recovery

THE MOST BORING PERSON IN THE HUDSON VALLEY

Let me get this straight. You want me to wake up at 5AM without a hangover, pack up a rental car with suitcases responsibly packed a day or more in advance, then drive 3 hours through the beautiful terrain of the Hudson Valley until I reach a cozy bed and breakfast in a house built in the 1870’s? Fine. I can do all that.

I suppose you also want me to stroll lightheartedly through the quaint vacation town, browsing antiques and old bookstores for hours on end, and I also suppose you’d like me to do all of that without spending a moment plotting, scheming, or obsessing over how I can convince the boyfriend that 10AM isn’t at all too early for a celebratory glass of something.

You’d like me to luxuriate luxuriously on cafe terraces while sipping espresso and eating a delicious, flaky pastry filled with tangy, tart lemon curd, chewing slowly, not wanting the mouth orgasm to end, watching the peaceful wanderers wander by in pursuit of the same contented Sunday afternoon.

And finally, you’d like me to end the day with a delectable meal at a lovely restaurant, all without having chugged a tallboy before leaving the house. You’d like me to decline the wine list, only order stupid food, and leave completely satisfied with what was one of the best meals I’ve ever had? Then you’d like me to cuddle up with the boys, watch movies, and drift off to sleep by 10PM, waking up by 6AM the next morning fully rested and hangover free, ready to start another day of peace and tranquility without the constant chaotic chase of that next sip, that next dip into a dive for a whisky/beer combo to propel me forward miserably.

You want me to have a sober vacation, but more importantly, you want me to LIKE IT?

That’s exactly what I did over Memorial Day Weekend.

It was marvelous. 

I took this very same trip in the fall of 2013. It was a disgusting mess. I packed the very morning we left because I was too drunk the night before to get anything productive done. I drove with a pounding headache, not feeling normal until we made it to our destination and were able to grab lunch (a beer with a side of sandwich). I stumbled through the day, counting down the hours until dinner would arrive and heavier drinking could begin. Fuck antiques. Fuck strolling. Fuck serenity. Me want vodka. ME WANT DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.

In 2013, we made stops at liquor stores all weekend long, him sitting in the car while I ran in to buy large bottles of things for us both to drink, as well as mini-bottles he didn’t know about that were just for me. The minis would be stashed in my suitcase so I could stealthily sneak away, downing a few here and there, hoping to keep the levels in the “public” alcohol bottles located in the kitchen from dropping down too quickly, thus concealing the true quantities I was actually consuming. Side note: These empty minis would be found one year later in the same suitcase as I packed for another trip. I would sneak them out of the house to the trash, the shame flooding back as fresh as ever. 

That trip in 2013 was total misery. I was in a constant state of sloppy, painful drunkenness peppered with extended periods of sloppy, painful hangover. The drunks and the hangovers blended seamlessly with one another until I was never able to tell if I was okay or not okay. Nothing was enjoyable.

When we returned home that year I felt as if I had been through hell. I needed another vacation to recover. And drink more.

I DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN.

I can live. I can stare at the sky and smile. I can savor time, tastes, smells. I can become consciously aware of sun on my face, of the antiquity and inevitable history built into old objects that I hold in my hand. I can feel the goosebumps running down my spine as my boyfriend grabs my fingers and squeezes while we wander down cobblestone streets, stopping for extended moments to admire the architecture and manicured gardens.

Before I got sober, and even for some time after I put down the drink, this all seemed impossible. During early sobriety I could hardly comprehend watching a movie on Friday night without a cocktail. I’m supposed to SIT? Stare? Watch? That’s IT? You must be out of your goddamned mind.

But I made myself sit there and watch the movie. It sucked. It still sucked the next time I did it, too, but less so. The only way anything started to make sense again was by LIVING. Experiencing. Trying. Being uncomfortable without grabbing for my medicine. When they tell you not to give up before the miracle happens, that actually MEANS something. Actively choosing to endure the discomfort when every cell in your body is screaming for a drink? That makes you stronger. That is lifting weights with your sobriety muscles. It hurts. You’ll be sore the next day. But you’ll never get stronger without it.

If you’re struggling, just know that with some time and effort, you too can be the most boring person in the Hudson Valley. You’ll love it.

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1 Year

A few days back I celebrated 1 year of sobriety and posted this on my Facebook:

I woke up one year ago today knowing that it was over. It had to be. My life had become unmanageable, and I was going down fast. I left work just minutes after I had arrived, took the train home, told my boyfriend I had a serious problem, and climbed into bed to smother my catastrophic hangover with McDonalds. I spent the whole day making a plan as the immensity of the task at hand began to sit heavily on my shoulders. I surrendered on April 14th, 2014.

What a difference a year makes. I’ve spent the 365 days re-calibrating, trying things out, pulling back when necessary, and generally just doing whatever it is I need to do for myself. It required a lot of declined invitations, hiding in bed, reading books, drinking seltzer and tea, delaying projects, and eating tubs of ice cream. At times it felt as if I were being left behind professionally, socially, and artistically, but it was worth the extended pause.

