by mark masserant
After all the jackpots I was in over the years, I suspected Serenity Busters were linked to Karma in some dark, sub-spiritual way. I was a harmless moving target that kept getting clobbered from out of nowhere.
It was a regular occurrence when I was ‘out there’—someone or something always burst my imaginary bubble of cool. Bad vibes, paranoia, a conniption or two, and ultimately, a drunk were always my response. No more Mister Nice Guy; I was Mr. Resentment-Head, Mr. Pity Pot, Mr. I’ll-Feel-Better-in-a-Couple-of-Beers. Cheers!
The offenders were exiled whenever possible, but they still populated my angry head, where there was an abundance of space for rent. Huddled in their new roost, they were Serenity Bustin’ whether they knew it or not.
I’d been living on something better than reality since my late teens; it was my way of dealing with it, but eventually, the ‘abnormal’ turned into my normal and I hardly noticed it. Everyone else did. I needed a major perspective tune-up and, by no mistake, wound up in rehab.
When the Detox Staff there assured me, “We got a wrench to fit any nut”, I wondered if I should take that personally. ‘More of the same old crap’, I thought. But I’d been getting fogged-up for so long that when I checked in, I was fogged-up. Certainly, thirty days in treatment wouldn’t put a dent in my problems. They tried anyway. It was the longest, shortest chunk of my life to this day.
Clean And Sober And An Adult
Before I left the House for Pickled Nuts, I metaphorically ‘stepped out for a smoke’ when they revealed the fine print about keeping it simple. Important data was missed—I later realized I should have authored a how-to manual for dealing with the new, sober Me. Even so, they did hand me a serenity prayer plaque when I was released, along with my counselor’s five famous last words, “You’re gonna be needing this.” He was right on. I was too smart to keep it simple.
The biggest, newest dilemma I faced was the insulation deficiency that unraveled after alcohol was eliminated. I hoped my emotional neighborhood—fear, self-pity, anxiety, remorse, inadequacy and depression, all amid morbid contemplation—was commonplace, and that I had just gotten a stronger dose than the others. However, most of mine had snowballed into a cornucopia of neuroses while I was drinking. The mix was challenging to deal with sober, and didn’t subside with prolonged abstinence.
Suddenly I was thirty-three going on seventeen in front of the world—and I had never been clean and sober and an adult at the same time. Hence, I was scourged with Serenity Busters. How could my skin be so thin and my thinking so stinking?
Unfortunately, that was but the tip of the not-so-niceburg…
My wife worked the day I was released, so a friend taxied me home from the treatment center. As lunchtime approached, he suggested a nearby Mexican restaurant, but assured me there’d be no margaritas for him. What could it hurt? I had thirty days! Shouldn’t be a problem.
Into To Serenity Busters
However, unbeknownst to me, it was essential that he proved he didn’t have a problem. He’d been taking a little heat himself. Once seated, he wondered if I’d mind if he ordered a simple beer—a distant relative, but obviously not margarita-like.
It took me several seconds to activate a shrug; at least rehab had relaxed that knee jerk reflex. But in a surprise move, he didn’t order his favorite brew—the one on his ball cap, his tee shirt and tattooed on his shoulder, everywhere but on his license plates—but instead opted for my brand, a Canadian lager I’d been giving a bad name to for a while. It was a brazen, pre-internet version of stealing my identity.
I brain-groaned when I recalled a resentment I handed him during a blackout, and one of my excuses for drinking was dug up again. Fear of payback time. Voilà!
He ignored the hurt look on my face, instead studying his gold pop with the foam on top. I quickly realized this would be more complicated than I thought—barely my first hour out on the streets and my intro to Serenity Busters punched the clock. There would be more; I was a magnet for them.
Fortunately, I didn’t partake—I knew it would just take one to get me started, and then I’d be finished. And he didn’t do a face-plant in his huevos rancheros after a couple of beers, all the proof he needed– he could drink like an unhappy gentleman.
When I got back home, I was certain my old friends would follow me pied piper-style into sobriety when they witnessed how my life turned around and how much better I looked after thirty days of induced health. It didn’t play out that way—they scattered like vampires, quite unwell from the sunlight of my spirit. I would’ve done the same. To them, I was a walking, talking dose of Antabuse. I was on my own. Nobody, including me, knew who I was any more. And more would be revealed.
I Would Have Been Awfulizing
My wife, who honored our wedding vows until I went into treatment, forgot she was married. I couldn’t blame her—the finish line was in sight and she put the pedal to the metal. The best I could do was to let go, so I pulled the chute. Unfortunately, I don’t suffer well and used some non-medical marijuana for a few days. When I let that mind parasite out of its cage, it was a miracle I didn’t get sucked back into the bottle again—reefer always ushered in a paranoia that made me thirsty. But I kept going to meetings, changed my date and started over.
