What I Didn’t Know: Alcoholism, Recovery, and the Order of Things

tiger1There was a joke I heard in elementary school.

How many steps it takes to put a tiger in a fridge?

Don’t know. Why…

How many steps?

Don’t know.

Three steps. You open the fridge, put the tiger in, close the fridge. OK? Now, how many steps it takes to put an elephant in the fridge?

Three.

No. Four.

Why…

Look, you open the fridge, take the tiger out, put the elephant in, close the fridge. Done.

Why… would someone put poor animals in a fridge? Who knows. Bored school kids come up with even weirder concepts, I’m sure. Well, I know. I was one. I used to think of so many things and came up with so many ideas. Eventually though I found I had no one to share them with. And then, with the course of time, I started drinking. I liked the effect and I didn’t feel lonely when drunk. On contrary I was happy, and half the time when I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t so happy, so I kept up with the drinking. And then reality kept catching up with me to the point I drank way more often. And then I couldn’t afford it, yet I still did it. Then I started visiting doctors and taking medications to deal with the consequences of that behavior that I really didn’t want to let go of. Nothing seemed to help. Then I was recommended to do something different. As a result, I came to a room occupied by complete strangers who told me that what was happening to me was called Alcoholism.

I heard of alcoholism, but I had no knowledge of it. I thought that it was something that plagued middle aged and older men that often slept in a gutter after hanging around liquor stores, sometimes in small companies, begging or intimidating people for money they used to buy liquor. That was all I witnessed, and that was all I thought it was: drinking, being mean, smelling bad, nothing good came out of that. It never occurred to me I could become one of these people. I was responsible, clean, and had other things to do instead of loitering and being obnoxious. There seemed to be a massive difference between me and them.

I also didn’t know anyone who would prove me wrong, so I didn’t know who to ask when I started having questions. And my questions didn’t last long, because I saw everyone drinking, really, so I felt my behavior was socially accepted. When I started noticing problems arising from my drinking, I figured that was socially accepted too. It seemed to me I just needed to give it some time to normalize, and then after taking a small break, I could go back to drinking without issues.

By then time everybody including my family, employers, school instructors, girlfriends, and the little of friends that I had, – they all knew I had a problem. I was the only one who kept denying the seriousness of it. I thought I could find the way to normalize my behavior and attitude toward drinking alcohol.

The strangers in the room proved me wrong after I already proved myself wrong plenty of times. And they also told me there was a way of action that would help me overcome what I was battling. There were steps to be taken for that way to work.

I’ve heard about Steps and going to meetings, but it took me time to understand the importance of it. However, there was one thing that I took to heart right away in one of my first ten meetings. An elder man said that when you sit at home and think about not going to the meeting, your addiction is right next to you on the floor, and it’s doing push-ups, becoming stronger. It’s a good image and for many years I know it’s the truth, and I still remember it.

tiger2The strangers in the AA rooms taught me about relationships and patience. They opened my eyes to the reality of attaining serenity and the fact that it was not a rocket science to attain it. But there were Steps. Steps to everything. Just like with putting an elephant in the fridge. Open the door, take tiger out, put elephant in, close the door.

I also never heard of a word “resentment”, so they taught me. I wouldn’t be able to learn that without learning first that I was powerless over the behavior that I for a long time considered a blessing. Learning that took humility, and without that accepting the concept of letting go of resentment just don’t work for me.

Thanks to AA, I had my eyes opened to the fact that I had to take care of myself, because no one else would. They would want to, but most of them don’t even know where to start. No one really knows what’s going on behind anyone’s eyes. In disease and addiction no one really knows how you really feel. We don’t willingly talk about our problems. Sometimes even we don’t know what the hell is going on, while we watch it unfold. Then there are people who do know, and they can help, but my self-will-run-riot will mess everything up if I don’t take heed and allow for patience and consideration. Crap hits the fan sometimes, and if I don’t pay attention, the result is, as Henry Rollins wrote, “sometimes happens all the time”. I guess if there is anything I know, it’s that. But I still tend to ignore that at times.

