I’M NOT OPRAH BUT I HAVE FAVORITE THINGS

Coming up on 120 days here pretty soon and I get a lot of questions about what kind of shit I do to keep myself not only dry, but SOBER. To me, there is a difference. Being sober means finding serenity in recovery and not being utterly miserable every fucking day without a drink. Dry is miserable. Dry is like a constant itch that can’t be scratched. Dry is feeling like something is always missing. Before my relapse when I had miraculously put together over 3 years of dryness, I wasn’t sober. What was I? Well. I wasn’t drinking. I was terrified by the health issues I had developed which scared me into submission. And I was BUSY. I did everything in my power to silence that feeling of emptiness by creating a full schedule for myself that did not include recovery work at all. I went back to school to finish my degree. I started writing and directing my own plays. Basically, I substituted any type of treatment or self-care with workaholism. My new drug of choice. Eventually, I got tired. Then a key part of my false sense security (my relationship at the time) fell apart. And I wanted to drink. Subconsciously at first. Then the thoughts came. And what could I do? I couldn’t seek solace in my work. I couldn’t cry in the arms of my work. I couldn’t tell my work what I was going through. I had no sober network whatsoever. I had no tools to rely on and for those 3+ years, I got through because I was a.) distracted and b.) not facing any immediate trauma or stress. And then the distraction wasn’t distracting enough and I was facing one of the most difficult experiences of my life: divorce. Well. It was basically divorce. We were together for 8 years and while not able to legally marry, we were extremely intertwined financially and codependently.

This time is different. This time I’m choosing to fill that emptiness with activities, people, and things that TREAT my disease rather than mask it. I’m still actively working on my art and writing and pursuing new productions of my shows, but I’m putting this work first. Sometimes it’s very challenging and time consuming but I have to do it. Because what the fuck am I supposed to do if something awful happens again and I find myself without the tools and resources to make it through? I can’t go back again. There is a podcast I listen to regularly (more in a moment) and on it, someone said, “Every day I wake up with an untreated disease. And each day I have to treat it or else it will kill me.” I’m paraphrasing here. But that’s really what’s going on, isn’t it? I wouldn’t skip medication for hypertension, would I? And this is no different.

So what do I do? What is in my toolbox? I thought maybe it would be helpful to list some resources and things I love in case some of you might find something new to take up in your own program. Some of these are practical. Some of these are WEIRD. Some of them really aren’t recovery related other than the fact that they make me feel better. Whatever.

The rest of this post is going to read sort of like a written version of Oprah’s Favorite Things. And while nobody gets a free car, I’ll be your Gayle if you agree to be my Stedman.

