Wednesday, June 17

Getting carded.

I can't sleep. Once the birds start chirping, it's time to give up. I have my psychiatry appointment in 7 hours, and I'm afraid if I fall asleep, hypersomnia will kick in and I won't be able to get up or I'll oversleep. For now, it's just me and the birds. I wonder what they're doing up. They sound like a bunch of women from Brighton Beach, delightfully bickering about polyester blends and which prunes go best with oatmeal.

I started writing cards to people. During my pre-9/11 youth, I received cards for all possible holidays. Birthday. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Easter. Valentine's Day. Saint Patrick's Day. Any holiday my aunts could lay claim to as a result of our ancestry, I received a card. As email and text messages took over, I received less cards. Why purchase a card, address it, scribble a note, locate the address to where it should be sent, and buy stamps just to send it? How long are you supposed to keep a card? I was never really clear on the protocols of card storage. But when I receive a card today, I usually keep it for one of two reasons: the handwritten message is more genuine than the message it was printed with, or because the cover authentically suited me: cats sending text messages, or a photograph of a dog with a strikingly similar resemblance to Cosmo. Today I'll be sending my dad a Father's Day card to be shortly followed by another for his birthday on July 1.

Sending cards all started after I got out of inpatient. I sent thank you cards to my family members who helped me during my difficult time. Not only did I want them to have a tangible thank you, I wanted to show myself and others that I was truly thankful and that I had the emotional capacity to do something nice for others. I sent a card to my step-dad for helping to pay for my new tires which I desperately needed. Uncle Mike received a thank you card because he helped take care of my dad's dogs while he was in Minneapolis for family week. Everyone who has had a birthday in the last four months has received a card.

When I was drinking, I wasn't nice to others. "Nice" is a broad term to use considering how specific I feel about myself and my drinking career. I was nothing short of selfish, even when I wasn't intending to be. I experienced way more consequences than positive nostalgia during my destructive path through friends and family. It feels almost calming to be cognizant of my behavior.

Every once in a while, I'll think back to a time where I was "happy" while I was drinking, or a time where I thought I was enjoying myself. During my last birthday, I went down to Tucson to see my dad and step-mom. Instead of going to a bar to watch the Seahawks game on my birthday, we went to Whole Foods.

Let me explain.

For whatever reason, actually the precise reason probably being Arizona's less than loose liquor laws, there is a bar in the middle of the Tucson Whole Foods. With three TVs and a tiny bar with small appetizers, you could grab a high top and watch football while an old woman shucked around in the aisle behind you in search of organic steel cut oats. The bar had select microbrews on tap, and if you didn't see something to your liking, you could strut over to the liquor/beer/wine aisle and grab something to open for a small corkage fee. The idea was seamless: drink in a popular grocery store chain instead of a dive bar surrounded by drunk and sweaty Arizona Cardinals fans. So we drank and noshed, and occasionally I would skip off to the bathroom to vape. The Seahawks won Game 7 17-3, and later in the week we would also celebrate a win against the 49ers with a score of 17-3. We won! We won. This calls for another bottle of wine and not removing my contacts before going to bed.

Twice in one week, I was trying to hide how drunk I was, and for the most part, I think I did a good job, even though I'm not extremely proud of my terribly high tolerance. I remember choosing my words carefully and trying not to talk because I was slurring my words. Triggers are an important thing to assess in alcoholism: the people, places, and things you must remain cautious of in regards to your recovery. The reason I completely overdid it during my trip to Arizona was because I felt like I had multiple reasons to drink: vacation/travel, my birthday, Thanksgiving, two football games, and spending time with family, all of which are now triggers. I was passing out in front of the television on more than one occasion, finishing off bottles of wine with ease, and making late night Bloody Mary's in giant wine glasses. When I got into town, my dad said "help yourself," which are dangerous words for an alcoholic to hear. But at that point, no one really knew how much I was drinking. I don't blame him, and instead I blame myself for not reaching out to anyone sooner. My dad actually called my mom to inquire about my drinking habits after I returned to Minneapolis. The thought was on everyone's mind, and my mom even considered flying out to Minneapolis to talk with me about it.

