The Devil Gives Advice

I generally publish poems and stories on my creative writing site, but I wanted to share this one here. Being back in therapy and working with a strong sponsor has stirred up a lot of emotions, and I’ve been reliving some of my darker days before I got sober. That’s where this poem comes from.

I believe poems should speak for themselves and rarely should the writer offer his or her insights into its meaning. I’m making an exception with this one…not because it’s particularly complex or hard-to-get, but I want to explain the importance of one line in particular. But first, the poem:

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

The Devil Gives Advice

“Take it easy,” Lucifer told me.
“Hell wasn’t built in a day.”

Easy for Ol’ Scratch to say,
he hasn’t had to do a dishonest
day’s labor in about two millennia.

“The key is to pace yourself,”
the Lord of Darkness went on.

“At this rate, you’ll die before
you have any kind of fun, and trust
me, you don’t want that to happen.”

And so I slowed my killing pace,
just to humor the Father of Lies.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

The line in question is “And so I slowed my killing pace,” and it’s a reference to a line in the Gin Blossoms song “Mrs. Rita.” The line from the song goes:

I’ve been keeping myself busy with my books and with my tapes
And every day’s much better since I’ve slowed my drinking pace
There’s no swimming in the bottle
It’s just someplace we all drown…

If you’re a fan of the Gin Blossoms, you probably know that co-founder, guitarist, and songwriter Doug Hopkins committed sucicide after a long struggle with depression and alcoholism. The Gin Blossoms received a gold disc for “Hey Jealousy” and the album New Miserable Experience eventually went multiplatinum. Hopkins wouldn’t be around to enjoy the band’s success, though.

Long before I got help for my drinking, I would listen to the album and relate to Hopkins’ songs. Take the line from New Miserable Experience opening track, “Lost Horizons”:

Drink enough of anything to make this world look new again
Drunk drunk drunk in the gardens and the graves….

Dear lord, that line pierces my heart.  I get it, and what’s more, I instantly romanticize the whole damn situation. There’s Robert, drunk again, wandering around the gardens and graves. How fitting. How poetic. How messed up.

We’ve lost so many musicians and songwriters to suicide, drugs, depression, and alcohol. I wish Doug Hopkins could have gotten the help he so desperately needed. The same goes for Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Scott Hutchinson…the list goes on.

I was fortunate enough to stop my drinking pace and stop listening to the Devil. Others don’t make it. I hope and pray more and more get help.

That’s it from me. Happy sober Saturday to all.

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A Kitten, a Sponsor, and a Beer Glass

Obviously, one of these things seems out of place…or maybe they’re all kind of strange, lumped together as they are. but it’s all a matter of perspective. I’ll start backward, I think.

Teacher Appreciation Week isn’t something I’ve ever been comfortable with, maybe because (until my current job) I haven’t been comfortable in my work environment. I’ve taught at a lot of schools, and I’ve made some positive impacts, but it’s come at a cost. I’m something of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole when it comes to teaching; I’m most at ease with older adults, and yet a lot of my teaching years has been spent with at-risk and struggling public school kids. Increasing pressure from the county school board and administrators to accomplish what (I thought to be) the impossible resulted in me leaving public education, hopefully for good. I simply don’t have it in me any more.

During those tough years, I received a few gifts from students, all of which I’ve kept. My favorite are hand-written cards, but I love coffee mugs, too. I’m teaching adult ed classes now, and I didn’t expect a gift during the first week of this month. But one of my students was kind enough to give me this:

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Oy vey.

I burst out laughing, and my students assumed that I just thought the words on the glass were funny. None of them know I’m in recovery. I thanked my student for the gift and took it home to show my family. My wife and kids laughed, too. I like the glass quite a lot. The most exciting thing its seen thus far is water, which will probably remain the case until I buy some root beer. I’m not into mocktails or non-alcoholic beer. I tried out various mixed virgin drinks in early recovery, but they just didn’t do it for me…much like their alcoholic counterparts didn’t when I was drinking. Beer, wine, vodka. I was a pretty basic (and disgustingly cheap) drunk.

