25 days, 25 years

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25 years ago I was a Petty Officer in the US Navy.  One of the reasons that I joined the navy was to get some things out of my system before going to college.  I already knew at the time that I would not be able to stay focused enough on school to make anything out of it.  Graduating from high school I was already binge drinking most weekends and smoking pot as often as I could.  I knew that I had to get out of town in order to give myself a chance.  There’s no water in the northern rockies where I grew up, so the navy seemed a pretty good bet.

In March of 1990 I had just returned from one of the defining experiences of my life.  I had circumnavigated the world aboard an aircraft carrier. Leaving from Alameda, CA and returning to Norfolk, VA.  It took 6 months. We visited many of the most iconic ports of call in sailing lore; Hong Kong, Subic Bay, Pattaya Beach, Singapore, Rio, St. Thomas.  And I got absolutely, hilariously, stupidly, blind drunk in all of them.  And I remember very little.

Every time we pulled anchor and returned to sea I woke up in my rack feeling awful.  Poisoned.  Polluted. Lonely. Desperate.  I would connect with my friends and we would recount the “good” times.  The close calls.  Put together the missing details.  Sober up.  Get back to work and look forward to the next stop. I had a problem.  I knew it.  All my friends seemed to have the same problem, I told myself I was just doing what sailors do.

I could tell tales of drunken escapades prior to this and many, many since.  The point of this is to say that twenty five long years ago I knew I had a problem and it has now been twenty five days that I’ve been trying to do something about it.

Would that I had been able to stop back then.

If I had, then I wouldn’t have had to stop all those times that I’ve stopped between then and now. This morning I was talking to my wife, saying that the last time I quit (about two years ago) I felt better than I do now.  I had relaxed more and was less anxious about things like kids having friends over and being in social situations.  I think that part of what is  going on is an awareness that this time is necessarily different because I went through it last time, and failed.  I hope to be able to prevent my alcoholic mind from telling me everything is fine.  I mean that’s the rub, right?  I sober up and forget how I felt that morning after.  How embarrassed I was.  How much I hurt someone I care about or scared someone I don’t even know.

I don’t want to be  embarrassed anymore.  I don’t want to be mean and intolerant of my kids and my wife.  I want to be more reliable and engaged at work.  I don’t want to be scared for my health – when’s my liver going to turn to mashed potatoes? I want to feel healthy of mind and body.  If I get through today, It’ll be 26 and tomorrow will be a new, clear headed day with lots to look forward to and no regrets.

Peace.

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three weeks and one hockey tournament later

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Three weeks ago today is the last hockey tournament we had and the last time I drank.  Now here we are again.  It’s the State hockey tournament for my son’s midget hockey team.  This could be the last hockey tournament I go to, at least to watch my own kids play.  I’m not sure what my son is going to do next year.  My oldest started playing in 1999 and we’ve been on the road and in the stands from October to March every year since.  This is also the first time this year that my whole family is together on a trip.  Between work for me and my wife, my son at college, and other family and school commitments it’s been hard to do.  I am thankful that I’m sober and present.

Yesterday as Martial and I were leaving for his game, we met up at the elevator with the goalie from his team (17 year old kid).  He had a frosty bottle of grey goose in one hand and an equally icy bottle of captain morgan in the other.  Oh boy.  Of course he was telling Martial that these were his and he was ready to party.  And I was about to get sucked in to this babble, but I finally asked him what he thought he was doing and he said they were for his parents.  Then when we got off the elevator, his stepdad was there and he proceeded to pour the booze in to coffee cups so he could bring it in to the arena and keep the party going.  My son was just disgusted. He takes hockey seriously and he turns his nose up at this kind of nonsense.  I never was one to ask my kids to go make me drinks and get me beers.  But they’ve certainly seen me be that guy in the lobby, and in the arena, and on the bus, and in the restaurant, and around the pool, and in the room.  Today, I’m thankful that it wasn’t me waiting for him in the lobby.

