Beer Cans

In the wilderness of insobriety, the landscape was dotted with beer cans. Scattered about a small existence. Standing in miserable chaotic rows. Stacked in columns of twos and threes. A sad, and dark forest. With aluminium foliage of whites, reds, and silver. Here and there a few standing in clearings. Lonely by themselves. Some partially crushed, teetering on edges of tables and desks at odd angles like some Suessian topiary. I would usually be found hiding amid the copse in the corner of the stoop.I would perch there, in the cool shade of numb inebriation, bitterly caw at the world.

 

Prompt
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Of Cigarettes and Alcohol

I was recently asked by a coworker, apparently out of idle curiosity, whether it was harder to quit smoking or quit drinking. I told him it depends on how you look at it.

When I quit smoking it sucked right away. It sucked for me and everyone around me. I was nervous, irritable, and moody. I was hardly able to concentrate on anything at all. I couldn’t sit still, and I couldn’t stop talking. In short I was a severe annoyance to myself and others. For months after my last cigarette I would still pat myself down looking for a loose pack. In the long run though, it got easy. I would find myself standing in line at convenience stores staring longingly at the tobacco displays. At some point I stopped thinking about smoking, mostly. I still have those few moments where I crave one, but I realize how stupid that is and it goes away on its own.

Not drinking was pretty easy at first, I mean once I got past the actual not drinking part. It took a couple of days to really sink in. Then the internal dialogue began trying to talk me into giving in. It became an unsilenceable argument about how I could handle it and I was just out to prove something. A never-ending torrent of utter bullshit, that still crops up on a regular basis. The farther out I get from my last drink the more time seems to crawl. When I think about it I now I still get anxious. I find myself from time to time nervously walking through beer aisles at stores. The worst part is that now, approaching three years sober there is still this emptiness. Like a hole somewhere that I nothing else will fit into, no matter what I try. I don’t have bad days with sobriety, I bad have weeks and months where all I want is to get drunk.

Because it would be easier.

In the end I explained it like this; When I quit smoking I stopped carrying a lighter on me. I still have a bottle opener on my key chain.

That’s what’s been on my mind this past week.

Happy Monday.

No Such Thing

“There is No Such Thing As Quit.”

That is what my father told me a few years before he died of lung cancer. He smoked for the entire time I knew him even while he was sick and dying, with breathing oxygen through a tube in his nose. He smoked right up until his breathing was too shallow to make it worth the effort, but by then he had morphine to help prevent him from caring to much about that.

It’s been almost two years since I stopped smoking; I had tried several time in the previous  25 years but it just never took. Quitting smoking seemed to get harder with every attempt. Tired, angry, and confused, became the normal state and I’m not sure how I made past the first few days. On day one I got to work and there was no coffee. Nicotine withdrawal, no caffeine and there I was surrounded by razor-sharp knives, lot’s of open flame,  what might have been (given the circumstances) the largest collection of aggravating people you could find without dealing directly with the government. Fortunately no one went to the hospital or jail so I was willing to mark it as a success.

Failure is an option

One of the hardest things is, that it is almost considered acceptable to cheat about it. In fact no one will hold it against you if you just start smoking again. People are so supportive of your decision, even most other smokers; but they all understand how hard it is to quit and if you “fall off the wagon”, well that’s OK at least you tried. 

“How long did you make it? Well that was a great try.”

“I’d have never lasted that long.”

“Aw, you were doing so well, what happened?” 

“Better luck next time man. Hey, can I bum one of those.”

All of the above is a bunch of bovine dung.

I’ve never told anyone but my wife this, I once bought one of those electronic cigarettes. I felt like such a coward for using it. Really if your going to breath in an addictive chemical, you might as well have some kind of health risk attached to it. Besides, now you have two groups of people who think you look like a schmuck, smokers and nonsmokers.

Finally There

The long haul of not smoking has been very easy, after the first few weeks. I got to a point where people don’t annoy me, more than they used to. However, even today I have little moments. I’ll be standing in a check out line and I’ll realize I am staring absent mindedly at cigarette display, or I’ll step out onto the side-walk and start searching my pockets for a pack of smokes that aren’t there.

I think I became a nonsmoker on the day that these small behaviors no longer bothered me. I’d like to think that this was what my dad meant about there not being such a thing as quit, that there are just things that stick with you no matter what. After all it was something I did for over half my life, it’s just a bit normal to miss having the habit. Now there are times I look at myself and wonder, how many toothpicks I go through each day.

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 I’m betting it’s a lot.

This post was inspired by a daily prompt.

