Monday, September 21

Alcohol was my Czech hedgehog.

The last time I saw Audrey was in 2004. My parents were on a bullet train to separation and I was struggling with the typical teenager nonsense of who I am versus what I'm supposed to be. The four of us agreed I was to enter outpatient rehab while unknowingly agreeing to poor SAT scores, slipping grades, high school generated rumors, a penchant for further experimenting with sex and drugs, and an unhealthy start to a career in self-hate.

The office where her practice is located hasn't really changed. Little toy figurines line her window sills. She has an updated DSM-V on her bookshelf. She still has the same clock we both use to keep track of when my emotional outpourings need to come to an end. She has a Macbook now.

I caught her up on the melee of the last ten years of my life: moving to a different state, my pancreas giving up on me, voluntarily going to inpatient treatment, reassuring people that doing stand up comedy isn't just a hobby, and going through a slew of relationships, only a few of which I regret. She listened intently as I gave her a crash course in my career of bad and risky decisions. I was neither embarrassed nor ashamed of my emotional résumé which landed me in hot water numerous times. She didn't seem surprised things got worse. In her words, "To be honest, after all the stuff you've gone through, you're still going. And that's good." She got a little Churchill on me, which I suppose is better than Eisenhower.

After I talked to her for about 40 minutes, she and I came to the very blunt summary of my depression and grief: I can't accept things I can't control...which is strange because I've been reciting the serenity prayer at least twice a week for the last seven months. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. There are thousands of things I cannot change, but only a few of them really get under my skin and make me want to make vague Facebook posts about it or completely have a melt down at a time that's inconvenient for everyone around me. I am completely stuck on wanting to change things, people, and events in the past which concluded with an unfavorable outcome. I can't let go.

I'm curious as to why I have such a hard time letting things go. When I was in rehab, some of my counselors told me "to embrace new opportunities and let go of the old opportunities that did not come to fruition." It's hard to let go of the fact my body gave up on me when I have to think about it 4-5 times a day. It's painful to realize that some of my family members have never acknowledged or apologized for the pain they brewed in others. But the hopeful and unattainable outcomes have been just another instance of me heightening my expectations. I'd like to think that the people close to me will do the right thing, the logical thing, the human thing, the compassionate thing. But not everyone in my life is going to act the way that I expect them to.

I have major issues with control. Right now, I'd love for the children outside of the apartment to stop screaming like they stumbled upon a murder scene from SVU. I'd love for the Seahawks to use Jimmy Graham for his intended skills as a tight end and not completely ignore him during an important game at Lambeau. Why must I have control over everything around me? In a lot of ways, I think that 10 years ago, the last time I saw Audrey, everything was out of my control. I had no say in a few monumental things that occurred in my life. So today, I try to make sure a trip to the grocery store or a phone call to Walgreens goes according to plan and doesn't completely shit the bed.

I was reminded about how little Audrey's office changed because I have a tendency to zone out and focus on the physical things around me when there is a serious, crisis fraught conversation going on around me. When Audrey, my parents, and myself were discussing my fate as a junior in high school by entering outpatient rehab, I zoned out on her clock. Her clock makes a distinctive tick when the second hand goes around. When the room became silent and thick with judgements or concerns, I stared at her clock, listening to the mathematical sound her clock expelled each second. I zoned out on the carpet patterns, which used to be sort of a brick red but is now an intricate wheat texture and pattern. I haven't seen her African tribal masks or her pueblo figurines from New Mexico on top of her book shelf in years. I have been temporarily leaving serious conversations for years, even when I was much younger. I would get in trouble at school or there was a detrimental matter at hand that affected the whole family that sat lump and unavoidable on the table, and I would be lost in the place mats on the kitchen table or the one barstool on the peninsula that was off kilter. Perhaps the perpetual zonings out were a way of me escaping before I discovered the use of alcohol would amplify my escape tenfold.

Without alcohol, I actually need to face my problems. I can't drink them away from under the covers because I hate myself and everyone around me. The struggle is literally real. When I enter "worst case scenario mode," I am quickly under the impression everyone is against me and no one is listening to me. I've even caught myself a few times reaching for a beer in midair. The depression and grief went side by side with Coors Light, cheap pinot noir, and Jameson. I couldn't have one without the other, sort of like Coors Light and Jameson. Facing these struggles without alcohol leaves me feeling weak and defeated, but I'm getting through it. I don't feel as if there is a giant reward at the end of the recovery tunnel. I mean, maybe there is, some much needed peace from the bullshit monotony of going through the motions, perhaps.

