alcohol

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.

NINE MONTHS

Nine months sober and 6cm dilated. Feel like I’m giving birth to my life again. It’s pretty good, and I’ll name her Cathy.

So much has changed in such a relatively short period of time. It has been 3/4 of an entire year since this whole journey began. When I think of the time that has elapsed, it somehow seems to have passed by insanely fast and terribly slow all at the same time. The days and months begin to fly by at a warp speed while the emotional progress seems to crawl along imperceptibly, like thick sap down a tree. We always seem to measure our progress by marking days, months, years, but the work that we do doesn’t seem to comfortably fit into the container of man made units of time. As life begins to resume its normal breakneck speed, I continue to feel as if I’m hobbling along while everything and everyone passes me by.

A simple question pushed to the forward of my mind after hearing it several times on The Bubble Hour: Is this true?

Is it true that I’m being left behind by my peers and that I can’t have a successful career because I’m taking it easy right now? No. The success and accomplishments of others do not deplete some imaginary success pool that will somehow dry up and become empty by the time I’m ready to swim in it. Success doesn’t work that way. The world will not suddenly run out of opportunity for artists to present their work. No. It is not true. Continue taking it easy.

I’ve had to slow down quite a bit over the past six months. I’ve had to explicitly state and enforce boundaries for myself and for others. I’ve had to pull back creatively, socially, and return to a simpler state. I felt as if things were falling around me, and while never once did I come anywhere close to drinking, I knew that something just wasn’t quite right.

Things are better now. If we’re using these man made units of time to describe and mark our progress, I’d say that I feel six months sober now rather than the nine that it actually is. What I mean is that at around six months, when my friend passed away and everything went to shit, I mentally and emotionally feel as if I reverted back to an earlier place, like the floor fell out from under me and I slid all the way back, like I was in some fucked up emotional live action game of Chutes and Ladders.

I am grateful for these nine months. I am grateful for the practice I have had in managing and coping with difficult things. And I’m grateful that I managed to keep alcohol from jumping down my throat.

I think the most surprising of all of the changes is the fact that I just don’t think that much about alcohol or sobriety anymore. At times, that is quite a relief. It seemed that toward the beginning I was constantly thinking about not drinking. I’d be walking down the street and just think, “I’m walking down the street. I don’t drink anymore,” or I’d be falling asleep and think, “Going to sleep without having drank tonight. I don’t drink anymore.” It was CONSTANT. But now there are entire days that go by where I barely consider it.

I recognize that this relief from the obsession of alcoholism and recovery can also be a curse. There is a very fine line between accidental apathy and the prolonged blindness that takes hold leading up to a relapse. Remember, I’ve lived it. So I’m working on inserting myself back into the fold in various ways to keep myself plugged in, connected, and aware of my disease. It takes a concerted effort to make recovery a part of your life, and I definitely could do a better job at it.

Still, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write about recovery or my experience. It isn’t for lack of trying. I’ve sat staring at a blank WordPress page many times over the past month wondering what it is I had to say. The truth is, I’m living a somewhat calm and basic life these days. I’m reading voraciously. I’m spending time with my dog and boyfriend. I’m going to work and attempting to pay down debt. I’m just BEING without alcohol and without very many thoughts about alcohol or recovery.

But I think I could stand to have a few more thoughts about my recovery than I currently do. For these reasons, I’m going to get some meetings in. At the very least, my Sunday morning. But perhaps more. I also think I’m ready to start meeting with someone regularly to begin unpacking stuff more deeply. So fortunate for comprehensive insurance that will help me with that.

Overall, I’m GOOD. I feel fine. But I know I can feel even better and I’m ready to work on that.

I’M NOT OPRAH BUT I HAVE FAVORITE THINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope everyone has a great day!

 

HIGH ON ALCOHOL

I have hesitated posting the link to this documentary for quite some time because when I first watched it, I was extremely disturbed. That being said, just know that it is a very sad story and please use discretion before watching. 

I watched it the week before I stopped drinking when things were at their worst. It freaked me out (I was drunk at the time) and a week later, I was done. I’m not attributing my quit to this video alone, obviously, but it certainly shifted something in my head at the right moment in my demise. 

TIME TO PLAY SPOT THE ALCOHOLIC!

Edit: I’d like to preface this post by saying that I AM A RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC. I’m not just some random person making fun of drunks. That being said…

Lately, I’ve been playing a really morbid game with myself when out in public places. Initially I felt ever so slightly guilty about this game but after consulting with numerous recovering drunks, I’ve come to understand that it’s a fairly normal thing to do once you’ve emerged from your inebriated stupor and start seeing the world and its occupants for what they actually are. And before anyone gets all high and mighty on me and tells me to “keep my side of the street clean” or “keep my eyes on my own paper”, let me just make it clear that I don’t DO anything when I spot the alcoholic. I don’t make fun of them. I don’t try to get them to go to a meeting. I just think OH THERE’S ONE, PROBABLY. THERE’S AN ALCOHOLIC.

