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Giving it Another Go

Well, after hitting 9 months sober, I drank again on Palm Sunday.  It wasn’t like some “unguarded moment” at a party when someone sets their drink near me and walks away.  It was a conscious decision to numb my broken heart by calling up my drinking friend and walking downtown to the bar and having a couple drinks.  I was angry at God for never letting good things work out for me, and I thought drinking would not only numb me a little but also be a great way to give God “the finger”.

Let me say right now, it didn’t help and it wasn’t worth it.

I had a beer and a shot.  As soon as I took the first drink, I knew I was going to keep drinking it, and I knew I already regretted it.  I did get a bit of that warm fuzzy glow feeling, but not much. Not blow-9-months-of-sobriety kind of warm fuzzy glow, that’s for sure.

I went from the bar to my home group meeting.  Talk about embarrassing.

I still feel just as broken-hearted.  I haven’t had anything to drink again since that afternoon.  People keep saying just get back up and do it again one day at a time, it gets better, you know, all that stuff.  I don’t believe anymore that it gets better, but I do believe that if I drink it certainly won’t get any better, and would get a hell of a lot worse.

 

Heresy Maybe, 8 Months In

I have been continually struggling with drinking thoughts and desires even though I’m 8 months sober.  This past week though, I changed something, and I haven’t been longing for or fantasizing about drinking — at all.

Diligently following what I was been taught in AA, I was beginning my day knees to the floor reminding myself that I’m powerless over alcohol and unable to manage my own life, and asking God to please keep me sober today because I’m unable to do it myself.

This week, I’ve gotten out of bed and told myself, “I’m not going to drink today.  I’ve got shit going on that I don’t want to screw up.  I don’t need to take a drink today.  I can get through whatever happens, without a drink.”  It’s been working.

So, this may be AA heresy, but it’s been a nice change regardless.

{{{ There’s been a lot going on in my life so I haven’t been posting.  I’m experiencing the separation of my marriage and it’s a lot to take.  Please bear with me and thanks for reading when I do post here!  }}}

Baby’s First Sober Holiday

It was American Thanksgiving this past week. Thanksgiving with my in-laws is a time for drinking from the time I wake to the time I pass out in the wee hours. This year, with my mother and father in law both dead and myself in the bad graces of the remaining in-laws after last year’s fight, I stayed home alone while my spouse went to spend the holiday with her family. I wasn’t invited. It was a challenge to get through my first sober holiday while I was alone at home, stuck without the car (which was out of town with my wife) and also mourning the loss of our beloved dog (who passed two days before the holiday). But with the help of prayer, my sponsor, my friend —–, and other sober friends, I got through it.

I had Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my former drinking buddy and his family. I was the only one aside from the 4 year old who wasn’t drinking. There were glasses of wine six inches from me on either side, and I was getting “thirsty and squirrelly,” as my grand-sponsor says. I had to skedaddle in a hurry – before pie, even. I had to get out of there.

On the day after, I picked up a friend from my home group and went to a party at my sponsor’s house. Considering my discomfort with groups of people, it was surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable. I left early though because I was depressed about the death of my dog and felt like isolating, which I felt badly about later. I’ve kicked myself in the butt about the isolating, and I’m not allowing myself to do it any longer. “Alone I get drunk, together we stay sober”.

This evening was Thanksgiving Dinner with my father’s side, the MacJames’s. They don’t drink at my Nanna’s house, where dinner was held. It’s never been a drinking holiday in my family. The gathering is tense and strained and awkward, though, and I always used to get loaded afterward when I departed as soon as remotely polite. This year, it was tense and strained and I wanted so badly to drink afterward, but I didn’t. I didn’t drink, and I went to my home group meeting. (I’m afraid that if I ducked out on my home group meeting, my sponsor and grand-sponsor would show up at my door and demand that I account for myself!)

The dinner tour is over, and I got through my first sober holiday! I was really kind of afraid I’d drink, but I didn’t. Maybe I can get through Christmas after all. We’ll see.

Off and Running With Everclear

When I arrived at residential college at the age of 16, my relationship with alcohol was different from what I was seeing with my fellow students. I found a problem drinker and hung around him and he handed me a drink. He drank Everclear, so I started drinking Everclear. (I looked it up this evening to see what it was I had been drinking back then. It was grain alcohol, made from corn.) I had been shooting back mouthfuls of vodka at home before leaving for school, but once it was discovered I was cut off for most of the last year at home and became very “restless, irritable, and discontent.” 190 proof Everclear was a nice step up for me from the cheap plastic-bottle “medicinal” vodka I had found in the pantry at home.

