In August of '11, I was newly sober and fresh out of a job. Fortunately, the ELCA generally doesn't make it a policy to allow clergy members to continue serving in parishes after they commit felony trespass multiple times in a blackout. We don't need leaders serving any organization doing shit like that.
Unfortunately for me, I had to figure out what I was going to do the rest of my life. I remember calling my wife from the phone at the sober house where I was living in Saint Paul, Minnesota to tell her the news.
"I figured out what I wanna do for a job, honey!" I said.
"Uh huh . . ." I heard in the receiver.
"I'm going to be a professional writer! I'm gonna write a book about recovery!"
"Right . . . Sounds good," she said.
Her less than enthusiastic response was well warranted. I had been in this place before: freshly sober and no longer suffering from the misery of withdrawal, I was suddenly smitten with an explosion of good ideas. My pink cloud easily could have been confused with a circus smoke-generating machine: you weren't sure if it made the human-cannonball act all the more convincing, or simply more annoying in its perceived lack of authenticity.
Undeterred, I wrote to several publishers until finally landing with Hazelden Publishing to publish Sobriety: A Graphic Novel, my idea to marry the Twelve Steps of recovery with the medium of comics. (Some might say it was a shotgun wedding. But, hey . . . it seems to have worked.)
But I need to back up. One month prior in July, I got a tattoo.
I firmly believe that everyone in recovery needs a sober tattoo. If you are one of the lucky ones to nearly ruin your life (and those of others) and live to tell about it, why not carve your body like an adolescent boy whittling his lover's initials in the schoolyard elm tree? Besides, it's a good reminder of the place from which you came.
The extra bonus with a sober tattoo is that if you relapse, you'll either have to hire a super-duper special artist to ink around it to turn it into a big, black rabbit, or you'll just have to get another tattoo.
"Oh . . . that's my *second* sober tat. I got that one after I got sober . . . again," I suppose is how I'd say it. Hopefully, I'll never have to.
After having researched online for two whole days to convince myself I wasn't making an impulsive decision, I devised the artistic rendition I wanted to convey.
I'm gonna have it be a phrase . . . in another language!
Fuck. I was so brilliant.
Amazingly, my utterly impulsive and wholly ill-advised decision turned out for the better, despite my best thinking.
I love my tattoo(s). I'm not sure if I should write that it/they is/are singular or plural. Although the phrase I selected starts on one arm, it ends on the other. So . . . I guess there are two of them, since two appendages seem to be altered by the inking.
The phrase is in Koine Greek, which Greek-speaking people spoke around the time of Jesus. Koine Greek is also the sole language used in the New Testament. The Old Testament, on the other hand, is mostly Hebrew with a smattering of Aramaic just to annoy the purists, I imagine.
You start reading on my right arm and it goes over to my left.
ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ
The transliterated phrase is: anakephalaiosasthai ta panta en to christo.
It's actually only half the sentence, and it comes from Chapter One of Ephesians, which states:
My tattoo says:
To Gather up All Things in Christ
Why did I get the tattoo?
Probably at first because I was overly excited by the idea of it. Really, back then I didn't have enough insight to see that tattoos are kinda . . . permanent. And no matter how cool you think it is, it's forever.
Luckily for me, my tattoo's depth of meaning has gone more than skin deep. The love for my skin art has grown through the years. Call it an arranged marriage where the two parties "learn to love" each other.
The phrase in scripture is probably one of the most (if not the most) universalist passage(s) in the Bible. Basically, it says at the end of time, everything will be subsumed into the heart of God's own love . . . which to me is my Higher Power in the person who lived 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth.
Call me nuts. But I just love that guy. (He really liked to piss off the authorities too. For that, he gets bonus points.)
It also means that all the lousy junk I did in my past matters, but only in that it, too, will be "taken into" the Infinite Mind of God. (I suppose taking it in, God spits it back out—hopefully into something good. That's my experience, at least.)
I think real recovery should be all about passing on the gift to others and learning to find resilience to the difficulties life inevitably offers.
Because, life's like that. It ain't easy, but passing on the love is. Make it happen.
(click on the images below to expand)
About this Inked Dude
Daniel D. Maurer curates this dinky little blog about big changes. Although he's a person living in long-term recovery, he'd like to believe that change is part of the human experience, not just the recovery experience. He endeavors to share his—and others'—stories of change, transformation, and resilience in the face of stress and trauma. Oh yeah . . . he writes stuff. You should buy his books because they are cool and crafty with words 'n such, and your friends will most definitely be impressed.