You Can Lead A Drunk To Water

Photo May 21, 9 50 33 AM

When you’re a drunk, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to realize that you’re a drunk. — Trust me.

But, it won’t be opportunity that makes you willing to change.

The day I realized I was alcoholic, I gave no fucks. I wasn’t in the wake of severe sickness or a heinous hangover. I didn’t have a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I recall it, what was ostensibly the most dramatic day of my life, was not very dramatic — at all.

On the contrary. My haphazard self-discovery occurred in the midst of what was an otherwise arbitrary moment. Completely ordinary. It was as though I had already made room for the information, as if I had been expecting it to arrive. And, in most ways, it felt as if nothing had happened at all. Except — something had happened.

On the day of my revelation, I was still enrolled in a state sanctioned outpatient rehab program as part of my sentence for DUI, which I’d been charged with earlier in the year. As was part of the routine, I’d been drug tested the Friday before — which meant I was in the clear to drink for several weeks before I’d be tested again.

I’d been living my life this way for months. And, even as I neared the end of my first stint in drug and alcohol treatment, I worked around it, diligently, continuing to drink when I knew I had enough time to detox before being tested again. Yes, I fucked the system. And, I fancied myself clever and rebellious for doing so. The majority of my rehab group was behaving in the same way. But, I remember feeling so above them all. I imagined that I was the only one who was truly “managing” my problem. Because, after all, I didn’t really have a problem. I’d just been caught in a low moment. Who hasn’t?

I ignored the warning from Jim, our rehab group leader, — “I know what you’re up to, Sarah. I can’t prove it, because you’re testing clean, but, this will catch up with you. Maybe it’ll be while you’re working with us in here, or, maybe it’ll be when you get back out there into the real world. Tread lightly, sweetheart.”  But, I knew better. Stupid, fucking Jim, I thought, he didn’t even know that I’d never left my “real world.”

Except — he totally knew. And, that’s what he was trying to tell me.

Of course, Jim was right. Everything would catch up with me. But, when it did, I would have no Willingness to change, whatsoever. And, that’s how it goes. We sometimes discover our truth in a moment when we have absolutely nothing to gain from it. — No hope. No momentum.

On the day of my revelation, I walked by my local pub and I stopped to peer in through the big, glass window. My fair-weather-friends sat ponied up to the bar, laughing. Amelia, one of my favorite bartenders, mixed her signature Sunday-Bloody-Mary in a pint glass. My small little world waited for me inside — a tall glass of infused vodka and tomato juice, topped with an excessive vegetable garnish — and all that sloppy, smarmy camaraderie. My only happiness, just feet away.

I was inclined to walk in, then and there. But, as soon as the thought entered my head, I knew I couldn’t. — I had errands to run. Several that involved the use of my car. And, between the breathalyzer I’d have to blow into to start the engine and the other adult-like tasks that needed doing, — I knew I couldn’t have that Sunday-Bloody-Mary. Not yet.

And, that was the moment. — The singularly unspectacular moment when I realized I was a drunk. I knew that if I had just one of Amelia’s Goddamned Sunday-Bloody-Mary’s, that my day was shot. — I’d be at that bar until it closed or until I was cut off and kicked out — whichever came first. And so, I scheduled my errands around the absolute certainty that once I was seated at that bar — I wasn’t getting up again until I was good and shitfaced.

This is the definition of alcoholism.

You would think discovering that my life revolved around something so meaningless, so empty, would lead me to some sort of existential reckoning. A reckoning that would get me some Willingness. A reckoning that would usher me out of my small, shitty life and into the bigger, better pastures for which I was destined. But, it didn’t.

The day I realized I was an alcoholic, I did what any good alcoholic would — I got the bullshit tasks I needed to get done, done. And then, I marched right back to that pub and I got down to business. — And, I drank to blackout.

Willingness is not born to those who acknowledge its necessity. Willingness is born to those who are ready to ask for help. And, help is the one thing that every drunk will need.

Sometimes, help will stand right in front of you. Like Jim did, for me. But, if you’re a real drunk — you’ll likely ignore the many life rafts that float up along side you while you’re sipping your beverage du jour, floating downstream.

Jim was just my warning sign. A marker scratched into the door frame that documents my alcoholism’s many growing pains.

Willingness is that invisible hand for which, eventually, we reach out when there is nothing left for us to hold on to. It is the last notch we’ll gauge in the doorway. But how and when we decide to do these things, is still a mystery. But, be assured that someone, like Jim, will lead you to the water. And, maybe, on that day, you’ll gulp it down. But, if you’re like me, the chances are better that you’ll run from the oasis the first time you come upon it.