Of my fellow freshmen friends, two were uninterested in drinking altogether. One of these two was violently opposed to drinking, and she was my roommate. The others tried out drinking with wild abandon and bombed spectacularly – puking all over the place, missing classes…

Not me. I was good at this. I could drink and hold my shit together. I didn’t puke. I didn’t get fucking hangovers! Blessing of youth, or something, I guess. I could actually hit that sweet spot and not overshoot it. I could drink like it was my business.

My friends soon grew tired of the drunken disaster they were experiencing on weekends, and began to moderate to a reasonable-seeming level of college drinking. I progressed to blackout drinking.

By the time I was in grad school, I was blacking out regularly and experiencing debilitating hangover while slogging around campus fulfilling my duties. The feeling of mastery over hitting “the sweet spot” was totally gone. Once I took the first drink, I was off and running until the ride was over and I passed out or got dragged home.

I got a little better at keeping it in hand for almost a year after leaving grad school. Looking back, I think it was mainly because my third and second shift work schedule at the gas station and phone center allowed me to work, come home and drink myself to sleep, and tell myself that anybody doing shift work would need to do exactly what I was doing. The line of fellow gas station employees ringing each out other for end-of-shift 8am alcohol helped me feel like a “normal” drinker and excuse my behavior to myself.

Over the past couple years, my life’s deterioration into utter unmanageability was amazingly steep.

I’m grateful for the sobriety I’m being gifted with day by day.

My first undiluted, sober grief

So far, I’ve been worrying over “how will I stay sober if something really bad happens in my life?”or “How will I get through the really tough times without drinking?”  Today was the day I got to find out.  We had to put down our beloved dog of 9 years this evening — a few hours ago.   This is the first grief (or any major emotional event) since I’ve gotten sober.

Five months ago, I’d be a long way through a bottle of vodka right now and I’d be no good to anybody or myself.  I might not have been able to go with my wife to the vet.  Today, by the grace of God, I was able to be sober and be really, truly present to spend the last hours with my dog, to be present and supportive for my wife, and to be true to my feelings as we go through this, no matter how much I really do want to drink them away right now.  Five months ago I couldn’t imagine getting through something like this sober, and the reality today is that I thank God I’m able to be sober to go through this instead of it happening when I was still drinking.  Today, sober, I have sober people I can contact, I have a relationship with a Higher Power I can lean on, I have coping skills I’m beginning to be able to use, and I’m beginning to be able to accept and live “life on life’s terms”.  If I was still drinking, the only thing I’d have to lean on would be the bottomless booze in my hand and the illusion of escape from reality.

My supervisor said to me today, “I think you should break your sobriety, just for tonight, and get yourself a bottle of wine for tonight.”  I said “thanks, maybe I will” but what I was thinking to myself was:  Sure, let me get a bottle of wine tonight.  You may as well call me off sick for tomorrow because I probably won’t be fit to come in — heck, I may as well hand in my resignation because this job isn’t going to last much longer if I’m drinking.  Better cancel the marriage counseling sessions, not gonna need them if I’m drinking again because there’s no chance in hell that my marriage will last.  Sure, I’ll just get a bottle of wine tonight, and throw my life away.

This sucks, this is hard, and I hate feeling this much raw, unfiltered, sober emotion.  I want a drink so bad.  I want to run away and cover up the sorrow with alcohol.  But I’m going to have some tea, go to bed early, and cry some if I need to.  I miss that little dog so bad.

5 Months — Settling Into Sobriety

I’m settling into the prayer habits that are making my sobriety possible, and I notice that I totally feel “off” if I don’t engage in then on a given day.

I only have a few minutes between waking up and leaving for work, but I try to spend a moment reading the morning reflection from my church’s daily meditation website and then ponder it on the way to work.  (http://prayer.forwardmovement.org/)  When I first wake up, while I’m putting on my clothes, I tell myself “I’m an alcoholic, I’m an alcoholic, beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind I’m an alcoholic” and remember how utterly powerless I am and that I cannot afford to take that first drink.  (I heard someone leading a meeting explain that they say it to themselves this way to cut through their own bullheaded willfulness.  It works for me, to cut through the lingering, teasing, insane thoughts of maybe today I can handle a few drinks that hit my mind as soon as my eyes open.

