Tag Archives: Addiction

I Made a Choice to Not Drink

“I can blame alcoholism for craving a drink,

but I cannot blame the disease for the physical 

effort required to take a drink.

If a bottle of bourbon ever manages 

to jump off the shelf, race across town,

break into my home and pour itself down my throat;

it’s no longer a disease, 

it’s a f#@*ing poltergeist.”

From We Are Not Saints by David M.

Every day that I went into work I begged myself to not drink. As was usual, the previous night had ended in a blackout; the morning spent retracing my steps through the trail of carnage I had left in my drunken wake from car to bedroom. Clothing, fast food wrappers, cans of chewing tobacco all strewn willy nilly, flotsam and jetsam ejected from the drunk boat rocking violently on seas of vodka. Vodka, the clear liquid that leaves no legs on a glass; vodka, the alcohol that my coworkers and few friends that I had knew I was addicted to and whispered about in disappointment, disgust, awe; vodka, the drug that I put above everything else in my life as I truly felt I could not, would not operate without it.

Every day that I went into work I wanted so badly not to drink but surrounding myself with a seemingly endless supply of liquor by working at a bar certainly did not aid in abstinence. Monkeys don’t sell bananas. My hands would shake, my vision would be blurred, my head no longer hurt because hurting was the state I was used to. Instead it was a dull, dense, heavy confusion; a complete lack of clarity, a distance, numbness. No matter how unwell I felt without enough water, without good, whole food which if I had eaten my body was incapable of processing having been devastated by an almost ceaseless diet of liquor, without rest because I did not sleep, I always passed out, without exercise, without positive thoughts, I would ultimately still wind up skulking to my stash of vodka.

That first sip burned as I swallowed it followed by a willful effort to not vomit as my stomach asked for one day of reprieve. Instead I always kept the vodka down, burning my belly and immediately feeling a searing sensation wash over my brain like a slow, hot venom. Before long I knew that another shot would make me feel better followed by another to improve my game followed by another to stop from stumbling over my words followed by another to find my rhythm…

Every night, every night that I worked I put myself into a position to kill someone by not only drinking myself into oblivion but by regularly overserving the guests, most of who were driving as I worked in an establishment that was a destination business and not in a walking community. Every night I drove; somehow making it home, somehow surviving, somehow not killing. Somehow not killing.

No one forced me to drink. No one forced me to run roughshod over my life and the lives of others. No one forced me to destroy my poor mother who just wanted her son to be well. No one forced me to risk the welfare, the lives of strangers by getting behind the wheel every night. No one forced me to demolish any sense of self-worth, to hide from my fears, to run to alcohol and drink freely of its wanton destruction. I literally chose to do these things to myself. I actually made the effort to put the bottle to my lips, swallow and force myself to not regurgitate. I chose that. Finally, in a story for another post, I chose to change.

In order to stop drinking I had to first remove myself from the people, places and things that I associated with the drug. This is an incredibly easy series of words to type but the enactment of their meaning was far more difficult. There are many people for whom the act of turning their will and lives over to the care of a higher power granted them great strength to do what had previously seemed impossible, to stop drinking. The strength necessary for me to accomplish this same task was found within myself. I went dry on straight will but found sobriety much later through listening, learning, reflecting, asking, implementing and failing but failing forward. I found strength in communicating with other alcoholics, in being transparent, in being vulnerable, in being honest. I reflected upon my life and took (and still take) daily inventories, recognizing fear, accepting responsibility, being a stand-up guy who found meaning in life by being meaningful to others. I found strength in gratitude, in forgiveness, in serenity.

It started with a choice.

This post is meandering and labored but I really needed to mash out something to keep active in my sobriety. Thank you for taking the time to read this and please check out a read I have just begun that helped me to get off my duff and punch out this post, What Happened That Day by Michelle S. who also blogs at http://risingwoman.wordpress.com/

Thank you to Michelle for inspiring me to write regardless of how rough this post is.

