drinking

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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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.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING

The goddamned holidays are back, you guys, and I’m actually pretty excited this time around. I’m going to be hopping on a plane with my puppy dog to fly across the country to my home state of Arizona where the people are absolutely fucking bonkers and the government hates gay people and Hispanics. I’m a little bit of both, so returning to the place from which I fled is always a bittersweet event. Fortunately, gay marriage was just legalized in The Grand Canyon State so progress is being made. Politics aside, I am very much looking forward to the week-long trip during which I will be able to spend some quality time with my fam-fam.

At this very time last year, I was in a state of anticipatory dread over the impending return home. I would monitor the calendar daily and attempt to pick the most appropriate day to stop drinking in order to dry out just enough to be able to carry on a conversation without looking and sounding like a freak. My family and friends were all under the assumption that I was still sober after having started my first go at recovery in 2005. For me, a return to Phoenix didn’t mean resolving to make every effort to moderate. It meant complete abstinence. It was not a situation in which I could drink without blowing my cover. I would be dependent on my family for transportation and housing. Even if I weren’t, they surely would be able to identify the telltale signs that I was using again. So, for years I boarded the plane hungover (the attempts to sober up a bit before leaving never worked) and flew the six hours to the dry, dry booze-free desert. I would white knuckle it the entire time and long for the moment when mom would return me to the airport for my flight back to New York where I would immediately stop for a vodka soda once clearing security.

Last Christmas was different. I was unable to remain sober during that visit despite all of the possible negative consequences that could befall me. It was a very real and scary manifestation of how my drinking had progressed over the course of six years. It began when I arrived at JFK before my departure. Already hungover, I stopped for beers. The thought crossed my mind that my mother might be able to smell it on me when she picked me up in Phoenix, but I dismissed those concerns quickly once the warm buzz began to set in. And then the deafening obsession began to howl.

I purposefully neglected to purchase Christmas presents prior to leaving New York with the idea that I would be able to sneak away and do some “shopping” at nighttime when mom was in for the evening. After some minor questioning about why I didn’t come prepared, the keys were handed over and I went about my merry way. The most inconvenient thing about the whole plan was that I actually had to go fucking Christmas shopping. I hastily moved through big box stores giving little thought or consideration to the items I was choosing for those that I supposedly cared for the most in life. Gift cards. Socks. Scented candle. Tampons. Ho, ho, ho.

I threw the bags filled with manipulative deceit and tinsel into the trunk of the SUV, drove to the nearest grocery store, and walked toward the liquor and wine section. I avoided the liquor store and opted for a grocery so I could quickly run to produce section and pretend to be examining an avocado if I happened to see someone I knew. Liquor stores have no avocados to hide behind.

I decided against hard alcohol because the smell was too easily identifiable. I knew mom had poured herself a glass of wine earlier in the evening (just one). WINE. I hate wine but… She won’t be able to smell it if she’s been drinking it herself. I’m a fucking genius! Wine it was. But the bottles are so big. And loud. I’ll need more than one and they will surely clank against one another in my bags of very sad presents. Wait. What’s this?! Wine inside of small cardboard boxes?! With twist-off tops?! Easily collapsible containers that I can smash down and hide the empties in my suitcase in my bedroom?! PERFECT. I’ll take ten.

I brought the bag of wine cartons to the vehicle and put them on the passenger seat next me.

WHAT AM I DOING?

I got back out and went to the trunk, retrieving one of the depressing bags of obligatory gifts. I put it in the front seat along with the wine cartons. I took the wine cartons out, one by one, and shoved them in with the gifts so I could easily sneak them into the house. I drove home with my hand resting atop my brilliant plan which sat next to me whispering sweet nothings into my ear. DRINK ME. I’M WINE. I’M CUTE! I would get home, walk in the door, announce that I had presents to wrap, and disappear to do so. And drink. Then I’d slink from the bedroom and into the bathroom thinking I was finished imbibing for the night, and I would brush my teeth. I’d then return to the room and decide that I wasn’t done. I’d drink another box of wine. Then back to the bathroom to re-brush. And back and forth several times.