Ninety days after she left, the divorce was final—and the rest of that serenity they were blowing me up with in rehab went poof! Life can still suck, especially when you find out it was way too soon to make that amends you were putting off forever. But it only sucks a day at a time if you’re working a good program.
Devising a game plan to curtail my resentments was crucial; opportunities for bigger and better ones would thrive and lead to relapse. The Serenity Prayer proved vital—it preserved my sobriety and saved my life. Sometimes I said it fifty times, which I thought was excessive before lunch, but otherwise, I would have been awfulizing, which boils down to self-Serenity Busting.
Taking Some Pretty Big Hits
Naturally, the guys at work were a little rough on me in the beginning. They were used to having me make them look good.
“How long you divorced?” the ringleader needled, already knowing the answer. “You ain’t been drankin’ for a year and ain’t got no girlfriend? Ain’t workin’, dude—you might as well be drankin’.” The other geniuses grinned like baboons in hardhats and nodded, awaiting my enlightened response.
I searched for an acceptable answer that wouldn’t demand an amends I wouldn’t resent making and came up empty, so it was back to my department and the doldrums for me, squeezing my one-year chip until the blood drained from my fingertips. Time for the Serenity Prayer a-freakin’-gain. I might wear it out, but at least I had a table topic for the meeting that night.
There were no surprises about love relationships, either—they kept getting away from me and my ego started taking some pretty big hits. It’s tough finding out you’ve never been as hot as you think you are, or thought you were.
Occasionally I’d pray for a relationship so I could be happy, joyous and free way before I was ready, which was apparent when God finally gave in and said “Yes”. It was an eye-opener. On that romantic interlude, I was joyously happy like never before until she set me free a few weeks later. As always, there’s a lesson—Be careful who you pray for, because you just might get ‘em.
I got married several years later, and I was careful.
Serenity Busters can come in all shapes and sizes. Years ago, my wife Danette was on the phone with our three-year-old nephew, who I recently met. After a lively conversation, she asked if he’d like to talk to ‘Uncle Muck’. After a moment of silence, a little voice declined, saying, “Nah, too much bullshit.”
Nobody told him he shouldn’t take my inventory. Naturally, Danette thought it was apropos, but I knew the varmint was too uber-fixated on his stupid little Beany-Babies to talk to me. Besides, I’d rather talk to an employer or a judge.
I handled it well, but don’t think I’ll be sponsoring him.
A Few Extra Jokers
More hits to my serenity came, but so did growth. One evening during a sitcom, my pre-school daughter, Lauren, scaled the chair behind me, looked down and exclaimed, “Dad, you’re missing some hair!”
That was old news, but denial duped me into thinking my comb-over camouflaged it—except the time I got pushed in the deep end of the pool at a big recovery party and couldn’t keep my whole head from going under. That was resentment material. I always tried to dog-paddle with my chin above water in those situations, but suddenly I had to acknowledge what everybody else already knew.
We laughed and I suddenly was okay with it. I guess I was missing some hair. Funny what kids can do to you.
It’s a lot better than constantly asking– ‘God, please grant me the hair to get my serenity back’.
Significant others can be Serenity Busters, too. Danette never fully appreciated my sense of humor—it was out of her scope. I was playing with a full deck—they just gave me a few extra jokers. I warned her I slept on the Comedy Planet. Whenever I’d tell a joke or spin off a one-liner more than once, she’d claim she heard it a thousand times, which she said hundreds of times
She claims I’m not as funny as I think I am, but that’s okay because she’s not as right as she thinks she is.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
After I took my inventory, I discovered I was fully qualified to be a Serenity Buster myself. Now I use the program to counter those pests. For instance–
When Lauren insisted on sharing my favorite candy bar one night, I surrendered a miserly piece to her, thinking about her poor little teeth and how daunting those early trips to the dentist can be. By then, I was always thinking of others. After she noticed my skimpy offering, Danette pointed out I was “a stingy old goat”.
I turned and said, “Honey, you may be right, but I like to think of myself as selfish.” That was one of the benefits of taking my inventory—Buster-deflection. Hey, it’s an honest program, and God isn’t done with me yet.
When Serenity Busters are everywhere, who ya gonna call?
Not them. Call your sponsor. Say the Prayer. Go to a meeting. Laugh at yourself. If all else fails, send yourself to your room and get over it. It works if you work it.
© mark masserant