SPOT THE ALCOHOLIC is a pretty self-explanatory activity. It’s very much akin to Where’s Waldo if Waldo was an alcoholic out in public. I’m hoping if I play this game long enough, I’ll eventually spot an alcoholic who is also dressed like Waldo. It’s also like playing SLUGBUG but instead of spotting a VW Beetle and yelling out SLUGBUG ORANGE and punching your Grandma in the arm, you just yell THERE’S AN ALCOHOLIC in your head and don’t punch anything at all. You just look around until your eyes settle on someone and you think OOOHHH. GIRL. And most of the time this game is played in passive mode. It’s not like I’m putting on my shoes and running around the neighborhood with the sole intent of spotting alcoholics. It’s played in the background as I go through my day. And you find them EVERYWHERE. Dry cleaner. Drug store. That little shop on Broadway and 27th Street that sells hair extensions and fake eyelashes. Don’t ask why I was in there. I just was. Accept it.

A lot of times you can deduce that they probably have a problem based on things they are actually doing. Other times, it’s more of a feeling you get when you observe them. Sort of like how gay people can kind of tell when someone is gay even if they aren’t displaying any stereotypical signs of gayness. There is just this energy and you are aware that there is a key part of you that is the same.

Every night when I leave work, I have the pleasure of walking through Madison Square Park on my way to the train. I could choose to walk all the way around the park but it’s obviously much more serene and lovely to walk under the large trees where pigeons occasionally make you gag by flapping their disease soaked wings in your face and squirrels chase you because they are no longer afraid of humans in the city and just want to steal your nuts. Come to think of it, it’s really not all that serene but when you’re surrounded by concrete, you tend to embrace any semblance of nature you can find.

So I was walking through the park and during the day while I was chained to my desk inside, they had set up a large stage and hundreds of people were standing in front of it as a Spanish music band played a free concert. A lot of people were dancing and having a good time so I stopped for a few minutes and watched along with them. I noticed the woman next to me had a plastic glass with wine in it. First of all, I found it very weird that she hadn’t already emptied the glass and that she had gone at least 3 minutes without even taking a sip. NOT AN ALCOHOLIC. Then I noticed that DOZENS AND DOZENS of people had glasses of wine, too! And then I started noticing them. My people. There was one woman with a totally empty glass in her hand and she was dancing in that drunk way. Do you know what I mean? She looked like she was maybe trying to do some Latin style dance but the steps kept being interrupted by her stumbling to one side and then she’d swing her hair around and head bang for a bit like she was at a death metal concert even though the band was singing La Bamba. Then she wandered over to her blanket and sat down and opened her ice chest and poured more wine. I watched like a hawk to see how she’d drink it. She chugged like it was ice water. ALCOHOLIC! I screamed in my head. And then I walked to the train and went home.

Last night I was at a friend’s CD release party at a local music venue. I was sipping my Diet Coke and eating my fish sandwich as she played. She reached a point in a song where her saxophone player took a solo and then out of the corner of my eye I saw a flurry of movement. I looked over toward it and saw a woman of a certain age (60?) holding a nearly empty martini glass and she was PLAYING THE AIR SAXOPHONE! Yes, she was standing up at the bar pretending she had a saxophone and she was swinging her head around imagining that she had the solo and that she was on stage. The man she was with was also jamming out with her and making that constipated pooping face that people make when someone is playing an instrument really good? That squinted tight eyes closed face that says DAMN. THEY ARE PLAYING THAT INSTRUMENT SOOO GOOD RIGHT NOW. It’s the same face that electric guitar players make when they play solo and think they are fucking amazing. He was making that face. She was playing a fake saxophone. ALCOHOLICS!

Sometimes it’s more blatantly obvious and sad. Almost every single day when I exit the train and walk towards my home, I pass a little strip of benches where the neighborhood homeless people congregate. There is one man who is always in various states of intoxication. Usually when he is extremely angry and belligerent, I find it fairly easy to just to pay him no attention and go on my way. But every now and then, he sits calmly on the bench with a brown paper bag containing a beer and rocks back and forth staring off into space. Alcoholic.

All joking aside, I know how serious this all is and I know that just because I might make the assumption that someone has a problem, they might not. Conversely, I am absolutely certain that I am in contact with people every single day that are perhaps alcoholics and I simply have no fucking clue. I think my fascination with strangers and their drinking can be attributed to a number of different things. First, the intrigue and attention I pay to the drinking of others is direct evidence of my clearly morbid and dysfunctional relationship with all things related to alcohol. Second, I think it’s perfectly natural to want to observe, contemplate, compare, and intellectualize external examples of something that I AM. I am THAT. I am that woman head banging to La Bamba. I am the woman playing the air sax at the bar. I am the homeless man rocking back and forth on the bench. And even though our circumstances are entirely different, we are the same.

Maybe the game should be called SPOT ME.

Ooooh, girl. There I am.

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….

RUNNING HALF MARATHONS WHILE HUNGOVER AND OTHER TALES OF DRUNK GLORY

Sometimes it helps me to put the embarrassing things down on paper. By saying (typing) them out loud, they lose a little bit of their edge and that cringe of shame I feel when the memories bubble back up seems to release some of its power over me. As Jean over at UnPickled says in a song she wrote/performed: I DID THAT. NOT PROUD BUT THAT WAS ME. I may not be proud BUT some of this shit is sort of fucking funny in hindsight. Funny in a terrifying Uncle-Charlie-is-shirtless-and-covered-in-baby-oil-at-the-family-barbeque sort of way.

