RE: Loneliness and the sober line cook

“Now the thing that I call living is just being satisfied
With knowing I got no one left to blame”

Gordon Lightfoot, Carefree Highway (song 1974)

I knew going into becoming sober I would have to keep myself busy It’s not that I don’t do anything I do quite a lot of things, go to work mostly, ride my bike, help my wife and her mother with some of the landscaping projects around the house, play with my daughter when I have a day off. I write, or at least make an honest attempt at it.

The problem is that’s all it ever seems to be, just keeping busy. I have not had a drink in over a year and a half, and one question still persists. When do I start enjoying life again?

Don’t get me wrong the last year or so has had its moments. There has been however this overwhelming feeling of emptiness around me. I have been living in isolation for that time, what remains of my previous lifestyle, the one thing that I haven’t found a viable way out of, is my job. To make that work I have to put up with crazy schedules, always working weekends, and putting in long hours at night.  This leaves little in the way of time to schedule socializing during the day. Most cooks and other restaurant personnel take care of their need to blow off steam by frequenting bars, and night clubs, and house parties.

For a few reasons this isn’t a good option for me.

It’s not that I don’t trust myself as far as staying sober goes, I feel I have moved past that for the most part; of course I see no reason to test this on a regular basis.  No, at this point the problem seems to be that I find drunk people terribly annoying now that I am sober. To voluntarily surround myself with them more than necessary, well that seems like a good way to make my relationships with my coworkers a bit awkward.

This leaves me largely alone in a house full of sleeping people most nights. Fiddling around on the internet;  feigning interest at the comings and goings of antisocial networks and streaming bad television shows. Anything to occupy the time while wrestling with erratic sleep patterns and a short attention span.

And it all begs the question, what do sober people do for fun?

Well enough of that. I apologize for missing my regular publish time this week. I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts the past few days.

Hope you all had a happy Monday.

It’s Kind of a Long Story

I wasn’t an avid reader in my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I liked to read books, I just wouldn’t consider myself widely read. What got me telling stories was sitting around kitchen tables playing Dungeons and Dragons.

I started off as a bit player. The older kids had a regular game and one of them couldn’t show up. I was just the annoying little dweeb that wouldn’t go home, and some how I wound up spending the rest of the day fumbling around with a half-elven magic user and bugging the crap out of the rest of the group as they tried to explain the rules. By the end of that first session I don’t think I had a handle on what I was doing, but I knew there was something there I wanted more of. I loved being given the opportunity to be part of the adventure. After a few more tries I made my first ham-handed attempt at running the game. My first story had little in the way of plot but there was a dungeon and there was a dragon, the heroes prevailed and so I guess three out of four wasn’t bad for a preteen with a fist full of dice.

It all sort of ballooned from there. I spent the larger portion of my formative years geeking out with what ever game could be found. Fantasy, western, spy thriller, science fiction, super heroes; if you can name a genre I have been an active participant in a story of that fashion. My compatriots and I got to spend any number of afternoons describing as a group the various adventures of a universe full of protagonists.

My earliest writings that I found satisfying were in a journal that I kept as a way to pass the time while I was homeless and hitchhiked my way from state to state. It was a way to keep sane, my own little piece of mental real estate. It wasn’t my first diary, but it was the first where feel I was writing creatively. Not necessarily fiction, but lets just say that my life as a vagabond looked a lot more interesting on paper.

It was also the first journal I let anyone else read.

It’s a big step to let the general public into your head space. Let them read the things you think about in the dead of night, in the middle of the woods, with no one around but the crickets chirping at you. In a way that journal was the first step towards blogging.

I was dedicated to that journal, I wrote in it everyday (except for the time it went to Jamaica and back without me) until the swampy environs of Florida caused it to molder and rot apart. It’s so hard to have nice things when you’re a vagrant.

There is only so much rough living a body can take, so it does become useful to reenter society.  The upside of networking from scratch to obtain lodgings and a source of income is very time-consuming, and my relationship with writing became a little more erratic while I reestablished myself. All the socializing this required did allow me to bring together a rag-tag group of people interested in adventure games. This kept the stories flowing, gave me a chance to develop some skills, work on technique. A well thought out game is some times a lot of paperwork, a lot of writing.

My character sketches were becoming more like narratives, my plot lines more elaborate I was getting good at it. I started penning out a story, well technically typing but you get the idea. It was a nice piece of fantasy fiction. It was going well I thought. Somewhere along the way I became a drunk. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure it was a preexisting condition.

