Sobriety involves a lot of detective work: searching for clues, making deductions, drawing correlation, quantitative analysis and analytical reasoning. For the mind of the alcoholic, we were in denial and our relationship with drinking was obscured by the compulsive nature of the disease. In so many ways we had to make concessions to continue to feed the disease including minimizing bad things that happened on account of drinking, compartmentalization, blaming bad things on everything/everybody/life so we could be the victim and feel justified to drink, tunnel vision (preoccupying ourselves on one area without all to protect ourselves from having to quit). It appeared that we were the victim of life and alcohol was our friend, our savior, our relief when, in fact, alcohol had paved these mental pathways to cause us to feel victimized instead of empowered. So when getting sober you have to go through the crime scene and look at some of these things in a new way.
Ex. A: “Oh, wow, I was giving my partner anxiety just by leaving the house to go to the store (thinking I was going to come home drunk) THAT’S why they were always stressed when I’d leave. I always thought they were mothering me or trying to control me when I was the one whose disease had created an unhealthy dependency scenario.”
Ex. B: “Oh, wow, my disease was fabricating reasons to drink by causing unnecessary drama and stirring the pot. Most of my life situations were no more unbearable than the average person’s day to day. In fact, comparatively, I have it better than most people in the world.”
Then further conclusions are drawn. The intent was not there, for instance. I never meant to harm anyone. The knowledge that your innate self is not bad or wrong and that most (but not by any means all) of the bad things you had done were in the course of your drinking life. Could they be related? And I know this sounds like an easy conclusion, but when you have been working for the defense for years acquiring evidence upon evidence to support that alcohol is not responsible, that other people were, that alcohol is the hero, etc., etc. this can be quite a radical notion. It takes a great timely divide to even begin to look objectively as this evidence, but then you start to really deliberate and put the pieces together. However, the disease is always there like the smoothest and best looking attorney of all time (Kaluah Kardashian) presenting an appealing case.
Thanks for taking time to read about the new drinking game you can play exclusively in your head! Should I have a drink? is a one player game where you go back and forth in your head deliberating over whether you should have a drink or not. Players that make it all the way through "Internal Dialogue" and reach the end without having a drink...win! Along the way players will land on spaces with either Validating cards or Rejecting cards. An example of a Validating card might be "No one will know if you just turn off your phone all day." An example of a rejecting card might be "It always ends up bad". You will also be stocked up with a deck of "Past History" cards which contain hundreds if not thousands of your past drinking experiences. If you are lucky you will land on a "Play the Tape" space and be able to draw from your "Past History" which will advance you directly to the winners circle. If you lose you will be given a "Guilt and Shame" card to store away for the next round...of drinks. Your biggest opponent is yourself, so hold your breath and see if you can successfully make it to the end sober. You're entitled to it, but don't tell yourself that.
When I launched into sobriety 7 months ago I’d forgotten about the mandatory month long bender that accompanied the holidays. When summer was over I thought the rest would be a breeze, but now that Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is readily approaching the Blah-lidays are really setting in. Here are some of the myths surrounding sobriety during the holidays that have proved to be false.
1. You’ll be SDD free
This acronym used to stand for Seasonal Depressive Disorder, but now looks like Sobriety Depressive Dysfunction. Where you once dealt with the winter grays by turning into a social twister that could detect even the slightest party you’re now dreading the invites that seem to be coming at you from an unstoppable tennis ball dispenser. Since you dumped all your old drinking contacts for new AA (Albeit Annoying [as shit]) enthusiastic home karaoke party junkies it seems as though the SDD has kicked up to clinical levels. The worst part is that the idea of being around people seems as appealing as having your body crunched into an accordian and set on fire.
2. You’re family will forgive you for hitting on Uncle Keith, falling on the turkey and almost burning down the gazebo at grandmas.
It feels as though these things happened ten years ago to you, but everyone else remembers them like they were from last year (the more accurate timeline). Since you weren’t there (mentally) it’s easy to move through life without the feelings associated with being a drunken failure, but somehow the family wants to put you to the test to see if you’ve REALLY changed by showering you with guilt like it’s fake snow on a Christmas tree to see if you’ll react and cut out or suddenly be the most exhaulted zen like creature on earth with the ability to apologize at will so they can feel validated at last for the rotten things they said about you. Nope.
