12 steps

MY COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP WITH AA

I haven’t been going to in person meetings lately. I hesitate to put this post down on paper. Not because I feel badly or guilty about not going to meetings but because I worry that it will be perceived as advocating against AA or any other group assembly for recovery. That’s not it AT ALL. I know how crucial meetings are for so many people with this disease. And I’m not at all discounting them or insinuating that perhaps I don’t belong in them because I’m some special kind of magical addict that isn’t like YOU. No, no, no no.

I’ve wanted meetings to be crucial to me, too. I love the idea of being in a room with other people like me and feeling connected to them. But try as I may, I just can’t seem to get there. I just don’t feel that connection like I do with the wonderful people I’ve met and chat with online. And if we are going to be together in person and stand in solidarity together off of the computer, I want it to be in a normal situation like sitting in my living room sipping coffee, eating cookies, and talking about sobriety while occasionally yelling at the television which maybe plays in the background on very low volume. Or I want to meet a group of you at a diner and share a plate of fries and laugh hysterically and get SHUSHED for being too loud by Rhoda, the bitchy but charming waitress that has a giant mole on her cheek and a serious 2 pack a day smoking habit. Or maybe we can make a pitcher of something refreshing and non-alcoholic and go to the park with our dogs and lay in the grass and talk about how amazing it is to be sober and free. Finally.

I want to incorporate recovery in my NORMAL LIFE. And I find there to be something very inauthentic about having to congregate in a makeshift room to take in information and stories in an organized and scheduled format. Inauthentic isn’t the right word. Scratch that. I just have a hard time reconciling the clinical nature of the whole thing with my spirit. Going to meetings feels like training for a marathon on a treadmill in a non-descript gym rather than running around outside in the gorgeous open air. I’m sure it progressively works, but I long for a way that is more alive and beautiful and kinetic and engaging. I’m not sure I can listen to HOW IT WORKS read inaudibly and robotically one more time. I’m not sure any of the people around me want to hear it read one more time, either, because it seems that no one is listening but instead are anxiously awaiting their own opportunity to speak. I know the structure is partially in place to help new people but if you really want to help new people, make sure they can hear what you are reading off of the laminated index card. And maybe inject a little positive enthusiasm into your voice so they don’t assume that you are carrying out some god awful chore and would rather be doing something else.

I’ve been told that I just haven’t found the right meetings or the right people. I’ve been told that those things that I want and those connections with people that continue to live and breathe outside of meetings are FOUND in meetings. I can totally see that. You go to some meetings, meet some nice people, and BAM. We’re eating fries at the diner and Rhoda is being an asshole and telling us to shut the fuck up. Heaven. So I kept going to meetings as suggested but felt like I was being somewhat deceitful. I didn’t really WANT to be at the meeting. I wanted to meet cool sober people so we could then go have our OWN meetings with GOOD coffee and BEAUTIFUL ART on the walls instead of crucifixes and statues of the Virgin Mary crying blood or some shit.

During the first month of recovery, I heard a lot about the people who seemed to resist meetings. Am I one of those unreachable souls? They thought they were different. They thought they didn’t need it. But for me, it isn’t that. I do need what recovery programs offer. It isn’t what is in the cup that bothers me. It’s the cup itself. The cup is, like, plastic. And a weird olive green color. And it has a messed up lip on it so when you take a drink, you dribble down your shirt. And it smells like no one ever washes it. I WANT A CRYSTAL WATER GOBLET THAT SPARKLES IN THE SUN AND TEMPORARILY BLINDS OLD LADIES WHEN I TAKE A SIP FROM IT. Institutionalized anything has always created in me a feeling of being stifled or unable to be who I am. I sort of wonder if the same thing is going on here.

I have also had a very hard time finding my safe place in recovery meetings. I noticed early on that women were slipping away into their own female only meetings and then men were doing the same. I tried an all men’s meeting and felt very uncomfortable. Sure, we were all together with our shared issue BUT as a gay man, it’s very hard for me to feel connected, understood, and embraced in a room of mostly heterosexual men. Minorities will understand. Women will understand.

I suppose the next step is to try out some of these LGBT meetings which I haven’t done yet. Maybe that will be the thing that makes this all start to click. Because I do want it to click. I do want a place to go and connect and grow and share. But I’m not sure that the right people in the right room will be enough to overcome my distaste for the structure and oftentimes robotic container that the message comes in.

I’ll keep trying, though. Because while my ego is still a little bit out of control, over three months of sobriety has at least brought me to a place where I am willing to accept the fact that maybe I could be totally wrong about the whole thing. NOT LIKELY. But maybe….

DELI SANDWICHES AND PANIC ATTACKS

Hi everyone. By a show of hands, how many of ya’ll eat food?? OMG me too! How funny! We’re like twins.

