Port-less in Porto

Just last week, I was thinking that sobriety was starting to be easy. Now I realize this is going to be a roller coaster of temptation for a long time, if not for life.  While it is easier to not crave alcohol than in my first few weeks or sobriety,  I still have to actively remind myself “I can not have even ONE drink!”

I am in Porto, Portugal. The home of port wine. Every place I go, I am reminded how great their port is and that I can not drink it. My friend is not helping much. He keeps pointing out places that have good wine or good local beer. “Our beer is really good too. Shame you can’t try any.” I guess he is used to taking people to taste the local drinks. It makes me feel like some handicapped alien. He pointed out the port warehouses along the river that allow free or cheap tastings. Sorry. I am not going there either.


Port Wine Boats Along River

It makes me a bit sad. I am a freak. It seems I can not partake in anything that is traditional Portuguese.  He points out cafes and and places were people sit out late drinking wine or beer. I know there had to be more to this culture but he hasn’t shared with me what else there is. Oh there is fish. Cod fish. That is the only local thing I know besides port.

It is an inner struggle to not want to try port. I actually almost accidentally bought a Bock beer thinking it was a local soda. Right now, I hear them opening wine bottles as he and a friend prepare lunch. It is pathetic that I have canine ears when it comes to opening bottles of wine. He then asked if I am okay with them drinking. I do not want to be the annoying guest that says “it is making me want to stab myself that I can not drink so please don’t”, so of course I lied and said it will be no problem.

I actually look forward to traveling on my own in a few days. I actually prefer traveling alone. I can get up when I want and start the day rather than waiting for my friend to get out of bed. I can go to sleep early. I can skip a meal. I can change plans. I can avoid alcohol more. That is a new benefit I am adding to “reasons to travel solo.”

I have my 3 sober coins in my wallet. I have my sober bracelet on my wrist. I have my sober blogs. I will stay strong. It just sucks.

Then I read this blog from Soberistas:  Booze The Liar. I will have to keep repeating this quote when faced with temptation:

Here’s what booze ACTUALLY provided me with; arrogance, self-centredness, laziness, lack of productivity, very bad hangovers, terrible life choices, low self-esteem, shame and bucket loads of guilt.

Mistake 192- Years ago when I wanted to be more than friends with the guy I am visiting, we got drunk and ended up in a hot tub. I do not remember any of it. He said I tried to initiate sex in the hot tub. Without a condom. He managed to hold me off until we got into a bedroom with a condom. After sex (which I don’t remember), he said I brought up talk of wanting a relationship.  He did not. I started crying. He left. He had to tell me all about this a few days later. He asked me if I have unprotected sex a lot when drunk. I told him I honestly did not know.

I think he wonders if I consider him one of my “drunk mistakes”. I consider the way it happened a mistake. I do not regret having sex with him and I am very fortunate it did not ruin our friendship. Now I have to remember not to take the chance of repeating those mistakes!

One drink for you… 3 drinks for me…

I went out for dinner last night with a friend. I have known DG for 7 years. When I first met her, it was right after I gave up my post-DUI sobriety. It was about two weeks after a pool party where I got trashed. I was still thinking I was able to moderate.The first weekend I met her, I got trashed two nights in a row. I don’t know why I was lying to myself that I did not have a problem.

When I got into the City, I felt very good. I thought “wow I have come a long way in sobriety. I no longer feel temptations to drink here.” The Happy Hour signs on the sidewalks were not trying to trip me anymore. The cheerful people on the patios drinking did tantalize me with their drunk laughter. I felt strong.

When DG arrived, we got a nice table outside. We had a great view for people watching. We chatted and caught up. Service was very slow at this place but we finally got our drink orders placed.

When her Cabernet arrived, I felt a little weak. I could smell her wine as much as I could smell my own breath. It smelled so lovely. It must have been a good bottle. I really wanted a sip. And I found this desire sad. I was just feeling satisfied at not wanting alcohol. One whiff later and I was craving the poison. Maybe I need to start drawing my Sobriety chips on my hands when I go out to remind myself not to reach out for it.