Sorry, (well, not sorry) this pity party needs to come to a close. It was nice to see Audrey today because she was a positive and supportive reminder of my past and not the onslaught of horseshit that transpired in 2004. She supported me and helped me communicate my needs and my fears. She is the type of person to which I should be renting space in my head. There is a long list of applications vying for the questionable real estate that is always two inches away from crumbling over the cliff. But it's always nice to have people in my corner.

Saturday, September 19

My mind is like a bad neighborhood; I never go there alone.

I'm still not comfortable blogging in public. Even right now in this coffee shop, I feel like people are looking up from their laptops or their Wall Street Journals and know I'm writing this sentence. How is it in the last two months my neurosis has become completely unreasonable?

I've been experiencing extremely severe mood swings as of recent, which I'm 90% contributing to the withering Cymbalta in my system and also the fact that my old coping mechanism of drinking too much too often is no longer a stabilizer I can continually rely upon. When things got tough, I was usually tough. But now when things are tough, I'm a defeated wreck on the floor. A crisis puddle. An exhausted, tattooed shell.

I'm incredibly irritated all the time now. The smallest inconvenience or blip in the progress of my day becomes a matter of national security. And while I'm sitting there having a melt down on the carpet in front of the washer and dryer, I say to myself well, this isn't right. Why the fuck am I freaking out? This isn't a crisis in any way and I can deal with it tomorrow. However, my body feels the need to respond in a severely emotional and physical way. Yesterday I screamed all the way home from Walgreens. I mean it was like five blocks, but having to continue to juggle my shit health insurance company, Walgreens, and my doctor's network has been an on going struggle since I moved here. I essentially just want one day where I don't have to make a phone call and navigate corporate automated systems or take extra care of my increasingly shitty body and the companies I depend on for it to operate in a normal, humanly fashion. Just one day! Just one. How nice it would be just to eat something without having to math. But sadly, I drew the genetic short straw and am constantly dependent on prescriptions, my doctor, and unfortunately, Walgreens to stay alive. I now just have to assume that things are going to be completely fucked up whenever I make a phone call, give someone an account number, or leave a message. Just...fucked.

"Fuck" is every other word out of my mouth now. NOT saying "fuck" has been a challenge. And it doesn't matter if the topic at hand is positive or negative. Why, yes, Queen Elizabeth II, your ongoing legacy of poise, regality, and monarchy has been fucking incredible. To be honest, I was pretty liberal with coloring my language in the first place, but now I'm lying somewhere between Lewis Black and an angrier Lewis Black. Every sentences that comes out of my stupid face has had some form of the curse within it. Someday, my phrasing and choice of words will be that of a little old lady who just wants you to get the fuck off her lawn. Or something. I'm hoping to find a medication balance in the future that leaves me alleviated of the severity of my emotions with the capability to still feel. That balance would be nice. Or just straight up balance would be nice.

Let's pause for a second: everyone in this coffee shop is talking about the fire engines that showed up at the condominium across the street. Each person walking in with their tiny dog or yoga mat has been curiously skeptical of the reason behind the giant red trucks blocking the intersection. Maybe someone left a joint unattended! Har har har har! My guess was incredibly burnt toast. But instead, some idiot left the heat lamp for his iguana on the highest setting and lit the tiny dinosaur's habitat on fire. No word if the go-to pet for weird guys with mullets and without sleeves survived.

Sorry. I had to.

Seattle is back to being Seattle. I'm sure it never intended to be different, but the short bursts of rain along with insidious traffic continues to be a challenge. I am now actually considering buying rainboots. I've never owned a pair. The only boots I have now are suitable for cowboys or Midwestern moms. I love that it took me going kayaking in Alaska to purchase actual rain gear. I've never owned any of that kind of stuff. Just a hooded jacket was fine by me. But some people prefer to sulk in the rain, others prefer to repel it. I'm glad I didn't completely forget how to drive in the rain after being away for so long; some people forget between daily forecasts. When it rained in Minnesota, it was usually accompanied by momentous thunderstorms and power outages. But now the wetness serves as a soft tinkering on the deck and gutters while I'm ruminating instead of actually sleeping. 