Grateful for so much now: my life, my boyfriend, my dog, my friends and family. Thank you for helping me along, and thank you for your patience and care.

I remember how scary it was initially to come out publicly and discuss my disease, but now it just comes naturally. Before I said anything to family and friends, I worried that they would think badly of me, or that they wouldn’t understand the significance of what I was doing, that they would think that I was looking for attention.

Since then, I have stopped caring about how I’m perceived when I talk about my recovery (for the most part). What others think of me is none of my business. I continue to be transparent about the whole thing because I think it’s important for other people in trouble to see that others have been in trouble, too. I also think it’s important for those who might not understand addiction to have an opportunity to see recovery in action.

People have been amazing. Certainly there are some who don’t quite “get it” and wonder what I’m going on about, but that little Facebook post received 227 LIKES and 40 COMMENTS expressing love and support. Like these:

What an inspiration you are. A great day to celebrate.

Proud of you bud! You are an inspiration indeed.

I’m so unbelievably proud of you my friend

Congrats cuz! You got this. Love you and know if you ever need anything, I’m there.

CONGRATULATIONS FOR EVERY ONE OF THESE 365 DAYS!!!

There is nothing you will do in your life of which you should be more proud. Mazel Tov.

Year two is pretty amazing I have to say, so keep going buddy.

This is the kind of day that makes my day(s) seem so much brighter!

And from my boyfriend:

I don’t have to tell you what a huge accomplishment this is, but as someone who has witnessed it every day…it’s pretty remarkable. How you’ve turned, and continue to turn, everything around us into the epitome of strength. I not only love you, but admire you. You continue to challenge and better yourself toward a brighter tomorrow. We must celebrate with dinner and books, laughter and song…and all the good fortunes life has to offer. You’re amazing.

It is absolutely mind-boggling how my world has opened up, and how people open up their own world to me as I approach our relationship with care, honesty, integrity, and love. Their love and support is all I need, and those that I’ve lost–those who choose to maintain the distance despite my best efforts–those are the people that need to do what is best for them.

This is possible, you guys. We can do this. We can recover.

I think that’s all. Excuse my brevity, but sometimes the moment just wants to speak for itself.

A TALE OF TWO ALCOHOLICS

I wake each morning at exactly 6:20AM. My boyfriend immediately rolls out of bed at the sound of our shared alarm, and I pretend to still be fast asleep. He leaves to shower while I lounge luxuriously in our California King, ignoring the fact that my bladder is absolutely going to burst at any moment, filling me with pee. I endure the pain, doing my best starfish impression until he returns.

Anywhere between 6:40AM and 6:40AM, he re-enters the bedroom with soaking wet hair, the twenty minutes seeming to have vanished almost instantly, because time is speeding up, moving exponentially faster with each passing day. It’s true. I promise. Water seems to boil faster now, even when I watch the pot with all of my eyes, including the third. I find myself grasping at days, weeks, and months as they disappear without a trace. Twenty minutes gone. Poof. Time to shower. I snatch my phone and grunt, then I say FUCK, or SHIT, or BITCH, or a combination of those words as I stumble to the bathroom. I’m exhausted, but at least I’m not hungover anymore. Fuck that shit. Fuck that shit, indeed.

I have developed a morning ritual of brushing my teeth while standing in the shower. I like how freeing it feels to allow the toothpaste to bubble and spill from my mouth without fear of it dripping onto my shirt. I like being able to verbally fight with my imaginary boss about things that haven’t happened yet. I foam at the mouth, spitting all over the walls as I tell him off. I wave the toothbrush for emphasis, sometimes wondering what I would do if I actually got into a fight with him and I didn’t have the toothbrush with me. Once I’ve won the argument (and I always do), I either put the toothbrush down in the soap holder thingy, or I re-purpose it as a microphone so that I can properly sing pop songs to Miss Loofah and her friend Neutrogena.

Nighttime teeth brushing is a little more normal. I stand in front of the shoulder height window and look out at the night sky. I often get lost in thought as I stare out at the twinkling lights of The Freedom Tower. It’s miles away in lower Manhattan and visible from this vantage point only during the winter months when the trees have lost their leaves, the view entirely unobstructed. There is some sort of cheesy analogy that goes here: something about my own freedom and the soaring height of the tower itself, blah blah blah, dog fart.

If I turn my neck a little to the right and lean forward ever so slightly, the light of an undressed window glows on an adjacent wall. The window belongs to a kitchen, and the light is almost always on, even in the middle of the night. It’s close enough to allow me to reach out and high five the person who lives there if they decided to stick their arm out. Most nights I see no one, though. The stove is covered with cooking vessels, each in its own varied state of filth. The counter next to the stove houses liquor and wine bottles of all types, mostly the cheap stuff. Many are missing their lids and corks. More than a few are entirely empty.

