Long time…

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4, 2014 by sobermadman

It’s been a long time since I’ve written here.  Just thought I’d check into say that I’m alive and doing fine…

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Ten months

Posted in Addiction, Recovery, Sobriety on October 31, 2011 by sobermadman

My last post was 11 months ago.  Last December was a bad month.  I was depressed, angry, and often suicidal (yeah, I know, just like every other post I have written).  December ended with the beginning of what will hopefully turn out to be my last drinking bout.  My last drink was on January 7 of this year, and I’m a week shy of 10 months of continuous sobriety.  Ten months beats the hell out of my previous record of 60 days.

A lot has happened in the past ten months.  I’ve worked my way through the 12 steps, and now try each day to practice the principles of the steps in my daily living.  I’ve been through some pretty significant health issues.  I’ve spent about one month out of the ten lying on the floor because of lower back problems.  I’ve been offered a promotion…and then passed over for it.  I’ve been in 2 car accidents (no…not drinking and driving, and neither was my fault).  In short, I’ve gone through things that in my drinking days I never imagined that I could get through without drinking, and yet I’ve remained sober.

I guess all of this begs the question…what happened that I could remain sober through all of these things when last year I couldn’t put together more than 2 months of sobriety?  I think that the day of my last drink can help shed some light on that.  I had started drinking again on the day after Christmas.  On January 7, I was at a party that one of my coworkers was hosting at his home.  After being there for a couple of hours, I broke down and poured myself a drink.  Bourbon and coke, one of my old favorites.  I took a couple of sips…and suddenly a realization came over me.  If I drank that drink, I would invariably have another.  And another.  And who knew when or if it would ever end.  This realization was nothing new, of course.  I knew that I was a drunk.  The really startling realization was that I had the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to live…and potentially die…this way.  I poured the drink out.  I don’t know that I had ever poured a drink out before.

AA oldtimers say that this was a moment of spiritual awakening.  Maybe so.  All I knew at that moment was that I desperately wanted to be free from my addiction and that I was not moving in the right direction for that to happen.  Something had to change.  For me, this was a moment of complete surrender.  I was willing to do anything to keep from having to drink again.

I’ve worked damn hard in the past 10 months.  The steps demand rigorous honesty, intense self-evaluation, and willingness to admit faults and make restitution.  There are days when it doesn’t seem like it’s worth all the hassle, and, honestly, there are days when I slack off and don’t do the kind of work that I need to.  I know today that this is okay, as long as I am able to wake up the next day and get back on the beam.

I’ve done things in the past 10 months that I never imagined myself doing.  I’ve attempted to make amends to people that I frankly never wanted to speak with again.  I’ve started meditating and even have joined a meditation group.  I went on a spiritual retreat with a couple hundred other sober men.  I even led a special Memorial Day AA meeting at 3 in the morning.  I’ve worked to address my character flaws and have become less cynical, less angry, and less afraid.

The payoff to all this work?  The biggest clearly is that I’m sober.  Not only am I not drinking, I can honestly say that I don’t have those crazy, obsessive, “Oh my God I’m going to die if I don’t get a drink” feelings anymore.  Beyond that, though, for the first time in my life I am developing a deep assurance that no matter what happens in my life, I can be okay.  That doesn’t mean everything in my life will be okay, just that I can handle whatever life throws at me today because I have the tools and resources necessary to deal with it.

I am intensely grateful to AA and to the steps of recovery for these gifts.  Learning to trust that the program does “work if you work it” has allowed me to surrender and stop fighting, which in turn has allowed me to begin to experience true sobriety.  I’ve not arrived.  In fact none of us ever do.  I’m beyond doubt still a work in progress.  Not every day is good.  But today I’m convinced that if I work my program of recovery I will not have to drink and will have a reasonably peaceful existence.  I’m also convinced, though, that the wolf is still at the door, just waiting for me to get lax in my recovery.  I don’t want to be back where I was last December, so I’m going to keep plugging along at this recovery journey, one day at a time.

Drunk Dreams

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2010 by sobermadman

Sorry for the hiatus in writing.  Occasionally just get too busy actually living life to write about it.

