All in the Family

I went to my mom’s last night to take her out for her birthday dinner. It was early but I have to work on her birthday. My brother and his girlfriend were going to join us.

She was happy to see me. I sat down at her kitchen table and we had some small talk. She asked “are you still doing the “no drinking” thing?” I said yes. It has been about 65 days. She smiled and said “that is great! How do you feel?” I was shocked. I told her I felt really good. But this was the first time she seemed to be very positive about my sobriety. Not questioning it or doubting it. I told her this is the longest I have ever been sober. The longest I ever went was “62 or 63” days according to my journals. She beamed with… was that pride? She said that is really great and she was so happy for me.

She was hesitant to pick a place for dinner. “Let’s just order pizza or take out.” My brother insisted we take her out. “Okay well where do you guys want to go.” Mom it is your birthday dinner. You pick a place. “But what do you guys want?” Fine, I want Indian. “Ew I don’t like Indian.” Exactly. Pick something you like.

We went to a restaurant pub. It had nice food. My mom and brother ordered Heineken and his girlfriend got some hard ice tea type of drink. I had my soda. Again, I had no desire to drink alcohol. But I did notice that they both had two beers each during dinner. I easily would have had at least four. I would have been eying the waitress every time my bottle got low to request a new one.

This morning, I woke up early and joined my mom in the living room for coffee while she read her newspaper. She shared some of the stories she was reading with me.  Then I talked about my friend’s visit. For the first time, I told my mom the story of me getting drunk at the wedding. I told her how I was “one of those” at the wedding. My mom said “I guess it means you can not handle drinking socially. I guess you can never drink again?” I said no, I can’t handle it. She said she guesses it is good I know that.

We talked about some of my drunk mistakes. I left out the ones about sex. We talked about all my lost phones and wallets and cameras. We talked about the people we know that are battling depression but still continue  to drink. I told her I feel happier now that I quit drinking. I did not go into details about my own struggle with depression. But I did say that I got depressed and cried when drunk a lot.

We talked about the different types of drunks. The party people. The depressed ones. The mean ones. She began to talk about my dad being a nasty drunk. Then she talked about her own father being a nasty drunk. This was the first time I ever heard about that. I never met her father because he died before I was born but all I’ve ever heard was praises about him being a great man. How he was better than my father. And now, for the first time in my 38 years, I hear he was a drunk but then he just quit. He just stopped drinking. And then he died of a stroke in his 50s. Is that why she used to always criticize my dad for not being able to quit? With all his DUIs, she thought he could just quit if he was strong enough. If he loved his family enough. If he was as good as her father.

I wonder what other secrets my sobriety will bring out?

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Mistake #67- Not gonna go into much detail now but there were many mistakes as a result of my DUIs. But one huge regret I have was I missed my mom’s 60th birthday because I was sitting in jail for a week after my second DUI.

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Allergies

Early sobriety has the quality of vigorous exercise, as though each repetition of a painful moment, gone through without a drink, serves to build up emotional muscle. -Caroline Knapp “Drinking: A Love Story”

I read some more of my journals last night. I had to have a tissue box next to me because I kept crying. There are so many stupid things I did. I hurt my mom and others I love so much. But my love for alcohol prevented me from stopping the cycle. I know a lot of people who try to go through life without any regrets. For me, most of my regrets were subdued stupidity. I chucked my regrets off as drunk mishaps. Misfortunes. Mistakes.

I was eating some chocolates and read the allergy warning label on the side of the box.  “This product manufactured on equipment also used in the production of products containing Peanuts and Tree Nuts.” I was glad I do not have nut allergies. The candies were clusters of chocolate and coconut. I thought of the people who are allergic to coconut and felt sorry them. I could not imagine being allergic to strawberries or bananas because I love those also. There have been incidences when I was traveling in  a foreign country and ate whatever mysterious food was offered to me. It made me grateful that I did not have any allergies or dietary restrictions.

Maybe I should start considering alcohol as my allergy. Blackouts are my reaction instead of rash or anaphylactic shock.

Mistake # 18- It was autumn 2003. I went out with some friends on a Friday or Saturday to a late night gay club. It was the kind of place that stays open until 3 or 4am. We usually got there a little before 11pm to pay reduced cover charge. I drank a lot. Most likely I drank rum and cokes. My friends said they lost me at some point on the dance floor.

I woke up in the emergency room. I was freezing laying there on a stretcher. I had a hospital sheet on top of me  to try to keep me warm. I was wearing a skimpy tank top and short skirt. It was the kind of top that one does not wear a bra. I had on pantyhose but they were all ripped. The male nurse asked me if I knew where I was. I recognized the logo on his badge. He told me I passed out in the club and was unresponsive. I was alone. The club called 911. My purse was missing so I had no identity on me. They did a drug screen and it was negative. I am not sure if they ever told me if they did a BAC level (I would assume they did) but if they told me the results, I have forgotten it.

