The Road

“You better calm down. You’re on the road to timeout dude.”

He hears my wife. I know he does because he is silent.

“Now take your shoes off and put them in the closet like I asked you to do 5 minutes ago.”

He avoids eye contact.

“One.”

He doesn’t search for a way out. Deep in the recesses of his developing brain, a decision has been made.

“Two.”

As he realizes defeat is imminent, his mind tells him to hold on to what he has. In this particular case, it’s a play sword.

“Three.”

He is Napoleon at Waterloo or a hostage-taker hearing the S.W.A.T. team in the vents.

It’s his last stand.

“Four.”

The wilfulness of a toddler is an endgame proposition.

“Five.”

I’m usually the one to carry his flailing body upstairs to timeout. Only because he’s getting big—as tall as my hip. Tantrums are on the verge of posing a physical threat.

I am always amazed that the screaming and gesticulating limbs don’t start until I pick him up. He hears the words. He knows the countdown. We’ve been here before. But when the consequence falls on him, he acts surprised. Even though he has a way out,

the road to timeout is a one-way street.

 

I remember waiting at a party for a fix.

It was a rooftop party in Los Angeles.

I knew at 9 p.m. a man would arrive that would deal me some cocaine. In the hour leading up to that time, I didn’t hear what people were saying. I didn’t care about what people were doing. The only thing on my mind was the fix. At 9:01 I was grinding my teeth and no longer pretending to care what people were saying to me. My eyes—fixed on the rooftop door—avoided others.

By 9:15 I walked out the door to wait outside. I looked down the dim-lit street, hoping for car lights to illuminate the road.

Once 9:20 rolled around, I was gone, off to the laundromat where I knew I could score without having to wait on someone. I wasn’t at the party to socialize. I was at the party to get high. Whatever I told myself,

the road to the fix is a one-way street.

 

I don’t feel acute cravings any longer, but it’s still hard being sober.

I’m at a place where I know myself well enough that I can detect when to exit off the highway. I detect when I’m operating out of anger or lust. But does my self-awareness really make a difference? What do I do when I’m on the road to relapse?


Knowing you’re about to do the wrong thing and doing it anyway is a hellish existence.


I still have my fixes in life—affection, lust, praise to name a few.

I sent an email to a writer I admire introducing myself. I’m waiting for that reply. I’m checking email on my phone, ignoring messages from my wife, from work. I’m checking email for one thing: a response, a fix.

What happens when I don’t get the response I was looking for? What happens when the score doesn’t come through? After all, I no longer have the luxury of driving to the laundromat. Clean and sober living doesn’t afford you the opportunity to skirt responsibility, or to bail on people, or to disappear for a while.

So what do I do?

I get angry.

“Hey babe, can you take out the trash. It’s overflowing.”

One.

I check my email. Nothing.

Two.

“Babe?”

How about she take out the trash for once. Why’s it always fall on me?

Three.

“Did you hear me?”

Four.

Fuck the trash. Leave me alone.

Five.

 

The road to relapse is not a one-way street.

An alternative route exists. One option is to go down swinging, like my toddler who doesn’t know any better—to blow up. “You take out the trash for once. How about that?” I have been down that road too many times. It doesn’t lead anywhere other than a drink.

The other road involves a pause—a full stop at the stop sign. It involves a prayer, a phone call. I can take a step back, ask for guidance. I could tell my wife what’s really on my mind.

I can exit the road to relapse.

I can live again.

31 Responses to “The Road

  • Fucking awesome my friend that is as good a piece of recovery writing I think I have ever read! My new Fave, you so nailed it. I was just writing yesterday about how my addictive behaviors display themselves in my writing. About how when I get feeling bored or stagnant I simply look up those writers I admire most in this genre, see where they get their work published and expectantly wait the editors e-mail of acceptance or quit sending us your trash Marc,lol. But I was saying how as a recovering addict I think I get the same release of endorphins from that as I did when I was using. You called it so appropriately Mark The Fix, love you man great piece!!!

  • Shared this on my main blog to, didn’t think you would mind, if so let me know I can remove it but its awesome Mark!!

    • I’m honored! Just please credit this website for the post!

      Thanks for the awesome feedback Marc! Solidarity brother!

  • I was just thinking, “I need to write a post, but I don’t know what to write.” Well, now I have an idea and I’ll be writing it shortly. Thanks brother.

  • Stephen Price
    1 year ago

    Mark, I appreciate the way in which you are able to spot the small, internal instances that make up the steps toward relapse. Ongoing recovery and maturity seem to me to be spotting and dealing with these sooner and sooner.

    • Thanks Pastor. Missing FBCH these days. Will get back in the swing of things AFS (after football season).

  • Woah! Totally agree with the first comment – “as good a piece of recovery writing I think I have ever read!” I recognise so much of myself throughout that piece, as a kid (pre-drinking), as a young adult (alcoholic in training), as an alcoholic in denial and as I am now – an alcoholic in recovery.
    This is most definitely going on my ‘fridge door * (along with a few other tweets, posts and blogs that I don’t wanna forget) – sensational writing: profound yet easy to understand and identify with.

    (* I’ll include the credit for the website on the ‘fridge door as well!!!)

    • HAHA. Thanks Andy. Thank you so much for the feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed. It makes my day to think that it got printed. It’s like it goes from the virtual world to the real world. What a great feeling that is!

  • My husband says, “apparently You have to have a penis to take the trash out around here.” He lives with a wife (me) and 2 daughters. ????

