Posted in Alcoholics, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery, Sobriety

Step 1, Powerlessness and Manageability

Last week we talked about step 12, so this week it only makes sense to start over, and begin with step 1.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I relapsed because I simply could not get step 1 right initially.

First, I couldn’t admit I was powerless over alcohol. I tried to control my drinking on my own in every possible way. I tried total abstinence, I tried only drinking on weekends, I tried eliminating liquor and switching to wine, I tried drinking measured amounts (literally breaking out measuring cups), everything. I went to outpatient rehab in 2007, and was drunk within 24 hours of graduating from the program. I went to countless meetings over the years, I got sponsors, I got fired by sponsors (which isn’t even supposed to be a thing, but I was so hellbent on doing everything my own way, I was impossible to work with). I joined 12 step programs, I joined non-12 step programs, I went to therapy, I switched therapists, I quit therapy. I even went to church for a while, which, if you know me, you know how radical this was. For me, anyway.

I’d get up every morning, swearing I would not drink that day… only to be drunk by 6 PM, wondering what the hell happened.

Nothing worked.

Second, I couldn’t admit my life had become unmanageable, and when I finally could admit it was unmanageable, I refused to acknowledge alcohol had anything to do with it. I had been divorced twice, was almost in financial ruin (even as I had a great job, with excellent benefits, and a way higher-than-average salary), had just been put on probation at work, barely knew my kids anymore, and I had terrible health issues. My liver enzymes were elevated to dangerous levels, and in my late 30s I was getting weird ailments like shingles, unexplained high fevers that left me hospitalized for days on end, and mysterious infections that almost left me septic.

Worse, my soul was in ruins. I was dishonest. I was a hermit. I avoided life, love, companionship or anything else fun. I had no joy.

No one in my life was using the word “alcohol” to describe the reasons these things were happening (mostly because I was lying to them about its existence), so I was fine to stay in denial too, and pretend my drinking had nothing to do with any of it.

I just figured, you know, God or the Universe or whatever hated me. None of it had anything to do with me, my bad decisions, my bad behavior, and definitely nothing to do with the 5th of vodka I was drinking every single day.

Finally, I hit my rock bottom. A series of events occurred, and I knew I was finished. I was going to get honest, get help, or die. It was as simple as that. I stopped drinking, and I crawled to a meeting.

By that point, surveying the absolute colossal mess my life was in the moment, I had no problem admitting it was unmanageable. What I still had trouble admitting was that I was powerless over alcohol. I reasoned that only I could stop the drinking- who else was going to do it for me, after all?

What I learned is that in order to stop drinking, I have to admit complete and total defeat. If I’m a boxer and alcohol is my opponent in the ring, I’m going to get my ass kicked – TOTAL KNOCK-OUT – Every. Single. Time.

I am powerless over alcohol, and I will always be powerless over alcohol.

My life has become unmanageable.

It is because of my need to control everything – my drinking, my life, other people, other places, other things, that I was in this mess.

Finally, it was time to let go.

I am powerless, and knowing that has become the most freeing thing in the world.

Step 1 is what got me stopped drinking. Later, working step 4, doing an inventory of all the messes I’d made of my life over the years while I insisted on being in control of everything, is what helps to keep me stopped. It helps me understand that my life was always unmanageable, at least for as long as I insisted on trying to be in control, as long as I insisted on being in the driver’s seat.

It will always be that way. I now know that I need to stay out of my own way, and stay out of the driver’s seat. I let my Higher Power drive, while I’m happy controlling the dials on my side of the car, in the passenger seat. I can control my own actions, and nothing else, ever – and even then, I am only in control of myself as long as alcohol is not part of the equation.

Step 1 is the beginning of a new life- but we have to do the work every single day. It’s the only step we have to get 100% right, 100% of the time.

Our lives depend on it.

Posted in Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery

12 Steps, Broadway and Opera Singers

My home group is a step group, which means we focus exclusively on the 12 steps. Every week we read a step, and then we share what that particular step means to us. I love it, because I believe working the steps is what keeps me sober, so reading through them each week, and then hearing others’ interpretations is invaluable for me.

