Birds of a Feather

I remember when I was a kid my mom would often say, “I don’t want you hanging around with those kids they are ‘bad news.’ ”

Drinking Buddies

Of course she was right and I didn’t want to listen.  Now here I am decades later and I have been straight and narrow for 11 days and I am starting to miss my old friends.  As they say in the program “drinking buddies.”  It is funny how I never identified them as “drinking buddies.” I just called them my friends.  And though we did other things than drink together, the one thing that was a constant was drinking.  We ALWAYS drank SOMETHING – even if it was a little “hooch” in our coffee for a little warm up in the morning.  And then we went from there.  We helped each other move, we spent snow days together, we painted camps, we’ve sat around the bonfire together.  But ALWAYS with some sort of alcoholic beverage.

Why Should They Care?

At one time or another someone in the group of us would make a comment that “__________ isn’t drinking anymore.  They have found God and now they are a pain in the ass.”  This isn’t the comment in every case but it was a comment like that one that would resinate with me.  I never was belligerent about other people’s drinking habits unless of course it ended in some altercation involving me, which did happen once or twice.  For the most part, I am a live and let live person.

Disappearing Act

When I got divorced , I learned who my friends were and weren’t.  I learned some hard lessons. People I would drop anything and go running to help or provide something they needed-deserted me in my darkest hours.  If I had the money at the time, I probably would have drank more  to “ease the pain.”  But I didn’t have the money, so about 8 years later from the divorce, I guess I decided to make up for it!   People that you think may be your friends often turn out not to be and I find that a very sad experience full of second guesses, anger and pain.

Since attending AA,  I have been conspicuously absent from my usual routine.  It is harder to do this time than it was during my divorce.  I live in the same town and we now use cell phones and text one another.  I am doing more healthy things, I am getting chores done around the house that really needed doing.  I feel really good about that part.  The part that don’t feel good about is that I am not comfortable in my own skin to say when they call or when I see them, “Hey I am in AA and I just can’t do the stuff I used to right now.”  Or “I just don’t WANT to do that stuff right now.”

Wildfire

I have told the people I really needed to that I was going to AA.  I also told my recovering friends (each of them from out of state), that I was going to AA.  They were “safe.”  Heck I haven’t even told my Mother – who would probably be thrilled.  I am just not ready.  Thoreau once said, “The only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead.”  I cannot agree more.

Once Pandora’s Box is open it is never to be closed again.

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“Scary” People Taught Me The Error of My Ways

I was lucky.  I got the chance to grow up in pretty much White Bread (Wonder actually) household.  Even though my Dad drank too much and he had some party friends.  There was no hitting, no police, no one getting their clothes thrown out onto the front lawn being told to “GET OUT.”  I will credit this to my Mom, her faith and her tolerance for some little more over the top frivolity that went on at our house.  She drank very little and kept the “lid on” for us kids.

So fast forward to today.  When I grew up the only people that had tattoos were men coming back from the military.  It was some kind of brotherhood thing.  And we all know now that tattoos are now being used as a way for people to express themselves though it does create a certain “aura” when people on the outside look at someone they may not know well or that they have never met.

What I Used to Think:

Lots of Tattoos=Scary
Cuffs and studs in odd places – tongues, cheeks, lips =Scary
Scary = Losers = Criminals

Reality

When I sit in a room of people that introduce themselves as Alcoholic or Alcoholic/Addict and then have my own turn it’s a very humbling experience.  On top of meeting at a homeless or rescue shelter when I always used to cast a disparaging eye on those wanderers and dumpster divers. We are all fighting the same demon. This reminds me of how we are God’s children no matter what we look on the outside. Clean clothes, old clothes, neither Our Creator or alcohol cares about any of those things.   I have also been in meetings with people that drive Hummers and Mercedes with fresh manicures and cologne.  All of us have been bruised and broken by alcohol.

The Disease

Takes no prisoners.
You survive it or it destroys you.

Manners?

