- Wake up in the morning.
- Realize i’m alive.
- Feel sad about that fact.
- Sit up, put my feet on the floor, my elbows on my knees, my face in my hands and wonder how it ever got this hard.
- Wait for the courage to rise.
This was my daily routine for so many years it’s embarrassing. Consistently, the first thoughts that crept into my waking mind were like roaches: gross, depressing and impossible to get rid of.
Since becoming sober, i wake up in a neutral mood. Usually, my first thought is a simple question, “Do i work today?” If the answer is ‘No’, i feel good. If the answer is ‘yes’, i don’t feel bad.
Last Saturday, i was having lunch with some AAers (and that victory is a whole ‘nother post) after a meeting and i mentioned this crap to a friend. He told me that his therapist told him that the first thought of the day is great way to judge where your head’s at. (FWIW, the friend’s first thought was “How do I get out of my marriage”!–he’s now divorced.)
So, this is my challenge for you. Over the next couple days, try to capture your first thought of the morning. Take your mental temperature first thing when you wake up, and share it here with us if you can!
The wheels started coming off my train wreck in 2001, and that it took me more than a decade later to realize how bad i was tells you just how deeply my insanity runs.
The beginning of the end was linked to a book proposal a publisher had accepted. A couple agents were also interested in representing me and i soon began to believe that all my shortcomings were about to be justified, because whatever mistakes i’d made had all become a part of the writer that was going to publish this book. i expected my dreams to come true.
Until the publisher backed out. And then the agents evaporated. i had meetings with another editor who green lighted the project. Only to ignore me a month later. My expectations were dashed on the rocks and by ‘rocks’ i mean the ice in the drinks I used to drown my sorrows.
Other factors abetted in my unfortunate demise, sure, but shattered expectations drew first blood.
Last month, after over ten years of forgetting this book, i decided to dust it off and shop it around to different agents. The first agent i contacted got back with me the same day and requested the full proposal. Those expectations started building again… until it was turned down and i started remembering all the negativity that swamped me ten years ago.
Fortunately this go round i have the tools to protect myself against disappointment, but what i’m really learning is the difference between hoping and expecting. The first is a useful push to set goals, and the second is a double-edged sword all too easy to fall on.
My daughter turned 16 a couple days ago. i took her to her favorite restaurant for dinner, just the two of us, and bought her a variety of gifts that reflect her so well as she sits poised on the point between childhood and womanhood. Among the loot she hauled in were a visit to her favorite candy store and then expensive perfume from an upscale boutique. That in itself is a photo of where she is in her life.
i’m worried about her. The first day in her high school, she sat in the back row and befriended the only two girls who had failed a grade. Her behavior has been suspicious for the last year but i have no concrete proof that she’s done anything seriously wrong.
And it doesn’t matter. She knows where i’m coming from and where i’ve come from.
She’s 16 now, and she’ll make her own choices. But instead of giving her the choice between hanging out with losers and an angry parent, i’m giving her the choice between getting lost with losers and the feeling of having fun with a sober parent.
My parents never told me to stop drinking. This doesn’t mean they weren’t worried about it.
During out annual fishing trips, in the middle of the lake on the boat at the crack of dawn, my father never failed to bring up the subject at least once. He’d ask me where i was with my drinking, i’d do him the courtesy of lieing and then he’d list all the alcoholics in our family and remind me it is a genetic disease. And then we’d get back to fishing.
i’m glad they didn’t tell me to stop because i wouldn’t have.
True story, i wouldn’t have quit for anyone, no matter how much i loved them and the proof is that i didn’t.
i needed to learn for myself that i needed to learn. And because that decision was homemade, i cared about it more.
What about you? Did your family and /or friends pressure you to quit? Tell us in the comments!
i’m not going to defend Alcoholics Anonymous here. AA does not need me to defend it. Hell, i wouldn’t even be playing soccer in this minefield at all, except i believe coincidence is language of God.
Or like after Roger Ebert died. i learned he was an alcoholic who got sober in AA and had even written a very eloquent post about his 30 years of sobriety. In this post he says,
The last thing I want to do is start an argument about A.A.. Don’t go if you don’t want to. It’s there if you need it. In most cities, there’s a meeting starting in an hour fairly close to you. It works for me. That’s all I know. I don’t want to argue with you about it.
i’ll make you a deal. i won’t tell you that you have to go to AA to recover if you don’t tell me who i can and cannot marry, what i can and cannot wear, and what i can and cannot do to stay sober.
