Category Archives: Addiction

Drunks and Reprobates… bring ’em on?

I have many skills and abilities. Some are useful and some not so much. I’m a good cook, for instance. There’s a useful ability. I can also give a decent blowjob, also a useful skill, especially after several years of marriage. I can edit the hell out of anything in print, sometimes useful (sometimes just an annoying voice in my head because most people don’t concern themselves with using correct object pronouns and active voice and such). I can plan and deliver a pretty good lesson, especially if it involves grammar!

Among my less than useful skills are my keen knowledge of nearly obsolete Office programs; my ability to see a vehicle from a distance and know the exact make, model, and ballpark year of assembly; and my keen introspection, which does nothing for me at the moment but bring on waves and waves of guilt.

Here’s what I know about myself today (because, like the subtitle of an old blog of mine once read, I’ve been psychoanalyzing myself since the seventies):

My alcoholism has indeed progressed to a new stage. My cousin’s method of “following skinny bitches on Instagram,” i.e., using women who look hot for inspiration to lose those extra pounds, ain’t working anymore. I don’t even fit into the fat clothes I bought at a thrift store last month to tide me over until I lost my extra weight. That was during a blissful week of sobriety, when I had almost reached that “how could I have done this to myself for so long?” stage. Almost. Then came the concert, always my undoing.

Anyway, my introspection makes me aware of this problem. My alcoholism doesn’t care. And my intelligence can’t ignore my alcoholism. We’re a strange trinity.

Today I thought about some of the infamous drunks I’ve known in my lifetime. There was the friend who, after a night of drinking with me and my ex, ate a whole pizza in our half bathroom. We woke up to no leftovers and crumbs all over the bathroom floor and thought, “What the fuck?” I display that kind of behavior now—the double-binge—when I drink too much and feel like I need to put something else in my stomach and that something else becomes everything I can get my hands on. That’s new.

I also thought about the two friends my ex and I drove five hours to visit one weekend. Infamous drinkers, they were. I had been drinking with one of them since I was twenty-two (a year of firsts in debauchery and experimentation, by the way). We knocked at their door, and knocked and knocked. Finally, one of them answered the door in his underwear, bleary and vaguely coherent. They’d been drinking all day, knowing that we were coming to visit. That truth didn’t stop them. Because, eventually, nothing does.

Am I there yet? God, I really judged all those reprobates that my ex-husband loved so much. Now, I’m secretly one of them. Secretly. I can still call some shots and avoid mimicking the behaviors of people I have respected least in my lifetime.

Instead of reading this, you should probably be following the news…

Kool Aid Man… but the news is terrifying, so let’s talk about the state of mental health treatment in the United States instead:

I gave it a shot. I dutifully called up a recommended treatment center, I filled out a stack of papers and answered hundreds of questions about my personal habits. I gave them everything except my social security number, which they asked for, but which I declined to give. And what did I get in return? A bad, bad feeling in my gut.

That’s how it began anyway, with a bad feeling in my gut. Since this brief encounter with a profit-motivated addiction treatment facility, my feelings have evolved.

Have you ever felt that mixture of sadness, foolishness, and indignation after you’ve realized that someone is just trying to sell you the Kool Aid?

(It stings much worse when the peddler is a friend—For instance, I have a very good friend who started getting weird about a year ago, seemed to be trying too hard to make me happy. I attended one of her life coaching sessions, mainly to show my support for her newfound bliss, and I thought it was quite useful. Fast forward about six months, and I’m on the phone with her, trying to explain my need for peace, and she offers me a special private life coaching series, taught by hers truly, for the low price of $3000. Enter bad, bad feeling in the my gut—but I digress…)

 

I think the majority of mental health professionals in the U.S. mean well, but they’re just little people in a much bigger, much more powerful system. I think this judgey humorless robot doctor who now possesses a lengthy checklist that vaguely represents a lifetime of my impulsive behavior and alcohol and even sometimes drug use probably means well, but to put this whole stream-of-consciousness post into simpler terms, “She don’t know me.”

