No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 8 – Telling People I’m an Alcoholic

I’m running out of excuses to not hang out with people.  It’s been two months since I’ve hung out with any of my friends outside of work; I haven’t done anything since I started sobriety – outside of hanging out with my family.

Frankly, I don’t know how to hang out with anybody without drinking.  Alcohol was the glue that held all my relationships together.  Without it, what’s left?

I’m wondering how best to tell people about the alcoholism and my choice of sobriety.  It’ll no doubt strike people as odd – especially from me.  I don’t think anybody’s ever seen me without a drink in my hand.  I’ve earned a reputation for being a fun drunk, the life of the party.  For me to suddenly go back on that and say that it was a problem will be confusing for people.

So how does one break it to people that all those good times were actual just the tip of the alcoholic iceberg?

“It was time to quit – I’m a father now.”

Pros: I’m a good dad, and a decent, selfless person who’s leaving the party-animal behind him.

Cons: Makes me sound like a sanctimonious asshole.

This is a decent start I guess, but honestly, it’d sound really out of place coming out of my mouth.  For one thing, I’ve been a father for over three years, so why is it just now a thing?  For another, so what if you’re a father?  My dad drinks… most people’s dads do!  And they’re all just fine.

Also, this has a certain holier than thou tone to it.  It’s like saying I don’t drink because drinking makes you a bad father.  Well isn’t that sort of a tacit condemnation of everybody who does drink and also is a father – which is basically everyone?

This one’s also tough since I’m still young enough that most of my friends don’t have children yet, so they probably won’t “get” it.

“I’m not drinking tonight… I have an early morning tomorrow.”

Pro: Completely sidesteps the issue – for now.

Con: Completely sidesteps the issue.

This could work once or twice to delay my having to tell everybody that I don’t drink anymore.  And it’s also the chicken-shit easy way which is always my preferred method.

Also, it doesn’t sound credible coming from me.  I used to drink until the early morning hours, then get up a few hours later and function just fine.  Early mornings have never bothered me in the past and everybody knows that – so why should they now?

At the end of the day, this is just a punt.  I’ll still have to address it at some point.

“I’m on this stupid diet and I’m not allowed to drink.”

Pro: Sounds plausible.  I could definitely lose some weight.

Con: Lacks credibility when I’m shoving 3000 calories of nachos down my face hole.

People love talking about whatever fad diet they’re on to lose weight.  Why not claim that I’m on some fad diet and that I’m not “allowed” to drink?

This could work, and would be a decent way to save face.  It’s perfectly acceptable for a fat dude to talk about being fat.  Shit, how many comedy legends are fat dudes who make a joke out of being fat?  Why can’t I do it?

The problem is this is also a temporary solution and one that’s doomed to fail because, let’s face it, I’m not going to stop eating Taco Bell and Reese’s Cups anytime soon.  Eventually it’ll become pretty obvious that my diet is a complete joke.

“I’m an alcoholic and I’m in recovery.”

Pro: Unambiguous and… well… it’s the truth.

Con: “Wow, can you believe that about Matt?  I never knew… Hey John, did you hear about Matt?  Yeah, can you believe that?  It’s kind of sad really…”

Yikes.  The truth?  Bold move.  By now you should all know that I’m too much of a coward to go with the truth.

I feel like as soon as I drop this bombshell everybody will think I am weak.  They’ll all just think I wasn’t mature enough to drink like the rest of them and keep my shit together.  They’ll think I’m pathetic.  And I’m not pathetic.

Worse, maybe they’ll walk on eggshells around me.  They’ll be thinking, are we allowed to drink and have fun around Matt?  Or will he feel compelled to start drinking and ruin his life?

“I stopped drinking because it started to become a problem.”

Pro: It’s the truth, and I don’t have to say the phrase “I’m an alcoholic.”

Con: “started to become a problem” is vague and open to interpretation.  Did you hear Matt’s drinking was a problem?  What’d he do, beat his wife?  DUI?

This one also has the benefit of truth to it, but it’s also wide open to interpretation.  And you know people love filling information voids with the absolute worst shit possible.  I can hear it now:

Did you hear Matt beats his kids?

He must have gotten arrested!

I thought he looked weird at work… he must have been drunk!

Fuck. That. Shit.

“I’m not drinking anymore and it’s none of your goddamn business why.”

Pro: Unambiguous and, again, it’s the truth.

Con: Combative and people will still come up with their own reasons.

Really, at the end of the day, it’s nobody’s goddamn business why I stopped drinking.  I have my reasons, and maybe they should just stay my own.  If they’re real friends of mine, they’ll understand.  And if they’re not, then why should I give a shit what they think?

Whatever I decide, it’s probably time to come out from under my rock…

On to week 9. Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 8 – Telling People I’m an Alcoholic”

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 7 – No Finish Line

Alcohol always felt like the finish line for me – like my life was a race but there was a place I’d get to stop running and take a breather just around the corner.

I haven’t been able to replace that finish line feeling yet.  Getting home from work, getting the kids to bed, and finally sitting for a minute with a glass of whiskey (and then another, and then another, and then another… on a Tuesday) was one of the greatest pleasures in my life.  I could physically feel the tension release in my body, and the various worries of my day wasted away.  Now I have nothing.

I’m struggling to find that replacement.  I’m blessed to have a wonderful family, and being with them is also a great pleasure, but it doesn’t have the same ability to make me forget about the stresses of my day the way alcohol did.  Being with my family, playing with my children, introduces good feelings, but it does not replace or eliminate the bad ones; alcohol did.