I maintain that the hardest thing I've ever had to do is ask for help. Ashamed and scared, I lay in a bed at North Memorial Hospital, contemplating who to call or what to say. I had been on the phone with Nate for most of the day, narrating my every move and thought on my way to urgent care and then to the ER to ensure he knew I was okay. He called my mom for me and told her that I would call her when I wasn't with any nurses or doctors. The initial fear was that I suffered from a concussion and a fractured orbital socket, but my diagnoses came back that the bruises were just severe and that the next few days would be painful. I called her after my skull and facial CT.

"I think I need help."

My mom was elated and proud of me for asking. I felt so horrible, guilty, and hungover. I felt as if asking for help was admitting to failure on my part. I was always so independent and overly proud of myself for being able to handle life's stresses on my own. I was scared, scared of what would happen to me, scared of what my dad would think, scared of the inclement pain of sobriety and detox. It took someone physically attacking me for me to ask for help, and while I don't condone violence on anyone, getting hurt made me realize where my life was heading and that I needed to make fast changes.

I was in and out of the ER within about three hours. After a slew of questions about who attacked me and if I was safe to go home and how much I drank and if I had lost consciousness, I was sent to Walgreens to pick up prescriptions for vicodin, antibiotics, and high dose ibuprofen. The ER said that I'll most likely be sore for the coming days, thus the pain killer prescriptions. While in North Memorial's care, I also received a tetanus shot and follow up antibiotics for a bite on my left hand. The scars are still there, hardly noticeable, and they serve as faint medical reminders of where I was and what my drinking was leading up to: hospital visits and an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame.

My mom flew out to Minneapolis the next day. I stayed in bed, resting and crying because the vicodin and my extensive guilt wasn't allowing me to do much else. Later that week, we both attended a chemical assessment to see when I could get into inpatient at Fairview Riverside. Detoxing Liz started tricking herself after she got put on a wait list. I can do two meetings a day. I can go to online AA meetings. I can do this alone. But that was my fear talking. I was scared to tell anyone I actually had a problem, even though I had drunkenly joked about it from time to time. While I was in inpatient, Nate told people I was in Seattle attending to some family matters. No one batted an eye. Me going back to Seattle? Sounds plausible. Instead, I was three miles away from my home eating my meals off of a tray and reading the Big Book before bed every day for 21 days.

I'm not proud of the things I've done or the consequences I've compiled as a result of my drinking expeditions. I pushed so many people away. I lied to myself and those around me. I became a monster in my own skin. Professionals suspect I had a lot of anger and grief that I never addressed in a healthy way. Instead, I sunk inside myself and drank alone. I remember one Facebook status I posted from two years ago: "It's way better to drink alone than with people you pretend to like." I did 90% of my drinking alone: I was in control of my own environment, no one was judging me, and I didn't have to socialize with anyone I didn't want to. In true addict behavior, I thought I was protecting myself. If no one saw the problem I had, it didn't exist.

But I knew I had a problem, I just never externalized it. When I started my contract job at the lead generation company I worked for, I didn't drink during the week. But once things became stressful, I started drinking on Thursdays. And Sundays. And Wednesdays. I remember thinking "well, it's just Wednesday. Go for it." Six beers later and some shitty vodka version of a hot toddy later, I was on the floor eating cheese and trying to hold myself up while playing Smash Brothers for Nintendo 64. Even though I drank a lot that night, I still remember making that vodka drink. Some leftover vodka was distilling in the cabinet above the refrigerator, the place where my parents used to keep their liquor. I poured it into a pot on the stove and heated it up with honey and some cinnamon. This was a Sunday night, and I had to work the next day. But I wasn't about to pass out knowing there was an inch left in that bottle of BIG RED VODKA.

That was my drinking in a nutshell: once I started, I couldn't stop. People have asked me if I could have a drink in moderation or if I could start drinking near beers, the NA stuff. My answer has always been "no." I know myself well enough now that I know that NA beers would turn into real beers and that moderation would surely lead to getting hurt again or worse. One was never enough. Two was never enough. Three was never enough. Dead would certainly be enough.

It's currently 5:56am.

I'm mostly rambling because I couldn't sleep due to my allergies and insomnia. The birds have quieted down or moved on to do their tweeting elsewhere. Kitty is under the impression he's entitled to more food even though I only fed him a few hours ago. It's no longer dark outside and instead of fighting my insomnia, I'm just going with it. It's just one more thing I can talk about at my psychiatry appointment in 6 hours.

Fuck. I just want to be happy.

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