More crushed by celebrity deaths than I am used to

All year-long when my friends got upset about a celebrity dying, I did not understand. I was not empathetic. I was saddened by Prince’s death in May, but I was also upset that people were blaming the calendar year and not focusing on the problem of addiction that caused the death. A lot of other celebrities that died I either was not a huge fan or thought they were quite old and it was inevitable.

But when George Michael died on Christmas Day, I felt part of my childhood died. I loved his music when I was a teenager. I now realize I didn’t understand the meaning to so many of the lyrics as a kid, like I did not know his song “Monkey” was about a lover with a drug addiction. I have not followed his career or life the past decade, but after his death I read about his DUIs and arrests for drugs. I guess the monkey followed him to death, or at least destroyed his body enough that he died young.

Interesting the “monkey on your back” is a metaphor for addiction and so many celebrities died from complications of addiction during the Chinese Year of the Monkey.

Carrie Fisher’s death was extremely difficult for me to handle. She was so an inspiration to women from my generation. And a role model for people suffering mental disorders and addiction. I watched Postcards from the Edge last night after not having seen it for about 20 years. I cried a lot because I pictured Carrie Fisher as Meryl Streep’s character and Debbie Reynolds as Shirley MacLaine. I also saw similarities between my myself and my mother. While my mother is not an alcoholic, I was jealous every time she drank a beer around me because I wish I was able to handle a beer. After a long letter I sent to her last May about things I was upset about, she quite drinking alcohol around me. Now I feel guilty! But also secretly happy.

I cried a lot on Wednesday. Then I cried some more the next day when her mom died. After I got done crying and feeling bad for myself, I thought of how I can use this to make my life improve. I thought of how this could be a warning to everyone that is struggling to stay sober of the damage alcohol and drugs do to the body. If I return to a life of booze, I might have a heart attack at the age of 60 on an airplane. Even though Carrie Fisher was sober for many years, the damage to her heart was already done. I had cardiomegaly on a chest x-ray 6 years ago so I was on my way to destroying my heart also.

I am hoping 2017 will be my first year with NO ALCOHOL ingestion. It was a few weeks into 2014 when I first quit, and a few months into 2015 when I first slipped, and I had a few times this past year that I drank. It had been a long hike through different terrains. Maybe 2017 will finally be the year I walk across the flat surface of sobriety.

“Happy is one of the many things I’m likely to be over the course of a day and certainly over the course of a lifetime. But I think if you have the expectation that you’re going to be happy throughout your life–more to the point, if you have a need to be comfortable all the time–well, among other things, you have the makings of a classic drug addict or alcoholic.”
Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

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Percentage rather than days

Hi all. I know I haven’t been posting for months but I think that happens to a lot of people who are trying to get sober but not really bloggers.

Since my last post, I did get drunk once. I was at a small, local Burner regional and I got drunk one night on cheap wine. I wasn’t sure why I did it but I think it was related to 1) feeling lonely 2) had a crush on the guy who offered the wine. I had fun but ended up going to my tent for something and passed out early. I wasted one night of a 3 day festival and regretted it the next morning when I had a hangover.

And I survived another Burning Man year with ALMOST no alcohol. I told several people  in my camp I do not drink but I was still offered booze in some form all week. I did take a few sips of champagne as it was passed around during volunteer shifts. And I had some champagne at a camp that has champagne parties at sunrise everyday, but it is small amount they give and the 2 cups I had were maybe 3/4 of a measuring cup. Then there was one drink I had on the last day as I passed a camp as my sort of farewell toast to Burning Man.

I sit here now a week later and think about what that means for my sobriety. To myself, I remained sober. I had a tiny bit of alcohol but avoided the amount that would cause me to crave. (Last year when I sipped the passing champagne, I gulped it down and realized I was keeping my eye on the bottle as it got passed around to figure when it would get back to me.) No, I do not think this means I can moderate. But I also don’t think I need to start to recount my sobriety. This is one reason I do not subject to the AA club nor the philosophies there. If I went to an AA meeting now, they would consider me newly sober and I would have to wait for 30 days since that last drink to get a new chip. It sort of erases all the things I learned the last 2 and a half years.

So I’ve decided to think of my sobriety in percents. I would estimate I have been sober 95% of the time since January 2014. I plan to sit down and actually calculate the percentage out when I have time. I can remember everyday I had a drink since I first slip in May 2015. The more as time goes on and I do not drink, that percentage will go higher. I think that is more important than chips or resetting my sobriety clock. I will never get a cake at an AA meeting with this belief but it will keep me sober to the best of my ability.

I am in school now so don’t really think I will have time for blogging. But I feel confident I can have that percent up to 99% by January 21, 2017.

Beers and Fears

I just survived a dinner with friends at nice restaurant with a menu of a lot of beer choices. We were spread out over two tables and shared a bunch of different appetizers. Everyone ordered beer, except one woman, who ordered some fruity cocktail. And me, who ordered a cranberry and tonic. No one questioned my choice or commented. I was offered the beer menu but declined it. One friend offered me a sip of his beer but I said the last drink I had was at the Christmas party with this same group of people. “Wow” one guy said and then moved on to talk about some art project.

I still felt the desire to want a beer just to make me feel comfortable.  Not because they were drinking beers. They could have been having ice teas and I still would have wanted the social lubrication of booze. I know a few of the people in this group more than others, but not that well. But the leaders of the group were at this dinner. We finished volunteering all day for a art festival. The leaders invited the volunteers out for drinks and snacks afterwards. I knew I would be surrounded by alcohol temptation, but I thought it would be a good way to have the group, and the leaders, get to know me. I wanted to be seen as a doer, a contributer, and a team player. I wanted to share in their stories. But being a newbie made me wish I could share a beer also.