    The road to a relapse is a one way street….very insightful. Excellent post Mark, as usual. ❤️

  • Roger Lew
    1 year ago

    Mark,
    Very impressive. You capture the angst perfectly. You are a skilled writer – thank you for helping me with your words.
    Roger

  • Dude, you are talking to me (again). The timing of this is perfect. I’m feeling hungover from my addiction to this phone, to notifications, to (sometimes) mindless chatter with people whom I really don’t even know. And that’s BEFORE I deal with the lack thereof, or interruptions. I’m glad I’m not alone.

    • HD! You are not alone my friend. I am in this situation at least once a day. There is no avoiding for me. I know there is only managing it better. Looking forward to the next chance we get to meet up…

  • I was just thinking about a recovering friend who’s been spewing anger left & right, of late. Reminded me of the line in the Big Book about anger being the “dubious luxury of normal men”. Even “righteous anger”, when it becomes a resentment, is deadly for me. If I carry anger for more than a short period, I’ve been taught to do a 4th step on it.
    How many times have we heard of a relapse coming as a result of some percieved injustice? Great post!

    • You nailed it Abbie. It is the ‘perceived injustice’. It’s what we feel is wrong. When we feel slighted. Although it is rarely the case when we reflect it. Damien wrote it “practicing the pause” and that’s just it! Learning to wait before we act and ask for guidance! Very big book indeed!

  • I still have my fixes in life, too.
    And wanting to be noticed, or swooned over by everyone, (especially people who don’t), are the biggest.
    I am slowly learning to see these grandiose feelings, ones that do not help me at all.
    xo
    Wendy

  • “Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” – this was the first thing that popped in my mind when I read this. Being self-absorbed waiting for the next shot of vodka is no different, in some ways, than being self-absorbed waiting for the next notification or the next heap of praise. Either way, I am wrapped up in me. I like how you describe the closing off and the eventual resentment that builds as a result of not getting our way. My fuse gets very short very quickly when I am huffing and puffing in my mind. Cue the tantrum. Actually, my whole alcoholic career was one long tantrum.

    Fine writing as usual, Mr. Goodson. I love the staccato attack there, the tie in to your son’s countdown. All the cool writerly things that you do so well. And of course the message hits the mark too.

    Thanks for sharing this Mark – wonderful post.

    • Thanks Paul! Funny, I never factored in the selfish component. Although it’s written all over this post. It’s so much easier to talk about other people than take our own inventory sometimes. But this was a clear case of selfishness–which, it is written, is the root of our problems. Whether vodka, affection, or fill in the blank, it comes down to selfishness. I value your feedback. Thanks Paul.

  • Mark, I really appreciate hearing your reflections on relapse. Do you have any more posts about this topic? I would love to read. Thank you.

  • Oh the neverending journey of emotional sobriety. Loved this one, Mark. I’m reminded daily that just because I’m physically clean from drugs and alcohol doesn’t mean I’m not a total nutcase. That sugeestion of pausing when agitated is a good one and one it seems like I have to do all day long! Anyway, fantastic stuff.

    • Thanks Sean. Thanks for the suggested viewing of Transparent as well. I needed a new show. A new escape. Hope your FB hiatus is treating you well, sir! Catch up again soon.

  • Brittany Shelton
    1 year ago

    I can relate to this one on so many levels. It *is* hard being sober sometimes. Sometimes for me it is frustrating not to feel like I can do things that I like in a way that resembles any sort of moderation. Sometimes I feel like I am constantly babysitting myself. If that makes any sense. I just really enjoyed your honesty and transparency. It is refreshing to feel the ‘me too’s’ that help us to feel less bizarre, and its always great to have the reminder that relapse is indeed a road that we can choose to exit. Thanks for this one.

    • Babysitting yourself. That’s such an apt description for me. It does get tiring. It does help to write it. And see that other people have those “me too” moments. It tells me in not alone. Somehow, I can still convince myself I am sometimes. Great to hear from you Brittany! Keep on keeping on!

  • Knowing you’re about to do the wrong thing and doing it anyway is a hellish existence.

    I lived that hellish existence for 7 years. Addicted to opoids my life revolved around two things. 1. Where to get pills ? and 2. How am I going to pay for the pills ? Everyday I spent countless hours trying to find pills to buy and then trying to figure out how to pay for them. When I could score I would have to scheme to find the money. That involved doing many “wrong” things. One of the worst places I obtained money was from my elderly Mother who didn’t work and survived on income derived from Social Security. Despite knowing she couldnt spare a dollar I went to her daily with a variety of lies to obtain whatever amount I could. Stealing from my own Mother wasnt enough to stop me from buying pills off the street.

    • That honesty is rare. More people do things like that then they can admit. I should have realized I was doing wrong when I was stealing drugs from my dealer. I cut and run before ever paying him. Then, years later, I mailed him a check as part of the amends process.

      It is true, you know and I know, that in active addiction, nothing is more important than the next fix. Thank you for your honesty. It’s definitely the step in the right direction.

  • Oh, by the way. I’m new to your blog and looking forward to reading more. I’m still trying to figure out how to get my story out into the world and hopefully helping others along the way. Keep up the great work !!

    • Saw your blog! Followed. Love it. When I was new to blogging, i did just what you did. Connect with other clean and sober bloggers. I’ve learned blogging is just a long-form version of social media. Follow and connect with the people who ‘speak to you’.

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