I know I've written about it at some point or another, but I've been contemplating the aspect of home. I finally decided that the idea of "home" is wherever I feel safe. Even though I was drinking in the location of where I parked my car, where I received mail, and where I slept at night, I was never really home. AA feels like home. Most of the time, Seattle feels like home. Maybe home is wherever my car is because I can leave whenever I want. Safety was something I never had when I was drinking. I'm safe with my family, the people who love me, my friends, and my sober network. Safety can be both physical and emotional, and I feel like I didn't have either of those things in Minneapolis. I've tried so many times to put into words on why exactly I left, but I can finally say I just didn't feel safe. I lost certain elements of safety in Minneapolis, and I needed to rediscover the components of a healthy life elsewhere. I mean even though I'm saying "fuck" all the time, I feel more safe than I did. 

I can't stop thinking about a fucking iguana on fire. 

Sunday, September 13

I don't believe in god. But if I did, he'd be a black, left-handed guitarist.

Jimi Hendrix was laid to rest in a cemetery traffic circle in Renton, Washington. People from all over the world come to the circular disruption/mausoleum to place guitar picks, strings, even their own handwritten songs for whom many call the best guitar player of all time. His final resting place is also the same location where I learned how to drive.

My dad chose the perfect location for my first time behind the wheel of the biggest car Toyota manufactures: the roads and pathways are smooth, there is no pedestrian traffic to worry about, and moving at a top speed of 5 miles per hour guarantees the living's safety. I may have ran up on the expertly manicured grass a few times, but no one died who wasn't already dead. Move over, dead rockstars. Greenwood Memorial Park is now for licensed teenagers overflowing with angst and Good Charlotte patches safety-pinned to thrift store jean jackets.

I hadn't really thought of driving around Jimi Hendrix's traffic circle elysium until today when I went to visit my grandparents. Faye and Rose are side by side next to a large marble sundial. Their gravestones are simple, nothing special, basic. They weren't fans of giant ornate lettering or photographs carefully etched into giant slabs of specially obtained rock. It's almost as if their gravestones are the last tangible evidence of their quaint and simple lives above ground.

The last time I was in Riverton Crest Cemetery was when my grandfather was buried in 2004. He was laid to rest with my grandmother who died of breast cancer in 1992. They each requested to be placed next to the giant sundial so that they would be "easy to find" after they go. And sure enough, they were easy to find. I swiped some dirt and dead grass away from the stones and looked up at the flight path to Sea-Tac. For 34 years, they lived on the opposite side of the flight path from where I was standing. It's as if they could never escape the peaceful rumble of a 737.

Graves make death seem so final. HERE IT IS. THE END. UNDER THIS EXPENSIVE SLAB OF STONE IS THE END. Some people choose to be cremated or do that New Orleans funeral thing where your family sticks your body on a pyre and yell voodoo chants with bourbon and sweet tea while you spread as ashes over the unsuspecting. In the coming years, I'll have to have that talk with my parents. How can I, the only offspring, respect their wishes after they are gone? If I have to travel to the ends of the earth or even a distant planet to ensure their final demands, and if I have enough insulin to last the trip, I will.

There are numerous ideas I've had about what I want done with my body after I die. Please don't give the following list to my attorney:
  • Cremated and scattered in the Pacific Ocean
  • The Thelma and Louise treatment
  • Cremated and kept in a Folger's can until scattered in La Jolla
  • Tied to a weather balloon and sent to space (sponsored by Red Bull)
  • Buried under a floorboard in haunted location so I can fuck with the Ghost Adventures crew
  • Rolled up in a carpet and thrown in Puget Sound so I can fuck with the police
  • Placed in a time capsule so I can fuck with kids from 2075
  • Transformed into an art installation so I can fuck with people at Burning Man
(Obviously there are a million ways to go about this, and I'm not really married to any of these. I just kind of want to fuck with people after I die). 

Death. I've told myself and others on occasion that it is comforting to know that at some point, none of this will matter. But what is "this," you ask? "This" can be anything annoying you, teasing you, depressing you. "This" can be your most prized accomplishments. "This" can be your family, or the one that got away. I'm looking forward to never having to order a fucking refill through Walgreens ever again. I'm looking forward to not planning my next meal. I'm looking forward to dying with massive amounts of student loan debt I never paid off. In short, none of this matters, but we try to survive anyway. The need is within our biological drive: when rain falls from the sky, you seek shelter (or if you're really depressed, you just stand in it). When you're hungry, you search for food. When you're tired, you sleep, sometimes too much. When you feel threatened, you flee or yell at someone on the internet until someone gets blocked or reported.