On my morning break at work, I read the day’s page from the AA “24 Hour A Day” book and spend the rest of my break in prayer, thanking God for being with me and asking him to keep me sober that day, and turning my will and my life over to his care. Lately, I’ve been asking to grow in faith and trust, and to be useful to God according to his plan.  I also pray for the people in recovery who have asked for prayer, and for the alcoholics who are still out there “qualifying” and suffering.

On my afternoon break, I sometimes return to the “24 Hour Book” meditation for the day because I try to keep it on my heart throughout the day but things get hectic and I forget.  I hit my knees again because by that time of day I’m getting flustered by work stresses, I’m forgetting to “wear the world like a loose garment,” and I need to turn everything over to God.  If it’s a day where the thought of walking down to the gas station for something to drink at lunch or after work has been popping up in my mind, I give myself the little talk again about being powerless over alcohol and how I’d loose everything I value in the sober life I’m building if I take that first drink.  It’s great though — I have lots of days where the obsession isn’t strong enough to give any thought to!)

At the end of the day, I thank God for keeping me sober and for Alcoholics Anonymous, and I spend a moment reflecting on two picture postcards I keep by my bed.  One postcard is a picture of Sister Ignatia in prayer.  The other is a picture of the chapel in the mental hospital where I had my stay last year.  That’s pretty much my daily prayer routine.

Aside from my holiday anxiety that I’m experiencing right now, it seems like I’m starting to settle into this sobriety thing a little bit and feel like it’s a way of life instead of some weird experiment I’m trying.  I wake up each morning glad to be sober.  I go to bed each night thankful to be sober.  I’m not plagued throughout the day with thoughts of alcohol as constantly as I used to be, and there are “good” days when the obsession is so quiet that I barely notice it.  The drinking cues that used to send me into a sobriety crisis — Friday evenings, work stresses, the sight of an open bar door, etc — don’t unsettle me nearly as much anymore.  My first instinct when anything goes wrong or stresses me out is still to drink, but that initial urge is followed immediately by the recognition that I need to contact someone sober.  For the first couple months, contacting a sober person was almost an afterthought after already being almost carried away on the swells of the drinking urge.

The feeling of calm clear-headedness is starting to be my “normal”, instead of a feeling of doom, frenzy, and fogginess like when I was drinking.

I’m learning to let go of stress and anxiety over situations I can’t control. I’m learning to find peace in the middle of chaos. I’m starting to have little scraps of faith that “things will work out the way they’re supposed to” if I’m walking in God’s will for my life instead of my own.  Not much faith, mind you, but it’s growing.

Progress!

Crosspost- As the Holidays Approach

I’ve always loved the holiday season from Halloween through New Year’s, and I go into a bit of a holiday frenzy involving all the fun bits of hypomania and quite a lot of booze, but this year I feel only vague alarm.

This is my first holiday season Sober, and I’m dreading going through the holidays without the “warm glow” and “added cheer” of whatever alcohol I can get my hands on.  The best part of Thanksgivings and Christmases with my in-laws was the free-flowing wine and whiskey, with everyone else getting just loose enough to not notice me getting loaded.  Getting to drink almost the way I wanted to drink, in front of people, and have it be situationally appropriate was a real treat.

This is our first holiday season after the death of my wife’s parents, and I’m dreading going through those emotional experiences with her.  There is no way I can spend time around what’s left of her family and not drink, so I won’t be going with her to Thanksgiving.  I can’t really imagine that I’m going with her to Christmas, either.  (The last time I was at her grandmother’s house, I started a fight with my sister-in-law — after a full day of drinking– and made myself spectacularly unwelcome there.) I don’t feel able to comfort my wife appropriately because of my own relief that her parents – her abusers – are dead.  I can’t share the idealized selves she knew them as, and I resent them, their memory, and the family dynamic they set in motion.  Yet, of, course, she’s crushed by the loss of her parents and saddened by their absence on the holidays and her birthday, which falls on Thanksgiving this year.  I want to be there for her, as much as I can be.  And all of this, without drinking.

*originally posted on My True Name Is Joy at https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/5684315/864281395*

4 Months & Some Change

Day 144.  It’s time to sit down for a moment and take stock of the sobriety journey.  It’s a lot easier now to get through the day than it was at first, easier than it was while drinking, even!  The almost undeniable constant obsession and urge to procure and consume alcohol has become more of a constant small irritation in the back of my mind, which is a lot easier to cope with.  The urge does become almost undeniably strong at times, but I’m been able to engage my support network and coping skills to get through those times.