I thought I was over the cravings for alcohol.  I haven’t been going to group therapy because, frankly, I’ve told myself I don’t need it.  I saw a psychiatrist this week who told me would relapse if I didn’t go to group.  I thought that was a pretty bold statement.  Not I might relapse, or I was at increased risk to relapse.  She said I would – definitely.

I thought she was full of it, but the next day I had a terrible day at work, and I won’t lie: all I wanted to do was get hammered.  If there had been any alcohol in the house I absolutely would have.  There was nobody to stop me, my wife was at work, and the kids were in bed.  The cravings returned as strong as they had when I was in the thick of my alcoholism.

I needed my finish line; I needed my relief from the stress of the day.  I realize now that my cravings haven’t gone away, it’s just that the stress in my life has diminished.  Weeks 3 and 4 of sobriety I was on vacation, and during weeks 5 and 6 work has been quiet and my in-laws have been available to help with the children.  This past week has presented me with my first real challenge in a while and my mind immediately went to getting hammered for relief.

It’s clear I need to find a replacement to deal with stress.  I’m not too good for group therapy, and my psychiatrist is absolutely right – if I don’t figure this out, I will relapse.

One good thing to close out the week: I mentioned that alcohol was my way of killing the bad feelings and stress that accompanied my days; while it was extremely effective at this, it also was extremely effective at killing the good feelings that I should have been getting.  Being with my family fills me with way more joy than it did before, and even simple things like writing this post give me a greater sense of accomplishment than it did when I was hammered.

So sobriety doesn’t suck as hard as it did when I started; but I still have a long ways to go.

On to week 8…  Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 7 – No Finish Line”

No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 4 – Discovering Consequences

Actions have consequences.  They also have emotional consequences.  You know that, your children know that, everybody knows that – but I didn’t.

I’ve always possessed a certain swagger that’s helped me both personally and professionally.  It’s a trait that I always assumed was an inherent part of me, and was also one of the things I liked the most about myself.  Now sobriety has robbed me of this too, replacing swagger with fear.

I always relied on alcohol as a parachute.  If I ever tried something and failed, I didn’t have to actually feel the failure.  Embarrassment, frustration, shame – all gone, replaced by a relieving numbness.  There were no consequences; at least not substantial ones.  Sure, the plane’s gone down before, but I’ve never gone down with it – I’m somewhere else, gently floating down to earth.

Now that I’ve thrown the parachute away, I’m a lot more hesitant to fly.  If the plane goes down, now I’m screwed too.  Forget that, better keep the damn thing on the ground…

Let’s ditch the plane metaphor and talk about boats instead: I recently tried to take my wife and three year old out on a canoe ride.  My family vacations every year in Maine, and canoeing is one of our favorite activities.

My wife and daughter were sitting in the boat, ready to go.  I decided to show off a bit and sort of “skate” the canoe out to the lake.  With one foot in the boat, and the other on the lake bottom, I pushed off as hard as I could to give the canoe a bit of a boost; picture someone skateboarding a canoe (and try not to laugh at how stupid that is).

So obviously, this is a pretty dumb maneuver, and also one that is completely pointless since the boost you get takes you about 5 feet further than you would otherwise go.  But it’s a cool way to get in a canoe.  This is a great example of what I mean by swagger – Showy, confident, and often pointless.  But look at how cool I am.

But of course, this time I fucked it up – the boat capsized almost immediately, dumping my wife and 3 year old unceremoniously into the water.  My daughter was terrified.  My wife was pissed.

I now had to drag the half sunk canoe back to shore while trying to comfort my daughter who was sobbing hysterically.  Her fun boat ride was ruined… and now she’ll probably be too scared to get in the canoe again – at least on this trip.  My father-in-law and my wife’s cousin looked on with expressions hovering between amusement and vicarious embarrassment.

Four weeks ago, I would have excused myself, went up to the cottage, and drank a glass of whiskey.  I would have come back down to the beach, probably made a self-deprecating joke or two about how stupid that was, and life would go on.  The parachute would open, and I’d glide back down to the surface.  The swagger would live on.

Now, sober me has no fucking clue what to do.  I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and angry at myself.  My mind immediately turned to alcohol, and I felt the strongest urge to drink that I’ve felt in weeks.  This was supposed to be fun!  Now I fucked it all up!  I fucking suck!  I need a drink!

I assume a logical, healthy person who experienced this sort of set back would recognize it as just that – a minor set back.  I assume they’d process it in a matter of minutes, and would be on to the next thing.  My wife got over it in less than a minute.  Even my 3-year-old got over it in a couple minutes.  But me?  My response was to go inside, isolate myself, and sulk for over an hour.  Did I mention alcoholism has turned me into a child?

I suffered a trivial defeat and had to face the consequences.  I had to feel negative feelings; and over the past 10 years of alcoholism I’ve completely destroyed my ability to do that.

I’ve started to actually worry about what I’m doing.  You probably take that for granted, but the whole concept of worrying about anything is completely foreign to me.  I suppose this is anxiety – I’m not sure because I don’t think I’ve ever felt it before.

It once took me about 10 seconds to decide I wanted to move out of state when offered a job promotion – If I’d been asked to make the same decision now I don’t think I even could make a decision.  The anxiety would probably kill me.

How do people deal with this?  Do they?  Is this why so many people live such safe, boring lives?  Do they fear the emotional consequences of failure, and so avoid the possibility altogether?

Presumably healthy people have a way of working through this, but I have no idea what that is.  I guess on the surface a little bit of worrying is probably not a bad thing.  I mean, if it stops me from riding a canoe like a skateboard with my wife and 3-year-old in it it can’t be all bad.  But like almost everything else with sobriety so far, right now it just sucks.

On to week 5Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 4 – Discovering Consequences”