This blog will be dead and gone in a pile of unpaid domain names. Your Facebook account may live on, but only because your friends think of you from time and again and want to share stupid graphics and memories with everyone you were ever friends with. I wouldn't say I'm welcoming of death, but I am very much at peace with the fact that none of this will matter. I remember this simple facet of philosophy when I'm in crisis mode. Did my insurance company assume it was okay to switch holes and fuck me in the ass? Yes. Did I really want to drink after I had a huge falling out with someone I was close with? Yes. Did I ask this series of questions just to prove a point? Yes. 

Simply, when I'm in a crisis, I think of death. That sounds way more menacing than I'm intending to illustrate: I momentarily remind myself that at some point in the future, I can relax forever. And if that ends up being in a time capsule for the next 65 years, so be it. 

The day before my grandfather died, he told my mom and my dad that he was "ready to go." From his hospital bed, he made peace that the end of his life was near and that his beloved airplanes would be a thing of the very permanent past. It was as if he found comfort in that none of "this" matters. I'm not dying, but I get it: the weight of life has been lifted. The trying, the living, the communicating, the going through the motions, all of it is done. 

Just like this post because it got way out of hand. Keep it going for death, everybody! 

Friday, September 11

The Day I Started Paying Attention

Everyone knows where they were, who they were with, and what they originally thought was happening on September 11th. Everyone.

I woke up to my clock radio dialed to 107.7 The End every day of the school week. The fall soccer season had started, and this meant getting up earlier than usual to not only beat the traffic but to run suicides up and down the fields while they were still wet. I woke up at 6:45am, tossed and turned a bit, and tried to drown out whatever garble was coming through the speaker. The DJs who were usually jokey or even crude sounded somber and morose. No sound effects were poorly placed in dialogue, and no callers were live on the air. In my haze of hypersomnia, I heard "...plane crashed into the Twin Towers this morning..."

That Tuesday morning was beautiful, not just here but all over the country. The morning weather reports were especially particular about pointing out that the entire nation was experiencing beautiful weather for the month of September. I awoke and looked outside to see my section of the atmospheric conditions. Only a few more weeks until Seattle was wet, soggy, and unconditionally depressed until the following spring -- time to take it in while we can. Wait, didn't I hear something about a plane crash? How could a plane not steer clear of a giant landmark like the World Trade Center in such beautiful weather? Hmm.

I got out of bed and got ready for the day. At the time I was in one of those junior high relationships. I had to circumnavigate parents and leave awkward voicemails on the family phone in order to be reached. AOL Instant Messenger relieved some of the anxiety provided by landline phones, and email was only for Neopet notifications and confirming your new AOL screen name from which to stalk your next boyfriend and reflect your personality for the better part of the week. His door had to be open if I came over. It was around this time that I started taking more pride in my appearance and dressing for others as opposed to myself. Somewhat contradictory, I know.

I shoved my cleats, shinguards, and jersey into a Diadora duffle and went downstairs for breakfast. My mom was sitting at the kitchen table and my dad was sitting on the couch, both were starring at what I realized was no Cessna-sized matter. Gargantuan trails of smoke billowed away from each tower, leaving me with the haunting realization from the commercial jet weapons inside that we were no longer safe.

My dad stood up from the couch with tears in his eyes. "We're under attack."

What? The United States? Who the fuck would attack the United States? I mentally rattled off a list of people who I thought could have been responsible besides extraterrestrials: the Japanese, the Russians, or a couple of angry white dudes from Oklahoma. At the time, these seemed like genuine possibilities. The WTC attack in 1993 contributed to many conclusions of who were the skyjacking culprits. I simply didn't remember the attack in the early 90s, but every parent or anyone who has ever been to New York in the last 10 years had figured it out. This was no Timothy McVeigh / Terry Nichols fertilizer plan hatched in the back of a Ryder truck. This was serious.