He asked me if I knew how to get home. I told him I could get the subway but I did not have any money. He gave me a subway token and let me take the sheet to keep warm. I must have looked like a top prize sitting on that subway seat with smudge mascara, tossed hair, and a white sheet draped around me at 8am. I lost a thin jacket at the club in addition to my purse with cell phone, wallet and house keys.

I had to go to my sister’s house to get my spare set of keys. Then I had to have my locks changed to be safe. My dad was at her house watching TV. He said nothing about my messy appearance. I assume he did not want details.

When my dad had cancer, he went to that same hospital for his treatments. He lived with me his last few months of life. After he died, I found a sheet with the hospital logo. I was not sure if my dad brought it home after one of his admissions or if it was from my ER visit. I kept it and just told myself it was from him. I refused to be reminded of my embarrassing trip to that hospital.

Dignity

Even though I feel I am hidden from most temptations to drink while at my mom’s house, I do not feel this is a supportive environment. She is supportive of me not drinking, but I think she still believes it only a bad habit. She used to say that my dad could have stopped drinking if he loved his family enough. I told her about my recent argument with my friend about alcoholism being a disease. She asked if I actually believe it is a disease. I use delirium tremens as evidence that it is a medical problem.

Her boyfriend makes me feel uncomfortable. I am in my late 30s but I feel like a teenager here. He scolds me for leaving a glass on the table or my box of spices on the counter. Before my mom arrived Saturday, he told me to clean up my mess. I had a few bottles of sauces next to the stove to make her dinner that night. He criticized me for drinking too much coffee the other day and then makes fun of me for eating organic “crap.” I know he looks down on me for my drinking problem. It is my defect. He does not like me on “his” computer but does not want WiFi in the house. I was typing my blog yesterday and he stood behind me. I had to close the page.

There is a news story now about a drunk woman that tried to make sexual advances on a plane. The plane had to make an emergency landing in Minneapolis. I have a few friends joking that it sounds like me on the video. I know they are only teasing and not trying to be mean, but I am hurt. I guess they view me as the fun, party girl that always drinks too much and sometimes out of control. Sometimes when I admit I had DUIs, people start to share their close-calls and admit how often they drove home drunk but did not get caught. Then they want to toast with a alcoholic beverage to “not getting caught.”

I went to see the movie “The Monuments Men” today. Three thoughts floated through my head most of the movie. 1) I should not have drank all that tea because I had to pee. 2) I wish I brought Advil because my knee was aching from an injury I sustained while drunk last October. And 3), every time they drink in the movie, I wanted booze. They had champagne and wine and toasted with some mystery beverage in cups that I imagined was a good lager. They mentioned whiskey and cognac throughout the movie. I mourned that I will never be able to taste any of that again.

But there was one character in the movie, Donald Jeffries, who was the drunk of the group. There were a few lines joking about it. He was sober. How long? Since this morning. But then he redeemed his drunken reputation by helping save great masterpieces. There was a letter in the movie that said something about going on the mission to save art helped restored his dignity.

That word stuck in my head. That is one more thing I lost. Dignity. My friends laugh at my mishaps. My mom’s boyfriend doesn’t seem to trust or like me in their house. If I go back to drinking, my mom will just see me as weak. I imagine my exes describing me as a crazy drunk. Dictionary.com defines dignity as “bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect…” I do not have self-respect. I struggle for self-love at times. I loved alcohol more than I love myself.

I know that this path to sobriety will not be easy and will come with it’s own problems. But maybe I can find dignity again.

Mistake # 14- Halloween parade: It is my favorite holiday of the year. I made an awesome costume that year. I spent a week creating a bird costume. Then at the beginning of the parade, I poured a bottle of “oil” all over me. The “oil” was pancake syrup with black food coloring. I was an oil spill victim. It was amazing but I was very drunk. I carried a water bottle full of rum and Diet Coke. I had a 2 liter bottle and a small bottle of rum in my bag for refills. My friends were wearing costumes with white bottoms so they ordered me to march in the parade far from them so the “oil” would not drip on them. I was stopped at one point by a news crew for an interview that never aired. I don’t remember being stopped but my friends said it happened. I must have been too trashed to be shown on TV. I do not remember the end of the night. Maybe my friend I was staying with came to meet me? Maybe I took a taxi to his place? I am lucky I was not driving that night. My favorite holiday but I was blacked out for most of it. In fact, I think the only Halloweens I fully remember are ones when I work.

Been a Long Time Coming….