I got distracted. I forgot to write one day, then I forgot another day. Sometimes I would forget for weeks at a time. Then came a day when, in a fit of inebriated shame and depression I deleted the contents of my hard drive. A few years of drinking later and I can’t say I remember many of the details of the story.

Sobriety isn’t a second chance. Sobriety does make second chances possible, that’s what I have to believe anyway. At any rate if you want something you have to pursue it. I decided some years ago that I would like to be a writer. I failed in this endeavor the first time around. Now I’m ready to try again, and that’s not the only thing I’m taking a second shot at.

I couldn’t say if I aspire to write for a living. For now that point is moot, we’re not there yet. I am at best and out of practice amateur, getting some practice in, needing to keep these ideas from boiling over in his head. At worst I am grasping at straws, just searching for focus, a way to replace the booze. Either way I suppose it’s either try writing or go crazy.

For now I settle for writing, I’ll always have crazy to fall back on.

This essay  inspired by a  Weekly Challenge.

RE: Living With Your Decisions

“You can’t say ‘if this didn’t happen then that would have happened’ because you don’t know everything that might have happened. You might think something’d be good, but for all you know it could have turned out horrible. You can’t say ‘If only I’d…’ because you could be wishing for anything. The point is you’ll never know. You’ve gone past. So there’s no use thinking about it. So I don’t.”

Granny Weatherwax,

 From the novel Lords and Ladies by, Terry Pratchett (1992)

I’m not a big person on living with regret. This is not to say that I don’t have a few but I do my best not to dwell on them. Reflection is all well and good as is learning from the past, but I won’t  sit there wondering about what ifs. That way leads to damnation, sorrow, madness and most likely binge drinking.

That simply will not do.

In my personal life I am known to unabashedly speak with all honesty about my perceptions of things, I try to do it in an entertaining way. Sometimes of the time it is well received, sometimes it is mistaken for good-natured ribbing, a lot of times in my life I have come off looking like a mean-spirited, or bitter jack ass. These are the risks I take every time I open my mouth.

Once you say something or take a course of action that is it, you own that now, forever. If it wound up hurting others then you can apologize and try to make amends for it, but it’s still out there in the world. Life has no take backs or mulligans you have to keep marching forward living with yourself.

I have had quite a few bad episodes in my life. Fall, is a series of pieces that describe the aftermath of one of those episodes. It’s still a work in progress but another installment looms on the horizon1

Once, while extremely drunk2, I proposed marriage to a woman who I had only known for two weeks. She drunkenly accepted.  Two drunken fools both too stubborn to admit that what we had just agreed to was a very ill-conceived idea based on all evidence. The next day neither of us would be the one tho say it was a mistake. We lived together, engaged for two years before we really did anything about it.

In less than two weeks we will have been married for eleven years.

 Seems a unintended consequence of being that stubborn was that we spent enough time together to actually fall in love. So admittedly sometimes potentially bad decisions can work out in our favor. We have had our share of troubles but I sincerely doubt I would be as happy without her.

As I side note I chose a quote from Terry Pratchett this week because, not only is he my favorite author, his latest installment of the Discworld series is released in the U.S. on the 18th of March. I am looking forward to it becoming the first book I’ve read in its entirety since I quit drinking3

Happy Monday.


  1. I had to stop writing it for a while because it got painful to the point that I started to shut down a bit while I was writing. Thus the last entry feels a bit dull to me. 
  2. I should find it appalling at this point that most of my personal stories involve the phrase “extremely drunk” but such is life. Things have changed. 
  3. It became such a habit of mine to read while drunk that doing so sober has been a bit tougher of a challenge than expected. 

A List Everyone Should Have.

I’ve been a bit stressed out and angry lately, and things being what they are my morning yesterday started off as a grumbly one. By noon the whole day was teetering on the edge of full-blown conniption, which I was already prepared to blame on exhaustion, low blood sugar, and writer’s block. When I was packing up for work my daughter convinced me to spend a few minutes playing with her before I left. I’m glad I did because just that little bit of fun time really put me in a good mood.

As I pedaled to work, I began trying to brainstorm for a post that was past  due for publishing. Try as I might, I could not focus on one subject. My mind kept skipping around these random thoughts of things that just made me feel just slightly better when they happened. By the time I got to work I had a fairly good list going.

