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The Shelf of Damocles

Shelf Life

Shelf Life

Years ago, when i was still drinking, on a Friday night much like tonight, my kids and i were in the living room watching TV. Suddenly and without the slightest warning, a loud crashing noise, like a body falling from a hiding place, tumbled out of the bathroom. We all looked at each other, unsure. We were the only people in the apartment.

i ran to the bathroom to find a shelf my father had hung months before over the door was now on the floor. The paint cans it had once held had opened during the fall and vomitted their oily white lacquer all over the blue walls.

i stood there in a daze for the longest time, just staring at the devastation, incapable of understanding. Here was a disaster that was in no way my fault. It was not the result of a binge and i wasn’t even the one who’d placed the shelf. A bad thing happened that i could not have foreseen or prevented no matter what i’d done.

This event crystalized a general apprehension i’d always felt vaguely lurking in the dark places of my mind. Except now i had a word for it. The Shelf of Damocles was the term i assigned to all of the bad things that were waiting to besiege me when i least suspected. i feared the shelf and the omnipresent threat it represented.

Last week, after i noticed i’d stopped waking up suicidal, i also realized the Shelf of Damocles no longer hung over my head. Yes, of course bad things will continue to happen to me for no reason– i have not yet mastered control of the universe (though i haven’t given up trying). But i’m not afraid of bad luck anymore.

Because there is no problem i can have that sobriety cannot solve .

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About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home. http://about.me/AlKHall

Posted on February 8, 2013, in Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Strange how that works out when we stop living in the problem and start living in the solution. Great reminder!

  2. Smirnoff was an essential item for way too long in my life.

    The Serenity Prayer really helps me when I start worrying. Accepting what I cannot control will be a life long lesson though, I’m sure.

    • Smirnoff!? i’m impressed. i was never into hard alcohol unless it was a fruity rum drink where i couldn’t taste the booze. Nope, beer and wine were my major poisons and i’m amazed at how poisonous they were!

      And yes, the Serenity Prayer! The more i remember to say it, the easier my day is.

      Thanks for the reminder, ROS, and keep coming back,

      AL K Hall

  3. You’re awesome Mr… great post. Sounds like an awful mess all those cans spilling everywhere, and a bit spooky to have that shelf suddenly drop like that. But you are right…Shit does happen even despite our best efforts. It’s how we deal with the shit that is the making of us. Sobriety sure is a huge leap in the right direction…. Lots of love xxxx

    • Hi Mrs D!

      Yes, sobriety has given me so much. i’m so grateful that a lot of my negative mental defaults seem to evaporate on their own without the booze. It’s kind of miraculous, when you think about it. And i do…

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  4. “i stood there in a daze for the longest time, just staring at the devastation, incapable of understanding. Here was a disaster that was in no way my fault. It was not the result of a binge and i wasn’t even the one who’d placed the shelf. A bad thing happened that i could not have foreseen or prevented no matter what i’d done.”

    See I would have been thinking ‘Holy Batshit! How am I gonna clean THAT up?’ Of course that wouldn’t have made an awesome blog post.

    • LOL!

      Yeah, that thought came just after the numbness faded. Funny, i don’t really remember cleaning it, so i suspect i might’ve had some beer to give me courage.

      Thanks for the comment!
      Keep coming back, my friend,

      Al K Hall

  5. That shelf picture looked like my recycling bin after a week or so…ha ha.

    Great post – I have felt like this too. I can’t tell you the joy I had the first time I lost my house keys or cell phone and realizing it had nothing to do with alcohol! I wasn’t drunk, blacked out, or fantastically hungover. I just lost something like *normal* people do. Annoying, yes, but much less annoying it was done sober.

    I still get those moments where, like you have experienced, I am waiting for the other shoe to fall (not that even the first one fell)…like that impending doom you speak of. I usually dismiss them, but they ran rampant early on in my recovery.

    Love the title of your post, by the way…awesome.

    Thanks!

    Paul

    • Hey Paul,

      Funny, i never really got into the hard stuff. Beer and wine was always enough for me to screw up my life on.

      Thanks god, though, we’ve gotten to a place where we can dismiss these negative feelings rather than dwell on them and mistake them for reality.

      Keep coming back, brother,

      Al K Hall

  6. I remember that story so well, remember you writing me after it happened and calling it “the shelf of Damocles.” And you summed it up — all the feelings you had about that shelf and all the events around that time — so well in this post.

    As for me, I call it “The Pit of Despair” like in the movie “The Princess Bride.” That is my shelf. It’s interesting when we realize it is no longer present — for you, the shelf is no longer poised to fall (or if it is, you can deal with it), and I no longer feel compulsed to jump in that pit. It all comes down to letting go of what we can and cannot control, huh.

    You cannot imagine how amazing it is to read, over six years later, these sentences:

    Last week, after i noticed i’d stopped waking up suicidal, i also realized the Shelf of Damocles no longer hung over my head. Yes, of course bad things will continue to happen to me for no reason– i have not yet mastered control of the universe (though i haven’t given up trying). But i’m not afraid of bad luck anymore.

    Because there is no problem i can have that sobriety cannot solve .

    That is much relief and music to my ears to read that and to know it is true.

    I am so glad for you. And I am glad for me, too, because now I know you are safe in sobriety’s hands and you intend to stay there. I can breathe, knowing you are cared for by your HP and guided by sobriety.

    Huge stuff, my friend. Thanks for writing about this here.
    xx
    Celeste

    • What a sweet message! It is a relief to watch these things in my rearview mirror; not really gone but getting smaller and smaller as i progress. i’m happy for both of us as well, moving into safe, secure and happy places.

      Thanks for the beautiful comment and keep coming back!

      Al K Hall

  7. I’m glad you no longer wake up suicidal. L.

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