“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
                  – Jerry, to George, in “The Opposite”

Only those who know…know, but yesterday was special. Slowly, making a wide, wide turn, life began changing on October 14, 1997. That night, in a conference room in Beachwood, Ohio, I got real. That night, in a room of solid strangers, I committed to a program of recovery that would not only keep me sober, but improve every aspect of my life. That moment—that very moment—-I began to grow up.

No one, I’ve noticed in fourteen years, comes to “the rooms” on a winning streak. I was no different. There wasn’t a piece of my life going well. Friends sustained, but business was hollow. I feared the phone, feared opening mail, and slowly, like the dripping faucet, I’d made my world smaller and smaller. Only the kids remained and, frankly, though they loved me, they really didn’t respect me. It was ugly.

I used to sit in the meetings—those early years. I’d be the last one in, first one out, and I’d see everyone smiling. All these recovering alcoholics…smiling! I couldn’t figure it out. What the f#$% were they so happy about? I didn’t get it.

I still picture those days. It was a time when, whether I deserved it or not, God kept putting the right people in front of me at all times; it was a time where I always seemed to be hearing what needed to be heard.

“Is all this really necessary?” I‘d ask my sponsor.
“Bruce, you’ve been doing things your way for a while now. How’s that working out?”

Better yet, there was the unsolicited advice:

“If you had time to drink each night and you’re not drinking, then look at all the extra time you have to work on yourself.”…
“Aren’t you tired of being a ‘three inning player’”?
“Bruce, the problem is YOU. Isn’t that great! That means you can solve the problem!”
“Do things our way for a month and if you don’t like it, we’ll refund your misery“.

And so it was. I was like Spanky in The Little Rascals thinking “I’ll eat it but I won’t like it.” And…truth be known, it remained that way for a year or so…until one night, in ’99 when the light bulb went on. It was my Costanza moment. Indeed, it DID occur to me that if every impulse I’d had the past years had been bad, then contrary action might well succeed.

It was at that point—two years post/drink—-that I truly bought in. Bought in? I jumped in! Listening like I never had before, sharing as I never did before, I took suggestions—heck, I FOLLOWED suggestions—from the same people whose smiles didn’t compute when I came.

Get out of yourself, they told me. Find your God and pray to Him. Help someone else.

I did.

Time passed and I continued to listen. Building on the foundation our parents provided at Park, I jumpstarted my Judaism. Riveted by faith, I found comfort in prayer and solace in meditation. It became, indeed, a daily thing.

More time passed. Days. Months. Years. Life was happening (and not all of it good). Still I kept paddling.

There was the Jodi debacle and The Thief and our Mom’s death. Tempering anger with acceptance, I moved right through it, buoyed by a faith things would be OK. OK (I’ve learned), is OK.

A few weeks ago the topic at a meeting was our spiritual condition. My comment drew chuckles, but I was dead serious:

“I have a great relationship with my God,” I said. “I speak to him daily, and find peace. If I had put that much effort into the relationship with my ex we might still be married.” (As the laughter subsided it DID occur to me that a few more decimal points wouldn’t have hurt).

And life continues to go on.

My aunt asks, from time to time why I still go to meetings….why I still have a sponsor. She just scoffs. I could tell her what I tell the guys I work with: that no matter how long a player’s been in the league he still takes batting practice every day. That we either grow or we go. She won’t get it. So what! (I’ve learned). What matters is if I do.

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