Apr 30 2014

Paul Williams



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Clarity, Emotions, Hanging In There, The Right Stuff




A few days ago I posted a Waylon Jennings quote that I love. “I may be crazy, but it keeps me from going insane.” It started me thinking about the difference between crazy and insane.

I have a pretty good working knowledge of both conditions.  I’ve done some crazy ass things in my life.  Have I experienced insanity? When I got sober I was told that a “power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.” The implication being that my drinking and using had led to a kind of temporary insanity. I believed the experts, followed their suggestions and it worked. I think.

Much of my hard earned wisdom comes from surviving crazy.  It’s the school of hard knocks. The Doctorate of dumb. Except for my training at UCLA in Alcohol & drug counseling, my formal studies ended with a high school diploma. Life and all its challenges, liberally seasoned by some pretty impressive missteps, has been a relentless but effective teacher.

Is crazy essential to wisdom?  Does a sunburn make us value sunblock? I’m convinced it does. No one’s going to compare me to Plato but I think I’m right.

One of the affirmations Tracy and I created for our book is “I will learn from my mistakes and not defend them.”

There have been some doozies. Trust me, you don’t want to know.  Okay, maybe you do but don’t hold your breath.

Many of the crazier things I did were of course attention seeking. But was the acting out actually answering an unconscious calling or need? We alcoholics describe our drinking as self-medicating.  I think my occasional shocking behavior on the tube or my participation in dangerous sports was misguided corrections for low self worth.  I’m here world.  Please, please notice me.

High-speed sports and free fall were things I came to enjoy but something very different actually brought me to the sports.  They were all activities that made me feel special when I was in fact different.  Ego driven for sure, but also a response to the pain of feeling less than.

I joined a skydiving club in Albuquerque when I was 20. Barely 5 feet tall, my pals used to say, “It’s because you’re little. You’re trying to prove something.”  I told them to go … well, never mind what I said then. Years later a gifted and very expensive therapist told me the same thing.

The question I’m asking is “Do the crazy things we do, even the ones that damn near kill us, in some cases serve to keep us sane.

Self worth, real self worth, is built on right action not stunts. Most alcoholics will tell you that booze worked until it quit working.  That they may have killed themselves if they hadn’t found the relief of a drink.  Eventually the booze quit working and became a profound liability.

I am in no way recommending alcohol as a problem solving choice. If you’re an addict it is a potentially fatal companion. For me to drink again would be insane. Don’t do as I did, do as I say. I may not be a good example but at least I’m a strong warning.

I’m sure of one thing.  A true spiritual awakening offers a strong sense of being cared for.  Safe at last, safe at last, I survived the crazies and I’m safe at last.

These days I recommend a healthy dose of sensible caution. I’m both caring and careful.

I’m grateful to have survived some crazy days and nights.  If they allowed me to feel good enough about myself to roll on towards the life I have today, they were a gift and they served their purpose in guiding me eventually to the path of gratitude and trust.


Paul Williams

Paul Williams is a singer, songwriter, actor, recovery advocate and has been a fixture on the American cultural scene since the seventies. His book Gratitude and Trust is now available.