The Present

Honeymoon Shine

Honeymoon Shine

This time next week i’ll be in another continent, celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. 50 years. And of all the gifts i could them, i think the best would have to be: a bucket of diamonds. But the second best gift would definitely be…gold plated bacon. 😉

But the best gift of all the gifts i can afford is, of course, my sobriety.

Many years ago, i went to college in the same town where my grandparents lived, so i was the one who had to telephone my mother to tell her that her father had passed. i called her at 4am and told her she should sit down. She said immediately, “Oh god, you hit someone drunk driving.”

My family has many alcoholics on both sides. Every year when i went fishing with my dad, he would remind me that his father was a “skid row bum” and that my maternal grandfather was an alcoholic and that alcoholism is genetic. Then he would gently ask me where i was at with my drinking.

While i may not be able to afford a bucket of diamonds or gold plated bacon, at least i can give my mother the peace of mind in her later years that if the phone rings at an unusual hour it’s not her son telling her he killed someone while drunk. And at least i can give my dad a couple of fishing trips where we can share thoughts happier than his fears over my drinking problem.

i would never advocate getting sober for anyone other than yourself, but that doesn’t mean those close to you can’t enjoy it as well.


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on July 28, 2012, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. JEEZ, the photo! When i see your photos, i find it hard to read the post. THEY ARE HILARIOUS and quite sad. Yes. I’m hoping those little fake people will (a) wake up and/or (b) wake up OK, without hangovers.

    Wow, my p’s did the same sort of questioning ritual: Leaving out the second part. I got a little sick of hearing the litany of how sick and messed up the family was … HINT HINT … screaming, “YOU ARE MY MESSED UP LITTLE FREAK”. I’d have to go through my library of illnesses or failed tests, lost jobs (real or imagined) to try and figure out which one of my HUGE faults made me just like “so and so”. I had a great imagination … and there weren’t any relatives i could imagine resembling in any shape or form. That’s a GOOD thing … as much as i loved mom’s relatives. Creative and crazy. Oh the stories.

    Anyway, VERY cool that you’re visiting mom and pops. I take it they don’t drink, they just worry?

    Oh, and i KNOW my mom would have preferred 50 pounds of bacon vs. the Waterford vase and gold-rimmed glasses that Jeff and Carlos bought them … but I don’t think mom had the walk-in freezer anymore. We didn’t want her to die of a heart attack because she needed to clean her plate before she got dessert.

    Sorry, i think i just wrote a blog post here.

    Congratulations to your mom and dad, and have a blast in the next continent! Hope everything’s going ok. …

    • Hi Mel!

      Great to hear from you. Parents are funny animals, aren’t they? Actually, most everyone in my family is a big drinker though i’m the only one who had a (severe) problem. My mom used to drink more than enough with some regularity, but she’s slowed way down in the last couple years and my dad is so afraid of becoming an alcoholic like his dad that he’ll never have more than 2.

      Thanks for the blomment (comment long enough to be a blog!), i always love to read what you have to say and i value the fidelity with which you read this blog.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      PS Things are going OK. It’s tough as Celeste E Hall will be leaving in 3 days and there’s a lot of emotion floating around our place, but i’m doing what i can to stay on an even keel and have been going to a lot of AA meetings.

      • Great medicine those meetings. Keeps you steady. Sometimes you have to bear a little “embers” on your own. Walk on, walk tall, and give your beautiful wife and children BIG kisses and hugs. It does a body good. I’m missing my man. He’s at Nationals (he started a Lake County Fast Pitch softball travel team). He always makes nationals (though he always says his teams aren’t good enough). Anyhoo … missing his BIG BEAR hugs. There’s something really comforting about holding your spouse, or man(woman). 🙂

  2. Hi there, i’m just finding you for the first time, love the way you write and admire your perspective. (OK, i didn’t just ‘find’ you, i’m trolling for inspiration tonight and found some here, thanks!)

    • Hi Belle!

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to say “Hey”. Thanks so much for the props on the blog and i hope you’ll continue to stop by and leave your thoughts! Just as i intend to with your wonderful blog…i wish you the best of luck and all the rest in your decisions!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  3. working on it

    Hey there. I’m sure you being there to celebrate with your parents will be the best present ever…you being there sober will be the icing on the cake or gravy on the potatoes. Hope you and Celeste have safe ttrips in.

    • Thanks for the thought!

      “you being there sober will be the icing on the cake or gravy on the potatoes” is a beautiful sentiment and a nice perspective to approach this from.

