alcoholic

THE MOST BORING PERSON IN THE HUDSON VALLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was marvelous. 

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

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

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

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

I DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN.

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

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

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

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

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1 Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proud of you bud! You are an inspiration indeed.

I’m so unbelievably proud of you my friend

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

CONGRATULATIONS FOR EVERY ONE OF THESE 365 DAYS!!!

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

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

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

And from my boyfriend:

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

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

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

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

SQUARE PEG. ROUND HOLE.

Getting into some heavy shit lately, you guys. 

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

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

This is all good news, right? RIGHT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working diligently on getting to know myself will. 

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

This time is different. 

 

ANATOMY OF A SHITTY MORNING

Here’s how it went down:

  • Woke up tired but not in a terrible mood
  • Remembered my boss wasn’t in today and perked up a bit
  • Checked my bank account and screamed like a crazy person when I saw that my balance had dropped by $400 overnight
  • Researched transactions only to find a $400 charge at Cole Haan that wasn’t mine
  • Called bank, remained calm. They found 5 other very large transactions that were blocked but somehow this one went through. Told me the card was shut down and that I should see a provisional credit in my account within 15 minutes, and if I don’t see it I should call back. They gave me a number
  • Slightly miffed but still in control of my emotional state, I finished getting ready for work and commuted in
  • Checked bank account 2 hours later. No credit. Called number. Person said they see no evidence of my call two hours prior. Transferred to three different people. Said the word FUCK sooo many times (sorry Grandma) and lost my shit with everyone. They told me a provisional credit in 15 minutes doesn’t exist and prior rep was mistaken. They finally say they will start the claim process and that my card was shut down. Look for the provisional credit within 12 hours
  • 15 minutes later, the provisional credit that was supposed to take 12 hours shows up in my account. Hmm…
  • Office manager tells me that my boss is INDEED coming in and that he changed his mind
  • My day is ruined?

Nah. It might feel like it now but I’ll breathe and things will settle. 

I remember bad mornings before I was an active alcoholic. They were annoying and stressful, but they didn’t carry the same doomsday/burn the shit to the ground/everything is fucked tone that they now have now that I’m through the thick of it and back in recovery. It’s amazing to me that my brain dives so deeply into complete despair and panic when something bad or stressful happens. I know everyone has shitty days and that it’s just part of life, but I realize and acknowledge that the level of anxiety and the severity of my mood shift when these instances occur is just not “normal”. Or maybe the feelings are totally normal but they just feel so abnormal and extra-terrifying because I’m not used to feeling them? I know there is a major disconnect between what I feel and what I’m supposed to be feeling because I run these things by my boyfriend and he’ll tell me if it sounds like irrational overreaction or a normal response. I’ll tell him what happened and tell him exactly what is going on inside of me and ask him if my reaction is normal or if it’s a recovering alcoholic reaction. Because sometimes I can’t tell what is REAL and what is a symptom of my continued recovery. Is this anxiety normal-human-being-I’m-alive anxiety, or is it girl-you-still-trippin’-and-got-the-PAWS anxiety? I don’t know sometimes. And that REAL or NOT REAL thing totally fucks with me. I don’t take boyfriend’s feedback as gospel, but it does help to hear from someone who is a bit more grounded.

And what about the bad days when I was still drinking? TOTALLY different kind of terror. The series of events above would have completely shattered me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that while I was at my worst, the thought of having to handle a situation like this would have paralyzed me completely. Bank card fraud would have elicited the same reaction in me that would have occurred if an ax murder started trying to break down the front door of my house. I would get the same fight or flight response and it felt like my body and mind were preparing for death. I would have still handled it back then, but I would have been shaking. I would have been scared to talk to the person on the phone. My voice would be quivering. I would feel completely destroyed and ready to self-destruct. And then I would drink. Maybe not right away. I would hold the feelings down as best as I possibly could until it was feasible to just get drunk and not think about them anymore. And then the whole situation with the bank would have become much less threatening and I would think, “What was the big deal?? See? Everything is okay now.” Until the next morning would come and something even more shitty would happen. Alcohol is tricky like that.

Going on five months and I feel exponentially better and more healthy than I did before, but I still struggle with real life situations that offer challenges or complications. I have to very deliberately stop myself when the panic sets in and ask the question: IS THIS REAL or IS THIS MY HEAD NOT QUITE SYNCHING WITH REALITY YET?

IT’S YOUR PARTY AND I’LL…

Missing a friend’s birthday party tonight and feeling pretty shitty about it. It starts at 9:30PM and is being held at a bar and she’s booked a DJ. The old me (stupid drunk asshole) would have jumped at the opportunity to go. I would have pre-gamed before so I felt socially prepared to mingle and would then arrive and very quickly pour an entire bottle of vodka down my throat. I would have danced even though I would have looked ridiculous. I would have talked to strangers and hatched elaborate plans with them to become the best of friends. FIND ME ON FACEBOOK! I’d talk about collaborating on art projects with people and completely not mean it or forget about it the next morning. And the worst part about it? I’d be at the friend’s birthday part for all the wrong reasons. I’d be there because I wanted to be drunk. That would be my priority. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have cared about or loved the friend, but alcohol was always and forever number one.