So we watched the Tony Awards last night because I’m a homosexual and also because our friend was nominated for her role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. SHE WON! No one was surprised and we were all very happy for her because it’s such an honor and also she now has something to keep papers from blowing off her desk. Like any television awards show gathering goes, there was enough food to feed like three Paula Deens. What’s the plural of Paula Deen? Paula Die? It was a massive spread of maple bacon flavored potato chips, crackers and hummus, salami and cheese and bread and bean dip and German chocolate cake. So obviously I put all of those things into the hole in my face and swallowed them just because they were there. Excess and thoughtless consumption does not stop at alcohol, my friends. And I really feel secure enough in my sobriety to take on healthy eating now. So today is that day. I woke up feeling genuinely unwell from all of the shit I put into my body. BUT I DIDN’T DRINK. So victory is mine. One of my roommates was tipping back gin mixed with stuff. She had two. The second one took her just over two hours to drink which really pissed me the fuck off. At one point, something crazy happened on the show (I don’t remember what) and everyone started yelling OH MY GOD and other various expressions of shock and anger so I used it as an opportunity to yell at her for drinking like a sloth in slow motion. “OH MY GOD AHHHHHH!!” I screamed along with everyone else while staring directly at her. It felt really good to secretly scream at someone. The first 10 minutes of the gathering was awkward. I’m used to drinking in such situations. Even though we have on many occasions sat in the living room chatting or watching television since I’ve been sober, the mere addition of a scheduled event like an award show suddenly transformed what has grown comfortable over the past few months into a very clear reminder that the work is just beginning. It was a very low key test that I passed with flying colors and a food hangover and was a fitting end to a weekend that was a very mixed bag of happenings and feelings.

On Saturday, me and the boyfriend went to our friend’s dance show. Dance is really interesting to me for a variety of reasons. But it occurred to me while I was watching the program that dance is the perfect artistic metaphor for living in only this one moment. Painting, writing, film. They all leave an impression. They all leave a visible reference point of the brush strokes that came before. The text is on paper and various parts can be referenced as quickly as moving your eye to another part of the page. Fast forward or rewind a film to re-experience a moment or scene. But dance (live theatre, too, but not as much) is fleeting and melts away instantly. As I watched the choreography unfold, I became very aware that my attention was only focused on the phrase or movement happening at that exact point in time. I wasn’t actively trying to remember what had just come before or what would come next. There was absolutely no time for that. All I knew is that her leg was in the air right now and now it’s gone and it will never be in the air the same way again. And as soon as you process that image, it dies forever. I was very calm and reflective and began transcending time and space but then I heard what sounded like someone opening a large deli sandwich wrapped in butcher paper.

I turned and looked towards the source of the sound and it was an elderly woman opening a large deli sandwich wrapped in butcher paper. I was shocked how quickly my mood shifted from peace to contempt. It took her several minutes to get the sandwich out of its wrapper and a cacophony of angry shushes and crinkling heavy duty paper went on for what seemed like hours. My blood was boiling. I have absolutely no patience for people rudely interrupting the experiences of others in public spaces where SILENCE is just common sense. It’s disrespectful to the performers and to those who paid the admission price. Finally the sound stopped. My blood pressure dropped and I began reconnecting with the piece. THEN THE BITCH STARTED OPENING ANOTHER GODDAMNED DELI SANDWICH. Or maybe it was the same sandwich and she was trying to get the other half that she was probably planning on saving for after the show on the bus ride home but the turkey was really good and she thought WHAT THE HELL Y.O.L.O. and just fucking went for it. This paper crumpling session lasted even longer than the first and again I felt my heart pounding and my jaw clenching. AND IT WOULDN’T STOP. The crumpling sound went on for the next 10 minutes until the intermission. I think she ate 9 sandwiches during that time and I completely missed the show because of my rage. Several people spoke to her and the ushers during intermission and she actually left the show of her own accord. I assume she went to get more sandwiches. It just made me so upset that I allowed another person to emotionally derail me so drastically. And I recognize that it was enough to upset anyone BUT my anger and stress from the situation WERE NOT proportionate to the event. I realized that very quickly. My pulse shouldn’t be racing and my jaw shouldn’t hurt because an old woman didn’t have manners. While I’m becoming more aware of what I’m feeling, I still have a hard time talking myself down from ledges and find myself on said ledges when I shouldn’t be. It wasn’t THAT big of a deal. But it felt like the end of the world.

We left after the show and had time to kill before seeing another show later that evening. We walked around the city looking for a place to eat and eventually found a yummy Mexican restaurant. The meal was delicious and there was no talk of alcohol. Last time I put my foot in my mouth and tried to assure the boyfriend that he could have wine when he didn’t even want to. This time I just kept my mouth shut and we had water and Diet Coke.

We got to the theatre early to pick up our tickets and wait in line since the seating was general admission. And then it happened. A panic attack. NOT AGAIN. This was the third that I have had over the course of that past two months but usually they are precipitated by a series of events that creates anxiety like at work. This particular attack came after hours of calm. Surely I wasn’t still being affected by sandwich lady? I got very hot, began to sweat, and told my boyfriend I’d be right back. I walked around the corner and sat on a stoop. My heart was racing, I felt a sense of doom, my breathing became difficult, and I employed the advice I was given from prior episodes which included very deliberate and focused breathing. audibly AHHHING upon exhale, bending over slightly at the waist, and putting myself back into the last remembered moment of peace which was sitting at the restaurant. After about 5 minutes, it passed. I went back to the line. Boyfriend was obviously concerned and asked if we should leave. I told him no and tried to remain calm. We watched the show without incident and went home. He’s very supportive but I can’t help but sometimes become very self-conscious about the things he might be thinking about all that’s going on. Does he think I’m crazy? Does he think I’m weird? Does he wish he didn’t have to deal with this? I got into some trouble with him about a week ago by asking those questions directly TO him rather than just thinking them. He was patient at first but eventually snapped and said, “You really have to stop asking me those things. I told you that I’m here for you no matter what.” And I believe him. Except for the times when maybe I don’t. I have no reason to think otherwise but insecurity runs deep and cannot be fixed overnight.