Attack? There was more than just the horrific live feed on our television? My dad explained to me that the Pentagon was also hit and there were unconfirmed reports that a plane headed towards the White House was lost somewhere in the now closed airspace. My mom got up from the kitchen table and went for her purse. She handed me $100 and a cell phone. "We don't know what's going to happen today. Take these two things if you need to get home. Whatever happens, just get home." Jesus Christ, mom. If there's anyway to scare the everliving and image-obsessed fuck out of a 13-year-old, that's how to do it. Never in my life had I assumed I was in that much danger. What was happening to my safety? I felt so violated, vulnerable. What was happening to our country? The country that protected me and my family? The country that, I assumed, had no foreseeable enemies in the modern world?

My carpool picked me up a few minutes later to take me to school. The mom and daughter team who were infamous for fighting over which ads they wanted to listen to on the morning radio had not been informed of the morning's catastrophic events. The only reason I was aware of this was because some Kylie Minogue techno horseshit was coming through the Acura's speakers and not the voice of sad DJ. "...did you guys hear what happened?" They were immediately worried.

"What happened?"
"Two planes hit the Twin Towers this morning."

The girl's mom leaped into action by throwing the dial to NPR while the girl sulked because she was missing out on the hit song from yet another plastic mishap. The rest of the way to school, we sat in silence, listening to the towers falling, the list of proposed suspects, the current, crumbling state of national security. It was during the drive to school that United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. Airspace in the United States was completely closed. Living under the flight path to Sea-Tac meant a continuous hum of Boeing jets safely lowering towards the runway. International flights were being diverted to Canadian airports, some of which were the subjects of documentaries years later ("Operation Yellow Ribbon" I believe is the title of one of these).

I arrived at school to complete chaos. Classes were clearly not going to start on time. A few kids were crying, kids who had relatives or friends in New York City with whom they couldn't get in touch, and some who had no other way to emotionally process the event. I saw a group of teachers in a small huddle, probably in deep debate on what exactly to tell us that morning. The majority of us had already seen or heard the news, so it's not like they were going to reveal something new, maybe to the few of us who were completely crushed at the lack of pop music on the morning radio.

We got a debrief from a few different teachers. "We're going to go about our day, but we understand this is a difficult time for everyone." Nothing was accomplished that day at school. Each class I went to was prepared with a grainy television to watch the outpouring of conspiracies and comments from Henry Kissinger, Dubya, and Colin Powell. It was an incredibly distracting day, but as the hours passed, it seemed less and less of a possibility that I would need the $100 and cell phone my mom carefully passed to me earlier in the morning.

I went to soccer practice later in the day. The sky hadn't seen a cloud all day, and there were planes that hadn't seen the sky that day. Flights were cancelled for four days after the attack, slowly resuming stateside and then internationally. I remember being incredibly thankful that my dad wasn't traveling at the time, as he traveled extensively for his job in Europe and Asia. The three of us had dinner that night, silently chewed our food while watching footage of that second plane hitting over and over and over and over and over and over and over. The terrorists wanted to instill fear by the use of current technology, and in many ways, they succeeded. $100 and a cell phone kind of fear. Close domestic airspace kind of fear. Go to war with a country under false pretenses kind of fear.

There are kids alive today who have no idea what pre-9/11 life was like. Gas was cheaper. You could go anywhere in the airport without a ticket OR identification. People were invincible. 9/11 simply put our reality in check: we are not invincible, and the atrocious happenings of September 11th helps us remember that. Even the most powerful can be vulnerable.

Fourteen years later, I'm sitting in a coffee shop on my laptop. There isn't a cloud in the gorgeous blue sky, and I have $100 and a cell phone. I wanted to write this because even though everyone has a different story about what happened that day, we all experienced the same unforgettable event. For a while, we were incredibly scared. But now we're back to being Americans: beer drinking (most of us), legalized marijuana smoking, equal rights supporting, football season loving, animal hunting, Facebook updating, vegan reminding, religion quoting, Breaking Bad obsessing, Kim Davis hating Americans.

Wednesday, September 9

Don't you know there ain't no devil? It's just god when he's drunk - TW

Sometimes you attend an AA meeting that hits you right in the feels, and I use the word "feels" because now that I'm sober, I have actual feelings.

Last night's meeting was one of those. Before we all hunkered down in the basement of the church where I went to preschool, I canoodled with some folks while smoking cigarettes and drinking 7-11 coffee. Showing up 15 minutes early to a meeting has given me time to socialize with others, not just about sobriety, but about our lives in general. We aren't just a bunch of drunks; we're people. We have jobs, families, life experience, emotions, stories, and dreams that extend beyond the scope of powerlessness over alcohol.