But before I would do all of the above, I pulled the SUV over to the side of the road and turned off the engine. I was about 30 feet from the house, 30 feet from being able to easily start my evening of isolation as planned. But it wasn’t soon enough. I wasn’t close enough. Without any thought process preceding the action, I reached into the bag, pulled out a box of wine, twisted the top. CHUG. CHUG. CHUG. Ahhhhhh. I put the empty back into the bag. I pulled out another, twisted the top. CHUG. CHUG. CHUG. Ahhhhh. Ok. Now I’m ready to go inside and start drinking.

I started the engine and drove the remaining 30 feet to the curb in front of the house. As I unloaded my gifts, a cop car drove by very slowly apparently on patrol. He waved. I waved back. He drove away.

I did my wine thing that night, felt like shit the next morning, and spent the rest of the trip filled with resentment and anger. I resented the fact that I couldn’t repeat the process the following night. I resented the fact that my mother would have a glass of wine here and there even though she asked if it would bother me and I said no. I was angry that I couldn’t be a big fat fucking alcoholic and let it all hang out. As a result, I wasn’t present. I missed the one opportunity I have each year to connect with my loved ones. I missed the entire thing.

With 8 months of sobriety under my belt, this year will be different. It has to be.

Looking forward to loving, feeling, embracing, and soaking up every little bit of joy that I possibly can.

OUR TRUE INDEPENDENCE DAY

On May 6th, 2012, I developed a nasty tooth abscess overnight and woke up in the morning with my face doing its best impression of a fucking beach ball. The boyfriend and I had gone out for dinner the night before with a few friends and I had done it up pretty hardcore. Having pre-gamed before leaving the house, the many carafes of wine at the Greek restaurant down the street did a number on me and instead of OPA!, I was screaming something more along the lines of SDLJKFHHGS. At this point in my drinking career, I had been heavily consuming alcohol since October 2008 which marked the end of my three years of previous sobriety.

As I began to come out of my stupor early Sunday morning, the pain was excruciating. I audibly began moaning and went to the bathroom and stared in horror at myself. Not only did I have one of the worst hangovers I have ever experienced, it felt as if someone were driving a knife into the side of my head. I knew something was terribly wrong but I returned to bed like I always did and rocked myself back and forth trying to will away the pain and suffering. My boyfriend feverishly searched the internet on his phone for directions regarding what we should do. The obvious answer was to go to the dentist but it was Sunday and there were none nearby that were open. The emergency dental places in the city said to either come all the way in OR go to an urgent care/emergency room so they could at least treat the infection. He tried desperately to get me to get up, get dressed, and go. I refused. For hours I lay there in agony because the hangover was so paralyzing that going anywhere at that moment seemed absolutely impossible. I was also terrified about what else the physicians might find out about me and what my boyfriend might be able to deduce from their examination and response to my condition. He was furious with me and after loitering around the gates of Hell for what seemed like eternity, I finally got up and put on clothes.

Somehow I made it to the urgent care and they proceeded to do a normal check up. The doctor and nurse made no effort to hide their terror and seemed borderline disgusted by me. The tooth, which I knew was going to eventually give me problems, was massively infected. My blood pressure was dangerously high. So high that when the nurse took the reading, she looked like she was on a really scary rollercoaster with the ghost of Whitney Houston. She took it FIVE times to confirm the reading and immediately got the doctor. They gave me medication and made me sit still for a long while until it came down. They asked if I drank. I told them not really. They gave me a look that said, “GIRL, PLEASE.” I’m certain I still smelled like shitty bar floor from the night before. They weren’t well equipped to do anything more than triage my situation and I left with a prescription for antibiotics, Percocet, and blood pressure medication. They told me to get in to see a dentist and primary care physician immediately. Which I didn’t do.