As most will tell you, 12-step work is not a one-and-done kind of thing. A lot of us find that we have to work the steps to some degree over and over again, every single day. Some steps are harder than others, some we do better than others, but we’re always plugging away at them, and it’s that work that keeps us from going back out there. Speaking personally, that’s the work that keeps me from relapsing.

My group has spent the last two Saturdays discussing Step 12:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

This step is so huge. When I think of Step 12, I think about how, after all my hard work from steps 1-11: the soul-searching, the digging, the honesty; after humbling myself before my higher power and the rest of the people in my life; after learning how to listen, how to take responsibility for myself (and myself alone), and how to let go; after learning how to live life on life’s terms, I now get to experience joy, peace and fearlessness, something I have sought my entire life, but could never find, so I chased numbness instead, with a bottle.

After all the work, I’ve had a spiritual awakening- which I simply define as “change”. I’ve done a lot of work. A LOT of work, and as a result, I’ve changed. My lens that I view the world through is no longer even remotely similar to what it once was. That, is a spiritual awakening.

My life, and the lives of those who depend on me, are a thousand times better than it used to be. In order to keep I that way, there are only two conditions: I have to remain sober, and I have to give back what I was given.

We’re not salespeople, so the good news is, I don’t have to cold-call anyone, or go door-to-door telling the world about my program of recovery. I don’t actually have to seek anyone out. There are a thousand ways for me to be of service to other alcoholics without ever putting another human being on the spot or making someone else uncomfortable. My program is one of attraction, not of promotion, as the old-timers like to say. We don’t advertise- we live our lives authentically, and as fellow alcoholics decide they want what we have, they may choose to come to us and inquire about what we’re doing differently.

Probably one of the first things people think of when they think of 12th step work is sponsorship. Yes, I can sponsor alcoholics that want what I have, and are looking to get sober. By sponsoring them, I can walk them through the 12 steps, just as my sponsor has done for me, and as her sponsor has done for her.

As an introvert, sponsoring other alcoholics doesn’t come naturally to me just yet, and I haven’t had the best of luck so far. What I have done, that also counts, that I did enjoy, was to chair some meetings, volunteer for service work (like cleanup after meetings, set up before meetings, etc), and most recently, I had the opportunity to share my story at a rehab facility.

But that isn’t all. Step 12 isn’t solely about taking the message to other alcoholics… there is so much more in this step, if only we look deeply enough to find it!

Speaking personally, one of the coolest things about step 12 is all the other hidden gems found in there. We’re taught in step 12, for example, to take all the lessons we’ve learned in this program and practice them in all our affairs.

We need to apply this stuff in real life, not just during our meetings, or while we’re actively working on recovery. Do it while we’re on the clock at work, do it while we’re interacting with our spouses, our kids, our friends. Even while we’re standing behind that prick in line in front of us at the grocery store. Do it all the time. This advice is absolutely invaluable for an otherwise judgmental, resentful person like myself. It’s a gentle reminder to treat all people- even the most difficult and hateful- as I would a newcomer to recovery. To keep my mind open, and remember that I don’t know everyone else’s struggles, nor is anyone else’s behavior in my control.

There are many, many other lessons to take away from Step 12, but the last one I’ll touch on has to do with maturity. The step talks about how, even as adults, we alcoholics tend to be “childish, emotionally sensitive and grandiose”. After reading that passage, I was too busy laughing- from self-recognition- to be offended. It goes on to talk about how we have such a hard time acknowledging that our adult dreams are often truly childish.

Reading this passage, I was reminded of a time when I was in my late 30s, and was trying to verbalize to someone why I felt like a total failure in my professional life. I was working for a fortune 100 company, closing in on a solid 6 figure income. As a high-functioning alcoholic, I’d managed to do well in the company. I had full benefits, lots of perks, had the luxury of working from home, and was the chief bread-winner of my family by many, many thousands of dollars per month.

The reason I felt like a failure? Because as a child, I had wanted to be either a Broadway star or an Opera Singer, and here I was, in my late 30s, having accomplished neither of those things.