Juan Valdez and his burro: patron saints of Alcoholics Anonymous

A friend chaired the meeting tonight, meaning he told his story and then opened it up to the rest of us to respond or share. One of the things he mentioned was that there was a period of time where things got really bad, maybe the last six months during his drinking career. This was the same choice of words I use when I tell people about when it started to get bad for me, when I started to dig my hole deeper and get my hands dirtier every weekend. He didn't get his wake up call until he was physically injured. For me, it took me getting assaulted to stop drinking. It took kicking, biting, scratching, and clobbering for me to really take a step back and look at how awful my life had become: the job I hated tremendously was slowly laying me off by allowing me to work from home and cut my hours (therefore giving me more opportunities to drink), the stupid winter was wearing on me, the Seahawks were doing really well, and my stress level was through the roof emotionally.

At some point, I remember thinking, "Shit, I hope this doesn't get so bad I need to drink to get to sleep." But it did get so bad I needed to drink to sleep. Instead of trying to quit drinking, you know, the responsible option, I looked for solutions that allowed me to keep drinking, one of which was Ambien. While it was partly true that I was switching jobs that were drastically different in regards to their hours of operation, I couldn't sleep if I wasn't drinking. My anxiety would culminate at 3 or 4 in the morning or I would be so deep into Reddit I couldn't r/findawayout. Ambien was the answer! On nights I wasn't drinking, I could pop 5 milligrams of the generic and be dead to the world in 10 minutes, just like drinking whisky before bed. My doctor warned me not to mix alcohol and Ambien, and as far as I know, I never did. I nodded to confirm I heard her warning, but really I was thinking, "Don't fuck this up - it'll interfere with your drinking." I didn't even realize I was becoming addicted to Ambien. A few people warned me that it was severely habit forming, even though the drug claims it isn't. But I sluffed it off. After all, I had already formed a habit with alcohol so naturally I had this Ambien thing on lock because you can only be addicted to one substance at a time haha!

When Google fucking nails it.

During the six months before my assault, I started doing something I never did: drinking off my hangovers. Usually I would be so hungover I couldn't even stomach the idea of drinking any more alcohol. All of my hangovers were usually Never Drinking Again hangovers because I drank so much. But as soon as the time hit 5pm and I had convinced myself that one meal for the day was enough, it was ON. Drinking every other day became drinking every day within the last six months of my inebriated conquest. I mean, I had zero responsibilities. I might as well drink, right?

When women mention they have a drinking problem, it's usually chalked up to enjoying too much white wine at happy hour...

...and not drinking so much whisky you're physically unable to remove yourself from a sweatshirt.

My friend chairing the meeting also stated that everyone around him knew his drinking was out of control before he did, that he had lost control of his addiction and his life. The same occurred on my end: both my divorced parents spoke with each other, unbeknownst to me, to discuss my tolerance for pinot noir during holidays and family functions. Usually when my parents speak to each other, the topic of communication is usually centered around me, as I'm the only thing they currently have in common. But instead of discussing my finances or flights for the holidays, they were talking about how much I was drinking. My boyfriend at the time knew: alcohol helped me not as lonely when he was traveling, and because he traveled a lot, I was drinking a lot. I figured that no one knew how bad it was getting if I stayed within the confines of my own home and didn't make a lot of noise, but I was wrong. I joked numerous times I had a drinking problem, but I didn't accept it. I knew for months it was getting bad, but I was too afraid and ashamed to ask for help. Even when I went to the ER after getting assaulted, I couldn't even call my mom; I had to have my boyfriend call her for me. Alone and shaking from withdrawal in a hospital gown, I knew something had to change. My friend chairing the meeting said the same: if he hadn't lost his footing by trying to avoid not stumbling onto his dog and breaking his eye socket (like the ER technicians were worried I had done), he wouldn't have had such a monumental awakening to his alcoholism.

Left photo: going through withdrawal in the ER. I have a black eye and bruises on my neck, back, and chest. I got a tetanus shot for a bite on my left hand.
Right photo: 30 days sober. 

