• Benjamin Gear

Year 5

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

Sooooo 5 years ago, if you’d have told me I’d be spending the next five years owning and mending all of my bullshit and taking on completely foreign challenges in family/parenting, independent living, spirituality, and work, I’d have scoffed and offered a dismissive, “We’ll see!” If you’d have told me I’d be doing any, let alone all of that sober, I’d probably still be laughing 5yrs later. Yet here it is, an hour shy of 12.10.2020 and I’ve done exactly that.

What these last 5 years has shown me was that booze had constructed an alluring illusion of life that made it a necessity. Once the booze was gone, so was the illusion, and what was left was a slew of thought and behavioral indoctrinations that I'd built my identity on that weren't real. Attempting to maneuver through life while correcting all of the fallacious notions that had defined me has been rather daunting. Where I've found solace and support is in knowing that the more distance I put between myself and that last vodka-grapefruit, the more authentic, good or bad, the rest of my life experiences become.

As I'm sitting here thinking on the year that has been, this has been one of the most difficult years of my life. By far, this has been the most difficult year I’ve had in sobriety.

There was this game on the original Nintendo called Contra. You would start the game dropped into a jungle with 3 lives and immediately bombarded from all angles by everything from lasers to bombs. So many times I would barely make it to the end-of-level boss, if I did, I’d lose the remaining life there. Now if you had the code, you could start the game with 30 lives!!! When I got the code I was stoked but entering the obligatory "up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, start" in the allotted time proved darn near impossible. When I’d finally gotten the code both correct and in the time allotted, this hope-charged confidence and optimism filled me. It fueled an excitement to face the challenges ahead, whatever they were to be. That was how I felt coming into 2020.

About 3 months in, 30 lives weren’t enough to combat the rapid-fire shots of fear, insecurity, limitation, and unfamiliarity to be hurled over the next 9 months. I saw my hopes of driving and my son being a fixture in my newly acquired home vanish. Also gone with them were my spiritual practices, which left me feeling exposed and ill-equoipped to fend off irrational thoughts. I tried distractions until I had no more and then came the depression. I wouldn’t open my blinds or leave my couch for days at a time. I’d never experienced anything like this before. Honestly, I was more overwhelmed by the knowledge that I was experiencing depression than I was by the actual depression itself. I would get these instances of hope, what seemed to be good fortune and I would cling to those instances for dear life. They would lift me just high enough to where the fall would leave me a little further down, for a little while longer each time.

I have no middle ground. I oscillate between kicking ass in growth efforts or kicking my ass for not going hard in my growth efforts. My COVID experience has been me desperate for more God or despising myself for not having it. Through it all, I believed I was putting on a good face but the people who knew me could see the toll it was taking on me.“Dude, you can’t be so hard on yourself.”, “Give yourself a break.”, “Turn off your brain and allow yourself to feel.” I heard the words, I understood them even, I just couldn’t bring myself to internalize or apply them. Since the assault/abandonment year, feelings without assessment were forbidden. Also, given the fact that I'm not too shabby at reading and responding to situations, I “knew” how to get myself out of this, I just had to figure it out.

While in GA for Thanksgiving with family, I found myself completely taken by the kids at play. I took countless pictures and videos of them in utter awe of their freedom. Their freedom in thought and creativity, freedom from (malicious) judgement and prejudice, freedom from the stressors I justify under the umbrella of being an “adult”. They aren’t running a million processes in the back of their mind while trying to appear present in the moment. What was becoming apparent was that my ever-coveted brain might be working against my connection, my joy, my peace.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, while headed to the grocery, I'm in an internal debate over whether to purchase the iPhone 12 pro or pro MAX...real deep stuff. Before I pulled the trigger on this completely unnecessary phone upgrade, I decided to call the DMV to see if they had any clue when I might be able to take my road test. I’ve been built up and let down since I started this process October of 2019. But I wanted to try one last time before I spent money I shouldn't. Low and be-frikin-hold, I get a human on the phone on the first try. She tells me that I actually can get a road test done but because of my colorful driving history and COVID protocols, my path was going to be pretty unorthodox. She tells me I have to buy and insure a car and buy and install an interlock system before they would schedule me for a road test. That's like planning the wedding before proposing.

I saw no way for this to work out but rather than bug out, I called a couple homies and asked, “How can we solve these problems?” The very next day I bought a car and by Thursday it was insured with an interlock installed. The amount of stars that had to align for all of those things to be accomplished, in 3 days, were beyond my scope of facilitation or imagination. I made the simple effort to Just Ask, with absolutely no hopes of my desired outcome happening and things just worked out.

That was when I came to the conclusion that I’d been doing far too much! When I look at the last 5 years, I see a person that spent the first three working on redemption and the last two down on myself for not being able to sustain that feverish pace. Amid all of that, I have given myself little to no time to live and actually enjoy existing. Because I don’t make non-dissected decisions or moves I started edging God (faith in the process) out of my decisions. It wasn’t that I’d turned my back, I think it was more of a thinking I already knew what He was gonna say kinda thing. My good friend Fori would interject here with Proverbs 3: 5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” … Just a guess Fori ;-)

Prior to sobriety, the most I prayed was when I was in jail. I came to the belief that when God wants attention and I don't willingly offer it, He will remove the distractions and sit me still to where I have to engage Him. Because I always wound up where I was supposed to be, I'd convinced myself I could think my way past decisions or out of outcomes that caused me discomfort . My two takeaways from that line of thinking: 1) The only things I can do wrong are drink and intentionally cause harm, everything else is merely a step in my process. Any perceived misstep within the process is likely the lesson I'm intended to get. And 2) When I try to out think my problems, I prolong the process and subsequently, extend my misery.

I blamed COVID for upending my plans, but really, it cleaned my slate of routine laden distractions that stifled my motivation to pursue growth efforts. It offered me countless opportunities to lean into my faith and have the COVID experience serve as a growth tool. Instead, I fought tooth and nail to get my very limited and short-sided life and plan back. I was so attached to my routine that when it was taken from me, I damn near lost my mind.

Having to be still allowed me to see some things I couldn't, or maybe didn't want to see, prior to COVID. To name a few: I’ve accepted but never forgiven myself for my past. Guilt is my primary motivator. That assault and abandonment sitch has fucked me up more than I thought. My alcoholism is the first thing, not the only thing that needed to be removed...I still have a lot of work to do. I need to connect with more men and learn how to better lean on and learn from those relationships. Time to sever the relationships that are no longer viable. My being black matters like hell! Faux-Libs (fake liberals) are real and they have a limit. That limit is convenience and when convenience is threatened, it’s just thoughts and prayers from there. Carrboro, my sweet little safe haven is dying and the decision makers care more about the potential worth (monetary) over the value (character) of the town...the list goes on.

Damnit, I said to myself that I was not gonna write some monster post and here we got another lengthy one.

In closing, I would say that this has been A.F.G.O. (Another Fucking Growth Opportunity) packed year, if utilized as such. While I’m still on the fence about how grateful I am for the experiences, I am extremely grateful to have endured them. The goal now is to get back to the basics of existence, do much more living and much less solving.

Despite the many times I go back and forth about quitting PI, you all keep me coming back. Even as a writer, I don’t have the words to express how vital you all have become to my joy. Thank you for your emails, texts, and cards and sticking with me through the years. Until next time…

Thanks for reading.


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