A year and a half ago I put a moratorium on my drinking. Part of my “trap” included telling myself that I’d get in better shape and lose the pounds that 4,000 empty calories a week had piled on. My metabolism was so damaged from the alcoholism that I didn’t lose weight, I gained it. Anyway, after much dieting and lots and lots of exercise (including a 17 mile backpacking trip) I was starting to feel like I was in the shape of my life.
THEN a month ago I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I’m like of course I’d be the healthiest I’ve been in twenty years and get CANCER. Of course. This is just the pattern of my life. The video game producers of “Malia’s Life” just love seeing me in these compromising positions and find it humorous to see how I’m going to react.
My health has declined rapidly in the last month. The stress of knowing what is going on and feeling helpless is breaking me down. I find myself in this odd dichotomy that once upon a time I was drinking to fill an innermost need to bond…and it did. Now that I don’t have booze as a crutch I’ve been spun into a disease that I am finding out has so much to do with a need to be loved. The fatigue I feel is not a regular tired fatigue. It is an emotional, guttural demand for more nurturing than can be provided by the world combined. It is sobriety boot camp, facing the thing that drove me to drink and more than I’ve felt in my whole life (and this is coming from a woman that drove herself to the hospital to have a baby…alone). My life has been marked by loneliness and self-reliance.
My pregnancy led me on a path where I hit rock bottom. The kind of rock bottom that spiritual awakenings come from. I can see that this trial in my life is forcing me to let people in where I don’t want to. I want to do this on my own, but I can’t. I don’t know where I’ll be at the end of this, but I’d like to write so I don’t forget where I started.
Of course in times like this relapse is a consideration. Just feeling an escape from the knowledge and the unknown. I've often had the thought "Geez, if I could just have one day off". But like I said there is no day, it's a portal....I can't just bust in and out of realities like that unfortunately. The portal closes once I step inside and I'm trapped until something stops time.
So if you're like me dealing with a disease on top of a disease on top of who knows what else just know you're not alone...
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I heard a Tedtalk once where Johann Hari discussed addiction as being synonymous with bonding and it's antithesis as one of disconnection. In short, through experimentation they found that true bonding counteracted the desire to use. In one experiment they observed a rat in an empty cage with a bottle of water vs a bottle of heroine. Because 100% of these rats they studied continued to feed from the heroine bottle the researchers assumed the drug was to blame for the outcome. But when they set up the cage to include other elements: other rats to interact and mate with, activities and other stimuli...they found that none of the rats continued to feed from the bottle that contained the heroine and 100% drank from the water! In his words "What if addiction is an adaptation to your environment? Human beings have a natural need to bond and when you are not getting that from your environment because of trauma or something else, you will bond and connect with something because that is our nature."
Lately, I've observed people who are new to sobriety and now at 18 months I can see the struggle. The problem with coming off anything is that in the beginning we are unable to connect with people anyway. So these new people join groups, etc and when everyone else seems to be connecting they think geez what is wrong with me? Then they revert back to thinking about the tight bond they had not only with drugs/alcohol, but with their associations and those bonds seem to be more real and authentic than anything they could possibly contrive in their waking life. I'm beginning to explain this to people who come in, don't expect to connect right away. Expect to feel uncomfortable and like you aren't connecting. Expect to feel like a fraud sometimes, like you should be happy when in reality you are not. Learn to own your spectrum of emotions and be okay with it. Compound emotions are part of being an intuitive, sensitive, well rounded and joyful person. It takes a lot of blind faith to believe that time will fix your broken connection issues, but I tell people to shoot for a year. If life doesn't get better then there is no reason to do this. Maybe for some it does not, but I haven't seen that happen yet among the people I've seen come and go.
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Can't have one drink cause it leads to another? That's too bad cause I can't have one drink or it leads to a fucking PORTAL. Once I step in that portal, it's like I'm in non-synchronized orbit with the planet earth and although I may come close to it most of the time I'm far out, man. And I don't know when I'm coming down...