Last fifteen years of living sober were great. I think I did more good than bad, and I’ve learned from more mistakes than I ever allowed myself to in the past. I walk forward, and I have to take steps to do so. It works better that way.


the images were copied from https://www.deviantart.com/uranimated18/art/Heather-Opens-the-Fridge-and-Finds-a-Tiger-759849788 and https://www.flickr.com/photos/16446760@N00/3295951347 thank you.

 

To Raise a Warrior

vikings-headlineI went to a Viking Age society life exhibition at the local museum last month. I’m a Norse spirituality fan, so how I could I miss it? Beautiful exhibition, very well presented and explained. Besides the display of the artifacts excavated from the Norse soil, such as the swords, the ships, and the amulets, the museum provided a warrior battle presentation, played out by the Viking warrior and folk fans, travelling around the world. The brave folks dressed themselves in the Norse people garments and used the replica weapons to bring one another down in front of the packed auditorium, a crowd of which at least half were kids.

Each time a warrior fell in the one-on-one fight, the leader of the pack that explained the event to the audience, invited us to bring the dead fighter back to life. It was explained to the guests that the warriors who fought so brave must be on the way to Hall of Valour where they were so eager to go and party until the end of time. The only thing that could possibly bring them back to life is… well, party on earth. “Anybody knows what mead is?” the leader of the pack yelled into the crowd. “That’s right, Viking alcohol drink!” The crowd was then encouraged to yell “Mead! Mead! Mead!” to bring the soul of the dead fighter back to join the body so he could join the rank of the armed folks on stage. And so it went after each fight.

I thought it was fascinating, because the kids in the crowd, were brought to believe, for some odd reason, that an alcoholic beverage could bring one back to life from death. Yes, those are Vikings, to the majority they are all extinct for a thousand years except for TV series legacy. Yes, there is folklore, mythology, and other fun stuff to read about, and maybe forget in a month or so. Yet some stuff, especially fun stuff like that, it stays somewhere in the mind. What enters the mind acts out at some point, in ways we find unexpected and fascinating. How many future punters sat in that room? How many of them, like me, won’t be able to let go off booze easily in ten years?

Yes, me. I never heard of mead raising the dead, but I was actively addicted to alcohol for years, and without my version of mead, such as beer, I felt like a living dead. With it I was alive and could rage like a warrior running through enemy shores and their castle walls of the modern world, or at least I thought so. It made up fun reality for me. It was a kingdom of illusion I loved to keep alive for many years. It didn’t do me much good.

Blame on the Viking fans? No. that’s not what I write this for. This one is as usual for opening eyes. For thinking, while it’s still allowed to do so. The Gods brought us enlightenment for a reason.


the image was copied from https://royalalbertamuseum.ca/visit/galleries/feature-gallery/index.cfm and pillaged by me. thank you.

drink u pretty

Godwin Austen (K2) - 8611 mHe sang

He couldn’t drink the girl pretty

She really wasn’t it, I guess.

I tried to drink her pretty,

And I failed too.

Her name was Life,

Her last name was On-its-terms.

Must be French.

I was stubborn though.

I tried, and I tried, and I tried.

She wasn’t. Stubborn, I mean.

She just was.

She sat there like a rock

And smiled sadly,

Probably hoping I’d get it,

But it took me a while:

Years of anger,

Brain cells wasted in millions,

And hope in fellow men – in shovels,

Only it wasn’t their fault.

False hopes and unrealistic expectations did it.

I cared for things that wasn’t there,

Although all that time I had people

Telling the truth to my face,

Truth I didn’t like.

I always thought Plan B would work,

But I got to letter Z and I was still profoundly fucked.

Now I look at the sky with eyes sober

As the morning dew,

(unless the air got drunk on a whim)

And say “thank you” a lot.

I still try,

You know, coffee it pretty.

But I think it’s a different kick –

No one gets hurt,

And the bills get paid.

She still sits there like a rock,

But I know her smile is happier now.


the front image was copied from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/k2-last-problem-of-the-himalayas/554618/. thanks.

Eating at the Bar

oSo, we went out for a dinner. Girlfriend felt more uncomfortable than I did.