Once home, I took a few of the pain pills along with the antibiotics, did a lot of crying, and secretly vowed to get sober because I knew that all of my problems and my inability to take care of myself and my health were a direct result of my disease. Even then, I knew I was an alcoholic. I had spent enough time in recovery previously to not have any delusions about what was actually going on.

I coasted through the first week of “sobriety” high as a kite on pain killers and the infection subsided thanks to the antibiotics. I was so fucking proud of myself that I wasn’t drinking alcohol as I sat glassy eyed on the couch eating pudding and staring at my belly button while in a glorious opioid wonderland. And then the prescription ran out. Luckily, the alcohol withdrawals had already passed for the most part and I hadn’t been on the painkillers long enough to develop a dependency. But I suddenly found myself ACTUALLY dry and not at all happy about it.

Somehow I made it through two entire months without alcohol. I wasn’t doing any work whatsoever on the actual problem. I wasn’t blogging, I wasn’t going to meetings, and I wasn’t touching base with others to remain accountable. I thought I could solve every problem I had by simply keeping alcohol from going down my throat. Even though I had gone through the recovery process before and knew what “dry drunk” meant, I had entirely forgotten how sobriety actually worked. Relapse DOES erase a great deal of visceral knowledge. You can know something in your head but you do forget what that knowledge feels like in your body and in action. I thought I was doing amazingly. I was going to the gym, I was dropping some weight, my blood pressure readings were going down, and I didn’t feel hungover all of the time.

And then it was the morning of July 4th and I was sitting with my boyfriend in our living room feeling good and clear headed and I said, “Let’s make some drinks and celebrate!” He agreed. You’ve got to realize that he had no idea that I was an alcoholic or perhaps didn’t fully comprehend what that meant in the first place. I’m sure he knew my drinking was weird sometimes but I don’t think he had the insight to know that something needed to change. He just thought that I had some health issues and I was being responsible and cutting back.

We made margaritas, watched movies, ate badly, and smoked cigarettes on the front stoop. I distinctly remember sitting there thinking to myself THIS DOESN’T FEEL GOOD. THIS DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT. THIS ISN’T MAKING ME HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I’M GOING TO DIE SOON. I’M GOING TO DIE.

Completely terrified that it was back inside of me, I proceeded to drink even more. That terror turned back into apathy. And I stayed drunk for almost another TWO YEARS before celebrating my TRUE independence day of April 14th, 2014.

I don’t consider this instance a relapse. My relapse started in 2008 when THE SIX YEAR HANGOVER began. This was a blip. This was textbook example of getting dry, not getting sober. I stopped drinking out of an immediate and pressing fear for my health but I never stopped with the intent of stopping forever. My fucked up logic assured me that I would just lay off until my health improved and then I would start back up drinking NORMALLY rather than alcoholically. Over the past 80 days, I look back at those two months without alcohol and desperately wish those months could have been these 80 days and that I would be two years sober now. But our stories have a way of writing themselves sometimes. Not even direct evidence that I could stroke out or have a heart attack at the age of THIRTY was enough to get me back in the program for good. And that’s terrifying to me. Terrifying enough to hold you all close and keep going.

This Friday, I plan on celebrating myself and my escape and independence from a monster like none other. And I hope you’ll do the same.

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

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

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

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

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

“No, not really, “ I replied to I.

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

Some takeaways here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW TO DANCE TO LADY GAGA AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN SOBER

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Last night was brilliantly fantastic. AND I REMEMBER IT.

As mentioned, I celebrated 30 days of sobriety by doing something that would normally have been an incredibly boozy affair for me. About two weeks ago and only a few weeks into recovery, I impulsively traded my right eye and part of my damaged liver for a pair of Lady Gaga tickets at Madison Square Garden. I immediately began to regret the purchase and worried that I was taking on something excessively massive entirely too soon. But that’s me. I’m always going big or going home and I recognize that this is something I need to keep in check as it could land me into a tough spot if I’m not careful.

