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.


I had my last drink that night,BadPoetryLogo1
And in the morning you were gone.
Only a note by way of apology,
for being how I treated you.

You came back home,
Even when we had no home left.
Now I still panic,
If I wake up in an empty house.

We never lived here

“Daddy, did we used to live here?”

An innocent question asked some distance between a park and an ice cream shop. Maybe it was the butterfly that drew her attention.

An echo of shame bubbles to the surface. Memories of having to run for refuge during evictions from various homes, or the power being turned off in the Florida summer when the bill money got misspent on inebriation. Excuses made to hide the slinking back here after a night drinking. No rent money, but enough for a buzz.

“No, baby. We never lived here.”

Can’t really call it living anyway. wpid-cam00413.jpg

Re: The ongoing conversation

I need a drink.

I haven’t published a single word for over a week now.  This is despite my recent commitment to build better habits concerning that area of life, including joining a challenge for just that and that is  best I can come up with. A whole week of processing a long string of bad news, focusing mostly on uncertainties involving my housing status, which in the very long and short term screws with my finances. Literally, hours and hours of internal dialogue.

“I need a drink.” That’s what you got for me?


So I guess we’re going there, again.

I have grown quite tired of this conversation. I long ago have realized that drinking doesn’t solve any of my problems.

Except for the immediate one of wanting a drink. It might take two. Well okay, the usual prescription of about one gallon of beer and the better part of a pint of whiskey, that should do nicely.

The old habit is getting creative in it’s arguments with me. Citing real and imaginary statistics about relapse rates, as if some how I am entitled to backslide. I feel it is prudent to remind it how all those other times over the years I tried to quit count as relapses.

Shortly after I got married. Right before my daughter was born. After I fell and broke my knee. Every morning that I ever woke up and swore I wasn’t going to get hammered, but was ready for a party by sundown. All those times, yeah remember those.

The conversation eventually revolves around how much more entertaining life was when I drank.  I used to have a social life. I was a lot more fun to be around.

Yeah I was a fun drunk, that was true. I’m pretty sure I am still fun to be around. Quite frankly I am still the same lovable jerk that everyone laughed with previous to sobriety. I just have lost all taste for watching people get drunk around me. Admittedly I should get out of the house more often. Maybe join the PTA. That’s a funny thought.

But, it would be for my own good right. What about that article I read about drinking being good for the creative process. That sounds like it would sure help out with that writing thing there. They did a study and everything. It’s basically science.

I skimmed a 2013 article, which happened to briefly mention a study done in 2012, and now my drinking problem manifests a PhD in psychology. That’s really cute. It is equally adorable how it conveniently forgets that the subjects of that study were at a blood alcohol level of .075, my proclivities have lead me, at times, a bit closer to the area of .36. Let me say that again, point three six. That is roughly the equivalent of being under anesthesia. It’s kind of hard to write when you might slip into a coma.

I really do get bored with all this. The worst part about this ongoing argument is when it gets this loud it occupies too much of my head space. It pushes out other thoughts. I can’t concentrate. I lose focus. I become depressed. Well maybe I become depressed, and then I think about drinking.

Focus on that bit of circular thinking too long and you might go mad.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week.

Happy Monday

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.”


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

A Change in the Tone of the Conversation

Something I have noticed since I have quit drinking, is how people react differently to things I say. It used to be that if I joked about a friend being obviously hung over or I teased a coworker being consistently late due to their propensity to stay up late drinking every night it was good-natured ribbing, now I am being a judgmental prick. I can no longer simply ask someone if they’ve had a few, now I am accusing them of being drunk. These have all been part of my ongoing everyday conversations for years that have now been put into a new context, since shortly after I sobered up. It has been a slow and noticeable transition, starting with the early days when no one took it too seriously; I mean who could have possibly imagined I was going to actually stop drinking for real. Now that the reality of my sobriety has sunk in and I am no longer part of the crowd I get the impression that at times my particular brand of sarcastic wit doesn’t go over as well. I am willing to concede that maybe somehow now that I am not talking to people in quite the same way; for one thing I am not slurring my speech as much. I doubt however that I have suddenly taking the tone of some sanctimonious ass, or a different sanctimonious ass than the one I was when I was a drunk.

Needless to say that this has put considerable strain on my personal relationships. It also has made me more self-conscious and less likely to talk to the people around me when I am having a hard time with my sobriety. It’s not that they don’t get it; well to be honest I doubt most of them do get it at all but, I think they try. It is hard though, to discuss your feelings with people when you can sense them drawing away for fear that you are going to start sermonizing. More often then not the seize on any opportunity to change to a softer subject, like their dysfunctional romantic entanglements or the weather. I am happy to oblige them most of the time because all in all I realize that I mostly just talking to myself anyway.

It is frustrating because despite my intention to stay the same jolly jack-ass that I have always been, I know I have changed. I know that my inward changes have started to have an outward effect on me and people have started to notice. People don’t like change, I sure as hell don’t. Lately all this change has made me feel just a little bit lonely and isolated.

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.