After getting steamrolled through her reductive questionnaire, which now, unfortunately, will become a part of my permanent record—there to fuck me if I want to buy life insurance or join the police force or what-have-you in the future—I waited in a very calming room on a very cushy couch while she scuttled off down the hall to consult with some other “professionals” with administrative-type titles about a recommended treatment plan for me. I never actually saw these people who attempted to decide my fate, and now I wonder if they existed at all. Perhaps, my charmless robot doctor just took a trip to the loo and read a magazine for a half an hour while I wondered about gravity of my “condition.”

When she recommended a treatment plan, a very expensive and time-consuming plan that would require me to spend every day of the next five weeks attending group therapy and doing yoga at the center—this is after I explicitly told her that if she recommended such a plan, I would not do it, that if she couldn’t offer a less-intrusive outpatient program, then we were just wasting our time (and my money)—I told her I needed time to think about it and discuss it with my husband.

Dr. Robot then handed me another stack of papers and told me I could discuss my decision with some other professional (whom I had never met and whose phone number I never received) when I came back next morning for “processing.” Man, this bitch was itching for my signature.

As you probably already figured out, I didn’t sign and I never went back. Like the time I slipped out of that weird job interview in the nondescript office building, but unlike the time I bought the timeshare, I didn’t drink the Kool Aid.

Sadly, I think that if this doctor had been more charming (or possessed any people skills at all), I might be sitting in a costly treatment center right now, costing my family so much more money than just insurance deductibles for child care and animal boarding, losing a potential new job, and losing and the job I already have because I’d be scheduled to do yoga at same time I was scheduled to teach. Since my stepkids’ mom is in charge of the neighborhood social committee, everyone I know would also know I was in rehab. NOPE, nope, nope. I’ll explore other options.

Even AA is starting to look good to me right now. Those people might be trying to sell me an ideology that I don’t entirely agree with, but they’re not asking for my money. I’d rather join a cult for free than join a group therapy treatment that costs thousands of dollars.

Ah, the things in this country that should be a part of our basic rights as human beings—basic health care, mental health care, addiction treatment—are all treats for the wealthy… But I digress again, and if you’d read this far, I’ve already taken too much of your precious time.  Thank you, and Namaste.

Time for the Big “R”

I run. I do situps, weights, and planks almost every day. I eat a lot of protein and fresh vegetables and grains. I hike beastly trails. I kayak when I can. And I always take the stairs. I wear all the accoutrements of a fit, healthy person—physically and mentally. I smile in all my pictures.

And I drink.

Sixteen years ago was the first time I can remember openly addressing my alcoholism. I told my then husband that I wanted to keep beer out of our apartment. We were consuming about a case of cheap lite beer a night, and I was exhausted.

“Why should I have to change my lifestyle because you have a problem?” He replied. And that was the end of that.

I knew I had a problem before that evening, though.   I was a drinker long before my twenty-first birthday; but it was after, when I found my people in bar culture, that I disguised my own habits by surrounding myself with those who drank more and who behaved worse.

That tactic succeeded—more or less—until my thirties, when I started to become the person who drank more, and who behaved worse, than her peers. It became harder for me to root out the foils. Those who did make me appear relatively sober by comparison were one or two blackouts short of falling down the well. Some, by now, have lost their jobs, some have committed suicide. Some have done even worse things.

Now I’m in my forties. Throughout my life I’ve had a few good years of sobriety—my longest stint was two.   But those years are so few in a lifetime.

Yesterday, I started seeing a therapist, mainly because my psychiatrist refused to allow me to experiment with “anti-drinking” medications until I proved to him that I was making some kind of real effort to sort out this problem. I even found an addiction specialist, and she told me what I already knew—alcoholism is progressive.

“Your methods for quitting in the past,” she said, “might not work anymore.” And they don’t. I can’t wait around for another inspiring catalyst—a hangover to end all hangovers, or a friend’s going down in flames—to make an effort to address this progressive problem. And oh, how it has progressed! How my habits and state of mind have slowly, but progressively, shifted from too many beers at the bar to too many little bottles of something stronger hidden behind the couch and in the pantry and dresser drawers.