I woke up Sunday exhausted and contemplated skipping the meeting I attend called Morning Medicine. A quick affirmation from folks on The Booze Free Brigade was all I needed. I love that I can log in there and basically tell everyone that I don’t want to go to my meeting and then dozens of people tell me that I should and why. It’s an invaluable resource. It’s mostly incredible women but there are a few men. Meeting was great. The speaker was phenomenal. Then I walked down the street and got my hair cut. As I walked in and sat down, I thought back to my days of actively drinking. I remember how difficult such mundane and basic tasks were. Waking up on Sunday usually meant feeling like shit. The thought of getting dressed and taking the five minute walk to Estella’s Hair Salon would have petrified me. The idea of having to sit there while she tries to talk to me? Fucking forget it. It was a monumental task back then. Nothing was easy. Not even the easy things. But there I sat calmly discussing the weather and her grandchildren. It was nice. Towards the end of the cut, I found myself eyeing a pill container sitting against the mirror at her station. Various pills in various compartments. I wondered what each was. I wondered if there were any narcotics. Vicodin? Perocet? What would that be like to take one of those pills? How would I go about stealing one if I really wanted to? Would it feel good? Probably, yeah. I paid and gave her a good tip. I walked home obsessing about my brief obsession with pills that weren’t mine. I didn’t even do pills in the past. Drinking was my thing. But my monster shape shifted briefly and those thoughts really freaked me out.

So there were hiccups over the past 48 hours but guess what, you guys? Still sober. When I have a wonky day, that’s all it is. It’s just a wonky day. Wonky doesn’t mean drinky. And when I have a panic attack and sweat like big fat pig? I’m just sweating like a big fat pig. That’s all it is. How would drunk sweaty fat pig be the better option? It wouldn’t.

I hope you all have a wonderful sober day.

SOBER IS SEXY. LET’S BE SEXY TOGETHER.

 

Happy Effing Monday, my fellow sober freaks. Or, if ‘sober freak’ freaks out your freak, substitute any term that makes you feel sexy and amazing. Because being sober IS sexy and amazing. You know what’s not sexy? Hitting on someone at the bar and instead of saying, “HI MY NAME IS CRYSTAL,” you say, “HIZNAMEZRISTOL.” Being YOU is sexy. And when I say sexy, I’m not just talking about the GET IN MY BEDROOM NOW AND PUT ON THIS PONY SADDLE kind of sexy. I’m talking about being enigmatic, present, and there to live and love life with your fellow human beings. That kind of connection is beautiful. Being you in a world of other people being them. Sounds basic and obvious but to us candy obsessed kids, it’s very easy to forget.

And if you’re reading this and you aren’t a sober freak YET, Happy Monday to you, too! I obviously can only help by telling you what this process has been like for me and I know there are people who have read my posts who are still struggling to get some days of sobriety under their belts. And I totally understand. I read sober blogs for A LONG TIME before I had finally had enough and decided it all needed to stop. And this is still all so new that sometimes I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Surely this happiness and joy and peace can’t keep going, can it? Certainly I can’t live a life that is somewhat calm and lovely? But maybe I can. Maybe we can.

This weekend, you guys. Oh. My. God. THIS WEEKEND. This was the first weekend since getting sober where everything just seemed to click and nothing felt hard and everything felt right. I know, I know. Pink clouds. Be on high alert. The bad comes again. Blah blah blah. And I get it. I don’t expect everything to be great all the time. But more specifically, this was the first weekend where I didn’t feel the antagonizing discomfort of not knowing what to do with myself. While I haven’t actually had very many cravings for alcohol since the first two weeks of sobriety, I have craved the distraction it brought. And up to this point, weekends were big black holes that I was able to partially fill with good times and sober fun but there were still long stretches of time where things just didn’t feel normal or right. And even when I was finding things to do, there was always a dull ache that told me, “Well, this isn’t enjoyable, stupid hairy man. This needs beer to be what it’s supposed to be.”

But not this weekend. This weekend was correct. This weekend was the real deal. And it’s not like anything HUGE happened. None of my wildest dreams came true or anything. It’s not like I got to binge eat sweet stuff and discuss The Color Purple in a jacuzzi with Oprah and Gayle. I didn’t get to make love on a perfectly manicured beach with magical sand that somehow doesn’t get caught in your hoo-ha. I didn’t get to slap Guy Fieri from The Food Network across the face and scream, “YOU ARE NOT 22 YEARS OLD ANYMORE!!!” I didn’t get to do ANY of that stuff. And it was still an amazing weekend.

Saturday morning was spent leisurely drinking… COFFEE!, working out at the gym, and sitting around without caring about what was coming next. A general sense of peace and relaxation consumed me. I was smiling for no fucking reason, ya’ll. I was singing celebratory songs like Lady Marmalade and I was doing all of the Christina Aguilera growly shit. I was acting more drunk than I ever acted drunk. I WAS SO FUCKING HAPPY. Let’s pretend for a moment that I went back in time and was a dapper and well dressed 19th century gentleman with a monocle and cane. I would certainly have been one of those assholes that tips their hat to everyone and anyone they pass on the street. I would have bowed to them respectfully and said some crazy shit like, “AND GOOD DAY TO YOU, FINE SIR! THE SUN IS SHINING BRIGHT AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR LOVELY WIFE, ANNA” or “MADAME, YOUR DRESS LOOKS EXQUISITE ON THIS SPLENDID SUMMER MORN! NEVER HAVE I SEEN SUCH BEAUTY IN A WOMAN’S FACE.” ….  “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING???” I thought. That’s how foreign unadulterated joy was to me.

