Meetups and sisters and OMG

It was Sunday, I was off work the next day. I didn’t have any intention to drink. But, I had helped my next door neighbor by picking up a box from her front porch and holding it for her while she was out of town. She came to my door, I gave her he box and she handed me a bottle of wine. I thanked her and then was alone with it. I thought for a moment to dump it out, but that thought left as quickly as it had come. A stronger thought replaced it – I can drink this wine, I don’t have plans today and I’m off work tomorrow. It was 11 am and I opened the bottle and finished it within the hour. It was not something I would choose, it tastes watered down and too sweet. But still, I drank. A few hours later, I sobered up and took my dog to the dog park. On the way home, another lovely thought came through. I have already fucked up my sobriety, I’ll just go pick up some beer. So I dropped my dog off at home and swung by the liquor store. I had five over the course of the evening. I didn’t even feel drunk. I felt lonely, which is a feeling that has become too familiar. So, while finishing off those beers, I decided to start a meetup group for sober people. I desperately need to find my tribe. So, I scheduled a couple of events before I drifted off to sleep.

Over the next couple of days, people started joining. As of today, a week later I have over 60 members. People seem excited. But, of course it is not that easy. I had my first meetup event. Only 1 person RSVP’d. I still went, I didn’t want this one person to show up and have no one there. I waited and waited but she didn’t show. But still, I felt calm. Something in me said, “this is what it takes to find your tribe.” So, I am still hopeful and excited about this group. My best friend even seems excited and she’s a drinker. She joined the group to support me, but also she wants to meet new people and doesn’t care that there won’t be booze. So amazing. But, not everyone is as amazing as my best friend, my sister from another mister. My actual sister, from the same mister, said that she would come to events. I told her sure, as long as she doesn’t drink at them. And she’s says, “I can have a beer, what are they going to do, ban me?” And I said “I would ban you.” And she went on to explain that she had no problem not drinking, but really didn’t see the harm in drinking at a sober event if there was alcohol available. So a restaurant or a bar or whatnot. Okay, I was slightly horrified by the suggestion that she would piss on my group by drinking at a sober event. Stupid me for telling her anything.

Angry and grateful

Today I was angry. For awhile I beat myself up about it, thinking this is what I get for doing a crap program. But then, I thought, Fuck. This. Let me be angry. Let me be pissed off at being dumped on at work. Let me be pissed off at my chronic back pain. You see, I don’t know how to sit in that pissed off feeling. My first go-to thought is that there’s something wrong with me for having genuine, human, angry feelings. And guess what happened after I really allowed myself to stew in those feelings? After I blasted some K.Flay on the stereo in my car, I started to let the silver linings creep in. I don’t really hate my job or my coworkers, I’m just having a bad day. And I also found a really great Groupon for a deep tissue massage and I have the funds to pay for it. Angry and grateful, I can be both.

So, let’s back up. About three weeks ago, I found myself working a 12 step program, going to AA meetings and working with a sponsor. This tension started building. I don’t know where it came from, but it started small and got bigger and bigger. Friday night rolls around and all I can think about is that I want a drink. Not just any drink, but an ice cold IPA. Literally, this is all I can think about. But, there’s still a part of me that wants to be sober. I’ll admit that at that moment, my biggest motivation was that I wanted to keep my 4/20 sobriety date. I also really liked my sponsor and I didn’t want to lose her. These are not the best reasons for staying sober. Sobriety felt more and more like a punishment. I felt like there was something wrong with me if I couldn’t drink the way the rest of the world could. I felt so other. But still, I called my sponsor on my way home from work. No answer. I texted a sober friend of mine that I wanted to drink. I told her not to worry, I was headed to an AA meeting. She said all the right things and I went to that meeting. The meeting ended. I still wanted to drink. I left the meeting and went to the liquor store. While I was still deciding on whether or not to go in, I watched the guy that works there shut off the lights and lock the door. I thought, “that was close.” I went home, drank some seltzer, smoked a cigarette and went to bed. The next morning, I went to another AA meeting. It was a great meeting where I ran into some friends. That afternoon, I still really wanted to drink. But, I decided to take my bike out onto the trail and bike my ass off, which I did. As I was on the last leg of my ride, I just kept thinking, the weather is so great, I’d love to sit out on my deck and have a beer. And that is exactly what I did. As I was drinking this guava infused IPA, I thought how this beer felt like a gift. I convinced myself that as long as I didn’t overindulge and take this gift for granted, I could keep on drinking. I drank moderately for 2 weeks and everything was going really well. The experiment was a success! I felt so relieved! I was normal, and I could go back to the land of the living.