I was afraid of asking for help because I didn't want to be alone. I didn't know what would happen if I really buckled down and was HONEST for a change, honest with myself and others. If I was good at one thing when I was drinking, it was lying to people: how much I had to drink, if I was okay to drive, why I called in sick/drunk/hungover/someone died to work, how things were going with my life, why I didn't return phone calls or texts, why I was angry or upset with someone. I lied to myself a lot. My drinking career was Two Lies and A Truth instead of Two Truths and A Lie, that stupid game people play. That's what my life was, numerous lies surrounded by one giant truth: that I had a drinking problem and it was fucking bad.

I thanked my friend for charing the meeting. He received many good responses from multiple members of our small but mighty group. I've been going consistently enough now that I remember people's first names and what kind of cigarettes they smoke. I have the same spot I sit in every week and know who is going to sit across from me. It's growing my sober network that has allowed me to know that I'm not alone. Between inpatient, outpatient, and my AA meetings in Minneapolis and Seattle, I have numerous people I can call, people who won't turn me away at the first sign of fear or vulnerability. I am sober, but I am not alone. When I was drinking, I was the most alone, the island trying to climb over the waves to see land. I feared that becoming sober would leave me cast as a shadow without a person to follow, but really it was the exact opposite: I was alone because I drank, and becoming sober provided me with numerous people on which I can seek out in a time of need.

Today I have some of my ducks in a row, and I'm working on gathering the rest either by way of old Nintendo games or bread and a hammer. I was a fortunate drunk; I never had any serious legal issues or crimes to pay for. Somehow I never got a DUI. Somehow I never got a Drunk and Disorderly. Somehow I always woke up in the morning. And somehow I'm alive.

Sunday, September 6

All Quiet on the Tavern Front

Betty Fat Stacks rides again. 

The first time I joined a fantasy football league was two years ago. Although I wasn't new to football, I was very new to drafting, rosters, injuries, stats, and acronyms other than "NFL" and "NFC." But I was no stranger to talking shit on the internet, so the opportunity to join a bunch of young dads from my IT job in a virtual arena of trash talk and Tim Tebow jokes was something I couldn't turn down.

Draft Day was a Friday afternoon at the office. We carefully set up our laptops next to bottles of Grain Belt and pizza from Papa John's because we reached a general consensus that the draft would be incomplete without tiny plastic containers of garlic sauce. We drank most Friday afternoons at that job, and I was usually the first person to volunteer to go on a beer run with the corporate credit card. I'm not going to say it enabled my drinking problem, but it seemed to go hand-in-hand with my already established habit of tying one on while it was still light out. That's how most of the 2013 football season progressed: talking shit on Saturdays, drinking on Sundays, and being hungover on Mondays. 

And then I got laid off. The league dissolved because most of the teams in the league belonged to sad dads losing their jobs. We didn't even have to pay the buy-in cost. Even though I was no longer a part of the league, I was drinking at home like I was. I would still watching my stats during the week. Teams started becoming defunct due to important players left in during a bye week or after an injury. With my severance in my bank account, I was free to drink at home and talk shit on the internet to anyone who would listen. The guy I was dating at the time sure didn't give a shit, but maybe some distant internet strangers would feel for me, the girl who got first pick in her first year of fantasy football but no longer had a team, a job, or a boyfriend. 

Winter was inclement. The days were getting shorter, and I was guzzling from the government teat each week to drink whisky and cheap beer. The need to go outdoors lessened with no employment and a less fervor for comedy. When I did venture out, I was drinking in a place that had both beer and football. Last Thursday, I was at a show in Shoreline. I arrived early to eat dinner and watch the last preseason Seahawks game against the Oakland Raiders. As soon as I walked in, I felt it. The establishment I had just stepped into for the first time was a dead ringer for a bar I would have been caught drinking in. Everything from the smell to the stickiness on the floor, the burned out neon signage, the four kinds of frozen pizza available, the outdated beer coasters, the same 20 classic rock songs playing out of crunchy speakers with frayed wires, the regulars pouring out of their jobs and into the abyss. Everything about that bar told me to drink, to throw a challenge flag on my sobriety and bench my recovery. After all, I had spent years in places like that and it was where I was comfortable, safe, and alone.

But I didn't. I sat at the bar and worked on my set list for the evening. I looked up at the football game when fans became audibly distraught or excited. I drank my club soda and lime out of a glass that could be mistaken for a gin and tonic, or vodka tonic if you're a total monster. I texted friends, reaching out to say I was "itchy but determined." I knew I wasn't going to drink, but I needed some stepping stones in place to make sure I would succeed. I crushed my set, made some new friends, and drove home sober like I had planned. 