I once saw a mouse scurry across the mess, sending me into a downward spiral of rodent paranoia that only subsided when I learned that the apartment next door was in an entirely different building, separated from ours by a thick concrete wall. Besides, I’ve never seen droppings in our house, so I’m sure that we’re fine. Still, a coffee bean on the kitchen floor is enough to give me an ISTHATMOUSEPOOP heart attack.

I always look in that window. Every night. I can’t help myself.

The man that lives there must be in his mid-forties. While I’m always hesitant to label any other person as an alcoholic, girlfriend is almost certainly an alcoholic. Totally. And if he’s not, he is the most alcoholic version of a nonalcoholic that I have ever seen in my entire life.

He often leaves for work around the same time that I do. A quick glance and I can see the misery in his eyes as he hoists his overly worn JanSport backup up and over his baggy flannel shirt. He is on his way to a local bookstore in Manhattan where he works as a cashier. I know because I shop there. In fact, he has processed my transaction on two different occasions, and neither time did he recognize me as his neighbor despite the fact that we’ve lived next door to one another for years. He handed me my receipt and told me to have a good day.

I’ve seen him coming home from work, too. I ride in the back car of the train because it’s often easier to find an empty seat. I also believe strongly that in the event of a train accident, the further back, the better. He is almost always nursing a can of hard lemonade, or a beer poured into a Big Gulp cup wrapped with a brown paper napkin. He speaks loudly to strangers, befriending tourists who seem to regret initiating conversation after a few minutes of his rambling bravado. He seems like he wants a friend, but I’m certain his world has continued to shrink in size as mine has slowly started to expand.

Him and I were secret drinking buddies back in the day. We’d stay up late at night knowing the pain we’d feel in the morning. I’d hear him being rowdy on the other side of the wall, and I knew that I wasn’t entirely alone in the destruction I was causing. During my worst years, before getting sober nearly one year ago, we often left home at the same time with deadly hangovers. As fucked up as it sounds, I took slight comfort in seeing that someone else was also suffering. While I didn’t take pleasure in his disease, I did feel ever so slightly less alone in the concealment of my own slow suicide. I wasn’t the only one going down.

I’d see him again on the way home. He’d openly sip his beverage of choice while I sat a few feet away craving mine. At least I don’t do THAT. I’d compare myself to him, and even though I would be at a liquor store just moments after exiting the subway platform, I wasn’t as bad as he was because I somehow managed to wait until I got home. I would never drink on public transportation. Wait. Except for that one time when I drank a beer on the train, but THAT WAS DIFFERENT. I didn’t HAVE to do that. I just thought it would be fun. It’s not the same thing AT ALL.

He blares classic rock music from his living room on weekends. I don’t notice it as much now that I’m sober, but I would roll my eyes and complain to my roommates back when I was actively drinking. He would hoot and holler, saying bad shit about Obama and Miley Cyrus, obviously drunk at noon, and I would bolster my denial by congratulating myself that I hadn’t sunk so low as to be plastered during the day like him. Poor guy. He can’t even wait until 5PM to shakily pour himself a civilized drink like I did, and by civilized I mean a half glass of chugged warm vodka. I would NEVER drink during the day, though. Wait. Except for that one time when I felt sick and thought it would help. And then the next weekend when I did it again. This was different, though, and as long as I didn’t become the type to blare music with my windows open, him and I were nothing alike.

I know now that we are exactly alike, at least in our illness. The only thing that separates us now is my recovery. I’m getting better as he continues on helplessly. He is now a continuous reminder of where I was, and where we were, together, as strangers.

Now that I’m in recovery, I attend twelve step meetings in the neighborhood on occasion. While I don’t go as often as I should, I always scan the room for my neighbor. He’s never there. I see him later in the day stumbling down the street, or I hear him making carelessly loud noise next door as he continues to be held captive by this fucking monster.

I’ve always been one to personify my disease. I often think of it as a physical and conscious being that lives inside of my brain, now securely locked in a boarded up closet. I have to be vigilant and check the nails securing the boards daily. I have to make sure that he isn’t able to get back out. To see this very same monster roaming free in the life of my neighbor, separate from me, but still familiar and present, is absolutely terrifying. How unfair that I made it out alive, and he continues to suffer.

Where is the justice in this disease? It doesn’t seem to exist, and because I cannot help him get better, I can only absorb the terror I see in his pained face, allowing the empathy I feel for a stranger to be emotionally synthesized into courage, strength, and hope for my own continued path of well being.

I’ll continue to scan for his face at the meetings, and I’ll try hard to stop violating his privacy by glancing into his opened kitchen window, but if I can’t resist and I continue to sneak looks into his obviously difficult life, I hope that one day the kitchen counter might be empty of the used up bottles. I hope one day he wants this.

SQUARE PEG. ROUND HOLE.

Getting into some heavy shit lately, you guys. 

I’m trying real hard not to give up my daydream while being slammed at my day job. I’m presenting one of my plays at the end of October and have gone into full production and marketing mode. Also, there are changes needing to be done to the script. I was also accepted into a writing group and will have biweekly deadlines which require me to bring work to the group to be read and receive feedback on. I ALSO have a big itch for a new show that I absolutely must start working on soon while the ideas are fresh in my mind and before I talk myself out of writing it. 