Things in the room were a little chaotic yesterday evening and I decided that I needed to get out and go for a walk.  It is an absolutely beautiful spring evening.  We’ve been spoiled here in Minnesota this year.  One of the things that I always do on hockey trips is try to get my bearings around the hotel that we’re staying in.  Mostly this means trying to find the liquor store.  I found myself walking and wondering where the liquor store is.  For a quick minute I imagined picking up a 375 and how I could sneak it in and drink it without getting “caught”.  Fortunately, I let out that breath and moved on to the next.  I got a coffee at Caribou and went back to the room.  Between the room and the game, then going to dinner with my family after; I was feeling pretty raw.  I needed to find a happy place to put some distance between me and everyone else.  I kicked them all out of the bedroom and read for a while. I slept.  Not well, but sober anyways.

I feel great today.  My girls and I got up and went for a walk this morning, got coffee, and I came back to write.  We’re getting ready to get lunch and go to todays game.  I still have issues.  I always will but I’m facing them with a  clear head and a happy family.  I’m a lucky guy.

Peace

Control Freak

 path to my door

Today at 11:51 AM

Boyhood-The Movie

first time reblog. I hope i’m doing it right. What sobriety chick says here just resonates so strongly with me that I wanted to share it. Thanks sobriety chick and peace to all of you. f.

Bye Bye Lush

If you haven’t watched Boyhood, you need to. I had no idea there were several parts involving alcohol abuse in many contexts. It pretty much covered how drinking involves making numerous bad decisions, how it turns you into a charming individual to get your way only to shatter that image by showing your true asshole colors and how it numbs the abuser and those involved in the relationship with the drinker. I wanted to put my hands over my eyes and make a tiny spot I could look through as if I was watching a horror movie. There were several parts to this movie I identified with. This scene pulled heartstrings. Even though she’s not the alcoholic, marriage ending in divorce, failed attempts at happiness, low self esteem etc has robbed her of enjoying important moments in her life with her children and herself. It’s sad.

The Professor husband that…

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Only beer, and only on social occasions (yeah right)

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Here’s my tattoo.  I got it almost two years ago.  I had quit drinking (again), it had been thirty days, and this time I meant it. My oldest son was seventeen at the time and he was interested in tattoos and we had been talking about them.   My standard response to the kids whenever they would ask about the subject was “I spent six years in the navy, I’ve been around the world, and if I didn’t get inked then – I’m not getting inked now”.

Needless to say my new found sobriety along with this new curiosity put an idea in my head.  I searched obsessively (as I tend to do everything) for a design and eventually started to find elements of some that I liked but none that I was ready to commit to. I eventually designed this one myself and decided to have it done.  Here is the description of it that I put in the journal for the artist at her shop: “Wolf paw with an eye and compass:  The wolf theme signifies strength, dignity and solidarity with my family and my wife.  The compass (made by trees and little paws) signifies a new direction in my life.  The eye beneath my foot signifies an old friend and lover of whom I am afraid and need to hold down as well as keep an eye on.  The cub paws are, of course, my 3 kids for whom I am grateful and proud.”

Not bad, right?  A permanent reminder of the things in my life that matter most and why I had chosen to stop drinking.  Of course the ink had barely dried before I entered back in to the cycle that is my curse. It goes something like this:

  • I miss drinking at parties.  If I just drink beer and only at parties, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be just fine.
  • I’ve been doing fine at parties, I’ll just buy some beer to have for after kids go to bed or for when friends drop by. That should be just fine.
  • I wish I could have a whiskey once in a while, if I just have one cocktail and then stick to beer, I’m sure I’ll be fine.
  • Wow – you really pissed me off, I can’t believe you didn’t listen to me.  How could you just ignore what I want?  I’ll show you – I’m going to sit on the couch and get drunk. Leave me alone.  I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

and so it goes.  Until I’m buying a liter every other day and monitoring it so that I make sure it lasts two days.  I can do nothing else but drink. My wife is disappointed, my kids are scared, and I’m unhappy enough to consider leaving.  But I don’t.  I get back on the wagon and I swear that this’ll be the last time.  I’m sure I’ll be just fine.