I hear people sometimes relate having one drink to just going on a long bender. I think it should be more closely related to the Matrix. You took the blue pill now you're stuck in a reality that closely resembles the one you know, but suddenly you can do all these cool tricks and stuff. When you go back to the grey and harsh reality of life you're like "I would like to go back to doing all those cool tricks". The grey reality gets better...cause it's real. In it you'll find the strong, real people who been through some shit and can laugh about it. If life isn't for laughter than I don't know what.
One drink is huge, it's symbolic of flipping the switch. That's why people hold onto their time, they start to realize what one drink means. It's not a drink, it's a PORTAL.
An affirmation is something you tell yourself in the mirror to try and get yourself to believe it. Blasphemy is when you speak negatively about something that is sacred. Positive blasphirmations are when you speak negatively in the mirror about something sacred thus taking away it's power. Plus the word "blasphirmation" is just pretty fun to say.
I had a roommate that relapsed and contrary to popular advice, I gave her some tips I had developed to help me be a better alcoholic. Of course abstinence is touted as the only way, but I found that I could program my subconscious mind while I was sober to perform better when I was drunk. And of course I am a proponent of simply not drinking, but easier said than done. I knew that she wasn't ready so I gave her these Positive Blasphirmations to help her be a better drunk. Always do these Blasphirmations sober and in front of a mirror. Repeat them to yourself as much as possible. The more you repeat, the more your subconscious mind will believe them.
"I do not sleep with homeless people" - Hey, a homeless person is just a person that temporarily doesn't have a house, no hard feelings, however, I don't want to be sleeping with any of them. If you repeat this sentence and go ahead and just insert "anyone" in there it actually helps a lot and makes your drunken self take a pause before you get in bed with anyone.
"I am a jovial dipsomaniac" - Telling yourself that you are a happy drunk and believing it with all your heart and might will help your self-conscious be your ideal wing man. When you're having fantasies of breaking a saloon chair over a guys head, your little voice will say "what are you talking about, you're a great guy, you don't do stuff like that, tsk, tsk!"
"I do not put keys in things while I am drinking" - Not your car, not your friends car, not your house, not your keys in your friends car. Once I tried to put my keys in a car I'd mistakenly got into and worked on that for a full hour before discovering I was halfway to a grand theft auto charge.
"I talk graciously to authority" - You tell yourself over and over that you are not a vigilante, you are not the uni-bomber, you are not Wyatt Earp, you are just a fine citizen with a 'polite' buzz who will listen to those in higher positions whose interest is to keep you safe. When you regain your sobriety again you can go back to your stance of civil disobedience, but leave your drunk self out of it.
Dead serious. I found these really helped and cut down on the number of party casualties I was having by at least 80%. The best way is to stop drinking PERIOD, but it takes something beyond will power for most of us to do so.
If you're really an alcoholic then you're really an asshole too. The correlation is +100%. If you are getting sober and thinking back saying "well, I wasn't hurting anyone besides myself" then I suggest you stay in your room and try not to bother anyone. An alcoholic is like the epicenter of an earthquake. The big quake starts with you, but everyone around you feels it so in relation to dealing with conflict everyone in your life is just as shaken as you when there is something that needs to be addressed. You don't like conflict and they fucking know it.
"Drinking is the symptom, not the problem" and the problem generally lies in our psychotic cycle of self-pity, poor reactions and egocentric adolescence we never grew out of cause we started using or drinking instead of practicing normal development and conflict resolution. Instead of coming to mature resolutions like "One of the only things I have control over is my reaction" it was "he, she or it is making me so pissed off I couldn't help but throw that $4,000 keyboard out the front door" [or insert whatever INSANE action and justification you went with (in my defense he was a SELFISH ASSHOLE)] so soon enough we were creating problems to drink instead of drinking because of our problems.
