Life After Booze

I passed a major milestone, or so they tell me.  Going 90 days without alcohol is supposed to be some big deal.  If I was in AA, there’d be a ceremony and everyone would clap and my mom would hug me & my wife & kids would cheer.  Hooray for Mark.  It’s such wonderful news.  Everybody’s happy.

Except for me.

I don’t get it.  I’ve struggled against alcohol dependency for so long, and I just dreamed of a day like today, nice weather, no obligations, no hangover, healthy and free to do whatever I want to do.  Only, I don’t want to do anything.  Nothing.  I’m just empty inside.  No motivation at all; just sitting around, waiting for bedtime, watching the clock and wondering why God put me here anyway.

I guess it goes back to when my wife got cancer.  I stopped everything when she was sick.  Nothing seemed important any more.  I managed to forced myself to go to work, I paid the bills, and the rest of my energy was consumed with helping her through her surgeries, chemo and radiation.  By the time that was all over, I was wiped out, I didn’t want to live any more, or think, or remember, so I stepped up my drinking, washing straight whiskey down my throat every day until I was completely numb.

It’s been over 4 years since I balanced the check book.  There’s a pile of paperwork 12 inches high next to the filing cabinet.  The workbench has about 7 layers of projects on it.  I can just barely motivate myself to do something, and when I’m done, I don’t have anything left in me to clean up or put the tools away.  And you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  Nobody cares.  Nobody goes into my office, or the garage.  As long as things get fixed when they break and the cars work and I keep getting a paycheck and I’m available (by which I mean, hanging around the house, sober and lucid), everyone is OK. It’s not ideal, but acceptable.

My kids both have iphones now.  That was something my wife has been wanting for years, so they could call us whenever they needed to and she wouldn’t have to worry if they were out with friends or something happened at school.  Unfortunately, it’s also turned them into zombies.  Since drinking was my one and only hobby for a while, now I don’t do anything that I used to: play tennis, upgrade the car, write programs (except at work), play guitar, listen to music.  The kids picked up on that, I guess, and since we’re not dragging them to baseball practice or to play tennis or going to a museum, they just spend weeknights and weekends glued to their phones, their video games, or usually both at the same time.

So I’m still the tortured soul that I was before, only now I’m sober and have little to replace the booze with.  My poor e-cig gets a workout on a daily basis, my cars get little to no attention, oil & filter changes are always late, I hardly ever wax my baby any more.  I did buy a new grill, and I manage to cook some type of meat on it every weekend.  That’s about it.  Then it’s back to work Monday, just watching the clock, waiting until it’s time to go home, then waiting for bedtime, so I can finally go back to sleep and stop thinking again.

I asked my wife how things have been since I stopped drinking.  Her eyes got big and she said Wonderful!  It was HORRIBLE when you were drinking, it was like you weren’t even there!  It’s so much better now that you’re available to us & the kids.  So that’s good.  She’s happier, the kids seem more – what’s the word – grounded?  Secure?  And I have time to do anything that I want to do.  If only there was something more to my life, a loftier goal than improving that brisket recipe, something that can inspire me, motivate me, make me into the man that I used to think I was.  Some way I can be as fun and intelligent and excited as I thought I was when I was drunk.

I guess it’s a lot like my wife’s cancer.  It really tore her down.  The chemo left her bald and drained of energy, the surgery scars still bother her, as do the missing lymph nodes in her left arm.  But she’s getting better, she’s recovering, and after a couple of years past the last treatment, she’s a different person: energetic, happy, busy.  Maybe, for me, it’s just like I finished the chemo.  The last round of whiskey shots are done, and now my body just needs to build itself back up again.  Like chemo, it kills the cancer, the depression and anxiety, but it weakens the whole body too.  And just like cancer, it takes time for the body to build back up again.

One day I’ll make it.  One day, like my wife, I will be an alcohol survivor, I’ll decide to just throw away all of those bills, clean off the workbench, and do something meaningful with my life.  One day I’ll smile again, have hope, believe in a brighter tomorrow, forget the painful past.  One day I will look forward to the sunrise, rather than the sunset.

-Mark

Update 2/7/14: Things are starting to get better.  My shrink put me on Zoloft in order to get me off of the Clonazepam.  It’s depressing to be taking so many pills every day, but hopefully I’ll be able to get off of Zoloft & Clonazepam this year some time.  I think the Zoloft is working.  I hate the side effects, like always being a little bit nervous & constantly noticing that I’ve been sitting on edge or have my shoulders up around my ears.  So, I actually caught myself smiling and even laughing.  Not often, but it has happened.  And of course I still have this infernal ringing in my ears that is driving me absolutely nuts, but that’s going to go away some time, I hope.

Hmmm.  I invoked the word “hope” twice.  That’s good.  I define depression as the absense of hope.  So maybe I will get better.  I hope I do.

3 thoughts on “Life After Booze”

  1. Hi Mark,

    I hope that I am allowed to leave a reply because; I am in AA and most of the accounts shown here seem very against it. For me it has worked. That is not to say that it works for everybody. It seems to work best for people who have given up all hope and will try anything to get sober. I read a lot about other cures. Malibu costs 67,000 per month. Declinol and last call and other Kudzu based drugs claim to have over 3,000 cures since their creation ( I don’t know when that was). If these work for someone great. AA has at least touched 5,000,000 lives and given a lot of people hope and sobriety. I have seen many people come and go in AA but there are many, Many that I have known for my 14 years of sobriety that are still here. In Birmingham there are about 100 groups and in each of these 10-15 with long term sobriety so that’s conservatively 1500 fully successful AA’s in one small city.