So I present to you, in no particular order:

Doug’s list of happiness in small degrees

  • Waking up in panic because I overslept, and finding out there’s still ten minutes of sleep left before the alarm goes off.
  • Having to pedal harder and faster than normal to make it to work on time, because my daughter needed to be pushed on the swing.
  •  Taking a long nap, with a small dog.
  • Finding common ground on a subject, with a friend I haven’t talk to in years.
  • That unbearably hot, yet impossibly delicious first cup coffee from a freshly brewed pot.
  • Overly large breakfasts, served piled high from short order counter.
  • Finding out I don’t have to work, on payday.
  • Foul weather, when it interferes with doing yard work.
  • Riding my Bike in a light drizzle, and making it home before the downpour starts.
  • My wife’s soft heart for animals, and her critical, hard-nosed approach for putting up with the human race.
  • The way my daughter sings, the same verse of a song over and over and over…
  • The look on my cats gets, when he spots a lizard he wants to chase.
  • That day in the middle of winter, when it shows just a glimpse of spring.
  • The fact that I can go back to being a drunk anytime I want, but haven’t after 519 days and still counting.
  • Having trouble finding time to write, because my family needs me.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking at the list I am amazed to see how common place so many of these things are and wonder why I’m ever in a bad mood. Needless to say by the time I got to work I was feeling great. I’ll have to remember these things and take an inventory next time I decide that I’m having a rotten day.

It leads me to wonder, what are the small everyday things does everyone else have keeping them from loosing their crap on a regular basis? What’s on your list?

RE: Tenacity

“Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.”

-Josey Wales, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

the_outlaw_josey_wales_by_stick_man_11-d4usng7

It seems like sound advice even if you aren’t preparing for a siege in a small cabin.

This has been running through my mind lately. It seems applies equally to maintaining my sobriety, getting on the bicycle some days (especially after not being on it for a few), and that sickening, self-doubt I feel right before I publish something on my blog; or any number of activities that give me reason to pause.

Image The Outlaw Josey Wales by stick-man-11 CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Please, feel free to share your thoughts on tenacity or something you struggle with in the comments or with a pingback.

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.”

5770042200_bc1b1f00c3_z

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.

I Don’t Think We’ve Been Properly Introduced

Cynical bastard stops drinking, rides a bike and starts writing about it.

That seems to be the gist of this blog based on the posts I’ve made in the few months it’s been up, but there is just a little bit more to it.

I quit drinking a little over a year ago and as I have sobered I began thinking about what I would have rather done with the time I spent under the bottle, I began to remember how much I enjoyed writing both creatively and keeping a personal journal. In the years before I allowed alcohol completely take over all of my free time I had even started letting other people read some of it, I thought I was starting to get good at it.

Then one day I just stopped writing.

I can’t exactly remember when I stopped, I am fairly certain that I was in the middle of writing a story that I was becoming quite proud of. Then one night, I decided that I’d rather get drunk  than work on the story; I set it aside and never came back to it. I don’t really remember much about that story anymore. Writing isn’t the only thing that fell by the wayside while I was a drunk, but I think it may have been the first casualty. Now I am getting my head space back in order and this has just been nagging at me so I have decide to return to writing.

I chose blogging because I want people to read my works, to give me feedback, and to help keep me inspired; besides making it public keeps a little pressure on to produce something from time to time.

I want to get back to writing fiction eventually and have done two very short pieces to date. Hopefully soon there will be more, once I feel a bit more up to it, until then I’ll be writing about what I know, just to keep my hand in.

Incidentally, my name is Doug. Pleased to meet you.

New Year, Same Me.

The past year was slightly different for me, few changes and some milestones. For some reason, perhaps it was an attempt to come out of my shell a bit, I started a Twitter account last January. I do at times find great amusement in it, however I have yet to discover any real or practical use fo it; I’ll chalk that one up to just trying something new. In may I celebrated my first year since I was fourteen in which I did not smoke at all. The end of September marked my first full year off the booze, though the way I have felt for the past several weeks indicates I am not quite free from it entirely. October was a month full of changes as I began bicycling on a regular basis, a thing that I need to get back to as the holidays wind down and my daughter gets back to school and my schedule returns to normal; it was also the month in which I began my blog, which would be another thing that I feel my focus on slipping just a bit. I, once again, engaged in my unique habit of growing one year older on the day before Halloween, a tradition that I plan on continuing for many years to come; I am happy to report that my scheduled midlife crisis is in full swing and is going about as well as can be expected given my budget. Not an entirely bad year I’d say.