I couldn’t be grateful for what I had accomplished- true success by any reasonable person’s standards, because I could not let go of that silly, childhood dream. Childhood dreams are great, of course. However, when we can’t even acknowledge our current state of success because we can’t see past the make-believe games we used to play as grade-school children, that is the mark of immaturity. In my case, I was truly devastated. Something was wrong in my brain, and I needed serious help.

Eventually, I got the help.

Today, I’m one day shy of 16 months sober.

All I know is, it works if you work it.

Posted in Alcoholism, C-Haze, Sobriety

I’m still the queen

Sometimes I just wish life would slow the hell down to give me enough time to catch up. Things happen so fast, and I have the coping skills of a toddler (I may be giving myself a bit too much credit there). In a perfect world I would be able to handle something before anything else was thrown my way.

Obviously, that’s not how life works.

So here I sit, with a multitude of problems- some are major, some quite minor, most are kind of in between- feeling a bit lost.

Emotionally, I’m really vulnerable, but I still win the trophy, and I’m still the Queen.

Wanna know why?

Because I’m sober. I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do with myself, or how to manage my life, my job and my family, but for the first time in my adult life, it won’t be with alcohol.

Posted in C-Haze

Sobriety, the police department and the unpursued case

Something terrible happened 20 years ago. It’s the kind of terrible thing that requires a trip to the ER where they take DNA scrapings from your body, followed by a trip to the police department after that.

At the police station, a lineup of photos was presented for me to sift through to see if I recognized anyone.

I didn’t.

The police officers didn’t believe me when I told them what happened, how I’d obtained those bruises. They sort of went through the motions of taking the report, and told me they’d be in touch.

Well, they finally were.

20 years later.

I was sitting in my office, working away, when my phone rang. The caller ID said “Unknown”. Thinking it was one of my clients, I answered.

“This is Officer So-and-So with the blankety-blank Police Department. May I please speak to Mrs. CMac?”

“Speaking” I reply, startled.

“You reported an incident to us back in 1997. We have developed new evidence in this case and would like to discuss that with you.”

Wha…?

Turns out, the statute of limitations is going to run out in a few months on that terrible thing I reported to the police 20 years ago. They decided to run the DNA evidence they had on hand before that happens, and guess what?

They got a hit.

Now they know who did it, and they know I am not a liar. I didn’t make that terrible thing up, even though they were sure I had. This man, the man who now has a name, is a convicted felon. It’s possible his crime against me was his first trip to the rodeo, but it certainly wasn’t his last.

The police department would like to know if I want to pursue the case – even though I now live over 750 miles away, and that terrible thing happened two decades ago.

No thank you. After all this time, there’s no way.

My initial reaction, after hanging up the phone, despite the fact that it was only noon, was to drown myself in a bottle of vodka.

I didn’t, though.

Instead, I went back to work, almost like nothing happened. Later, I took a nap and ordered a pizza.

Now, I sit here, numb but sober. I don’t know what to think. I feel like I should partake in some mood altering substance, not because I want to, but because it’s all I know how to do in circumstances like this.

This terrible thing that happened all those years ago… I had gotten to a place where I no longer obsessed over it. In fact, I didn’t even think about it as often as once a month anymore. No one who knows me today was even aware that this thing had once happened.

Even my own husband didn’t know until the police department called me today and I had to yell for him to “Get in here right now! I need you!” I put the phone on speaker and tried to ignore the look on his face as it started to dawn on him what the police officer was referencing, and that it was a thing his wife had dealt with 20 years ago, but had never shared.

This terrible thing.

Tonight is a night I’ll need to take things minute-by-minute. I am going to work hard to stumble my way through this naturally and authentically. So far, I’ve battled the urge to drink for seven straight hours, and have not given in.

Eventually, I hope to just go to sleep.

Posted in C-Haze

The Relapse, Happy Hour and Grey Goose

I’ll just come straight out and say it:

I relapsed.

I went out of town on a work trip earlier this week, and I knew part of the agenda would be happy hour at the hotel. I felt desperate to drink with my coworkers, and because of that, I knew it would be a terrible idea to attend.

So I didn’t.

I went to my room instead, answered some work emails and took a cat nap while everyone else was downstairs drinking. I was proud of myself for spotting the trigger and avoiding it.