Recovery: the best solution is the one that works for you.
When i was abusing alcohol, i often felt i’d earned the right to drink.
If something good happened, i got to drink to it and if something bad happened, i had to drink through it.
Now, i’ve lost the right to drink but have earned the right to be happy.
i came out ahead, because i’m finally getting what i deserve.
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.
You’d never guess from reading this blog, but i’m a writer. Like, kinda a real one.
i’ve published around 25 short stories in different literary reviews and am looking for an agent to sell a book proposal i’ve put together. i write 5 blogs under 3 different names and i’m a freelance journalist here in “Yeaman”, where i have my own column.
i mention this because i started writing about the time i started drinking. At the beginning, writing and drinking went together like “mast” and “urbation” (see how write-y i am and shit?), because drinking helped me live life and writing helped me process it.
In college, i was able to spend all night writing. Literally. i remember pounding the keys of my Apple IIc until dawn, awash in the green monitor light, finishing short stories and novels and feeling damn good about it because the writing was good because it came from my heart.
Real art comes from a raw place. Emptying my soul drained me and the easiest way to refill that void was booze. This worked until it didn’t. Somewhere toward the beginning, i stopped needing writing and started needing the alcohol. Instead of putting my emotions on the page, i drowned them with wine and sweet rum drinks until i couldn’t feel anything anymore.
i started drinking to dull life’s edge and in doing so i blunted my craft.
In the last two years since i stopped drinking, i write more, i write more often, i write better and i am back in the space that made me want to write in the first place. i am less tortured, but i learned that torture wasn’t what made me an artist, feeling was.
i feel too much.
Now that i don’t kill those feeling with alcohol, i’m better at molding them into words.
Here’s what i mean…
Your Heart is a Tomb (a prose poem)
Your mind is a pyramid, your mouth the coffin …
The rubies of your lips are sealed like a casket, silent as the grave that guards the ghosts of your youth. I, I will brave the curses you cast on those who get too close and I will crack your smile, setting free the child cowering inside.
Your skin is a temple, your heart a tomb …
Gold lace plates your cryptic face and locks the case of the key to your safes where you conceal your treasures from the world. But I, I will battle the sphinx and strip away the gilt that envelopes you so I may pierce the secret chambers of your heart and unearth the wealth kept there.
Your body is a shrine, your soul is a grave …
Your eyes are mystic diamonds, captivating rogues and thieves dying to rob the grave treasure you have become. Yet I, I alone will decipher the hieroglyphs of your sacred scars and penetrate the holy places you have buried far from those too shallow to reach that deep.
You will be heaven to me…
Pose your riddles, I will answer them. Set your traps, I will escape them. Let loose your demons, I will battle them or, if this proves impossible, I will sacrifice myself at the foot of your altar and lay myself down in you, my sepulcher. There I will remain, and hide nestled inside where I will let myself be buried alive by your profound good fortune.
You, dear reader, have a beautiful sobriety. As someone who had the character defect of constantly comparing myself to others, i used to catch myself being jealous of how gorgeous your sobrieties are.
When i began my recovery, i wanted my sobriety to be the most beautiful sobriety there ever was. i wanted the Playmate Sobriety of the Year. i wanted a sobriety that was so hot people would notice us wherever we went and wonder aloud how someone like me could nail a sobriety like that.
This is not impossible. i could certainly bag a drop-dead gorgeous sobriety. The problem is, that kind of sobriety is high maintenance and i have a hard time in situations like that. i tire too easily of keeping a relationship like that going, and the risk is that i’d eventually think a sobriety that beautiful wasn’t worth the effort and break up.
The other day i took a long, hard look at my sobriety and liked what i saw. My sobriety won’t win any beauty awards but we suit each other nicely. i have the kind of sobriety that teases me when i take myself too seriously and who doesn’t place unrealistic demands on me. i’m proud of my sobriety when we go out together, to a meeting for example, or when we simply spend time with friends because my friends like my sobriety a lot. Even better, i can be myself around my sobriety, and i need that because i don’t know how to be anyone else for very long.
What about you? What does your sobriety look like? Care to share a “photo” in the comments?