Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Fast X, Found Family, and Saying Goodbye to a Car

Yesterday I got a new car. Not a new, new car. An old car that is new to me. The car I had been driving for the last 3 years was a lease, so it was never truly, legally mine. But as I emptied my belongings out of that car and into the new one, I was not prepared for the flurry of emotions that I was suddenly overtaken with.

It's easy to look at a car, and see a speeding metal deathtrap. It's actually kind of insane that we all scoot around going 70 miles per hour just a few arms lengths away from each other. But what I'm thinking about today is how a car is a powerful tool of connection. I'm thinking about all the people that I've built connections with in the places that car brought me. Today I'm thinking about all the things that happened in my old car, all the things that it (literally) carried me through. All the memories that it's a part of; good and bad. I'm a sentimental bastard, and it's going to be really tough bringing that old car back to the dealership.

That old car drove me to the liquor store more times than I can count. It also drove me to a detox facility. That car drove me and my ex around for countless adventures, both big and small. I was also sitting in it when over the phone she told me she was leaving me, and told me I needed to get help with my drinking. And I did get help, through Alcoholics Anonymous. And this car has driven me to every AA meeting I have ever been to.

And that is what helps me to see a car as a tool of connecting people. All of the meetings I have gone to, and all the friends I have made in those meetings, none of that would have been possible without that car. The family of people also seeking recovery that I have had the absolute pleasure of surrounding myself with, I owe in part to that car, and its ability to get me where I need to go.

Found family. Cars. What a perfect time in my life to see the 10th entry in the seemingly never ending Fast & Furious saga.

What started as a small, core group of street racers turned thieves, over 22 years of film, (I've never felt older) has evolved into a family of multi-disciplined, diverse individuals. Some are blood, but more of them aren't. And that is what I find myself with now; an ever growing group of friends, with such different stories and from all different walks of life. We all have one thing in common; wanting to recover from addiction. It's not as cinematic as bonding over supercars and nitrous oxide, but it is the glue that binds us.

When I first entered the program, I was extremely hesitant about reaching out and making friends. I would sit through meetings, speak only when spoken to, and head out as soon as the thing ended. I have never been a very social person. And I thought, "If I can barely communicate with my own family, how could I ever get that comfortable with total strangers?" And so, in a move that is so, so very me, I didn't even try. And it was my undoing. My sponsor, and AA literature make it pretty clear that helping one another and building connections with other alcoholics is one of the primary actions that help us maintain our sobriety. And I was not doing that. I found myself isolating. I found myself very lonely. That, along with some other factors that began to pile up, led to a brief, unfortunate relapse.

I won't go into the details, because I already detailed my relapse when I wrote about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.  But in bouncing back from that, following the direction from my sponsor, I have been trying to stay in the middle of the herd in AA. I'm making at least 3 phone calls a day to other alcoholics. And it has oftentimes been extremely uncomfortable! Like I mentioned before, I am not exactly a social butterfly by nature. But the more I call, the more comfortable it becomes. And the more calls I make, the better I get at making connections in person. I've already had a couple of people tell me that I already "seem like I'm in a better place" even just 37 days removed from the relapse. Some days I do feel like I'm in a better place. Some times I don't. Progress, not perfection.

If you have any familiarity with the Fast & Furious films, you know that after the team accomplishes the mission, the films usually end with Dom's crew having a cookout in the backyard. There is usually a moment where Dom looks around, really taking in his family. It cuts back to Dom with a smile. I had that exact moment in the middle of my homegroup the other night. It was quiet. The facilitator was reading from our literature. I looked in front of me and saw friends. I looked behind me and saw friends. To my right and left; more friends. I felt a warmth in my heart that no drink and no drug could recreate. And I was really happy.

I've lost some people, too. The ones that have died, unlike the movies, aren't coming back. There are people who have left and come back. There are people who left that I don't think I'll ever get back, despite how much I want it. There are no surprise after-credits scenes in real life, where the person you though was gone forever has suddenly returned. There is no way to rewrite the continuity of your life. All I can do is try to be thankful for what, and more importantly who, I have in my life right now. And some days I am still more sad for what I have lost than glad for what I have gained. I'm told it gets better. So I'm going to keep trying.