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How My Story Will End

Image

My story will not end with lies

My story will not end with deceit

My story will not end with fear or resentment

with devastation

with compulsion

with selfishness

with a feeling of lesser than

with a feeling of being broken

with addiction

 

Rather, my story will end with the 

knowledge that I made a change

that I made a commitment

that I failed repeatedly

that I learned repeatedly

that I got up, dusted myself off

and learned to love

Finding Meaning in Life

“What brings meaning to one’s life

is to bring meaning 

to the lives of others”

-Dr. Bob Brooks

When I got sober there waited for me two families with open arms and hearts; my mother who will in time get her own post here and about who I could post endlessly, plus my girlfriend and her two sons. These two families gave me something that I could not give myself in early sobriety which is meaning, aim, hope. The process started with me.  A decision to shift into successful sobriety, to change my life, to move forward, to put myself in the best position to grow,  was made. The loving embrace of family then helped to give me purpose.

While I do not have children of my own and do not try to assume a parental role with the two aforementioned children I have developed a role of mentor with the younger sibling. This has proven to be one of the most fulfilling experiences, gratifying to no end when learning with each other, eye opening while brainstorming on a vexing issue, humbling when apologizing for acting without thinking, exasperating when trying to type and listen to the latest account of heroism meted out in a game of Clash of Clans, heart warming when sharing space on the bed while working side by side on our respective ever-so-important online issues. Sobriety has allowed me to be present for all of the events, good or bad, easy or trying.

I developed relationships with this family while at the tail end of my substance abuse. The tail end, as it is not uncommon, was some of the worst of my use; I had seen worse times that thankfully they were never witness to. Like all of my relationships while active in addiction I was barely present mentally or emotionally, always feeling like I was doing enough by being physically present; even at that I was occasionally absent. I certainly was never fully available.

Thankfully, my girlfriend and her children saw me through the beginning of my recovery which involved jail time and rehab. They made themselves available to me when I went dry and began the path of recovery which, for me, was and is a day by day process of introspection, reflection and a search for a better understanding of myself. This discovery of self is the foundation for being present in my  life upon which I have built the familial relationships that enrich me. Unbeknownst to them they have given my life meaning.

In turn being an active, positive, helpful, caring and mindful mentor has been good for the younger child as well. I have found meaning in finally being something to someone, in being a friend, a teacher, a role model, an honest and forthright contributor to his life. It is reciprocal without discussion. It is an unspoken exchange of life, love and values that encourage personal growth within all of the family. It has given each of us meaning.

This meaning I could not have found without having taken the first step towards recovery and would never have realized without the loving inclusion into this family.

What are some of the ways that you enrich the lives of those around you?

In what ways do you find your life given meaning by the acts and words of others?

Do you find meaning in helping those who you may not know personally?

How do you feel when you can give? when you receive?

You Are Not Alone

Mindset is everything

Surround yourself with people that believe in you

Weed out those who do not

For years I had filled my head with self-limiting beliefs. It was a struggle to find the courage, the fortitude to finally get sober. There burned within me the flame of freedom that had never died but was lost amid the anger, resentments, expectations and fear. Once I had found that flame, or it found me, I was able to light the way out of the rabbit hole of addiction.

This journey is made possible by a series of decisions that were made by and for me. By evaluating what is important to me, how I had disallowed myself from fully realizing those things and starting the process to correct those missteps I have been able to stoke the flame of freedom into a full-on bonfire (and not the kind in the sandpit as a teenager fueled by confusion, misguided decisions, cheap beer, stolen liquor and pallets). This journey out of the rabbit hole, this fanning of the flames of freedom has also been made possible in large part by surrounding myself with people who believe in me.

This is not an indictment of the many people who I have at one time or another shared oxygen, shared time, shared space with. There are many relationships that were begat of convenience, circumstance and substances but they were passed by the executive branch in my head when they should have been vetoed. However, in order to put myself in the best position to succeed in sobriety, to best improve myself, to grow I had to weed out the relationships built in a life of fear and build relationships in this new life of courage, compassion and conviction.

It is these relationships that I can turn to in darker times when it seems that the fire has grown dim and the rabbit hole is close to foot. It is in these relationships that I can find strength when my own seems to falter. It is these relationships that I can turn to for a hug when all that seems to make anything better is the knowing, understanding, forgiving embrace of a loved one.