Toward the beginning of my recovery I was declining all invitations to do anything remotely social for a few different reasons. First, I was afraid that I would drink. Being around friends who are very merrily imbibing is a recipe for disaster in the beginning. I would also decline the invites because the social anxiety that I would feel without alcohol in my system was just too much for me to handle at the time.

This particular invitation decline has troubled me a little bit. I said no like I typically do, almost automatically and without thought. But the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to question whether or not I’m falling into a pattern of unnecessary isolation.

I can tell you without any doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would NOT drink if I were to go to the party tonight. It just wouldn’t happen. First, everyone knows that I’m a drunk in recovery. I told them all. And I did that specifically for accountability and because I’m no longer ashamed of it. Second, I would be with my boyfriend who absolutely would NOT allow me to consume alcohol. He’d probably body slam me and pull my hair and scream a lot.

So why am I still refusing to attend functions if I am so certain that I would not drink? Anxiety. I don’t want to deal with that awkward and uncomfortable feeling that bubbles up when it’s time to converse with other people about who I am and what I do. I know that if I absolutely had to, I could. I wouldn’t die. I might say ridiculous things. I might be caught off guard and not listen appropriately. One time someone asked me how my job was going and I said, “YES.” I might make a complete ass out of myself and sweat and feel totally out of place… but I wouldn’t drink.

In very early sobriety, I dealt with so many uncomfortable emotions and feelings that it was perfectly acceptable to stay miles away from any kind of social function. Even if it were going to be an alcohol free event, it makes perfect sense for an addict in early recovery to avoid those feelings of imagined inadequacy and anxiety. The need to protect your headspace from any kind of unnecessary trauma and stress is just as important as avoiding booze. 

But when is it time to venture out? When am I ready to bite the bullet and accept the fact that I might feel shy or awkward but it’s my friend’s birthday and I should be there? When am I crossing the line from a valid practice of self-preservation in sobriety to an unhealthy and potentially harmful practice of fear avoidance and self-imposed isolation? Put simply, when am I ready to force myself into situations where the only fear is OMG I MIGHT FEEL WEIRD.

Don’t get me wrong. If I had any inkling of a concern about my ability to remain sober in a social setting, I wouldn’t be the least bit conflicted. But as I mentioned, today I am secure in my very strong belief that I have the tools to stay clean and that a relapse would take much more than me walking into a bar to drop off a gift, eat some cake, and say a few hellos. But how many months, years, am I going to keep myself locked up?

I think my biggest concern is that by excessively avoiding uncomfortable situations, I might end up in a dysfunctional pattern where the very tools I’m using to protect my sobriety end up stunting me even further in terms of relationship development and social skills. Maybe I need to feel the awkwardness a few times before it becomes less awkward?

There are some specific types of situations where I’m able to manage fairly well. Business meetings, for example. Last night I met with a few friends about an upcoming production of mine. The purpose of the meet up was to talk shop and start making plans for the formation of a band that is going to play in the show. If you insert purpose and intent into a meeting, somehow my brain switches gears and I’m no longer overly concerned about what I’m saying or how the meeting is going to play out. We were also seated at dinner which also seems to calm my nerves a bit. There is an activity happening. We are collectively consuming something (food) and the pressures to perform socially aren’t as urgent.

What it boils down to, I think, is that I’m still extremely insecure and in the process of relearning how to just BE. And I think the only way to really start to work out these sober muscles is to get out there into situations that perhaps I’m not entirely comfortable with. Still, the questions remain: When am I ready to do that? How do I know if I’m unnecessarily isolating? Am I protecting my sobriety or am I protecting my fear of pain and discomfort?

The conclusion is that I’m not going tonight because I don’t have the answers to these questions yet. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m getting to the point where I really need to grow up, be a big boy, and go sing happy fucking birthday.

IF I STARTED DRINKING AGAIN I WOULDN’T…

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

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

So. If I were to start drinking again…

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

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

  • WE CAN SOBER VACATION

    I’m back from Cape Cod. I am EXHAUSTED. So I’m going to post but I refuse to take responsibility for typos and grammar shit so if misuse of commas makes you crazy, it’s probably best of you close your browser now and call Michelle, your therapist. Tell her I say HEY.

    I think back to all of the various trips I’ve taken in the past and I can’t come up with one memory of me returning home feeling rested and renewed. There is so much stress that comes along with traveling and I have a really hard time letting go of it. Stupid stuff like WHAT IF THE CAR RENTAL PLACE DOESN’T LET ME HAVE A CAR AND TELLS ME TO GO FUCK MYSELF?! or WHAT IF THE TSA FINDS TONS OF GUNS AND HEROIN IN MY CARRY ON BAG WHEN I GO THROUGH SECURITY!?!?!

    It probably doesn’t help that I tend to not be able to sleep the night before leaving for a trip so I start off exhausted and then that exhaustion breeds more exhaustion and each day gets progressively more and more exhausting until I’m delusional and listening to Garth Brooks on the way to Provincetown, waxing poetically about the glory days of 90’s country music. That happened. And I loved it.

