Some days you’re the coyote, and some days you’re the cliff. Everybody runs into one of those days, when problems pile up like an awkward balancing act in a Dr. Seuss story.
My problem-solving skills used to come in a bottle, or so I thought. Once I was sober, my biggest problem was that I had problems. I worried about how I looked while I was having them. How could somebody like me have stupid little problems like feeling so incomplete, insecure and broken?
Attending meetings regularly was a must. There was too much drama at my house- and I lived alone. I was restless, irritable and discombobulated, but odds were I was making headway.
Several months after my second year of sobriety, I attended my favorite meeting on a Friday night. Rockin’ Robbie was there, a cool dude who sobered up a year before me. He was having one of those days. He had that look like he just walked through a fart. It wasn’t long before he opened up.
Robbie shared about his awful day at work, a rambling manifesto chock-full of misery. Underlined was his rotten job problem, combined with the lousy supervisor, co-worker, girlfriend and money problems that he summoned up. Just your basic dumpster-fire in Dante’s Inferno. He was edgy after rehashing it all day, a surefire sign he was prepped for corrective measures.
Rockin’ casually panned the group that surrounded him, and did a double-take. The bunch he settled in with had slowly transformed into a pity-party wrecking crew. Now there were a couple of Oprah’s, three Dr. Phil’s and a Donahue or two, along with several Dear Abby’s and a Jerry Springer. Throw in a Newhart for the Old Timers, and every hang-up launched out of Pandora’s box was covered. And they couldn’t wait to help him.
In nothing flat, an old-timer suggested a robust Serenity Prayer. Rockin’ grimaced; he hoped there was something more sophisticated than that. Then the others chimed in: “Hey, Let’s Keep it Simple! Let Go and Let God. Did you pray for them? What about gratitude?” He dismissed them all as quickly as they popped up.
Someone even ventured, “Why not you?” It was absolutely indelicate, practically mean, but was permitted when we tried to bust up a pity party, a party nobody wants to attend. It might last for days, unless someone bumped it off its axis. That was our job. Then you go get ice cream.
That one didn’t work either. Now it was up to me. I had a bad rap back then; the Problem of the Month was mine for what seemed like a year. They thought my Freak Flag had flown. But when my turn came, I was ready. “Do you have a VCR?” I asked confidently. It was late in the 20th Century and everyone I knew had one.
“Yeah,” he snapped impatiently. “Big deal. Doesn’t everybody?” One of those ‘Keep coming back and maybe you won’t be so stupid’ looks twisted on his face. With his inflated ego, the sour look had all the earmarks of a reverse shrunken head.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “a spirituality from an alternative universe.” I didn’t say it out loud- I wasn’t too bad of a guy when I really put my mind to it.
My next question was carefully selected. “Did you ever go to a video store and get a really bad movie?” I braced myself.
“Yeah… So what? Everybody’s done that. What’s your point?” he snarled. You could almost hear the Grrrrr.
I paused, awaiting a sublime moment, and then fired-off a dumb question. “Well, did you ever go back and get it again?”
Bazinga! It penetrated his cerebral Wall of Doom and jump-started the healing process.
Red-faced but enlightened, he sneered, “You sonofa…”
After the free epiphany, it wasn’t a very healthy attitude. Old Rockin’ did have a three-year chip, but that day it was quality, not quantity. Some suspected he got a little resentment, but in this outfit, they only come in M, L, XL and XXL. People who get little ones don’t show up at meetings. They’re not as sensitive as we are.
Everyone nodded like members of the Bobblehead Group after my video parable was unleashed. We had all done it. Still might. Stretching a bad experience or two into a bad day. I call it Quality Miserable Time, and I’m trying to quit. That’s why I still use VCR therapy. You should too. Contraindications- Rule out VCR procedure if sufferer presents Dry-Drunk symptoms. Tendency to jack up morbidity and get yelled at.
By Mark Masserant
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