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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…


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.

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.


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.


Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2010 by sobermadman

Ever noticed that faint, vodka-like smell when you put on your deodorant?  If you’re not an alcoholic, probably not.  I noticed it for the first time this morning.  So naturally, I put the deodorant container up to my nose and smelled intentionally.  The thought crossed my mind, it wouldn’t really be drinking if I just licked my Speed Stick.  That wasn’t a thought that I allowed myself to entertain for anything more than, say half a second, but for that half a second it actually seemed like a halfway decent idea.

If you wonder if you have a drinking problem, smell your deodorant.  If you have even the slightest interest in tasting it, get to an AA meeting.

The Cure for the Common Fuck-Its

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2010 by sobermadman

My sponsor says I have a case of the “fuck-its.”  The symptoms are simple.  Fuck AA.  Fuck sobriety.  Fuck calling another drunk.  Basically, fuck all this work.  It’s too hard, and I really just want a drink.

The earliest symptoms appeared while I was driving to work this morning.  I was about halfway over the bridge when the thought came-“I’m really not going to drink for the rest of my life?  Ever?”  I quickly reminded myself of the old AA saw-no, I’m just not going to drink for today.  And my mind said, “Bullshit, I know that’s just a mental game to trick me into not drinking today.”  That didn’t bode well for the rest of the day.

When I start to feel this way, I know what I’m supposed to do.  Call another alcoholic, read some AA literature, and get to a meeting.  What did I do?  Cancelled my 9 a.m. appointment with my therapist, went to my office, shut the door, and isolated myself.  There’s an AA saying that we should treat our minds like unsafe neighborhoods-never go there alone.  Well, I was like a tourist from Kansas in wandering alone in Harlem, just begging to be mugged.  I got depressed, angry, and tired.  The thing is, a part of me likes to nurse a grudge, even if the grudge is only at myself and my addiction.  Finally, I picked up the phone and called my sponsor.  He didn’t answer.  What a relief!  That meant I had done my duty and now I could return stew in my misery.  And stew I did.  By the time I got home from work, my mood was foul and I was completely disengaged.  My daughter played with her DS and watched Sponge Bob while I slept on the couch.  I ordered pizza for dinner so I didn’t have to cook.  I wasn’t drinking, but for all the good I was doing her I may as well have been.  I was a strong candidate for father of the year.

There is a solution to the fuck-its, and it’s what I should have done first thing this morning.  Finally, around 5:30, I called a couple of alcoholics and made plans to attend a meeting.  My sponsor called me back and I told him what I was feeling.  We met later and he gave me my diagnosis.  He was glad that I did all the right things even if my mind said fuck it.  Apparently, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be (aside-why is an AA GPS useless?  It always tells you you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be).

Father Joseph Martin says that a sign of maturity is a willingness to do what is good for you even if you don’t want to.  Alcoholics and addicts have made careers out of avoiding what normal, mature people do, and learning to do it now is tough.  Sometimes, I just don’t want to be a grown up.  But I did, because it’s what sober, responsible people do.  And I’ll wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.  One day at a time.


Posted in Uncategorized on September 26, 2010 by sobermadman

In the second step of recovery, we acknowledge the belief that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.  Inherent in the idea that we need to be restored to sanity is the assumption that we are insane to begin with.  Bill Wilson (AA cofounder) once explained that the insanity of the alcoholic is the repeated pattern of believing that we can drink normally when, in fact, experience has proven that we cannot.  It is what the AA Big Book refers to as the “subtle insanity that precedes the first drink” that, inevitably, leads to us getting drunk.  It is this that leads many in recovery-and often in popular usage out of recovery-to state that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  While this may not be a clinically accurate definition, it certainly does describe the kind of insanity that plagues the life of the alcoholic and addict.  Father Joseph Martin suggests that alcoholics are like men and women who every day climb into a ring with a prize fighter and get beaten to a pulp.  Every day, as they climb into the ring they wonder how they will avoid being beaten up.  “AA comes along,” he says, “and says, ‘Don’t get in the ring’.”  A solution that obvious usually eludes us.

For many of us who are alcoholics, though, our insanity runs much deeper.  Thought patterns that are warped by drinking, and by attitudes and beliefs that preceded and often led to our drinking, are often narcissistic, delusional, and paranoid.  Most of us suffer from what many AA’s refer to as “terminal uniqueness.”  There’s no one like me.  The double-edged sword of terminal uniqueness is our belief that we are superior to everyone and our deep fear that everyone is better than us.  I have spent most of my life being afraid.  Afraid of walking into a room full of strangers because I was certain that everyone would look at me, talk about me, judge me, and reject me.  Afraid of not being smart enough or competent enough.  Afraid, deep down, that I just wasn’t god enough, that I could not be acceptable, and that whatever I did to make myself acceptable would never be enough.  This is what some mental health professionals refer to as “negative narcissim.”  Believing myself to be the chief of all sinners is as narcissistic as believing myself to be the best of the best.  Both are ways of claiming my uniqueness and exceptionalism.

Alcoholics are not alone in having these neurotic ideas.  Lots of people do.   It’s just that, for us, we have learned to deal with them by anesthetizing ourselves to them.  I discovered very early in my drinking that having a few drinks in me loosened me up enough to allow me to relax in a crowded room.  I could go from being a terrified wallflower to the center of attention.  If it stopped there, it may not have become a problem. But it didn’t. As always happens with alcoholics, it progressed.  By the time I quit drinking, alcohol had stopped functioning as social lubricant for me and instead had led me to isolate from even the people I cared about the most.  Early in my drinking, I enjoyed the social aspect of drinking with others.  By the time I quit, I wanted nothing more than to sit alone in my living room after a hard day’s work and have 10 or 12 drinks and then to fall asleep on the sofa.  My wife and kids were distractions to my drinking, and I was physically present for them but emotionally absent.  Like many alcoholics, I was alone in a room full of people, even people who loved me and that I loved.

The other day, I told a friend that the downside of sobriety is having to deal with reality. This was only partially a joke.  The longer I go without a drink, the more I am feeling the feelings that I’ve been drowning for a very long time.  Fear, anger, depression, and anxiety plague me.  The addict part of me has a seductive way of saying, “You don’t have to feel all this shit.”  And that’s an appealing voice.  A dozen or so drinks of some good bourbon, and the pain will recede as oblivion takes over.  Recovery offers me an alternative to running and hiding.  The promise of recovery is not only that I don’t have to drink, which is a good thing, because, frankly, not drinking isn’t enough. If recovery were just about not drinking, I’m pretty sure that I’d be drinking.  The promise of recovery is that I can discover a way of living in which I don’t have to be paralyzed by terror or bound up in anxiety or nursing my anger.  I’ve talked to enough people in recovery who used to feel just as crazy as I feel now and who have gotten better to have some faith and some hope that it can happen for me too.

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