Moving on. Last Monday, when my wife was driving the kids to school, they spied what they first thought was a rat trying to drink from a rain puddle in the middle of the road. The creature wasn’t a rat but a tiny, wet kitten.

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On the count of three: awwwww….

We have quite a few animals in our house, but of course we have room for an abandoned kitten. We debated over names before finally settling on Miles. The vet thinks he’s about four weeks old. We bottle-fed Miles for most of this week, and now he’s graduated to eating solid food. He still hasn’t mastered the litter box, but at least his poops are small. Our two other cats, both of whom are old and kind of cranky, are giving Miles wide berth. They’ll get used to him after a while. Our dog Charley growls at him, but he’ll come around, too.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve started therapy again. Beth asked how many meetings I was attending, and I told her, “Not many. One every other week, maybe?” She suggested I correct that, and she added that she thought I should get a new sponsor. I haven’t talked to my first (and only) sponsor in a long time. We didn’t have a falling out of anything; I just stopped calling and texting him, and I quit attending the meeting where he went. I felt it was time to move on, but the whole situation felt awkward, like I was breaking up with someone.

Anyway, there’s a guy in my home group whom I respect a great deal. I always like what he has to say, so I asked him to be my sponsor (I’ll call him Dale). Luckily, he agreed. We’ve two times so far, and I gain so much from his wisdom. Dale doesn’t play around, either. Not that my first sponsor did, but he was…easy. Calm. He was exactly what I needed when I was freaking out in early sobriety. Dale’s observations about me–my lack of discipline and sticking to a routine, black and white thinking, my tendency to isolate–are spot on, but the truth is sometimes hard to take. I’m getting the no-nonsense treatment from Beth, too. Tough love, but I need it.

I’m working on trusting myself, something I find incredibly difficult to do. That’s kind of my homework this week. I’m also trying to stick to a schedule that includes dedicated time for writing and creating music. I have such difficulty with routine, especially when it comes to my creativity. I tend to be scatter-shot and start an enormous amount of projects, knowing full well that I won’t finish them. Ugh. Progress, not perfection, I keep telling myself.

So that’s where I am on my 1,232 day of sobriety. I wish all of you a happy, sober Monday.

Back in the (Therapy) Saddle Again

Last week, I started therapy again, which is a good thing. I hadn’t been to a therapist in quite a while, and I when I stopped, it wasn’t because of anything bad…I just think I accomplished all I could with that particular therapist. She was wonderful, and I still see her around (we go to the same church), but it was time to move on.

Luckily, the woman who was instrumental in my recovery has started her own somatic therapy practice, and her office is so close I could walk to it (in this and future posts, I’ll all her Beth). It also helps that we have a good relationship and have similar personalities. I’ve also seen Beth at various meetings over the years, and I always appreciate her reflections and insights.

Beth asked what I wanted help with, and I told her anxiety and panic attacks. I went on to say that I’m med-compliant and use essential oils, but I wake with anxiety and go to sleep with it. The panic is usually just below the surface, and while I haven’t had a full-blown attack in a few months, it’s still not pleasant to feel constantly on edge. We talked about techniques to help relieve anxiety symptoms. At some point in our conversation, I said, “You know, I thought I’d be farther along with all this. I’ve been sober for three years.” I went on about arrested development and how I still felt around nineteen or twenty. “I’m still staggeringly immature,” I added.

Beth laughed gently and shook her head. “You’re just now figuring out life without self-medicating,” she said. “You’ll be amazed how much ground you’ll have covered when you look back in ten years.”

I struggle with patience, admittedly, as many of us do. I’m willing to do the work in therapy, and I trust Beth. Deep breaths going forward…I’ll see Beth again next Friday.

Happy sober Thursday, everyone.

 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day? Not a Problem.

I’ve never cared one way or another about St. Patrick’s Day. I’m sure I have some Irish in my heritage, but it doesn’t impact my life. Even when I drank, St. Patrick’s Day was no different from any other day. If I was awake, I was probably drinking or recovering from a bout of drinking. I didn’t need a holiday to crank things up a notch or two, and I never went out drinking in a crowd of people.

