sober

TARTAR SAUCE AND NICORETTE

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

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

My phone rang and I answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We?? Who is we?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh. Cool.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shit.

I’M NOT OPRAH BUT I HAVE FAVORITE THINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope everyone has a great day!

 

HIGH ON ALCOHOL

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

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

TIME TO PLAY SPOT THE ALCOHOLIC!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe the game should be called SPOT ME.

Ooooh, girl. There I am.

I COULD HAVE RELAPSED MONDAY

When I left the dentist’s office on Monday, I suddenly found myself sitting in a fairly dangerous combination of emotional states. I was feeling extreme ELATION (that is was over and that I was brave) and TERROR (that it was about to start hurting like a motherfucker once the anesthetic wore off). I felt like I should be celebrating (YAY, COURAGE!) and also girding my loins for the inevitable onslaught of pain that surely was just around the corner. I deserved lollipops. I deserved parades……  I deserved vodka.

The thought entered my mind without any active participation on my part. In a split second, the entire process flashed through my head like a film in fast forward: Me in the liquor store and then me at home with a glass full and then me dicking around aimlessly on the internet until I passed out. It was the middle of the day and no one was home. No one would know. I’d have plenty of time to get myself in working order and shower and flood my mouth with Listerine to cover one antiseptic smell with another.

SHUT UP, STUPID FUCKING IDIOT. I said this under my breath and pushed the thought back out of me. In total, the entire rapid fire thought process probably lasted no more than 2 seconds. It never turned into a real craving. My mouth didn’t water. I didn’t feel the rush of the recreated warmth that your body can so easily reproduce if you think too long about swallowing liquor. That feeling I got just now as I typed this out. That burn and momentary hug. How frightening that my mind can make that feeling happen without a drink.

So, after I cussed myself out on the street, I went to the drugstore, got some extra gauze and some treats that I could eat, and went home where I rested and took care of myself like a human being who just had a tooth ripped out should.

Thoughts like these flicker in and out of focus from time to time. Towards the beginning, they happened regularly and I managed them by checking in with other alcoholics, immediately binge listening to recovery podcasts, or hopping online and reading old posts from sobriety bloggers just like you might be doing right now. As time has gone on, the thoughts have become fewer and further between and are easily quieted by a swift kick to my own ass through internalized self-talk. Sometimes even OUTLOUD if I’m really taken aback at my brain’s stupidity. And I am very fortunate that up to this point, I’ve never really had a close call where such thoughts ran the risk of turning themselves into a relapse.

Monday was no different and I knew I had no intention of drinking. And I didn’t drink. But in hindsight, there is something a little more unsettling about the chain of thoughts I experienced when leaving the dentist when compared to other random drinking thoughts I’ve had in the past. Usually, drinking brain farts seem to be random for me. They are rarely motivated by anything specific. But these thoughts were connected to a traumatic event. Something had just happened that was, for me, extraordinarily stressful and frightening. And for a split second I not only considered alcohol as a solution and a reward, but I also considered myself DESERVING of getting drunk because of what I had just experienced. IT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO when something hard just happened. It’s how people cope. And you are no different. That was scary, you are about to be hurt, and you overcame fear. So go be like everyone else and claim your reward.

A dentist appointment and tooth extraction are not anywhere near the worst I will ever experience. But still, here were the thoughts of self-medicating and using my old friend to cope. It got me thinking about my preparedness for life events that could… will… eventually come my way. Relationships can end. People can die. Jobs can be lost. Houses can burn down. And am I ready? Surely the same thoughts will bubble up in one of those instances and I would also assume that the intensity of the thoughts are proportionate to the severity of the trauma experienced.

NO FUTURE TRIPPING. This is something I hear a lot. Just do the work thoroughly, reach out, and if/when those fleeting thoughts convert themselves into actual cravings that threaten sobriety, think through the drink. Think it through from start to finish. See where you’ll end up before you put the glass to your lips. Live one day at a time. Don’t create problems that haven’t happened yet.

Yes. All of those suggestions are valid and helpful and it all makes sense. But I think it is entirely normal to ask the question: WILL I BE READY WHEN SHIT HITS THE FAN? As of right now and at this very moment, the resolve I feel to remain sober seems unbreakable. But I know that confidence can be vastly misleading. It’s evident by the countless people we eventually come in contact with who have suffered a relapse in the past. Myself included. Six months before my big breakup happened in 2008, there was no way in hell you could have convinced me that six months down the road I would be passed out drunk on the living room floor of my empty apartment. Not possible. I was sober, strong, and had NO desire to drink, thank you very much. But that’s exactly what happened.

