Today in the newcomer’s meeting, the woman sharing–sober since 1975–said that her brand of alcoholism was “public & violent”. She repeated this a couple times in her lead, “public & violent”.
Then after, a guy sharing picked up on this and said that while he’d been listening to her, he asked himself what his Two Words were to describe his drinking years. “Dark & Lonely” came to him right away.
When he said this, i wondered what the words i would use to qualify my drinking. i immediately thought of, “Chaotic & Desperate”. Which was also a good way to describe my life at the time. But that was then, and now the chaos and desperation have evaporated…
So now i’m gonna ask you, what are your two words? What two words would you use to describe your drinking? Have they lost a little of their punch for you?
Even as a little boy, i thought too much. i remember at the age of five asking my mother for the definition of ‘happy’. i also told her that life was unfair because it’s easier to break a chair than make one.
And i feel this way still today. A craftsman can spend weeks carefully assembling a chair with skill and artistry, using only the most valuable materials, and yet that same chair can be destroyed in a heartbeat. i know that i left a hell of a lot of broken chairs in my wake when i was drinking.
It feels like there’s something wrong with a universe where breaking is easier than creating.
Or maybe it’s the universe’s way of telling us that the easy way out isn’t necessarily the best way.
Last Friday i got lucky. (No, the other kind of lucky.)
i went to a meeting i don’t usually go to, that starts at 10:30 pm and finishes at 11:30. When i got there, there was only one other person.
We had a small meeting, just the two of us, and in that meeting she said we alcoholics have a “weakness for devastation”.
i loved that expression because i understood it on a deep level the instant i heard it. i was the kind of alcoholic who drank because i had a crush on destruction and drinking was the fastest way to get into destruction’s panties and screw it up.
We got on this subject because i realized something in our tiny meeting.
Here in Yeaman–because of some fluke alignment of religious and war holidays–i had a 5-day weekend last weekend and, even better, my ex had the kids. i had 5 days left to my own devices and there was a time a few years ago that my own devices would’ve been bottles of wine and cocktail inventing, fast food binges, internet porn, no sleeping no showering no leaving the apartment…i would’ve viced out.
Sharing with this young lady, i realized that i’d been to an art show, two movies, discovered a cultural walk here in Yeaman, written some good stuff, started riding bicylces, wrote fiction on café terraces with a founatin pen, cleaned, ran several errands i’d been putting off, woke up at 6:30 on a day i didn’t work to go to an 8am AA meeting and then hit a 10:30pm meeting that same evening, just because.
i didn’t tell her that then and i’m not saying it now to get pats on the back or collect brownie points…it’s just sometimes i forget how far i’ve come in 2 years.
i got lucky that i decided to go to a meeting just for the hell of it, because talking with another alcoholic in recovery helped me see that my life, while far from perfect, keeps getting better all the time.
- 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 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.