Peace

“I’m feeling agitated today.”

Grumpy BearThis is the email I sent to my wife today.  She responded kindly.  Wanting to know what was making me feel that way.  I responded profoundly; “IDK, just life”.  To which she replied by reminding me what a great, stress free weekend we had, how the kids were relaxed, they did their homework, made dinner, we all got out for a walk, my daughter and I talked about the possibility of her changing schools because she’s not doing well (probably because of me), and we got through that without fighting – but then she said “you have a great life”.  I got pissed.

I thought to myself, You are the one relieved.  You are the one that finally got what you want.  Your life is great not mine!  Mine is in total upheaval.  I’m scared to death that I’m going to let people down again, that I’ll lose touch with all my friends – and I do have some very good ones.  My friends were never the trigger for my drinking.  My drinking is very often and increasingly solo.  My friends are successful, thoughtful, productive people and I don’t want to let go of them.  I need space and understanding and I’m not ready to just fit in to the “daddy box” and do what I’m told.

I told her (most) of this and told her she needed to moderate her expectations of me.  That I need to focus on me for a while.  She understood that.  She’s always been good to me and I love her very much.  twenty-three years and counting.

But she’s not a drunk.  She doesn’t like to drink.  She doesn’t like feeling hung over.  She’s normal.  She’s never agonized over it.  Quit and started.  Quit and started.  She doesn’t quite understand what I’ve undertaken and how empty it all is right now.  And so I can’t talk to her.

I do have several friends that are sober.  I haven’t reached out to them yet, but I know that’s what I have to do.  I hope that I can do it soon.  It will help.

Peace.

 

“alcohol is not a performance enhancing drug”

john dalyThis is the mantra of my golf buddy.  He says “I want to be swinging the same at the end of my  round as I was at the beginning.”  The first time he said this it immediately occurred to me that of course, he was right.  More significantly, I realized that his thought process was a lot healthier than mine.  I mean, I was probably concentrating more on when and where along the course I could get a drink than I was about what club to use.

I find that in the last ten years I have given up on other things that I really enjoy as well.  I like to shoot sporting clays.  I don’t have the worlds greatest eye-hand coordination anyways, the reason I was always on the offensive line and in the scrum, but I noticed that on days following a whiskey night, my scores were poor.  This was my norm so usually, my scores were poor. And, not surprisingly I noticed my scores go up when I’d been sober for a day or two.  Now, for most people, this introspective gift would result in more sober days of good shooting.  But to me, this turned in to anxiety about upcoming days at the range and eventually giving up the sporting clays course and the good friends and good times that went with it.

I like to bird hunt.  I have a beautiful hunting dog.  She’s high energy and lives to get out in the woods.  I used to get her out 4 or 5 times a week for a nice run.  Yesterday I took her for a run for the first time since our last hunting trip last fall.  When we got back to the house she slept on her bed like an infant in a crib for the rest of the day.  She and I were both a lot better off when we got back than before we left.  Why did I let that get away?  I quit walking with her because I would have a drink when I get home from work most days, then I would have another.  At that point I would not feel like walking.  Even if I felt like leaving the house, I would not go because the booze made my heart beat faster and my lungs feel spongy.  Again, Why not reverse the chronology? Go for a walk and then have a drink. Duh.

I like to play hockey and I love alpine skiing.  Because of my lifestyle, I have become too fat to do either.  I’m afraid of getting hurt if I fall.  I’ve tried to lose weight on more occasions than I’ve tried to quit drinking.  Rarely at the same time.  It’s impossible to lose weight and drink heavily at the same time. Which have I chosen?  The wrong one.

And thus the cycle perpetuates.  Until now as I will adopt my pal’s mantra: “alcohol is not a performance enhancing drug.”

Peace.