A little too proud, I now realize in hindsight.

I reappeared from my room just in time to catch the shuttle with the rest of my team to dinner. My company had rented out a large room in the back of a swanky restaurant, and there was a full staff of servers waiting to fill our glasses with wine and spirits, and to fill our plates with appetizers while we waited for our dinner.

When I first got there, my boss asked me if I’d like to share a bottle of red wine, and I politely declined. I was on a roll, and I was doing really well.

Or so I thought.

Finding my seat, a server immediately appeared and asked if I’d like some wine or anything else to drink. “Water’s fine” I told her, and she disappeared. Moments later, she came back, gave me my water, and handed my coworker to the left an enormous glass- the size of a water glass- filled with clear liquid. I actually thought it was water at first, and was relieved to see there was at least one other person near me that was opting not to drink.

It was then that my coworker leaned over to me and whispered, “Holy shit. Can you believe the size of this Grey Goose?”

That huge glass of clear liquid was full of vodka, not water.

It’s tough to describe the emotions I felt, all at once, in that moment.

Fear, dread, excitement, and finally…

… Defeat.

The server turned to me and asked, “Are you sure I can’t get you anything to drink?”

I immediately replied, “Actually, I’ll have what she’s having.”

The server left to get my drink, and I sat there, equally petrified with fear and excitement. I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t make any moves to try and stop myself from doing it. I made a halfhearted attempted to tell myself that when my drink arrived, I’d push it to the side instead of consuming it, that it is not too late, that relapse is not inevitable…

… but of course,  when the drink came, that’s not what I did.

I drank that night, and I had more than one. I was not sober by the end of the evening, though I was nowhere near as drunk as I’d been millions of times before. I did not do anything stupid (other than drink, duh). I had fun, I socialized, I made people laugh, I relaxed, and I laughed too.

I eventually made it to my room and went to bed. I woke up with a headache.

I also awoke expecting to hate myself for my terrible judgment the previous night, but the truth is, I didn’t. I wasn’t thrilled, and I had no intention of allowing my one-night slip to continue, but I was not devastated or angry like I expected I’d be.

I tried to explain it to my husband later, and the best I could come up with was, “I’m just done punishing myself. I’ve punished myself enough over the years to last a lifetime, and all it’s accomplished is making me hate myself. I’m not willing to keep doing that.”

I did a bad thing, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. It means I’m not as solid in my sobriety as I thought I was, and it means I need to be even more diligent than I thought was necessary. I figured I’d done enough, skipping happy hour that night- and while that was a good decision, I let that one good decision make me cocky. That cockiness caused me to let my guard down, and before long, I was sitting at a table in front of the biggest glass of Grey Goose I’d ever seen in my life.

And I drank it. Then I drank another, and another after that.

The biggest trigger for me happens to be when I’m far from home, with people I’m not intimately familiar with. That’s when my anxiety reaches epic proportions, and I become desperate to do anything to make that feeling of discomfort and awkwardness disappear.

I haven’t had another drink since that night.

I’m back on the wagon, grateful for yet another chance to get it right.

I am truly thankful that the work I’ve done up to that night, while it didn’t keep me sober, helped me mitigate the loss that comes with relapse. The old me would have been so hard on myself for breaking down and drinking that I would have given up altogether. After drinking the one night, I wouldn’t have stopped, and I would have drank the next night, the next, and the night after that as well. I would have seen myself a complete failure, and I wouldn’t have put the bottle down until my health deteriorated again, and I was afraid for my life.

Again.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I screwed up, but I’m ok, and I’m back in the saddle. So the months of hard work prior to that one night of idiocy were not a waste. That work is what helped me keep this to one night of bad decisions, and not anything worse than that.

 

 

Posted in C-Haze

The stories and the vigilance

I used to listen to the horror stories of other alcoholics, and because my experiences never rose to the same level of terribleness, I’d use them as an excuse to ease my own conscience.

I haven’t gotten a DUI, and I’ve never been arrested, so I’m not an alcoholic.