I spent the past few weeks preparing, panicking, and planning out the evening with my boyfriend who happily agreed to stay sober with me. He’s been pretty great. I scheduled a late start today at work because I knew I’d be getting home at an obscene hour and didn’t want lack of sleep to jeopardize my wellbeing and state of mind. I find it pretty funny that I purposefully arranged to come in late because of sleep concerns. The old drunk me wouldn’t have bothered. I would have drank my ass off all night and called in sick the next day, completely disregarding consequences. I love that I’m actively protecting my mental and physical health now.

The show was to start at 8PM so I left work around 6PM and began to walk to the arena area. It took about 25 minutes and I could have taken the train but this was all part of my plan. I listened to some calming music and took my time. I did some breathing and took in the sights and sounds of the city and really went inside of myself. As soon as I was at an optimal place mentally and everything seemed perfectly peaceful, the smell of dog shit and soggy garbage flooded my nose. Ahhh, New York City. My peacefulness dropped from an 8 to a 5 and my face contorted and I started breathing out of my mouth and walked faster to get to a cleaner patch of air. The smell melted away and I got back to my happy place fairly quickly. It’s going to take more than poo and decomposition to ruin my night.

I arrived at the Thai restaurant that we had decided on. Once seated, the waitress excitedly told us about their Happy Hour. You guys. All of their cocktails were FIVE FUCKING DOLLARS. That’s UNHEARD of in this city. Why didn’t I know about this place back when I was being a stupid drunk asshole? The boyfriend asked for a Thai Iced Tea and I asked for the same. As the waitress walked away, I got her attention and she returned to the table.

“In my Thai Iced Tea, please don’t put any liquor. No alcohol in it. I have a drinking problem,” I blurted a little too loudly catching the attention of the patrons next to us. Probably could have handled this a little smoother. I’ve been to Thai restaurants where they have a Thai Iced Tea that’s akin to a Long Island Iced Tea and I didn’t want to take any chances.

“No alcohol in Thai Iced Tea anyway so no worry,” the waitress stuttered awkwardly while seeming VERY uncomfortable.

The teas came and I went on and on about how delicious they were. AND THEY WERE! I don’t think I’ve ever been so over the moon for a beverage without alcohol and was amazed at how happy something so simple was making me. We had a delicious meal and talked about the past month and how much things have started to change already. I expressed some apprehension and fear about the concert and that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to have a good time without being stupid in the head. He reassured me that it would be fantastic and that there was nothing to worry about.

We walked around the corner to The Garden and went through security where they searched my bag and scanned me with a metal detector. This always makes me really nervous and I start to panic. WHAT IF THEY FIND MY HAND GUN AND 40 BAGS OF HEROIN?! I’ve never owned a hand gun and have never been in possession of heroin but I still worry that they might find it. It’s totally irrational and something that I can laugh about after the fact but I have such a deep rooted fear about getting in trouble with the law that it manifests itself in really ridiculous ways. I was on the train a few weeks ago and cops occasionally board a train car with a bomb/drug sniffing dog. The dog was standing right next to me and I clutched my bag tight. WHAT IF I ACCIDENTALLY RUBBED UP AGAINST SOME MARIJUANA WITH MY BAG AND THE DOG WILL SMELL IT AND THEN BITE MY FACE?!?

The array of people at the concert was so varied and diverse. Old, young, gay, straight, etc. It was so beautiful. Parents with their kids. Older women in their golden years with neon glow in the dark necklaces. Say what you want about Miss Gaga but she really brings people together to celebrate. We started walking towards the entrance to our section and stopped to purchase some Diet Coke’s and after seeing the price of said Cokes, I was pretty disappointed they didn’t come with a magic pony. There were drunk people wandering about being bombastic as expected. There were others that seemed to be altered by something else. But you won’t believe what I’m about to tell you next: THERE WERE SOBER PEOPLE, TOO! Now, I can’t 100% confirm that they were sober but they were certainly drinking sodas and water and eating hot dogs and acting normal and not falling down.

