Getting thru the chemo cycle was a great learning process for me. It seems like 10 years ago I was diagnosed with tongue cancer……10 years emotionally and spiritually. I have never experienced as much emotional upheaval in such a short period of time. Conversely, my spiritual “tool box” has never been this busy and this useful. I stated in another journal that my spirituality is just that “mine”. I have reasonably good idea what works for me and it was tested to the max, expanded some, but in the end was the vehicle that drove me back to sanity. When I got into a recovery program, it was spiritually based. I recoiled right away from all the “God” talk; I just didn’t want to hear it, but something strange happened early on in recovery. I liked meetings; I was moved by people speaking the “language of the heart”. I heard people open up about “real stuff”, I was drawn to that. In my first three months, I went to nearly three meetings a day. The “strange” thing that happened was this: in my previous life I was always a doubter. If there were 99 positive things about something and one negative, I would rationalize that the one negative was always more powerful than the 99 good things. I’d argue “you see that one negative? I told this was all BS”! What a way to live huh? No wonder I needed all that anesthesia to live! But when I got to recovery and emotionally recoiled every time I heard the word God mentioned, it never and I mean never kept me from coming back. The “one” was no longer defeating the “99”. It was not a conscious thought, it was just happening. I had begun to realize that my previous way of life was not working. What I was being asked, in my mind at least, was to just be open to different blueprint to live your life by. Your blueprint had destroyed too many things, most of all my self-esteem and every reaction that is touched by all that toxicity. There was a reason that Bill Harmon, the wonder kid, was sitting in those rooms with people from every single different walk of life that you could imagine. No one seemed to have been gifted with my abilities and had the upbringing that I had. No one in those rooms had been luckier than me. Who the hell am I to tell them what to believe in? The “spiritual awakening” was happening, but I was too green to know it. So I kept coming and kept emotionally assassinating anyone who talked about “God”, but I kept coming and I kept coming. Why, I wondered? I know now why because these people were the only way I was going to save my ass. They were the people that would guide me away from alcoholics greatest crime……..hurting the innocent bystanders that didn’t deserve it; the ones that loved you.
I will fast forward a couple years now. I’m still attending meetings on a daily basis and I am now a part of the “fabric” of my home meeting, a regular. When you go to this meeting, you know one thing for sure, whether you like it or not, Harmon will be there. I was getting to know and like quite a few people. They were my mentors, but didn’t know it. I liked it that way. I’m not a hero worshiper. As time went on, I noticed that the people I admired the most were the ones that were the most “spiritually grounded”. Huh, how about that?!! A couple of those gentlemen observed how I dug my heels in about the spiritual side of the program. I shared openly about my struggles in meetings, I didn’t hide it at all, but I always finished off my thoughts with a comment about “my way didn’t work and I know I need a different blueprint for living”. The old timers, I think, were amused by me and I later found out that they appreciated my honesty. I was told “don’t tell us how you are supposed to feel, tell us how you feel, then we can help you”. That was right down my alley cause I didn’t like phonies, codependents and people pleasers anyway!
So Jim W. took me aside after a meeting and asked if he could talk to me. I loved Jim W. He had over 50 years of sobriety at the time. He was a doctor who received acclaim from all of his peers. If I told you what he accomplished, I would break his anonymity. Even though he has passed, it would not be what he would want me to do because he was and is the most humble man I had ever met. When he spoke, I listened, attentively. I also could tell he got a kick out of me, he laughed during some of my rants. I seemed to touch this “recovery saint” funny bone!
He wanted to talk to me, about my views on the spiritual side of the program. He told me two things that changed my life. After informing me that many times it is referred to as “God as you understand him” he went on to express a couple things I could wrap my hands around. The first thing he said to me was “upon awakening this morning, did you desire a drink or a drug?” I said no, not at all. He said “well, you just had a spiritual experience”. I said how so? He went onto explaining that there may not be a “lightning bolt experience”, but that every time you react to something differently than in the past, you are having a spiritual experience. Well, I know that I had changed dramatically in the first couple years and I totally understood what he was saying. I was having those experiences all the time. I liked it!