As someone who has relapsed in the past, I suppose the good news is that I have a reference point. I know that leading up to that relapse, I had stopped doing any recovery work. I had stopped seeing or speaking regularly to people immersed in sobriety. I was flying solo and seemed to be doing okay as I surrounded myself with busy work, art, etc. It wasn’t enough and it all came falling down.

I now know that should something awful happen like a death, I am DOOMED if I’m not in active recovery. That’s not the same as simply not drinking. Because for me, relapse wasn’t conscious. It didn’t happen gradually. I didn’t think to myself Oh. Ok. This is painful. This hurts. Let’s have a drink. It just suddenly WAS. It was as if I was forcefully strapped down to a chair emotionally and I watched myself do the things that led me to another six years of misery. Yes, I was DOING the things. I suppose possession is a fairly accurate way to describe it. Or when you get put under for surgery and that few hours of unconsciousness feels like alien abduction. It just is gone and you don’t remember it or how it could have possibly came to pass. All because I was unprepared. I wasn’t at the ready. I let my guard down. I stopped treating my disease.

The little stupid shit storm that went through my brain on Monday was easily snuffed out. These days, I always have on armor. And I guess the real issue here is not whether or not I have the ability to stay sober in the face of great obstacles. The question is whether or not I’ve kept myself armed when those things eventually come.  

 

YOU’VE GOT HATE MAIL

Oooooh, girl. Someone threw me major shade last night while I slept peacefully in my bed.

One of the biggest gifts that I have received in sobriety thus far is the markedly reduced amount of drama I seem to find myself in. Back when I was heavily drinking, everything was utter chaos. My relationships were crumbling and I always seemed to be in some sort of heated and nonsensical argument with SOMEONE about SOMETHING. But since putting down the drink, I’ve been amazed at the amount of love and support I find myself enveloped in. It’s really incredible. Which is why it was so jarring to wake up to the following comments awaiting moderation:

Six year? … just around the corner hangover! I think it’s sooo great how you can censor any little bit of honesty that somebody might write about you on your precious (doomed to be abandoned blog) It must be nice to surround yourself with pathetic minions, even if it’s only like 7 of them. Keep up the good work pussy bottom, you’ll be going down quicker than…well I guess, like you did as a drunk. XOXO, Fuck Off, Bane

And then…

Pathetic Hag… God you’re not even good at pretending like you could care less about notoriety. Like, Really? Only a self-absorbed drunk (as they usually are) would whore herself out to gain some attention. Sad, little girl. Guess Daddy didn’t give her enough pats on the back and Mommy was a little too domineering, just saying. Oh well, atleast now she’ll get some attention from someone..anyone who is sadder than her to care. Night Night, Princess.

Obviously comments from the same person or they engaged the services of one of their friends to write something about me. Not sure what motivated the sudden gender flip but I suppose that is a minor detail.

Whoever this person is initially became upset with me because a.) I hadn’t posted in a while b.) I hadn’t replied to comments and c.) I told you all about my blog post being picked up by TheFix.com. I know because THEY TOLD ME in a previous comment the day before. A comment that I ignored because it was condescending, disrespectful, and complete garbage. So I chose to avoid further interaction with this person and simply deleted it.

I had two options this morning. The first would be to simply decline the comments on the blog and move on and write the post that I initially had planned: Thinking Through the Drink. Or I could address this little blip publicly.

I’ve become a firm believer in shining some motherfucking light on the darkness so I guess that’s what I’m doing here. Up to this point, this blog has been nothing but a joy. It makes me so happy to be interacting with people who understand what it is I’m going through and vice versa. And because I’ve become so protective of this amazing little space we have here to share, commiserate, and lift each other up, I just had to take a moment to acknowledge this small cancer that has crept up. Especially since I noticed the culprit attempting to respond to some of your comments with these same passages.

I’m not going to bash whoever this person is as I have no idea what they might be going through. I myself have penned nasty messages such as these during my active drinking days. Usually I was very drunk and didn’t recall what had set me off or why I thought such vitriol was the solution to any problem, imagined or otherwise. Granted, they weren’t to complete strangers. Even worse, they were to people I was supposed to love and care for. There are amends to be made on my part and I’m in that process now.

I’m not saying that this person is actively drinking. But I can with some confidence say that there is something awful going on in their life that would create a situation where they feel justified spending their time and energy writing and sending something so disgusting to a person they don’t even know. It’s really a shame and I mean it with my whole being when I say that I genuinely hope that they are relieved of whatever it is that is causing them to behave this way.

