Originally Published April 2007.
I was about a month and a half sober.
Lots of alcoholics speak of their own “disease” as a monster with which they struggle, a crippled or diseased aspect of themselves, a series of character defects, all sorts of things. For some reason I was having a hard time grasping the “disease” modality, because it was at odds with the idea that I have to have the capacity to have tools to use against the desire to drink, or ways to handle being a recovering drunk. My sponsor’s example of the diabetic helped me get my brain a few more centimeters around it. While diabetes is a disease, it is controllable, if you choose to do the things necessary to keep it in check.
Well, a couple of days ago I had one of these moments of lightning brain flashes.
No, this was not connected with my being electrified by the smoking melting extension cord last Tuesday. (That SUCKED. But I digress)
Indeed, this was like a huge stagnant bubble in the swampland corner of my inner landscape that had been seething stinkily for a couple of days now. I’d been sort of curious about this itch of an idea, but have been too busy trying to fucking breathe to pay much attention to it.
Then it burst, and there it was. My “monster”. But not a monster, really, a completely terrestrial animal. Well, the spirit version of a terrestrial animal. I was bemused, because now I had yet another notch to add to my weirdo belt.
“Awesome. My alcoholism has now manifested as. An animal. IN my head. Nice.”
Furthermore, it happens to be the only animal towards which I have a long-standing antipathy. Not liking animals is against my religion. They are closer to the earth than we are, and in a lot of cases way more honest and real than humanity has become, so ascribing them flaws seems like the highest human hubris and arrogance.
But fuck it. I. Just. Don’t Like. Hyenas.
And now I have one in my head.
Her name is Bubbles. This I just discovered today. She thinks this is terribly amusing. She thinks lots of shit is funny. She laughs. A lot.
I was kind of embarrassed, but I left a message for my sponsor, explaining my….uh….breakthrough?
“Hey, so yeah, I had this vision. And my alcoholism is a hyena. OK, talk to you soon, bye!”
Thank the gods she, at least, got what I was talking about. And thinks this is a perfect description of what alcoholism can be.
I quote from the ever-helpful www.wikipedia.com RE: Hyena (or Hyæna. Which is pretty fancy)
“The hyena has one of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom and an adult of the species has only the large cats of the family Felidae (Lions and Tigers) to fear. An adult hyena’s bite pressure can reach 50 kilograms per cm² (800 lb per square inch), allowing it to easily crush bone.
Their front legs are longer than their back legs, giving them their distinctive gait. This feature, along with the fact that they have a heart twice the size of an adult lion’s, allows them to stalk their prey for many miles at about 10 km/h (6 mph), waiting for it to become exhausted. They can then move in very quickly, at speeds of up to 50 km/h (30 mph).
Like dogs, but unlike some other animals in the same habitat, hyenas do not kill their prey directly. Having been chased to exhaustion, their prey is unable to mount any further defense of itself, and is captured and eaten while still alive. Although somewhat distasteful from the human perspective, the speedy disembowelment of the prey means that death often comes sooner than with the methods employed by other predators (for example, suffocation) and is an efficient means of eating which lessens the probability of the kill being lost to another predator.
Nevertheless, under normal circumstances, these clan confrontations are rare compared to the many confrontations clans have with lions. When defending territories and dens, the behavior is similar to when the clan is attacked by other hyenas. There is increased attention on the cubs, though, since lions often pay visits to hyena territory to kill their offspring.
Again, the hyenas huddle together to form a wall. It is naturally easier for the lions to break this wall, because of their bulk, but the hyenas quickly form it again as soon as they are spread. If the hyenas are too few, they will not attack the lions, but stay in defense, trying to tire the big cats out.
If the hyenas are numerous enough, however, they lunge forward and aim for the lions’ hindquarters and try to rip their haunches and bite their tails off. Since lions have both teeth and claws to fight with, hyenas are more likely to attack from the behind and drag the lion down on the ground, where they attempt to tear the soft belly apart.
Hyenas have extremely strong jaws compared to their body size. They also have a very powerful digestive system with highly acidic fluids. This makes them capable of eating and digesting their entire prey, including skin, teeth, horns, bones and even hooves. Since they eat carcasses, their digestive system deals very well with bacteria.
Despite common belief, only some species belonging to this family are scavengers, and most of the prey consumed by hyenas is killed by hyenas. The brown and the striped hyena are the only true scavengers, deriving most of their food from others. The spotted hyena is a true predator; one of the more effective predators on the African Savannah.”
Interestingly, there is mythology in lots of Africa and other countries about were-hyena. In Africa, they are called Bouda. But that tidbit notwithstanding, my hyena IS THERE. And as real as my Invisible Friend. \ higher power, who I feel to be an aspect of god. I don’t presume to know what my I.F. has on their mind, but I know one thing. My I.F. has a badass sense of humor.
My God-fearing Baptist Mother, blessings upon her, to her this afternoon I told this wild thing I was contemplating.
“So, yeah, I have a spirit animal that is my alcoholism.”
“Yeeeah…it’s a hyena.”
“Well, here’s why…”
I explained the persistence of these animals, their strength, their power, my gut response which is dislike, but still curiosity, all that stuff. How, though they can be scavengers, they are very efficient hunters and can take you out. How they’ll hang around, with that freaky-ass stride, and wait and wait and wait then race up and gut you. How horrid they can be, but how necessary too. And to the part of me for whom being a drunk was necessary, I have to give compassion. I don’t have to live that life any more, but I have to give compassion to that part of myself. And as for the alcoholism, I have to respect it. The second I think I can outwit it, that I can cage it or turn my back on it, that’s the second the slide begins.
And, accordingly, I have to keep an eye on Bubbles, because she’s a Bitch. I pray every day (shit, sometimes a few times a day) for her to be kept at bay, with a little help from my friends, visible and “in”visible.
My Mother was all “Are you writing this down?! That’s really a great way to look at it!”
SO, yes Ma, I wrote it down.
Today Bubbles has been amusing herself in “The Swamp.”
Not paying much attention to me, it seems.
But I know better.
For today, I’m not going to feed her.
I haven’t for 45 days.
I hope not ever, ever again.
Because her only meal will be….me.