Shaking the Winter Doldrums
“Sometimes the light’s all shining on me, other times I can barely see…”Grateful Dead, from “Truckin'”, American Beauty album, lyrics by Robert Hunter
Each morning finds me filled with a little more hope than the day before. I don’t really like to say, or even to admit to myself, that I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’m from Pittsburgh, for chrissakes! We never used to see the sun even in the summertime, growing up. I should be used to this by now. But then again, I was a pretty miserable kid when I grew up there, so I believe it fits.
I try to find other reasons for why I’m feeling the winter doldrums, but the days without any sunshine, and the lingering cold weather, do take their toll on my emotional sense of well-being. Since I don’t much care for these doldrums, I look for ways out of them.
When I was a senior in high school, my best thinking for shaking the winter blues was to throw a little keg party in my parents’ house while they were supposed be on the other side of Pittsburgh, playing bridge with Aunt Lalie and Uncle Roman. Me and a few of my buddies pitched in to buy the keg, we spread the word at school, and low and behold, we far exceeded the expected number of 35 or so kids. We stopped counting at 125! Great party, too. We charged five bucks a head at the door, three for the ladies, and we made a killing.
Not only was that party my ticket out of the winter doldrums and into temporary high school superstardom – it was my ticket out of Pittsburgh!
Turned out, Uncle Roman and Aunt Lalie had to cancel the Bridge game, so Mom and Dad played at the Lindemann’s instead – they only lived three blocks away. Kids were showing up before they even left for their card game – we had people down on the street holding off the hordes and directing traffic until the coast was clear. It was a wild scene!
Yes, I was basking in the glory of the hit party of the season, when brothers Brian and Ken came in, freaked out at the sight of our house overrun by underage drinkers – there were literally kids getting drunk in every room of that large, thirteen room house – and cleared them all out with threats of the cops coming. Talk about party-poopers! (To this day, I kind of shudder to think what would have happened to that house – and ME – if that party had been allowed to continue to its inevitable, raucous conclusion – I am forever grateful to those big brothers for bailing me out of something I didn’t even know I needed bailed out of!)
The family was moving to Connecticut in a month, but my plan had been to stay behind in Pittsburgh to finish up my senior year. It was March, it made sense, but…Mom didn’t think it was such a good idea to leave me there on my own, after the serious lapse in judgement I had displayed with my “Hit” party. She convinced me to move with the family to Connecticut.
That move changed the trajectory of my life, considerably – ultimately for the better, although the jury was out on that one for a number of shaky years.
Speaking of Connecticut, one of the ways I usually shake the winter blahs these days is by going up to Connecticut for a men’s retreat in Woodstock, with a bunch of guys I’ve gotten to know real well over the past six years, including my oldest brother, Jim. It’s the winter retreat for his AA Home Group, “The Tenth Leper” Group of AA.
He invited me up once, back in 2012, and I’ve been going every year ever since. (Thanks to the furlough and government shutdown, I didn’t get up there this winter, for the first time). That retreat led me back to AA. I had been doing it (staying sober) without a fellowship for over 25 years. Jim’s been sober something like 33 years, now. I’m coming up on my 39th anniversary clean – I don’t like to say “clean and sober” because it’s kind of redundant. Clean means no mind or mood altering substances, including alcohol, whereas “sober” technically refers to alcohol, only. Around AA circles I’ll just say sober, because that’s what they understand to mean “clean”. I know, it sounds silly, but some think it’s a big deal.
But, back to the winter doldrums. The other way I’ve gotten through them in recent years is by writing. I write my way through them. It works, too. I’ve tended to be even more prolific with my writing during the winter months. The past couple of years, this hasn’t been as reliable an escape method, since my writing mojo suffered a serious hit when my favorite place to write and post went down a couple years ago.
However, right on time, it has returned. I asked the universe for help about a week ago, when I was feeling “unengaged” at work, and the next thing I knew, my writing mojo showed back up. Not what I was expecting, but … ask and you shall receive! I couldn’t be more delighted by this unexpected turn of events.
At the meeting last night, several folks cited the passage in the AA Big Book which is one of my favorites
“Clear away the wreakage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us.
We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet
some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. May God bless you
and keep you – until then”.page 164, end of Chapter 11, A Vision for You, Alcoholics Anonymous, aka “The Big Book”
This might sound strange to the uninitiated, but my friends in AA understand when I say, “God, I’m grateful to be an alcoholic!” It’s given this kid, whose best idea was a house-wrecking keg party, a program to live by, that not only works – it works really well. Trudge on!