I am not sure what she would have said if I asked for sip. She knows I quit drinking but she did not know the whole story until tonight. And she did not say much about the story yet seemed to understand. Or at least understood I drank way more than normal people. She might not understand why I need to abstain but she does not have an issue if I do not drink.

She was never a big drinker. I would seriously have about 5 glasses per her one when we would party. We have meet up about once or twice a year since I moved away and that usually involves meeting for dinner. I usually would have 2 or 3 cocktails for her one. She took a long time to finish that Cabernet. What a weird and normal drinker she is!

I made one comment that I made too many mistakes when drunk. She started to list some of my mistakes. *sigh* I wonder if I have any friends that DO NOT have drunk stories I do not remember.

Mistake 147- The first time I met DG, it was at a picnic. Nothing bad happen the first day. We were in a public park and alcohol was illegal. No one was drinking until later in the evening. I had a good time and met people. DG and I connected and got along well. I did not get trashed. But the next night, I did.

We went to a late afternoon BBQ. I started drinking then. Then we went to a party to watch the Tonys and kept drinking. Then we went dancing. The last thing I remember is the dance club. Then I woke up in DG’s living room the next morning. She let me come stay at her place because I was too drunk to get home. She said on the walk to her place, I kept yelling I needed sex. She said I was quite funny. “I HAVEN’T HAD SEX IN A LONG TIME! I NEED SEX!!!” She had a guy staying with her, who I apparently almost molested.  She really thought the guy was scared. He was foreign. He had a girlfriend back home. She said I tried to kiss him several times and he pulled away.

I guess I am lucky she has a sense of humor and put up with my crazy, drunk behavior. I am glad she likes me for whatever reason we connected that first day and not for my drunk antics.

Temptation Station

I have a good friend visiting a nearby city this week. I spent the day with her yesterday. I kept rehearsing in my head how I would tell her I was now sober. Should I wait until lunch? Should I wait until she mentioned getting drinks? Should I say it right away? ‘Hey, great to see you! You look great! I quit drinking. How’s your husband?” How would she react? I expected her to be supportive because she has substance abuse in her family and lost a fiancée to addiction. But would she make jokes or tease me or want to avoid the topic altogether?


The Temptation of Saint Anthony

I have been worried about going to this city because it seemed swarming with temptation. Bars everywhere. I guess like most American cities. Is that why cities tend to have more AA meetings than the suburbs? A meeting available almost every hour of the day?

I had to wait a half hour for her. And her phone battery was almost dead so I had to be at the meeting point. I couldn’t change plans and wait in a coffee shop. Nor in that Irish bar that seemed to be waving it’s orange, white and green at me as an invitation. I am pretty sure I once drank there. I drank in many bars throughout this city.

As soon as she approached me, she pulled something out of her bag so not to forget to give it to me. It was a purple pashmina scarf. I bought it in India. I left it at her wedding. I wrote about what I remember of her wedding in Mistake #8. Getting this scarf was a nice reminder of stuff I have lost while drunk. Maybe I could wear it like a banner of sobriety?

We walked to a place for lunch. We were playing catch up. I am not sure what we were talking about, but I just blurted out “so I quit drinking.” She responded “I thought so. Something you posted on Facebook awhile ago made me think that.” I asked if it was what I posted St Patrick’s Day. (I posted this was the first St Patrick’s that I didn’t care that I am working and that made me happy that I didn’t care.) She said no, it was something a few weeks ago. I wonder how many other friends have guessed it. How many other friends know my “secret” but are not asking or offering support?

During lunch, as usual, our conversations were all over the place. One minute we would be talking about my job, then about her marriage, then about my family, then about her job, then about her honeymoon. She asked about my previous plans to move to one city and why that changed. I started to explain to her about the complications moving there and their relation to my drinking problem. Then I took it further back to last fall and added “oh by the way, sorry for my drunk behaviour at your wedding.”