If you have never been to a meeting and are avoiding them, reread what I wrote about above.  Then read this. The meetings are full of “Thank You” , “Please”, “God Bless You”.  And hugs.  Who would believe that I would be hugging someone that 3 weeks ago would have scared the crap out of me?  Certainly not I.  Perhaps that “disparaging eye” was out of deep seeded fear that maybe I was closer to their homeless reality than I was to the world I thought was better than theirs, better than them.  I was not like “those people.”

The Afterglow

After the meetings – I think.  Sometimes it isn’t all good, well how about MOST times it isn’t all good.  My old friends in recovery tell me that is normal. I am just 9 days into this “thing.”  Being sober is hard work.  All of a sudden that crutch I poured out of a bottle or drank out of a can has broken and I cannot use it anymore.  The meetings make me think of life in different ways and how I got to this place.  Why I think like I do, why I become overwhelmed by the things I do.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel the feelings but if I don’t feel them then I cannot deal with them. It’s time.

This Blog

I hope anyone that reads this understands that this is part of my therapy too.  I hope just like the meetings some of us go to JUST hearing someone say (or in this case – READ) something that you can identify with and may help reinforce a good day or hold your hand during a rough patch.  Everything about this blog is anonymous.  The name, the email it goes to but there is a real alcoholic behind it sharing her thoughts.  But these are my own experiences and we are all so different. Though my intention wasn’t to wrote something necessarily for other people to read, I am happy to see I have a few subscribers.  I wrote it here because I am a keyboard and computer person and my journals are normally done using these tools and not pencil and paper. Writing is my way of sorting things out.

Please feel free to drop me an email or comment, especially comments – remember your manners this is like an AA meeting, without seeing the tattoos!  As a man said the other day as we joined hands and said the Lords Prayer, “God gave us rivers and can help us save our livers.”

Just For Today.

Dirty Little Secret

Arriving at camp or at a friend’s house with  “roadie” or  a “road soda” was not only common, it was expected as they often did the same when they visited me. It didn’t matter what time of day it was,  a beer or a bloody was normal.

Now this wasn’t in the middle of the week unless of course we were fishing or hunting but the weekend,  so it was ok. Maybe it is ok for other people that aren’t alcoholics now I realize it wasn’t okay for me. Doing this all too often just got me further down the road to where I finally hit the wall.

Sure I can Quit

When I quit drinking as I did many times, I always would be on a diet where it was 2 weeks without alcohol or on allergy meds. I didn’t like it but the main issue was at the end of the day when I wanted to have a little “Happy Hour” with my friends. It didn’t feel like an addiction, not that I really even knew what an addiction felt like. There were no shakes, no anxiety. I just knew for a couple weeks I couldn’t drink and that pissed me off, end of story.

What Changed?

Earlier this year I noticed my sleeping patterns were much worse than ever. I talked to my girlfriends, (all drinkers) and they said, “Don’t you just hate menopause?” So THAT was it.  MENOPAUSE!

An old friend in recovery sent me a link on Facebook about the effects of alcohol and sleeping, which I read but dismissed. He’s a guy, what does he know about menopause?

But what did anyone but me know that I would awake at night in a sweat and go and have a “little something” to get me back to sleep and a few hours sometimes less, I was dragging my ass out of bed trying to start the day.

And it got worse.

Looking in the Mirror

I started noticing my friends, both male and female were acting strangely when they drank.  Of course I never did that  and of course everyone else would tell me how horrified they were at how my friends acted.  Or they told me that “this one” or “that one”  was just on a “bad jag.”  I started to think how horrible I would feel if people were talking about me like that.  Worst thing would be, what if I was acting that way?  Would I even know?

The drunken phone calls were normal, I participated as well as initiated many.  Doesn’t EVERYONE just want to hear their drunk friends call them when they are trying to work or even better yet when they are trying to sleep?

Where the Rubber Met the Road

While I would lie awake and hear my heart pound in my chest and sweat like a pig, I started thinking about these things.  And then I would become more anxious with every thought I had.  I would sit down and try to work and I was consumed with fear, anxiety and dread.  It was hard to put it aside without having a drink to calm me down.  I would usually have it in my favorite bar where I would see some friends and it would reinforce how screwed up things were.  But they always talked about OTHER people.  Our OTHER friends, those that were not there of course. In the wee hours of the morning I wondered when they talked about me like that. I knew it happened.