But then, a tragedy happened. A gunman walked into the Capital Gazette newspaper office and shot and killed 5 people. This was a place I did my first photography internship when I was 19 yrs old. It was a lifetime ago, but I had met a couple of the reporters that died. I had hung out with one of the victims a few times 3 or 4 years ago. I didn’t know her well and it was always in a group with my ex’s friends. I didn’t know any of them well, it didn’t feel like I had any right to claim this tragedy. But I could picture her laughing and joking like it was yesterday. I can only imagine what she went through in the last moments of her life and what her family’s going through now. That moderate drinking I was doing turned into binge drinking. While I grieved for those 5 people and their families, I just kept on drinking. There was just no off switch that night.

The next day, I had one of the worst hangovers of my life. I realized that I can only be a moderate drinker when everything is going along fine. But, things aren’t always fine. There are going to be national tragedies as well as personal. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in newspapers. Now, I’m an oncology nurse. I am constantly in a state of grief. That Monday morning, after my binging, I walked into work to find out a patient I knew really well had died. There is going to be sadness. I’m not going to quit my job and go work exclusively with puppies to escape the grief. I have to learn to live through it, sit with it. And, I can’t do that with alcohol.

That Saturday, during one of the worst hangovers of my life, I went to a blog I tend to go to when I’ve slipped yet again, Hip Sobriety. I read through some of the old posts which seem to give me hope. It turned out that the Hip Sobriety School’s first ever summer course was open for registration in just a few days. I thought this was crazy perfect timing. There’s seriously no other time in my life that I would have splurged and signed up. I’ve been in AA for 2 and a half years, and no sobriety to show for it. Some things about it just never sat well for me. In all of my bones, I felt like I just could not show up to another meeting for another 24 hour chip and try to work a program I didn’t believe in. I called my sponsor and told her I just couldn’t be part of AA anymore. But, I also told her I wasn’t giving up, that I was going to sign up for Hip Sobriety School and I still had a lot of hope. She listened, told me I was brave for trying something new and said that she doesn’t care whether it’s AA or another program that works for me as long as something works. I am so grateful for her.

So, now I’m just 7 days sober, the course starts in 3 days and I’m looking forward to this next big adventure. Maybe it’ll be a huge waste of money, or, maybe it’ll change my life.

Getting sober is hard

I’ve been on this journey for 2 years and I have 4 days of sobriety. Every time I have drank again, I have thought, this doesn’t matter. I didn’t lose anything, I can drink and if I want to get sober, it’s easy, I just stop again. I know what tools are out there. Part of this is true, I do have tools, sobriety is always there if I want it. But, I think I’m doing myself a disservice to say that it has been easy. If I let myself accept that getting sober is hard and it does matter, I can keep it close and fight for it.