“Oh no worries. Every wedding needs one of those.” Oh my god. I was “one of those.” I was the drunk, crazy chick at the wedding. I was the embarrassment. I was the one that everyone talked about afterwards. I apparently got mad at her friend and he had no idea what he did. I was screaming at him. She asked me what he did that was so awful. I have no memory of it. I told her I spent 20 minutes the next morning searching for my car before I realized I took a taxi from the reception.

The rest of the afternoon continued with our chattering non-stop. We went to a museum. We shopped for books. I would slip in little stories about my struggle. She would tell me about her dad and brother’s struggle. I told her about my blog. She recommended a book Easy Way to Stop Drinking by Allen Carr.

We bought tickets to see a show that night with her friend that was also visiting. Her friend had to work all day. She joined us later for dinner. When we met up with her at the hotel, the first thing she said was “I need a drink!” I was going to introduce myself but then I realized I recognized her. Yes, I met her at the wedding. She might have even sat at my table. I think there is a photo of the three of us at the wedding? But she didn’t say “Oh good to see you” or anything else that was welcoming. Did I say anything horrible to her back in September? I felt shame.

We took a taxi to a street near the theater. We walked up the street looking for a flavor of dinner that would please us all.We passed many Happy Hour signs. My friend is mostly vegan so we agreed on a vegetarian place. As we got the menus, she turned to me “are you okay if we drink?” I really appreciated that question. I told her confidently “no, go ahead. Enjoy!” I enjoyed Diet Coke. And honestly, I did not even crave their pinot grigio and syrah. Maybe the memories, or non-memories, of the wedding helped keep me strong. Or maybe knowing that Saturday will be 60 days sober was my weapon. Or that next week, I will surpass the LONGEST I have ever been sober in 20 years. Or, I really just did not desire it. I know where it leads.

We got to the theater in time for a quick stop at the concession stand. We all wanted a souvenir cups. They are plastic cups with the show’s name on the side. Large size. Not sure if this is a pint or not? Both of the other women ordered cups with wine. It had to hold about 2 or 3 normal size glasses of wine. I got Diet Coke again.

They wanted to get photos of the three of us before the show started. The curtain time lights were flickering. I patiently waited while two tipsy women kept trying to do selfies of the three of us. They both had trouble trying to figure out the flash. They stopped a few people to ask to take our photo but they could not get one with enough light. My phone was turned off to save the battery and I am clueless with Apple products. It was interesting to be the sober one observing the drunk performance. How many sober people looked at me with concern in my drinking days?

During intermission, they both discussed whether they would go out after the show. I debated whether I would join them. And it wasn’t that I was worried about being around people drinking. I was very tired. I wanted to go home and get under my covers.

By the end of the show, they sobered up enough to decided to go back to their hotel. We hugged. Said our goodbyes. I got on my train. I survived the night unwounded. And I felt stronger by facing the battle. I walked into a city that has always tempted me in so many ways to do bad and I left feeling good.


Mistake # 53- When I first met my friend from yesterday, she was on a three-month drinking break. She said she did it as a dare. We met on a camping trip. The trip ended just in time for Cinco De Mayo. Our camping group all planned to shower, change, and meet at a Mexican restaurant. She and I were both staying with a mutual friend and sharing the guest room. She sort of became my babysitter for the night.

I got trashed on margaritas and shots of tequilla that night. I thought I was doing good for most of the night. But I woke up in a daze in the guest room.  The first thing she said to me was “do you know who you were trying to hook up with last night?” I said a name. She said “did you see how short he is?” Yes but he is cute and single. “Wow you have low standards when you are drunk!”  I was lucky she was sober and sharing a room with me or never know who I would have brought back with me.

That started our friendship of talking about our “boy problems” over drinks whenever we met up. She was around for a few more of my mistakes. I never remember her getting trashed but then maybe I was always too drunk to notice. I am happy now to have her support in my sober circle.


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.