The theme of my AA home group meeting is “Adventures in Sobriety”. Initially, i was kind of uncomfortable with this topic because i was afraid the meetings would only remind me of how my once adventurous drinking life had devolved into a tepid pool of boredom.
Speaking at the meeting the other night, however, i realized this is a pile of Schlitz. i did not have many adventures when i was drinking, i had drama. Getting in a drunk driving accident, receiving an eviction notice and attempting suicide are not adventures to be relished, they are enormous screw ups in my rearview mirror that are getting smaller all the time. Good riddance!
On the other hand, exploring my city, writing daily, trying things i’ve never done before (cooking, education, journalism…), remembering my vacations… these are the true adventures of my life, and they’ve only just begun.
And when i say ‘Relapse’, i don’t mean mine but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s. He forgot that we cannot drink from the same river twice.
TMZ reported that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s swan dive into addiction started with a slip: a sip of alcohol. He had been clean for 23 years, and then had a drink at a wrap party and the rest, unfortunately, is history.
i have met people in AA who had decades of sobriety and watched it all slip away when they forgot they couldn’t even have one drink. Their horror stories of what it was like when they “went out” are one of the things that helps keep me sober.
Before i got sober, i wallowed in my alcoholism, wore it like a puke stain, felt proud about how i could binge with regularity and still balance home and work (here’s the secret: i couldn’t).
Five years ago, i was so cavalier about my drinking i started the other website (Diarrhea of a Chronicle Drinker), elected myself Functional Alcoholic Slurperson, established D.R.I.N.K.E.R. (Drunks Really Involved Now Known as Exiles Reunited), and founded the Bar None.
In recovery, one of the first best truths i learned was when a fellow AAer said, “I can never be cavalier about my drinking again.” i knew exactly what she meant as soon as she said it. i can choose to lose my sobriety whenever i want, but i cannot go back to the place i was before. i know too much, now.
Picking up the drink again would mean drinking with a vengeance and in a few weeks or months, i would be at the same place it took me thirty years to arrive at the first time. But the destination would be the same, except my life might not be saved.
Understanding that, and knowing the other option is happiness in recovery, make it easier for me to choose ‘sobriety’ each time.
Remember not to forget.
i had my big share earlier this evening…and rocked it like a boss! Thanks to you guys! i thought about your encouragement, support and concrete advice (breathing, look at at least three people, speak slowly, pray…) and the effect it had on me was immeasurable. Yes, my voice quaked a little, especially when i touched on my suicide attempt, but i don’t think anyone really noticed. The nice part was i made a lot of jokes–even better, people actually laughed! Go figure.
Here’s an edited version of what i had to say, if you’re interested.
Sooooooooo, this is stressful…
Before, when i was confronted with situations like this, i had a little trick. i called it vodka. Unfortunately, that was the only trick i had. i was a one-trick pony.
When i was sad: booze. Nervous: booze. Stressed: booze. Afraid: booze. Happy: booze. Bored: booze. When i felt nothing: booze. i only had one tool in my kit: booze. That’s insane! One tool!
AA’s second step says we believe a Higher Power will restore us to sanity, and i was so totally insane that i needed restoration. How insane was i? i was trying to restore myself–with only one tool! Do you realize how difficult it is to build something with your life or make something of yourself when all you have is one tool? Especially when that one tool usually was a screwdriver!
Here’s another thing that shows how insane i was. i drank for 30 years. 30 years. i drank for 30 years despite the fact my life was constantly getting worse. A normal person would say, “Wait, this is hurting me, I’ll stop it.” Not me, because i was insane.
Another thing. i drank for 30 years and i didn’t even like the taste of alcohol! i hated beer and wine but drank it all the time. i only drank hard liquor if i could mix it with something that would cover the taste! There must be some food you don’t like, right? Do you eat it? Of course not, you don’t like it so why would you eat it? But me, i drank for 30 years even though i didn’t like what i was drinking.