3. You’ll be riding a “pink cloud”
With your newfound ability to experience pleasure without self-medicating.Don’t be surprised if the pink cloud never comes and instead your forecast shows more of a brownish-grey with black spots. You may not even be riding it, it could potential just be following you like a crazy AA stalker.
4. Food will taste better
Now this myth is actually true, the problem is that food will taste so good that it will become a substitute for the nurturing lost starting with your teenage years. You will feel as though you finally have the familial love you’ve been striving for as you watch Charlie Brown Christmas with your friends bucket O’ chicken, bucket o’ cole slaw, bucket o’ snickers and 2 liter Peter. Why you named him Peter is a mystery, but could have something to do with the high school crush you were too shy to ever talk to that you saw loading the car with his happy family in the driveway on the way to your mom’s house to help her cry through the first Christmas without dad.
5. You’ll have more money
It did seem like you had money aplenty, but then the month of December hit and when the demand of selflessness hit your desk the stress launched you into buying a 4oo dollar haircut. You now look great with your purple balayage and modern mullet, but as Christmas approaches your dreams of getting the family solar powered survival kits has been reduced to travel mugs from the dollar store filled with off-brand chocolate kisses and Christmas cards made from cutting a square out of wrapping paper. At least you bought gifts this year you tell yourself as you ask someone for a dollar in the parking lot.
So now it’s Christmas and your haircut cost 400% more than any gift you’ve brought to the party, the only one who seems excited about it is Uncle Keith who brought extra eggnog this year and as you approach the house your gag reflex is triggered by your sober red-headed cousin Eric singing “one week” by Bare Naked ladies. As you enter the maw of the dreaded party you can’t help but think if it’d be better if you were drunk. Then you see grandma’s gazebo through the back that has been rebuilt and beautifully strung with lights and a delicious enclosed buffet and you finally feel like your riding a pinkish-orange cloud as you think “I hope they have lot’s of deviled eggs in there.”
Being my first year sober through the Holidays, I can see it blows. First years are hard for everyone that is trying to abstain from their addiction; Pavlov and his theory of classical conditioning explain why. Some people use the word "trigger", I say "association". The first year of sobriety we have no other association with seasons, events, smells, interactions than those that revolved around our addiction. I drank kayaking, at baby showers (yes, I got fucked up at my friends baby shower), after a workout, in the summer, in the winter and yes, during Thanksgiving and Christmas. When summer came on this year and I realized I was going to try and dedicate myself to being sober I had to white knuckle it through the sidewalk eateries, the heat on my chest reminding me how good a cold beer would be, the smell of the flowers, the excitement of freedom. Excitement is a triggering emotion for me even more than sadness or anxiety. The call of adventure impregnates my loins and I feel the rush to the call of fresh experiences (not really impregnating, but sometimes). Unfortunately, the fresh, new experiences are freckled with nightmarish remembrances. So the first year is paving new pathways, creating new associations. Subsequent years you can say "Oooh that smell reminds me of ice cream!" or some new replacement, some better memory. Some of the memories I have of drinking will never be topped by what I experience in sobriety and I just have to admire and observe those for what they are. I can look at Vegas on a post card and think "What a great time I had there" and never step a foot there sober. Not even cause my Vegas experience was amazing, but I'll never top it sober cause the reality is that I hate Vegas.
...But you just can't seem to do it. Here are some simple recommendations I was given in my first few weeks of sobriety that kept me from the automatic hand-to-mouth I'd been doing with a beer can for fifteen years; The pre-programmed autopilot that was deeply installed in my hippocampus driving me to associate drinking with waking, eating, socializing, leaving the house, coming home, camping, shopping, etc., etc., etc.
1) Go To an AA Meeting.
There's no magic word that is going to snap you out of the disease, but alas drinking and using are just symptoms of other problems. AA, at first, will help you be somewhere safe where people will be more than willing to help you steer clear of the demon on your shoulder. Unfortunately, there are some really shitty meetings with folks too self-absorbed to help another person suffering and those meetings will drive you to drink. Luckily, there are tons of meetings at all times so if you go to a shitty one, leave and try another. And remember it's not you, there are people in AA who are not perfect, but no one, no matter who they are or what they've done, deserves to be turned away from trying to get better. Over time, however, AA will help you get to the root of your issues and deal with the daily battle of shame, resentment, entitlement, gratitude, fear, etc. through connection and the Twelve steps.