But, on some other day, you will find yourself with Willingness. Jim will be long gone. You’ll be staring through the glass window of the pub and you’ll decide — you don’t have to drink that day. And, you’ll think of Jim as you pass by door, whispering to yourself:

“Tread lightly, sweetheart.”

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I’ve Still Got It, Baby.

Photo Jan 27, 11 35 57 PMI did it. It happened. I drank.

And — fuck man. Coffee is good.

All it took was one quintuple-shot-Americano. And, after nearly three months without coffee or caffeine, one sip was all I needed. GAME FUCKING ON. Caffeinate me. More. MORE! And, there it is, right in front of me. I’ve still got it, baby. After all this time, it remains — all or nothing. And, I concede; moderation is something that I just can’t do. I stand face to face with the thing I’ve known for years, but, I still want to ignore. — I’m an addict.

But, really, addiction is just the squeaky wheel. Pretty soon, what was an innocent squeak sends the car flying off the road, and then, everything gets stuck. Before anyone knows what happened — I’m back in a rut. But, it wasn’t the coffee. I swear.

And, we allow this. Our drinks and our drugs and our sex and our coffee and our food and our sugar to literally halt us, to pick us up, and to force us to try and hold on to something that can’t be held. But, not just anything — it’s this one thing. This. We break from everything — for this. There is solace in obsession. And, here, in my coffee cup, I can taste it. Yup. I’ve still got it.

Sometimes, I forget that the obsession was the cure. It wasn’t the bourbon or the bong or the fuck or the soy latte or the entire bag of Oreos or the handful of jelly beans. — It was the planning and the ritual. It was the reward. The supply and demand. Addiction offers something else — it hoists us up just long enough for us to see what we’re missing before letting us go — dropping us back into the mud. Addiction plows elaborate paths that lead nowhere. And, trudging back to the open road is exhausting. It can take everything you have. Frustration will ooze from old, muddy wounds and things will begin to spill over the sides of our ditches. It’s inevitable, our unattended ruts will flood.

Sometimes you’ll get stuck for so long, that you’ll forget what it felt like when you weren’t crawling through the sludge. Ruts hold us in a steady cycle. But stability is misleading. — Sometimes, it’s nothing more than limbo. Doldrums. Drudgery. Dread. — It goes a step beyond pessimism, because you are an active participant in the attempted escape from your rut. But, the same motion that’s needed to set yourself free can sometimes make you feel that you’ve lost yourself in an unstoppable flow. There is an actual rhythm in this kind of being. — It’s battle. And, as an addict, I know it. — I once felt that the only way to return to normalcy was to let my addiction take the wheel. Everyone gets tired of driving.

But, there has to be a moment where we finally see clearly. We learn to steady the wheel. Sometimes we find that moment in sobriety. Or, that moment is the one that gets us sober. Or, it’s an even smaller happening, one we can’t put our finger on. But, however we’re made to see it — it’s the way out — a point in time that’s absolutely pivotal to our awakening. It’s the place we must reach if we’re to keep moving forward. It’s the only way to get un-stuck.

So, we learn to harness our Chi and we stop treading water — we begin to throw our proverbial sandbags into the trenches and let the process of sopping up the excess begin. And, somehow, here, we find the tools we didn’t know we had.

Maybe, some afternoon, you’ll find yourself ordering a quintuple-shot-Americano and your hands will shake with anticipation at the end of the coffee bar as the barista pulls the espresso. And, while you’re waiting to receive your hot-paper-cup in its smooth-cardboard-sleeve, maybe, you’ll suddenly understand where you’re going and where you’ve been.

And, as you drop your empty coffee cup in trash can, you feel the caffeine hit you. — ZING!

Yeah. — You’ve still got it, baby.

 

 

 

 

Pardoning The Turkey-Bird

Photo Dec 02, 9 31 58 PM

If you’re in the mood for a sentimental Thanksgiving retrospective — you’re shit outta luck.

There will be no jovial, light hearted fluff piece where I wax poetic on my many, zany family characters nor will I dramatize the hilarious-pseudo-tragedy of some overcooked turkey disaster. Because, this year, my family was in New York and I’m a vegan.

The one thing I must note, after the events of this Thanksgiving weekend, is the serendipitous nature of life — the law of attraction, fate, God’s will — call it what you want. Sometimes the universe will fork something over that’s too good for telling. The kind of holiday story that can be tied up with a big, red bow and stuck under our existential Christmas trees like a present for each one of us to open with glee, whilst sipping peppermint hot cocoa. The kind of story that does best living in our hearts. A holiday tale that sounds better between our ears than it does between periods, dashes, and commas.

