Stuck in the Middle

By Jamie B 08/23/19
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I used to travel quite a bit for my work. There was a point when I travelled every week. I used to fly out of Tampa on a Sunday afternoon and then return on a Friday evening. I did this for about a year when I was implementing a new EMR system for the healthcare company that I was with at the time. Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Cincinnati. Not really places that I'd perhaps choose to go to but I had some good times in all of those places, especially when my wife flew out to be with me for a long weekend at one or two of them.

Flying is not what it used to be. I took my first flight in 1977 to Doha, Qatar and it probably took about 10 hours or more. These days it is very different. A study by US consumer group Flyers Rights found that seat pitch, the distance between a seat and the one in front or behind, has decreased from 35 inches in the 1970's (when I took that flight to Doha) to 31 inches and on some planes to 28. Average width of a seat has also decreased from 18.5 inches in the 1990's to 17 inches today. Back in the 70's that stat didn't really bother me too much as I was only 4, but 42 years later I have definitely grown a little. By a little, I mean that I am now 6' 4" and about 210 lbs.

What's worse, sitting in the middle seat on a fully booked plane, or having a whole drilled in your head? A different study in 2017 found that more than half of respondents would rather go to the dentist than tell a seatmate, “Excuse me; I need to go to the bathroom.” The same survey also found that a majority of Americans would rather get stuck in traffic (56 percent) or go on a blind date (also 56 percent) than sit in the middle seat on a full flight. I feel like I am a T-Rex when sitting in the middle seats. My tiny T-Rex like arms making tiny T-Rex like arm movements any time I want to read my book, drink a soda or eat the world's smallest bag of pretzels.

It's not just the actual seats themselves, but also the fact that you have to sit next to two strangers as opposed to only one if you have a window or aisle seat. Things are only getting worse. There are airlines that are looking into having vertical seats on some flights in which the passengers would stand up and be strapped into the "seat". The same airline has even looked into the possibility of charging passengers to use the bathroom.

While the middle seats in an airplane are definitely the least sought after and even actively avoided, in my early sobriety the middle seats are where I need to be. AA talks about being in the middle, but rather than on an airplane, we talk about being in the middle of a boat.

The middle of a boat is the place where the voyage is going to be more stable. The further away from the middle of the boat, the more rocky the journey will be. It's not just an analogy that we use in AA but is actually wise advice for any first time cruise goer who may be worried about becoming seasick. As a writer noted on Yahoo! Answers -

"The most stable spot in a ship -- the spot with the least apparent motion -- is in the exact center (top to bottom and side to side). Think of a see-saw. If you're on the end, you'll move up and down the farthest. The balance point in the center moves much less. If the see-saw were a ship, pitching in the waves, the bow and stern would have the most movement. The center the least."

I need to make sure that my mental and emotional state is squarely in the middle. Not too high and not too low. Just nicely in the middle, as I can't afford to be anywhere else. So the question that I continue to ask myself is how do I stay in the middle of the boat? How do I make sure that I don't act like a see-saw with wild swings in one direction or another? How do I make sure that I don't get caught up in the highs and the lows that life may throw at me?

I am learning that I need to rely on many of the 'tools' that are currently at my disposal and to accept that there are other tools that can be added as I make my journey through this new life.

A New and Improved Me - Thoughts from a newly sober mind.

Right now there are tools that I find myself leaning on more than others. I recognize that these are just my tools and that they may not work for everyone but I am finding them useful. It isn't my place to suggest what will work for one person compared to another, but I do think it important that those who are starting in their new sober journey have a 'tool kit' that they can use on a regular basis.

Right now, the most important tool that I have is my support network and it will probably always be this way. My wife, my parents, my friends, my sponsor and other members of AA are my support network. My support network helps me maintain physical and emotional sobriety by providing a place where I can feel loved, accepted, and safe. This support network helps me to keep my emotions “in check,” but I need to remember that I must be willing to ask for help and to learn from them.

I need to practice staying in the here and now. I need to focus on today as opposed to dwelling on the past or projecting too far into the future. I must remember that what I am feeling right now will not always be this way. These feelings that I have today do not define my life, and whatever they are will pass, whether they are good or bad.

To use another sailing expression, I have to make sure that I am staying even keeled. When I'm feeling down, I must practice grounding myself by being grateful for the positive things in my life and what I have accomplished so far in this sober journey. When I'm feeling up, I try to remember to be humble.

Developing my spirituality is one tool that I am trying to cultivate more, but also the one that I am finding more difficult than any of the others. I am opened minded and realize that for me to be successful in my ambition to lead a more fulfilling life of sobriety I need to develop my spiritual side and to also define what my own Higher Power is. I need to be in a better position to 'accept the things I cannot change'

As I continue along in my sober journey, I hope that I can add new tools as well as developing and sharpening the tools that I currently possess. On this particular journey, as opposed to journey's taken in the past, I must actively seek to be in the middle seat.




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