Selfish

Last year, I met up with two of my friends at my favorite bar. It was my favorite because it 1) had a lot of good IPAs,  2) was next to my apartment building so no worry of driving, and 3) the bartenders would let me keep drinking after they locked up and cleaned. They would even let me buy a bottle to go (which I think was illegal in that state?)

My friends lived down the street so no worries of driving for them either. They are an awesome couple. I never feel like a third wheel with them. We could have interesting conversations whether sober or drunk. Our group of friends were a fun, party crowd. I had discussions prior to this night with our group of “what if” this couple got married. This night I decided to share the group’s feelings (as if I was the spokesperson?)

The female of this couple was busy in a discussion with the gentleman in the stool to her left. The male, I will call him Bob, was on her right and to my left. In between us. Somehow I blurted out “you know none of us want you guys to get married.”
He asked why not.
I said “couples change when they get married. And we all love you guys the way you are.”
He said if, or when, they do get married, it won’t change them. But she wants babies one day so they most likely will take that step.
I cringed. Babies? That will really ruin them as the fun couple.

Bob doesn’t drink much. In the two years I have known him, I have never seen him drunk. The girlfriend, on the other hand, seems to compete with me as to who will pass out first at parties.

But who am I to tell them not to advance their relationship?  Who am I to want to prevent the possibility of losing a drinking buddy? Just because I do not want babies doesn’t mean all my friends should choose the same lifestyle. And just because my marriage failed doesn’t mean my friends can’t find happiness in it.

I was being selfish. Just like I feel selfish wanting all my friends to stop obsessing over alcohol. So many memes on Facebook glorify drinking. A lot of articles are being shared about the benefits of wine and whiskey. And there is a popular post going around on my news feed on how to open a wine cork without a screw.

I posted a link to making healthy water with lemons and limes. A friend commented “what about rum and lemon.” I said not for me. I have been sober 3 weeks. His comment got a like. Mine didn’t.

What about posts of the benefits of being not drinking? What about the damage alcohol does to the small percentage of people who can not handle it? If I start posting articles about sobriety,  I think I will be blocked by more people than my drunk posts did. My drunk posts were “entertaining”. I really had a lot of friends tell me that. Some joked that trying to decipher my drunk typing was like a game.

I need to not get on a  pedestal.  I need to not be selfish.
But I am still keeping my sobriety a secret from most people.

Mistake # 31- I had a birthday party that included hanging out in my apartment complex’s rooftop jacuzzi. I made it an “international theme”. The party started in my apartment with lots of exotic food I made representing different countries. And a lot of drinks like Australian wine, Russian vodka, Italian Amaretto, Mexican tequila, Caribbean rum, Irish whiskey and all kinds of beer. We moved the drinking up to the rooftop after the food was finished. I had a bottle of red wine for me. A whole bottle that I wouldn’t share cause it was expensive. I don’t remember a thing after I got in the jacuzzi.

I woke up in my bed the next morning. I had a friend staying at my place for a few days. She said everyone left and I refused to get out of the jacuzzi. She and another guy cleaned up the rooftop. They then found me floating facedown in the water and had to pull me out. I also confessed a lot of embarrassing secrets that night. I had more embarrassing drunk times in that jacuzzi and always blamed the heat.

Pump It

The heating in my house went out. My landlady told me she needs to order more oil. Instead of spending the day freezing at home and reading like I planned, I took the opportunity to visit a nearby city to get some errands done. And to search for my 30 day chip. I seriously drove two hours for this quest.

I spent two years of college and the last few years of my twenties living in this city. A lot of partying and drinking occurred here. I finished my errands at 4 pm and found an AA meeting that started at 5:30pm downtown. I spent 30 minutes looking for a parking spot. After I paid the meter, I realized I parked next to one of my favorite Belgian bars. I fell in love with hops there. This was gonna be a challenging evening.

I searched for a coffee shop. I wanted to avoid Starbucks because I prefer to do business with non-chain places and local companies. I am still trying to finish my Unwasted book. (I am not liking her relapse fantasies.) I found a place called Coffee Bar. It had coffee and alcohol. Lots of microbrews lined the walls. I got a latte, read some, and then walked to the meeting.