We had no reservation. We didn’t think we needed one on a Saturday afternoon, figured the place was large enough to fit in all… well, were wrong about that one. The only spots available were at the bar. My girlfriend, knowing of my life in sobriety, turned around to me and said that we could go somewhere else. I said it was not an issue. She asked me a couple more times if I was sure about that, and I said that I was sure. We were seated at the bar. Opposite of us stood a fridge full of booze. To my side – an altar of booze. Right in front of us the bartender was mixing a series of cocktails. I’m gonna be OK, I told myself and to my girlfriend who was twisting and turning on her bar stool and looking way less serene than I was.

We ordered food and then there was not much to do for a bit. We had some small talk. There was a party going on behind our backs. The bartender was fixing a massive jar of a cocktail. I don’t what it was. I used to chug beer and vodka and occasionally a wine, but I never had money for cocktails, so I am rather illiterate in that regard. But it was a captivating sight. So many shot glasses of whiskey looking substance was poured into that jar, I’ve lost count. I was really hoping there would be more than ten people drinking that thing. I was seriously worrying for those folks, whoever they were.

Overhead the TV screen was showing a hockey game. I don’t care for hockey, or sports altogether, but I had to look somewhere but at the booze all around me, so watched the game for a bit. When the commercial of alcohol came on, I had to look away. And to my surprise I realized that besides the alcohol, beers and wines, the fridge opposite us also contained a shelf full of sodas. On the lower shelf stood a four-liter jug of milk. Man, was I happy to see that jug! I just looked at it, and then at my girlfriend, and I felt happy J I wasn’t compelled to drink before that, and I didn’t feel intimidated by the walls of alcohol, my world was not going upside down, threatened by a compulsion or temptations, but the milk certainly provided some reassurance of some kind.

Thinking of it, I recalled several times when I’d head to a show and it would be held at a bar. In fact, those were so many. In the book of our guidance and inspiration it says we should be careful about where we go and if it is at a place where alcohol is served, what is our purpose of being there? And what an alcoholic music fan to do? Well, bang your head, or slam, or sit there and enjoy the slow dance, or what have you, but I never felt threatened by the presence of alcohol, although the people sometimes did cause some trouble under the influence.

However, no, I do remember a couple of times within the first three years of sobriety when I did feel intimidated by the mass of booze in my sight. First time, I opened the door to the club and the bar was right in front of the doors, no farther than two steps! I was shocked for a couple of seconds, but then the person at the door asked me to pay for the entry and was I ever happy to comply!

Second time it was a bit more intense. During a show at a different place I was looking around the place, at the crowd, at the stage, and then I looked closer to me and saw the bar. The lady at the bar looked quite attractive and with her, the whole bar seemed to shine brighter than the stage with all the strobes. I couldn’t look away. It was a rather amazing experience. I didn’t see the bartender anymore, just the bottles. Many. Shiny. Shit! I was sober for enough time to know that wanting booze and getting it would in turn get me in nothing but trouble, and I kept telling myself that. So, what I did was slide my gaze along all those wonderfully looking objects and move it up the ceiling. It took some time, but it worked. From there I moved my sight all along the ceiling toward the stage and lowered it to see the musicians rocking away. Form then on, the whole concert went fine without issues. Each time I am at that venue, though, I recall that incident, and I feel better and reassured, somehow, each time I look around and, all of a sudden, saw the bar. No more ‘freeze’ incidents like that occurred.

So, that latest time after being placed at the bar, we ate, paid for our food, thanked the very accommodating and welcoming bartender that served us, and fucked off. Yes, we were both very ready to go, even though the service and the food itself was quite good.

What have I learned from that? If there is a lesson in everything, then “take on an opportunity and respond with your best”, I guess. Man, was I happy to see that milk jar. I think there is always a milk jar somewhere when I go through times I am not particularly happy to go through. Hope it is there for you too.


the image was copied from https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/st-james-place-bar-and-grill-goose-creek?select=lzAQ_f8F996Kn-lkGy9UDQ and messed with by me. thank you.