I thought I needed to look and behave like those people who were always there at that one AA meeting I used to attend- the only one in my city that still allowed smoking indoors. You know who I’m talking about- the actual alcoholics in the room.

I’d leave with a sense of relief (“Whew. That was close. Those damn AA’ers almost sucked me in this time!”), mentally listing all the ways I am not like them. Never mind the fact that I ended up at AA meetings on a semi-regular basis to begin with. It’s not the kind of place you just pass by on your way home from work and think, “Hmm. I’ll just run inside that place real quick.”

It’s not Walgreens, after all. They don’t advertise.

Obviously, even then I knew what I was, and I was there for a reason.

Thankfully, things have changed.

I no longer listen to the stories others have to tell with the sole purpose of finding each and every difference between them and me. The truth is, when I finally shut up (and most especially muted my own inner noise), I actually learned something.

Now, when I hear stories of drunken debauchery, of legal troubles, financial woes and relationship problems, I no longer use the fact that these things never happened to me as a reason to keep behaving badly. Rather, I listen to them for the value they can provide, because I finally understand why they’re so important to hear.

They are cautionary tales.

I know- after years of pretending otherwise- that the question was never if my life- literally and figuratively- would come to an end as a result of my drinking.

No, it was simply a question of when.

Listening has given me the opportunity to see what my future held, had I not put the bottle down, and what the futures of my children and my husband held as a result.

As addicts, our journeys are not all the same- the roads we’ve taken are often very different. Some are longer than others, some have more twists, turns, ups and downs- but the final destination- the final realization- is the same.

If we keep drinking, we will die.

I don’t hide from these stories anymore. Now, as part of my recovery, I seek them out. I listen to every single one of them, and I listen carefully. I find that I have more in common with other alcoholics than I ever thought- or wanted to think, anyway.

My fellow alcoholics aren’t scary or unsavory to me anymore. They’re friends. Family, even. We have an instant bond, and while we’re a diverse group- black, white, rich, poor, conservative, liberal, gay and straight- we automatically look out for each other.

Suddenly, alcoholism- and all of its stories, tragedies and triumphs- has become one of my favorite topics. Not for argument’s sake, like it once was, but for the sake of healing instead.

Listening and learning keeps me sane, and sanity keeps me sober. Hearing the stories of alcoholics and the stories of those who love them, has become a critical part of my recovery. I need to hear the truth of what would have happened, had I not stopped drinking, and I need to hear the voices of those who have been impacted by the addicts in their lives.

It’s a reminder of who I was, and what I will still become if I don’t remain vigilant every single day.

Posted in Addiction, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery

A disease. Full Stop.

Achieving sobriety is one of the most difficult things anyone with an addiction can do. It’s worth it, but it’s not easy. Ponies, rainbows and unicorns do not suddenly fly out our asses when we stop using. The country song- as I like to joke- does not play backwards, and we don’t automatically get the wife, the kids,  the truck and the dog back, just because we’re sober now.

When the time came for me to quit drinking (ha, ha – “when the time came”- more like, “when my ankles were so swollen they looked like softballs ate them, when my liver physically hurt, when I could no longer function at all, and death was surely imminent…”), I knew I needed help, and treatment was imperative. Thankfully, if I have to be an addict, the 21st century is the best time to be one. We have choices now, and recovery is no longer one-size-fits-all.

I didn’t do well in AA, as the dialogue around addiction being a disease just doesn’t work for me. I’m not saying it isn’t a disease, I actually think it is one. It took me a long time to understand why this disease rhetoric set me off, since I don’t disagree with the theory. In the meantime, however, I really just needed to find treatment, and I wanted a program that didn’t follow that particular script, despite the fact that I didn’t understand why. That’s how I fell into Smart Recovery (you can Google it), which is the opposite of AA in many ways, but has the same goal in mind: TOTAL ABSTINENCE.

I’m not an addiction expert, but I’m certainly not ignorant on the subject either. Obviously, I’m no social worker or substance abuse counselor, but I do have an impressive Alcoholism Resume- yes, it contains less college classes and more on-the-job training, but experience is experience.

All of this leads me to how I finally came to understand why I’m so often completely turned off by this “addiction is a disease” conversation.