2) Play the Tape
By the time you are reading material about how to quit drinking you usually have a good roster of unfortunate situations you've brought on yourself. Play the tape means you think beforehand of having that first drink, then think about the second and so on. Play the tape all the way through to the next day. If you pick up a drink where will you be tomorrow? In jail? In a gutter? Next to a stranger? In the hospital? As alcoholics our perception is skewered so we have to try to stop our thoughts of having a drink NOW and replace them with doses of reality if we can allow them to filter in. If you desire having a drink think loudly or scream, "Play the tape!" The little guy running the projector in your mind just might do it for you.
3) Call someone designated to help you
It could be a sponsor or it could just be someone you respect and trust. As one Tedtalks I watched suggested 'addiction is the opposite of connection'. Our diseases were isolating and made us tell ourselves all kinds of things about how people don't love us and how we have no one. Many times we are the ones who have alienated ourselves and made it impossible for people to be close. Many people when honestly approached by someone in dire need will be willing to help at least to be available for a phone call. I'm not gonna say this 100% because there's some really miserable people out there. Keep in mind if someone can't help you, you probably don't want their help to begin with.
4) Go online to some sobriety chat rooms
AA has some message boards, but there are many others. I know it sounds trite, but recovery is a constant. Just like drinking was a constant, you now have to fill all those drinking hours with deprogramming, unwinding, reprogramming and learning how to walk again. These chat rooms are always available so if you can't make it to a meeting and play the tape isn't working, you can get on one of these and announce you're having a hard time. It happens frequently and that's what these sites are for. Tell them you are a newcomer and they will be all over that.
5) Message me!
I was once in the same spot so no judgement. Message me through the board and let's see what we can do. I know it's hard to reach out, but it's absolutely necessary if you want to stay sober.
Life does get better, but it takes a blind jump and a lot of faith before you get to see that. Remind yourself everyday that things are going to get better. The first month is extremely difficult. Every month after gets a tiny bit easier.
1. The lady at the liquor store says "Get out of here, I'm calling the cops."
2. You're sitting on a curb behind the car wash, see the cops coming around the corner and think, "Fuckin' liquor store bitch."
3. You're in a squad car uncontrollably crying about being molested as a kid.
4. The guy next to you at the bar says, "You already told me that story three times tonight" and you respond "Have we met?"
5. You are being carried to an unidentified room by two hairy full grown men and you're smiling because you think it's actually an alien encounter.
6. You crack your head open, but on the way to the E.R. your only concern is to insult the mother of the "asshole" at the bar that said you should slow down.
7. You fall down a flight of stairs and pop up like a jack-in-the-box on crack.
8. Someone accuses you of "Taking a piss on the wedding cake" and you immediately think "What a bitch."
9. You go to light your cigarette and singe off your whole eyebrow.
10. You realize the dog pillow you thought you were laying down on is actually just a pile of used kitchen rags.
Have you ever met someone so into recovery you almost feel like their new addiction is to meetings? You almost want to tell them they need a meeting to help ween them from all the meetings they are going to? It was hard for me to go to meetings because endlessly talking about drinking did not seem like a good idea to help me not drink. Also, they just seemed lame. Unfortunately, I've had to face the fact that anything that was getting in between me and a beer I made into something negative...and usually that negative association was that of being un-cool. Yes, I like to feel cool. That's not to say that these meetings are a panacea. There is a place in the book, and ya'll know what book I'm talking about, that describes the guy who has been a complete A-hole then turns his life around and becomes so dedicatory to helping others who have his same ailment that he neglects the people in his life just like he was when he was using/drinking. I know, I know...it's all part of the process, I get that, I also get that it's kinda lame behavior. By lame I mean it's not the perfect balancing act, it's not entirely the right thing to do. If making amends is as important as helping others than maybe spending too much time on your self-help isn't the right thing to do. Maybe the right thing to do is kill two birds with one stone and drop a meeting or two and dedicate the time to helping those you've pissed off, how bout that? When you are helping others it takes the time and space you'd be pouring vodka down the alpine slide of your esophagus. I'm not dissing on meetings, in fact, I wanted to mention the benefits of meetings while simultaneously airing some grievances because another thing I've learned is...when you make a bad list follow it with a good one. When you write down your fears, follow that with things you are grateful for. I'm not gonna stop complainin' so I better start learning how to say thank-you.