I wake up every morning excited (usually) about what’s on the horizon. My artistic mind is emerging from a six year coma and it is hungry to be used. I have to keep notes constantly because ideas and images and characters keep flooding my head and won’t go away. I can’t just LISTEN to music anymore. Every song I turn on ends up generating more ideas. I’m extremely PUMPED and grateful that my vodka soaked brain is GONE GONE GONE for good. 

This is all good news, right? RIGHT?

Well, yes. As it stands now, certainly. Very good news indeed. It means I’m waking up and finding joy in what I once did. Nothing wrong with that. But there is a very fine and almost undetectable line that I’m hyper-paranoid about and I have to make sure that I do not cross it under any circumstance.

About a week ago, my company put out a press release about the upcoming production and I got a fair amount of blurb level press from various sources who published small pieces about the show on their websites. That’s good for me, good for the company, and good for the show. You can’t make theatre without an audience and press is how you get an audience. 

I couldn’t help but notice some old feelings resurfacing: Elation, pride, euphoria, excitement. None of these feelings are inherently bad things. There is nothing direclty wrong with being proud of the work you do and happy and excited that people are noticing it. My problem is not the experiences of those feelings. Rather, I struggle desperately with how I purpose those feelings; what I do with them and how I use them in unhealthy ways. 

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears recapping for those who perhaps missed the older posts. A major flaw in my last extended period of sobriety (2005-2008) was that I WAS NOT IN RECOVERY. I did an outpatient program, started feeling good, and dived head first into making art. I became so consumed with writing, rehearsals, giving interviews, and running a company. That was my recovery and it wasn’t recovery at all. I had huge, gaping, empty holes in my spirit and my entire being was wrecked and ravaged by a disease that had almost killed me in the fall of 2004. I was only 23 years old at the time and I can’t quite remember my rationale for not pursuing a program of recovery that would begin to repair my extraordinary injuries. Maybe I thought the outpatient program fixed it all? Who knows. 

I started down a very dangerous path of seeking validation outside of myself. People would come to my shows. The press would cover my shows. More and more people became aware of the work I was doing. And each and every time I felt one of those emotions as a result of my artistic pursuits, I stuffed them into the bloody, rotting empty spaces that I never bothered to fill or correct by doing the crucial work that recovery requires. My success told me that I was OKAY when I was anything but. I never learned how to love myself. I never bothered to identify why I had these holes, what was missing that was causing them, and what I needed to do to fill them back up in a healthy way. Instead, I just kept working hard. I kept getting noticed. I kept getting praised. I kept feeding my ego with every article, review, email of congratulations, and grant received. I kept stuffing square pegs into round spaces and expected them to not only fit but to stay in place and make me whole for the rest of my life. 

It worked for a while. For three years I walked around conveying a level of self-confidence that was exhausting. When there was a lull in my work or I was in between shows, I could feel those square pegs slowly starting to ooze out of the round holes. I’d push them haphazardly back in. I’d duct tape them into place by sitting down and churning out countless pages of a new script. I’d make plans for a workshop with actors just to feel busy even when artistic impetus for new work wasn’t there. The work that I loved to do had slowly become a drug and had replaced the substance that nearly took it all away. My art was no longer an accentuation of my being. It was all that I was. And because the artist underneath the surface was so irreparably damaged, the work never reached its full potential. Put simply, I was a fraud. 

When my relationship of eight years collapsed, each and every wrong shaped peg came exploding out of every matchless hole at the same time. I went into overdrive and tried working even harder hoping I might be able to stuff them all back in, but now the holes were getting even bigger because of the trauma of losing love and stability. No amount of artistic work was going to be enough. After three years of sobriety (dryness) I found myself at a pub after rehearsal one night with a glass of hard cider. I had no conscious thought of drinking before I walked over there and sat down. It wasn’t premeditated. I just walked over and started drinking. It was horrifying. 

I drank. And drank. And drank. For six more years.

You can understand my trepidation as I try to form a new and healthy relationship with my work. I’m still getting those feelings of elation and pride and excitement. It still is a high to have a play received well or noticed, but I’m doing more than rolling around carelessly in those emotions. I’m in RECOVERY this time. I’m speaking to other addicts. I’m writing these posts for myself and for others to try to connect to. I’m learning something new about myself every single day. I’m facing my biggest fears and unpacking the damage to see what really has happened and what really needs to be done to fix it. I’m placing my hand carefully over the round hole and dismissing the square peg because even though it’s there, it’s entirely wrong for this specific problem and will never fit the way it should.

Seeking validation from any person, place, or thing is NOT going to fill me up and heal me once and for all.

Working diligently on getting to know myself will. 

If everything I know was to fall away and leave me alone tomorrow, what would happen? If my art, my job, my love, and my shelter were suddenly taken away, would I survive? Would I stay sober? I can’t answer that question, but I know I stand a much better chance of weathering a storm with this healthy foundation.

This time is different. 