<Deep Breath>

Until very recently, I had plans to drink again.

I went through the steps of physically quitting, and while I stopped consuming alcohol, it was always with the understanding that I’d pick up again. Maybe not today, but someday. Even as I was actively doing the work in recovery, I did it with the idea that I was merely changing my relationship with alcohol, not ending it. It wasn’t a fearful notion; I wasn’t thinking, “Oh no! I just know I’ll fall off the wagon some day!”. Quite the opposite, it was something I wanted, and I wanted to make sure I did it the “right” way (without criminal charges, jail, dancing on tables and/or swimming naked in some random stranger’s pool, preferably).

I did eventually realize I was nuts to think I could ever have another drink, but what took longer to understand is why I was so invested in the idea of trying. It was an obsession. It’s not simply because addiction is a disease. Even if it is a disease, that’s an over-simplified answer, and that’s what made me crazy. It’s like something you tell a kid when you don’t think they’re old enough to know the truth.

I deserve better than that, so I went on a quest to figure it out for myself.

It took a minute, but now I finally understand why it burns me so bad when addiction is referred to as a disease. It’s because all too often, the conversation ends right there.

She had to stop drinking because she’s an alcoholic. That’s a disease, you know.

Full Stop.

“No!” I want to scream. “There’s so much more to it than that! There’s so much more to me than that!”

Getting to the root of it, I realize that I believed if I could just drink like a normal person, it would mean that I don’t have to suffer a life of being labeled “Diseased” or “Alcoholic”. My fear was that people, once they knew, would stop seeking to know me further, thinking they’d already learned everything worth knowing.

That I’m an addict.

Full Stop.

Here’s the thing: I do have a disease. It’s called alcoholism. It isn’t curable, but it’s manageable, and managing it is an important part of my life. But please, don’t let the conversation stop there. I want to talk about it, and I also want to talk about other things too.

I’m a mother, and a daughter. I’m a wife. I’m a professional, and I like to draw. I used to play the piano, and years ago, I sang opera in Europe.

I want to be seen as an entire person, not just as this disease.

Someone who’s real, and silly, and complicated…

… and can’t drink.

 

 

Posted in Addiction, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Personal, Recovery

The Universe and the letter

I am not a religious person. My “higher power”, if I had to choose one would be The Universe. I don’t believe in God, not in the traditional Christian sense, but I tend to believe in order among chaos, I believe in Karma, and I know that whatever’s out there is bigger than I am.

I also believe that if we pay attention, The Universe is regularly sending us signs that provide most of the answers we seek. We’re free to ignore them, of course, and we often do just that, to our own detriment.

I’ve had a really tough time with my sobriety lately. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which has to do with the fact that I am my own worst enemy, and I apparently enjoy sabotaging myself in the face of success vs. failure. There’s more to it than just that, though.

This disease is crafty, and it wants to win. It has a powerful ally in its corner, and that’s my brain. It’s kind of perfect, actually, because nobody knows me- my insecurities, my fears, my triggers- better than my own brain does. So when the disease wants a drink, it doesn’t fight fair, and can be really hard to beat.

A couple of weeks ago when I got my blood test results from the doctor, as grateful as I was to find my liver function is normal, they provided ammunition for the disease to use against me. Since then, my brain has been barraging me with a series of attacks, telling me that because my drinking hasn’t ruined my health, and because I’ve been successful in quitting alcohol altogether, the whole thing must have been a false alarm. I’m not an alcoholic. I can drink responsibly, just like everyone else. I just needed to take a break for a while, and now that I have, my relationship with alcohol has changed, and the problem no longer exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, my resolve has started to waiver. I started seriously thinking about having a drink. I started wondering if maybe, just maybe, I’m not an alcoholic. Maybe I was just a binge drinker going through a bad time. Never mind that this “bad time” lasted a full decade. Or that I have tried to control my drinking in every possible way thousands of times: I tried switching from liquor to wine, I tried only drinking on the weekends, I tried not drinking at home, and only drinking when I’m out at social gatherings. I tried to moderate, hoping to stop my consumption before I became a slobbering, blacked-out mess.

Nothing worked. Nothing. Nothing.