  • The Bubble Hour- The Bubble Hour is a weekly podcast hosted by some really fucking cool women named Amanda, Ellie, Jean, Catherine, and Lisa. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone? During my first month of sobriety, I listened to this CONSTANTLY. On the way to work, on the way home from work, laying in bed at night, during sex, etc. Okay, not that last one. But basically all the time. So much so that I started having freaky dreams about it. There is SOOO much information to be had and you feel as if you are sitting around chatting with people who genuinely care about you. I got so depressed when I realized I had listened to all of the past episodes so I listened to them again. And even now I am often turning one on at the gym or when I’m bored. It airs every Sunday night. Sometimes they do re-broadcasts instead of a new episode which really makes me so angry because everything is about ME and how dare they take a break to live their lives. More info here: http://www.thebubblehour.com/
  • Hot Sauce- Since getting sober, I put hot sauce on everything. If you don’t like hot things, don’t try this one because hot sauce is hot, FYI. Don’t ask me why this is a tool in my recovery toolbox but IT IS. I have hot sauce everywhere. At home and in my desk drawer at work. Nothing is too weird to put hot sauce on. Maybe it’s the burn I’m after? Maybe it’s the acidic taste of the vinegar in it? Maybe I’m pregnant again? I don’t know. But it brings me great joy and when I sit down to a meal, my bottle of sauce is right next to me religiously just like my cocktail used to be. The point here is to find things you love and LOVE THEM HARD. Not to the point of physical harm. Don’t drink your hot sauce from a cup or something. Or do!
  • Booze Free Brigade (The BFB)- This resource was totally game changing for me. Although very hard to say 10 times fast, The Booze Free Brigade is an online community of mostly women and some men. It allows for real time access to support. In addition to being able to reach out 24/7 with your questions or concerns and receiving very quick responses, the people are lovely and I’ve made so many new friends there. It’s just a really safe place to go and a lot of the members take it one step further and hold meet-ups with other BFB people in their area. More info about The BFB can be found at The Bubble Hour’s website here.
  • Puppy Cuddles- Okay. So here is what you do. Go get a puppy. Lay down in bed. Put the puppy on your chest and let him lick your face for a little bit. Pretend you’re grossed out even though you totally love it. Then let the puppy climb into that crevice between you chin and your shoulder. He’ll curl up and go to sleep. Put your hand on him and feel him breathing. Smell the adorable puppy fur smell. He loves you so much. And you love him so much. THIS IS THE CLOSEST TO A CURE FOR ALCOHOLISM THAT I KNOW OF. If you can’t get a puppy of your own, go visit other people’s puppies. Don’t steal other people’s puppies, please. Here’s mine.
  • Gratitude Group- One of the most incredible gifts in sobriety so far is my increasing awareness of all that I have to be grateful for. After joining The BFB, I was so fortunate to be invited to join a small and intimate group where we come together daily and share not only what we are grateful for but what we are experiencing in our daily lives. The friendships that have been formed in such a short period of time are astounding. And there are plans for us all to meet up for a weekend in the future. How do you get in on one of these? Well. If you know a handful of sober people, you could always start your own. More than happy to answer questions about how it all works. Don’t personally know any other sober people? Maybe check out The BFB as mentioned above or email me about the small gratitude group that was started as a result of this blog! But before you do, here is more about gratitude from my post GET GRATEFUL FOR GRATITUDE, GIRL.
  • Recovery Blogs- Well. You’re reading one right now. And let me tell you, I READ THEM TO! Tons of them. So many that I don’t often comment because I just don’t know how to keep up with the comments here AND find the time to chat on everyone else’s. Something I’d like to work on. But I do read them everyday. A simple Google search of ‘sober blog’ will lead you down an endless supply of things to read and people to reach out to. It’s very helpful for me to read how others perceive this disease and to learn what works for them and what doesn’t.
  • Recovery Memoirs- Just like the blogs, there is a seemingly endless supply of recovery memoirs to get your hands on. If you can’t afford to buy, check your local library’s digital section online. Right now I am reading Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. Others that I loved were Dry by Augusten Burroughs and Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg. Also, his follow up 90 Days was fantastic as well.
  • Carbonated ANYTHING- Soda water. Seltzer. La Croix. Canada Dry flavored seltzers. Anything that is extremely bubbly. I tend to not get anything with sugar in it. Again, I don’t know what it is but when I’m sitting with a meal or visiting with friends, I just have to have it. I like the slight burn of the bubbles on my throat. It makes my mouth feel more alive compared to normal stagnant water. It’s just infinitely more satisfying to me than anything else I could be drinking that’s non-alcoholic. I tend to keep at least 3-5 different flavors and types of soda water in my house so I never get bored. And I make it special. I know it might sound dumb but I get a nice glass, add ice, cut some limes to squeeze in, etc. I make it ceremonious and ritualistic the same way I would if preparing a cocktail. Because aside from getting shitty, I also enjoyed that part of it, too. And that part of it does me no harm. Of course, avoid this if you would find that sort of process triggery, I guess.
  • Gardening- This was the most random and shocking one of all. I suddenly got an urge to transform our deck into a little oasis. Remember? There is something so therapeutic about not only having a place to go sit and breathe, but it’s also extremely calming just to water the fucking plants. I don’t know why. I don’t care why. But it feels good. I’m constantly rearranging things out there. I don’t have the greenest of thumbs so I also have to replant new things if something doesn’t make it. Give it a try! Maybe a few house plants?
  • Elaborate showers- Make sure no one needs to use the bathroom for a while. Turn on the water steaming hot. Pull out every bath and beauty product you own. Use them all. Exfoliate every inch of skin you have. Trim your nails even though they don’t really need trimming. Examine your eyebrows for 15 minutes for no reason. Put a green facial mask on and pretend you’re a witch. Use that loofa thing as a microphone and sing Celine Dion songs. Look at your butt in the mirror and say, “Okay. Okay, fine. That’s my butt.” Actually try following the shampoo company’s instructions and REPEAT after you lather/rinse. What do you have to lose? Break the rules and use more than the size of a quarter if you want. Fuck them. Draw smiley faces on the mirror when you get out. Apply a Biore strip to your nose before you leave the bathroom. Lay in your bed feeling so calm and warm. 10 minutes later, remove Biore strip and gross out your boyfriend by showing him all of the black rods that you just yanked out of your face.
  • Frozen Yogurt- I love frozen yogurt. This can be eaten all the time if you need to. If you think you are about to drink, run to the frozen yogurt place, put your mouth under one of the flavors (I like strawberry cake batter), pull the lever, swallow, and then call someone who is also sober. Don’t worry about how big your butt is right now. Frozen yogurt actually makes your butt smaller. Just keep telling yourself that. Seriously, though. Have some fucking frozen yogurt sometimes. IT’S FINE. You can borrow my hot sauce.
  • Meditation- This one is new to me. So far, I know that it makes me dizzy from breathing really deep for so long and that I don’t mind that. I also know that it calms me down. I’d like to learn how to do it better and more effectively. For now, I use an iPhone app a friend turned me on to which is called END ANXIETY. I feel obligated to warn you that when I first used it on the train, I got so relaxed that I came dangerously close to drifting off and farting in front of everyone. Like. I jumped and had to quickly pucker my butthole to prevent myself from flatulating. Which made me anxious again so maybe I should have just let nature take its course. BUT I’M A GENTLEMAN.
  • Cardio- This is a really hard one because I find it SOOOO difficult to make myself do it but it’s the one that makes me feel the best. I used to spend at least 2-6 hours a day drunk doing nothing else other than staring at Facebook and watching weird videos of goats screaming. Surely I can squeeze in an hour a day to sweat it out and get my blood pumping. Easier said than done, I know. The love/hate relationship here is unfortunate but lately I’ve been pretty good about it and am loving what it is doing for me.
  • Talking to myself- I talk to myself all the time. I don’t care who thinks I’m crazy. If I’m thinking something really dumb, I will stop and say, “GIRL, YOU FUCKING STUPID RIGHT NOW.” Yeah, some people have given me weird looks but that usually ends up making me laugh and laughter is amazing so it’s a win/win. Self-talk is key for me. And while you may want to take a gentler approach and not cuss yourself out like I do, this one really helps me.
  • HGTV- HGTV stands for Home and Garden Television. They have shows where people just look at houses they might want to buy. You get to yell at the TV when they buy the stupidest one out of the three. They have shows where muscular men break things and then build them back up looking much nicer. They have shows where they do all of this work to your house to try to get you to stay in it and then you just get to be an asshole and LEAVE THE HOUSE ANYWAY. This is all therapy to me. And when my head is not right, this channel goes on and I grab some frozen yogurt, hot sauce, seltzer, and my puppy and we GO TO TOWN.

