Sunday, July 12, 2009

(part 177) THE APARTMENT

I will continue to say this as I write these things, because I feel I must. I am not promoting any book, religion, or way of life. I am discussing, in public, what it was I did in 1976 as I learned about my own sobriety.

I was living at the Clare Foundation in Santa Monica, and was unemployed, although I did do odd jobs for money. I was newly sober and embarking on a journey, and that for me was an extremely positive outlook.

I was learning to trust in a God, as I understood or didn't understand him. I had two books, Alcoholics Anonymous and Science Of Mind, that helped to guide me in the right direction, and I'd acquired a used motorcycle for transportation.

Somewhere during this time, a friend of mine in AA announced that he and his girl friend were going to be married in Australia, where she was originally from.

The reason this is important, is that with this announcement came the offer to me of her apartment in Venice Beach, which was paid for for the next 6 months. I could live there rent free for that amount of time.

I couldn't believe it--from a halfway house to a rent-free beach front apartment, out of nowhere. This of course convinced me that what I was believing in was working, and that I should pursue it even more vigorously.

I accepted their offer, and within a short time, moved myself into the apartment. I remember standing on the balcony looking out across the sand to the ocean and thinking, "Wow, this has got to be impossible." One day I was in Clare Foundation and the next I was here.

I set out immediately hand printing signs in red ink and taping them on the walls. They said things like, "God supplies me with everything I need," "I have an endless supply of money," and things like that. They were called affirmations.

Everyday, I would stand in the living room and read them and listen to my mind say "You don't really believe this shit do you?" I would make myself stand there reading them out loud until I actually started to believe what I was reading.

Day after day, and week after week, I would affirm what I wanted to believe in. During this period, I borrowed a tape recorder after having a long talk with God about what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

While in Clare Foundation I had to re-teach myself to play guitar and sing sober, which I couldn't do initially. When I got to the new apartment, I had to have a long talk with God about my music, and whether I was supposed to use it for a specific purpose.

I announced to God that I was going to write and record songs in that apartment, and see where it would lead. Unsure if I was really doing God's will, and not just pursuing my own interests, I set out on this endeavor of writing and recording my songs.

Each day I'd get up and get some coffee and read the signs, until I felt I was on the right track. I'd get out my guitar, notebook, and pen, and start working on the next song, or finishing one I'd already started.

I said things like "I don't know for sure if this is what I'm supposed to do, but I'm going to do it, and believe that it's what you want me to do, God." With that, I'd start working for hours trying to convince myself I was on the right path.

In AA, I met a girl who was sober about the same amount of time that I was, and we became seriously involved. At first I'd ride my motorcycle to her apartment, but after awhile she wanted to see where I lived.

The first time she saw my place, she asked if I was rich, because the apartment was on the beach and must cost a lot. I said "No!" and then proceeded to tell her about Science Of Mind and how I got the place as a gift from God.

This interested her to no end and she began asking questions about how it all worked as she eyed the hand written signs on my walls.

I explained the purpose of the signs, and told her I was trying to get myself to believe what was written on them, and how hard it was to overcome my old attitude of negativity, which she acknowledged having problems with as well.

While she was there I turned on the tape recorder and played some of the songs I'd written. She got very excited when she heard my music and said I should do it professionally, which I admitted I had once done. "Well you ought to do it again," she said, "this is really good."

I thanked her for her opinion and said I was just going to keep writing and recording, and see where it would lead, since I had the apartment and the tape recorder.

She told me her parents were coming to visit her from New Jersey and that she wanted to bring them by to meet me and let them hear my work. Hearing that made me nervous, and I said, "I don't know, I haven't had very good luck with girl's parents in the past."

She laughed and said, "Don't worry, my dad is on the program too, and my mom's in Alanon." She smiled, as if saying that had fixed the problem.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things that I find so interesting about your autobiographical writing is your ability to parse your intellectual life. Your reactions are believable because they are so natural. Most people, telling the story of a particular intellectual, philosophical, or religious revelation or conversion would simply say, "I saw the light," or "my whole life changed," even if later they would have to recant or explain a second change in behavior as a new revelation.

    The conversion that I have just described is precisely what most religions demand. "You must cast off all doubt and simply accept faith." Judaism does allow for discussion and some skepticism; parts of Buddhism are not as doctrinaire as other religions; a few faiths are tolerant of the paths that others choose, but most claim that you find heaven only on my path and hell for all others.

    Although you had undergone a physical manifestation that could be attributed to divine intervention (your not being able to lift the bottle to your lips); although you had been lead to the book of AA and found wise and useful counsel; although you had stumbled upon a religious philosophy that appeared not only to give you a clearer and quite concrete explanation of how you had gotten to where you were but it further offered a plausible way out of your situation; and although you had seen this method appear to work (the free apartment): you nevertheless maintained a certain wary open-mindedness.

    You had allowed yourself to "talk to God," and you practiced very conscientiously the program of positive affirmation, yet you still have that hint of skepticism that allows you to continue to analyze.

    It's quite possible that one might be happier simply (I was going to say "wallowing," but I do not mean to be at all pejorative here) submerging oneself in unquestioning faith—although subsequent failures tend to lead to a crisis of or loss of faith, or if the faith is maintained, then self-scorn for the failure generally results.

    Your ability to doggedly pursue a new possibility while maintaining a relatively clear-eyed skepticism and questioning attitude about the events and choices in your life really helps the reader to understand these reflections of an honest intellectual and spiritual life.

    And a new abode by the beach, a new girl, and a new-found ability to create while sober is a nice positive turn to the story (although six months goes by pretty quickly...)

    I am really enjoying your return to "the story."