March 24, 2002 Journal entry:

When I think about all the problems alcohol has caused in my life, I seriously wonder why do I continue to drink. It has brought me some good memories, but many blackouts. It has brought me some friends, but ruined many relationships. It has made me feel good, but it is bad for my body. It has caused me to bruise my body and ego at times. It has caused one night stands or the desire to be with someone caused me to drink. I put myself at risk. I have put others at risk. I ruined my driving record and insurance. I’ve hurt others by the things I’ve said while drunk. I’ve wasted many hours being unproductive because of being drunk or recuperating from being drunk. I have missed work or been late to work. I’ve missed class and been late to class. I’ve spend money I couldn’t afford to spend to get drunk. Then I spent more money to get out a towed car, buy new tires I blew out while drunk, and to cover up other mistakes. Alcohol has brought so much misery to my life. I might have drank to have fun, but how much fun it is if I can’t remember most of the night or what I might have done drunk? I think it exacerbates my depression. It’s addicting. It is destroying my life.

And I continued drinking for another twelve years with a few drinking breaks to “prove” I could control it. It is not as if I woke up January 22, 2014 and said “Wow I never knew I had a drinking problem before. Maybe I should quit.” I mentioned in my first blog that I have been considering for the past year of collecting 365 regretful, drunk episodes. Sometimes I wonder if I can write 730 mistakes. Then throw in an extra for leap year.

Mistake #13- The mention of my tires in that journal entry has me confused but I think it happened years before I wrote that. It think I was referring to a time when I was married. Maybe in 1999? I went out clubbing with friends. My husband was either at work or home playing video games. He found me passed out on the couch the next morning. He woke me up and asked me what happened to the car. I didn’t know what he was talking about. He took me outside and the trunk was open. The lock was broken. The bike rack was missing. There were two flat tires. We concluded that I left the parking lot through one of the exits that had the chain hanging across it and the spikes up on the ground to pop tires. I must have drove under the chain! There were scratches along the top of the car. The chain must have pulled the bike rack off and broke the trunk in the process. Not sure how I did not get four flat tires. I was glad my husband was mechanically inclined to fix the trunk and get us new tires for a good price.

Enough

I just looked at my blog name as I signed in and thought “should it be 365 reasons 2 B sober?”

Then I thought no, cause I feel this is a path I am taking to sobriety. After a year of writing down 365 mistakes, then they will become reasons to be sober. I was reading one of my old journals about my thoughts on AA and the 12 steps. I said instead of steps, it should be “guided trails.”

I woke up today and read some more of Caronline Knapp’s “Drinking: A Love Story.” Since it is too tempting to drink wine with it in the evenings, I figured drinking coffee with it in the daytime will be easier. My mom’s boyfriend told me I was drinking too much coffee. I told him at least I didn’t put Baileys in it.

I have been thinking about the word sober. People say if you have not had any booze since such and such date, you have been sober since then. I keep thinking “well I could have a beer and not be drunk so to me that is SOBER.” According to dictionary.com, a definition of sober is “habitually temperate, especially in the use of liquor”. One drink doesn’t affect me. Could I have maybe one glass, not admit it to those that know I am trying to not drink, and still consider myself sober? Yes, I could do that. It would not help my alcoholism.

A part in the 4th chapter of the book really grabbed me.

Enough? That’s a foreign word to an alcoholic, absolutely unknown. There is never enough, no such thing. You’re always after that insurance, always mindful of it, always so relieved to drink that first drink and feel the warming buzz in the back of your head, always so intent on maintaining the feeling, reinforcing the buzz, adding to it, not losing it.

I have chased a buzz so often. Many a time I have said “I need to keep up this buzz. If I start to sober up, it is hard to achieve this level of drunk again.” I could not diagnose what that level was. That level might have been 5 drinks from blacking out. I could not define when I went from buzzed to trashed. Friends have tried to say “well it is because you were mixing. Never have beer AND cocktails.” Or it was because I had shots. Or tequila. Or cheap wine. It was always the booze fault. Never mine.

I have stared at wine bottles salivating. I have been in situations where I did not pay attention to a conversation because I was gauging how much I could drink without looking bad. When was a proper time to ask for another drink? Was I drinking more than everyone else? Or when would they open the next damn bottle! Ms Knapp mentions comparing how much is in your drink to the other glasses. I DID THAT! I would complain if I felt I was being cheated out of booze. And if it was at my house, I always poured myself extra cause “my tolerance is higher.”

Somewhere after a few bottles, the happy joyful me turned into a depressed, jealous, angry drunk. Arguments happened. Sometimes physical fights. I woke up hungover a lot the last few years and the first thing I did was check my Facebook to see if I made any drunk posts. Then I would delete them. Sometimes a friend would email me to see if I was okay because my posts were depressing. I always responded “No was just drunk.” A lot of friends took to blocking my statuses or unfriending me.