Do you have an active support system?

Do you turn to anyone to help you through the darker times?

Do you seek the counsel of mentors? of partners? of family?

Keep It Simple

 “Let’s not louse this thing up. Let’s keep it simple.”

While cleaning in the kitchen I ran across a half-emptied “nip” (50 mL bottle) of vodka. I had used the first half of the bottle a few months ago, which was a little over a year in sobriety, to create an effect on some cookies which, as an aside, were fun but not necessarily worth repeating. Check ’em out… you decide. Anyways, I held the bottle in my hand for a spell turning it over, dusting it off, staring intently and trying to elicit some sort of response.  I experienced something for which I simply cannot nail down a description outside of confusion.

I felt like I was supposed to be in danger, like I was supposed to be awash in a flood of memories, inexorable cravings, maddening , aching thirst for some release from imbibition. This is what has been drilled into me after 18+ months of counseling and 16+ months of AA; always be vigilant, on the lookout for looming triggers, never become complacent, know that my addiction is outside waiting for me doing push-ups, becoming stronger, yearning to have me back in its grasp squeezing the life from me.

I don’t feel these things. I feel great pride (not smugness), great satisfaction (not complacency), and great responsibility (not victimization). I feel strong, I feel well, I feel whole. It is with the nearly indescribable help, for which I will always be grateful, that I received from AA and counseling (which, in my case, has a heavy lean towards AA) that I am where I am in my sobriety. All the information presented in all forms (I have an extensive, sordid past of rehab, counseling, AA and jail) was listened to but not always heard. When I was ready to make a change, when I was ready to shift successfully into sobriety I began to hear and to practice; mind you, with a open but discerning mind. I decided to make a choice. I chose sobriety.

Much of the self-help material that I have delved into is information that is fairly close to common sense and not difficult to wrap my head around. Depending on the presentation, the method of delivery, I find that the same information presented by two different vehicles can resonate with me differently. However, the simple premise of my understanding is this – my life is a series of choices. Where I am today, everything I have, everything I know has been a product of one decision made after the next. I am a victim in nothing and things do not happen to me but instead are there manifestations of my choices or simply things I have done to myself.

On most occasions I can speak openly, passionately and at great length (if given the floor and sets of eyes that do not roll) about my former substance abuse. Such was the case last night when, while in attendance at a holiday gala (I love that word), I enjoyed dialogue with a physician about alcoholism. As a conditioned response I referred to alcoholism as a disease. I flinched. I am not sold on the idea that it is and, in my head, I ride the fence.There are reams of information that one can find that support either side of an argument over whether alcoholism should be called a disease and frankly, I don’t care. This is what I know, I am not a victim and I have and continue to make the choices that are necessary for me to live a happy, healthy life of self-awareness.

Self-awareness, looking into a metaphorical mirror has allowed me accept many teachings. It has allowed me to learn, critically, of myself and what has led me to make destructive decisions in the past. That education has allowed me to move forward armed with the knowledge that best puts me in the position to succeed: I may fail but I will fail forward.

There will be setbacks, trials and tribulations; there will be heartache, sorrow and loss; there will be anxiousness, anger and fear but with my mindset, with my mirror, with my ability to recognize the power that I have within I can move forward, fail forward and live my life closer to my potential than ever before.

With no small amount of irony I must attribute the above quote to Bill Wilson as he visited Dr. Bob right before he died.

Grateful For Sobriety

I found my reason to be sober every morning when I came to. For what now seems like an eternity but in actuality lasted a mere twelve-plus years at its apex (and carried on for years before), I did not sleep. Almost every night I passed out in a blackout of complete drunkeness.

Mind you, the blackout was intentional. What was thought of as a careful crafting of inebriation which was to end in an intended shutting down of my brain was enacted as often as possible. If I didn’t drink to pass out then I would be up all night in a terrible sleepless drunk, tossing and turning unless I was putting something else into my system to power off. Blackouts became a means of survival; something necessary to reset for another day of self-destruction.