This is not the whole story

This isn’t the beginning and end to my story.  Like all of us that go to AA,  our story is full of twists and turns.  But this is the beginning on my journey that is ONE WEEK OLD today.  But I do feel a lot better physically since I stopped drinking.  I do feel clear headed and not as overwhelmed as I did.  What AA has taught me so far is to look at my list of things to do and work on each one and finish it.  Don’t look at the WHOLE monstrous list, panic and run to the bar  (or cupboard!)

Thank you Brothers and Sisters of AA for today.

“Coming Clean” with the ones I love

My first experience with telling “another person” that I had a problem with alcohol was true serenity.  I wouldn’t say it was necessarily positive, because I wasn’t able to really feel positivity that day but I was able to feel relief.  The person I shared a bed with now knew where “I was” and that was a great settling feeling.

Next Steps

The next thing I needed to do was to talk to my business partners.  There never seems to be a good time to talk.  We always use texting and some email but much of that goes unanswered leaving me feeling even more isolated in my business relationship.  While I am not BLAMING this on my alcohol use, I do feel it is a great contributor to it.  The more alone I feel, the more I want to drink and then the isolation comes and the circle goes round and round.

Out of Touch

Our office went “mostly” virtual about 3 years ago.  That means no home base for Janis (me.) People always say, “Isn’t it great that you work from home” and yes sometimes it is but other times it is a struggle.  It was the best thing for me to always know I had a place to belong and people to care about and to know I was working for them and we were a team. (More on this in a later post.)

But I approached each of my partners, one in person but he was going to a meeting and we had little time to talk.  Later a phone conversation with him pushed me to call our other partner (I had wanted to see him face to face) but rather than one partner telling the other partner my thoughts, feelings and situation, I chose to talk to him over the phone instead of risking being “ratted out” and a lot of uncontrolled conversation between the two of them jumping to conclusions and filling in the blanks of MY LIFE.  (I have known them a long time, this is what they do.)

Going to Lunch

We agreed to have lunch at a Chinese Restaurant where we have met plenty of times. Iced Tea and Ice water was the beverage and they sat across the table from me.  I proceeded to tell my story.  First with an apology.  Yes, I fell on my sword.  I had to.  

They both said, “We are family, we have been through a lot.  We support you.”  Of course each in their own way but they both used those words in concert.  But then the meeting took a turn to which I am hoping we don’t go back there again because I am not sure how I will deal with it.

Repentance

I told them I realized that I was responsible for some slow business (even tho my primary function is not sales), and I was going to buckle down and get back to basics and get working.  

Well they jumped on that like “flies on sh&t.”  It seemed like anything that has happened bad with the company is my fault and has been my fault from the beginning (exceeds 10 years.)  They individually came down hard on me, which I did expect in some ways but not in the context of projects and situations they were handling and not me.  

Diversity

The fact is our knowledge base is so diverse we have a tendency to “divy-up” the projects for the people that have the experience in that given area.  Some times the customer is a bit unfair for all of us, sometimes our staff is unreasonable and obstinate, apparently our meeting qualified for me to be the scapegoat for everything and everything bad.

Retreat

I didn’t feel like this was the time or place to stand up for myself.  I also didn’t feel like I was strong enough to call them on their comments.  I mean I was there to apologize and find a way to move on.

A Single Point of Purpose

That day was rough.  It was Day 2. After that meeting with my partners, I took a deep breath dried a few tears (surprised I wasn’t sobbing), got into my car and looked for a meeting that night instead of heading to my favorite watering hole.  Because my single point of purpose after 2 meetings that day was to stay sober.  

I am surprised I did.

3 Meetings in a Day

I wish I could tell you there was a method to my madness but pretty much my first day comprised of pure madness.  No drinking but the shaking and sweating went on.  And of course like many days before that, I didn’t feel like eating much.

After my first AA Meeting,  I received the schedule I went home.  My mind was bouncing all over the place.  Everything in CAPITAL LETTERS and  !!!  – if you have ever been there you know what I mean.  I didn’t know what to do next.