There's a few conflict styles I've seen with alcoholics and just like any recovery process identifying them is the first step in the process of change. Here are a few I have encountered and a contrast with how a normal, mature healthy non "addict" OR the ideal might compare:
The Defender: This person is always ready to snap back and always has to come out on top. Appearing very argumentative, the defender typically has stockpiled a list of ammunition against anyone who might even vaguely criticize something they have done. Internally, nothing you say will effect their ego, if you continue to push them they will simply blame it on your jealousy, your lack of reason, your socioeconomic status and the fact that you are just out to get them.
The Salesman: This person doesn't get angry, but they are filled with justifications even OJ Simpson would envy. Always having to be right, the will run rhetorical laps around you until you leave in a tired complacency thinking okay, you win, I just need to get out of here.
The Passive Aggresser: Passive aggressively and publicly they admit to doing things that they suspect other people of doing, they have a I'm-better-than-everyone-because-I-can-admit-my-wrongs attitude. Instead of addressing a problem, they leave notes or gossip behind your back with the secret hope it's going to get back to you. Instead of asking you directly if you did something, they say "somebody is blankety blanking and I hate it!" right in front of you.
The Aggressor: This person charges like a bull at any suspicion even if false. Their imagination can take them to some pretty crazy places and they don't have the mental intervention to stop and tell themselves to calm down and check the facts. If you've wronged them, you will know it and their irrational rage may never allow them to reconsider or forgive. Trying to get this person to the point of reason can be a daunting task.
The Stutterer: This person obviously doesn't know how to just spit it out. They approach things with words like "may have" or "maybe possibly" or "could you maybe have". You know what they are implying, but obviously they are too bound by fear of conflict to engage in it so they are just doing perouettes on the outskirts.
Conflict is the beginning of consensus, coming to a common denominator that we can all be happy with and should be looked at as such. Too often we look at our differences with blame and resentment. So and so is not doing things like I would like them too so in effect they are wrong and I need to fix them. We feel anger that we have to fix things, we feel shafted that they can't read our mind, we feel superior that we know how to do things and other people do not which causes intolerance and hatred. On the other side, we feel oppressed by others that are casting expectations and judgement, we feel resentful of those who are trying to control us and make us adhere to their standards and we are threatened by almost any approach that demands change. A more healthy approach is solution oriented and realizing that change, although uncomfortable is not a bad thing. When approaching others the first thing to think about is your intentions and if they are to create a solution or they are intended to hurt, belittle or overpower them. It's amazing what kind of conversations can happen when driven by good intention.
Note: I am not a motivation speaker, just a hack psychology major with a drinking and thinking problem that over analyzes everything and would like to embody these suggestions, but most of the time has the emotional maturity of an otter pop.
When attempting to get sober, it's important to identify our lists of triggers. Some of these triggers are easy to identify like a hard day at work and subsequent reward. Others kind of evade us until that moment when we drive by a car of yodeling Mexican's and think "Okay, that's weird, but that just totally made me want to drive my car straight through the walls of the liquor store." Here are a list of some potential triggers that might not come to mind immediately, but if you think about them long enough you'll be calling for bail money.
1. Phone battery is at 1%. At 15% you told yourself you had time. At 5% you started to mildly panic. Now your phone is 1% and somehow you feel like Bruce Willis in Die Hard except you lack the tools to disarm the impending boom. You know you are on a serious countdown to being alone with the void your own mind and somehow you're only problem solving skill involves a drink which will end up being much more expensive and time consuming than finding a friend or a store with a charger.
2. Girl yelling "whoooo" in the distance. Mind: "Must be a girl partying. She sounds like she's having fun. I remember when I used to have fun like that. I can almost taste the Long Island now. Hmmm, I'm thirsty. Oh there's a bar over there. Okay, I'll just go have one." Game Over, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 anything except random numbers, scrapes and cuts.