      Thanks for your wishes and Keep Working On It!

      and Keep Coming Back,

      Al K Hall

  4. Yes, family and alcohol are a strange mix. I am convinced that whatever is wrong with me with regards to alcohol came from my father’s side of the family. One of my father’s brothers drank himself to death. Another uncle from my father’s side swore off alcohol when he was in his early 20s and has been sober for over 50 years. And my great grandparents both came from Ireland. So I’m guessing that’s the origin.

    My family has not commented much about my not drinking. I remember visiting them for Thanksgiving 2009 only 18 days sober. They were surprised when my mother offered me a beer and I declined. But without missing a beat my mother said “well, here’s a glass of water.” Since then, they fish for details sometimes, but being sober means not taking the bait. For example, my mother obliquely asked if I still do yoga because she read about some yoga guru in LA who gave up alcohol, coffee, and meat. I believe the only remark I have made to them was “if the consequences exceed the benefits, it makes sense to stop.” I never told them about SMART or anything else. And they’ve never asked a direct question about it.

    When my father came to visit me in June, he didn’t drink at all. We had a wonderful time together not drinking. But when I went to visit my family just last week for vacation, he asked me to go to the store and pick up a bottle of wine for him and my mother. I suppose I could have resented that, but I didn’t. It was their vacation too.

    I’m much closer to my family now that I quit. I used to think I had to drink just to make it through family functions because they were so unpleasant. But now I see that it was my drunkenness that made family meetings so unpleasant. I savor each sober moment with them now and my ties to my family are much stronger.

    • I used to think I had to drink just to make it through family functions because they were so unpleasant. But now I see that it was my drunkenness that made family meetings so unpleasant. I savor each sober moment with them now and my ties to my family are much stronger.

      Yes! This, this, a thousand times this. Damn, i can’t wait ’til you get a blog and save me some time expressing things in too many words!

      Thanks for the visit, brother, and i hope you’re well.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • Well, don’t get me wrong: time off with families is not always a vacation even when sober. I like to think of family visits as being like Jimi Hendrix, porn, or mu shu pancakes: fun for a while, but nauseating in higher quantities.

        There are two tricks to coping that are much more effective than booze. The first is going into objective observer mode. You are simply observing your surroundings, not interacting or reacting. By going off into a state where you are not engaged in what is going on, but simply “observing,” the same way a scientist from another planet would observe an earthly family gathering, those tense moments simply pass. This is particularly useful around the dinner table or when everyone is sitting on the couch drinking and being silly. Just remember: the universe doesn’t give a shit.

        The other coping mechanism I have is to excuse myself for a while. Having an escape planned well in advance for those moments when things turn south is paramount. It can be “oh, I need to do some shopping” or “I’m off to climb a mountain” (only works in mountainous areas) or “I’m going to go visit an old friend.”

        • Om my God, i hope Celeste E Hall sees this! She’s on her way back to the Lion’s Den of her family!

        • She did, she did see it! Very wise words, and my experience so far lines up with this here. It’s been a little tough as it is harder to stay in “observer mode” when tired and jet lagged, but I have been doing pretty well so far.

          ITSB is so correct in the idea that “neutral disengagement” is the key to making it through with family. So many dynamics there, with issues embedded bone deep and triggers all over the place, whew!!

          So far, so good. Thanks ISTB & Al.

      • Al Writes:

        “Damn, i can’t wait ’til you get a blog and save me some time expressing things in too many words!”

        I don’t think I’ll ever get a blog, let alone one devoted to sobriety. I’d be facing stiff competition (not unlike that time I came first and third in a 12-man circle jerk) with your blogs.

        But every once in a while an urge to blog overcomes me. Like right now. So I’ll just post it here as a comment, which is as good as having a blog. Because if I did have a blog, who the hell else besides you would read it?


        During my first year of recovery, I was a fan of Jonah Lehrer, a writer for Wired Magazine with a blog called “The Prefrontal Cortex.” He had a “scientific” explanation of addiction: how the amygdala part of the brain, responsible for “urges” and “instant gratification,” takes greater control of the brain than the “prefrontal cortex” responsible for forward thinking and planning, with fMRI studies to back it up. And at later stages of addiction, the pathways between the two are severely clogged so the signals from the prefrontal cortex are drowned out and one’s brain is reduced to an “urge machine” focused entirely on getting wasted. This was very therapeutic. I had a framework for understanding my alcohol problem, why it was so hard to quit, and it jibed with SMART recovery. It explained how I had altered my brain. More importantly, It explained to me how just thinking of the future or having rational thoughts could quash an urge — because the act of doing so stimulates the prefrontal cortex and stops the neurons in the amygdala from firing. I even went so far as to hypothesize that “invoking a higher power” was the same as “activating the prefrontal cortex” and quashing the amygdala. Even though I suspected his stuff was grossly oversimplified, I was grateful; it helped get me through the first year. I even went out of my way to go see him talk at a synagogue in Beverly Hills.