So, that’s all. It happened. I acknowledge it. And now away it goes. Grateful for this experience because I was able to catch a glimpse of the me that I could become if I don’t do the work to keep myself sober. If I take a drink, I’ll be sending messages like the ones above in no time. Guaranteed.

FEATURED ON THEFIX.COM

Some news! My recent coming out post was published on the recovery website, TheFix.com! Many thanks to the staff there! Please maybe possibly go take a look, LIKE the post, share it, etc? Maybe they’ll let me put something there again if the response is positive?

HERE IT IS

I wanted this post to be widely read for a lot of different reasons. But mostly it was my need for…

ACCOUNTABILITY

Once upon a time, I was a recovering addict living a life of sobriety completely out in the open for everyone to see. There was no more shame. I addressed it like the disease that it was and made no apologies for my condition. I regained the trust of family and friends through my actions. I became of service by telling my story through art. By living a rich and fulfilling sober life out in the open, I became responsible not only to myself but to everyone around me. I knew that I couldn’t just show up to a friends birthday party and pick up a beer without there being a whole lot of drama. And while this accountability to others was obviously not at all what kept me sober exclusively, it certainly was a significant tool in staying clean for as long as I did.

Once relapsed, my world began to shrink so quickly. It was like experiencing countless deaths at one time. Ok, fine. Maybe it wasn’t THAT dramatic but it certainly felt that way at the time. There were people I couldn’t see anymore. I couldn’t see them because I couldn’t stand the thought of them seeing me the way I was: drunk. People gradually floated away because I essentially untied the tether of our relationships and allowed them to drift. No effort could be made to maintain what we once had because I wasn’t who I once was. They wouldn’t know me and I wouldn’t know them.

So I met new people. And while it’s true that I would have met new people anyway had I still been sober, I wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to keep the new separate from the old. The new allowed me to drink the way I wanted to because they didn’t know. The old allowed me to drink the way I wanted to because I didn’t let them see and they no longer had a say. And, so, I essentially spent six years entirely alone. Not alone in the sense that I didn’t have love or the presence of others. I was alone in my own place of prolonged purgatory. I kept a secret that no segment of my now fractured life could be in on. And while I made some progress artistically and managed to not completely destroy all of the new relationships I had made, I was alone in my disease once more.

This “coming out” became absolutely necessary for me. I realized that even if I managed to get myself completely sober alone for a long period of time, my life wouldn’t start to become functional again until I reconciled it and broke down the walls of the compartments that I was so carefully keeping everyone within. Everyone’s situation is different. For me, this was the only way to true freedom. And the only way I wanted it to be.

I also am very excited about the prospect of others reading the post who might be sitting silent in the shame closet wondering how they will EVER be able to live a life openly. Maybe this will plant the very beginning of an idea.

Please don’t get me wrong! I am not insinuating that anyone should run out and tell the world right this instant like I did. I know there are a lot of situations where that kind of impulsive act could do more damage than good. If you can live a happy and healthy sober life without everyone knowing you had a problem, DO THAT IF IT’S WHAT YOU NEED! There is no judgment. DO WHAT KEEPS YOU SOBER. Always. But if you feel yourself sitting in total discomfort and shame even once you’ve got some sober time under your belt like I did, it MIGHT have something to do with the secrets still being kept. That is what was going on with me. And I can only tell you what my experience has been.

Lastly, the one piece of the puzzle that I have not yet laid down on the board is the fact that this blog exists and not everyone I’ve come out to knows about it. With this publication, my name is out there now. I’m certain it would be easy for someone I know to stumble upon this at any given time. I’m not quite ready to hand over the key voluntarily to everyone and say HEY! GO HERE AND READ ABOUT EVERY DISGUSTING AND BEAUTIFUL DETAIL! I will. Slowly. That’s where I’m at.

In the meantime, if you happen to know me personally and are reading this and wondering why I didn’t tell you about the blog, please know that it was done as a means of self-protection and preservation. I knew I needed to be vocal about what I was feeling to get and stay sober but was not in a place where I was ready for you to hear ALLLL about it. I mean. I talked about my bowel movements and how quitting drinking impacted them, for Christ’s sake. Not the kind of thing you go running to your mates about. HEY, STACY! GIRL, READ THIS POST I WROTE ABOUT POO AND HEADACHES! OK LOVE YOU BYEEEE!