Pointing in the Right Direction

Recently I was reading through the work of other bloggers and came across a post by Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger. In an article from January 12th, he specifically cites the Murder of George Moscone and Harvey Milk by Dan White in 1978 and  White’s attorney using expert testimony to shift the blame of the killings from the defendant to his dietary habits, which aided in White being convicted of the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter. This later became known as “The Twinkie Defense” in the reporting of the trial. It is a very well written piece and I highly suggest reading his full editorial, The Dissection of Blame

It was this passage from that article that gave me pause for an introspective moment:

“When our decisions and our choices, wreak havoc in our lives, we may tend to become more defensive, angry without knowing why. We are challenged in getting back on track, everything we do derails, and everything we try does fail. So we begin the dissection of blame, assigning each disappointment to a family member or friend.”

One of the things I find about my sobriety, is going back and facing all of the things that I had previously blamed on other people in my life. I walked away from the rest of my family when my parents died and later was angry at them for not being there; I watched my business fail from my inattention to the details and claimed my would be associates were accountable for not doing “their part”; I would hurt my friends and loved ones and blame them for being so fragile; I would shut people out and it was always their fault because, “they didn’t get me.”

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On and on I shifted guilt for my short comings and failures onto others and eventually, as I fell into my alcoholism, I would cite job stress, relationship problems, and social aspects of bar life as the reasons why I drank. When all of that fell away I wound up blaming the alcohol for why I was so miserable all the time. It was, of course, very easy to claim that I couldn’t stop drinking because I was addicted.

Time has proved all of these notions to be utter crap and now, living sober and relatively clear-headed, I am left to take hold of the responsibility for my faults and mistakes. I have to say it is a liberating as well as, at times, frightening prospect.

Image Credit: ThePointer by Gabe Austin CC-BY-2.0
Thanks To: Kendall F. Persons for inspiring this post.

Simply Over It

I want a beer. Once again I have hit a wall where I just am frustrated and pissed and I want a god damn drink.

I am over the holidays. I know I have only a couple of more days to get through but I am tired of this bullshit already. I am tired of rushing from place to place for that one more last-minute thing to grab, I am tired of the gaudy decorations and crappy music everywhere I go, and yes it is crappy; before you say anything let me just point out that if, holiday music wasn’t horrible people would listen to it all year round. I am fed up with constant nagging upkeep of this house. I was very happy with apartment life; where other people mowed the lawn and did the rest of the yard work. I am sick in general of the never-ending stream of tasks, and errands that always seem to eat up just enough time that I am always rushing to get to work on time.

I am not even going to get started about work right now.

I have had it with the periodic bouts of sleeplessness followed by several days of constant exhaustion and over sleeping. I can also do with out the consistent worry about the finances, my family’s health and what will happen if I get injured again, or what will we do if the car breaks down. I am weary from anxiety filled days when if I am left too long by myself I can’t quite tell if I am going to cry or just pitch a fit of anger.

In short I am tired of being a grown up, who has grown up responsibility and concerns. A bit over a year ago I’d just drink myself stupid and hopefully passing out before i started an argument with my wife.However, I have committed to a sober life and so I am fighting my urge to drink.

I know I am just going through a bad spot in my sobriety and I know it will pass but, this one has been going on for a while now and I just need a damned break from it.It’s okay that I want a beer, it’s fine really. I am allowed to want one. I just know that I shouldn’t have one. I’m not going to have one. I am just going to sit here and breath and write and eventually I will be alright again, at least for a while.

The Company Christmas Party

I am sitting at home this evening because I have opted out of the restaurant’s Christmas party again this year. I thought about going but it just wasn’t my best option, for a lot of reasons. I mean, I am not really a Christmas type of guy, but that’s a whole nother story. It has got me thinking about the last couple of holiday parties that have gone by and my life events of the time while I’ve working for my current employers.

2010 was a rather bad year for me. As the result of a drunken fall, I injured my shoulder which put me on a reduced work schedule; the drop in my income and excesses of my habits put me very behind on my bills and family and I had to take refuge in the home of my mother-in-law and her husband for several months. A small house  and conflicting personalities made for a stressful and volatile holiday season. That year at the Christmas party I was in a very dark place in my mind. Anger and insecurity about my abilities to care and provide for my wife and daughter had been haunting me pushing me deeper into my drinking and farther away from my real priorities. That year I sat staring into a fire pit drinking deeply from tall boys of PBR to was down the resentment I felt towards myself. The whole party I didn’t really feel like I was there myself; it was more like I was off to one side, looking in on my own life and finding fault with everything I had done. This is when I should have stopped drinking, right then, that night. I should have dropped my beer into the fire and walked off and gone back to my family. Instead things got worse. Oh, I “slowed down” for a while out of something resembling guilt, but I managed to start the New Year off with yet another drunken fall less than two weeks into January.

