Tag Archives: Alcoholism

Why I Blog

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Mine is not a story with a “high bottom”

Mine is not a story that engenders sympathy

Mine is not a story that you would wish upon a loved one

Mine was a story of guilt

Guilt for drinking, blacking out, hurting, lying, deceiving

Guilt for letting loved ones down

for taking advantage of people

for damaging relationships faster than I could repair them

Mine was a story of selfishness, of ego, of blindness and uncaring

I drank to live

I drank to hide from fear

I drank to find love

Mine was a story of shame

Shame that disallowed me from looking in the mirror

Shame that had me feeling lesser than

feeling broken

Shame that taught me to hate myself

Mine was a story of fear

Fear that gripped me with self-limiting beliefs

that had me reminding myself daily of how little I was capable of

that had me never trying something new

that never let me grow

that always gave me nightmares

that never let me dream

Mine is now a story  of courage

to seek out challenges

to look within myself and to heal myself

Mine is now a story of strength

to be vulnerable and transparent

to ask for help

to be honest with myself

Mine is now a story of growth

through self-discovery

through freely giving of myself

through listening, learning and living

Mine is now a story of opportunity

of pride, of progress, of failure

but failing forward

always forward

I will never stop failing

but it will never

disallow me,

it will never stop me from

 moving forward

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Grasping What is Important

“It’s so easy to dismiss the opportunity

to do something good

because you’re hoping

to do something great.” 

-Mark Bezos

There we all were, last night, gathered in the general area that I like best in the house, the kitchen/dining area. It was the day after Christmas here in the northeast of the U.S., New England if you must know, which for many, I believe, is a suburb of Boston. Just a few inches of dry, light fluffy snow, that was a welcome respite compared to the usual wet, heavy rubbish that routinely falls around these parts, fell on this day, a day late for some, to give the local landscape a proper winter feel. After the obligatory removal of crystallized flakes of water, no two of which are the same but who cares when it needs to be shoveled, we, being my girlfriend, her youngest son, our neighbors/his two cousins and yours truly had settled in for the evening.

The stove-top  in the aforementioned kitchen that I commandeered threw off a goodly sum of heat after I had just made the lot of us some Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate (a recipe that I shared in the comment section here ) and topped that tasty beverage with, something that perplexes me even as I type it, fat-free whipped cream. Two of those gathered protested being served any such concoction but being of the fairer sex they could not resist the home-spun magic that is the manifestation of my culinary skills, or something like that. It was a winner and all present rejoiced.

One of the seemingly innumerous new iterations of Monopoly sat on the dining table entertaining the other four while I managed my post in the galley, a post that I relish and take pride in maintaining. After the hot chocolate had been enjoyed by all, nursed and slurped by some through a straw to finish the last cooled ounce (not me, this time), maple-flavored bacon was placed in the oven to faintly sizzle and warm the cockles of my heart with its aroma  whilst I prepared dough for a pizza to be noshed on by the younger and bemoaned by the older kids (me and my girlfriend). Pizza unadorned with chunks of mapley-salty bacon is apparently, by the standards of the ruling class, menu-creating children of this house, in fact, not pizza. Bacon on the pizza they were to and indeed did have.

Flo Rida radio softly played on Pandora. Flo Rida wasn’t made to be played softly and outside of the children present it isn’t made to be played at all in my daily life but this was an occasion for it. The kids raised and lowered their voices in time with the ebb and flow of the game, crying out in displeasure as the almighty Monopoly dollar slipped through their grasp, unfair as the game-play was, and joyfully slammed their taunting fists onto the table-top when their rightful advance towards Monopoly domination looked to be fully realized. It was good, wholesome, educational fun.

Pizza was made, slices were critically viewed and carefully chosen, faces were stuffed, friendships, broken by victory and defeat were rekindled, lyrics were Sinatra-ed (spoken/sung), I washed the dishes and goodhearted sarcasm aside, I felt complete. Two hours prior I had been internalizing my selfish agitation, lamenting that I had not been button mashing on my laptop for four days. How on earth was I going to advance myself as a blogger in my chosen niche of alcoholism/substance-abuse/sobriety/recovery if I didn’t get to typing? Where was I going to find the time to further my interests? When was this going to be about me? Why don’t I get the appropriate amount of consideration for my pursuits? Who was going to make me a blogger-superstar if not me?

Then I went into the kitchen, let go of my ego, participated in the lives of my loved ones and found in sobriety, once again, that that is what truly matters.

 

When do you find yourself making a conscious decision to put aside the pie-in-the-sky and make room for a simple importance? 

Leave a comment and let me know.

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.

Footprints in the Sand

“Anyone who draws you a map 

has done you no favors

because maps aren’t worth anything

if you are an artist

All you need is a compass”

-Seth Godin

Not unlike a few other people I have known, I am not particularly taken with being told how I should go about living my life. I am not referring to receiving instruction on how to perform a task unfamiliar at my place of work, being told to stop at red lights and for pedestrians in the crosswalk or to not eat the yellow snow. Sometimes I even need to be reminded of the obvious. However, in terms of exactly what metaphorical path I should travel and how it should be traveled, well I’d rather receive a little guidance and have the rest left up to me.

I understand the school of thought that it was my thinking that got me into substance abuse and all the devastation that it left in its wake as I steamed that ship full throttle through my life and the lives of others and it is foolhardy egoism to think that my thinking can get me out of it. Writing only about myself, I have enjoyed great success in being the one to shift into successful sobriety by grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and making the necessary changes to, put simply, get sober.