 

IF I STARTED DRINKING AGAIN I WOULDN’T…

I love lists. To-do lists are my favorite. I’ve been known to make to-do lists that basically list other kinds of lists I need to make. For example MAKE GROCERY LIST, MAKE LIST OF BOOKS YOU WANT TO READ, etc. And when I’m making to-do lists, I’ll often write down a list item that I’ve already recently completed and then cross it off just so it makes it on the list and there is evidence that I finished the item. It might seem pointless, but having that initial checked off task motivates me to keep going. I’ll do something and think SHIT. THAT WASN’T ON MY TO-DO LIST and then add it to the to-do list and scribble it out. Whatever makes us feel OKAY, right?

I recently read a post in The Booze Free Brigade that suggested making a list of the things I wouldn’t be able to do if I were to start drinking alcoholically again. And by “drinking alcoholically” I just mean “drinking” because there is no other way I am able to drink.

So. If I were to start drinking again…

  • I wouldn’t be able to write- I wouldn’t be able to write these blogs. If I were writing blogs, they would most likely be nonsensical tirades about stupid shit. I wouldn’t be able to effectively write my plays. I could barely write out a rent check, for Christ’s sake. The booze built up and caused a massive hairball clog in my creativity pipe. I did manage to churn out a few plays in the midst of my heavy drinking. I relied on tricks, tropes, and recycling of old ideas and wound up with material that I’m just not proud of. I can only imagine how much I could have gotten done in those six years of misery.
  • I wouldn’t be able to effectively grocery shop- I’m still working on this one and getting better at it. When I was drinking, going to the grocery store would mortify me. I would be overwhelmed by the options and would never end up with anything healthy in my cart because the idea of having to go home and cook and construct something was absolutely terrifying to me. On the rare occasions that I would make something for dinner, I would have to find a recipe well before I went to the store and have a very clear plan of action. Get in, get the items, and get out. These days I’m able to go in and walk around and pick up things and process in real time what it is I’m going to be cooking and on what day. I don’t just grab a box of macaroni and cheese and a beer and run out the door flailing my arms like a terrified Muppet. This is one of those things that probably would make no sense to a normal person, but this was a real source of anxiety for me.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor- I just wouldn’t. I just couldn’t. I was so petrified that I would walk into his office and he would point and scream ALCOHOLIC! and then throw his stethoscope at me. I was terrified that if I did go he would find something really wrong. I was worried that my liver had turned into soup. I was worried that I had cancer in my body somewhere. I was worried that I was dying. So what was my solution? Just don’t go to the doctor and drink some more. INSANITY. The one time in six years that I did go, I lied through my teeth about my drinking and then never returned his call when he wanted to go over my lab results. I just disappeared. Now that I’m sober I CAN go to the doctor. I still don’t LIKE IT but I know that I can get through it and that facing my health issues head on is the fastest route to recovery and wellbeing.
  • I wouldn’t be able to meet a friend for coffee- Meet you for WHAT?! Coffee?? Wouldn’t you rather meet for gallons of vodka? I mean this one quite literally. I literally COULDN’T meet a friend for coffee. I wouldn’t. I had socially shut down completely. The idea of going somewhere with another human being one on one terrified me. Even if it meant meeting them at a bar, I was still freaked the fuck out and would have to pregame somehow and sneak a drink or two before meeting them. But meet a person in broad daylight for COFFEE? Not happening. I made sure not to accept those types of invites. If I ever did have to meet someone outside of a bar for something , it was almost always after having had a beer or two or three or four. I’m certain now that people could smell it and those kinds of thoughts make me shut down so I try not to dwell on them. But now I CAN GO DRINK COFFEE WITH A FRIEND! There is still minor apprehension and anxiety that comes along with it, but I’m able to make myself go do it and after maybe a few minutes of my brain thinking THIS IS WEIRD! WHERE IS MY BOOZE?! I settle in and I’m able to be there. Sober. Authentic. Me.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go clothing shopping- I’m sure I was a big embarrassment to my boyfriend in the later years of my drinking. I wore the same things all the time. I had gained weight. I had a phobia of going to the store and trying things on because it would reveal to me just how many sizes I’d gone up. If a pair of pants ripped or something happened where I absolutely had to get something new, I’d always insist on going alone and I’d have a nervous breakdown. I’m not exaggerating here. I would sit in dressing rooms and sob. I would shake. I would feel like I was going to die. And I would go to a bar and drink some beers to calm myself down. I’m going to be really honest and tell you that I still HATE going to try on clothes. I still hate my body but I’m working on it. But now I’m able to do hard shit and I’ve learned how to keep the anxiety down just enough to get the job done. There is no more crying or shaking or running to bars. There are moments of self-deprecation and frustration and anger. But I tell myself that I’m working on it and that this is where I’m at right now and that everything will be okay. And then it is okay.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go see a play correctly- In order for me to feel okay enough to leave the house to go see a play on Broadway or elsewhere, I would absolutely have to drink before. Either at home or at a bar. And a lot of theatres now serve extremely overpriced drinks at the venue that you can take to your seat. It was not uncommon for me to purchase a double vodka soda at a Broadway theatre for $36 dollars. Yes, you read that right. They price gouge. It’s obscene. But I would do it. And I would typically HATE everything I saw. I would say it was boring or badly done and I’d leave at intermission. Really, I was just desperate for more drinks and to get home so I could continue drinking properly. I remember very little about the shows I saw over the past six years. Now I’m able to go to theatre and appreciate what I’m watching. There is still a lot of bad theatre being made out there but I’m present for it and it shapes my taste.
  • I wouldn’t be able to watch a movie or remember it- I can’t even tell you how many movies I’ve SEEN but not seen. There are movies that I remember snippets from. There are movies that my boyfriend tells me I’ve seen that I don’t remember having seen at all. It was absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to rent a movie and get through it when I was drinking. It would quickly devolve into me talking and annoying everyone around me or me getting into some kind of argument with my boyfriend or me passing out early. Now I can watch a movie from start to finish. Someone throw me a parade to celebrate. NOW I CAN REMEMBER HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK!
  • I wouldn’t be able to garden- Why the fuck would I want to? This goes back to the fact that everything was monumentally difficult. Just doing the dishes was paralyzing unless I was drunk. But go all the way to a nursery and spend alcohol money on plants and dirt and then take those plants and dirt home and plant them and water them? WHY??! NO!!! And even if by some miracle I was able to get the garden planted, it would surely die. I wouldn’t remember to water. I was in some weird time warp. For example, I’d look at my fingernails and they would be really long and I would freak out because I could have sworn I just cut them a few days ago. Days would melt into weeks and months and years. Those plants wouldn’t stand a chance. No more. Now I have a lovely place to sit and relax. I take pride in keeping the garden healthy and view it as a perfect metaphor for my sobriety and recovery.