    AA is not for everybody, I agree with that. so why do treatment centers send everybody to AA. It’s because AA costs a dollar or is free if you do not have a dollar. You can sit in a clubhouse full of others who have similar problems and find some camaraderie, drink some coffee and maybe play a game of cards. For me the answer was finding a great sponsor and a small group of people with 10 years or more and doing what they did (in my own way).

    So what should happen when the Alcoholic/ drug addict leaves the treatment facility? The suggestion of many AA critics is that there should be long term multifaceted care (Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Healthy, living technicians, Physical therapists, do some yoga) is someone who won’t go to a few AA meetings going to be reliable for all this appointments This all costs a lot of money. Insurance is not going to pay for these professionals who get $50.00 – $100.00 per hour for years of therapy. People who won’t pay taxes for roads and schools won’t pay for long term help for people for the estimated 15 – 30 million abusers in America who need help.

    If a person ‘goes out’ in AA and comes back in it still costs one dollar per meeting (optional payment)

    AA is for Joiners. Those that are not may not do well in the group setting. even so a non-joiner could still come into AA and find one sponsor who you like and never go to another meeting. A skilled sponsor will guide someone to find their own program while using the 12 steps or part or none of the 12 steps. Step 1 which asks you if you are powerless over alcohol is a reality check. If you have trashed your life for 5, 10, 20 years and never been able to stop. you probably are powerless over alcohol anyway.

    The thing i have noticed in a lot of the folks who have tried other cures is they are a wreck after 30 days. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. Can’t drink, can’t go to their old haunts. AA gives the user a place to go for the first few years any day of the week any time of the day to find some relief. And it is free.

    I’m for dialog.

    It’s probably true that AA will not for a long time suggest Kudzu for helping with treatment but if it works I hope it will come to be able to support that someday. it seems to work pretty well.

    I got some Kudzu to try about a month ago and found that it cut way down on my compulsive Gun chewing and Diet Coke habit.

    Thank you for your wonderful Blog.

    If you don’t want to hear from me again just say so in a reply and I’m gone. If you want to discuss this feel free to criticize any statement i made.

    I m a happy, positive ex drinker

    16 years dry without the program – 8 years of hard drinking again and now 15 years in AA.

    Thanks for listening,

    Kimo

    1. Hi Kimo! Wow, 15 years in AA. That’s impressive. I’ve just passed 6 months sober, on my own, which for me is a looong time. I went to a meeting once, when I was a teenager. My girlfriend dragged me to a similar program for drug users. I guess it was OK. I’m not knocking AA; it’s an awesome, and as you mentioned, almost free group of people helping people, and I think that’s great! What I don’t like is that my therapist was trying to shove it down my throat! It’s not for me; one size never fits all, you know? I’m incredibly shy in groups of more than maybe 3 or 4. There’s a group meeting everyone goes to at work, there are maybe 100 people in the department, and over the past 7 years at this job I don’t think I’ve once opened my mouth during one of those “mandatory” meetings. But that’s just me. I was born with this crippling shyness, a fear of public speaking, and I don’t think I could ever overcome it without a stiff drink, which would defeat the whole purpose of AA. I do love the idea of people helping people through rough spots, group support helped my wife out with her cancer, it really is a good thing, and it’s helped thousands upon thousands of drunks become sober and stay that way. Nobody’s getting rich off of it, and that’s awesome. For most people.

      I’ll have to look up Kudzu; what is it, an herbal remedy? I’ve never actually chewed a gun. My wife won’t let me get one. I’ve chewed the heck out of a bunch of pens over the years, though, since I quit smoking. I have an ecig now, but I still chew pens a little.

      I welcome the dialog. Thanks for reading.

  2. Hi Mark, I really enjoyed your reply. I’m glad because I think we both want to help ourselves and others stay sober. Kudzu us a vine that originated in Japan and Korea. It was brought to America to help curb erosion on built up areas where train tracks run. it had no natural enemies so it kind of took over. Now if you drive through the south you will see dead areas of forest covered with Kudzu.

    I heard about Kudzu to help you cut down on drinking before I got into AA. I was trying anything to quit so I used to go to the health food store and buy Kudzu starch and made a drink out of it. Lately I see that a few treatment programs use it for it’s ability to make heavy drinkers drink less. I think it works on the obsessive area of the brain. I got some and sent some to my brother who is still drinking. after 2-3 weeks i found myself less compulsive about eating cookies, chewing gum, and eating licorice.

    I would say that it is pretty well proven that it will calm down that wild need for alcohol.

    You can buy a bottle of 120 pills at Iherb on the net. it’s 13 dollars a bottle so not expensive. they recommend 2 tabs in the morning and 2 in the evening so one bottle lasts 2 months.

    Good luck and I will keep reading your blog. And I wish you the best in your desire to find a good life with little or on alcohol. Also I know that by writing this blog you are helping others to find a better life.

    Kimo

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