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 C-Haze

At least I’ll remember the ‘weird’ in the morning

Some days really are harder than others. Generally speaking, don’t we know what the answer is, even though we’d rather pretend we didn’t? 

I know I’m vague-blogging, and I know it sucks when people do that. I’m sharing what I feel comfortable sharing, working the rest out as I go. 

An answer to a question I’m struggling with is starting to take hold. I need more time, because in recovery I’m taught to pause, pray, react. I’m not religious,  so rather than pray I meditate. There seems to be 2 answers emerging at the same time to the same question. Both wouldn’t work simultaneously,  but either would separately. Before I can figure out which is the right answer for me,  I gotta figure out what kind of tools and resources I’m working with. 

Time tells all, I suppose. 
I’m in a bizarre mental space,  but I am sober. I’m present, and as weird as this shit feels tonight,  at least I know I’ll remember it in the morning.

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 Addiction, C-Haze, Sobriety

Bah- Humbug

Today is my birthday. I’m 39 years old, and it also happens to be 3 days before Christmas. I absolutely hate this time of year. HATE IT. I hate Christmas, I hate everything that comes with it, and this year I hate it even more than I usually do, because it’s been a shitty year.

Because of my absolutely HORRIBLE mood, I have a fantasy of undocking my laptop from my home office, leaving, and finishing out the workday in some bar somewhere, drinking vodka and chain smoking. Interestingly enough, I actually quit smoking 3 years ago, so NO idea where that part of the fantasy is coming from.

So, because I’m now so freakin’ responsible and don’t do dumb sh*t like try to work from a bar while guzzling vodka and chain smoking, I wondered if maybe my (albeit broken) mind was simply telling me that I should get out of the house. Maybe change my scenery for a bit. So I thought, “Maybe instead of a bar, I could go somewhere cool like Panera (or insert other neato coffee shop here).” They don’t have vodka (or any alcohol that I’m aware of), but they do have free refills on Pepsi, right?

Then I realized, that in order to leave the house and show myself among the public, I need to shower.

Screw that.

So now I’m back at square one. It’s my birthday, I hate Christmas, and this year has sucked.

I am, however, sober.

Bah-Humbug.

Posted in C-Haze

The action part of “Action”

I attended a meeting last night, and it was fantastic. One of the topics we discussed had to do with the stages of change. Even with all my relapses, I would have said that I had been in the Action phase of recovery. Action is described as:

The stage where people overtly modify their behavior and their surroundings. Make the move for which they have been preparing. Requires the greatest commitment of time and energy.

The act of quitting drinking seemed to qualify to me. What bigger action is there than that? What I realized last night, however, is that I was in the varying stages of Pre-Contemplation and Contemplation all this time.

It’s not really that I was relapsing fifty billion times- it’s that I never really stopped drinking. Sure, I stopped for a day or two- or even a week or more- but I was not modifying my behavior or my surroundings. The only commitment of time and energy I expended was to white-knuckle my way through the day, hoping like crazy I wasn’t going to break down and drink.

What was missing was the Action part of the Action phase. I have to DO something different in order to get different results. It sounds ridiculously simple, but honestly, until last night, I just did not get it.

Happily, I had already started making some fundamental changes before last night’s meeting. Now that I understand the stages better, and understand where my behavior fits in with each of them, I can confidently say that I’m finally in the Action stage of change, and I can point to concrete examples of the changes that moved me out of Contemplation and Planning, into Action.

Some of them are:

  1. Attending meetings (including the meeting I attended last night)
  2. Committing to daily meditation – I’m still learning how to do this, so I downloaded a fantastic 21 day meditation series to help me with this one
  3. Counseling – I realize I cannot do this completely by myself. I have a lot of stuff swimming in my head that makes self-medicating a very tempting proposition. I need help clearing out the muck. I MADE AN APPOINTMENT AND EVERYTHING
  4. Journaling and Workbooks – Actively working my recovery, and not sitting around hoping sobriety will find me some day.

I know that sobriety does not just happen. I have to make it happen, and then I have to make it stick. All of those things require ACTION. I’m learning that putting down the bottle, while perhaps the most important step in the process, was just that – merely a step in a series of many that I need to take.

Then, I need to keep doing it.

Posted in C-Haze

Day 1

Today I am ok.

Not great.

Not terrible.

I’ll take it, though. After months of decidedly not ok, this is a definite improvement.

I’m anxious as hell, I’m in the midst of what feels like a never-ending panic attack, and I have the shakes.

On the plus side, I did not drink.

Here’s to the close of Day 1. I made it.