I live in Savannah, Georgia, which happens to host one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day festivals in the country. It gets crazy around here in March, and this year, things are even more hectice because for some reason, Vice President Mike Pence is coming to the parade and festival. My state voted for Trump, but Savannah isn’t especially conservative. There are a lot of folks who resent Pence coming and the extra security his presence requires. I’m not thrilled with him being here, but it doesn’t change my plans. I’m not going to the parade, and I’m not setting foot on River Street the weekend.

st patrick day
Nope. (image credit)

Even though I’m immune to the so-called charms of St. Patrick’s Day, I realize this is a holiday that others struggle with in term of maintaining their sobriety. I imagine it’s hard for extroverts who used to party with throngs of people, who loved the social interaction as much as the alcohol, to sit this one out. While I can’t relate personally, I’m intimately familiar with that empty feeling that comes sometimes when I think, A beer sounds good right now or I can just pop down to the liquor store and get a little half-pint of vodka. 

If you’re feeling that way, I encourage you to reach out to a fellow sober person. Perhaps go to a meeting. Join Sober Grid. Just don’t stay in your own head.

I wish everyone a safe, sober weekend, especially if you’re participating in St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Be well.

When Your Son’s Gotta Pee, and Only a Bar is Available

A few weeks ago, my family and I took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina to see family and tour the USS Yorktown (which was great). After the tour, we wandered around downtown Charleston and ended up at a park, where my children happily ran around and played tagged…until my youngest one had to go pee. When he has to go, it comes on like a freight train and he launches into the pee-dance. It would be nice if he would pull me aside and say, “Father, I’ll have to pass water in a little while, so be on the lookout for a restroom.” But alas, he’s six, and seems to have a bladder the size of a dime.

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A urinal! My kingdom for a urinal!

So I began look for buildings that might have a public bathroom, but the park was surrounded by upscale clothing stores and condos. I left my wife and oldest son, grabbed my youngest by his hand, and off we set in search of a bathroom.

I came to a fancy hotel and figured I’d give it a try, but I couldn’t find a restroom near the lobby. Also, there was no one around, including at the reception desk, which was a little creepy. I didn’t mention that to my son; the last thing I needed was him to freak out while having to pee.

Suddenly, a young man and woman appeared and asked me if I knew where a bathroom was. I told them we were searching for the same thing. “Let’s go up these stairs and see,” the man said in a heavily accented voice. Russian, I thought, or maybe Ukrainian? The woman giggled nervously and said she was the one that had to pee. It wasn’t vital information, but okay. Her accent was similarly thick.

On the second floor of the hotel, we found restrooms, but they required hotel passkeys. My son pinched his legs together and gritted his teeth. My Slavic friend said, “I’m going to ask a hotel guest if I can borrow his card.” The young woman gave him a sideways look, and I stopped myself from saying, “You know, I really doubt that’s going to work.” Instead, I said, “Well, good luck.” My son and I waited with the young lady, who was fidgeting and bouncing up and down on her heels.

A few minutes later, the man returned, shaking his head. “No one would give me a card,” he said. Not so suprising, but I gave him credit for trying.

“All right, let’s go,” I said and headed with my son back down the stairs. The couple followed me out onto the sidewalk, and a block ahead of us I spotted The Griffon Pub. Good enough, I said and quickened my pace, sensing my son was about to drop his pants and whiz on the pavement.

I ducked in, and the couple followed. Holding my son’s hand, we wove through tables and people through the dimly lit bar until we found two unisex bathrooms. Not waiting another second, I threw one of the doors open and ushered my boy in.

As he relieved himself (which sounded like a pipe had burst and was exploding water everywhere), I said to my son, “You know we’re in a bar, right?”

My son turned slowly to face me. “What?” he demanded. He knows I don’t drink and seems to have decided that bars are one step above Hell…or so he’s said to me before.

“Yep,” I answered.

“Why?” he shot back, but I could tell he was more curious than upset. He began looking around the bathroom, and his eyes settled in a picture of a large bottle filled with amber-colored liquid.

“That would be whiskey,” I said.

“Huh,” my son replied.

After we washed hands, we walked back into the bar to take in the sights and sounds. It was my kind of place; dimly lit, not too loud, and not too crowded. Were a still a drinker, I would have been right at home.