One of the interesting phenomena of recovery is the “drunk dream.”  These are intensely realistic dreams about drinking.  They are so realistic that often, upon waking, you’re not sure whether you actually have been drinking or not.  Waking up in a sweat, panicked, thinking, “Oh shit, I drank last night” is an upsetting experience.  My sponsor tells me that these dreams are pretty much limited to alcoholics, so it’s a good confirmation that I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I’ve had three experiences recently that were variations on the drunk dream.  The first one was about 7 weeks ago.  I woke up on a Sunday morning, with the horrible feeling that I had been drinking.  Once my head cleared a little, I thought, “Oh, it was just a dream.”  As I lay in bed a little longer and fragments of memories from the night before began coming back, I was less sure that it had been a dream. It wasn’t until I looked in my closet and found the dregs of a liter bottle of cheap vodka that I knew for sure that I hadn’t been dreaming.  The horrible, sick feeling in my stomach was only alleviated by finishing the bottle.  I drank for 3 more days.  (aside-I don’t even like vodka).

The second was this past Thursday night.  I dreamed that my wife and I had separated, and I had moved back to a town where we had lived early in our marriage that had great bars.  In the dream, I thought, “Oh boy!  It’s Friday night, and there’s nobody to tell me not to drink!  I’m going to the bar!”  Then I thought, “Wait, I can’t drink.”  Instead, I picked up the phone and called my sponsor.  Still very realistic and intense, and I woke up altogether unsure whether it had happened or not.  My therapist and my sponsor both thought it was a good sign that I had a sober drunk dream.

The third was last night.  I was at a gathering of a strange assortment of people from my past-college friends, family, in-laws.  I decided to have a beer, which inevitably led to numerous others.  A feature of my drunk dreams is that I’m usually not only drinking but trying to hide my drinking from the other characters in the dream, and this one was no exception.  After my several beers, I found myself wandering through a barrio trying to find whiskey.  I woke up in terror, and again it took me a few minutes to figure out that it had been a dream.  Whew, no bottle in the closet.  What was fascinating was that I actually woke up feeling hungover-headache, sweaty, the whole deal.  I stopped having real hangovers a long time ago, but fake ones feel just as bad.

What do drunk dreams mean?  Some alcoholics call them “freebies,” drunks with no consequences.  Others see them as remaining mental reservations about sobriety.  I’m not sure, but I do know that I never enjoy being drunk in my drunk dreams, so if nothing else it’s a reminder that there’s nothing good left in drinking for me anymore.  After my sober drunk dream, I thought that maybe my unconscious finally wanted me to be sober.  After last night’s dream, I’m not so sure.  So is my unconscious sober or not?  Who knows.  All I know for sure is that I haven’t had a drink in 46 days and that I don’t anticipate having one tonight.  Tomorrow’s looking pretty good too.

The Diet Coke Nightcap

Posted in Addiction, Recovery, Sobriety on November 4, 2010 by sobermadman

I am writing this from a hotel room in North Carolina where I am attending a meeting of my professional organization.  The last time I was at this meeting, some of my colleagues had to half drag-half carry me back to my hotel room.  Not one of my better moments.  That meeting, back in March, was the site of my first relapse.  It began in an airport bar, continued with being invited by the police to leave a minor league baseball game I was attending with a friend from college, and ended with the pitiful scene of my colleagues helping me back to my room while I showed them the shiny new 24 hour AA chip that I had recently earned.

So far this trip is working out differently.  After a full day of working-with lots of joking about how much everyone needed a drink-my colleagues retreated to the bar about 9:45.  They invited me to join them, and I did for a bit.  When I stood at the bar waiting to order my drink, the thought flashed through my mind: I could have just one.  Instead, I ordered my Diet Coke.  I sat with my colleagues feeling completely self conscious.  There is something in the alcoholic mind that thinks that everyone is as obsessed about the fact that I’m drinking Diet Coke while they’re drinking martinis, wine, and vodka tonics as I am.  And one person did make a comment about my drinking.  He asked if I was traveling with my own bottle of whiskey, something I had commonly done in the past.  Now, as I sit in my room, I am fairly certain that none of my friends are sitting in their rooms thinking about what I spent the evening drinking the way I am thinking about what they were drinking.

I spoke to my wife earlier this evening, and she noticed that I didn’t sound like myself.  “Are you depressed?” she asked.  I thought for a while before responding.  “No, just resigned.”  Resigned to the fact that my life is now a life of drinking Diet Cokes while my friends drink whatever they want. Resigned always to be the designated driver.  There are worse fates.  I once worked in a nursing home where most residents had to have their beverages thickened to keep them from choking.  Thickened Diet Coke would certainly suck worse. 

Getting through tonight was a big thing for me.  In early sobriety, we are advised to avoid people, places, and things that are likely to be relapse triggers.  So I spent part of the evening at a conference, in a bar, with people I used to drink with.  I got all three of them.  We are also advised to avoid becoming too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  That’s why I returned to my room, ordered some gumbo from room service, and called my sponsor.