    So. We woke up Saturday morning EXHAUSTED from packing shit into a suitcase the night before. Then we paid a car service to come and pick us up to drive us to the place where we would pay for another car to drive from New York City to Cape Cod. Once behind the wheel of a vehicle after taking public transportation for so long, you really begin to wish you had your own car again. For those that don’t live in a large metropolitan area where owning a car makes absolutely no sense, you basically end up existing in a bubble and take trains and busses only to places that are within close proximity to your house. It’s a blissful dream for an alcoholic because you don’t have to worry about DUI’s or getting behind the wheel of a car. You can get anywhere and everywhere with a Metrocard. Suddenly having the freedom to fly down the road and stop where you want is absolutely INCREDIBLE. You suddenly want to go EVERYWHERE. You see a TJ Maxx off the highway and say something stupid like OMG TJ MAXX! I NEED UNDERWEAR AND SLIGHTLY IMPERFECT PANTYHOSE and then veer off at the next exit grinning from ear to ear.

    Traffic was horrible. It took us 8 hours when it should have only taken 4. My little puppy dog got car sick and started yakking all over the place but then calmed down about halfway there. We got to the house earlier than our friends and waited for them to arrive. Once they did, we spent some time visiting and unpacking and settling in before leaving for dinner.

    On the way to the restaurant, boyfriend told me that while I was in the bedroom getting situated, one of the friends had asked him about drinking again and wanted to make sure that I was comfortable if they were to have a glass of wine at dinner, etc. The drinking thing was already addressed weeks before the trip happened so I was a bit surprised that it was brought up again. Always having my back, the boyfriend assured me that he wasn’t trying to cause drama but thought it was important that I know that there was apparently still some apprehension on their part about what I was and wasn’t comfortable with. So as soon as we sat down at the table, I immediately brought it up with the intent of getting it out of the way as soon as possible so it didn’t become a thing. I told them that they are free to do as they please and that I’m totally fine. Dinner proceeded as planned and nothing was awkward about it. Nobody drank but I didn’t really expect them to since they had their two young children with them and were driving. I figured they would kick back with a cocktail later that night once we all got back to the rental house.

    We went miniature golfing after dinner. The six year old girl was a major cheater! I tease. But seriously. She was such a cheater. After golfing, it was off to eat hot fudge sundaes. Then back to the house for the night. I braced myself and was prepared to have my seltzer water while they got buzzed at home. I was confident that I’d be able to hold my own and enjoy my friends regardless of what they were doing in terms of beverages. I was totally ready. And then something funny happened: No one drank.

    In fact, no one drank the entire time we were there. The rest of the trip marched on by. We took the dog to the beach. We went to Provincetown and did some shopping. We ate out several times. And we hung out at the house together. But somehow, no one swung by the liquor store. No one cracked open a beer. No one had ANYTHING. And it sort of pissed me off. I’m not going to lie. It made me self-conscious. It made me feel like there was some sort of spotlight on me and my sobriety. And it made me feel guilty and worried that I was causing other people to hold back and not enjoy their time the way they wanted to.

    I don’t know if any of that is true. It probably isn’t. The other couple was staying on for five more days once we left so maybe they figured there was plenty of time for drinks. When I look at the schedules we kept, drinking didn’t really seem to fit in anyway. We were out and about a lot with the children and the dog. We got home late and everyone seemed ready for bed at fairly early hours. It would be very easy for me to just chalk it all up to the fact that they are just normies. They don’t need it or think about it or obsess over it. But I couldn’t help but think to myself that if it were me on vacation and I wasn’t an alcoholic, I would be drinking CONSTANTLY. But that’s the problem. And it’s not one that they seem to have.

    I think for my own edification and to help me understand this a little better, I’d love to be able to ask them at some point down the road exactly what they were thinking, if anything, while we were there. I have no idea how my openness about my recovery impacts other people. I suppose time will tell and we shall see if similar invites come up.

    They were absolutely wonderful, though. They didn’t seem the least bit put off or annoyed. And I’d really like to think that it just was a complete non-issue. But there is a small part of me that worries that I was being patronized at the expense of their own enjoyment and that there were stifled feelings of resentment that maybe I couldn’t sense. Then again, isn’t that just being thoughtful and considerate of your friends and their needs? Maybe that’s what they were doing?

    I think the best thing to do at this point is to just accept the trip for what it was: A good time with good friends that left me exhausted. There is no need for me to strain myself trying to get inside the heads of others because even if I could, I have no control or power over their feelings or thoughts.

    The trip also made me realize how important structure and schedule and routine are to me at this point in my recovery. My head does weird things when there is that much free time. I absolutely have no regrets but it was much more emotionally and mentally draining than I thought it was going to be and I think I’ll wait a while longer before I take another.

    Lastly, I want to mention this restaurant I went to called Not Your Average Joes. They had a ZERO PROOF drink menu that was a collection of specialty, fancy non-alcoholic mocktails. It was so fucking awesome to have options other than Diet Coke, iced tea, and water. Look!

     photo