“This is interesting,” my son said as we made our way to the door. Before we left, I turned around and got an eyeful of all the liquor:

liqour
That’s what I like to call a f**k-load of booze (image credit)

Once we were back on the sidewalk, I saw the young couple who’d accompanied us on our pee quest. The woman looked relieved. I waved to them, and they waved back.

As I walked back to the park to reunite with my wife and other son, I was immensely relieved that I’d been able to walk into a bar, get to the business at hand, and leave without so much urge to drink. I had smelled the beer and liquor; I’d looked into the faces of people enjoying alcohol, and I’d been perfectly content to pass it all by.

Whew.

 

Alcoholable? Alcoholed? Alcoholsome?!?

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featured image: poison

The other day when I was teaching, I handed out a worksheet on adjectives and adverbs to my students. In my current job, I work with adults, teaching reading and writing skills. Everyone needed a little brushing up on adjectives and adverbs, so I thought we could do the worksheet together.

The first part of the worksheet instructed the students to turn nouns and verbs into adjectives by adding the correct suffix (for example, beard becomes bearded, or accept becomes acceptable).

It took a little while for everyone to catch on, but all the students got the following word and suffix correct:

alcohol + -ic = alcoholic

That’s when I started laughing…and realizing that I had to share the reason I was laughing (otherwise, I just seemed to find the word “alcoholic” amusing, and that could strike my students as decidedly odd). “I’m just making different non-words with other suffixes,” I explained. “Like, ‘alcoholable.’ Or ‘Alcoholing.'” My students just stared at me, and I cleared my throat and moved on to the next word.

Later, I came up with a handful of words that you won’t find in the dictionary but nonetheless apply to my experience with drinking. The list isn’t meant to lessen the impact that drinking took on my life (or on anyone’s life). The words are darkly humorous to me, but they also hit home. So, without further delay, I present…

Robert’s List of New Alcohol-Related Words

  • Alcoholish – (ajd). describing a drink with relatively little alcohol; someone who doesn’t want to describe himself as an alcoholic. “I don’t have a problem with drinking,” Ted told his friends. “I’m just a little alcoholish.”
  • Alcoholing – (v) to enthusiastically ingest alcohol. Mary and Janet were fond of alcoholing before they went out so as to provide a drunken base upon which to build, drink by drink, as the night wore on.
  • Alcoholable – (adj) – any situation that can be improved by/or will contain alcohol. “We can have the meeting anytime this weekend,” Hannah said, “but let’s make it somewhere alcoholable.”
  • Alcoholsome – (n) Three or four more people engaged in serious drinking. “They make quite a gruesome alcoholsome,” Greg said of the three bridesmaids stumbling across the dance floor.
  • Alcoholened – (adj) Someone who has consumed so much alcohol over his or her life as to be visibly and negatively impacted by it. If there was ever an rough, alcoholened man to serve as a warning to others, it was Stephen.

** BONUS REAL WORD!! CLICK HERE TO LEARN THE DEFINITION OF “CRAPULOUS”!!

Are there any other words you can think of to add to the lexicon of invented drinking words? I would say, “Hey, the old me would have made this a drinking game!” except 99.9 percent of the time I drank alone. And, to be clear, I didn’t need a game to get drunk as fast as possible. Drinking games were for amateurs. Sheesh.

Happy sober Friday, good people. As you were.

A Dark Reminder of How Things Were

I was clearing out some old writing files on my computer the other day and found one entitled “The End.” I figured it was a story I’d started and then abandoned, but it was something quite different.

It’s hard to care about anything when I get like this. I’m back at the fucking bottom, and it feels like I belong there. I mean, why not? I’ve spent enough time here. At least I understand it, so why not go back to normal? Who cares if normal is horrible and isolating and will destroy my family and eventually kill me?