Today is 10 days since my last drink.  I still don’t like not drinking.  I still feel sorry for myself and resentful of others who can drink safely.  I don’t have to like being an alcoholic.  I do have to accept it if I want to get better.  So tonight I’ll practice accepting a lifetime of Diet Coke nightcaps.

Why do we drink

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 by sobermadman

Perhaps the most vexing question to people who love alcoholics or addicts is, “Why do they do it?”  This morning I listened to my wife ask me the same question, tears running down her face.  The strange answer is, I don’t understand anymore than she does.  Chapter five of the AA Big Book says that alcoholism is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” 

In AA meetings, I’ve heard all kinds of things that are supposed to give me immunity to drinking one day at a time.  “Meeting makers make it; every day you go to a meeting, you won’t drink.”  “You’re guaranteed sobriety every day that you pray to be sober and ask God to take your will and life.”  “You’ll never drink on a day that you reach out and help another alcoholic.”  These tools of the AA program are powerful, and I by no means want to imply that they don’t work.  In honesty, I also must confess that this past Saturday I didn’t do any of them.  But I also know that I have left meetings and been drinking by nightfall (once even stopped at the liquour store on my way home from a meeting).  I have also drunk on days that I used the other program tools.

This clip from the movie My Name is Bill W does a great job of capturing the insanity of the obsessive urge to drink.  I resonate with Bill’s sense that alcohol creates a sense of safety that enables him to engage in relationships with others and the world and his statement that the depression and fear and anxiety of living can be so overbearing that the only good option seems to be to anesthtitize it.  After Bill’s painful dialogue to his wife Lois, he remarks that the insane thing is “all I can think about is taking another drink.”  My last bout of drinking was terrible.  There’s no fun left in drinking for me.  Lying, sneaking, hiding, and, eventually, having to sober up are all miserable ways to live.  And yet, today, the desire to drink is incredibly strong.  This makes absolutely no sense to me.  Cunning, baffling, and powerful to be sure.

I am told that working the twelve steps will, untimately, give me relief of the aspects of life that are so painful and troubling.  Not that the steps will make them go away, but that they will give me perspective that will allow me to accept life as it comes.  The problem is, this serenity doesn’t come until you’ve done the work of getting it, and in the meantime I have to ride the roller coaster and do my best to hang on.

Today, I am using the tools that I have at my disposal.  I went to a meeting.  I spoke with my sponsor.  I reached out to a new guy at a meeting.  I am praying for acceptance and sobriety.  I feel reasonably confident that I’m going to make it through today sober and tomorrow can get up and do it again. 

At the end of every meeting I’ve ever attended, the members circle up, join hands, and say, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it.”  I’m working it, and I’m hoping like hell that it works.

Starting Over

Posted in Addiction, Recovery, Sobriety on October 28, 2010 by sobermadman

Today has been 3 days since my last drink.  Sometime last Saturday night the obsessive thoughts about drinking became stronger than my resolve to resist them.  My recovery program broke down.  The details of the next 2 days are somewhat hazy.

There are all kinds of excuses I could make, but in the end, I just wanted to escape.  The problem with escaping is that at some point all the problems that you’re escaping from catch up with you.  My sponsor told me, “One of these days you have to get sober, and when you do you have to deal with this shit.” 

As I look back at my last entry, I am impressed with the power of denial.  You see, the blog says I wrote this on Sunday night.  In this entry, I talk about how much I had wanted to drink and how I had resisted.  I don’t actually remember writing this.  I wonder who I was trying to fool?

And so I start over.  October 25, 2010 was the date of my last drink.

Temptation

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2010 by sobermadman

Today I was really tempted to drink.  A variety of factors led to this place that are not worth mentioning.  I had, however, pretty much decided early this morning that recovery was too damn much work and that I’d be better off drinking.  Before starting drinking, though, I decided to call a friend from the AA program. 

I talked to my friend M.  He reminded me of everything I have to be grateful for in sobriety.  A family.  Beautiful children.  A home.  Good work.  Damn.  He convinced me that sober was better. 

Later in the day, I spoke to my sponsor and told him how close I had been to drinking.  I told him that I was busy feeling sorry for myself because, after all, normal people got to drink without problems and it wasn’t fair that I couldn’t.  He said, “Yeah, normal people like to be shit-faced and face down in their bathrooms by 10 a.m. on Saturdays.”  He had found me in that state at one point. 

For today, I need to focus on the fact that I want not to drink more than I want to drink.  And when I want to drink more than I want not to, I really need to focus on the potential consequences of picking up, because there’s no place that drinking can take me that will make any of my problems easier.

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