When I was a kid, everything felt like life or death. Just living was hard. I was such a sensitive kid, I had no control over my emotions. But somewhere down the line, I convinced myself that life was just one big game. I know it was self preservation. I couldn’t handle the weight of the world, so I made a decision that none of it really mattered. At the time, this decision made my life a lot better. Even my mother noticed and would tell me even as an adult how as a young child I made a change in myself and she was so impressed. I’m not impressed. I never learned how to deal with my emotions, I decided that they just weren’t that important. And now, at 34 years old, I have to reteach myself that they are important. I’m never going to get better if I continue to believe that nothing matters. Life isn’t just one big game. The hard part is that it isn’t black and white. I shouldn’t take myself so seriously, but I do have to take some things seriously. Sobriety does matter, I matter, the decisions I make today matter. Intellectually I know this. But I know my deep rooted thoughts from childhood are still way below the surface and they can come out at any time. It does matter that I stay sober. Drinking that bottle of wine mattered. It was a slip, a stumble, it doesn’t have to define me, but it still matters, and it was real. It really happened, I can’t pretend that it didn’t.

My goal today is to take sobriety seriously and to tell my sponsor about my slip. I called her last night but she didn’t answer. It doesn’t get me off the hook. I will call her again today and tell her.

Again and again and again

postit

I had ten months of sobriety. Then I didn’t. For the last seven months I have been stumbling. The first time I took a drink after ten months, I was four months into quitting zoloft. I had been taking it for anxiety. The first few months, I felt great, but then the anxiety started creeping in. It was spiraling thoughts in the middle of the night keeping me awake. Then, the drink started calling to me. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the rooms. I felt like the more I thought about not drinking, the more power I gave it. I felt suffocated by AA. I felt like I could take away alcohol’s power, by taking a sip and taking back my control.

In truth, I felt worse at ten months of sobriety, then I did while I was drinking. Each day kind of just ticked by. I had a sponsor who I really liked, but I didn’t want to call her if I felt like I would disappoint her. I hated telling her no, I hadn’t hit five meetings this week. I know most of this guilt was all in my head, but it was consuming me. I didn’t want to go to meetings. They felt like a punishment that I had given myself. It really messed with my psyche. Like there was never anything wrong with me until I decided to get help. I realize now that I was a victim of stigma. When I was drinking, no one told me I was drinking too much or that I should go get help. In a moment of clarity, I thought that there might be a better way to live. But, after ten months of sobriety, I thought, ‘what the hell did I get myself into?’

So, I picked up a drink. And another. The sky didn’t fall down. The mountains didn’t crumble. But I also didn’t feel like I had taken the power back from alcohol. I drank, then I got sober for a month, then drank again and over and over again. I don’t even know how many times I did this dance in the last seven months. It might sound tiring to anyone that reads this, but it didn’t feel that way. Every time I picked up and then put it down again, it felt like part of my journey. Each time felt a little different than the last. Like I was moving closer to something. Long term sobriety? Maybe. Only time will tell. As I’m writing this, I only have three days. But three important days that feel closer to the real me than those ten months did. I don’t want someone to read this as an excuse to drink again. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that everyone’s journey is different. Someone else might pick up a drink and never come back.

So, I don’t feel guilt or shame about drinking again. It is in our stumbles that we really get to know ourselves, when we dust ourselves off and get up again. But I do have a lot of fear. Fear of disappointing my sponsor that I lost almost three months of sobriety. I haven’t told her yet. I’m afraid that things will change between us. That she’ll feel like she needs to do more. I don’t want her to do more, she’s doing enough. Nothing she could have done differently could have changed what happened. I’m afraid she’ll want me to do more. I am already doing more, but I don’t want to do more AA. I’m doing more writing. I’m reading more sobriety blogs. I’m trying to figure out what should go into my sobriety toolbox. I’m still going to meetings. I think they’re helpful. But I don’t want to go to more meetings. I’m still calling my sponsor every day. I’m going to tell her tonight. If she has time to talk. Part of me feels like this is my secret to tell, and it’s okay to wait until I’m ready. But, the other part of me knows that I have to let it out, that my conscience won’t allow me to pick up dirty chips. So, I have to tell her. I am not in control of her reaction.