The second thing he said was the game changer for me. He said to me “if you take the time that you are spending trying to figure out who “God” is and spend that time trying to help another human being, you will get very close to what “God” is”. He went on to say that his understanding of God (he was still a practicing Catholic) was that “God did not change events in his life, God changed his reactions to those events”. What I gleaned from what he was saying was that it’s not important what you say, what is important is how you live your life, let that be your expression. I really liked that because one of the things that have always bothered me about people was when their actions didn’t match their words. It meant to me that I didn’t need to tell people I’m better than I really am because I’m not! I have a kaleidoscope of defects that can rear their ugly head at any time! What this helped me with the most is that I was no longer beholden to what you thought of me. It was important that I live my life in a manner that I’m comfortable with me. I’m still growing in all areas of my life.
As you could tell from my first journal my actions were fueled by hundreds of form of fear, I couldn’t stop it. I was the classic case of “self will run riot”. My mind was spinning out of control and I couldn’t stop it. I was just flat out scared.
In retrospect I wasn’t using my “spiritual tool box”. One of those tools is to get into the solution and out of the problem. I had set myself up (unknowingly by the way) by being addicted to doing everything at home, which quite frankly I think all would want to do. When I came to MDA, I had it in my mind that they would confer with the doctors at home and that would be that. I had no idea of the enormity of the brilliance and the many different forms of treatments here and they’re damn proud of it. They KNOW they are better because they are! Their promotion is brilliance and completeness of treatment. They were selling me on MDA and I didn’t want to hear it even when I KNEW they were right. I couldn’t get it thru my thick skull that I had cancer and it needed to be treated in a very delicate and complex manner. I was so immersed in the problem that I couldn’t imagine that there was a solution. When Robin and I decided to do radiation at MDA, I felt the weight of all the fear was beginning to lighten. We were into the solution, told our boys and they said they wanted us coming here the whole time! They had it figured out and I was oblivious! They wanted the very best treatment for their dad and they were all in. As soon as we started making plans to move to Houston for July and August our whole energy changed. We were out of the problem and into the solution. Even when I got blindsided with the decision to do chemo here, the answer came quickly and with conviction. I was back on track and ready to fight the fight. I turned my attention to doing all the things I’ve talked about in the last few journals. One day at a time, every appointment is one step closer, embrace each appointment, dread none of it and get it done. This morning was a perfect example of all that. The steroids kept me up all night, not one minute of sleep. I had a 6:50 a.m. CAT SCAN appointment and I went with the same intentions. When Robin and I were walking back to the apartment I mentioned to her that we have pulled this thing off so far. We’ve actually had a great time together because we have bought into MDA and we have our own solutions to our own recovery and it revolves around attitude, attitude! Mark Rolfing said to me one day that it was a little like playing golf, you must have a plan but you MUST execute! Well, we made it thru chemo and now we have 10 days to get ready for a much harder fight. I’m not looking at it quite that way. I’m looking at it one radiation at a time, probably one swallow at a time and get it done the first day of radiation. Our friend, Carlyse, said you can’t focus on getting this over with, but just staying in each day to the best of your ability. They do not offer a “short cut” plan. A couple days later, our very dear friend Jon Kelly called me to say “remember I told you I was flying you home privately, so consider that done.” For a brief moment my mind drifted to this being over with and I had an instantaneous reaction of tears of joy and I snapped out of it in a matter of seconds. I know the solution today. I can’t do 33 radiation treatments in one day…..you have to do the first one. Notice, I said 33 instead of 35? That’s how many proton treatments I’m scheduled for! I’m already two ahead!
I’m very grateful that the chemo is complete, it’s a nice benchmark to cross, but the real mark I crossed is that for now, I’ve won the battle with me and my fears. But a new race is starting and I will have to be even more diligent than ever. But……I will also take my best tool to proton radiation…..and that is all of you! I know you’ll get sick and tired of me saying this, but I am overwhelming touched and inspired by all of you. No way have I pulled this off without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!