Beer doesn’t do it for me anymore. I might as well drink cola. Both just make me feel fat and bloated and not drunk enough. I like wine now, and gin, and vodka. The buzz is faster, so I can drink them on the sly. I pretend I’m not a drinker now. That way, those who are concerned about me don’t need to worry. Unfortunately, my father can see the real me, one of the people I care the most about not disappointing. A former drinker himself, he knows the signs—the weight gain, the erratic sleep schedule and random outbursts. He gives me my space by pretending he doesn’t see, but he does. He can read me like I can read him, and I read worry and annoyance in his tone and on his face. And I’m an asshole.

But aren’t all us addicts?   Don’t we all disappoint? My own sense of morality can’t accept that.

So long story short—I think I’m on my way to the big “R.” Since I am high-functioning, and since I don’t yet show signs of physical withdrawal, my new therapist thinks I can manage to make a change in an outpatient program. Yoga and art therapy with the other drunks three days a week. I can do that. My schedule permits it. My insurance pays for it. It’s time for the big “R.” I can’t even say it. I’ll whisper it… rehaaaab

 

 

Behavior Modification for the Debauched

My mornings are always filled with grand promises to myself: I’m going to start a healthy diet; I’m going to stop drinking; I’m going to get up earlier; I’m going to write and read more and watch TV less. Yup. It’s 10:04 as I write this, and I’m still processing my second of two routine cups of coffee, hours past my early morning wakeup goal.   My coffee ritual in the morning, that nothing can officially begin until I’ve processed those two cups, is about the only routine in my life that I’ve built and haven’t strayed from since I was sixteen. It only takes a few weeks to build a habit. I’ve built quite a few and even managed to make some of them healthy habits. But the scales tip more to side of unhealthy in my world, and my success rate at kicking is much lower than my success rate at starting. I think coffee is the only habit I haven’t tried to kick at some stage or another. I mean, why, you know? Why kick coffee? I do much worse things to my body in the course of a day.

And speaking of those other habits, I’m going to kick them now! The diet starts TODAY. The detox starts TODAY. The munchies after 11:00 pm end TODAY. Blah blah blah. Now I really sound like a middle-aged woman.

I remember, decades ago, listening to my mother talk about the exercise routine that she was going to start any-day-now. She was going to start walking and riding her bike. Yup. She’s 75, and I think she’s ridden a bike ten times in the past three decades. Her get-up-and-go got up and went before she even tried to start that habit. Am I gonna be like my mom and talk about what I need to do for the rest of my life? Or my mother-in-law, who has been talking about starting a diet since the eighties? I heard one time she actually did stick to a diet and lost like forty pounds. I think my husband might have been in middle school or something—it was that long ago. But it was a triumph she still talks about. She has plans to return to that svelte woman who looked so good in a red dress at her 40-something year-old son’s Bar Mitzvah. Ahhhhhh! I can’t do this to myself. I can’t become these women who I am so eerily resembling at the moment.

Well, then I guess I have to cultivate and maintain some good behaviors for at least three weeks, the minimum amount of time it takes for a behavior to become a habit. Let’s start today. Why not, right? Tomorrow’s not gonna hold any more promise than today for getting my life back. It’s April 14th. I must maintain my good behaviors until at least May 5. I can do that. I can do that, right?  Yeah, I can do that.

 

 

A Week in the Life

This has been a heck of a 40something week.  A friend sent me a thank-you letter for driving six hours to attend her mother’s funeral a year ago this Monday; one of my mom’s closest frenemies passed away the day my mother got back to town from her month-long visit to relatives’ houses.  Mom had her knock-off Michael Kors on her arm and the car keys in her hand when she checked her email for the hospice address and found a follow-up:  “Don’t bother.”

What else happened this week?  Well, I realized that my self-prescribed 40mg. dose of Flouxetine is a bit much in sobriety.  On 40mg. of Flu, I don’t sleep the very rewarding-because-I-gotta-get-something-out-of-this deep sleep of the non-drinker.   Instead, I wake up 100 times and stare at the ceiling fan or rearrange my arms and legs around my blankets and pillows, just like I used to do when I’d wake up at 4 in the morning with a sugar high after a long night of designer beer with high alcohol content.

