No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 6 – No More Friends

I still remember the last time I made a real friend.  It was January 20th, 2011; the night I met my wife.

No, this is not a story about how I met my wife and then became a recluse who shunned all social contact outside of my relationship with my significant other.  Really, nothing could be further from the truth; my wife has always encouraged me to go out and enjoy myself and I’ve often taken the opportunity to do so.

No, this is about the realization that I haven’t made a single real friend since… well, since before alcohol.

Anyone I know in “real life” would probably be surprised to read this post because I’m more or less universally well-liked.  I’m gregarious, friendly, helpful, funny, intelligent – just a decent, easy going dude (If a little immodest).  I’m usually one of the more boisterous people in a group, and I’m happiest if I’m making those around me laugh.

But being well-liked by someone is not the same as having a real friendship with that person.  A meaningful friendship requires that you be able to talk about the things that make you uncomfortable.  It requires accepting a certain degree of vulnerability.  Accepting that vulnerability opens you up to the risk that someone will see the “true you” and not like what they see – or even worse, exploit what they see to harm you.  To me, that is simply unacceptable.

My family’s discovery of this blog was one of the most devastating things that’s happened to me recently because of how vulnerable I’ve made myself here.  This blog contains shards of the real me, the part you’re not supposed to see.

My relationships, or at least the ones I’ve formed since I started drinking, are all superficial.  I show exactly what I want to show, and absolutely nothing more.  And what I want to show is carefully curated to protect myself from risk and present myself in the best possible light.  It’s pathetic, but I realize now that the risk I’m protecting myself against is that someone might (gasp) not like me.

Sobriety has helped me realize that being universally well-liked is actually kind of a bad thing – it means I’ve never shown anybody anything except what I think they’ll like.  Nobody dislikes me because I’ve never stood for anything!  There’s nothing there!  I’m completely nebulous – I’ll agree with whatever you tell me!  I’ll like whatever you like… Just so long as you like me!  I become whatever you want me to be.

Alcohol was the one thing that allowed me to become vulnerable at times.  It was the only thing that could pierce my armor and allow me to open up to people.  In a strange way I owe a great debt of gratitude to alcohol – I would never had met my wife without it.  I probably would have been too afraid to say a word to her; or I would have just said the same boring shit that I say to everyone.  And she would have thought, oh he’s nice; and then in a day or two she’d have no memory of me just like everyone else.

Since becoming sober six weeks ago I have not hung out with anyone but my family.  Drinking was the glue that held my relationships with all my “friends” together.  I realize now that there’s nothing there – only the most superficial of relationships that exist solely to facilitate and legitimize the drinking.

I want to get better though.  I want to make real friends because let’s face it – I’m lonely.  I miss talking to my buddies the way I did when I was a kid.  I miss having stupid inside jokes.  I miss saying and doing stupid crap and sharing memories.

I need to find a way to accept vulnerability.  But like everything else with sobriety so far, I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do, and absolutely no idea how to do it.

Well my friends (see what I did there), I’ll see you in week 7…  Continue reading “No Quarter – An Alcoholic’s Recovery: Week 6 – No More Friends”

Parenting and Mania: 5 Tips to Keep Your Head On Straight

Parenting is hard enough as it is, but parenting with bipolar disorder introduces its own set of unique challenges.

We all know little kids are certifiably insane energetic.  They’re excited all the time!  And why not?  Everything is new to them, everything’s an opportunity to learn!  We have so much to do, and we have to do it right now!  

Childhood really is kind of like mania… but unlike you and me, kids don’t really have the ability to completely destroy their lives.  Ah, the good old days!

I mean, I guess your kid could do this too.

But look, when you yourself are going through a manic episode, it’s hard enough to concentrate on 1 of 1000 things running through your head.  Add in some little kids running around, screaming, demanding your attention, and well… it’s enough to make you lose it.

But since losing it is generally undesirable, expensive, and you know… potentially marriage ending, it behooves us to keep it together.

So here’s 5 things I try whenever I feel a hard-core, mania-fueled, child-ignited, explosion of a freak-out session coming on.  And by the way, these 5 tips apply just as equally to those who aren’t suffering from bipolar depression.

 

#1. Drink.

 

 

#2. Get in the Car and Just Start Driving for a While.

 

 

#3. Freak-out just a little.  You know, scream into a pillow and then sob quietly in the closet.

 

 

#4. Maybe gamble a little… like a few hundred bucks… to start…

 

 

#5. Start that brewery!

 

#6: Buy a motorcycle.  #7: Grow a beard.  #8: Get in a high speed police chase and run from the cops?

 

OK, don’t do any of those things.  Seriously, try this instead:

#1. Keep a Schedule.