Finally, I had to get some help and quit drinking altogether. My liver function may be normal now, but it wasn’t five years ago, and I’m willing to bet it wasn’t normal the day I quit drinking. It’s normal today because I’ve actually stopped drinking and gave it some time to heal- not because I don’t have an alcohol problem. The fact that I drank to the point of elevated liver enzymes to begin with is indicative of a problem. That I continued drinking for years after I realized I was developing a fatty liver, and that I still obsess over alcohol- something “normies” don’t do- are also indicators of a problem.

Knowing all this logically and believing it, living it day in and day out, is not the same thing. The bottom line is that underneath it all, I want a drink. Currently. Present tense. I want a drink.

On Friday night, I was up against a tough deadline at work. After working 12 hours straight, I was tired. About an hour before my workday ended, I started craving a drink.

I wish I could tell you I valiantly fought the urge, but the truth is, I didn’t.

I was moments from walking out the door, getting in my car and driving to the liquor store, when my phone rang. It was my husband, on his way home, just calling to chat. I quickly blurted out, “I think I’d like to have a drink tonight. I’m going to go to the store.”

He replied, simply, “Ok.”

I then asked, “What do you think? Do you think I should?”

No, I don’t. This is just the Salesman trying to work you, trying to get you to break down. Don’t let him. You don’t need to drink tonight.

For once in my life, I listened. I decided I would not drink that night, and I didn’t. It doesn’t escape me, however, that had my husband not called at that exact moment, I would have bought a bottle of vodka, and I would have drank.

The Universe put the answer right in front of me when I needed it most. I paid attention that night, and I wish I could say that was the end of it, that “I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes…” (I love a good, random Ace of Base quote), but that’s not the case.

The next day, I was still thinking about having a drink. We’re making plans for Super Bowl Sunday, and I thought, “I can drink with friends. Nothing crazy, just a normal amount.” I never claimed I wasn’t a hard-headed stubborn fool.

At dinner last night, I broached the subject with my husband. I told him I’d like to try drinking in moderation, and wanted to know his thoughts. He said, “I’m not sure what I think about it. I guess my question is why? What is the reason for drinking after all the work you’ve done to stop?” I had no answer, except, “I’d like to see if my relationship with alcohol has changed, after all the work I’ve done.” He responded that drinking to see if I could really do it in moderation doesn’t sound like a great reason to him.

Since I don’t disagree, and had no answer for that, we sort of dropped the subject and continued on with our evening. I didn’t stop thinking about drinking, though.

Later, just before I went to bed, my husband handed me an envelope that had come with the day’s mail. It was handwritten, and was addressed to me. I could tell from the return address that it was from an old high school friend of mine. This friend and I follow each other’s online updates, but haven’t actually spoken in years. Opening the letter, this is what I found:

Hello, Friend!

I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading about your sobriety, and I honor your efforts to stay that way… and have hope that you have the strength to see it through, and that your family is there to hold you up when you’re weak.

All I could think was, “Holy shit.”

I read and reread the note a hundred times. I then placed it back in its envelope.

In that moment, I knew.

The Universe placed yet another sign right in my path, telling me the answer, and I heard it- felt it, even- as clearly as I’ve felt anything in my life.

I will remain sober.

So here’s to friends and family, the people who prop us up when we can’t or won’t do it for ourselves. Here’s to The Universe, for providing a steady supply of answers, whether or not we choose to hear them.

Above all, I’m grateful for family, and I’m grateful for that support system I can’t always see, that reveals itself at exactly the right moment, when I need it the most.

Posted in Alcoholics, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery, Sobriety

It’s the people who don’t know you, but think that they do

One of the more difficult aspects of getting sober has to do with how the changes we’ve made impact our relationships with others, and how those changes force us to look at ourselves and face some not-so-pretty self-truths.

The obvious would be relationships with close friends and family members.

Those aren’t the people I’m referencing in this post.

I’m talking about the people who live on the outskirts of our worlds. Those who operate in our peripheral. They’re familiar enough with us to know certain things, but are not overly close. These could be coworkers, or people who belong to the same clubs or gyms as we do.

