Restored to Sanity

Restored to sanity – a phrase from AA’s step 2 – is one that many people in recovery trip over. Sure we irrational, self-centred in the extreme – but insane? Illogical perhaps & unreliable sure. I think part of the current ‘conflict’ with the word ‘sanity’ is that we live in a world in which what is acceptable behaviour is inconsistent – if you are rich enough, white enough you can get away with many things others get shot for.


I’ve come to see that sanity is more as a way of control than of establishing mental competency. If one is docile, obedient, subservient they are clearly sane. If one shows little too much personality, creativity, expresses distain for contemporary standards they are trouble makers, if they persist they are crazy & need to be locked up, or at least chemically controlled & usually shunned, disregarded & discounted. So in recovery when we speak of sanity it is easy to get confused. In my life it has manifested as less self-destructive behaviour as opposed to socially acceptable thinking. Conformity doesn’t = sanity.

Some react to the word ‘restored’ which seems to imply that they were sane at some point – how can you be restored to something you never had in the first place? This another of those linguistic tricks that allows cultural norms to dictate what sanity is – it’s always good for a laugh though. Yet does it matter if one is remade or restored? Being willing to let our destructive, self-serving thinking change is a step to serenity, serenity = sanity.

Some of my resistance to the ‘sanity’ was seeing it as banality. Not that I was wild in the street but I certainly saw (& still see) things differently from those around me – maybe being queer was a part of that differing vision. After all, at one time homosexuality was considered not only criminal, but a serious mental issue that required shock-treatment or worse to cure.

“Restored to sanity … ” – I’m not holding my breath – but at least my lack of it is no longer in your face 🙂

In The Workshop 

I loved to spend time in my Dad’s workshop

in a little shack behind our house

when my bothers went to war

I got to help him

as he repaired the snowmobile

a job that he seemed to do every day

or when he made

little kitchen objects for my mother


his moose-bone-handled tools

were lined up in neat rows of hooks

over the work bench

he would say “spanner seven”

and I would get it for him

his thick fingers held even the heaviest tool

as if it were the most delicate instrument

while he twisted spark plugs

or carved small scenes of robins

into the bowls of pie plates

humming happily

as he concentrated on his work


I would creep into the shed

when he wasn’t there

to sit in the humble stillness

I would brush wood chips

into small piles with my fingers

fondle the handles of his tools

they would feel inviting in my hands

as if holding them

would allow me to do what he could do


sometimes he had me sing

what we were learning in choir practice

he would put his tools down

listen with his eyes closed

his hands on his belly

his fingers moving

as they conducted me from verse to verse

when my mother would call us to eat

I was disappointed

getting more of this moment

than pie could ever give me


the smell of his sweat

mixed with snowmobile oil and grease

as he showed me how to clean spark plugs

became one of the powerful erotic

aromas of my youth

it was into this shack

I would sneak with the boys

whom I had learned to undress

chapbooks for sale



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

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