Written by Mark Goodson:
I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I grew up in a small town. I worked hard, got good grades, and played sports. I partied hard, snuck out at night, drank too much at a young age.
Amazingly enough—and only through my 20/20 sober-vision did I come to realize—I excelled in order to drink. It was a huge chunk of truth to swallow. You could find me on the honor roll list in our local town paper, and that took the sting out of the police report two pages later.
I once stole a gumball machine in a blackout, after getting in an argument with the local pizzeria owners. The story goes that I hoisted it over my shoulders then dropped it off from a second-level parking garage. I scooped the quarters into my hat and was up the hill before the cops arrived. My friend was not so lucky.
They caught him, detained him. He told us he didn’t name names which would have been particularly chivalric of him considering I was the one who stole it—only I knew he was lying. He lied straight through his teeth. I was going to get busted.
As the months passed, I waited. I remember turning the corner in town one day. A policemen stopped me and said, “You’re the gumball kid. You know we’re gonna bust you right?”
Still, I didn’t come forward, didn’t tell my parents, didn’t make amends to the pizzeria. I waited around in fear for the other shoe to drop.
And it did.
I learned to hate turning corners in general, not knowing what consequence was waiting for me. Being a blackout drinker riddled my life with unforeseen consequences. Whenever things were going smoothly, I knew it a matter of time before I turned the corner and some consequence slaps me about the head—like my drunken self a ghost that haunted my every move.
The other shoe doesn’t drop any more.
I own up to consequences before they creep up on me. I am in full recollection of my behavior. I am comfortable with who I am today.
That was a difficult transition. In early recovery, any compliments I received were countered with a knee-jerk reaction from my mind, conditioned to expect some ugly truth to eventually be revealed. The thought played in my head like a tape, over and over—you just don’t know the real me.
It was the people in recovery in my life who taught me that it was OK to take compliments, that I don’t have to crowd my mind with all the bad shit I’ve done when someone tells me I’m doing good.
The feeling surfaces occasionally still with 8 years clean and sober. I walk toward some blind corner and imagine my juggernaut-past clobbering my head; some person I’ve hurt sucker-punching me in the balls and running away saying, “that’s what you get!”
But, without fail, I turn the corner and walk on—whistling dixie under bue-skied bliss. Just kidding, about that last bit. Sober life is still life, and still sucks, just not as often.
If the shoe fits, wear it.
I am an alcoholic. I am an addict. I get addicted to all sorts of non-toxic intoxicants today, I just leave the drinks, pills, powders, and plants alone—except for the tobacco leaf and the coffee bean. Working on those. Not really.
I am right-sized with the world on a good day. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. I am doing my best to reach that elusive level of recovery where I pause before I do someone harm. But that’s proving to be a lifelong learning process, like marriage, or parenting.
My honesty still surprises me. Just the other day I bought a 5-pack of Camel Snus and the clerk scanned it so as to charge me for one. My receipt printed. I waited for him to say something. I walked toward the door, hoping he’d realize the mistake. My hand reached the the door handle to leave. I stared at the receipt and saw a blind corner.
“My man, are you going to charge me for the other four?”
Hot damn I’m not used to saying that, but the truth is:
The other shoe never has to drop,
as long as the one you’re wearing fits.