It was a nice meeting in a church side room. There was a speaker. I felt I related to her story a lot. But they did not offer chips at this meeting. Afterwards, I grabbed some dinner and search online for a later meeting.

I found one starting at 8:00 and then another at 8:30pm. I had to walk back to my car to put in more time in the meter. I wanted to put enough in to cover the 8:30pm meeting, just in case, but accidentally put in enough money only for an hour. I started to curse at the meter. It was the type that gives a ticket of your expiration time so I couldn’t just add more money. I pulled out my credit card and put enough money to cover parking until 9:27pm. Spent $11 on parking tonight. My hands were frozen because it was 25 F degrees out. “I better get a fucking chip tonight” I muttered. “And no parking ticket.”

In the 5 minutes it took me to walk to the 8:00 meeting, I started to get upset. I thought of the Belgian bar. “If I don’t get a chip, I am gonna go have one beer. Just one and I will drive home after. Just one. Fucking chip.” I started to cry. I was walking across a park and crying and freezing. The cold wind smacking my face was not helping the tears. “I don’t need to blog about this. One beer will warm me up also.”

I got to the meeting a few minutes early. I walked right to the coffee pot. Then I bitched at myself for forgetting my travel coffee mug. The man who was chairing the meeting walked to the coffee pot. I asked “do you give out chips at this meeting?” He said “no, we don’t. Are you looking for a chip meeting?” I said I was. He said “well we have coffee and big cups.” He smiled and tried to hand me a cup. I said “I hate Styrofoam.” I walked out.

I kept picturing a tall IPA in my hands. Fuck AA. Fuck their chips or not-giving-chips. One beer after 36 days won’t kill me. Maybe I can get a 24 hour chip tomorrow. If that 8:30 meeting doesn’t give out chips, I am getting a beer!

I walked through my old party neighborhood. The one bar had up the ropes for people to wait in line already. I think Wednesdays used to be 18 and over or karaoke night. I was kicked out of there a few times. Another bar I used to frequent has been closed down. My old afterhours club is still there but with a different name. I have the old name on a membership card hanging on my keychain still.

I get to the building and located the meeting. It was in a gay community center. I walked in the room full of men. I smiled thinking I might have more in common with them then I do with most of the women at my local meetings. But I worried they would notice I have not plucked my eyebrows in a long time.

I saw a box of chips. Is that my prize? Do I get it finally? I didn’t want to get my hopes up again. I didn’t want to ask and seem greedy. I would sit through this meeting.

They started and announced it was a beginner’s meeting. Anyone want a desire to stop drinking chip? No. They then explained the chip system. A grin started to appear on my face. Anyone have a month anniversary to celebrate? Me! Me! Me! I got up and FINALLY got my red 30 day sobriety chip! It felt so good.

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We all introduced ourselves. I admitted I had 36 days. I was sitting next to a guy celebrating 9 years. I was the baby of the group. They asked all newcomers with less than a year to speak. I was the last newcomer to talk and I talked through more tears. I laughed while I cried and explained how I have been searching for this chip for the past week. I thanked them and was so grateful I did not go to that Belgian bar.

Walking past some of my old haunts helped fight off my beer thoughts. Would I have had a beer if I didn’t find a chip? I am not sure. I think I would have went to my car and cried it out. I would have been too embarrassed to ask for a beer with wet, sobbing eyes.

I titled this post “Pump It” because the song by the Black Eyed Peas was on my Google Play as I walked out of that center with the chip in my hand. I was beaming and happy and wanted to skip back to my car. I will think of that moment whenever I hear that song now. I will think of it as my sobriety song.

