As this new year begins to settle in, many folks will be beginning the precarious tight-rope walk of sobriety. This post is full of wisdom.
Source: Stand Up
As this new year begins to settle in, many folks will be beginning the precarious tight-rope walk of sobriety. This post is full of wisdom.
Source: Stand Up
I wish I could take credit for this piece, but, alas, I can not. However, I was educated by it & think you may be, as well.
I’ve heard alkie/druggies described in many ways, and smart isn’t usually one of them. There’s a reason why AA has the slogans. For example, “Think think think.” – Sponsor says “That doesn’t apply to you.”
Interview: Mark Renshaw + Christopher Carson Emmons
Chris, as the director, you brought forth a patient yet striking visual narrative with this short film. How were you able to achieve the vision you sought with the numerous effects shots and other stylistic challenges that the film required?
The team tried to achieve many unconventional things with this project, it is essentially a silent film from the point of view of an unreliable narrator (due to his alcoholism we see some things that are only in his mind) and is also a mental health and addiction awareness piece masquerading as a horror/thriller film.
I felt that showing literal manifestations of the main character’s inner demons throughout would help communicate why as an addict he consciously makes the wrong decision time and time again. The temptress character at his office is a living manifestation of the addict’s impulse to do the wrong thing while being aware it’s wrong, perhaps seeking ultimately punishment and intervention from external forces before the darkness inside completely consumes.
I also wanted the viewer to experience what a day in the life of this man was like from his point of view, in an effort to hopefully help them empathize with what otherwise may have been a deeply unsympathetic character. To me, the core issue of the character was a lack of self-love, which caused him to lash out at loved ones because he didn’t feel he deserved them and he simultaneously punished and medicated himself constantly for this with alcohol.
We tried with the visuals to thematically imbue a sense of not trusting the world around the lead character or the character himself early on. Even the water bottle he puts clear alcohol in is misleading, but alcoholics viewing the film would know that there are many ways such as this to disguise addiction. With the sound, we tried to really illustrate the decay inside this man physically and spiritually. Every time he takes a drink of alcohol, you hear the sound of his insides burning. The music is really the dialogue, which communicates most of the emotion throughout the journey.
Mark, as the writer and Executive Producer, you drew from some personal accounts when you envisioned—and eventually scripted—“Surrender”. Please tell us about your personal journey that led to the genesis of this unique and important film.
At the time of writing this, I’m three years, nine months and two days sober; not that I’m counting or anything!
I was a functioning alcoholic. I had a successful career, a fantastic family and a lovely home. At face value my life was perfect. I seemed like a happy, normal guy.
Inside I was dying.
Physically, mentally and spiritually, I was a wreck. I couldn’t cope with the real world, so I started to rely on something which took me out of my anxiety and into my own version of reality. The only thing keeping me going was the promise of that bottle at the end of each day. It became my solution to everything.
Eventually I had my rock bottom, I reached my jumping off place. To quote from Pulp Fiction, “I had what alcoholics describe as a moment of clarity.” I admitted defeat, reached out for help and began my recovery.
When I wrote “Surrender”, I wanted to encapsulate how it feels to exist as a functioning alcoholic. I wanted to show how different they are from the stereotypical, drunken tramp-like figure most people imagine when they think of an alcoholic. My goal was to highlight how ordinary they appear at face value, as well as how deceptive and manipulative they can be.
The main character, Dave, isn’t me, but he does represent key elements of my battle with the booze. “Surrender” also drew on many shared experiences I’ve heard from alcoholics over the past few years.
However, I wanted to avoid a potentially dull narrative were we simply observe a character drink heavily and wind up in trouble. I initially wrote about a guy who existed in a completely isolated world when he was sober. The only way he could cross into the ‘real world’ and interact with people was to take a drink. This would allow him to operate normally for a while but he would eventually spin out of control and wind up back in the ’empty zone’ when he woke up.
After reading this script, Chris suggested that I try a more horror-based approach, in which we could see his fears, anxieties and all his inner demons materialized. I loved this idea. And thus, “Surrender” was born.
What do you hope audiences leave with after viewing “Surrender”?
