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September 20 • Mydulla Oblongot It?

Day 804

Sleeping has never been all that important to me. For most of my adult life, five to six hours a night has been about as much as I could stand. I love the early morning, so going to bed at midnight and getting up before the sun was not a problem; I enjoyed it. However, I didn't realize how much it bothered my wife, led to secret patches of resentment for her, and to dangerous places of isolation that eventually blew up on me.

I still love the early morning, but I don't see it very often. One of the agreements (some would say compromise) I made with my wife after disclosure and a few weeks of marital counseling was that I would make an honest effort every day to stay in bed until we were both ready to get up. That was very hard for me and often led to big-time brain-battles as I would frequently lay there for a couple of hours fighting images and fantasies. But the agreement was important to her, so I tried hard to stick with it. It got easier, but rarely easy.

Last night, I slept for nearly ten hours. I did do a lot of physical labor yesterday and capped it with 18-holes of golf with my son, so it's reasonable that my body needed a little extra rest. But that's never mattered in the past and I did not expect it to matter this morning. And I don't think it did, at least not three to five hours worth. It was good sleep, which is also not something I've had a lot of in my life.

I'm pretty sure this will sound silly when I say it out loud, but I've always thought of sleep as a necessary evil. I equated it with eating, going to the bathroom, and even going to the dentist. We'd be sorry if we didn't do those things, but on its face, sleeping was just time taken away from possibilities that really mattered.

I was right. That sounds pretty silly.

My wife and I were talking about how long I slept this morning, and she had a smile on her face that was as sweet as any I've seen after surprising her with flowers. She tends to worship sleep, so my continuing to slumber long after she got up today seemed to genuinely please her, for my sake.

I heard myself tell my wife something that still seems very true, but a little troubling at the same time. I told her that this sleep was very different; it felt good.

I've had a handful of mornings lately when I've awoken with the recognition of how deeply and satisfyingly I had slept. Once is attributable to circumstances (or NyQuil), but there has been a trend line that deserves more attention.

What I told my wife that got my own attention is this:

"It feels like my brain is processing differently in recent days. And it's not just during sleep; my day-thinking has changed. I'm not sure I can describe that, but I am aware of it. It's as if I am not in a constant battle for my brain against the powers of fantasy."

'Re-wiring the brain' is a phrase I've heard since first flirting with recovery, especially from my counselor, who spent quite a bit of time on what I thought was mumbo-jumbo therapy crap. I didn't hate it or resist it; I just couldn't imagine it being true. I believed I could learn new skills and develop tools and maybe even weapons against invaders of the space between my ears, and that was enough for me. But I never seriously considered that neurons would someday fire differently, or that three pounds of head fat could learn to shut down parts of itself or ignite long-dormant lobes. I'm probably not describing what I was told correctly because I probably wasn't listening all that closely. But there is something different going on.

This is not a proclamation of victory or a celebration of 'mission accomplished.' Still, it reflects what counselors and my recovery groups have told me, and how I'm feeling today.

And again, I ask, is it really possible that The Promises are more than generators of hope? Are they genuinely assurances from thousands of people over many decades who have lived in recovery and witnessed the brain's capabilities firsthand? Is this what they mean when we close every meeting with

"Keep coming back; it works if you work it..."

I sure hope so. I could get used to this.



He said my cerebellum was brilliant,

And my cerebrum far from N G,

I know he thought a lotta

My medulla oblongata,

But he never said he loved me.

–Julie Andrews, “The Physician"



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