During the first couple months, I had a lot of times when I had to just curl up under some blankets and cry or sleep to get through the times when the obsession and urge were particularly strong.  I spent a lot of my “spare” time under blankets crying, because I didn’t want to break down and drink and I couldn’t bring myself to move at all for fear of running toward the bar.  I haven’t had to do that hide-in-bed thing very much at all, lately!  Instead of having to hide under a blanket and melt down, I’ve been able to call or text someone from the program, pray, or distract myself with a project.

During the first few weeks, I was in the Big Book constantly.  During my breaks at work and any spare moments at home I was clinging to the book like a life raft, reading the beginning chapters over and over and over.  I had to stay in the book or I was going to wind up in the bar. Reading “How it Works”, “More About Alcoholism”, “Into Action”, and “A Vision For You” repeatedly on my office floor kept me from walking to the gas station to buy alcohol on my lunch break.  These chapters gave me the beginning stirrings of hope for a future worth living, and the stories in the rest of the book allowed me to feel less alone.  “A Vision For You?” I hadn’t had a vision for me for a while!  I thought my life was destined to become a cycle of working and drinking until the end, with nothing better coming than the next drink.

I’m not in the book at every spare moment these days, but I’m building a routine of study that I think will support my continued growth.  One of my regular meetings is a Big Book Discussion group, and we read and discuss a chapter together every week.  I revisit the beginning chapters every few days (they’re underlined and notated and marked now, in the copy I keep in my purse).  I’m also exploring other literature that is helping me develop my potential.  My morning devotions include reading the day’s meditation from the 24 Hour Book, and I try to revisit that reading throughout the day – especially if I’ve run off the rails in regard to my sanity.  I’m re-reading a book on contemplative prayer and trying to incorporate those teachings into my day.  I’m delving into other suggested readings including the booklet “The Greatest Thing In the World” by Henry Drummond.  This booklet is teaching me about the role of Love — pure, honest, unselfish love — in a life lived to its full potential.  I’m learning a lot about the Absolutes through studying this booklet.

Over the first couple months, I’ve had a vague sense that the future may have more to offer me than the bottom of a bottle, but I didn’t really believe that there was anything good out there for me or that God had much of a plan involving my participation. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had a growing sense of assurance that God has a plan for my life which is deeper and more meaningful than the life of drinking I’d resigned myself to.  It’s too soon to go into the details, but God has been revealing to me some potential avenues I might be able to pursue to give back and pass along the grace and mercy that’s been afforded to me.  I’m piecing together a package of learning opportunities through free online study and local volunteer training in order to continue the process of discernment about my future goals.  Me?  Future goals?  Four and a half months ago my greatest goal was to be drunk as much of my life as remotely possible.  What a difference!

I didn’t notice it happening, but somewhere over the course of the past weeks I’ve passed from feeling like a newcomer who is intruding into meeting rooms to feeling like a member of the community who has a responsibility for welcoming and supporting others who come in. I feel a responsibility to the fellowship — a responsibility to suit up and show up, to read when asked, to clean up, to work the program to the best of my ability, and to be there for others.  I’ve showed up often enough, long enough, apparently, at some of my meetings, than when the books get passed around the table to collect numbers for new women, the older guard pass them to me now for the inclusion of my phone number as well.  I’ve been able to reach out to some women who have less time in the program than me.  I’m beginning to feel like I have something to contribute to the fellowship.

These are amazing changes, and I am very grateful as I look back on the journey so far.

Good AA In a Totally Different Room

I had the pleasure of attending a day-long training seminar on de-escalation of conflict and aggressive clients  for work, and running through the material were themes that really sounded like what I’ve heard people call “good AA.”  There were workplace-specific examples and details, but the underlying concepts included “focus on what you can actually change about the situation — recognizing that you can’t change other people,” “Sweep your own side of the street” “Respond, Don’t React,” “Get outside your self-centered perceptions and think about the needs and perspectives of others”, and “come to the interaction with an attitude of “how can I be of service in this situation.”

Without thinking about it, I shook hands with coworkers before the seminar began, walking around and introducing myself to those I didn’t recognize, and afterward I spoke to the presenter and thanked him for some particular skills I was going to take away.  These are things AA has taught me!  I didn’t know how to do that before!  I needed a drink to be confident enough to squeak “hello” to someone!

Thanks, AA.