Dragonfly Glass

IMG_2868It had called to me from the shop situated in a mountain valley: a sturdy clear glass, pleasing of shape, with good heft. But most of all, the dragonflies that were in relief near the top brought a smile. I am a fool for insects of all sorts (even scarier ones), and dragonflies intrigue me with their grace and short lives (one to six months) in temperate zones. They love the water but do fly elsewhere. They rarely bite and don’t break the skin if they try. They have been with us 300 million years. If that isn’t a wonderful bug I don’t know what is.

But enough about dragonflies. The glass grabbed my attention and I pondered the price, which was more than seemed reasonable. Still, it was small enough for juice, a good size for a quick drink of water. I turned it around in my hands and visualized how it would look with my sturdy Desert Rose table ware. But such extravagance. I walked away. And back again. I left the shop with two cheerful glasses.

Today it was more summer than spring with a cloudless aquamarine sky and sweet breeze. I sat on the balcony and sipped chilled tea. The glass–the new favorite. It had held water, ginger ale, apple juice and iced tea. I admired it’s combination of ordinariness and decorative good sense. And then I held it up to the sunlight and the thought that came forward was a surprise. It looked like a glass used for a stout mixed drink or rich-colored wine, not tame juice or water. It was the right size, and its heaviness ensured it stayed put when set down. But to contemplate all this took me back.

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Way, way back. You see, none of my glasses have had a lick of alcohol in them for twenty-two years. That was when I stopped drinking. something I write around but have never stated bluntly. Now it seems I want to speak of it.

The day I last drank has been, perhaps oddly, increasingly less a subject of daily personal interest than professional, as I have counseled and educated chemically addicted persons for twenty of those years. Yes, I have attended plenty of support groups. But after awhile something happened to my thinking. It was like the clean, unmistakable click of a lock’s mechanism disengaging to full unlocked position. The door that opened led to the life I had always wanted but could never fully discover or create.

I became free of not only any desire to drink but also of significant feelings about it. I didn’t and don’t hate alcohol and its undeniable power to alter even ordinary people’s responses to others and themselves. It is a power that the alcohol-imbibing public still doesn’t fully respect. I had a quite short drinking career revolving around too many goblets of wine and stiff mixed drinks, resulting in some harrowing tales. It would be dishonest to not note that a family member asked me to make a will when I was still pretty young. There is a common misconception that it is how much you drink that identifies whether or not one has an alcohol problem. In fact, it is more simply how it chemically impacts a person physiologically, emotionally, mentally. It didn’t take so much as you’d think to provide experiences I don’t care to live again.

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So, I didn’t long for alcohol when I was finally done.  I detached from it while keeping clear the reality of what worked for me in life and what did not. Alcohol was definitely on the negative side. Recovery has remained number one every day despite not thinking of it all the time. The reasons are simple: I want to stay alive, live well and long, and be true to who I am–none of which alcohol could support. A drink–or a drug, for that matter– will eventually rob an addicted person of everything good and fine in human life. I reclaimed my own power to live more freely and richly again. Over time, I integrated what I knew about my unhappy relationship with alcohol into a broader understanding of my worldview and beliefs, as well as my authentic needs (not those society dictated) as a person.

All this sounds relatively easy, perhaps. It has been, in a real sense. Of course, there have been moments when holding tight to one moment of sobriety was the goal for the day. The painful events of life, physically and emotionally, didn’t back away or even lessen much when I put down the drink. But the good news is that as humans we are provided with an amazing array of solutions and aids to help us live intentionally, in peace. Our brains manufacture chemicals called endorphins (among others) to help us with bodily pain and even heartache. Our free will enables us to make many kinds of choices that either nurture or undermine who we are and want to become. Out of the caldera of the past, we can construct a Spirit-shaped life that is a wellspring of clarity as we imagine, act, speak, love.

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It all completely works, I told my clients; you just have to try it and then keep at it. I perhaps did not tell them I am a good case study with a complicated history (which we all seem to have) coupled with an early onset of sedativism precipitated by prescription drugs. This made me a sitting duck for alcohol problems later on. The whole journey was a strange one that no longer haunts me. It was one of those dead-end roads. I got off (with much timely help), surveyed the options and took a different direction. Such liberation had a revolutionary feel; it stays with me to this day.

I return to my humble dragonfly glass. It holds peppermint-tinged iced tea; it cools and soothes on this magnanimous May day. And I hope to enjoy it for many years–at least all the days that are given to me. I consider the myriad wonders of life and know I am fortunate. The important parts of the puzzle of living fit together, and I fit there, too. I ask you this: what is not to love in this very moment? I thank God for this ordinary and bountiful life, come what may.

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“What is to give light must endure burning.”
-Viktor Frankl

6 thoughts on “Dragonfly Glass

  1. I was lucky enough to find your blog (were you recently Freshly Pressed? my memory is not what it was) and have been reading a lot of your posts on addiction and addiction recovery. I am not the person with the addiction, one of my loved ones is, and I am watching him slowly kill himself (sometimes I wish it were a quicker process so I can get on with my life, as horrible as that sounds.) Your writings here have me vacillating between hope that he will finally come to his senses, to sadness that I’m sure he never will. After much therapy for myself over this past year, I know that I have no control and am not responsible. Yet I continue to feel somehow responsible for not being able to save him. I appreciate your stories and take comfort in your words when I can stay strong and remember that it’s not my fault.

    1. I’m heartened that you found something here you find useful. I hope it encourages you, as well as tells the truth (my truth, at least, but also professional truths from years of counseling those impacted) of addiction/recovery. Living with active addiction is especially demanding; my heart goes out to you. Consistent self-care is crucial to your well-being, as you seem to understand. I am certain many develop addictions even though their families have no addiction history that is discernible. My own problems with substances began as a teen after trauma–but was largely due to an uninformed doctor at a time when certain medications’ long term effects were not well understood. Valium, for instance, was an American housewives’ and teens’ choice for many thousands and remains (additionally under more names, such as Ativan, but essentially clones) a seriously dependency-causing class of RX and illegally sold substance.
      The physical chemical dependency itself is the initial culprit, combined with emotional needs for solace, pain relief, escape for whatever the reasons. It is complicated as you know. But not ever the family’s fault; enabling supports the addict’s habit but is not the causative factor. I am happy I can offer you some hope and understanding; I am glad to be of service. If you have further questions or concerns drop me a comment and perhaps I can suggest other helps. (Have you attended Alanon?) Regards to you and yours; keep faith. May peace take root in your life. I welcome your reading and commentary on my posts, as you are so moved.

  2. so so good! you voice some of the things i associate with my own alcohol journey many years ago. addiction? perhaps not. but overindulgence to the point of throwing an empty bourbon bottle at my husband at my daughter’s second birthday party, and understanding – even while inebriated – that that was not ok. i have not drunk since, to speak of, and don’t miss it. although interestingly enough i still sometimes crave the lovely numbing effect it provides when things get rough. in any case – write on, beloved cynthia. your words are always wonderful to read.

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