“Why do you look so weird? What’s that look?” the boyfriend asked.

“It’s hard to describe. You know how when you’re like… happy?” I replied.

“Yeah,” he said.

“It’s like that,” I said.

“So.. you’re happy,” he concluded.

“Yeah, but… like actually happy. Not just happy. Like the kind of happy that’s not pretending to be happy. You know. Like. Happy.”

Then the BF and I hopped a train to the city to stop by a store to possibly buy new sheets. The store happened to be very close to the World Trade Center site so we spent some time reflecting and paying our respects at the memorial pools that mark the location of the footprints of the original towers. I was overcome with emotion. I’M SO… BLESSED? NO. DON’T USE THE WORD BLESSED. WE’RE NOT SURE HOW WE FEEL ABOUT GOD ANYMORE. LUCKY? NO. LUCK DOESN’T EXIST. OKAY. SO IF WE AREN’T BLESSED OR LUCKY, WHAT ARE WE? HOW ABOUT GRATEFUL. JUST BE GRATEFUL FOR NOW. REGARDLESS OF WHERE IT COMES FROM OR HOW WE BECAME SO FORTUNATE. FOR NOW JUST BE GRATEFUL TO WHATEVER AND WHOEVER WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR ANOTHER CHANCE. EVEN IF THERE IS NOTHING RESPONSIBLE FOR IT AND IT JUST HAPPENED THIS WAY BY CHANCE. JUST. BE. GRATEFUL. FOR NOW, THAT’S ENOUGH. And I was grateful. And it was enough.

We left and did some shopping at the store and found a few sets of sheets. We took our time looking around, making jokes about various items. They were selling jugs that were being marketed as mixed drink “kegs” for parties. But they were basically just sun tea glass jugs with pictures of, like, liquor bottles and beach balls painted on them and words like PARTY! engraved into the glass in Comic Sans. The old me would have been very impatient. Why are we here? Where are we going next? Will there be a bar? When will I drink? ME ALCOHOLIC. ME NEED ALCOHOL NOW! FEED ME FEED ME! How much is that mixed drink keg? Not that I want it. I’M JUST ASKING.

But none of that was there. And for like the millionth time that day, I thought, WOW. WOW. WOW. WOW.

We then cabbed it to The West Village to catch a show and had a few hours to kill. We decided to get a bite to eat. My normal instinct would be to look for restaurants with placards outside advertising the happy hour drink specials. No placard, no business from me thank you very much. But without that qualification, there were suddenly DOZENS of places to choose from. Thousands of fantastic restaurants in New York City? Who knew!?

We ducked into a French place that looked cute and had a patio. I don’t even know what it was called. I just liked its vibe. We sat in the garden and I ordered a club soda with lime. The boyfriend said he was fine with water. But I wanted him to feel comfortable. So I said, “You know, you can order a glass of wine if you want. I feel really good and I don’t care. Besides, I don’t like wine. If you want a glass that’s fine. Just don’t order a cocktail because I think that would be weird for me. Oh and please if you feel buzzed please try not to act too buzzed because…”

I suddenly stopped talking. Both of my feet were in my mouth. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. I sounded like a crazy person.

“I’ll just have water,” he said.

“I’m sorry. I just…”

“It’s okay,” he said.

“Maybe it’s too soon.”

“I wasn’t planning on it anyway. It’s fine,” he said.

And it was fine. We ate delicious food, enjoyed the lovely atmosphere. It was hard to find something without wine in it but I managed. I know people say the wine burns off but I know FOR A FACT that this is not true so don’t even try to debate me on this one, girl. And even if it did, I don’t think it would have been wise for even the slightest hint of wine flavor to have hit my lips. That’s just how I’m rolling right now.

We ran over to the theatre and the show was AWFUL but we had fun laughing about it all the way home. Stopped at the drug store where I would have picked up several beers 50 days ago.

“Wow. Three beers?” the boyfriend would have asked.

“One for later, maybe. Or tomorrow.” I’d lie. Both beers would be consumed that night in addition to other stashes of alcohol he didn’t know about. The cans would be wrapped and put in the outside recycling. He wouldn’t ask about the beers I bought being gone already the next day because he either didn’t notice/care OR chose his battles wisely. 

Instead of beers, it was La Croix sparkling water and some chocolate. We climbed into bed with the puppy, watched some bad TV, and fell asleep peacefully. Together. Connected. Aware.

Sunday started with an early morning recovery meeting. I have a lot of thoughts about these meetings I’ve been going to but that’s a separate post entirely. Then some breakfast, to the gym, and back home for more relaxing.

The boyfriend got up from the couch finally and said he was going to go clean up the bedroom and office. For a spilt second, I shit my pants. For a split second, it all came flashing back: HOLY FUCK. THERE IS A BOTTLE BEHIND THE DRESSER, I THINK. IS THERE? I CAN’T REMEMBER. DID I MOVE IT? I THINK THERE ARE SOME MINIS IN MY UNDERWEAR DRAWER. CAN I RUN UP THERE REALLY QUICK BEFORE HE STARTS AND GET THEM OUT OF THERE? As quickly as my body tensed up and my mind began racing, I remembered that wasn’t the case anymore. I settled back into the couch and put my feet up and let him go off and clean for me. I don’t have to worry about that ever again. If I don’t pick up a drink.