We got to our seats and sat there for about an hour and half before Gaga finally went on. During this time I would have normally been making trips to the “bathroom” where I would certainly stop at the bar to take whiskey shots. I might return with a beer for him and one for me but would never mention the sneaks I was making to get myself where I wanted to be. Instead, I got to sit comfortably and enjoy the opening act. Well, maybe not enjoy. The opener was a cartoon Japanese girl. Literally. Japan created a pop star that is digital and performs on screens. Not exactly my thing but whatever. I was just having fun being there and people watching and soaking in the energy.

Gaga rose from the floor like a goddess and rocked the house as expected. I found dancing to be a little strange at first but soon settled in and had a wonderful time. There were moments where I thought about alcohol and wondered if I’d be enjoying myself more if I were to have had some drinks. The truth is, I probably would have THOUGHT I was enjoying it more but the reality of the situation would be much different. I would have been disconnected and consumed with the stresses of figuring out how to get back to the bar to get more to drink without missing the show. I would have been watching it hazily and would be hard pressed to recall details about her performance or how it made me feel. I would have felt like shit this morning instead of peacefully treating myself to a few hours of extra sleep and self-care. And I would have had to come here and tell all of you that I fucked up and had to start over. NONE of that seems appealing. So give me sober and slightly awkward over relapse any day.  

I feel inspired and victorious. I feel like celebrating. And because a flute of sparkling wine is the first thing that popped into my head when I just typed the word ‘celebrating’, I know that there is more work to be done.  

 

CRYING IN DRESSING ROOMS, KRUMPING WITH STRANGERS

Hi everyone. How the fuck are you? I’m okay. Yeah, that’s right. Just okay. Okay? It’s totally okay to just be okay, I guess. That’s what “they” tell you. I don’t know who I’m referring to when I say “they” but regardless of who “they” are, they do actually say that. Normal people are probably just OKAY a lot of the time. And even though I’m getting better at doing shit like sitting down and reading a book, after about an hour I am back to the races and wanting something amazing to happen like… having a shot of vodka. Still, I don’t. And I sit fitfully on the middle ground and try to learn what just existing feels like. We alcoholics are used to extremes and anything other than a 1 or a 10 feels unbearably mundane.
 
It seems like I have been twenty something days sober for years and I find myself in this very bizarre and unsettling place of imperceptible progress. I would go so far as to say that I am entirely stagnant at the moment but I know this isn’t the case and even though I’m not seeing or feeling the very obvious signs of a mind in recovery, I know things are changing for the better. Patience just isn’t my thing but I’m learning to be patient and that learning process also takes patience and sometimes it’s all just pure insanity and I need to scream.
 
This muddy and less than perfect state I’m currently in is still MUCH better than where I used to be on a Monday morning: Hungover, head pounding, dizzy, confused, unable to get work done, etc. I realize this. I keep reminding myself of this.
 
This weekend was fucking WEIRD. I spent all day Saturday and half the day Sunday trying to find the motivation to go into the city to buy some clothes. Spring is quickly starting to shift to summer and I’m not prepared for it AT ALL. For those who have never experienced it, a New York City summer basically feels like the underside of Lucifer’s hairy ball sack. It’s very hot, very wet, and smells like funky testicle cheese. You can’t go anywhere at all without developing awful titty pit sweat and your ass crack turns to swampland. It’s really cute and I don’t care how gorgeous you are, you WILL end up looking and smelling like kimchi at some point.
 
Shopping is not an easy thing for me. It never has been. For whatever reason, having to shop during times of necessity has always induced variable levels of anxiety. Casual shopping for no specific reason is a different story. But if I NEED something, forget it. Total panic. During my nearly six years of excess and drunkenness, I have admittedly gained some weight so my clothing options are really very scarce and so my need for clothing is currently pretty severe.
 