The problem was, when I came to I didn’t want to drink. I didn’t want to feel the pain I was feeling, the venomous, violent disconnect from normal, from reality. I didn’t want to feel the fear of what I couldn’t remember, the guilt of what I thought I could, the anger, resentment, the distance and loneliness. I wanted to feel whole.

It wouldn’t take long. A few hours would go by, slowly, painfully, filled with nearly if not absolutely zero production. Fuzzy and hazy, my uselessness took on the shape of a listless ship. That ship, lacking direction and propulsion, began to take on water; the cold dark liquid of self-doubt, self-loathing, self-pity. Certainly and without failure, with no means or motivation to bail the ship, to save myself, I would sink further and further into a vast body of self-limiting beliefs. Invariably, at some point in the day, I would turn to alcohol to right myself, to buoy myself, to falsely free myself from drowning all the while filling my pockets with the rocks of substance abuse.

It’s tragic, really. Tragic and amazing. Tragic in the wanton waste of life; tragic in the terrifying self destruction. Amazing in that I am still here today to write about my past, to review it, to understand and learn from it. I can now see how I had held myself back from all of my potential to simply be a healthy, loving human being. With this perspective I can now identify when I am  leaning towards old detriments of character like selfishness, apathy, self-doubt, and fear; dark, evil, loathsome, self-limiting fear. With this perspective I can move forward towards finding happiness in myself, finding and realizing new potential, finding courage and strength to take action in all aspects of self improvement, of life. With this perspective I can see that I cannot drink.

It has been a marvelous new direction, this course of recovery. I have found some answers in AA, some answers in counseling, some answers in transparency, full disclosure, some answers in being vulnerable and asking for help, some answers here, in writing. There is a community of people who all share the same problem that alcoholism is a symptom of and that a cure for which can be, in part, found in the relation to one another of experiences. I hope to reach someone who needs it as I read other’s writings that speak to me. Thank you to those who write, to those who read, to those who understand without a word, to those who show support, who listen, who reply, who care. Thank you to those who ask questions, to those who offer opinion, who share personal accounts, who accept. Thank you to those who love me and who I love.

 

Please leave a comment. Good, bad or indifferent I appreciate reading the feedback and your thoughts help me to grow.

Shift Commit Succeed

Whether something I am endeavoring to see to its end is a failure or a success I know that I have succeeded in my commitment to the venture. Not the success when everyone gets a trophy for having shown up to all the practices, once with the orange wedges, or receiving the over-patronizing verbal pat-on-the-back for having done something that truly is, or should be, expected of someone as the most basic of functions for participating in life. The kind of success I am referring to is overcoming self-limiting beliefs to pick a path, take action and fail as often as it takes to realize the positive outcomes for those actions; all the while learning not only from the mistakes but about myself; how I tick, what I am made of, when I am coming up short and what direction to take to improve as a person. The commitment to the process is the key to my success.

Take this blog for an example. A measurement for success would probably be hundreds of views, dozens of comments and scores of followers. Conversely, few views, fewer comments and nary a follower could be seen as this project having failed. However, it is my commitment to the process of fully disclosing the challenges, the trials of living a life in recovery with hopes to reach someone who needs to read it  that rates this action of communication as a success.

There was a darkness that impaired my ability to see how much I hurt myself, how much I hurt the people around me while living a life of substance abuse. It truly was a life that was built around substance abuse. Fear is at the core of my matter. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of what I am, what I want, what I think I am supposed to be. The cruelest of ironies is that I abused whatever substances I could get my hands on (alcohol was my go-to on any day) to avoid my fears, to hide from  them, but the abuse of substances and more importantly the mishandling of my self-limiting beliefs exacerbated the problem. It is a frightful, truly frightful, cycle in which to be caught; running to alcohol to remove my self-limiting beliefs only to find that those fears, those beliefs simply remained and in fact grew worse with time. This led to greater abuse of more substances which of course led to an even more fragile mental and emotional being and so on.