Meetings are amazing BECAUSE when you are an alcoholic it is hard to connect emotion to the degrading effects of alcohol because you were numb to those feelings while you were drinking. I call it “It’s all good amnesia”. Maybe you had a really horrible night, went to jail and swore off drinking forever. A couple weeks later you feel healthy and fine, but still would like to take the edge off and you convince yourself it’s okay to drink again. It’s no different than going back to an abusive spouse, “Oh, he’s not that bad.” Meetings remind you why you are not getting back into that relationship. It’s like having a group of friends that knew everything you went through and can say, “But he did this and this and this” while you try and justify him/it. At the end of the meeting you’re like “You’re right, he sucks.” When you admit you are powerless you are acknowledging that you do not have the capacity to see drinking for what it is because it is a "disease that tells you, you don't have a disease." As alcoholics we have to constantly be reminded of why we are not drinking because we're so strongly connected to the initial feel of that first drink that we forget the end result is not so tasty.
10 Things to say to someone who tells you to stop drinking
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #1: WEIGHT LOSS
Since quitting drinking I’ve gained twenty pounds. You’d think cutting out 4,000 empty calories a week would slim you right down. This was a large part of my incentive…the idea that I would be able to get into great-ish shape and then go back to sipping cocktails in style.
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #2: DETOX
My best friend used to say he knew I was about to go on a week long bender any time I mentioned I was going on a cleanse. I’d buy a flushing system at Whole Foods and three days later I’d be gung-ho in the other direction not answering my phone for days passed out in a random. People who tend to over do it apply that same philosophy to everything. Exit Booze, enter energy drinks. Exit Whiskey stage left, enter a bunch of candy wrappers in the top drawer stage right. Aaaand cut!
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #3: CASUAL SEX WILL END
Unfortunately, as my weight steadily inclines so does my romantic sex drive. So now not only am I a total teetotaler, I’m on the prowl constantly making me a total D totaller. You have to replace drinking with something and since developing a relationship takes time (ain’t nobody got time for that!) it’s easy to settle and settle to be easy.
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #4: YOU WILL INSTINCTIVELY KNOW HOW TO HANDLE LIFE SITUATIONS
With the instincts of a hawk on fire you will navigate aggressively through life as if any desk side chat were a fight or flight survival situation. Now any time plans change or you go through a job change or a change of address, any time you have to change your voicemail or your socks it seems like a MAJOR event, full of anticipation, anxiety and self-doubt. But alas, your new set of coping skills have arrived, they involve coffee and a bed. Time to buy gourmet coffee and a super cozy mattress because when you’re not hyper-vigilating to co-workers about who drank your red bull you’ll find solace in calming your bedridden nerves with 200 mg’s.
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #5: YOU WILL BECOME MORE STABLE
If you thought you were a non-emotional go-getter before, you’ve now discovered that you are a bi-polar baby, no better to care for yourself than Charlie Sheen sans tiger blood or an infantile crocodile waking up in a dumpster. Luckily, you can Youtube and Google “how to be stable” and just follow what appears to be 2,394 easy steps.
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #6: PEOPLE WILL SUPPORT YOU
Soon after quitting you will have this Aha! revelation where you realize that you are the same asshole you were when you were drinking. When you discover that everyone else has already had that Aha! moment you will literary be forced to invent someone that thinks you are cool or “a higher power”. In fact, you can invent as many of these as you want, just know that if you start addressing them loudly more real (actual) people will be deterred from hanging out with you.
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #7: YOU’LL BE SMARTER
If knowing quotes makes you smarter than you are a true genius. Instead of responding with quick and relevant remarks, you’ll be puking toilet amounts of stock quotes like “hanging onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. You’ll be the guy that sounds wise until someone else points out “didn’t Woody Allen say that?” or “Hey, wasn’t that Beyonce?” but alas, you have your higher power(s) that will listen to your quotes all day and validate you through your Youtube guided meditations.
QUITTING ALCOHOL MYTH #8: YOU WILL BE RESTORED TO SANITY
So now your twenty pounds heavier, an emotional wreck with an invisible higher power and the instincts of the MOAB. The only thing that could make you more insane is telling yourself that you ARE sane. In your mind booze restored you to sanity and sobriety has made you an angry slut that flaunts your post-drinking body like a large glob of fudge on two popsicle sticks. But, ya know, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there!” ←does that even work right there?
So wait, you mean when I quit using alcohol to feel instantly good the side effects are weight gain, higher need for intimacy, poor coping skills, social anxiety and general awkwardness? Oh yeah!!