Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Sink Balls"

When I was younger, I played a lot of pool. I shot in a league, played in a couple tournaments. It was fun and I enjoyed it a lot. I was better than your average player, and right about the time I started to really get good, I stopped playing. I couldn't tell you why. Last fall, I was thinking about the need to have more hobbies, more things that I enjoyed doing. I remember liking pool, so I hauled out my cues and started shooting again.

It wasn't quite like riding a bicycle, but it did come back to me pretty quickly. And I discovered that, just as before, it was something I had a lot of fun doing. I remembered some advice I've heard, about if you want to get better at something you need to practice. I'd read a book by one of the top pool players who put it like this: just sink balls. So I made myself a deal--play at least once every week, then at the start of this year play a tournament.

I go mostly once a week, sometimes twice, and shoot for a couple hours. I've been doing that every week for a few months now. Last night, I went to the pool hall where I shoot and played in their 9-ball tournament. It was a B-grade tournament, and I'd known that; it made me nervous. I'd only played in C-level tournaments before. But I'd promised myself I would play in a tournament. That was the goal.

When I practice, I pay pretty close attention to how well I'm doing. There's bad days, good days, as with anything. It's been cool to track my progress and see my game improve. I keep a tab of how long my longest shooting run is and how many times I hit that. My current record is ten in a row. The more common runs are five, six in a row. But I'm always shooting by myself and had no idea how I would do in a competition.

When the day came--yesterday--to shoot in the tournament, I'll admit I was really nervous. I didn't really know if I was good enough to play in a 'B' tournament. And there were a few moments there where I thought seriously of chickening out, putting off the tournament play for another month. I happened to talk with a friend of mine who encouraged me to play it anyway. The point wasn't to win, but to go in there and do my best. Because that was the goal I'd set for myself.

I didn't win. I didn't even make it past the first round. But I played well. I brought a good game, had some dumb luck. And I got to see what level the other players were at and discovered that I fit right in. I am a B-level player, which is good knowledge to have. But the real victory, for me, is the fact that I achieved my goal. I set a goal for myself, a goal of self-improvement and a test for it. When the time came, even though I got nervous, I followed through. There really aren't words for me to express how huge that is.

In my active addiction, the word 'goal' didn't have much meaning. I'd say that I never achieved many of my goals, but the more accurate truth is that I didn't even bother to set goals because I knew I wouldn't achieve them. Not so much because I didn't have faith in myself (which was true), but more because I was flat out lazy. And there was a lot of that Learned Helplessness in there, too. The times that I had tried, I didn't succeed, so I learned not to try.

Recovery has done many things for me. It's given me courage, strength, and confidence in myself. It's helped me to find faith in myself. Faith to set goals, and the courage to meet them. Some might argue that paying five bucks to enter a pool tournament doesn't take much courage. And I'll give you that; forking over five dollars isn't hard. But being dedicated in my practicing, making sure I get out there week after week? Takes some work. Overcoming nervousness and internal fears? Takes more. Not listening to the voice inside that never stops telling me I'm not worth spit and how DARE I have a high enough opinion of myself that I think I'm worthy of entering a tournament? Takes a LOT of work.

I'm not going to stop shooting pool. I love it. I have a great time shooting. And this isn't going to be my last tournament, either. I won two games last night; without that dumb luck, I would have won more. I played at their level, and I deserved to be there. As the saying goes, "next time, those mf's are goin DOWN!"

1 comment:

  1. It's pretty cool to go back and do stuff now when we're sober that we used to do when we were drinkin and using. It's definitely a little weird but is a powerful thing for us and the universe. It's like reclaiming those things, even if we only do them once, in a new light and with a new presence and energy. Keep it up thanks for doin what you do, and D.F.D.