Then a phone call with my mother. You may have read my post a few days back about my fears concerning bringing my mom up to speed with where I’m at with this disease. That post is here. Long story short, she knew I got sober in 2005 but I’ve never told her that I relapsed in 2008 and have been drinking ever since. I had no intention of this conversation happening so suddenly but she started talking about my father (her ex-husband) and how active and bad off he is, her concerns for me and my future, and it just became very apparent that now was the moment. We can plan and plan all we want but sometimes the universe has something else in store. She cried. I cried. She was so happy I had found my way back. We vowed to remain open and honest with one another. It was all good. And I feel so much lighter. One plate I can stop spinning and focus on slowing down the other ones.

This is all getting so good, my friends. Every day that passes, I find myself amazed at the gifts that are being handed to me left and right by doing this very important work for myself. And if this much joy has been born from my dark and shattered heart in 50 days time, I surely want to continue down this path to see how much better it can get. Besides, I look so much better when I’m not puffy. Trust.

If you are happy right now, I’m so happy you’re so happy. And if you are suffering, please look at what has happened to me in such a short period of time and know that you can have it to. YOU CAN. YOU CAN. YOU CAN.

 

 

I WOULD HAVE BEEN SOBER NINE YEARS BY NOW

I’m a double agent. Hm. No. Let’s be real here. It’s more like a triple agent. The fucked up web of lies, deceit, and isolation caused by my disease has turned my life and the people in it into the equivalent of a giant fisherman’s tackle box. Or like one of those plastic containers that keeps your pills separate from one another. There are people from my past that don’t know people in my present. And purposefully so. There ARE people from my past that DO know people from my present and keeping their interactions to a minimum has always been very exhausting. You see, there are things that people from the past know; things that people in the present do not know. And vice versa. It has been a constant struggle keeping people in their compartments and only opening the lids to their sections when necessary. There are other people that I sectioned off where the lid has been kept closed for years. The relationship may be dead for all I know. Friends that have faded into memories. Friends that probably wondered what happened to us or why I disappeared. Maybe some of them can deduce why. Maybe some of them don’t care why.

While I know I’m not really ready, I am very aware of the mess I’m going to have to eventually clean up. And a fucking Swiffer ain’t going to cut it.

My descent into wild and wonderful world of alcoholism started in 2002-ish at the age of 20 when I was just a precious and cute little arrogant asshole. The disease progressed rapidly reaching physical dependency and medical crisis in 2004. Without getting into the details of my hospitalization itself (that is its own post), let’s just say I nearly died at a very very young age (22). My sickness was blatantly public and everyone in my family knew what had happened. I got sober, developed a new circle of friends, artistically explored my sobriety in a very public way, etc. I was an advocate for recovery and no one hesitated talking to me about my own experiences or their own concerns with their own questionable behavior.

Then in 2008, I very casually and without much fanfare, relapsed. Here’s a post about that. My relapse coincided with the end of a relationship and a professional opportunity which required relocation. This is when my life began to fracture and compartmentalize socially and the various sections where I kept certain people began being born. It has gotten quite complex so to break it all down, here is a guide to various social vestibules in my people pill keeper container of a life:

  • There are the family and friends that I moved away from due to work who think I am still sober from my first go at recovery. In their minds, I have been sober since February 2005 and if they were to do the math, they would assume I just recently celebrated NINE YEARS of sobriety. That freaks me out and makes me wish it were true. Some of these people (my mom specifically) I’m sure are suspicious or think/know that I have not stayed sober this entire time. If they are, they don’t say anything. And neither do I. These are people I will need to come clean to about my relapse and newfound recovery. They will be disappointed, shocked, or relieved that their fears were finally corroborated and justified and will be happy that I’m finally getting help again.
  • There is the very small handful of old and ostracized friends that know about my relapse. I somehow manipulated them into allowing me to drink the way I wanted to even though they initially expressed concern and were terrified by the fact that they saw me suddenly with a beer in my hand at a bar in 2008. They were not happy about it but did very little to stop me. Ultimately, I moved away and in addition to the physical distance that separated us, I emotionally and socially distanced myself from them because they would have made it difficult for me to continue drinking and would have threatened my newly forming relationships by possibly revealing my past. These are the people that I need to acknowledge my relapse to even though they already know. I need to tell them I finally recognize it is a problem and make amends for selfishly choosing alcohol over them and causing them concern. I need to try to repair those friendships where I can.
  • There are the NEW relationships formed since relapsing and moving from home in 2008. I fear that this group of people poses the most challenges for me because it means admitting that I formed and developed relationships based on lies. None of them know I had a problem with drinking in the past. This is why none of them know any of my old friends. That was my doing. Specifically, I’m going to have to work through the challenge of discussing with my boyfriend the extent of my prior problem and how life threatening my illness was/is. He knows that I’ve dealt with substance issues but doesn’t know the details about my near death experience and hospitalization which makes my six year dabble with the sauce seem even more irresponsible and fucked up. Yes, it’s a disease and yes, if I had any say in it then it would have never have happened. But it did. And it did impact our relationship. And now I have to tell him how I kept things from him that I never should have. At the same time, there are current new friends that really only need to know that I have a drinking problem now and that I’m getting help. While not cool, my omission about my past prior to knowing them really shouldn’t cause too many ripples. I can’t see any of them being irreparably offended.