This coming Wednesday is my second fantasy football draft in two years. I was able to join a league with a few other comedians and staff from the Tacoma Comedy Club. I've been looking at rosters and trades and free agents and rookies and such and such. Every so often, another activity or place appears that used to be synonymous with alcohol. I didn't realize how bad it got last season. I blacked out during the Super Bowl and threw up so I could drink more after I blacked in, spent hours upon hours at Buffalo Wild Wings just for the domestic drink specials, drove home after watching games all day knowing I was well over the legal limit, made friends with other drunk fans only to not remember them until the next day when I saw photos I had taken with them, drank too much at local bars only to not have a way home until someone I knew happened to stumble upon stumbling me, and made a complete ass out of myself on numerous occasions, usually every time I drank. One drink always meant eight for me. I used up my drinking privileges. I hit my quota of drinks, bad decisions, and penalties. I need to make it through football season sober. But in reality, I just need to get through today. I don't need to prove it to others, just myself. 

I used to love everything about this (except for the Steeler's fans). 

Just like when I lost my job, the days are getting shorter and the weather is noticeably cooler. In the coming months, I'll have to face my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, numerous family gatherings, and Christmas to get through sober. These events and scenarios that weren't fun or worthwhile without alcohol, and I am determined to survive this part of the year, the part of the year where things started to become drastically sour the year before. 

I'm hoping that going through a less severe winter in Seattle will help my recovery. It got bad in Minnesota. Really bad. There were some weeks where the only time I left the house was to go to the liquor store. I realized the other day, while trying to replace a pair of shoes, that now I can just buy shoes. I don't have to buy shoes just for the summer, or just for the winter. I can buy a pair of shoes and wear them whenever the fuck I want. This realization wasn't exactly an upside to sobriety, but an unforeseen positive spin that reaffirmed that moving back home was a good decision. All for the sake of shoes. Seattle's winter is going to be wet, dreary, but not unforgiving. I'll need to layer up and get a good pair of rainboots to protect myself. And I think that's really all I'm trying to do: protect myself. In early sobriety, I was taught not to rent space in my mind to negative people or feelings. I try my best to accomplish this every day, and I usually fail. Alcohol took away my invincibility cloak, my protector, my shield, and I never want to take it off again. 

On a completely different note: I saw "A Walk in the Woods" yesterday with the family. And holy shit, was it disappointing. A movie based on two friends hiking the Appalachian Trail, "A Walk in the Woods" was originally a book written by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite writers I've ever come across in my reading career. I was introduced to the book in 1998 upon its publication because my dad designed the cover along with nature photographer Art Wolfe. 

Nice work, dad!

Every member of my family read the tale of Bill and his clumsily spontaneous and alcoholic friend, Stephen Katz, and their hiccuppy adventure from Georgia to somewhere in Virginia. And I'm determined to not make this into a "the book was better than the movie" review, but for fuck's sake, trying to capture Bill Bryson's stories onto film is a useless endeavor. His cheeky wording and descriptions are what make Bryson's books so entertaining. But casting two aging Hollywood actors (Redford and Nolte) who are supposed to be in their forties was a huge mistake. Nick Offerman even made a short appearance, and because Hollywood is known for typecasting, he went from his job at the parks department in Pawnee, Indiana to an REI employee somewhere in New Hampshire. I also learned that Emma Thompson and Natasha Richardson are not the same person. In any case, the movie was hugely disappointing. A number of themes, important totems, and imagery in the book didn't make the cut to appear on the big screen. The acting was notable in some areas, probably because Redford and Nolte are two old farts who are infinitely familiar with the industry. It's like even they knew that the movie wasn't going to be great. On a score of 1-10, I'm going to give it a strong 4. 

Hey, Bill. How do we get out of this movie?

I shouldn't bitch. The story is really great, but fell flat on its face. It's always so impressive to me when the written word can describe so much more than a moving piece of film. Bill Bryson also wrote a book titled "A Short History of Nearly Everything," a concise but informative and entertaining read about evolution, astronomy, time and space, zoology, nature, and science, all with Bill's cheeky undertones. It truly is a short history of nearly everything, everything we've known or encountered. It's because of that book that I know "mastodon" means "nipple teeth." Out of all the useless facts I've mentally gathered over the years, I'll always remember that one.