I am not much of a praying person.  Or at least not in the traditional “Get Down On My Knees” type.  I really want to believe in something greater than me but it is not important what that thing may be – Male, Female or Plant, I do need to think that there is something greater than all of us.  Mostly because most of our soothsayers aren’t very bright and our politicians with all the power to decide someone’s or even a whole country  fate certainly cannot be “the best we got!”  At least I hope not.

After I got home (it was early in the morning – 9ish), my man was getting ready to leave for the day and I was trying to decide if I tell him or not.  It wasn’t a matter of IF I would tell him it was a matter of “When would be the RIGHT time?”

I followed him out to his car (which wasn’t normal) and threw my hands around his neck and whispered in his ear, “I am going to AA.” I heard him sniff and his voice crack. He said, “Oh Baby, I am so glad I have been so worried about you. Let me know how I can support you. ”

What A Relief

I said, ” I just need you to know that I will be going to alot of AA Meetings and I will tell you when I go. I probably am going to go to one at noon today in town.”

He said, “Whatever you need, I will do whatever you need.”

I knew he meant it.  It made me wonder just how far to the brink I had pushed him. Was he ready to throw me out with the rest of the trash?  I can’t say that I would blame him. Not in the least.  If I could have thrown myself out, I would have.

So Noontime came and I was at a church downtown listening again to several folks confess their sins to everyone.  This group was quite large and there was a bunch younger folks introducing themselves as “My name is _______________, I am an Alcoholic/Addict.” Probably more combos than just

My First AA Meeting

I laid on the couch in front of the TV feeling just plain shitty.  This was after I had come done from the bedroom in a nightgown that was drenched.  I kept looking at the clock and what seemed like it was hours turned out to be minutes.  I kept turning over and looking at the clock and only one or two minutes that had clicked by. It was 3:30am, 3:32am and on and on till I got up and went downstairs to continue the process only without my boyfriend lying beside me snoring his way through it.

I Couldn’t Go On Like This…

I had stopped drinking many, many times.  But I always picked it up again and these last couple times I was in a place that I couldn’t believe I had gotten to.  Sitting here now at this computer I still don’t know how it happened as fast as it had.  Except for the fact that I had become an Alcoholic.  Like a REAL ONE.  Not like the ones you see wandering on the road rummaging through the trash (which now I have an entirely NEW appreciation for).

There is No Way I am an Alcoholic

Oh yes there is and I was.  I now understand that Alcoholism is truly something like a short circuit in your brain that alcohol causes.  Sometimes you may be happy, sometimes you may be sad.  Sometimes you may have a couple glasses of wine at a wedding or at a party and that is all you have, until THAT day.  You have a little at an event, then you go home and you have more and more until you fall asleep (or pass out).  I didn’t go to rehab though I know plenty of people that have.  Some it has worked for while others it has not.  I didn’t fall off the radar like many others did.

In the Meeting

I went to a meeting at a shelter. A shelter for addicts and alcoholics.  I sat in the back and shook because of my nervousness and my withdrawals.  A smiling face at the front led us through all this ritual, reading this, reading that, just seemed like it was something else that I didn’t need.  I mean this was stupid.  My name is ______ I am an alcoholic.  “HI, ________” and on and on it went.  As the meeting went on I felt worse physically.  But as I looked around the room there were others that looked a lot worse than me. They were living on the street or staying in the shelter and a voice in my head said, “You think you are better off than they are?  For how long?”

At the End

People approached me, one guy had 5 days in- but had several relapses. He looked normal but he was in a real bind.  Another guy that was kind and helped me navigate my way through the readings and was very kind hearted.  He also wad about 6’5 and I couldn’t believe the softness in his eyes as he looked at me.  Some women came up and jotted down their numbers and gave me a booklet for meetings.  Where I could go around the area at different times and how I could call for help to any one of them if I ever needed it.

It wasn’t at all like I had imagined

For the first time in a long time I felt at home.  I felt like these folks washed their dirty laundry with one another as well as me who they did not know at all.  I got that part.  I figured that the rest of it would come with time.

One Day At A Time