  • I wouldn’t be able to be a good puppy daddy- I got my puppy dog in January of this year while I was still actively drinking. I didn’t get sober until April. During those three months I was extremely inattentive to the little guy and feel terrible about it. Luckily, my boyfriend was there to pick up the slack. Now that I’m sober I absolutely CRAVE being with him and playing ball and going for walks and snuggling and cuddling. And he seems so much happier and looks at me with bright, shining eyes. He never used to look at me like that. Or if he did, I was too fucked up to see it. SHAME. Ugh. I feel such shame. But like other relationships, I’m working on this one.
  • I wouldn’t be able to manage my job performance and see through the bullshit- When I was drinking my job was FUCKING HARD. I was starting to make tons of mistakes and would slack off constantly and only do the minimum to make it look like I was still working. Additionally, I took my job so seriously in the sense that I thought it was really fucking important. Now, I do a much better job at it but at the same time I’ve come to realize that it obviously isn’t what I want to do so it doesn’t deserve the pleasure of stressing me the fuck out and making me anxious. This isn’t to say that I won’t perform to the best of my ability and give 110%. But I refuse to allow it to work me into a tizzy like it used to. This is not my career. This is my job. For now.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go to a park- I go to parks now. I go lots of places now. And I like them! If you asked me to go to a park while I was drinking I would have either said a.) Fuck you, silly goose! or b.) Let’s stop for bottles of wine first. Did you know parks have things you can look at that relax you like trees blowing in the wind? It’s pretty cool.
  • I wouldn’t be able to comfortably go on a vacation that involves a lot of driving- After getting back from my recent trip to Cape Cod I realized how absolutely BONKERS I would have gone had I still been actively drinking on this trip. We had to drive EVERYWHERE. Up and down the cape over and over again. We had to stop and do things like miniature golf and go to candy stores. We went out to dinner and then had to drive 20 miles to go somewhere else. THANK GOD I wasn’t drinking because if I were still in the midst of my active disease, I would have lost my mind. I probably would have driven drunk. Or made my boyfriend drive the whole time while I consumed freely which I’m sure would not have made him happy. But now I can go places and drive around and do things without having the stress of wondering where my next drink is going to come from.
  • I wouldn’t be able to read a book- I used to have to do this thing when I was drunk where I’d close one eye in order to read something or to stop from seeing two televisions instead of one. And even if the double vision hadn’t kicked in yet, I just didn’t give a fuck about books. I was too busy doing other important things like commenting like a moron on Facebook posts or watching YouTube videos of people jumping out and scaring their cats or something. No more! Books are amazing! They have all of these words in them that mean something important.
  • I wouldn’t be able to drink a cup of coffee- My old love of coffee was completely murdered during my active drinking. It would make me deathly ill. Being in a constant state of hangover made even the smell of coffee absolutely revolting. Even as I type this I am able to recreate the physical sensation of pure disgust at the thought of swallowing coffee. Now I love it again. It’s a beautiful thing.
  • I wouldn’t be able to pay bills on time- I was always late on bills or finding myself in one kind of financial dilemma or another. And a lot of the times it wasn’t even because I didn’t have the money. It was just because I didn’t DO ANYTHING. Opening bills was paralyzing. Writing checks was paralyzing. Trying to remember online logins was paralyzing. It was all just soooooooo. Paralyzing. Now I’m in good standing with most everything and am steadily chipping away at debt.
  • I wouldn’t be able to make healthy eating choices- Some people lose weight when they are hardcore alcoholics because food becomes irrelevant. Not me. I gain weight. And I eat whatever I want. My filter and better judgment are completely obliterated when I drink. And I get trapped in the awful cycle of waking up feeling fat and bloated and then drinking to drown the shame. Now I can eat salads. I still want the pizza and cake but saying no isn’t impossible.
  • I wouldn’t be able to call my mother- I love my mom to death. She is everything to me. But when I’m drinking I completely pull away from her and rarely call. I say I will and then make up an excuse as to why I can’t. I’m too busy with X, Y, Z. Part of this is due to shame and a feeling that I’ve let her down. But it’s also very difficult to set aside any amount of time for ANYTHING when all you want to do is drink. And she’d want to talk for over an hour at a time. That would seriously cramp my style. On the occasions that I would call her, I’d be watching the clock like a hawk because I really wanted a drink. Sometimes I would start drinking halfway through the phone call and be very careful not to allow the alteration of my mood to come across in my voice. There were a few instances where I think I got too happy and maybe she could tell. I don’t know. I can call mom now and talk like a normal human being. I still need to get better at calling her more often but she isn’t secondary to alcohol when I have her on the phone.
  • I wouldn’t be able to get a haircut in a timely manner- Like the fingernails seeming to grow overnight, so would my hair. I already established that going to do something, anything, was nearly impossible. But add to that the social awkwardness of having to try to talk to a person that was fondling the stuff that grows out of your head? NIGHTMARE. Again, I think that this is something that a non-addict would just not understand but the most mundane of things such as a haircut became utterly terrifying. And so I would only go once every 3-4 months and look absolutely terrible in between. I actually enjoy getting a haircut often now. I take pride in how I look and enjoy the conversations I have with my 60-something year old Mexican hairdresser, Estella. She’s a peach.
  • I wouldn’t be able to be a good host- Ohhhh, how many times I threw parties and then went upstairs and passed out in my bedroom 2 hours into it. The shame. The embarrassment. Social anxiety would prompt me to start drinking heavily before anyone showed up. By the time everyone was settling in, I was already shitty and wanting everyone to leave. Now I can have a few friends over and calmly enjoy their company. Still haven’t tried a large get together yet. Not quite ready for that one.
  • I wouldn’t be able to do my laundry- It would sit for weeks on end. As disgusting as this is to admit, I would wear shirts or pants over and over. I wouldn’t wear them if they were actually visibly dirty. But I was so goddamned dead inside that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Until I HAD to do it. It would take everything I had to walk down the street to the Laundromat. As it washed, I’d go across the street to the bar for a Bloody Mary. Then back to the Laundromat to put it in the dryer and then back to the bar for some beers or whisky shots. Or both. Or I would buy some beers and sit in the Laundromat and drink them stealthily. Now my laundry gets done every week. Instead of me going and sitting to wait for it to wash and dry, I drop it off and pay $15-20 to have someone else wash it and then I pick it up later in the evening. Call me lazy but I choose to avoid that triggery activity. Too many bad memories and too much shame wrapped up in it. I figure I’m saving so much money by not drinking. Surely I can afford some help with my laundry.