Mistake #30- The bar I walked by that is now closed down: I woke up on my sister’s couch one morning. I was out with some friends the night before or maybe alone? I did not remember a thing. My brother comes down the stairs and asked how was my head. Huh? Why was he here? He then tells me he got a phone call to come pick me up from that bar. I passed out and some girl called him from my phone. Thankfully it was a newish phone and his name begins with B so she found him soon. He said I cried the whole ride to our sister’s house. He thought it was hilarious. He has his own battles with alcohol but loved that the “perfect” sister is a drunk too.

Cyber communities

I have been part of cyber communities since I first had a computer. I was into Social Networking before Facebook became a household name. I have traveled to other countries to meet people I met online. So it is not very shocking to me that I find blogs about sobriety to be a great support group. Thanks to everyone out there blogging about their journey and recovery and a huge thanks to everyone that reads, like, and comments on my blogs.

Since Eric is headed to China, I thought I would share one of my drunk stories from my visit to China six year ago.

Mistake #29- I was traveling China for pleasure for a few weeks. I started out with a few days in Shanghai. I met up with a group of international travelers and locals. We all went out to a bar that a local recommended. I think it was someone’s birthday? From my journal:

I left my green bag in the bar. I tried to go back the next day but they didn’t have it. It had my cell phone, iPod, travel journal (with all my enteries from trips to Europe), my guide book, a week supply of birth control pills, my purple cat ears hat (knitted by a friend) and a few other things.

But to look on the bright side, I didn’t lose THIS journal. I have next week’s supply of B/C pills. I didn’t lose my camera. And most importantly, I didn’t lose my passport, credit cards nor money.

It just sucks. I lost a whole day in Shanghai recovering. I tried to sleep with one of the guys that I am not even attracted to. I had to buy a new cell phone but it only works in China.

I spent the next day depressed. Then I met two Chinese girls that invited me to a tea festival. That cheered me up. I was hungover but thought “oh what nice locals!” Later, I found out the tea festival was a scam. They do it to get tourists to buy overpriced tea. The girls did try to get me to pay for their tea but I refused. I think I spent close to USD$100 on tea! But they did help me find a new cell phone and get it set up for me. I was scammed but did benefit from meeting them.

I spent the rest of my trip not trusting any Chinese person I met. I also told people my bag was stolen. I did not admit it was my drunken fault. To this day, I use my bag being “stolen” story as a reason why I did not like China.

I got drunk a few more times in China. I did not lose anything else except wasted more days with hangovers.

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Unsure about AA

I went to another meeting last night. I got excited when I saw a box of chips sitting next to a women. I figured out she was the secretary. After they read their promises and steps and other pieces they read before each meeting, they celebrated two people’s milestones. One was received a 90 day chip and spoke. The other received one for 31 years and spoke. I listened but felt cheated that they did not ask if anyone had 30 days of sobriety. I was on day 35 and still chipless. It feels so childish to get upset about this.

Maybe the AA meetings in this area just operate differently that other areas I have been. When I first went to AA meetings in 2002 and 2007, there were all in the same area. They would announce at the end of meetings “who wants a white chip for a desire to quit drinking? Who had 30 days sober? Who has 60? 90? 6 months? 1 year?” and so on. I think they might have had a 45 day chip at a few cause I think I got one? I know somewhere I have 3 colored coins in storage. I think white, red, and maybe yellow or gold-like? 45 days or 90. Maybe it was 90 cause I think it was after my 2nd DUI.

Even the first meeting I went to last month gave out chips. I stopped at one during a roadtrip and I wasn’t even sure about going sober. I did not collect a white chip then due to my uncertantity.

I have started to look up meetings in nearby cities just to get a chip! And to get out of the house and see the area. I am only here until May.

There is more to my skepticism about AA than just not receiving a chip.

For example, as I was leaving last night, a woman yelled out “wait” and stopped me. She was nice and I understand she was just reaching out. I introduced myself in the meeting as someone new to AA. Throughout the meeting they asked for stories from anyone under 90 days. I did not want to speak. I would have rather heard about other experiences. (I did speak for the first time Sunday and enjoyed that meeting.) She asked if I have been sober long and I honestly said no, but then felt guilty for not speaking up during the meeting. I do not want to go somewhere that is gonna make me feel guilty. I spent the day fighting to stay awake at work and kept wanting to doze off at this meeting. They only reason I went was because I was hoping for a chip.