I’m trying to take it easy on myself. I need to work through these things at my own pace and keep reminding myself that this is not a race. There is time and right now I need to heal physically and deal with the immediate fallout and trauma. But it’s so very hard when you’re on the phone with your mother and you almost blurt out, “I’m 45 days sober today, mom!!!” before catching yourself and thinking, OH SHIT NO I’M NINE YEARS SOBER. NINE YEARS. It’s very hard to be watching a medical show with your boyfriend where they mention pancreatitis and you have to pretend like you don’t know what that is even though it almost killed you. It’s agonizing to have to FUCKING PRETEND that recovery is a new thing to me and that I’m learning concepts for the first time. How incredibly stupid does that sound?? When talking to my boyfriend, I actually think about how I’m phrasing things so I don’t give away the fact that I’ve been through this before and that I already know the drill. I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far. I feel good about it. So good in fact that I almost tell friends things like, “No PAWS symptoms all week, Linda! HIGH FIVE, SUGARMAMA!” Then I bite my tongue. Linda doesn’t even know about me and my problem yet. Also, I don’t actually have a friend named Linda so everyone stop picturing Linda in your head. It’s a waste of time.

I had some people tell me a few weeks back that I should just tell everyone and anyone. People talking to me like I don’t know what it means to be proud of my sobriety. People talking to me like I’ve never walked this walk or assume that I know nothing about advocacy even though I’ve done this all before. And I just have to be okay with that and not let it bother me. Ego shedding underway. They don’t mean anything bad by it and they don’t know me. They’re just trying to help. But just between us girls, know that I DO know what it’s like to proudly scream about my sobriety from the rooftops. I’ve done it. I’ve had that. And if you’ve never experienced it, just know that it feels fucking amazing. And I want it back. I’m going to get it back.

I’M THE PIANO MAN

What a difference a fucking day makes. Took melatonin last night and basically bathed in Sleepy Time tea. It took me a while to fall asleep and as I would doze off, I started having very vivid and bizarre head images and mini-dreams that made no sense. I was confronted by things like large vibrating avocados and then I had to jump on trampolines that threw me way too high into the air so when I started coming back down I felt that awful falling feeling you get in your stomach while riding a rollercoaster. This feeling would jerk me awake over and over and went on for about a half hour but once I finally went to sleep, it was good sleep. It was amazing sleep. It was OH YEAH DO ME JUST LIKE THAT sleep. You know the kind I’m talking about. Where it feels so good it might as well be love making. Becoming one with your bed and pillows and sheets. A sexual experience sans the actual sex. An orgasmic symphony of memory foam, down feathers, and Egyptian cotton.

I woke up with Billy Joel’s Piano Man in my head (WTF?) and sang a verse to the BF as he got out of bed and looked at me like I’d lost my mind. The puppy climbed into bed with me and snuggled. I felt like I needed a cigarette and I don’t even smoke. It was as if 100 pounds was lifted from my frame. The closet door swung open and the gospel choir that often serenades me on good days was finally back. Joy to the World this time. Not my favorite but I appreciated the sentiment. Got dressed and walked down the street toward the train with squirrels doing dances around me celebrating my existence and the cartoon blue birds that like to sing me songs on happy mornings fluttered around my head once again. One accidentally shit on my face but I didn’t care. That’s how good I felt.

Feel. Not felt. I’m still feeling good.

And I’m not writing this to brag or gloat! I’m writing it for myself and for YOU to remind us that the bad will pass and the good will come. If you’re having an especially awful day today, read my post from yesterday and then read this one again. This is evidence that even though it might feel like it, it’s not always the end of the world and I have to make a lot of effort to remind myself of that. I might wake up with a migraine and drag myself around all day crying but IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I might find myself forgetting how to do my job or get overwhelmed by things that were once simple but IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I might look up at the sky and see a giant asteroid heading towards me on fire just moments away from impacting the Earth and IT’S NOT. Well… Shit, girl. That’s probably the end of the world so go on and panic about that one right there.

Tomorrow might be amazing. Tomorrow might be fine. Tomorrow might be a disaster. But if I don’t pick up a drink, I have the very real chance of having an amazing day the next day. But if I do pick up a drink, never ending days of misery are certain to follow. I know that. So I’m going to be happy when I can be and when I’m not, that’s fine, too. Just have to weather the shit show until I wake up singing Piano Man once more. Because it WILL happen if I just hold on tight. Love you, Billy. XO

I’M TIRED. LET’S DRINK!

I’m really ready to feel better than I do. This sobriety thing is fucking weird because the ascension from crappy to better than crappy is extremely noticeable. But equally noticeable are the stretches of stagnation and occasional backsliding to less lovely feelings. I’m in the weeds right now and am trying to find my groove again.

I’m not going to drink today. Not even if my butt falls off. Someone said this in the BFB and I laughed so hard that a little bit came out. And it’s true. I’m not going to drink. I don’t want to. AT ALL.