What about you? What would you not be able to do if you started drinking again??? Hmm??

  • I JUST CALLED TO SAY I LOVE YOU

    I love you guys as much as Britney Spears loves lip syncing and auto tune. Really. I do.

    In sobriety, I find it absolutely astounding that I can care about others who share this common illness without even really knowing much about them. It makes me so happy to wake up every day and have this space to get some things out of me and it’s AMAZING that you are able to read it and maybe it helps you a little, too.

    So I’m headed to Cape Cod on Saturday and will be back on Tuesday. I have every intention of posting a bit while I’m there. Maybe some pictures and short thoughts. But I wanted ya’ll to know in case it seems like I disappeared somewhat.

    It’s a very safe trip with safe people and I’m not going to drink. Trust. Stay sober with me.

    XOXOXO

    It’s Britney Johnny, bitch.

    TARTAR SAUCE AND NICORETTE

    “I really want to do something in radio, I think. Like I want to be Howard Stern or something fucking cool like that,” he said.

    The kid couldn’t have been more than 17 years old, 18 max. I had no idea who he was and I don’t think I even bothered asking his name. It was probably on the CVS name tag attached to his uniform: khaki cargo pants and a navy blue polo. He was driving me in his extremely dirty vehicle to a Walgreens about ten minutes away so I could buy a box of nicotine gum and I was starting to feel a little weird about being in the car with a stranger who probably just recently got his license.

    My phone rang and I answered.

    “What’s taking so long?” my boyfriend asked.

    “CVS keeps their nicotine gum behind the pharmacy counter and the pharmacy was closed so I’m going to Walgreens. It’s like right around the corner,” I said.