So I was tired, chipless, and this woman kept wanting to chit chat. She introduced me to two other women. They asked where I was from and I replied “I am nomadic.” They laughed and she said “I am a road warrior too.” I have no idea what she meant. But I find saying  “I am nomadic” is easier than trying to explain that I move every few months with my job and travel abroad when I am not working. I did not feel like going into my life story when I was dreaming about my bed.

I apologized to the women and explained I was struggling to stay awake all day. They asked where I worked and then told me there is an AA meeting there. I told them I do not go to AA meetings where I work. I once had a therapist that recommended against that. This woman blinked. “Why?” I said in case coworkers or clients see me going there. She told me they are too busy looking at their belly lint to care if I am there.

Sorry, but I think I will take the advice of a professional therapist over an AA member. I know AA is “anonymous” but there is nothing legally saying someone can not tell others you are there or judge you for being there. Just yesterday, I had a coworker tell me she has no sympathy for people that “get themselves addicted to drugs.” I doubt she will have sympathy if she knew she was working with someone addicted to alcohol. I can not imagine walking to the parking garage and have her see me sneak off to a meeting.

When people did share last night, a lot of of was about “feelings”. A lot of people talked about finally being able to feel emotions again after going sober. I never a had problems with feeling. I had moments of happiness and sadness and the whole range during my drinking days. The only time I had problems with feeling was when I was on Prozac. I stopped that because it made me get drunk too quick. Also, I hated not being able to cry when a coworker died. I hated not being able to feel even sadness and grief. I now take St John’s Wort and it seems mellow enough to uplift and not block moods.

I think, even though we are all alcoholics, everyone is different. Therefore, we drank for different reasons and have different ways to recover. I am beyond fooling myself that I can drink moderately. I know I need to abstain. But I do not believe I need “90 meetings in 90 days.” I do not think working the steps is the only answer. And one of the promises always makes me pause. “Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” Does AA give finance classes? Teach me how to budget my money? Sobriety is not gonna make me stop spending money on expensive Broadway tickets. (I will just enjoy the show more now that I won’t be drunk during it.)

I was reading my old journals from when I first went to AA and I was “praying to God” but I know I never believed that. AA sort of pushed me into something I did not believe. I am now okay with prayers and people’s beliefs in God or gods or whatever. But it was traveling Asia and friending people of almost every religion that got me comfortable with that. I have sprirituality now from talking with monks and reading up about Buddhism. Abstaining from alcohol is actually one of thefive Buddhist Precepts. I will blog about my spirituality another day.

I was googling other ways to sobriety without AA. I found some interesting stories about people that left AA and stayed sober. Belle’s blog and her thoughts on AA came up in the search. I found a wikihow page describing the CORE process, or Commit, Objectify, Respond, Enjoy. Another program I found is SMART Recovery with it’s 4 point program of building and maintaining motivation; coping with urges; managing thoughts, feeling and behaviors; and living a balanced life. I have known people to go sober without AA. It is not the ONLY way. It works for some. But I am someone that likes to research all possiblities. I am like a 3 year old always asking “why?”

I am going to a meeting today. I doubt I will get a chip. grrrrr But I do enjoy some of the meetings and hearing the stories. I just do not want to feel pushed. I like knowing there are other options. Maybe reading my journals has pounded my problem in my head. I do not want to go back to that life. I know I can not control it.

Reading books and blogs has been a huge help. I feel I don’t really need to call anyone if I have blogs to read. And responses from fellow bloggers has been a great support. Maybe instead of readingAA steps, traditions and promises from another century, I will survive sobriety with my cyber community.