3. Being told what to do by anyone. Mind: "Who do they think they are? Wow, they really need to work on their approach. No one tells me what to do." These are common thoughts you might have upon being told what to do by anyone. We don't take authority well and somehow this is news to us. There's no right way for anyone to approach us and give us instructions and they are just as apprehensive about doing it as we are receiving it which is why the whole thing came out so weird and tense.
4. Drinking something out of a brown bag. If you do this with anything but booze you will feel like Martin Short in Three Amigos when he goes to drink water out of his canteen and it's filled with sand. You will feel the thirst. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHVpJGXZ21o
5. Patio Dining. Mind: "Oh man, look at those people drinking over there having such a good time. No fair." Aaaaahhhhhhhhh! You may have to just run every time you see patio dining. Tell people you are a patio dining phobe. You'll actually look stupider getting drunk in the middle of the day at a lovely patio dining arrangement then just seriously belting every time you pass one.
6. The Real Housewives of anything, Big Brother, Dating Naked as well as several other reality shows. They are fighting. Drinking. Shopping. Drinking. Working out. Drinking. Travelling. Drinking. Suddenly, you feel like you know them and they are your best friends. Soon drinking seems like a normal part of life again and you've completely forgotten how you know the detox unit at the hospital on a first name basis.
7. Having your shit together and looking good. It seems like you should only be triggered when you are having a rough day, but now you have money to lose and weight to gain. Everything is great, but your mind whispers to you that the only thing you are missing is a drink...then you'd really be great. All I have to say is play the tape motherfuckers.
8. Church. All these good people make you want to be bad. Maybe not necessarily bad, but definitely not one of them. You feel more comfortable in a bar than church, more like you can express yourself. Church isn't about you and that also makes it difficult. Maybe church isn't for everyone and that is okay. For some of us it's just better to avoid.
9. Car problems. There's a reason triple A has two A's in it. Never go without it if you are planning on being sober for any substantial amount of time.
The following scripts are at this point only hypothetical. The titles are listed first and accompanied by the plot lines, on the rocks with a twist.
"Twin Peaks" - Two empty glasses sit a top a mountain of shaved ice, they are dripping wet with moisture. Suddenly a stream of pale ale splashes into the glasses climaxing with a luscious foam head.
"Sex on the Bitch" - A midget lady holds an over-sized margarita to enhance the size while a man licks it slowly like it's a cat bowl. The margarita glistens in the sun and the sound of slurping is all that can be heard.
"Straw Wars" - A bucket filled with Jungle Juice and twenty straws is presented to a room full of thirsty men. They all grasp for a straw and begin to feast, all fighting for their spot as the juice level rapidly drops.
"Of Ice and Men" - A polished highball is seen front and center with a single spotlight from above. The bartender walks up and in one hand scoops ice into the glass causing an acoustic explosion. The other hand shows a martini shaker tipping so as to release a downpour of neon green thirst quenching liquid splashing against the side and bursting over the top.
"Wet Your Whistle" - A majestic Ice sculpture with a shot luge takes a full on load of Grey Goose. As the liquid runs through the hollowed out slide, it whistles as if someone was rimming a wine glass. A woman puts her shiny red lips to the bottom and guzzles the refreshing liquid while some excess drips out the side down her chin.
You know what they say, it's okay to look just don't touch!
Writing this was indeed an exercise in discipline. I feel like I just put the catheter in cathartic. Please do not try this at home, I thought it was going to be funny (it's okay), but damn am I THIRSTY now. When this happens I grab a sugar filled Rock Star or some straight up chocolate. It helps!
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10. You're a complete failure and so here take all my money.
9. You're a complete failure, but please don't take my money in the top drawer.
8. I have nominated myself to micromanage you and make sure you do everything correctly.
7. If you love me than you will not have another drink.
6. You had another drink even though I told you "If you love me you will not have another drink" so you must hate me.
5. Drinks on me!
4. So you can't just be like normal?
3. It's okay that you ruined the quincenera by shooting the pinata with a .22 caliber rifle and shitting on the cake, just don't do it again.