Of course i had a reason to drink, though. i was looking for something. i was looking for love, friendship, romance, courage, strength at the bottom of a bottle. Here’s how insane that was: i spent 30 years looking for things in the one place i knew they weren’t! Because i’d looked there before and not found them, not really, and yet i kept looking there even if i knew i’d find nothing!
Imagine you’re looking for a key. You check your pocket and find it’s empty and that there’s a hole in it. Do you check it again, right after? No, of course not, you know they key isn’t there. Do you check five times, ten times, 1000 times? Do you keep checking over and over again in the same pocket for 30 years? Of course not! That would be insane. All you’d touch is that same emptiness and the only thing you’d feel is that hole getting bigger and bigger, and that’s what happened to me.
Now, in recovery, i’m still insane. But. i lost that one tool i had and replaced it with a full set of better tools and i keep adding to the toolbox all the time. Also, i recognize the thoughts that are insane and i use my tools to fix them. With time, those thoughts are coming less frequently and with less strength, so maybe there will be a time when they all but disappear. But that’s for another day. Right now, i’m happy to be here with you and i thank you for your support in keeping me sane.
Thanks again, everyone who commented and sent me moral support! It was a truly beautiful gift and helped me so much. You guys are the greatest!
i learned of the loss of a dear friend a couple of hours ago. He died as the result of an alcohol induced accident. He was 45 still going on 22. i saw him for the last time when i went back to the States for Christmas. We went to a sports bar to watch football with friends on a Sunday afternoon and he was the only one drinking. He never got a driver’s license, which probably explained how he made it to 45. i hugged him when i said goodbye to him and i’m glad i did.
It’s not my place to determine if he was an alcoholic or not, but those that loved him worried about his drinking. It’s unfair to him, though, to reduce him to this. He had a job, he had girlfriends and ex wives and friends and he had talent. He was a gifted artist and was without a doubt the most talented musician that i knew. He could not just play every instrument known to man, he could play it better than anyone else you knew.
Plus, he was unbelievably sweet. Constantly smiling. Always telling bad jokes and laughing at yours as though they weren’t bad, as well. He was very giving, and had jobs that included working with children and the elderly.
Children loved him because he was not broken by life and did not feel he had to hide the child within himself. He carried with him a naivete that he shared with everyone and his innocence was so infectious everyone caught it. He was a loyal friend and intelligent beyond the age he acted. While he often drank, i never once saw him become belligerent or aggressive. The times i saw him at his drunkest, he merely passed out in the chair with a smile on his lips.
i don’t know if his family and friends ever staged an intervention to get him into recovery, but it would surprise me if they had. As he did not act violent when drunk and seemed to be able to function in his day to day life, it probably didn’t seem necessary. Also, as anyone in recovery will tell you, there is nothing you can say to convince an addict they need help. Until they realize it themselves, all your pretty words are like sweet smoke.
Sad as it is to say, i’m sure all of us who loved him felt this was his destiny.
The mutual friend who informed me of his death said, “It’s shocking but not surprising.”
We all knew it was going to happen one day, but never thought it would be today.
i don’t want these words to be his elegy because they are not good enough for him and i don’t want him to need an elegy. i want him here, telling me the story of the crazy girlfriend that chewed his fingernails after he passed out, or telling me again how we should be in a blues band with me writing lyrics and him playing every instrument known to man.
After my suicide attempt, i was in ICU for a couple days and there was someone else in the bed across the hall. He had, i think (but i was in a haze for most of that time), a terminally ill disease. i remember feeling a twinge of guilt when it became apparent that, despite trying to to fuck myself up permanently, i was granted a longer life while that stranger across the hall was a victim to a disease he had not brought on himself, yet had to die from it.
i’m feeling a little of that guilt tonight. Why is it that i am the one who became sober after surviving a suicide, while he falls victim to a freak accident?
