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.