But you guys, I AM FUCKING TIRED. I don’t know what the hell is going on with my sleep but it’s really starting to make me angry. And it seems like coming off of a weekend is even worse than sleeplessness during the work week. I’m waking up every few hours and have to readjust myself. And when I am sleeping, it never feels like real sleep. It feels like exhausting work. I don’t always remember my dreams but when I do, they almost always involve alcohol. Last night, I also had a dream that my primary care physician prescribed me some kind of really strong anti-anxiety drug. I was really excited about it and kept trying to get the prescription filled but every pharmacy was out of the medication. I remember thinking that the doctor really shouldn’t have prescribed me such a strong mood altering drug given my history but I was happy he did and I wasn’t about to remind him about my addiction issues. Obviously my brain is still like, DUDE GO GET DRUNKY DRUNK DRUNK LOLOLOL XOXO!

Getting out of bed was absolutely terrible and even now I feel foggy, not very chipper, and ready to nap for hours. Unfortunately, I’m at work and can’t. I keep telling myself that this is normal and that everyone I’ve heard from has expressed issues with sleep to varying degrees. But there is another part of me that keeps saying, “THIS SHOULD BE OVER BY NOW!” I mean, it’s been 43 days. I know that’s nothing. I know that’s a blink of the eye, a drop in the bucket. It took me nearly six years to do all of the damage I did. What makes me think 43 days is going to reverse it?

Usually I find it very easy to be grateful for the progress I have made. I’m able to work through the uncomfortable symptoms until the stretches of positive results return. But this exhaustion is mood altering in and of itself. It’s so noticeable and disheartening that I find myself saying, “YOU GOT SOBER FOR THIS?!” Then I tell myself to just shut the fuck up and cool it. No, stupid. Of course I didn’t get sober for this. What kind of dumbass question is that?

But what if this isn’t normal? What if people are telling me it’s normal but really this kind of lethargy is dangerous or a sign of something else being wrong? What if they are just telling me it’s normal because they can’t actually feel what I’m feeling and if they did feel it they would say, “OH SHIT THAT’S NOT NORMAL.” I really should go to the doctor and have them test me out to see if there is anything else going on. At least then I won’t feel stressed out dismissing these symptoms as completely typical of recovery.

I remember waking up mornings during the first 2-4 weeks and thinking, “WOW. I FEEL FUCKING GOOD!” And while I occasionally have those moments now, they seem to be getting fewer and farther between. Like I’m plateauing. Or sometimes even digressing. It seems the further from Day One I get, the more disrupted my sleep gets. Maybe it’s about to turn a corner? Maybe it’s going to take even longer? 60 days? 90 days? A year? I can wait it out. I have to wait it out.

I try my best not to whine. It doesn’t do me any good and it’s also really disgusting and not at all cute. But sometimes you just want to call a world meeting where every other human sits down in a massive auditorium, looks at you, and watches you ugly cry and moan and talk about exactly why your life is awful as you accidentally eat your own snot.

In my old world, this would be drinkworthy. But EVERYTHING was drinkworthy. Thursday was drinkworthy because Friday was the next day. Tuesday was drinkworthy because it wasn’t Monday. Sunday morning was sometimes drinkworthy because you had to wait for laundry and it was beautiful outside. St. Patrick’s Day was drinkworthy even though I’m not Irish and am terrified of leprechauns. Well. Not just leprechauns. Anything under 4 feet, really. Children. Snow White’s friends. I drank over anything and everything and nothing at all. And now you are asking me to NOT drink over things that actually are significant, difficult, and scary?

YES. THAT’S RIGHT. WE DON’T DRINK ANYMORE.

Okay. Not even if we’re really tired and feel like we’re going crazy?

NO, FUCKTARD. NOT EVEN.

Fine. What if someone dies?

THEN YOU CRY.

What if I get in a car accident?

CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY. ALSO, YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A CAR.

Fair enough. What if my relationship falls apart?

EAT ICE CREAM AND GO TO MEETINGS.

What if there is another Hurricane Sandy and I’m stuck at home for an entire week without internet or television or anything to do and I start to die of boredom?

OK, YES. THEN YOU DRINK.

Really??!

NOOOOOOOOO GODDAMNIT! I WAS TESTING YOU. NEVER DRINK! NEVER!

So here’s the thing: I may feel awful today and I may want to crawl into a hole and fall asleep and never come out, but it is this very feeling that should be my motivation to stay sober. Drinking for so long made me feel like THIS. It was alcoholism that brought me to a point physically where normal human existence is HARD. And that’s really fucked up. So I’m going to stand in solidarity with my body and mind. These symptoms are SOS signals. This is me trying to tell me that me is broken and me needs to heal. So like always, I’m not going to ignore this. I’m going to sit in it. I’m going to feel it. I’m going to hate it. And I’m going to embrace it as further evidence that sobriety is the only way out and that today is not the right day to drink.

 

OMG OMG YOU HAVE TO GO TALK TO PEOPLE WHILE SOBER…. OMG OMG THAT COULD MAKE YOU DIE

Last night I faced my first social situation that included people other than my BF. He had written a play over the course of a ten week class which culminated with a presentation for invited guests featuring single scenes from each student’s play. It was an event that I assumed would be low stress and one that I should have little to no problem handling. He invited some of our friends to attend as well and the plan was to grab a bite to eat afterwards. Easy peasy, right? Not. A. Big. Deal. The people he asked to come are people I already know fairly well and there should be no reason for being apprehensive about seeing them. But if you’re anything like me, it obviously cannot be quite that simple. As the day of the event approached, I became increasingly paranoid.