It was my decision to exact change, to shift my life to seek a new direction that allowed me to find freedom from alcoholism. Sobriety came at a great cost in more than a few ways but my commitment to the process is what allows me to be a success. Commitment wasn’t easy for me to muster. There seemingly are countless instances over the past year and a half of my sobriety that I have wanted to run and hide, that I have felt myself shrinking away from simply an idea, that self-limiting beliefs, fears have crept into my head reminding me that confidence in myself is not innate. With great effort, not in pushing fears down, but in embracing them, recognizing them and understanding why I have them I find my strength to fail forward. To commit. To succeed.

Of you I ask feedback. Tell me what’s up. Please comment and let me know what you think, good or bad. Your feedback helps me to grow.

Living in Solution

I heard of a hospice counselor offering advice, to the sibling of a loved one lying terminal, in an effort to relieve the upright and concerned of self-imposed expectations in the care for the dying. “Most people die the way they lived.” This statement, while not made to me or about anyone I know, made me sad; sad to think that I, until a year and a half ago, led a trite and meaningless existence; an existence governed by fear and policed by addiction.

Often I have heard of people asking themselves, in order to gauge the worth of their lives, who would be at their funeral. I used to work for a man that was adamant in expressing his belief in the importance of leaving behind a legacy after his death. These mindsets used to strike me as being full of conceit, to be self-absorbed. However when I held in my hands one of the most powerful tools that I possess,  when I forced myself to look in the mirror with sober eyes l saw an empty life; a life without quality, without depth, meaning, direction and action. There were few memories that made me smile, few memories that left me centered, that gave me a sense of being whole. I felt broken.

If I were to be counting the last of my days now I would be terrified that this is how I lived and this is most certainly not the way I would want to die. I am learning to accept my fears, to master my fears, to shift my fears to my advantage. There is an untold amount of strength to be found in redirecting the energy fueling my fears into fueling my will learn, to immerse myself in passion, to surround myself with positivity, with my future, to love and to be loved. A new direction has been born of the marriage of sobriety and recovery. A solution was found and it was found within me. A shift in mindset. Change.

Time is my most precious resource and with it I am learning to be resourceful. Time to laugh and learn, think and do; above all else do. Take action. Move forward and learn to fail well with an open mind and heart. Do this with those I love and who love me. These are the people with whom I am shaping my life, making my memories. These are the people who would find comfort to know that I will die much the same way as I lived.

Let the Crazy Begin

Living in solution is a tricky thing. Many who live in sobriety after having shed the skin of addiction understandably believe in one path; one path to guide them all; one path to bind them. Understandable because it is a method of recovery that has helped millions of people the world over find a sober life and maintain it. However, it is in my experience that most of the core tenets upon which Alcoholics Anonymous is built can effectively operate without some of the other calls to action which turn many people, who are in earnest need of help, away.

It is the insistence that one must turn to a higher power, turn their will and their life over to this higher power that can turn some people off and I, for the longest time, was in that group. Mind you, I have not changed my personal views in regards to such an insistence. However, I learned (among many other things from the terrific teachings in AA) that I can step back, remove myself from the grudging defiance and see the call to accept a higher power for what it is; a realization that I am not the most important person in the room; to also find solace in the knowledge that I can be forgiven for all of my heinous transgressions; to know that I can exhale in the most trying of times, to breathe out, to relax, to accept.

To be an alcoholic is to be selfish. Indifference and apathy are defects of character that I assumed while in the throes of addiction and it was, it is, essential for my recovery to recognize that, to accept that, to grow from that. There are aspects of the Twelve Steps in AA that just don’t work for me and that is okay. I will not turn my life and my will over to a higher power. That for me is encouraging the self-victimization that I exercised in substance abuse that perpetuates weakness and a lack of accountability. This is not an indictment of members of AA who more strictly follow the Twelve Step Program. This is my perspective of what the program has to offer me and how I have used it to help me.

There will be an exhausting amount of thought-stream that I will post but it is in this way that I will begin. My recovery is ongoing, always taking on new shades, morphing into different shapes, sometimes sputtering but never far from my mind. I am happy to share it here and am happy to receive criticisms. Mine is not the only way but it is simply my way.