I delayed and eventually postponed on Saturday, opting instead to be lazy after hitting the gym and dropping off my laundry to be washed. On Sunday, I sat around drinking coffee and worked myself into a really bad state but eventually forced myself out the door. I listened to a Bubble Hour episode on the way. Then things got crazy.
 
I was walking down 6th Avenue toward the first store I was going to visit. In front of me was a beautiful black woman with a very big afro. She was wearing a cool and flowing summer dress. She was strutting with such confidence and I was mesmerized for a moment. Suddenly and out of nowhere, a bird (I think a sparrow) came swooping down and landed in her hair. Already on edge and feeling very strange, this played out in slow motion as if I were in an altered state. The people around me noticed as well and several of us started screaming at the same time so the words, “There is a bird in your hair!” became impossible to decipher. We just looked like a group of nut cases. The black woman turned around and started screaming along with the us. She didn’t know why she was screaming but she knew she better scream, too. Finally she heard one of the screaming people alert her to the bird on her head and she immediately began swatting herself and the bird flew off and sort of fluttered and hovered between her and the group of us screaming. Everyone started screaming more because now we were having to deal with the flapping wings of this creature in our faces. Everyone was convulsing and swatting and to a passing car, I’m sure we looked like a group of people krumping on the sidewalk. The bird flew away, everyone calmed down, and then we all started laughing. We walked down the sidewalk together giggling and replaying the story verbally between one another and then after a few blocks of bonding with perfect strangers, everyone went their own way. It felt good to laugh.
 
About an hour later, I was sitting half naked in a dressing room crying. Nothing fit. I felt very insecure and disgusted with myself physically. I put my headphones in and listened to music. I sat in that dressing room doing nothing for about twenty minutes. I figured if the store had a problem with it, they’d knock. No one did. I finally emerged, paid for a pair of pants that I wasn’t crazy about but fit okay enough to buy, and went back outside.
 
I ducked down a less busy street. I was deflated and drained. I walked past a nondescript Irish pub. They had the windows open and everyone at the bar was laughing and having a good time. I stopped for a moment and looked in and thought, “I could walk in there, sit down, order a shot of whiskey and a Blue Moon, and no one would know.” I stepped through it and imagined the slow burn of the liquor going down my throat. I recreated the soothing warmth I would feel as the alcohol hit my blood stream. I tasted the crisp and refreshing tingle of the citrusy beer and how nice it would be to chew on the orange garnish hanging over the rim. I would feel content and calm. Happy even. I would read Facebook status updates, comment more freely on people’s posts, glance up at the TV every now and then, listen to conversations of people nearby, possibly strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. I would have a NORMAL Sunday and I would be happy. For those few moments, I would feel content. But we all know how this story ends. I would have left the bar, bought more booze to take home, and would have proceeded turning those feelings of contented bliss into chaos and drunken oblivion.
 
I wish I could have those starting points and leave the rest. I wish I could linger in those moments where you are just warm enough to be happy and appreciative but not wasted. And even though I know that’s all over for me, I think I’m still mourning the loss. I haven’t had the funeral. I’m still at the wake.
 
I walked past the pub and started towards home.
 
I really would have liked to have emerged from this experience with more to show for it and the ability to tell you all that my anxiety over clothing shopping was totally unfounded. But my anxiety was entirely justified. Things did suck and they weren’t fun and it was hard and it made me cry and it made me mad and I wanted to crawl into a corner and drink over it. BUT I DIDN’T . I experienced all of those things for what they were. I went THROUGH that. Not around or under or over it. But THROUGH it.
 
This four hour process yielded ONE FUCKING PAIR OF PANTS. And one more day sober. And that’s okay. That’s enough. 
 
PS. I was trying to find a good analogy for the bird in the black lady’s hair but…. that was just a bird in a black lady’s hair.