Pain is mandatory, but misery is optional. – some smartass

Some days you’re the coyote, and some days you’re the cliff. Everybody runs into one of those days eventually, when problems pile up like an awkward balancing act in a Dr. Seuss story gone terribly wrong.

My problem-solving skills used to come in a bottle, or so I thought. Now that I was sober, my biggest problem was that I had problems. I worried about how I looked while I was having them. How could somebody like me have stupid little problems like feeling so incomplete, insecure and broken? They were the worst.

Attending meetings regularly was a must. There was too much drama at my house – and I lived alone. I was restless, irritable and discombobulated, but odds were I was making headway.

Months after my second year of sobriety, I attended my favorite meeting on a Friday night. Rockin’ Robbie was there, a cool dude who sobered up a year before me. He was having one of those days—he had that look like he just walked through a fart. It wasn’t long before he opened up.

Robbie shared about his dreary day at work, a rambling manifesto chock-full of misery. Underlined was his rotten job problem, combined with the lousy co-worker, supervisor, girlfriend and money problems that he summoned up.  Just your basic dumpster-fire in Dante’s Inferno. After rehashing it all day, he was edgy, a surefire sign he was prepped for corrective actions.

When he finished, Rockin’ casually panned the group that surrounded him and did a double-take. The bunch he settled in with had slowly transformed into a pity-party wrecking crew. There were a couple of Oprah’s, three Dr. Phil’s and a Donahue or two, along with several Dear Abby’s and a Jerry Springer. Throw in a Newhart for the Old Timers, and every hang-up launched out of Pandora’s box was covered. And they couldn’t wait to help him.

In nothing flat, an old-timer suggested saying a robust Serenity Prayer. Rockin’ grimaced; he hoped there was something more sophisticated in the cards. Then the others chimed in: “Hey, Let’s Keep it Simple! Let Go and Let God. Did you pray for them? What about gratitude?” He dismissed them all as quickly as they popped up.

Someone even ventured, “Why not you?” It was absolutely indelicate—practically mean—but was permitted when trying to bust up a pity-party, a party nobody wants to attend. It could last for days, until someone bumped it off its axis. That was our job. Then you go get ice cream.

To everyone’s surprise, that didn’t work either, and now it was up to me.

I had a bad rap back then; the Problem of the Month was mine for what seemed like a year. They thought my Freak Flag had flown. But when my turn came, I was ready.  “Do you have a VCR?” I asked confidently. It was late in the 20th Century and everyone I knew had one.

“Yeah,” he snapped impatiently. “Big deal. Doesn’t everybody?”  One of those ‘Keep coming back and maybe you won’t be so stupid’  looks twisted on his face. With his inflated ego, the sour look had all the earmarks of a reverse shrunken head.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “a spirituality from an alternative universe.” I didn’t say it out loud—I wasn’t too bad of a guy when I really put my mind to it.

My next question was carefully selected. “Did you ever go to your local video store and get a really bad movie?” I braced myself.

“Yeah… So what; everyone’s done that. What’s your point?” he snarled. You could almost hear the Grrrrr.

I paused, awaiting a sublime moment, and then fired-off a dumb question. “Well, did you ever go back and get it again?”

Bazinga! It penetrated his cerebral Wall of Doom and jump-started the healing process. The Pity Party Wrecking Crew had done it again.

Red-faced but enlightened, he sneered, “You sonofa…”

After the free epiphany I laid on him, I didn’t think it was a very healthy attitude. Old Rockin’ did have a three-year chip, but that day it was quality, not quantity. Some suspected he got a little resentment, but in this outfit, they only come in M, L, XL and XXL. People who get little ones don’t show up at meetings. They’re not as sensitive as we are.

Everyone nodded like members of the Bobblehead Group after my video parable was unleashed. We had all done it. Still might. Stretching a bad experience or two into a bad day.  I refer to it as Quality Miserable Time, and I’m trying to quit. That’s why I still use VCR therapy. You should too.

Contraindications— Rule out VCR procedure if the sufferer presents Dry-Drunk symptoms. Tendency to exacerbate morbidity and get yelled at.


I began writing articles for several recovery magazines in January of 2016 after meeting Ernest Kurtz one Sunday afternoon and being inspired and encouraged to pursue an old dream. Since then, my work has appeared in I Love Recovery Café, In the Rooms, Step 12 Magazine, InRecovery Magazine, Sober Nation and Recovery illustrated, as well as other websites. I love to add humor when writing about my thinking problems and memorable experiences in recovery, and to share some of the little miracles that kept me on the path. My first book, "Spiritual Geometry 101– Crooked Lines", was published in 2019 and is available at Amazon as an eBook. If you prefer a print edition, please contact me at and I can make arrangements to ship you a copy. I am also a poet and a stained glass artist, working primarily with lamp shades. I have lived in Southeastern Lower Michigan all my life, graduated from Monroe Catholic Central High School and Monroe County Community College. I have an Associates of Applied Science degree and retired in 2020 after working in the Pediatric Respiratory Department at University of Michigan Hospital. I attend meetings regularly, am married and live near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ve been continuously clean and sober since March 14th, 1987, and am active in my recovery. I hope I never forget to be grateful for my second chance at life. Peace.

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