I wrote this some time in early sobriety. As near as I can tell–I saved over the original file and forgot to look at the date–it was February 2015. Maybe about a month or so sober? It goes on:

God, I hate weekends. I hated them before I got sober, too, and I used alcohol to drown everything out: my wife, my kids, life. Alcohol can still make it all go away. All I have to do is get in the van right now and drive to the store. The cure is waiting for me, just like always. Hell, I could go and drink half a bottle of wine before people knew I was even gone. And I’d get that warm, comfortable feeling. All my broken pieces would snap back into place. I’d feel stronger, healthier, stable. I could write again. I have a book waiting for me, don’t I? All I seem to be able to write about is this: drinking, not drinking, getting sober, going to meetings, going to rehab night classes, sharing with groups…

…and it would be nice to take a break. Just a little break, mind you. Maybe just drink enough to take the edge off. Make life a little blurry once again so I don’t have to see the problems in such stark relief. I don’t have to get drunk. Just have enough to loosen up again, be more active around my kids. And I can write music again that isn’t so fucking depressing. Well, okay, it’ll always have a tinge of sadness to it, but I can write different songs. I can do all of that with just the bare minimum of alcohol in my system.

Without it, I don’t know who I am. That’s such a scary thought that it makes me want to drink. And forget the bare minimum, I’d dive back into it with a fucking vengeance, man.

It occurs to me that I might have posted this on my first sober blog, recovery101. I’m too lazy to check. Either way, I won’t post all what I wrote. I ramble on for quite some time before painting a bleak picture of what my life might look like if I start drinking again:

Pass out. Get up. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Fucking repeat until wife has had enough and kicks you out. Finally call your sponsor. Hate yourself for being a terrible father, husband, and human being. Throw the biggest fucking pity party on Earth, making sure to invite only yourself. Sleep in your car. Sleep in your office. Get fired from job. Stop going to AA. Get a job at a grocery store and an apartment in a shitty part of town where you’ll get mugged twice and have your stuff stolen once. Find a roommate who’s worse off than you. Pretend your kids don’t exist. You don’t have a phone, so you’re wife doesn’t call. Get a used bike to ride to and from work. Drink your pay checks away.

Ride by your old house and discover new people living in it. Briefly wonder where family went. Question if your ever had a family in the first place. Decide you didn’t, but if you did, they’re better off without you. Throw another pity part and wallow in it for days. Get fired. Get a job at a gas station. Get fired from that.

Start living on the street during the day and sleeping at the mission at night. Continue questioning your sanity. Get jumped almost every day for a week and finally learn how to fight. End up in the hospital twice, strapped down because you keep ripping out IVs. The second time, they just let you leave.

Discover crack is pretty good, but tell alcohol you’re not being unfaithful, just trying new things. Stumble in an AA meeting and leave before the preamble’s over.

Continue getting high and drunk every day. Wake up four years later in incredible pain and go to the free clinic. The nurse says you look like shit, so you find a mirror. You don’t recognize yourself, and your skin is yellow. The doctor says you’re in the early stages of liver failure and nothing short of a transplant can save you.

He asks how old you are. You don’t know. He asks if you want any family notified of your condition. You say you have no family.

You’re in the hospital for three days, experiencing the worst detox you’ve ever had. You see and hear shit; you have a seizure. They give you medicine to control the seizures, but they don’t touch the other symptoms.

Doctor says you’re going to hospice and they’ll make you as comfortable as possible. You ask if you’re going to die. The doctor nods.

And so you spend your last days on Earth unsure of who you are and what happened. In the end, you tell yourself it’s better to be dead anyway because you have nothing to live for. In the middle of the night, you stop breathing. No one claims your body, and it’s cremated.

The end.

I got chills when I read that the other day. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I would go off the rails if I started drinking again. Drugs weren’t part of my story, but who knows what horrors would spring up if I picked up a bottle again?

I began editing this post earlier today and stopped when it was time to pick up my children from school. I deposited them at home and hopped back in the van to go get some grocery (which, sober or drunk, can be a nightmare with kids). So there I was, toodling down the road, singing along with Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” when the thought hits me hard:

I could pick up a bottle of wine. Or maybe dash into the liquor store. I haven’t seen the inside since they remodeled.

Talk about a “what the fuck?!” moment. I had read that account of me dying from liver failure and still, the urge to drink hit me. The feeling passed, and I didn’t have a problem walking down the wine ailse. I glanced at the beer for a moment, but that was it.