I did everything I could while sitting at work to minimize my irrational fears. But while Anderson Cooper (my logical brain) kept trying to talk me down, the ticker tape of insanity kept scrolling across the bottom of the screen. It read: ….OMG OMG YOU HAVE TO GO TALK TO PEOPLE…. OMG OMG THAT COULD MAKE YOU DIE MAYBE…. OMG OMG NO YOU WON’T DIE BUT YOU MIGHT GET EMBARASSED BECAUSE YOU COULD SOUND DUMB…. OMG OMG WHAT IF THEY ALL DRINK.. OMG.. SHIT.. OBAMA APPROVAL RATING AT 62 PERCENT.. OMG HUH? WAIT, WHAT?…OMG MAYBE I SHOULDN’T GO… OMG KIRSTIE ALLEY REGAINS ALL 60 POUNDS SHE LOST AND UNREST IN THE MIDDLE EAST…… and so on and so forth.

I told myself to shut up. Then I asked myself, “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”

And then I answered myself, “You really want to know the answer to that?”

“No, not really, “ I replied to I.

“Too late,” me said. “Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to walk to the theatre space and on the way you are going to encounter horrible things like rain and crowds of people also walking to places. You’re going to get all sweaty and disgusting because it’s so humid outside and your hair will start to curl and look absolutely disastrous. You’re going to look at yourself in the reflection in the elevator doors as you ascend the 15 stories to doomsday and you are going to attempt without success to make yourself look presentable. When you walk in the room, everyone is going to look at you and scream obscenities because you look so terrible. Out of courtesy, they are going to ask you questions about how your day was and what was going on with you. Because you’re still mentally foggy and often get tongue tied, you are going to reply to them by saying something terribly embarrassing like, ‘I don’t know what my life so I stupid alcoholic hahaha I stupid dumb man shit fuck sorry I like gorilla so do you have banana? and need to pee BYE!’ Then you are going to run out of the room as they throw their shoes at you which is a really big insult in some countries. You are going to cry in the bathroom, splash water on your face, and sneak back into the room as people give you death looks and wonder who invited the incompetent addict. Then more small talk after the reading where you might say, ‘These is good plays, huh!’ while everyone rolls their eyes. Then you’ll go to the restaurant where everyone will order sake or draft beer or chocolate martinis while you sip Thai Iced Tea in the corner of the booth and slump down in your seat hoping no one asks you any other questions or notices you are there. And as they all get more and more drunk, they will completely forget about you. You’ll excuse yourself to the bathroom but no one will notice or care. When you get back, they will all be gone having moved on to another location without bothering to tell you. You’ll make the commute home wondering where your boyfriend disappeared to. That’s what your night is going to be like if you stay sober. ENJOY!”

Some takeaways here:

  • I am currently a nauseatingly insecure human being that needs a lot of work.
  • In addition to being insecure, I am simultaneously arrogant and my ego is out of control. Why I even had the thought that this night would be all about me, I have no idea.
  • My imagined sober self talks like a caveman.

I had worked myself into such a tizzy that I honestly considered not going. My BF has been amazingly understanding and although he might not like it, he would let me out of this if I really needed to avoid the situation. But I made the decision to proceed as planned because if I never allowed myself to feel uncomfortable, how would I ever get comfortable? You get sore from lifting weights but get stronger. You run further and for longer periods of times when training for a marathon even though it hurts and is uncomfortable but your endurance improves. You do strange impossible things that feel foreign with your fingers when first learning the piano but eventually muscle memory takes control and it’s a breeze.

I HAVE TO GO THROUGH THINGS. Not around. Not over. Not under. THROUGH.

I got to the reading, small talk was had, I didn’t sound like a caveman, people seemed happy to see me, and the discomfort and apprehension slowly faded. At the restaurant, everyone other than me and BF had something alcoholic to drink. I had Thai Iced Tea. People sipped their sake slowly like total assholes. CHUG THAT SHIT I thought. But it’s their sake and they can do what they want. Someone asked me why no cocktail and I said, “Because the Thai Iced Tea here is amazing!” This satisfied them. The guy next to me finished his sake and then ordered a beer. ATTA BOY I thought. IT’S ABOUT TIME. I made note of these thought processes and reminded myself that this is why I can’t drink. The conversation was easy and enjoyable. No one got trashed. No one suggested more alcohol or another stop. And after some hugs and promises to connect again soon, we were on our way home.

“Let’s pretend I had some drinks tonight,” I told the BF. “What would have happened is this: I would have had my few drinks but would want more. I wouldn’t have listened to what anyone was saying because I would have been so consumed with getting something else. And right now as we sit here on the train, I’d be obsessively checking the time because we’d have to stop at the liquor store. Or 7-11 if it was closed. And I’d go home and have that extra drink or two or three. But I didn’t have those drinks and this night was awesome. I feel so free. I can do anything and not think about THAT.”

He seemed proud if not still slightly confused. It’s hard to get normies to fully grasp what goes through our heads. But he’s working on being there for me as much as he can.

We were out late and I woke up this morning EXHAUSTED. But I had a smile on my face. I had a good time with good people. I felt something I haven’t felt in a long while. I felt connection and joy. I felt cared for and valued as a friend. And I really can’t wait to hang out with my friends again.

Something clicked last night. I’m really doing this.