Mistake # 28- It was my first time in Vienna, Austria. I was staying with a friend that I met in San Francisco. He actually was letting me stay in his room at his apartment with his roommate while he went to stay with his girlfriend. I met up with some people in a bar. They were all locals and I knew two of them from a website. They all had jobs or classes the next morning so everyone left at a reasonable hour. I stayed by myself to drink more. There was live music downstairs. I relocated down there with my journal and my pint. I wrote in my journal, enjoyed the band, and drank a lot. I am not sure what time I left. But I got lost on the way back. The streets of Vienna are not a grid map like I was used to in the USA. I started to walk down one, thinking I was going the right direction, and then find it curving the wrong way. I kept walking and wandering. I was drunk and scared. I started to cry. I texted my friend I was staying with and told him I was lost. I don’t know how long I walked but I mangaged to find my way to his apartment. I was lucky. I was in another foreign city with a language I did not know and was irresponsible enough to get drunk alone.

I woke up early the next morning with my friend barging in the bedroom. He said he was worried cause he got my text this morning and tried to call. I must have turned off my phone accidently or the battery died after texting him. He rushed home to check on me to make sure I was okay. I was embarassed and hungover. My eyes were red and puffy from crying. He was late to class because of my foolishness.

I had to take a train that day to another city. But on the way to the train, I was very tired and hungover. I laid down on the steps to a building, propped myself up against my backpack, and took a nap. I remember women walking by and pulling their kids from getting too close to me.

My First Attempt to Go Sober

From my journal September 6, 2002:

Another drought in my journal… I don’t really want to catch up on my thoughts of the past month. But I want to say I have finally sought help for my drinking problem. I realize I can’t control alcohol on my own. I need help + support, so last week I went to my first AA meeting.  It was Labor Day weekend. R went with me. I think I have realized there is hope for me. There is a life out there without drinking. Alcohol has held me back in so many ways. I’m tired of asking people the next day what I did. I’m like Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde when I drink. I become angry and mean and super depressed. And all those “friends” I was afraid of losing if I stopped clubbing… where are they? Who are they? My friends like [me], not just some drunk chick that likes to party and cause drama.

I’m giving my body and mind another chance. I’m being reborn into a healthy life. Now God, please give me the strength!!!

Then there were several entries where I seemed to be on a pink cloud. I still had problems with my relationship but I thought going sober was going to be the answer. There is no mention of when I started to drink again but I think I made it 30 days sober at that time. If I remember correctly, I started to drink again when I went to visit my sister. She told me to just drink wine and beer. Stay away from liquor.

That relationship I was in ended in November, about a month and half after I started drinking again. Drinking was a huge problem for both of us. But I do not think that person is an alcoholic. We met for dinner a few years ago and I had 4 drinks compared to his one. I excused it as I was nervous. I sat in my car for a bit after dinner to sober up as he drove away.

Mistake #27- The last night I drank before my first sober attempt:

It was a Thursday. Back then, I knew which bar and which club were good each night of the week. I will call that night’s bar Sneakers.

I made dinner for R and my roommates. We had wine with dinner. Then some beers. Actually I had some beer while making dinner. So when R and I decided to go out, I was already drunk. We got to Sneakers and I ran into D, a friend of mine that has not been out for awhile. She and I had some of our favorite shots, Red Headed Sluts. And we drank lots of beer. It seems that from the moment we walked in the bar, R was not paying me attention. So the drunk me got jealous. I don’t know how long I was there. But when I saw R sitting on a girl’s lap, I was furious. I stormed out of there and went to [another club. It was a club I used to frequent in my early 20s with my ex-husband.] I stayed there for one drink. The club sucked. I am not interested in that place anymore. I don’t know any of the people there anymore. [read: I liked places where I knew people and could feel popular.]

So I went back to Sneakers. Apparently some fight between me and R happened. A friend’s boyfriend said I kissed someone else. Something about I almost got arrested. Not sure if that is because of the fighting. I threw out the promise ring R gave me.

And we woke up the next morning bruised and sick. The really sad part is R had more bruises than me. I apparently kicked the shit out of him. My bruises were self-inflicted. He refused to hit back. I spent Friday crying and puking. I went to work Friday night and felt sick and depressed all night.