  • That one fine Halloween where I got really drunk at home and decided to go out to a party I was invited to when I was in no shape to be going anywhere. I was so lazy about putting together a costume that I just bought a pair of scrubs from the discount store and threw on a wig and fake balloon boobs and rubbed blood all over my face and then went into Manhattan looking wrecked. I was terrified the entire night that one of my boobs would pop. Not because I was concerned about the cohesiveness of my costume but because of how obscenely terrified I am of popping ANYTHING. If people tried to give me a hug or brush up against me, I’d push them away and slur/scream at them to be careful with my tits. HEYBECARFERSOFZMYTIZZZ! When people asked me what I was dressed up as, I told them I was part of NURSES AGAINST OBAMACARE. The next morning, I was told by friends that I had ended the evening by crying for no reason and throwing my entire body into a giant pile of trash bags piled on a street corner in The West Village. I also apparently yelled a lot at the taxi driver for going too slow on the way home. I woke up with my pillow covered in fake blood and makeup. TRICK OR TREAT.
  • The one time I got really drunk at a friend’s house during Superbowl and talked a woman into giving me a very intense massage (totally non-sexual, I should add). She is sort of my superior at work and even though she was drunk, too, there has always been a wonky vibe between us ever since then. When me and the boyfriend left to go home, he had to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. Much of the ferry and train ride is totally blacked out from my memory. I do remember trying to go into the street and he had to pull me back. And I remember him getting mad and yelling at me which caused me to take off in a sprint down the street as if I were trying to lose him somehow. I just remember thinking RUN! RUN, GIRL, RUN! THIS WILL SHOW HIM HOW MUCH HE ACTUALLY CARES ABOUT YOU! RUNNNNN! It didn’t work and I have no idea what in the world I thought I was doing.
  • The one time where I was drinking with a friend at my apartment. I went to walk her down the stairs when it came time for her to leave and I ate shit (EDIT: “Ate shit” is slang for falling down. I’m adding this edit because someone was really concerned and asked me why I would have eaten shit) and fell down half the flight and landed on my ankle causing my foot to fold sideways underneath me causing instant and blinding pain. She expressed concern but I did that thing where you laugh a lot and say you are fine. I stood there talking with her for about five minutes until she finally left and I burst into tears. I crawled up the staircase on my hands and knees and went back inside the apartment. I drank a lot more, didn’t bother icing it, and woke up the next morning completely unable to walk. I missed a few days of work because I was immobile and had to crawl everywhere. I never went to the doctor to see if there was serious damage and I still get occasional pain from it.
  • The one time I got drunk at a restaurant and convinced my boyfriend to get on a very shady looking carnival ride at the festival happening up the street. It consisted of two pods independent of one another and both on giant hydraulic poles that flipped upside down and flew about 50 feet into the air. The ride made noises like it was tired and depressed and really angry that it had to be doing its job. I screamed bloody murder and my face smashed up against the ceiling of the pod because my seatbelt wasn’t on very tight (I had loosened it once the operator closed the lid of the pod over my head). I pretended it was soooo fun while I was going around and around with my head smashed like a pancake but inside I knew that this was probably how I was going to get dead. I stumbled off the ride and told everyone it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Then I ate a fried Oreo.
  • Threw an elaborate Christmas party for like 30 friends and started drinking well before they arrived. Woke up the next morning in my bed and was told that I disappeared and passed out about 1 hour into the event. Everyone wondered where I had gone. My boyfriend had to tell them I just wasn’t feeling well. And this has happened at least 2 other times that I can remember.
  • Early in my relapse, when drinking was still working okay for me and I wasn’t yet throwing up on people’s faces, I was in heavy training for a half marathon. The night before the race, I carb loaded by eating two orders of Pad Thai and by drinking several bottles of red wine. It seemed like a good idea because I was really nervous about the race and wasn’t sure if I had trained enough/properly since my drinking had started to escalate. I woke up at 4AM totally hungover and feeling miserable. I still went to the race and ran the 13.1 miles in a little over 2 hours. I CAN DO ANYTHING! SEE! DRINKING ISN’T A PROBLEM FOR ME! I STILL DID IT! On the way home, I stopped at a restaurant for brunch and proceeded to drink a Bloody Mary (five) and then got home and passed out. Forgetting to keep hydrating, I woke up later that night unable to move or walk. I somehow got to the liquor store that night and drank until I loosened up and felt like I could run another 1/2 marathon right then and there if I wanted to.

I’m not trying to dwell on the past but as the days continue to roll on by and sobriety gets better and better, flashes of these less than lovely memories keep popping up. I do that thing where I cringe and try to change the subject with myself in my head. DON’T THINK ABOUT THAT! Maybe this little post will do the trick and set these stupid memories free.

Ok. Now. If you care to share, what are some of yours? Hmm??