Paulie X; or “Get your recovery where you can.”

“Get your recovery where you can” is an odd title, but it’s a very accurate description of my methods in maintaining my sobriety these seventeen years. It basically means just that: as I am reading or watching something, I have a tendency to try and glean something useful from it to help my sobriety. (The ‘Paulie X’ part is inferred later.)

You can find something valuable almost anywhere. TV shows, for instance. Three episodes of two different TV series have been critical in helping me maintain that sobriety. NONE of them are related to recovery; they weren’t non-fiction health shows or even religious and spiritual programs on EWTN, for example.

They are two Star Trek series and Babylon 5. Yes, science-fiction TV dramas.

I have had this blog post in mind for quite a while, but something happened the other day while watching a Star Trek episode that finally caused me to write it now.

I am a Trekkie (an avid fan of the whole Star Trek franchise.) I’ve watched it from the early 1970’s, so for about 45 years. Not too much in the past decade or so for reasons unimportant, but last week I ordered and recieved the “Complete Series” DVD collection for the Original Star Trek series; the “Classic” one, featuring the interstellar adventures of Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and others on the Starship USS Enterprise, (“NCC-1701. No bloody A, B, C, or D”.) And so I started watching the episodes in the order presented in the collection. I hadn’t see these in perhaps fifteen years. It was like getting reacquanted with old friends, absent from your life since forever. (I had seen these episodes probably dozens of times over previous decades. Down to quoting whole parts and winning Star Trek trivia contests.)

I got to the episode entitled “Charlie X.” In that episode, “the Enterprise takes seventeen-year-old Charles Evans aboard for transport after he spent fourteen years alone on a deserted planet, but his inability to reintegrate with his fellow Humans is compounded by his very un-Human powers.” (Information courtesy Memory Alpha.)

Many of us who are alcoholics and addicts have poor social skills. Even after a period of sobriety, we may be a little odd. But Charles Evans had never been socialized, at all. He only had computer tapes and non-human incorporeal beings to talk to. No real information on how to properly interact with others of his own species.

This causes problems, exacerbated by the “super” powers the aliens had given him to survive.

In short, Charlie is a self-centered, egotistical jerk who thinks that needs and wants are identical, and his immediate gratification needs are paramount.

There are numerous scenes which illustrate this, and the growing conflict with the crew a consequence. One such scene is a chess game between Charlie and Mr. Spock, the logical-by-culture science officer and Enterprise second-in-command.

Charlie wanders in the rec room just when Captain Kirk defeats Spock in a game; Charlie asks to play and Kirk leaves him to Spock. Play begins and Spock defeats Charlie in two moves. Charlie initially denies having been checkmated, but the result is obvious and Spock leaves. Charlie studies the game boards and realizes that, indeed, he has lost. In anger he uses his powers to melt the pieces he played with.

This reached right inside me where it matters most and I saw myself melting those chess pieces.

What?

You see, one of my character defects (and I still have very many) is that inanimate objects really yank my scapulars when they don’t do what I want them to do. This has been for quite a while; back in the day when I was an AA meeting-goer I mentioned it; people thought it quaint. (I usually referred to the defect in humorous terms.) I also personalize it, as if the inanimate object is ticking me off intentionally, like it has a will of its own. (Electronic and mechanical devices are particular offenders. Don’t get me going about touch screens.)

Stupid, huh?

At times I do get seriously irritated when this happens (the inanimate objects’ refusal to cooperate, not my reaction). Once in a while I give the object a murderous look, as if I wanted to melt the thing with the sheer force of my anger.

That’s when I saw myself as Charlie X, in the chess piece melting scene. “Oh, my, gosh…”  I thought. I can relate to that.

The ego, immaturity, selfishness, the stupidity…

The silliness, too. I mean, really. Stuff just doesn’t work right sometimes. Or you’re using it wrong. Or gremlins…

Anyway, this whole experience had the impact of me witnessing something from an objective point of view. You see someone else exhibit bad behaviour that you’re guilty of and you see how ridiculous or wrong it is.

And so for the past few days whenever I feel like I want to melt something with my eyeballs, I grab hold of myself and mutter “Charlie X, remember Charlie X…”

Silly, yes, and it’s only been a few days; but so far, so good. Mostly. Realization-and-reaction-times are off once in a while. (By “realization-and-reaction-times” I mean the times when you realize you’re doing something wrong and your reaction – i.e. “self-control” – kicks in.)

So that’s that. Paulie X.

Oh, I mentioned that there are three episodes of two series. The others are “Emmisary,” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and “Passing Through Gethsemane,” from Babylon 5. You’ll have to wait a little, maybe later this week.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)