2. I'll murder you if you don't drink so you may as well drink because you want to anyway and now you can be alive drunk instead of dead sober.
1. You are a disappointment to your mother.
"Having a drink is like throwing a rock and expecting it to hit you in the face"
"One down means five to go."
"FEAR is just an acronym for Faith Eating Amoeba Regime"
"Be on top of your game or bottom's up!"
"Drinkin' reminds me of drinkin'."
"Speak clear or beer enter here." (point to mouth)
"Talking about drinking is like having a drink spilled on your subconscious."
"Next time you want a drink think 'What would I do if I was the me in the now, but the future me who was me made me past me so I could see how future me is able to quit."
"If you can't manage your drink than you'll always drink to manage."
"Take a load off or get loaded."
"Get lit or get enlightened."
"God's road is never closed for repairs."
I've gone one year without a sip of A-hol, a puff of reef or a tablet of anything. I used to take whatever passed under my nose, but my main vice has always been alcohol. There is something about drinking that drives my chemicals wild. The term "lit" is one that I understand. One sip and I'm "lit up" like an amusement park. I don't get drowsy or tired, I perk right up, get mounds of energy and can go all night.
My story is like this.... I was actually born into a Mormon family where I didn't see a whole lot of booze or anything growing up. It just wasn't something I thought much about or had curiosity towards. What I did have though was spiritual, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse in my home. By the time I was a teenager I was planning suicide daily. I couldn't escape the feeling that I was not loved and my life was not valuable. I had developed an eating disorder to try and control what I could and believed if only I was skinny enough that people would come to love me. I was starving myself, taking laxatives, on the track team running five miles daily and in weight training classes. When I was about sixteen I started to break away from my family and the church. I had always acted out, but my acting out went to the extreme when I ran away from home, shaved my head and got several piercings. That made me feel a bit of relief. I started smoking pot when I was nineteen and had a perception shift. For the first time in my life I made friends that I deeply connected with and smoking weed helped open my eyes to other ways of perceiving things. Up until then I was dealing with what I now see as chronic depression, but THC gave me the chemical shift I needed to experience real joy and to see that it was actually possible to be happy. I became a daily smoker pretty instantaneously. A lot happened during this time. I got married to a man that I had a wonderful relationship with. We were both messed up in our own right and the relationship had some toxic elements, but at the human level we had true love for each other. He started to develop an allergy to weed which had become a big part of my life. Instead, he switched to alcohol which drove me crazy. There were times in the end I was finding him passed out on the lawn and such. I was also starting to put one foot out and eventually cheated on him. Our relationship was also haunted by the issues I carried with me from the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. I was paranoid, controlling, jealous, reactionary, etc. He was very kind to me and often enabled my tantrums and episodes. Anyway, when that relationship ended is when I moved in with a girlfriend and my drinking slowly started to spike.
This is kind of hard to write about. I still find that some things are triggering to me.
But then I remember how my sobriety ended last time. One drink and I felt like I was back to the "real me" and wondering why in the hell I'd ever gotten sober in the first place. Then another ten year drinking span... Trying to avoid that.
Anyway, I started drinking with a lot of people. There was always someone to party with any day of the week. I discovered day drinking and thought the guy that introduced me was a genius. I started taking cups to work. Soon I was the one introducing others to my favorite bar tenders and to deviant drinking. My drinking came first above all else. I realized that no one could hurt me and if they did I'd take a shot. I realized that if I was lonely I could walk into a bar. I also saw that I could hustle and get things by hanging out with drunk guys, which also meant I was having a lot of promiscuous sex. The sex was mostly good and times were roaring and I felt cool, well-liked and with rock solid self-esteem.