I think the only thing bad I have to say is that I have not read a single book in the past 365 days. I have read articles, blogs, and essays but I could not bring myself to read any work longer than a couple of thousand words. This has been a thing with me since I became sober. I got so in the habit of pouring over a book while I poured beer down my throat that it has become practically impossible for me to separate the two activities; sometimes it seems like my addictions last stand. This is something that I am determined to overcome, as it makes reading to my daughter more than just a little bit frustrating. I also was supposed to read a friends first novel earlier this year and I very quietly got derailed from that, I owe her an apology.

By the end of 2013 I was in a bit of a funk.  A waning amount of sunlight, dreary weather, hectic scheduling in my personal life, frustrations with my job and lack of exercise have all conspired to fill me with a strong desire to remain in bed as much as possible and eat nothing but breakfast meats and sugar. The holiday season has always gotten me down and this is only my second time through it sober in many more years than I can even recall, so I guess we can count me going through a pint of ice cream and a ton of cherry soda each day for the past week or so instead of a ton of beer and a pint of bourbon as a positive.

To assuage my recent depression a bit I started the year off right. First I took everything out of my spice cabinet and threw out most of the crap I found there. All the stale dried herbs, the duplicates of spices I wound up buying because I thought we were out, the half empty tin of Old Bay, the Montreal Steak Seasoning that I have no idea how it got there, those spice rubs and season salts and herb mixtures that have been gifted to the family over the years and never opened, the mysterious shaker of meat tenderizer because in the end it’s really just salt, and someone please explain to me what the hell Mrs. Dash is doing anywhere near my kitchen. I love throwing things out, it just makes me feel good like I just shed about a few metric tons of bullshit all at once. When I was done I neatly put the survivors of my purge back in the cabinet and proceeded to cook way too much food.

Living with my mother-in-law means learning to cook with at least one extra plate on the table and on New Year’s day my nieces were at the house while their mother worked her nursing job, a convenient excuse to make a rather large meal of rosemary and Dijon rubbed roast pork, black-eyed peas, collard greens and roasted potatoes. It was nice, the meal came out well, if a little later than I planned and preparing it reminded me what I like about cooking and I liked starting the year off with the family around the dinner table. It might even be nice to make this a new tradition.

Promises You Are Probably Not Going To Keep

Let us just imagine the average human being at a New Year’s Eve party, because that is where most people wind up making some sort of bullshit declarations of intended self-improvement, It’s getting close to midnight, they’ve been gorging themselves from the assorted troughs of food laid out by the host. If they smoke they’re probably sucked their way halfway through the second pack of the evening. They have, almost without a doubt, had too much to drink. In just a few short moments the clock is going to run out and it is going to be a brand new year.

Then what?

Is it even likely that, when the little ball drops that this person, this mere mortal is magically going to have the strength of will and the moral conviction to now embark on a journey of personal growth and spiritual advancement. They will rid themselves of one or more of their undesirable habits, or perhaps take up some new proclivity for exercise or other healthful activity.

What a wonderfully arrogant way to lie to yourself.

Quite frankly I think the whole New Year’s thing just cheapens the experience of doing attempting positive change with your life, its sort of the same way I feel Christmas does with giving or receiving gifts. I can’t recall a single gift I was given that made any great impression on me over the tradition and ceremony of the holidays in the long run. It is the unexpected gestures of appreciation and generosity that people offer throughout the year that always seemed make a larger impact.  I think that we use the custom of making those annual resolutions tends to lessen the impact of those promises; and it becomes just another convenient way to put off making those important changes for for a few more minutes or another day or until next year, rather than just going ahead doing those things now. 

Besides, no one ever keeps their New Year’s Resolution. right.

I don’t think I have bothered to make a New Year’s resolution in several years, and I don’t think I was very good at it when I did. I often wonder how many times I declared that, come the first of the year, I was going to quit smoking or stop drinking, or that I was going to start exercising, or some other nonsense. Chances are that I kept those promises for about two weeks, tops. I’m not sure when I got hip to the fact that I was basically unreliable, but all in all I think I’m happier for it. It’s not that I lack will power or resolve, after all I did finally stop smoking and sober up, and look at me riding my bike all over town. The difference was that I didn’t make any of that shit conditional on the changing of year. I was able to make these changes because they were needed and I made them as immediate actions without looking back.

If you need to change something in your life then make changes, not promises.

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.