Chris: My hope with this film is that people take a moment to question what the differences are between someone’s surface demeanor and their inner lives. What is the person who publicly seems happy all the time really thinking and what does this temperament do to their soul? What are the depths of compassion the person you deem awful or irredeemable is actually capable of?
Functioning alcoholics are often masterful at seeming like they have it all together, which makes them incredibly difficult to diagnose let alone get to seek treatment. It is an internal struggle that I think deserves examination and awareness.
The film unapologetically presents an addict who is self-destructive in all aspects of his life on his road to rock bottom. When presented with the concept of rehabilitation by his wife, we end the film on his response, which is simply “How?” This is one of the most important questions we should all be addressing about addiction, and it is my hope that the film ultimately contributes to that dialogue.
Mark: This may seem strange but I would like viewers to have a strange taste in their mouth when they watch “Surrender”. I want them to be hooked into Dave’s journey but be slightly uncomfortable about the ride.
Dave represents the ‘Yet Factor.’ I drink a bit too much, but not during the day…yet. I drink but at least I’ve not lost my job…yet. Well, I’ve passed out a few times but I’ve never woken up in a strange place…yet. Etc.
My hope is that anyone struggling with addiction, both personally or through someone they know, will identity with Dave’s struggle. When they get to the end of “Surrender”, I want them to realize that no matter how far down the ladder they may have fallen, they can always climb back up. I also hope that they are as curious as Dave as to how this can be accomplished and seek the help to do so.
For those in early sobriety, this time of year can be fraught with potential (recovery) land mines.
Workplace Christmas parties, family get-togethers that we can be under a lot of pressure to attend, and the increasing reminders of alcohol (& etc) everywhere can all be overwhelming.
For many of us, just the thought of spending an extended period of time with our families can be a stressful proposition. Past hurts are revisited, and the family can be confused or angry at the sober person for no longer partaking with them…
What I know is that there are always AA/NA meetings. Usually there are marathon meetings on Christmas and New Year’s, which are back-to-back meetings for 24 hours. Christmas/Hanukkah will have events in church/temple, for those who prefer those instead of (or in addition to) 12-step meetings.
The biggest thing that will help you to make it through the next couple of weeks with your clean/sober date intact is to be PROACTIVE. Spend time with people who are also in recovery. Non-drinkers or users can be great people, but they’re not gonna be able to share with you their experience in celebrating the holidays sober, in spite of themselves. I know I went to at least one meeting for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s of my first 5+ years.
If your recovery is your priority, you will be able to begin 2017 with the same clean date that you have now.
I am grateful for this new way of life, and for being able to be present for my family. I am grateful to be able to learn how to care for MYSELF, as well as others.
See more every Saturday @ http://www.drunkless.com !
I am not, by nature, a patient person. Never have been. The evidence of my having grown some small semblance of patience is seen in my children: still alive, not maimed…
It’s interesting how patient I have learned to be in certain instances. For example, our neighbor has a roaming hen named Goldie. (I haven’t met a mammal yet that I didn’t love. Sure, some were easier to love than others, but overall, I love being with animals.)
Goldie is semi-tame, I guess, in that she will come close enough to take cat food from my hand, but she won’t let me touch her. I have positioned my hand in such a way that my fingers graze her breast feathers when she’s taking the food from me, and they’re so soft. As it gets colder outside, and she is noticeably cold, I wish I could hold her and get her warm, but so far, she’s not ready. So far.
In the case of winning over an animal’s trust, wild or just skittish, I have deep wells of patience. I think it’s because of my own difficulties in trusting people. Heck, when I was just 9 or 10, I set out to win over several feral kittens. It took a little while, but not too long. And it was very gratifying when they finally allowed me to pet them.
So, why does it come so easy to me to wait for a positive response from a chicken, yet waiting for God to move…not so much.
I think the difference may be in KNOWING the desired outcome versus NOT knowing much about what the goal is actually going to look like, when it’s met. I know that I can very likely get Goldie to trust me. She’s already come close to hopping up the steps into the house! But, while I am convinced that God has my best in mind, it’s hard for me to know whether I will recognize His best when I get there.