    “He said he’s going to Walgreens?” the boyfriend said with a tinge of concern, relaying the information to our friend Samantha.

    Samantha had invited us to her house in New Jersey for drinks and dinner on the very same weekend that I quite impulsively decided to quit smoking. After several cocktails (5? 6?), I had chewed my last piece of gum and was suddenly losing my mind and craving a smoke. I excused myself to take a two minute walk to the shopping center around the corner to buy some more Nicorette which both Samantha and my boyfriend were completely agreeable to. They even gave me the task of also stopping to pick up a bottle of tartar sauce for the soon to be ready fried fish.

    “Samantha says Walgreens is one town over. Like 15 minutes away by car! How the fuck are you getting there? It’s too far to walk!” the boyfriend shrieked.

    “It’s actually only like 10 minutes. We’re almost there,” I coolly replied.

    “We?? Who is we?!”

    “Me and the kid from CVS. He said he would drive me to Walgreens to get nicotine gum,” I said as I listened to them discuss my escapade in very worried whispers. I was entirely dumbfounded as to why they found this to be so troubling.

    “Is everything okay?” the kid from CVS asked, one hand on the steering wheel and the other picking a zit or something.

    “Yes. Sorry. Hey. Tell Samantha I’ll be back soon! We’re pulling in now. Just fucking relax,” I said.

    “Hurry up,” he said, “And the tartar sauce.” CLICK.

    What happened inside of CVS leading up to this little joy ride is somewhat blurry. I remember walking around the pharmacy area looking for the nicotine gum and not being able to find it. I remember a store clerk telling me that the pharmacy was closed and that it was behind the counter and locked away. I remember getting loud and telling them that quitting smoking is no joke and that they might be responsible for people lighting up a cigarette again and do they really want that on their conscience? Do they?! I remember the store clerk getting on the phone and unsuccessfully trying to get ahold of the pharmacy manager who had the key. And finally, I remember the store clerk asking another store clerk (the kid) to take his lunch break early and drive me to Walgreens.

    Let me pause here to point out a few things about this story that simply astound me.

    First of all, why the FUCK was I so concerned with not smoking a cigarette? I was a drunk asshole! Taking the smoke away wouldn’t change that. Why did I not simply buy a pack of cigarettes and try to stop again once I was able to regain access to nicotine gum? I had consumed the equivalent of half a bottle of liquid poison and had been drinking nonstop for 3 years straight without ever making such a bold and outlandish attempt to stop. But in this instance, I absolutely WAS NOT going to smoke. I didn’t care what it took. I could be a raging drunk alcoholic (and I was), but a fucking cigarette smoker? NO GODDAMNED WAY. NOT ANYMORE.

    Second, I’m certain I smelled like Mayberry’s Otis Campbell, and instead of Andy Griffith coming to arrest me and put me in that fake jail cell, these clowns were offering to get into a car with me and do me a favor?! What on earth were they thinking?? I really feel like going back to that CVS and finding those store clerks and telling them just how reckless and dangerous they behaved by allowing an obviously drunk stranger to get in the car with them. I mean, I’m not a mean drunk and I know I would never intentionally cause anyone any harm, but I’m also a big brother with two younger siblings, and I would absolutely smack the shit out of them if they ever did anything as dangerous as this kid from CVS.

    Lastly, I have a lot of shame about the whole thing. I feel horribly guilty that I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to decline the offer and not put this kid in a situation that I’m certain his parents wouldn’t approve of. I feel like I need to apologize to him, to his mom and dad.

    “Are you drunk?” he asked as we pulled into the parking lot of Walgreens.

    “Not really. I had a few drinks with friends,” I replied.

    “I got drunk last night. It was pretty cool,” he said in that “bro” kind of way.

    “Oh. Cool.”

    I should have told him to be careful or he’d end up like me. But I didn’t. I bought my nicotine gum, he drove us back to CVS, I gave him $10 for gas and his time, he went back to work, and I started walking back to Samantha’s house chewing and feeling better now that I had my fix. I was ready for another drink.

    At the time, my life seemed to be irreparably out of control. Everything was broken. I couldn’t go one day without alcohol. I was compulsively destroying myself at a very rapid rate. But somehow my mind had decided that if I could just control this one thing, it meant that all hope was not lost. It meant that maybe there was a chance for me to one day get myself sober again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but quitting smoking in the midst of my active alcoholism was my way of screaming out to myself. I was leaning over and looking down at myself sitting helplessly at the bottom of my dark, alcoholic well.

    You can do hard shit, John. You can stop drinking. You can.

    Somehow I did manage to stop smoking even though I kept drinking. And it took another three years before I would be not only smoke free, but alcohol free. It took three long, hard, miserable years once that tiny seed was planted before I found the willingness and strength to try getting rid of alcohol next. But there is no gum to chew for this monster of an addiction, is there?

    I got back to Samantha’s and walked inside. They looked equally concerned and relieved that I was back.

    “Dinner’s ready,” she said. “You forgot the tartar sauce, didn’t you?”

    Shit.