Archive for March, 2016

Thirteen Years Sober, Plus a Ton of Love

Posted in Memoir, real life, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 23, 2016 by sethdellinger

April 3rd has been a big day for me for many years: it has been my sobriety anniversary since 2003.  This year (if you suck at math) will be my 13th sober year.  But the date has, of recent times, taken on a few extra meanings.  It now also marks my love and I’s half anniversary (this year being one and a half years) as well as the one year mark of me moving from Philadelphia back to Central PA (although you may recall I spent the first month back here at my father’s house, so it is NOT the one year anniversary of me and Karla living together).  Got all that?  The bottom line is it is a date that now marks, essentially, the full evolution of my life.

(I’ve written extensively about this topic before; if you’re new to the blog and interested, I detailed the days I got sober in a two-part blog, part one here and part two here .   There’s a dandy of an entry on the topic here.  Here is a good one about when I was very close to rock bottom.  Anyway, there are TONS, I’ve been writing this blog a long time, feel free to go to the home page and explore the tags “Recovery” and “Addiction”)

For the first few years of sobriety, obviously the anniversary date was a very big deal to me.  I made sure to get together with family and friends, wrote poignant poems, went places with significance to my recovery story.  As the years passed, the day morphed gradually; while it never lost significance, it did lose intensity.  Somewhere around Year Five, Dad and I started marking the occasion with a breakfast at The Hamilton, in Carlisle, a tradition that was a little short-lived due to my moving away from the area around Year Nine.  In addition, around Year Six I began to make a point of watching “Dark Days”, a documentary about homeless addicts who live in the New York City subway system.  While my life never dipped as low as that, I certainly felt like I had stared that kind of desperation in the face and just barely escaped it.  Watching the documentary (which is not just emotionally affecting but a startling display of filmmaking) is a way of keeping that reality fresh for me, a kind of “there-but-for-the-grace-of-Whatever-go-I” kind of experience.  As I now live with a family and have a busier schedule than at any time previously in my sobriety, I’m now watching “Dark Days” before the actual anniversary.  Here, check it out:

I’ll also be able to see Dad on the actual date again this year, which will be nice.  We had just gotten into the swing of the tradition when it had to stop.  Unfortunately, The Hamilton isn’t open on Sundays, so we’ll have to change it up a bit, but of course change is nice, mostly.

Of course, if all those wrenching changes hadn’t happened to me back then, I never would have been in a position to meet, woo, and win the dear love of my life, Karla, and help her raise her amazing son.  The year and a half I have been lucky enough to be doing this has been a delicious treasure, like a secret revealed to me.  The size and scope of the love I have been able to feel for them (as well as our dog, Benji, who is my “poocher love”) continues, routinely, to shock me.  It is honestly a level of emotion I would not previously have thought humanly possible.  It is akin to reaching the highest level of a video game, being positive it is the highest level, and then discovering there is not only a level beyond it, but in fact twenty more levels.  I frequently have to tell Karla, breathlessly, that I don’t know what to do—I don’t know how to express or even deal with my love for them.  She just smiles and kisses me; what else is there to say?

I’ve made many slide show videos before, but just to mark the occasion, I’ve made a new one encapsulating Karla and I’s entire relationship.  Have a look:


What really excites me is how the advent of my family life really highlights for me the changes I’ve gone through internally.  When I think about myself thirteen years ago, of course, the changes within me appear very dramatic—at the end of my drinking I was as big of a mess of a human being as could exist.  But even beyond that, once I got sober and began taking the baby steps into reliable, independent adulthood, I still felt for many years as though I had many, many character traits I needed to work on, often becoming convinced I could never make the necessary changes.  I was selfish, grumpy, standoffish, a certified loner.  And while elements of those traits still clank around within me, my life with a partner, child, and pet continually show me my progress.  I don’t bring this up in an attempt to get a pat on the back (after all, being a good person should kind of be a given) but just because I think it’s an extraordinary fact that it is possible for anyone to set out to “work on themselves”–to make alterations to their inner workings and, over time, actually see quantifiable results.  Four or five years ago, when I was living an isolated life, giving strangers the finger in the gym, going to great pains to avoid my neighbors…I would not have thought it would be possible to make significant change.  This date, April 3rd, gives me now a terrific chance to measure almost everything, and commemorate almost everything; how far I have been able to come since sobriety, how much Karla and family have changed me or helped me register change, and how being back in central PA has affected me.

Speaking of now being back in Central PA for a year–I feel as though I must acknowledge I have failed, to an extent, in some of my other relationships.  Most of my family and friends here I have seen between 1-3 times.  My sincere apologies to those of you who may feel I am ignoring you.  I won’t belabor you with excuses (however very, VERY true they are) of how busy and challenging life with a toddler is, etc etc, but I will say, however…that’s life, you know?  We’ll keep trying.

And what is sustained life like back in Central PA after taking such a long trip away?  Well…it’s not quite the same, but not entirely different.  It is without a doubt a nice place to live.  It is cozy and vibrant and there is more than enough to do.  It is bizarre, though, feeling as though I returned to the place a different person.  I like the river very much.