I’m thinking about currently waiting to be moved into a place (career) where I can put down roots and flourish. There are a couple of different things I am skilled at, but I guess my problem is WAITING for God to move everything/me into the BEST position.
I have had 3 different employers in 2016, and I am longing to work somewhere that I can put my skills and experience to the best use. I have seen in my life proof of the verse that says that if I delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. Yes, this is a thing I know.
I just hate waiting. I’m sitting at the starting late revving my engine…and sitting…and sitting.
The good news is, my trust is in the Lord. I wish He would work in MY time frame more often, but none the less, I know that if I don’t die from the an-tici—-pation, it will turn out to be perfect.
And the fact of the matter is that His timing has always been perfect.
I remember once, at a group home where I used to work, celebrating the fact that a client actually used the toilet instead of her chair. The next time wasn’t quite as spectacular, but there for a minute, we were All-Stars.
When I went off to work I jokingly (or not) told my hubby that it was a good day if I didn’t get poop actually ON me. That night, I told of the amazing feat of my lady actually using the bathroom facilities for a change. I knew he wanted to support me, but his face had kind of a blank look whenever I shared this kind of news. Fair enough. I didn’t fully appreciate the goings-on at his place of employment, but I was glad to see him happy. Probably the same way he does me.
Sometimes when I’ve had a client with me out in the community, people have said something like “It takes a special kind of person to do that kind of work.” I appreciate it. I guess it does take a special something to do this work, but no more special than any other job that requires a lot of emotional weight-lifting, along with the usual physical manipulations of assisting an up-to 250 lb. infant/toddler go through their daily activities…
I mean, everything that an infant or toddler relies on their parents for, our clients depend on us to do for and with them. There’s kind of an inside joke among myself and my co-workers, that the bosses get us to start working there for super low pay, knowing that we’ll fall in love with our charges and basically put up with (no pay increases ever) any Managerial shenanigans so that we can be sure the clients are getting cared for by people who genuinely care about them. It’s the Hotel California trick.
When we moved across the country last year, I was of course really sad that my older boy wasn’t coming with us, I still am every day. But he assured me that he was a Big Boy and didn’t need me anymore. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and we moved.
But deep inside of me, where I hadn’t even realized they were hiding, were my feelings about leaving behind “my” (non-verbal) little client. I really love working with the individuals who don’t speak. Possibly because of my personal experience in having to read body language as a child, and also because I know that they are the most vulnerable of any people group.
The lady I had been working with before we moved was just as close to being an actual angel as I’ve ever seen. It’s not that she was beautiful by society’s standards, but her spirit shone through. When she was happy, her entire body shook with joy. And she was happy a lot when I was there. She loved going to church with me and her roommate, and the people at church fell in love with her, too.
Some of the other staff at the group home would get irritated with me because when she saw me come in, the world stopped and she did her kind of lurching goose-step over to me and hugged me fiercely. She watched for me to arrive, and would have hugged me all day if I would have let her. It was really nice. Like having a daughter, I suppose.
But then we had to move. Leaving that sweet little girl behind was more difficult than I’d expected. Times when I’ve been home-sick, her smiling face has always come to mind.
I know she is ok. The staff there are very compassionate and capable of caring for her, complicated medical issues and all. But I’ll probably never forget her, and I can’t wait to see her in her perfect new body in Heaven…
I was back home briefly over the summer, and the first thought was to go see my special friend. Then I thought it through. And decided it would be selfish as hell for me to stop by & then leave again. So I didn’t go by the house where she lives.
I know for sure that the rewards of this field of work are monetarily minimal. But the intangible rewards can make it surprisingly easy. I’m amazed when I think of the trust I’m given, when caring for my clients. Whether it’s pushing a wheelchair, coloring a craft, changing their pants/diapers for the umpteenth time or going through the “feelings” flash cards again, it is a privilege.
Just another phenomenal blessing of sobriety.
“And for that, I am responsible.”
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I'm a little leaf on a huge tree. Most of the other leaves are hooked on a drug called alcohol. I was a slave to this drug for a long time. Then I realized: Life doesn't have to suck. I know there are other leaves out there that realize this, too.
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