(And not to be tangential, but remember when designer beer first started appearing on the shelves?  Prior to those years, I had thought that Molsen Golden was a beer as fine as a seven-and-a-half dollar glass of some local microbrew.  Now the shelves are glutted with choices, and consumers are bored, so they’re making it themselves.)

Which brings me back to my week—friends, death, sleeping, friends.  These are the worries of this 40something woman.  Oh, and then there’s the kids’ growing up and roaming aimlessly after school and not calling you to tell you where they are and then, after you finally track them down right before calling the police, having to have “that talk” about trust and responsibility.   Fuuuuuuuuck.

I didn’t sign up for that part (well, I actually did.), but it’s a hoot compared to my Mom’s stage in her life.  I sent her a sympathy card for her friend, too, because why should only the family mourn the loss of someone they care about?  Even if those friends were co-dependently bonded and sometimes hung up on the other and bitched about the other and then turned around and stepped up for each other, they were still friends.  Some of my earliest living memories include this woman’s children, who are all forty-somethings like me now.  My mother’s and this woman’s friendship has existed as long as we have.

So, friends… I’m still not done with the week.  My dog had a seizure for the first time ever, on a hiking trail.  That’s the first time I realized that if something happened to an 87 pound dog on my watch then I would have to be the one to carry him to the car.  I’m gonna start lifting weights for real.  Luckily, the dog recovered, and I got him to the vet.  His declining health is not the subject of the story, though, but the fact that I used his declining health as an excuse to cancel plans with a friend.

My husband and I are the lord and lady of canceling plans.  We’re building up quite a rep these days.  I know why we do it, though.  We’re NOT in our thirties anymore, and I don’t mean for that to sound like we’ve become geriatric.   We just understand the benefit-cost ratio of honoring certain plans and canceling others.  We want to be active participants in all of them, but when it comes time to accept what participating means—driving forever to someone’s place, not being able to find a parking spot, wandering the Saturday streets full of loud drunks, and then driving home—we recognize the moments ahead of us are finite and decide it isn’t worth the aggravation.  Plus, I’m not drinking, so why go to a bar?  The benefit-cost-ratio is very high in favor of staying home.

And that’s my week, my unedited, written version of my heavily-edited week.  Somehow, I suspect I’m not the only one of my peers to have weeks like this from time-to-time.

Was it something I said?

Gimme a W!  Gimme a T!  Gimme an F!  What’s it spell?  Well, I don’t need to spell it out for you.  If you don’t know the acronym by now, then you just might be TOO old to be reading this old broad’s blog.

Something strange happened recently:  I almost LMFAO (in the past tense) when I discovered that my blog had been viewed 55 times in one day.  55 times.  Huh.  That’s more times than I’ve seen it, I think.  Was it something I said?  Probably.  Was it something I don’t remember that I said?  Perhaps.

I didn’t laugh when I saw those stats because I can’t believe people would read this.  Quite the contrary.  I sometimes believe that I have a story worth telling, something that might spark thought or conversation or even friendship (see “Why are the Forties the New Forties?”).  I laughed because I can’t seem to tell a story unless it’s accompanied by crisis.

Years ago, when I was blundering neck deep in personal and financial crises–a legal battle that went on and on, an unhealthy accumulation of debt, unmedicated depression, a job that I was flushing down the toilet, “new” parenthood, you name it–I sought some refuge in my oldest and best friends, alcohol and writing.  Actually, I didn’t seek some refuge there, I sought it all.  Almost every night, I posted some besotted rant in my blog about my husband’s ex wife or the thankless and misunderstood job of the stepmother, or the teacher, or whatever.  I was angry, exhausted, and unhealthy.  And people seemed to like those rants.  I had a solid audience.

Then, the wounds began to heal–we settled our custody disputes with my husband’s ex, we sorted out some of our money problems, we moved to a very safe and boring place, I found a job I really liked, I went on meds, then I went sober, then I lost a bunch of weight, and then I had nothing to kvetch about anymore.

For the past five to six years, I’ve distracted myself with a string of short-lived hobbies: gardening, repurposing old furniture that I found on the sidewalk, playing the guitar (today, I am fond of playing Cracker’s “Turn on, tune in, drop out”), everything but what really defined me for so much of my adult life–drinking and being pissed off.  Can those be hobbies?

