take a breath
And I sigh
A step forward
And then I leap
Times I stumble
Times I fall
But you my friend
You do remind me
That I know
Know how to fly
And so I lift and
I spread my wings

Behind the Song I Drink 


About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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