Now I’m back home, finishing up this long post, and sipping some coffee.

*shudder* That’s all for me. Happy sober Friday, folks. Keep fighting the good fight.

 

When I Forget a Dose of Medication

Yesterday, things had been clicking along normally. I went to work (I’m currently teaching part-time in an adult education program, preparing people to take the GED test), came home, and did stuff around the house. I then picked up my children from school. I didn’t notice anything was off in my mind or spirit until my kids had a little dust-up, an I over-reacted in a major way. My tirade hit such a high octave that my voice began to crack, and still I kept on, though somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought, What the hell is this? Why am I flying off the handle over something relatively minor?

The three of us finally settled down, and I was completely drained. I mean, drained like I’d just spent eight hours toiling away in a middle school language arts classroom (which, for the record, is mighty drainingI used to come home and collapse in bed for two hours). I carried on with other household chores like laundry and getting supper ready while my kids occupied themselves. At one point, my youngest approached me in the kitchen, and I said, “I can’t listen to anything else. I’m sorry. Just please don’t ask me anything right now.” My son, who’s heard this from me before, shrugged and went back to the living room, and I tumbled under wave after wave of guilt.

Right before my wife came home, I sat down and began a post. I got as far what you read below:

This is going to most likely be an ugly and not terribly hopeful post. As I write this, my children are asking me questions, and I’m doing my damndest not to snap back. It’s a losing batttle, I’m afraid.

This happens periodically….

At this point, my wife walked in the door, and my youngest son ran up to her and said, “Daddy said I can’t talk to him now. He can’t listen to any more voices.” My wife looked at me, and I clutched my head and said, “It’s true, I can’t. There’s just too much audio stimulation going on.” Of course, my kids started arguing immediately, and it felt like knives tearing into my brain. I went on the porch to get away from it and deal with laundry.

All the while, the noise in my head kept on, joined by the hyper-critical voice that was one reason I used to drink: to shut that fucker up. I don’t understand, I thought amid all the mental and spiritual chaso. This wasn’t a bad day. I shouldn’t want to crawl into bed and shut everyone out.

And then I passed the cabinet where we keep medicine. I looked at my bottle of anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medicine. “Oh, bloody hell,” I said. “I didn’t take it.

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How I feel without my medicine: angry (and moustachioed).

I’m normally med-compliant. If I don’t take my medicine every morning, I usually fare all right until the afternoon, and then the wheels come off. Or they can come off. I’ve certainly missed a dose before and not had an issue. That wasn’t the case yesterday.

I walked into the living room and told my family I’d missed a dose. My oldest son glanced up from his game and said, “Well, that explains a lot.” And it does. I went back to the kitchen and took my pill. About an hour later, I felt a little more like myself.

This experience comes on the heels of another one that surprised me. I’ve developed a crippling fear of dentists, which I never had growing up. Now, I feel trapped and like I’m going to choke to death when I’m in the chair. Anyway, I hadn’t been to the dentist in something like two years, so I asked my doctor for a Klonapin to calm me down. I took Klonapin daily during my ill-advised year back teaching in the public school setting. It worked like a charm then, and when I quit, I also quit taking Klonapin. No withdrawl and no regrets.

But I was freaking the hell out about going to the dentist, so I took one. I expected to calm right down have that feeling of relief as my obsessive, terrifying thoughts were put behind a wall. That’s what it always felt like; the thoughts were still there, but they were trapped. I could carry on with my day.

This time, though, the thoughts remained and within five minutes, I felt inebriated. I couldn’t walk straight, let alone think straight. “I feel drunk,” I told my wife, who was going to drive me to the dentist. “And I don’t like it.”

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The not-so-good-old days.

That was the freaky–but good, I suppose–thing: I hated the feeling. I hated that I started babbling about nonsense, just like I did when I drank. It got to the point on the drive to the dentist that my wife looked at me and said, “You need to tone it down before you get there. You’re rambling.”

