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.


Alcoholable? Alcoholed? Alcoholsome?!?

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.


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.

stache man 1
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.”

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.

Three Years and Counting

I love Pema Chodron.

Today, three years ago, I entered rehab after a disgusting and disgraceful night of heavy drinking. I remember the intake nurse nodding along as I told how much I’d consumed the night before. “Well,” she said, taking my blood pressure, “I could have guessed it was a lot. I smell it on you.”

What? I remember thinking. I smell fine. Turns out I was just noseblind to my own alcoholic stench.

These days, I’m grateful for a host of things–my family, a new job, this phone I’m writing on, but above all, I’m grateful to be sober. I’m convinced that if I’d kept drinking, I would have fractured my family. My kids would have an alcoholic father rather than a present one. I would be edging closer to death by my own hand, one drink at a time.

I’m fortunate to have lived to see what three years sober looks like. Life isn’t perfect, by any means, but it’s better. Progress, not perfection, as they say.

I don’t post often here, but I’m glad to still have this avenue of expression. Thanks for reading. Happy sober Friday.

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.

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.”


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.



Of Writing and Music

I’ve considered myself a writer since I was thirteen and I wrote what I thought was the beginning of a novel called The Quest of the Golden Dragon. It was a Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons rip-off. I managed 32 hand-written pages, and my mother was kind enough to read it and offer encouragement. I can’t imagine the experience was pleasant for her.

I was going for this and fell decidedly short (image credit)

I started writing music when I was sixteen. I took piano lessons and was a mediocre student. After I quit, I didn’t touch the piano until one day I sat down and out poured this long, rambling, dark song I called “Bury Our Bones at Sunrise.” Once again, my mother had to listen as I cranked out song after song and recorded them my battered tape-recorder. I have those old tapes somewhere, and I wince when I listen to them.

My writing and music composition has changed over the years, and both have improved dramatically since getting sober. Both still serve as personal therapy as well as channels through which I express myself artistically, and I’m not so attached to my art that I can’t stand make and evaluate it critically and objectively. But if no one ever reads another poem or listens to another song, I’m okay with it. I average about three listens per song on my Soundcloud page. I post the songs there and forget about them. I can’t even perform the songs I’ve written; once I record and post them, they vanish. It’s good thing I have no ambitions to become a performing musician.

Artistic expression is hugely important to my continued sobriety. If you’re curious what that looks like, I post poems and stories here and post instrumental music here.

That’s all for now. Happy sober Monday to all.

Sunday Morning Courage

I woke up this morning and meandered downstairs. The rest of my family was still asleep, and the house was quiet save for our two indoor cats demanding food. The dog was still sacked out with my oldest son. I also fed our two outdoor cats, a big tomcat named Ben who’s missing the tip of his left ear and has world-weary eyes. His voice belies his size; he has a tiny, sweet meow though he looks like he should growl like a bear. The other cat is Sara, and we think Ben’s her father. She’s not thrilled with his relaitvely new presence; she lowers her head and makes a low, moaning sound which I interpret as I know who you are, but you haven’t been around for most of my life, and now you come in the backyard of my human? In my territory?! Not cool. Ben just blinks at her.

sara and ben.jpg
Sara and Ben

I put on my cozy robe and started the kettle. I looked around my kitchen and once again found myself enjoying the silence. And then, this thought: a shot of vodka would be nice. Hell, maybe two shots.


There was no vodka on hand, luckily, or anything remotely alcoholic (I’m not even sure if mouthwash is a good idea to have in the bathroom. Though I never went that route, I get it). I let the thought play out, and eventually it went away. I made some oatmeal and a cup of coffee and started my day.

There’s a difference between periodic thoughts of drinking and the obsessive drive to drink, the drive that would have forced me to arrange plans to sneak off to the liquor store after 12, get some vodka, hide it in the back of the freezer, and then start making bargains with myself that I’d only drink half of the bottle, only to drink the whole damn thing and then drive to get another one under the pretense that we needed something at the store. Dear lord. I don’t miss those days.

The thoughts of drinking are still whispering in the back of my head, so I’m digging into myself to find some Sunday morning courage. Coffee helps. Writing helps. My family and the animals with whom I share space help.

Deep breaths. I’m a recovering alcoholic, not a practicing one. I will get through the day and night without drinking. And tomorrow, I’ll do it again.


Not from alcohol, though. That would be awful. This time, due to a snafu with insurance, I haven’t been able to take Cymbalta. I’m on day six and am incredibly dizzy, cranky, fatigued, and am having difficulty thinking straight.

None of this is surprising or unexpected, so I’m not freaking out. I’m resigned to it, and I’ve decided to stop taking Cymbalta altogether and use other methods of treating my mental health.

What I didn’t expect, though, was the almost complete loss of interest in writing. Not on this blog, which I rarely use, but creative writing. I sit down at the keyboard and write, but nothing decent comes out. Writing is one way I deal with my mental illness, and I’m bummed that it isn’t doing the trick. Even writing this post is difficult…not because of the topic, but because my brain doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.

So it goes. I’ll keep hanging in there. I’d appreciate good vibes and thoughts and prayers.