After recovering from my broken knee in 2011 I returned to work, and as the Yuletide season drew near things seemed to be going well enough. Despite the fact that I was still a drunk I was to all outward appearance, mostly responsible and upstanding as well as moderately financially stable; privately my life was quite a deep hole of self-doubt, disappointment, and a small amount of paranoia. Joining in the festivities seemed like a good idea. Overall that year’s party went quite well from a certain point of view. I sat, mostly in one place, chain-smoking cigarettes, drinking quite a lot of Kentucky bourbon and beer, and being complimented frequently about how much I was liked; It felt a bit like holding court. By the end of the night however it was just me sitting in a chair drunk and alone, and still drinking. The angry little part of me chimed in about how I could have done this all at home except for the part where everyone came around and blew smoke up your ass. I just had to drink myself right out of my own good time. After that night I began to do a lot less social drinking and a lot more of the lonely and depressing kind.

Which brings us to last year. I felt I was coping well with my habits; I even managed to quit smoking without killing anyone or getting a divorce, though there may have been a few close calls on both fronts. My management of my drinking was following along quite nicely on my “I don’t give a happy damn anymore!” plan, and I began to get in more and more alcohol fueled depressions accompanied by fits of towering rage. In a near perpetual state of intoxication focus was once again lost on the payment of bills and I was forced to face the undeniable fact that this was a pattern. I committed to sobriety and thus took the safer option of avoiding any situation where I’d be tempted to drink. This necessitated my absence from many events for a while including the annual company party. Last year I chose not to attend based on the easy to reach conclusion that I could not be trusted to not drink; I had only been sober for less than ninety days at that point and was one pleasant little exception away from turning back to the booze.

This year, I am quite confident that this would not have been the case but, I felt little would be gained in my testing my resolve on the matter. More to the point we had a rough weekend serving dinner to those fortunate souls who graduated this winter from the local university and I have been dragging along for almost a week now battling my December cold and I have to be up at six in the morning. I am tired and I don’t feel well and I doubt my tolerance would be very high in regards to sitting in a house watching my all of my coworkers spend the evening getting completely plastered. It’s nothing personal, they are all lovely people in their own ways but drunk people are pretty intolerable when you are not one of them.

I wish each and every one of the party goers Happy Holidays and maybe I will see one or two of them slinking home after I drop my kid off at school

I Thought We Had Gottten Past This

Over a year into my sobriety and some things still surprise me. I know I can’t insulate myself from the existence of alcohol. I have to see it every time I walk into a gas station or a grocery store. I have to handle wine and liquor all day while I work the line. I can watch my coworkers enjoy their shift drinks at the end of the night; hell even my wife will have a drink every now and then and I don’t even bat an eye. There was, however, a baffling event recently that has just gotten under my skin.

I was talking to someone the other day, a casual meaningless conversation; then they poured themselves a glass of wine. I could feel my eyes drawing in on the dark red liquid as it spilled into the glass; I could taste the thick, fruity aroma; hear the bubbling, familiar, and enchanting “glug, glug” sound as it passed from the mouth of the bottle, air beings gulped back in to fill the space left by the sweet drink, filled my ears; the sound so consuming that I completely lost track of what was being said. My heart was racing; I couldn’t remember the last time I wanted anything nearly so much as I wanted just one glass of that wine. I didn’t know whether to take their glass from them and drink, or shove the bottle out of their hand sending to to shatter on the floor.

On the verge of losing my mind, I had to face away until they stopped pouring. The strange thing is I don’t think the other person even remotely noticed what happened. Stranger still was once the pouring stopped the spell was broken, my moment of weakness gone like a wisp of smoke. Back to normal, alcohol returned once again to being just something that other people do and that I simply will not partake of anymore.

I know this sounds a bit melodramatic; I am sure it is hard for most people to get the grasp of having such a high level of infatuation with a beverage being tipped into a cup, but there it is That is what addiction is like.

It’s the crazy other half of that troubled relationship that you knew for years was bad for you but you stayed with them because, you were afraid of being on your own and they, let’s face it,  knew how to fuck and would do it all night no matter what. You had been on-again-off-again for a while; but now that you’ve finally called it quits they always insist on showing up at every party dressed to the nines draped off the arm of someone new, showing off what you’re missing. Always trying to corner you in the kitchen just to see if they can still push those buttons.

That’s probably a bad analogy, but it’s at least true in some respects even if it is a bit ham handed. At any rate I didn’t start this to wax poetical about my drinking problem. I think that this event freaked me out is because, in that one small moment, I was forced to focus on my addiction, instead of my sobriety.Thinking in terms of addiction leads me down a bitter angry road that leads into pitfalls that I have fallen into before so I have to tread very lightly when my mind wanders that direction. I credit my ability to remain in control for this long because I think in terms of being sober and staying sober, and filling my idle time with positive endeavors.

It’s good, in a way, that I had this little episode. It seemed close, but I like knowing that my will power is that strong. I know another thing to watch out for and can keep my guard up.