The dentist visit wasn’t pleasant, but I guess the pill worked enough that I didn’t bolt from the office. But my anxiety was almost through the roof the entire time. When I finished and walked home, I was furious: the pill hadn’t done what it was supposed to, I hated dentists, and the world could go fuck itself. Why these thoughts? I was coming down,l that’s why.

I’ve been using essential oils for quite some time now, and I’ve recently added Copaiba oil, which has an almost immediate calming effect on me. I believe I’ll stick with that when I go back to the dentist (and, in future posts, I may mention some other oils that benefit my emotional well-being).

Gah, what a long post. Thanks for reading. Happy sober Friday.

Trying to Accept Happiness

Happiness and I don’t have the best track record. Historically (and well before I began drinking), I haven’t trusted myself when I started feeling good. Wait a damn second, I’d think. This isn’t right. I’m not supposed to feel good. The feeling would pass, and I’d be back comfortably ensconced in my mild to moderate despair. It was my standard operating procedure, and deviations from it felt alien.

Me, most days.
Me, most days.

It’s not that I was never happy. I had moments of happiness, but it was always tinged with distrust. When I discovered drinking, I realized I could shut off that uncomfortable feeling. Drown it out. Numb everything. It wasn’t until I went to rehab that I learned that I was only fooling myself that I could choose which feelings to suppress. I was in the process of suppressing all feelings…turning them off one by one, slowly strangling them. It got to the point where I stood in my kitchen, drunk and getting more drunk, and realized I didn’t care if I lived or died.

I have an idea where my inability to feel happiness (or joy or whatever positive emotion you can think of) comes from. It’s wrapped up in my childhood and my home. I accept that. Certain things happened that changed my emotional trajectory, and I have my own brain chemistry to thank for clinical depression and other issues. I’m learning, very slowly, to recognize joy and not run from it. I laugh more easily. I’m not as jittery around overwhelmingly positive, energetic people.

As the AA big book says, “Progress, not perfection.” I had a good day today, and I chose to be positive. Not 100 percent of the time…not even close. Let’s say 60 percent. Compared to what it used to be, that’s pretty good.

That’s all for now. Happy sober Tuesday.

The Ol’ Alcoholic Brain

I went in this afternoon for my yearly physical which included fasting bloodwork so I could see how my cholesterol levels are. Not that I was terribly worried. I don’t have the worst diet in the world, but it could use some tweaking. I’ll admit a penchant for Eggo waffles in the morning.

eggos
Yaaaaaasss. (image credit)

Anyway, my doctor pulled up the results of my bloodwork on the computer. The screen showed my bloodwork, liver function, and all manner of things for the last few years, going back to before I got sober. My cholesterol was a tad bit high, just as it was last year, and the year before. My liver function was fine, just as it was last year, and the year before…

…and the same when I was drinking, except for one July when the functions were a little elevated, but not an insane amount. “That’s weird,” I said to my doctor. “My liver functions weren’t all that bad when I was drinking, and there’s not much difference now.”

“Well, there’s a difference, but it isn’t huge,” my doctor agreed.

“Huh,” I said. We moved onto other topics, but my alcoholic brain began whispering, Hey, man, looks like you weren’t that bad off. You didn’t ruin your body. That liver has some good drinking years still in it.

“It’s not like I’m going to start drinking again,” I blurted out, apropros of nothing. My doctor gave me a quizzical look and said, “No, that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“Right.”

There were a few seconds of silence, and we picked up our rhythm again. She’s a good doctor and a nice woman, though I don’t know her well. She’s not like my last primary physician, who specialized in addiction (and was fantastic). There’s no reason my current doctor would know how much I drank and how wrecked my life was. I’ve never told her, and I don’t see a reason to. She just needs to be accepting of my quirkiness, which she is, and know that I’m in recovery, which she does.

The rest is up to me, with the help of my AA home group and others in recovery (I’ve found SoberGrid quite useful for inspiration and for positive, encouraging feedback). I didn’t shut down the lies my addiction started feeding me in the doctor’s office and that continued on the way home. I let my alcoholic brain say what it would, and eventually the voices subsided. Now I’m going to go make supper for my family in a kitchen blessedly free from alcohol. It was a very different scene this time in 2014.

As you were, folks. Happy sober Tuesday.