Sunday, February 11, 2018


The 2018 Winter Olympics are on, and I can never watch the figure skaters, singles and pairs, without thinking again on a familiar theme: When everything you've planned and worked for since your clean date gets hit by a train, you're deep within the folds of the blackest depression the world has ever seen, it all seems done with, finished, kaput, all over---why bother to stay clean---what in the hell do you do next?

I mean, why bother to do anything, right? Life sucks and then you die a miserable death, right? Might as well get high and numb out, right? In such moments, the disease is most persuasive, one's defenses at their weakest. When that happens to me, I think about the figure skating competitions I have seen.

Imagine spending six to ten hours a day, every day, perfecting your sport and polishing a routine. Your whole life has been spent following a dream, first to get selected to the nation's Olympic team and perform in front of the crowd at the Olympics, perhaps even medal, maybe, if everything goes absolutely perfect . . .

And you dedicate time, raise money, nurse sore muscles, overcome injuries, plan and revise the choreography, and then practice, practice, practice until you reach the point of absolute perfection. Then the night comes, you go out onto the ice, your costume fits like a custom made glove and it is spectacular, you look great, and as you push off and do a couple warm-up laps, the crowd is applauding, the air is crisp and electric, the skates feel tight and right. Everything is perfect.

You get into your starting position, wait two or three seconds for that really great music you and your coaches selected, and you begin skating, dancing, to the music. It is all just as you imagined it would be, you get into position for that first triple Lutz, touch the tip of that skate to the ice, and the next thing you know you're on your ass, and there's no such thing as a gentle fall on ice. Not much flexibility in that stuff, and no padding at all in either you or your costume.

Pain, embarrassment, the dream--- All you worked for--- The competition--- Letting down your teammates, the coaches, the fans who spent thousands to attend, parents, all those who donated, the dream a shattered fantasy ---all of it gone straight to hell.

And what happens next? I've seen a lot of figure skaters fall. and every time I see one fall, sometime with really painful injuries, I see the skater get up off his or her bruised butt and finish the routine.

So, the next time you run into a rough patch, reaching for the pills and potions is the option that kills. Reaching for that phone, calling your sponsor, bringing your bruised ass to a meeting, sharing your pain, your disappointment, and your embarrassment, gearing yourself up to do what you need to do to stay clean until that next sunrise, that is getting up and continuing with your program.

As with any fight, if you get up one more time than the disease, fate, the breaks, or the universe can knock you down, you win. And what the recovering addict gets for winning beats all the gold medals in the world.


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