In my case, these are the people who, while not particularly close, know about my love for the bottle – and even have a story or two to share.

I’ve struggled mightily with one such person lately. I met her before I got sober, and we do not live in the same town. We are not overly close, but are quite friendly. The majority of our interaction is electronic, via online chats and text messages, and is quite sporadic. The only opportunities she’s had to observe me in person, unfortunately, were at functions that had unlimited amounts of alcohol available to us. We both drank at these functions, and drank a lot.

I haven’t seen this person since I got sober. In fact, I never even told her I was sober until last night. The reason I finally told her was because she had developed an annoying habit of pointing out my love for vodka during every single interaction we had. I was becoming more and more angry that these conversations kept turning to my drinking, and to keep from exploding on her, I decided to be truthful.

“I stopped drinking. I haven’t had a drink since you and I last met, and honestly, that last encounter is one of the reasons I finally decided to quit.”

She replied, “That is not funny.”

She’s right. It’s not funny.

What she doesn’t know is that I had to stop drinking, or die. I had to put the bottle down, or risk losing everything. I won’t share that with her.

The entire exchange left me extremely pissed off, and it took me a while to figure out why.

I finally realized that I’m not mad at her. Honestly, I’m not mad at anyone. I’m simply ashamed.

Humiliated.

I made a bad first impression. She’s not saying anything about me that isn’t 100% true, and that’s on me, not her.

I’m glad the people I deal with the most no longer see me as the out-of-control drinker I used to be. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to show those who matter the most who I really am.

Those people on the outskirts, however, those who reside on the sidelines, never got the memo. To them, I’m still a drunk, and they will interact with me in accordance with their understanding of who I am.

It serves as an uncomfortable reminder of where I came from, and why I can never go back there again.

 

Posted in Alcoholics, C-Haze, Personal, Recovery, Sobriety

Drunk Me Only Lives in My Dreams

I’ve been thinking about drinking lately. A lot. My brain can sometimes be my worst enemy, but it does keep me humble, at least. Just when I think I’ve got this thing beat, and just when it seems it’s no longer a daily struggle, my brain will start playing tricks on me.

Most recently, I started actually dreaming about drinking. Not the way I drank just before I got sober, mind you, but the way I drank in the beginning. When I could attend happy hour(s) with my friends, let loose, have fun, and nothing more. Those were the days before I kept liquor in the house. Before I started drinking alone, in the dark, 5 out of 7 days in a week. In my dreams I’m young, I’m vibrant, I’m confident. I’m having fun, and I’m not lonely or alone. I’m not blacking out. I’m just socializing like normal people do (though if I’m honest, even then I was drinking more during these social outings than everyone else did), and it’s blissful.

When I wake up from these dreams, I go through this really bizarre series of emotions. Initially, I’m confused. These dreams feel so real, they’re so vivid, that I’m momentarily caught off guard. A sense of panic sets in, and for a moment, I’m mortified, not realizing it was just a dream. That no, I did not fall off the wagon.

I am still sober.

Next, the guilt sets in. The guilt that I’m having dreams about drinking and they’re not nightmares. They’re good dreams. I’m so happy and vivacious and fun. A walking Captain Morgan commercial. I feel this sense of guilt, because I’m not supposed to want to drink, right?

I should be dreaming about sober fun, not drunk fun.

Finally, the pragmatism hits, and I think to myself, “Well, at least drunk me can have some fun in my dreams, if nowhere else.” That’s where drunk me has been relegated to. It’s the only place drunk me can survive. Sober me occupies my waking hours. It’s probably a win that the only place drunk me can live anymore is in my dreams.

The truth is, I miss it. I just do. It’s like this old, intense love affair from my past. It’s no good for me. In fact, it’s so dangerous that my very life would be on the line if I ever started drinking again. We shared some good times, though. The relationship was dysfunctional and wrong, but it was real, and it had moments of pure bliss. That doesn’t mean I can go back there. I can’t.

It does mean it will always occupy a place inside of me, somewhere deep, where only I can feel it.

Now, however, I want to live. I also want to drink, but I know it isn’t possible to do both.

So for now, I’ll just keep dreaming.