I Am Henceforth No Longer Paying Attention to Professional Football*

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , on March 14, 2016 by sethdellinger

Those who have known me or been reading my blog for more than about six years will remember that it was not that long ago that I was completely anti-sports.  I thought they were a waste of time, a diversion for the masses away from the things that really mattered, and void of any real meaningful human content.

In some ways, I still believe that.

But for some reason, those years ago, I decided to give in, first with hockey, then baseball, then the whole shebang.

I am now firmly in the camp of baseball, hockey and basketball being worthy pursuits of not just entertainment, but, when approached properly, intellectual and emotional import (when digested with moderation).  However, I am here to announce my plans to stop following the National Football League effective immediately.

There are numerous cultural and societal reasons to stop giving money and attention to the NFL–all or most of which I agree with.  But you don’t need me to list them here or discuss them; many other more eloquent writers have explored the topics ad nauseum, and if you don’t know what those topics are, me listing them here wouldn’t be of interest to you, either.  The fact is, I could probably force myself to overlook many of them and continue, with some guilt, to gulp down the admittedly highly-entertaining product the NFL offers.  But it’s not just these dense, important cultural issues that influence me.  The fact is, I also have come to see professional American football as a kind of clown sport.

The rules change so often and so drastically simply to tweak the television viewing experience and to highlight the superstars of the league, so that more dramatic storylines can be crafted for the endless hours of pre-game programming.  Almost nobody watching the game understands what’s going on in the game, other than there is a quarterback and receivers. Rivalries, quests, comebacks (the kinds of human stories that make all sports great) are invented out of whole cloth, exaggerated, repeated constantly; although I have no doubt the game is still real, and brutal, and not pre-determined, one can’t help but feel the comparison to professional wrestling becoming more and more apt.  While the “stories” of sports are what really attract me, the stories in the NFL have become melodramatic soap operas.

I got one of my sports magazines in the mail a few days ago, and Peyton Manning was on the cover (despite it being the NFL off-season and an intense moment in the NBA and NHL seasons) and all I could think to myself was, why wouldn’t they put a real athlete on the cover?  Now, I’m sure Mr. Manning is really a very gifted athlete, but the game he plays no longer evokes within me a thought of epic sports possibilities; it just makes me think about what absolute inane bullshit has been crafted around him.  I just don’t have time for it anymore.

*two caveats, and judge me all you want: if it looks like the Eagles might make a deep playoff run, I’m back in.  It’s hypocrisy but I don’t care.  Also Karla bought me a sweet Eagles hoodie early in our relationship.  It has sentimental value and is a really great hoodie.  I will continue to wear this.

I’m All-In For a Trump Nomination

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 2, 2016 by sethdellinger

Ultimately, finally, the nomination of Donald Trump for the presidency makes sense.  I welcome it.  Bring it on.

Trump’s ascendancy makes real and concrete the culture battle we’ve all been engaged heavily in for about ten years–with everybody either on one side or the other (those of you still arguing for some sort of middle ground are as obsolete as a laser printer).  We’ve crossed the Rubicon–there’s no going back, at the moment, to more moderate times. However bad it may be for our country, we are now all going to be forced to choose LIBERAL or CONSERVATIVE.  That’s how it’s going to be, so you might as well choose and commit highly.

It was very nice and comforting, for a few years there, to think there was a way to meet in the middle.  A way to politely ignore it when your friends said things you fundamentally disagreed with.  A way to still lose yourself in the films of an actor you heard was on “the other side”.  It was nice to think the world was soft enough that we could still love each other despite our differences.

But it isn’t.  Not now.  Maybe some day, it will be again.  We can hope it will be.  But at this moment in history, the world isn’t soft-it’s hard, with edges that cut.  The issues we face now are issues of good versus evil, of which fundamental worldview will govern us and set the course for all of our futures.  It’s too important for softness, or politely ignoring those who disagree with you.

It’s tempting to hope against hope that somehow Trump will still not get the nomination, but that’s wrongheaded.  If some milquetoast stand-in like Cruz or Rubio got the nomination, that would just forestall the inevitable, giving us four or eight more years of almost deciding who we (as America) are.  We need Trump to get nominated so we can either win or lose this battle for the soul of our nation–so that our future course can finally be decided, for better or worse.

Bring him on.  It is very rarely in the whole of human history a great nation is presented with such binary, epic choices.


Jeremy, Where Have You Gone?

Posted in Prose, Uncategorized with tags , on March 2, 2016 by sethdellinger

Jeremy, where have you gone?  It’s been so long.  I suppose in high school, you think you’ll know your friends forever, and I suppose that is foolish.  But Jeremy, you were a counterpoint to my soul through the roughest, most awkward young years, and then we immediately parted ways for no stated reason, never so much as a phone call ever again.

Jeremy, where have you gone?  In this day and age, we stay in touch with people we barely know, forever.  I know more about how my minor friends from middle school have turned out than I know about you, and where you are, and what you do, and how you’re doing.  It seems nobody else I know knows anything much about you, either.

Jeremy, where have you gone?  Did England break your heart?  Did you find God in a jet plane?  Does the sound of approaching thunder terrify you, or ominous rain clouds make you smile?  Are you a farmer, with overalls to your chin?  Do you have a beard?  What happened to your parents?  Do you shiver in an unheated room in the winter with a wife who loves you?  Do you wonder about me, and how I’m doing?  Do you ever feel completely alone?

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