Untreated alcoholism is a terminal disease. i may not deserve the chance i’ve been given but i will use it to let other people know this simple fact: untreated alcoholism is a terminal disease.
My friend did not deserve to die, but i will use the life left in me to let others know that he created a work of art with the short time he’d been given.
Do i love myself?
As an infant, i was a playmate to myself.
Through puberty, i was a stranger to myself and, as i’d been taught never to talk to strangers, i felt very alone and alienated.
Then, i took up the bottle and got to know myself a little better.
When i was drinking i had a passionate, love-hate relationship with myself. i was like Sid & Nancy where i rocked both roles–enabling my own dysfunction with heartfelt loathing.
Towards the end of my alcoholism, i divorced myself in a very acrimonious and destructive trial. As i had to live with myself afterwards, there was a lot of blame and animosity.
Eventually, this led to attempted murder when i tried to kill my other half by killing myself.
Now i’ve passed the reconciliation phase and have been making up to myself.
Do i love myself? Hard to say.
i do admire myself and i’m better at listening to myself, which means i can live with myself again. And every day that gets a little easier.
What about you? Care to share your ‘personal’ relationship?
My big ass bottom is no longer a shock to any of my regular readers, but what you might not know is that i love it. Why? Because without it i wouldn’t be here.
When i was drinking, i was very cavalier about my drinking problem. True story, i used to take the AA test hoping for a higher score. When i say i was a practicing alcoholic, i honestly was literally practicing to be a better one. i started the Bar None blog as a way to revel in my alcoholism, i elected myself Functional Alcoholic Slurperson, i embraced my disease as the one thing that made me unique.
The Miracle Is Around the Corner wrote a wonderful post about Step 1 in AA and reading it i realized i took that step when i admitted i could no longer be cavalier about my drinking. This is entirely thanks to my big ass bottom. Even if, Higher Power forbid, i take up the drink again, i’ll never be able to do it with the same carefree attitude i had before because of where my big ass bottom dropped me.
To those of you with tiny little bottoms, allow me to tell you how much i admire them and heap all kinds of props on your wee bottom. i have the luxury of never being able to go back to the shit storm my big ass bottom made of my life. But those of you who don’t have that excuse… i respect you enormously because you’re stronger than i ever was and i pray out loud right now that you will stay on track and never know what it feels like to have a big ass bottom.
A quick disclaimer.
While i attempted to pen this post with a certain degree of levity, i do want to acknowledge very clearly that for those in my entourage, there was nothing at all even remotely amusing in all of this. This is especially true for Celeste E Hall and my son who found me the next morning and had to call the EMTs, as well as dear friends who were called in from out of town to be at my bedside in case i died.
After college, i was obsessed with a girl who was almost as beautiful as i thought she was and who didn’t like me nearly enough to quell my obsession.
One night at a bar, i drank way more than i should have. Then i had one more. Then another. Then the idea threw up in my brain that i had to see this girl.
i didn’t decide to drive drunk that night. i never decided to drive drunk. Rather it was a compulsion that overcame me and swept me away like a tsunamitini. A smarter alcoholic would have chosen to drunk dial but i’m nothing if not the stupid alcoholic so i chose to drunk drive the 1½ hours that separated Tracy and me so i could wake her at 3am and declare my love for her. Yes, well, i’ve already admitted to being the lowest common drunkard.
Somewhere around Hour-1, with 75% of the trip behind me, i fell asleep. i woke up less than a minute later to see my car barreling directly at a guardrail. i slammed on the brakes and hit the metal barrier head on. i was not wearing my seat belt.
i remember looking at the accordion front end of my car through the broken windshield. i remember taking my foot off the gas and the car shuddering to a stall. i remember seeing the cracked glass in front of me like a jagged spider’s web and understanding i had bounced off the windshield rather than burst through it.
After the long moment it took realization to seep through me, i found a way to tie the hood down with my jean jacket and drive the car to the next exit where God was nice enough to place a 24-hour truck stop that sold shock cords. i attached these to the hood and drove to a friend’s house rather than Tracy’s place.
i almost drove my car into a ditch approaching his parking lot, because i fell asleep again.