#Winning

Posted in C-Haze

Tools, and learning to use them

Sobriety is scary as hell. No, seriously – it really is.

When I was drinking, I could hide. It was a tool that I subconsciously used to keep from realizing my full potential, happiness, or any semblance of success. It made me numb, and for a few hours at a time, completely unconcerned about anything. I didn’t have to think about the person I’d become, the person I had been in the past, or the person I wanted to be. I didn’t have to think at all.

Why would anyone choose to completely check out from life, and all it has to offer? I suspect the reasons vary. For me, it was guilt and shame. I didn’t believe I deserved happiness or success, and so I set off on a mission of self-sabotage, and I took that mission seriously. In fact, it was the most important mission of my existence. It’s what kept me so committed to vodka for so many years.

If I wasn’t in an alcohol-induced stupor, the demons from my past would creep in- all the regrets, the bad decisions, the lies I’d told – and I couldn’t handle it.

Some people cut themselves. Some take pills, snort or inject their drugs of choice. I just happened to drink mine.

Being sober is liberating and confidence-building. It’s like waking up from a years-long coma and realizing all the important ingredients that make for a good life are still there. I just have to put them together in the right quantities and combinations to make something pleasing. It’s like baking a cake!

It’s also a lot easier said than done.

Or is it?

The other side to sobriety is that it’s very demanding. I can’t hide anymore. Everything I do – or don’t do – is the result of conscious effort, since the means to escape to la-la-land no longer exist for me.

I live with my past now. My failures, successes and triumphs. I try to focus on my present, and on the future, but realize there’s not a lot of room for that as long as I allow myself to remain weighed down by yesterday.

If I’m to continue punishing myself for who I used to be, I still can, but being sober means I’d have to do it on purpose. I’d have to knowingly take action against my own best interests (and by extension, against what’s best for those I love the most).

Now that it’s no longer mindless, it’s not so easy to do.

After coming out the other side of a battle like the one I’ve just fought, continuing to punish myself is not the easy way to go anymore. In contrast, putting myself out there in the universe, moving forward, trying to do everything in my power to contribute and to be present is no longer the difficult path to take.

In fact, it’s the only path left.

The trick is in learning how to do it, and how to do it right. I’ve spent so many years running, escaping and punishing myself, that doing the opposite – standing tall, facing the world, loving who I am, and yes, even accepting my past – takes some skills I have yet to fully learn.

What I do have are the tools to make it happen. I just need to figure out how to use them.

 

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 C-Haze, Personal, Sobriety

The Salesman, Vodka and Tea

I am a schizo-blogger. I go through periods when I blog constantly, only to neglect it for months on end. Sometimes I blog about politics. Sometimes it’s true crime or current events. Other times, it’s personal.

Lately, I guess I’m on a personal kick.

One of the most important parts of who I am is my sobriety. I have to work on it every day. I’m not particularly new at this, as it’s not my first trip to the rodeo, so to speak. Much like my blogging habits, the urges to drink are sporadic and often impossible to predict.

Tonight we are snowed in. It’s the first major snowfall of the season. The kind of snowstorm that requires a Winter Weather Advisory, with a ticker at the bottom of all the local TV stations, telling everyone which schools have cancelled classes, and which church services will not be held.

I generally love being snowed in. It’s cozy. I get to sit in my recliner, cup of vodka in hand, and relax.

Wait.

Did I just say “vodka”? I meant tea!

That’s how urges work for me. I’ll be thinking about something I love, like being snowed in, and some strange connection to alcohol will sneak its way in, kind of randomly. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been sober, it just happens.

Sometimes it really pisses me off, too.

I got sober using a program called SMART Recovery, and there’s a word for this phenomenon. It’s called the “Salesman”. My Salesman, I’ve decided, is male, and he’s a complete asshole. He’s manipulative, he’s cruel, and he will stop at nothing to get me to drink.

Unfortunately for the Salesman, no matter what he does, he can’t erase my past. He can’t erase the damage I did to myself when I was drinking. He can’t make me forget the blackouts, the hangovers, the morning-after regrets. The constant fear I felt, knowing I was killing myself, that I was going to die if I did not stop drinking.

He also can’t make me forget the good that has come with sobriety. No matter what he says, he cannot make me forget that I’m clear-headed, I’m present, I’m engaged, and I’m healthy.

That’s the work I put in every single day. The work is to make sure I never forget where I came from, where I am now, and what it took to get me here.

Tonight the Salesman will be defeated again.

I’m at peace, sipping my vodka tea, content in the knowledge that tomorrow morning, I will actually remember what it felt like to be snowed in.

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.