I never felt I needed booze. I feel I am not physically addicted. Though reading this book is reminding me that yes, I can have one drink and still feel sober. But I will never stop at just one drink forever. I could go with one drink a day for thirty days. Then my brain will tell me “see, you can moderate.” That whole month, I will be aching for it to end. On the 31st day, my brain will say I have no problem. I have proved it to myself I can drink and “stay sober.” I will drink more than one drink and then another. Then I will want to keep that level of buzz. Then I will get drunk. Maybe not black out drunk that night. But the blackouts will return.

So even if I can have a drink and not feel drunk, I must remember sober is not just the opposite of drunk. Sober means abstaining from alcohol. Sober is enough. It has to be.

I have one real life friend that knows about this blog. I was messaging with him earlier and said “I get happy and outgoing at first and then I snap and become depressed and mean.” He remembers. He mentioned another drunk episode I forgot about.

Mistake #12 We were on a road trip. We were visiting a city that was new to both of us. We were dating about five months but fighting a lot about where our relationship was headed. I think I was worried I was wasting time if there was no future. We went to meet up with my friend’s roommate. We were gonna to have dinner and then an outdoor movie.

As soon as I met the roommate, I thought he was cute. He said he thought the same about me. But I was there with my boyfriend. So what if i thought this guy was cute. Nothing would happen. Then the drinking started. We enjoyed sampling a lot of the local brews he suggested. We were helping the economy!

After dinner, we headed to the outdoor movie. But we didn’t want to go there and let our great buzz die. So we went out of our way to find a mixer. I must have had vodka in the car already. We mixed lemonade with the vodka. My boyfriend and I sat away from the local guy and his friends. But he texted me the whole movie. It was an old movie from the 80s that my boyfriend did not know. So I was enjoying the text messages back and forth with the local guy making fun of the movie and quoting famous scenes. I did not see it as flirting.

After the film, the local guy invited us to a bar. Or club. I don’t remember. I was drunk. I drank most of the vodka and lemonade. I am sure my boyfriend drank a lot too but I was more trashed. The local gave us a ride to the bar. I really don’t remember anything there but my boyfriend told me I ended up kissing the local guy. In front of my boyfriend.

He doesn’t remember much about the night either. He said I got kicked out of the bar. I guess for being too drunk. And then we fought outside. I got hysterical. He said it took him thirty minutes to calm me down. I refused to get in the taxi. A few men have told me I have a fear of taxis when drunk. Actually, a fear of the taxi drivers. I am not sure if I have a repressed, drunk mistake to that story also.

He finally got me in a taxi. We were staying at a friend’s place that was away. I woke up in the middle of the night in the passenger side of my car. My boyfriend was inside the house. I had to pee. I opened the car and my car alarm went off. I ran inside to find the keys to deactivate it. I went pee and then climbed into bed with my boyfriend. I had no idea why I was in the car or what happened after the movie.

I know I lost a favorite bracelet and a cell phone. Mostly I lost my mind that night. I don’t know how he stayed with me another 15 months.

Russell Brand, Addiction and Keeping Buzzed

I am not really a fan of Russell Brand. But I found this article about addiction excellent. It is from March 2013 but it is relevant to me now.

Russell Brand on heroin, abstinence and addiction.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article are:

But the price of this is constant vigilance, because the disease of addiction is not rational.

…what was surprising was that my reaction was not one of gratitude for the positive changes I’ve experienced. Instead I felt envious of this earlier version of myself, unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. 

I have been questioning whether I really have a PROBLEM. I told a friend last night I was quitting for 365 days and then I plan to reevaluate my drinking. Maybe blogging about 365 mistakes will answer my question.

Mistake # 9: One of my favorite writers is David Sedaris.  I had tickets to go see his book reading last year.  I got there early and waited in line for an hour to get his autograph. I chatted with the two women in front of me.  The three of us took turns holding our spot while one would go get drinks.  I got tipsy in that waiting line.  I was drunk when I got his autograph and forgot all the things I planned to say when it was my turn.

I grabbed two more drinks before going to my seat in the auditorium.  Double rum and cokes. Two drinks for me. I had a friend meeting me but she was a late. Those drinks helped keep me from sobering up. I always felt if I started to lose my buzz, I could not get back to the same level of intoxication.

After Mr Sedaris finished the readings, there was another long line for autographs. I had mine. The bar in the building was closed. So while my friend waited, I left to go search for a place to get a drink. I was desperate to hold onto that high. The lack of bars in that area was frustrating. I found a place where I was able to get one drink to chug. It was either another rum and coke or wine.

When I got back to the book signing line, my friend was almost up to the front. I stood next to her. As she got her book signed, I slurred a question to him asking for writing advice. He said “write everyday.”

I cherish the book he signed but really regretted the state I was in. I went to a party afterwards and kept that alcohol high going until I blacked out.