I’d like to say I don’t know what sparked my latest first-world crisis that seems to have produced more thoughts that others are willing to read, but that would be dishonest.  I’m introspective enough to know what has shot me back out of the cannon.  I can even pinpoint the date–November 8, 2016.

I’ve gained a bunch of weight and started waking up with hangovers again, but it’s not all bad.  Those 55 views (even if some were same viewers going back) are my proof of that. And I am loving some of the material that these viewers produce–stuff about alcoholism, depression, alternative lifestyles.  Some write feel-good poetry.  Some write books.  Some have advanced graphics skills that make my blog look sloppy and primitive (soooo 2003). Give me more, please!

As for the crisis, I’ll deal with it.  I have to.  45 year-old drunks are unsexy.  Where’s that life hacks book, again?  I think I need a glass of cold water and some barbells…

Life Hacks, aka, “Fuck it”

My sincere but misguided stepson read a book recently called “life hacks” or something like that. I’m sure his uptight mother turned him on to it. The authors or editors or whoever have all kinds of great advice for people who won’t ever read a book of “life hacks” to solve their problems. Like this one: if you have an addiction, and you feel a craving, just work out!

Oh, gosh, golly gee! Now there’s a good one! Let’s break this life hack down to its particulars, shall we? I’m in a rockin’ restaurant with my husband. It’s got great music, funky food, dim lights, and a waitstaff with an autism spectrum knowledge of the extensive draft bar. I’d like to order some IPA featured on its menu of 100 beers, but—oh no—I can’t because I have an addiction! Well, thanks to “life hacks” I can solve this problem by working out! Allow me, please, to step down from my barstool and do some squats and lunges.

Yeah. Life hacks. What a pile of stinking shit that someone made money selling to a publisher. Even less realistic is the hack my stepson shared about drinking a cup of ice water in the morning to wake me up instead of my coffee. OK, let’s give that a go—from this day forward, I’ll just wake up at a reasonable hour of the morning, take an ice-cold shower and go for a jog. Because managing addiction is that easy, isn’t it? Nothing irritates me more than self-righteousness.

Here’s some life-hack-type information for whoever wrote this stupid book: If you’ve never had an addiction, if you’ve never struggled yourself with anything—eating, drinking, smoking—then you don’t know us. Your “life hacks” are a product of your sociopathic control-freak nature, and you can fuck off. Tonight’s life hack is “fuck off.” I think it’s far more encompassing than anything in your book.

Repeating history

I realize that I don’t contribute much to this blog, my only blog, my only writing outlet, in fact. I write a lot of entries that don’t get posted because I don’t know what kind of a point I’m trying to make. I write a lot of entries that don’t get posted because they’re for-real-and-for-true too revealing to the few parties that occasionally read the blog.   I write a lot of entries that just trail off… my boredom revealed in the white spaces at the end.

I’ve decided that I will post this particular entry in whatever state that it becomes. It will address a topic that I believe applies to the theme of 40s are the new 40s—depression, addiction, divorce, adult ADD, children, aging parents, politics, wrinkles, you name it. Everything applies to us, doesn’t it? We’re adults, and as a consequence of our age and our growing cache of wisdom and experience, we can come up with something to say about anything. We’ve been there, done that. And the younger generations that follow us will feel the same way after they’ve stopped believing that they can figure everything out.

Speaking of the younger generations, I have no hostility, some envy, and a whole lot of curiosity about what’s going on there. I have spoken to few people my age who don’t have a fantasy “do-over.” My husband would have been a medical doctor. I would have been a lawyer. My cousin would have been a boat mechanic on a pier someplace where the sun always shines. This is normal to us, and we see the younger people around us as simply younger versions of ourselves—people on the verge of making that one bad decision that will alter their lives. But what if these younger people aren’t like that? What if they don’t have the time that we had in the eighties and nineties to enjoy relative national peace, prosperity, and opportunity?

We know that people decades younger than us have one distinct advantage, and that’s time on their sides, time to figure it out, time to make mistakes, and time to revel in their youth. We did that. But I don’t see them doing that. I don’t see little “mes” in the twenty-something women I interact with and work with. I see women in their teens and twenties moving quickly, being savvy, and getting on with it in ways that make me wonder if these generations are exquisitely different. Did my mother see that in me?