Problems followed of course. I got pregnant, had to take a paternity test because I wasn't sure whose he was. I didn't want a child, but my mom hated me out of having an abortion. I lost my license and car and walked my ass to doctor's appointments with the shame of passing by neighbors who knew me as the party girl and the pregnancy looked like a joke. My boyfriend left me when my son was a year old. I was already experiencing bad post-partum and my obsession for my bf left me in a dark place feeling like I couldn't go on. Now I had a child I didn't want. I moved places because I couldn't stand to see the things we shared together. Both my child and I had a seizure in the following two months...his from a high fever, mine from what I believed was a broken heart, but probably alcohol withdrawal as well. A counselor over prescribed Clonazapan so I started taking those regularly while drinking. This combo lead me to go crazy and check myself into rehab. In treatment I did everything they encouraged, got my license back, but secretly planned on drinking better when I got out. When treatment ended I moved into a sober living house. Within three days I was walking in the doors drunk and getting the boot. I moved in with a guy I met at AA and caused him to relapse. We went into a full drinking spree all this time while I had my son. He managed to keep his job even though we were throwing back caseloads of beer. All throughout this time I had come to love my son and was trying to keep him away from the craziness as much as possible, dropping him off at his grandma's, etc. Trying to do fun things with him and teach him. That change occurred in treatment.
That relationship didn't last long, within a half a year things went sour and he had me evicted. Without family to go with, we moved into a homeless shelter for a month. Instead of feeling pity and like I had hit rock bottom I decided to "make it fun" by sneaking drinks into the facility and my son's father joined us with his guitar.
For a long time this attitude of minimizing the bad and "making things fun" was my special way of making alcohol fit in my life. I really believed it was helping me even though when I look back none of this would have even happened had I not taken that first drink.
My life continued to spiral out f control. I moved to Cali with my kids dad, got pregnant again. This pregnancy I drank through as my relationship with the kids father deteriorated. We lived together than broke up, moved back in together than broke up. Eventually, I moved out for good, but I was pregnant again.
Honestly, my story is much longer than this...much more detailed. There were MANY, MANY instances of waking up in Motorcycle shops or on church front lawns. Instances where I didn't remember how I got home. Roommates angry because I'd depleted their alcohol and replaced it with water. There were more relationships, more men. STD's and testing. Thousands of black outs...and that is not an exaggeration. Through it all I learned to be alone and lean on a drink to carry me.
Flash forward to a year ago. February 26 I received a call from my mom in Utah saying that my brother-in-law did not return home from a trip where he flew my niece and nephew out to southern Arizona. He was supposed to have been home at ten o'clock and my pregnant sister woke up to silence. Teams were sent out to search for him. A nail biting two days went by where we hoped for the best, but secretly the worst was plaguing our subconscious minds. When they found the plane there were no survivors. My heart shattered and pain greater than labor filled my body.
I didn't drink that day. I cried and held my kids and shook in disbelief. Days went by where I wasn't thinking about drinking. I also thought a lot about my sister and the strength it was going to take her to go on and live her life. I went back to Utah, drove with my kids to go be with them. There were some slip ups, but I decided to pull from my sisters strength and see if I could go on without a drink. I knew it was negatively effecting my life I think at some deep level. I just said I would try. I hung out at a step house in the beginning almost full time. Did the meeting thing. Any time I wanted to have a drink I thought about my sister and her new baby and how she was living and dedicated to doing it with the worst possible withdrawal and craving one can experience, the need to hold your children. My children have become my everything. They were already important, but now they are the absolute reason. I can't erase my past and the mistakes I've made, which are magnanimous, I can only try and not be the person I was. I can try and be great which sometimes I get down on myself thinking there's too much damage.
It also helps that I met a sober friend and moved in with her. I knew I needed help being accountable. No one ever knows what exactly is going to help one addict or another. It seems to be a matter of timing and luck.
Thanks for reading my story, hopefully it will enlighten someone :)
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Bottom Photo Me
A writer living in Portland, OR looking to meet Chuck Palahniuk. Single mom to 2 boys, sales agent and lawyer-in-training.