It’s easier to get through the day if you know it’s going to end.  If the kids go to bed at 8 or 9, then there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.  Set a time, then divide and conquer.

Here’s what I mean: say your kids are driving you to drink enjoying the innocence of childhood, and it’s… stressful.  Don’t think this is endless.  Think, I just need to get through the next 30 minutes.  Then another 30 minutes.  Then 1 more hour and it’s bedtime and I can get some sanity time to myself.

#2. Set Me Time.

So I said put the kids to bed at a decent time.  How about after that you stay up for an hour or two?  Make sure you have some you time.  Chances are your mind’s racing, and there’s a bunch of stuff you need to get out.  Well that’s no good if you don’t have any time dedicated to you.

I’m not saying sleep isn’t important, of course it is.  I’m just saying, get that me time (Also known by my family as “F-You Time”… as in, “F-you, I’m doing what I want to do”).

I know this one seems obvious but it can be really hard.  I’m too busy I can almost hear you saying; or I don’t have the time.  But chances are you just aren’t making the time.  Or maybe you feel guilty making the time?  I have to catch up on whatever chore, or maybe I have to spend every waking second with my significant other. 

Again, not saying you shouldn’t spend time with your significant other… and maybe that’s exactly how you want to spend your free time, and if so that’s great.  But you shouldn’t feel guilty carving an hour or two out of the day for just yourself to do what you want to do.

Besides, you want the time you spend with your partner to be quality time… and it’s not going to be quality time if your manic hyper-brain is making you trace patterns on the brick wall, or if you’re counting bumps in the ceiling, or if you just noticed the floor board joints make a pattern if you look at them from the right angle; or if you’re trying to write a blog post… oh wait.  Hold on honey, yeah, yeah I know, I just need a couple hours to finish this post.  Also, I’m taking the van this weekend, I’m going to Jimmy’s place on the lake… no, no, it’s just a dude thing, you can’t come.  Oh come on, don’t be like that, you’re so unreasonable.

#3. Get a Sitter.

It takes a village.

Ever hear that?  Well it does.

Don’t try to raise these kids by yourself.  You’ll die trying.  My wife and I were too proud to ask for help for the first 6 months of the life of our first daughter.  You know what happened?

Get some help.  Hire a sitter.  Call in a favor with that friend.  Get the grandparents involved.  They’ll love seeing your kids.  And then when things get hard for them?  They can leave!  And by the time you get back you’ll be ready to go again!  2 hours out on the town is like 2 months in parent-years.

#4. Get your kids into something interesting.

I’m not saying take your son whose clearly more into dancing than football and have him try out for the squad.  Don’t force your kids do do something they don’t wan’t to do, or be something they don’t want to be.  Don’t impose the same paternal inferiority complex on your kid that your father imposed on you.  Break the chain!

It looks cute to us – but that kid is devastated.  He’ll remember that forever.  This is how super-villains are made.

Get your kids into something they enjoy, and something you enjoy.  Get them, and by extension you, off the couch.  Make the time you’re going to spend with them no matter what fulfilling and interesting and you’ll both benefit.  You’ll get some of that manic energy out along the way.

But I’m a dude, you say, and I have daughters.  I don’t want to get into dance.  Well whatever dude, your loss.  Get over that toxic masculinity and start living the best life you can.

Get creative.  Go out of your comfort zone.  Don’t you want your kids to do those things?  Well set the example.  And make yourself better, and scratch that manic-itch to learn something new.

#5. When it gets hairy – take a minute.  Or ten.

You’ve been pushed to your breaking point.  Your kid is inconsolable.  You feel stressed.  You feel helpless.  And then you feel angry.  I do everything for you, you have everything you need, why are you still crying?!

What happens next isn’t going to be pretty.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my kid safe?
  2. Are their basic needs satisfied?  i.e., are they clothed, dry, warm, clean, fed?

If the answer to the above is yes, and you feel yourself crossing that threshold into anger, then walk away.  Put the baby in the crib, make sure the toddler can’t get into anything, and walk out of the room.  I’m not saying leave the house.  I mean, you have to stay in the house, pretty sure it’s a crime if you leave (definitely is).

But you can walk out of the room for a minute.  Collect yourself.  Don’t feel bad, it’s OK!  Really!  Sometimes you have to chill.  We all do.  That’s completely understandable.  You might have to do this everyday!  You’re still a good parent, this is really hard man!  Your kids will forgive you… hell, they probably won’t even notice.  You need to forgive yourself.

What’s not good is freaking out in front of the kids, hurting them, or hurting yourself.  Or punching the drywall.  Or kicking the dog.

So that’s it friends!  What helps you?  Let me know below!  Follow me for more!