        So you can imagine my dismay when I went to his blog, only 10 months into sobriety, looking for another great insight of his to get me through another day sober, and I saw this:

        Oh great! The guy I admired and sought help with my recovery is now telling me I’m going to die early because I quit drinking! I was crushed. Fortunately, I have a very good friend who not only supports my quitting, but also knows Mr. Lehrer, as my friend is a prominent researcher in neuro-science, and was even profiled in one of Mr. Lehrer’s articles. And he told me, “ITSB, don’t worry. The guy is a hack. Sometimes he gets it right, but most of the time he is prone to fancy and tenuous reasoning. He was probably paid by the alcohol industry to write this.”

        Fast forward 2 years to the present. Mr. Lehrer is now the Jayson Blair of the science journalism world for fabricating, of all things, quotes by Bob Dylan in his latest book. See here:

        The story is so big, it even merited an Onion parody:,29028/

        And then, last month, before Dylan-gate broke, we have this fantastic take down by The New Republic:,0

        This passage from the TNR critique really struck me:

        IMAGINE is really a pop-science book, which these days usually means that it is an exercise in laboratory-approved self-help. Like Malcolm Gladwell and David Brooks, Lehrer writes self-help for people who would be embarrassed to be seen reading it. For this reason, their chestnuts must be roasted in “studies” and given a scientific gloss. The surrender to brain science is particularly zeitgeisty. Their sponging off science is what gives these writers the authority that their readers impute to them, and makes their simplicities seem very weighty. Of course, Gladwell and Brooks and Lehrer rarely challenge the findings that they report, not least because they lack the expertise to make such a challenge.

        The irony of Lehrer’s work, and of the genre as a whole, is that while he takes an almost worshipful attitude toward specific scientific studies, he is sloppy in his more factual claims. (In one low moment, he quotes an online poll from Nature magazine to support one of his arguments.) I am not an expert on brain science, but for Lehrer to quote a study about the ability of test subjects to answer questions when those questions were placed on a computer screen with a blue background, and then to make the life-changing claim that “the color blue can help you double your creative output,” is laughable. No scientist would accept such an inference.

        This describes my experience with him perfectly. I came to him for “self-help.” Got something out of it with his scientific backings, but became very disillusioned by his sloppiness. Fortunately, I read the right thing by Lehrer at the right time, and it helped keep me on track. And when I read the wrong thing, my friend was there to correct me. I was lucky. To this day, I resent Lehrer for his bullshit and I’m glad he’s being called out for it.

        I don’t know if there is a moral here other than be careful what you read. I just needed to get that off my chest.

        All the best,

        • inthesameboatla

          That said, I’m just as guilty as Jonah in fabricating quotes. My friend the neuro-science guy did not say “The guy is a hack. Sometimes he gets it right, but most of the time he is prone to fancy and tenuous reasoning. He was probably paid by the alcohol industry to write this.” I just made that up to support my claim.

          Rather what he said was “Jonah knows really only the cocktail party version of neuroscience” and “at this point he only really wants to sell books.” When I countered “that’s an honest living,” he replied “more fun than honest.”

          I regret the error.

          • I’d read your blog. Reading has been how I’m keeping my amygdala and all of the other parts of my brain alcohol free. All of those articles were very interesting. I can’t believe he kept lying about it. His next book should be a work of fiction about a narcissist (based on a true story of course). When growing up my parents would always say the punishment would be greater if they caught us lying so we were quick to fess up. I work in the finance industry and am still constantly amazed that institutions still try to cover Shit up. Anyhow, ill step down now.

        • i remember the Bob Dylan scandal! That’s the same guy!? Wow. What a cool comment, brother. And i’m glad you broke down and started your own blog! There’s always room for one more voice, especially one as perceptive as yours.

          Keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

  5. Al, great post! So glad you have such a precious gift to give your parents! I’ll take sobriety over gold-plated bacon or a bucket of diamonds any day! (Besides, if I were drinking, I’d probably try to eat the bacon while in a blackout, and I’d have an empty bucket within days…and nothing to show for it!)

    • Whoopee!

      It’s been a while but i’m glad to see you back! You’re right, sobriety is the best gift we can give ourselves!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  6. I’m with Mel-those photos you start every entry with are just amazing.
    congrats to your folks-50 years married these days seems like the impossibility of not drinking ever again. and not drinking at family functions has its awkward moments for me, but not as awkward as having to apologize afterwards. kudos dude.

    • Oh i’ll be all right! i survived last year and my alcoholism always made family gatherings a crap shoot so my family wouldn’t let me drink even if i wanted to!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

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