Thanksgiving Day, I drove to a friend’s house with three huge bags full of frozen Tofurky pizzas, guacamole, and coconut ice cream. I slowed on Belmont Street. As I approached the Horse Brass Pub, I felt it — the cosmic pull. I felt my foot pulse on the brake. And, truly, I considered it — stopping there for just one drink. I could feel my fingers wrapped around a rocks glass. I could hear the scratched, smokey laughter of the three, old men sitting next to me. I felt the vibration of that solemn energy which always hangs in the air of bars on holidays. You can feel it — the nights where everyone who’s ponied up to the bar knows — they should be somewhere else. I recall the permission that just one drink could afford me — how I could forgive myself for a lifetime of letting my love and my joy escape me.

I’m not sure what moved me. Maybe it was the the thawing pizza and melting ice cream, or, maybe it was the thought of my friend sitting alone in his house, but, I decided to accelerate. I decided to forgo the one drink that would have turned into my entire holiday. As I drove past the bar, casting my gaze out of the passenger window, I saw them — locked gates. The bar windows were dark, their neon signs coiled and black. THANKSGIVING. Suddenly I became  aware — stopping here — was never my decision.

Give thanks. It’s so much bigger than we are — this life. I’ve chosen to be sober in an attempt, however feeble, to have the best life possible — the life that I was meant to be living before I lost myself. But, more often than not, being sober is hard, and staying sober is harder. When I decide how to walk the path, too many times, I end up stranded. I watch my imagined life and how it continues to fall short of my expectations. I wander down the “safe” path when, all along, the universe has been calling me to travel the uncharted road.

So, this Thanksgiving, I decide that I am no longer going to decide. Right there on Belmont, I learned to forgive — I pardoned my inner-Turkey-bird.

During the holidays, I tap into the childish wonder I once possessed. I listen and I watch for magic. And, when I do that — the path finds me. The world falls into place, however haphazardly. And, I keep driving.

Because, the gate is locked, friends are waiting, and the bag of frozen groceries is melting.

Peripheral Visions

Photo Oct 21, 5 29 00 PM

I don’t worry about the obvious things.

When I enter a state of worried-panicked-frenzy, I know better than to examine what’s right in front of my nose. I have always managed to keep those details well tended. The thing I am wary of: The periphery.

I, like many alkies and addicts, am very good at keeping up appearances. I know what to say and how to say it — even to myself. I mastered that skill long, long ago. Back while I was still drinking, I had to convince myself, and you, that I was not only OK, but, better than OK. — Great. Stellar. Perfect.

These days, I often find myself painfully sober. So, I keep up other appearances. Without the booze, emotions and feelings become a special-kind-of-complicated — communicating them, containing them, and sometimes hiding them — even more so. I feel it, the hair on my arms stands up as the pub turns on it’s magical-magnetic-tracking-device. I fight the pull. But, I keep quiet, because I’m OK. — I think.

But, that’s how it happens. Or, so I’m told. Seasoned, sober old-timers will tell you that it starts, first, with that teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, little thought — You’re OK. The second thought becomes — well, a bourbon might end up being OK too. And, the third thought — there’s no time for that — because you’re already seated on a bar stool. Struck drunk.

It isn’t obvious. All these little things appear innocuous. The fucking periphery.

So, I tread lightly. I can’t see where or how all the shit starts to pile up. But, I’m starting to notice my own cracks and how they’ve widened. I’m no fortune teller. I can’t say when or how, or even if, it will collapse. Yeah. Maybe, it won’t collapse. But, it’s there — the little voice that tells me — It. Just. Might. Collapse.

The not-so-obvious feeling. That’s the one that worries me.

On a Friday night, I stay in as a precaution. I sit at the dining room table and I write it down in Sharpie marker on a little, maroon notepad — the most obvious thing I can think of: Don’t fuck it up.

I pour myself another cup of coffee.

It’s tenuous and tenacious — my sobriety. In this moment I respect it’s power. I allow my unwise inclinations to dissolve. I let them go. I don’t judge them.

Lots of things can happen, the good and the bad. So, I decide to open my eyes a little bit wider. I monitor the periphery closely.

In a still moment, my little feelings subside. My coffee mug is still warm in my hands. I’m here. Now. And — I’m OK.

Better than OK. — I’m Great. Stellar. Perfect.