There were many moments I thought the dangerous images of “just one beer”. I kept reminding myself where that lead to last year. (This last Memorial weekend marks 1 year since my first relapse, but next week marks 7 months renewed and completely sober.) I worried “they must think I am boring” and “will they all talk about me afterwards and regret inviting me?” I felt like I was in high school again and wondering if I would be accepted at the lunch table. I wanted to leave with the honest excuse I was tired, but didn’t want to be seen as a killjoy.

Alcohol is so evil how you can need for socializing but it also ruins your social skills.

I was worried most about one of the group leaders. She just seems very temperamental and doesn’t seem to like a lot of people. A lot of other people in our circuit have said they fear her. I have always worried she didn’t like me but I think she just doesn’t know me. She is an artistic genius and values hardwork. I wanted to join this gathering to get my face there as a volunteer. I wanted her to know my face.

My plan worked. During the meal, she shared plans with everyone of her new project and she pointed to me “don’t tell anyone about this! Top secret! ” I was giddy.  I earned her trust! By the end, as almost everyone but 3 people were leaving, she asked me if I wanted to stay for another drink. I felt liked. I said I was tired and I would be back early tomorrow to help them set up for the festival. I felt included.

I survived the get-together sober and I think I overcame my fear of this group leader.

Sober Campus and Stories

It is Alcohol Awareness Week. At least according to all the flyers posted all over my school’s campus, with photos and a stories of a victim from boozing too much. When I google the event, I find that April is actually Alcohol Awareness Month. Is my school getting a early start? Or is there a separate week or month to focus on alcohol abuse on college campuses? Either way, it is sobering to read those stories.

There was a different one posted in each bathroom stall and on almost every door to each building. A 20 year old fell off a balcony while intoxicated at one school and died. At another school, a guy passed out in the road walking home from a party and was killed when  a car drove over him. 18 year old girl was found dead in her dorm room from alcohol poisoning on a different campus. All young people who probably thought they were just having fun, just fitting in, just partying, and not realizing the dangers of getting drunk. It took me two decades to learn for myself.

I have to keep reminding myself I was lucky. Even with all the dumbshit I did or horrible things that happened to me when I was actively drinking, I am alive. I survived. I am here to tell my own stories and not have them plastered on a wall for people to contemplate while they are peeing. (Unless you are reading my blog on a laptop on the toilet.)

I have started to read Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. I am only on page 12 and so far I love it. It is me. It is my story. It is about my life! Well, it is Sarah’s story but so far I relate to so much of it. I have to force myself to put it down and finish my school work first. But a quote that sounds as if it came out of my own personal journal is this:

I think I knew I was in trouble. The small, still voice inside me always knew. I didn’t hide the drinking but I hid how much it hurt.

I have been making new friends that seem to accept that I do not drink. It is the old friends that have been irritating me lately. The ones that say they are proud of me, but continue to overindulge in bottles of wine. The ones that parade photos of being plastered online. The ones that perpetuate the glamour of getting shit-faced. The ones bragging about all the green beer they will chug this Thursday, as if that is the more important event in the world. I don’t know if I am jealous, concerned, or lonely. But all three feelings make me annoyed.

I am working Thursday night. I wonder how many years it will be that I volunteer to work St Patrick’s night to avoid the parties and Jamesons.

And the Oscar goes to…

I went to an Oscars party last night. Well, actually, only a gathering with two new friends watching the awards on television. I texted my friend to see what I should bring. She said she was headed to the store to get chips, hummus and wine. I decided I would bring something to contribute and counterbalance the wine. I brought some yerba mate ice teas, a large vegetable platter, and ginger hummus.

The host offered me a glass of wine after I took my coat off. She listed all the choices of reds and whites, and then added she also had beers. I said I will keep to the ice tea. But once my tea was finished, she was a great host and jumped to offer me wine . I declined and asked for water. Sparkling or plain filtered?

No questions until the other friend, who had a few too many glasses of wine, asked “Do you not drink?” I did not bother with jokes that I was drinking plenty, just all alcohol-free. I said no, I quit. They asked if it was a diet or something temporary. I explained that I quit two years ago, with a few slips starting last summer, but I have been completely sober almost 3 months. The host seemed impressed. But the drunk friend asked the questions I might have asked if I was the drunk girl. “Can’t you even have a little bit? Don’t you know how to stop when it gets too much? Are you gonna try again after sometime sober?”  She told me how she can’t drink too much and I thought her current state of inebriation was obvious. I do not know how many glasses she had before I arrived, but she was matching her glasses of wine with my glasses of filtered water. She even began adding sparkling water to her wine to make spritzers and slow down the buzz.

I explained to her my slips last summer proved I could not have a little bit, nor should I try to go back to drinking anytime. I can not moderate. I was fine sitting there with my water but I know if I had one glass of wine, I would want the rest of the bottle. I would use too much mental energy telling myself to sip rather than chug and it was a lot easier to just avoid the taste to my tongue. And when the awards ended and she passed out on the couch, I was very glad I quit drinking. The host and I chatted a little bit more about our lives and I was able to drive home.

When I first quit drinking, I don’t know if sitting there avoiding their offers of wine would have been so easy. But I feel I have learned a lot since January 2014 about myself and what alcohol does to my body. I felt I honestly did not want to drink alcohol last night. No acting. No need for award for me.