Okay. NOW. What might be fun is if you all comment with some of the shit you like/do in this crazy process of ongoing recovery. I’d like some more ideas for myself and also ya’ll might get some ideas from one another?

Hope everyone has a great day!

 

32 comments

  1. Hi John. Ditto ditto ditto except hot sauce. Went to Vegas this weekend. Drove Thursday totally dreading going. Omg. How am I ever going to get through the weekend. And what kind of time am I going to have. Well one of the best fucking times I have ever had!!!!!!! I tried and loved Yoga everyday. I meditated and thanked God for water. Hydro pools. Hot jacuzzi tubs. My family was so supportive and drank less because of me!! I don’t care or mind if they drink but I noticed how much of a better time they had with minimal drinking. Went and saw One. Michael Jackson cirque show. So fabulous! What a tribute to Michael! Soda water with lime. The best!!! No cravings. No pangs of sadness! I laughed at funny things until I almost peed my pants. When I laugh hard I have this funny wheeze. Alcohol is a scam!! Read more blogs including yours which help me the most. I chat in the rooms of women for sobriety. My sponsor is just a call away and I did call her to tell her how I was feeling and doing. Going home with a big grin like a Cheshire Cat!!!! I love sobriety!!!! Today 127 days.
    Irishgirl

    1. So amazing! Congrats! I remember the first time I got sober and went to Vegas. I was so nervous because what do you do in Vegas if not drink?! But it turned out to be a lot of fun. Glad you had a good time.