I’ve made a promise to myself to stay sober for one year. I will figure out the rest when I get there. I have gotten up again and again and again. I have learned so much from every stumble. I’m hoping that these lessons will help me get there.

Dear John letter

Dear Alcohol,

I have loved you once and I suppose I still do. You were with me through good times and bad. And just like an ex-lover, I can’t seem to quit you. Old habits die hard. Know that in the beginning, you were just what I needed. As a shy kid with no friends, you helped me make some. And oh did we had some good times together. As I look back on those good times, I can’t help but romanticize you. I still want you sometimes. In those first couple of glasses of wine, you are like a warm hug. I miss that. But, the longer I am with you, the more suffocating you can be. That warm hug becomes a noose around my neck. The hardest part of leaving is that I know I can still enjoy you sometimes, but it’s best to cut ties. Our love is toxic. I know it’s going to be hard at first. Each day I think of you, I wonder, how bad would it be to just take a sip? But, I am hoping that if I hold out, one day at a time, there will come a day that I don’t think of you at all. That I will make it to the other side.

I had so much fun with you. My inhibitions would vanish. I could do wild things that I would be too shy to do without you. You were my muse. You and I, we had a great group of friends. Actually, everyone was our friend when you were around. The mundane became interesting, the interesting became amazing. The way I felt with my friends when we toasted to you is indescribable. I had a tribe. With you around, I had something in common with almost everyone. Strangers became sisters and brothers. You were a magic potion. The world felt so big and available.

Somewhere down the line, you changed and I changed with you. You wanted me all to yourself. I kept up my obligations reluctantly. But it was you who I longed to come home to. Our old friends were still in the periphery, but it was only you that I really wanted. You whispered into my ear that it would be better if it was just us and I agreed . So you and I would quietly rejoice when plans were canceled or we would make excuses to stay home. And it would just be us.

Over time, you became my dark passenger with a gun to my head. I still had my hand on the wheel, but it was you that had control. I hardly recognized myself anymore. On the outside, I still looked the same, but it was the inside that had changed. My life became shallow and meaningless. No one on the outside seemed to notice and why would they? Nothing really changed, but I felt empty inside. It started as such a subtle shift, that I had hardly noticed at first. But my sadness would creep up in unexpected places. A night out with you would start out incredible but would always seem to end in tears. A night in with you began to take on a darkness that I can’t even begin to describe. We could stay together longer, but I know I will lose myself in the process. I have decided I won’t wait until I lose all of myself before I leave you.

So, I am saying goodbye, my love, my first love. I have to let go of the darkness to let in the light.

Getting humble

When I came into recovery, I was sure I was different. I thought that the only person I hurt was myself. No one told me I had a problem, no one seemed to notice that I was drinking too much. I came into the rooms because I was emotionally bankrupt, but I didn’t feel like I had lost anything tangible. I had my job, hell, I even bought a house. I didn’t lose my husband or my children like a lot of those people in those rooms. But, wait a minute, I didn’t have a husband or children to lose. For the last bit of my drinking, it was mostly just wine, in the comfort of my home, alone. Who was I hurting? Just myself, right?

When I began thinking about making amends, I thought that mostly I just hadn’t been present for people in my life. I really believed that the amends I’d have to make were living amends. I didn’t really hurt anyone, I just wasn’t around for my friends and family. Or, when I was around, I was hungover a lot of the time. It’s like I selectively forgot all of the stupid things I did when I was drinking.

Tonight, I put my amends list on paper. There were a lot of people on there that I hurt. There were things that I did. I have more than just a living amends to do. After everything was written on the page, I looked at it in disbelief. Like, why would any of these people still want to be in my life?

It hurts, I feel so low. I thought I was an okay person, just had a little drinking problem, stopped it before it got too far. I thought I just needed recovery lite, I guess I really need the hard stuff. I am not that different from any other alcoholic, I see that now. It’s humbling seeing all the shit I’ve done all listed on one piece of paper.