PS i was able to be fully reimbursed for my car because i told the insurance company that i’d hit a deer.
What about you? Have you ever driven drunk? Care to tell us about it in the comments?
i’m a walker. During my drinking life, when in the middle of a binge, i would often simply stand up, step away from the table, leave the room and walk off looking for adventure. If it wasn’t my night, i would find it.
One night i went to a party at a friend’s house and over stayed my welcome so much that he insisted i spend the night in his guest room. At about 2am he put me down for the night and went to join his wife in the bedroom down the hall. Then i got the urge to walk.
i snuck out of their apartment and walked the dark streets of their neighborhood until i reached a larger and infamous suburb west of Yeaman City. This was not the kind of place you walk after dark, and especially not at 2am when you’re drunk.
A group of young people was hanging out in a deserted public square and, me being me, i approached them and tried to drunkenly befriend them using my bad Yeaman accent. After blabbering with them a few minutes, one of the gang pulled me aside and whispered it would probably be a wise decision on my part to cut the conversation short and call it a night.
So i did.
i got about three minutes away when i did my inventory. Keys – check, sunglasses – check, pen & notebook – check wallet … my wallet was missing. i’d nearly gotten away free and clear but some time during our exchange one of the group had liberated my billfold.
Not just angry but drunk angry, i stormed back to group and started telling them off for being so badly raised that they would take advantage of another person that way. So they did the normal thing and kicked my ass.
i was knocked down, kicked, punched and my neck was scratched when someone tore off my gold chain. The flurry of blows lasted only a matter of moments before another loitering group came over and shooed my attackers away.
As i left the scene, i was humbled and sad and a little lost. Especially when i touched the back pocket of my jeans. My wallet was there– i’d had it the whole time. It had never been stolen and was, ironically, the only thing that remained of my excursion.
Hello, my name is Al and i’m an alcoholc.
The Three Asshole Rule
When you meet your third asshole of the day, it means you’re probably the asshole.
Heard in the rooms last Saturday
i’m sure i’ve told this story here on these pages somewhere but as this came up in my 8th Step work (Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all) and i also can’t be bothered to search through my posts to link to it, i’ll just retell it as briefly as i can.
One Friday night here in Yeaman, after the weekly cocktail party where i work, i followed some of my colleagues to a Scottish pub for the pre-after party. i was not drunk, i was totally shitfaced. i spoke very rudely on the underground, embarrassing my friends because i didn’t think anyone spoke English in the subway car, until a young woman standing nearby informed us in no uncertain terms that she did.
At the bar, i went to order a beer and noticed the barmaid was attractive (i was single at this time), so i decided to say something out of the ordinary, something edgy, to catch her attention and stand out from the crowd. i don’t remember what i said. The next thing i do remember is the barmaid was in tears, my coworkers were leading me outside, and the furious barman/owner was telling me i was barred for life.
Jumping ahead to tonight… At the meeting, a young lady in her mid-late 20’s was celebrating 5 years of sobriety and was talking about how she had lost everything (her job, her apartment, her family) to her disease before realizing she needed help.
When it came my turn to share i said:
When i was drinking, i felt like a broken toy. Like those toys under the bed in the evil kid’s house in Toy Story where the heads are on the wrong bodies. And like them, i knew i was beyond repair. That was my destiny. i had to accept the fact that i was alone and living in the dark and there was nothing i could do to get fixed.
The most amazing thing for me when i entered the program was realizing i was not broken by nature. That i could be repaired. All i had to do was to follow the steps. And as i took those steps and followed the advice, i slowly came out from under the bed and into the light.
As i spoke, i glanced up at her and saw she was crying. She was not crying because i had humiliated or hurt her, but because my words resonated with her.
If anybody tells you that using is better than recovery, they’re full of Schlitz.