Just like my mother and I are alien to one another and yet familiar, young people today are both alien and familiar to me. I wish them well because “times they are a changin’.” They will confront the new. I’ll observe it. They’ll fight to secure their survival. I’ll fight to secure my old age.   And sure, I’ll fight injustice where I can, and sure, I’ll continue to grow and develop as a human being. Maybe I’ll even write that pilot that I’ve been talking about since 2004. But they have decades and decades of a future to navigate. They’re gonna see some shit that we never will, just like we saw some shit that they can’t imagine (life without an Internet connection? How did we do it?). I wish them well, and I hope—I really hope—that they let us in and ask questions and respect our perspective.

Isn’t there some famous aphorism about history? About how if you don’t know what happened before you knew it all, then you’ll just become a tool to someone else who does?

Random Thoughts on Stupid Holidays

SONY DSCI did what I usually do on gift-giving holidays in our household, and I bought what I wanted—a heart-shaped box of good old-fashioned drugstore chocolates! Russell Stover, if you will, the chocolates of my childhood. My grandma used to serve those on occasions I can’t remember—maybe she just always had them around—just not in the heart-shaped box.

Drugstores are fun places to go on the night before Valentine’s Day. I stood in line behind a man who looked like maybe 65 buying a similar heart-shaped box, and I stood in front of a man who looked like maybe 75 buying a couple of cards and a KitKat. The onus is always on the man in a hetero situation, which doesn’t make much sense because the majority of hetero men have no idea how to celebrate a stupid holiday like Valentine’s Day. Imagine them planning a wedding.

Anyway, I was in line in a Walgreens between two old men buying last-minute drugstore crap for their significant others, the way it should be. Neither of these guys looked particularly affluent because the affluent around here probably give their wives and daughters jewelry and custom sweets from niche shops that charge four times what my box of chocolates cost (I’m sure there’s a woman within a mile of here who found a new car in her driveway this morning). I’d rather stand in a line with these guys in a Walgreens than interact with that other type who drive Mercedes and have no sense of humor.

Anyway, my dad is probably right about now, at 8-something in the morning, looking for a last-minute card in a supermarket. At least that’s what he would do if he were home. He and my mom are on a winter pilgrimage from rented beach condo to my aunt’s and uncle’s house to maybe a visit or two with a cousin and then back home. Takes about a month. I’m sure my dad will find his usual card and write something romantic inside of it like “Love, His Name,” but I’m also sure that—because he’s with my aunt—he’ll do much more. My aunt likes cool stuff and big productions. I’ll Facetime my mom later and get the scoop on the big plans.

So there’s a system for how one eats a box of Russell Stover assorted chocolates. I’m sure everyone has her method. Mine starts with the caramels, always. The smooth caramels go first, followed by the nutty caramels, before other caramel-like consistencies. Here is my hierarchy of an assorted box of drugstore chocolates:

  1. Cream caramels
  2. Fruit & nut caramels
  3. Peanut butter crunch (to give my jaw and my fillings a break after gnawing on the hard caramels)
  4. Molasses chew (caramel consistency)
  5. Nut clusters (dark chocolate first, then milk)
  6. Roman nougats (more caramel consistency, but weird fruit flavors)
  7. Coconut creams (I hate cream textures, but I like coconut flavor)
  8. Maple nut creams (ditto)
  9. Chocolate truffles (weird consistency, but still chocolate)
  10. Vanilla creams (anything beats fruit flavors)
  11. Whatever is left (fruit flavors)

I’m still eyeing that apricot cream with apprehension. My friend and I went out the other night and listened to sad stories live and later discussed our propensity for eating whole boxes of chocolates and/or cookies in one sitting. She, too, used to be a workout queen. She, too, also used to be a drinker. We have that kind of crazy in common that only people who live with addiction for their entire lives can really understand. Another friend of mine claims that these behaviors—hiding wine bottles behind the couch or eating whole boxes of Chips Ahoy or working out for hours—are all symptoms, not the problem itself. I believe her. I just don’t know what to do anymore.