I decided I needed to sober up. Drinking has made me lose control over my life. I have a problem. I have been emotionally abusing people with my drinking for years, but now I am physically hurting the person I love. I feel so ashamed. And I threw out the heart shaped ring he gave me for my birthday. What was I thinking???

Want to Stop Drinking?

A lot of good advice here for those of us new to this sober thing.

My journey, from wine lover to sober and happy...

It’s really hard to offer off-the-shelf advice to someone who is attempting to go alcohol-free and looking for help in the early days. We all drink for different reasons, triggers vary from person to person, and what works as a distraction for one is not necessarily going to work for another.

BUT! If I had to summarise my advice to anyone starting out on their sober journey, then it would be this;

glasswine. Broken.

a)      Alcohol will, guaranteed, have masked your emotions for all the years you’ve been drinking. Experiencing sadness, anger, excitement, joy and disappointment (to mention but a few) without booze seeping through your body taking the edge off it, demands some major getting used to. Feeling raw emotions is weird when you first put down the bottle so be prepared for this, but remember – if we do anything for long enough, that too will become the norm.

b)     …

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Training

Today I had a meeting with a trainer at the gym.  He asked me questions to figure out who to pair me up with and gave me some advice to meet my fitness goals. A lot of what he said made me think of my sobriety goals.

-gonna take awhile
-little bit at a time
-even when I am not at the gym (AA meeting), I have to focus on my goals

I was very happy when he asked me if I drink alcohol and I replied “I quit.” He said “good for you!” He asked if I had anyone supporting me in my fitness goals. I said no. I am alone. That is also how I feel with going sober. Maybe I should start a fitness blog also?

As he went on about long term goals, I did not tell him I most likely will be moving from the area in May. It makes me feel deceitful. I hope I can continue my goals to work out wherever I do move just like I hope I keep going to AA there.

I feel the next few months of my life will be work, sleep, blog, read, AA meetings,  and the gym.  Oh, and Walking Dead every Sunday night. I have a few plans for friends to visit and to visit friends while I am living in this area.  I will wait until just prior to the visitation to tell them I quit drinking. Lucky for me, most of the plans are with friends with whom I have a real relationship. Meaning, there is more to the friendship than partying. I know what they do for a living! I have or will meet their children!

I am in training to get fit and sober!

Mistake # 26- Five years ago, I took off 5 weeks inbetween jobs to travel Europe. I had my flights booked. I had a Eurorail pass for the train. First stop was a few nights in London to visit a friend. It was her 30th birthday party. We drank a lot of wine and mojitos, her favorite drink. The ones I made were crap but very strong. I passed out in her spare room. Good thing I was staying with her for my visit.

I did not see any sites of London the next day because I was hungover.

The next night, I went out with one of her friends. The birthday girl stayed home because she needed a night off from drinking. Wuss. We went to a pub to meet up with a large group of travelers. Pints were about £2 each which is very cheap for London. I drank a lot until the place closed at 11pm. One of the guys was a member at an after hours club. He was able to get us all in. I do not remember much once there. I was glad I had her friend with me to get me back to where I was staying. I can not imagine trying to navigate London’s bus system drunk.

I woke up the next day to get ready for a flight to Amsterdam. Then I realized my travel purse was missing. My travel purse with my money, credit cards, and passport. I felt like an idiot. I felt lost. I was scared. I missed my flight but was glad it was with a discount airline. I maybe lost only $40.  I used my friend’s computer to try to look up getting a new passport from the US Embassy. It was Sunday so I would have to wait until the next day and it would still take a few days.  Did I just ruin my whole trip?

I called and left a message with the club. I felt it was useless. I did not know when they would open. I sat around my friend’s house crying and regretting the night. I should have stayed in with her. She tried to cheer me up. She offered me some of her good wine. Finally around 5pm, she received a phone call from the club. They had my purse! Everything was in it.

I booked a new flight for early the next day. I only missed out on 1 day of the trip! I was still able to see the few things I wanted to see in Amsterdam and visit friends in other Dutch cities. I did not lose my passport again the rest of the trip.

But I did make more drunk mistakes.