  2. Hi Jon, I just discovered your blog and I recognize your picture from BFB. I love it! You are so witty. Well, I love all of the above skills… I am a Texas girl so there’s no shortage of hot sauce here. 🙂 One of the things I like about your style is your sense of humor. Laughing turns things around, you know? Well, if you YouTube “drunken idiot collection” you will see like blooper reels of people being, well… drunk idiots. I think about the times when I could totally have been — AND WAS — just like that. Then I think of the mornings AFTER being like that! (insert cringe here) Thank God I came of age in the 90’s before the internet. Anyway, this strategy may not appeal to all. I’m not judging or making fun of the characters in the blooper reels – Remember, I waaaaas one! But seeing this stuff… it helps me to remember what I DON’T want in my life anymore. Thanks for your post. I’m looking forward to reading more 🙂

    1. That’s brilliant, someday that may be just what I need to keep it together! I am so happy for the phone-free 90’s. I should put that on my gratitude list 😉

    2. Hi Heather! OMG I have watched those videos, too! I’m sure you saw the one with the man in the convenience store trying to get beer and he keeps falling backwards for like 10 minutes and just can’t get up. So awful. Glad you are here and not drinking with me.

  3. Hey John…
    LOVE this post!
    I wanted to tell you that I tagged you in a “blog tour”….it would have been nice if I could just “ping” you but I don’t know wtf that means so I am copying the address here….
    read the oat, answer the questions (easy-peasy) and tag a couple other of your fave bloggers
    https://mishiam.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/blog-touring/
    I wrote nice things about you……

  4. $20 foot massage! I don’t know – if you don’t live in San Diego, this might not be available to you (condolences), but if you’ve got one of these nearby, compared to a night of drinking ($$$) this indulgence is totally worth it (note: not just a foot massage, but really a full body massage while seated in a modified recliner with your feet soaking in hot water for the first 20min). Interestingly, this used to be a go-to hangover mitigation technique, but it’s really much better to go in already feeling good and really enjoy it!

    Also, I’ll see your fro-yo and raise you a gelato 🙂

    1. Nick. I live in NYC and you can’t walk a block without seeing a Chinese foot massage parlor. I haven’t done it yet! I did stumble down the street while drunk one night and got a one hour deep tissue massage from a woman who literally got up on my back and walked around.

  5. Great list of favorite things!! Agree with all of them!

    Amazon Prime Instant Video / Netflix / Itunes have saved me…..I have discovered that I LOVE watching British mysteries like Vera (Brenda Blethyn kicks arse in this role! So unkempt and real!) and Wallander (I know Kenneth Branagh isn’t Swedish but still) and Whitechapel…the list goes on and on. I make a tea and get some treat or other and just have at it in my bed with my laptop. Also…Orphan Black! Addicted. So. Great.

    Also walking my 2 doggies whenever I start feeling itchy and scratchy and metallic…just getting outside is so helpful. XO

  6. I tried yoga like Irishgirl and absolutely love it. Now, I do it daily. At the end, I incorporate meditation and man, what a calming experience. I could never get up early when I was drinking so now that I’m sober and sleeping so awesome, I wake up before 6am most mornings and that is a perfect time to yoga and meditate. Starts the day off so nice.

    I also love my ritual with seltzer or Pellegrino (which is my fav) – sometimes I splash pineapple juice in there but I never, ever forget the pretty wine glass. 🙂 Makes it feel so relaxing and there are no side effects other than peaceful bliss.

    I eat a vegan diet so I treat myself to homemade cupcakes or ice cream from a local shop here that makes the best vegan coconut ice cream. Yum!

    I’m going to check out the BFB; sounds like a great way to meet like minded people. Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a great post! I follow most all of these that you listed, especially sparkling water, dogs and blogs! For a while I needed YumEarth lollipops with me at all times. They are a little sour tasting plus gave me something to hold in my drinking hand I guess!

  8. Thank you for your blog! It’s pretty lonely getting sober here in Portland, Oregon. Most all of my friends drink, and for a lot of them, it’s not a problem. Some of them have stopped calling me in my sobriety, and that’s hard to take. I’m also a business owner and all of my employees party together, and it’s already isolating being the Boss Lady. I know, poor me, but it does suck. I need more sober friends but it’s hard to meet new people when you work all of the time. I’m 89 days sober after realizing I could literally not tolerate 1 more hangover in my life. The hangovers would last for days, with such terrible anxiety. Being sober has really improved my quality of life, despite the feelings of isolation. I can finally be as athletic as I want to be, without sweating out tequila on my runs. My skin looks better. I sleep amazingly well. Mostly I want to say that it’s really great for me to be able to commiserate from afar with you, especially when you are so hilarious.

  9. It’s nice to come across a sober blog that isn’t written by a married white lady. Not that there is anything wrong with that – sometimes I wish I was a married white lady! But I’m only a single white gay!

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