The origins of the roller coaster date back to the late 1800s. Russia claims the original thrill consisted of ice slides on a sled - Catherine the Great, looking to bring this winter treat to the summer season, fitted her royal sleigh with wheels. Some give Stephen E. Jackson and Byron B. Floyd, two coaster inventors from Haverhill, Massachusetts, credit for the innovation in the early 1880s. By the 1920s, the scream machines had gripped a society craving for life on the edge. Today, thrill seekers need only to travel to Jackson, New Jersey, to climb aboard Kingda Ka - the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster.
For us, alcoholics of the extreme degree, we lived on the fringe, traveling at lightning speed, usually upside down, and indeed would have met our demise had we not been buckled in. The difference between then and now is shaped by the knowledge that we are tight in our seats and intentional in our actions.
Admittedly, life continues its rapid clip, carrying us up, dragging us down, changing course and speed with little notice. There are still jerks and fears, flips and stops, adrenalin and pain. There is seemingly simultaneously anxiety and concern and rest and comfort. If we are strapped in, there is an underlying knowledge that the ride will end okay.
What we know about coasters is that we need to keep our hands and feet contained – and for the safety of life, make sure that we are tightly buckled before the first ascend. If we are sloppy on safety, we increase the probability of irreparable injury.
What we know about sobriety is that to be buckled in, we need to keep our heads intact, our thoughts secure, and our actions purposeful. We must project only in short spurts while preparing for the inevitable curves and declines. If we let slop occur, we increase the probability of relapse. And for us, a lapse would be fatal.
The idea of this post is to remind ourselves that safety needs to be a proactive activity in sport and life. We have learned that the better we can anticipate what lies ahead, not projecting our will but identifying realities, the more we are in a position of protection.
The thing about a roller coaster is that you don’t know what to expect the first time through – just like that glorious last day of the drink - we couldn’t know of the dramatic turns and dips as our recovery came with little warning. Life shifted radically for us. People, places, and things took on a new, sometimes scary, look. Feelings and emotions pushed our adrenalin to the max. At times out of control, we reeled psychologically. We lived the out-of-body experience. But ultimately, the rolling came to a coast. We were left shaken yet satisfied that we had made it off alive.
We didn't see change coming; We didn't believe it was possible for us, so there was no pre-prep. There was no bracing for the swift change. Like a riding car going 100 miles an hour, we suddenly took a 360-degree turn and nearly flew out of the ride. There was chaos and confusion. There was emotional turmoil, and there was mass mental confusion. There was screaming, and we were not okay with it. But, somehow, against all odds, we didn't die on the ride eventually came to a slow coast back to the starting point, and life picked up right where we left off… Whew.
Not all change is so dramatic, but shifting still exists, and it’s okay to be not okay as what is sure to happen is degrees of freak out. So, we get our hands firmly gripped on the safety rail (in our case, that consists of picking up the phone and calling a friend, changing our scenery, or plugging into an AA meeting) and coast with the confidence that this portion of the ride will soon come to an end.
Recovery isn't promised to be easy, but I can assure you that at some point, one appreciates the overall adventure.
Enjoy the ride - the best you can!
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #148 titled "What's Next" with guest Sarah Sandidge” The session dropped on 1/24/2024….Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.