Be that as it may, I cannot deny the efficacy of willingly participating in counseling with an empty teacup. It is through this medium that I learned to accept attendance at AA meetings and to implement some of the information I had picked up while attending with open ears. As I have touched upon in previous posts I do not subscribe fully to all of the core tenets of AA but  rarely do I subscribe fully to many teachings; rather there is a great deal I can incorporate into my life after I have viewed all the angles critically and can determine what will work for me.

There has been a revelation of a personal truth for me on this road of recovery. I have learned that it is okay to ask for help and moreover to not be ashamed to accept it. The simple act of human interaction can greatly reduce the complication of most any given issue when employed and judiciously at that. This does not mean, however, that I desire a rigid or dogmatic approach to learning, to living, to fully understanding myself, my fears, my self-limiting beliefs or my growth from and out of them.

Let me fall.

Let me pick myself up.

When I look back to see only one set of prints in the sand during the most trying times of my life, rest assured they were my prints. If another set were to join mine it would be after I found the strength to walk on my own.

Thank you then for allowing me to use my compass.

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.

Growth Through Accountability

“The only consistent feature of all my past dissatisfying relationships is me.”

The term relationship applies not only to people but to situations, tangibles and ideas. In my former life of substance abuse many were the relationship I had that I looked to blame the other side for my negativity. I would look to blame coworkers for their lack of contribution to the team; I would look to blame circumstance for not providing me what I wanted; I would look to blame the belief in a system for not being able to supply me with a feeling of completeness; I would look to blame my relationship with alcohol for all of my terrible decision-making. Wherever there was a problem I could be certain to find that the fault laid with anything but me.

Getting sober was the first step in self-discovery in which I began to find the truth of the matter. The truth was that I spent years looking to condemn any and everything else for my problems. The truth was that I spent too much energy blaming and not enough energy taking full responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions. When I fully realized the concept of accountability I found the strength necessary to free myself from the shackles of self-pity, self-centeredness, self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs.

A wonderful transition into a new way of thinking occurred. By seeking truth I found my true self. I identified my fears that kept me from growing, from learning, from living a life that I am capable of living. I found a way to live fully with full responsibility and to love fully.

I am still learning to love myself. There is, however, no longer a fear to fully love those in my life that enrich my existence, that compel me to move forward, that help to let me feel whole. I am no longer burdened and broken and looking to blame. I am happy.

Show massive gratitude at all times. I am grateful for my  sobriety.

Resentments and Acceptance

Today I am infected with an aptly named complaint. This is an ailment, of sorts, that is recurring, is self-made (why on earth would I want to lay myself low with a me-made indisposition?), and wholly debilitating. I suffer from myself. I suffer from a resentment.

My resentments used to be plentiful and knew no limits in severity or breadth. I would hold court in my head, using my resentments as the prosecutor, casting judgement on anyone or anything that would not live up to expectations I had created without warrant of any sort.There could be no defense, there could be no reason laid before my feet that engendered empathy on any level. Any case with credibility made would be met with indignation and  spun to create even more ill will.

Resentments have been the creation of my own misgivings and self-limitations. An inability to accept that others cannot or do not view the glass as being in the same state of fullness or emptiness or that there is even a glass has proven to be an irrational source of stress for me. For years I simply could not wrap my head around what I viewed as shortsightedness bordering on inexplicable idiocy. I would dwell for hours, days, weeks on a subject that, ultimately, held little consequence for me but about which I simply had to be right.

This unjustified negativity was a vehicle I used to move myself further from whole and closer to broken. The vehicle was the construct of all the self-doubts I harbored over years of regressive thinking and was fueled by substance abuse. The greater the resentments, the more I filled my head and heart with negativity, the more I judged, envied, doubted, the more I drank. The more I drank the less I believed in myself. The less I believed in myself the greater the impossibility in self-imposed expectations. The greater the failure I had set myself up for the more I needed to impose my intolerance on others, the more I needed to project my disappointment onto someone else.

Once I began to learn more about my regressive thinking, my self-limiting beliefs and the awful effects they have on me the more aware I became that I needed to pay attention to me, to keep my house clean, to mind my side of the street. Acceptance has been a subject of extensive study and I by no means am at the head of the class. However, with gratitude and an open heart I am learning to accept what I need to about myself and learning about what it is I can and should change. By extension, I am learning to accept others, learning to accept actions and ideas that do not belong to me. I am learning that all the energy I used to spend on resenting something or someone that I would not accept acted as an unyielding tide that would ceaselessly erode the foundation of my humanity and threatened to wash away my ability to live freely and simply.

There are things that I can change but those things reside only within me. With a clear and sober mind I can recognize and identify what is within reasonable change, and can  set reasonable expectations. With a clear and sober heart I can breathe freely, I can welcome differing perspectives, I can receive.

Today, however, I struggle with a resentment that rankles within my head, festers and threatens to poison my well-being. I am struggling. I have not forgotten what I have learned to date and am embracing my admission of being human. I will step through this. I will take action to change what I can (that which lies within me) and accept what I can. I will persevere with strength and confidence and release with tolerance and understanding. I will continue to learn.

 

Leave a comment. Share your perspective. Let me know what’s up.

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.