Six months sober

It’s been over six months since my last drink.  I have been off of Clonazepam for a couple of months, and dropped the Zoloft about 3 weeks ago.  I hate life.  I really, really wish there were something more to it than feeling anxious all day and being awake fidgeting all night.  Very annoying.

The cravings for alcohol are long gone, but my best guess right now is that I’m suffering with long-term benzo withdrawal.  My ears started ringing while I was still on Zoloft.  I went through a time a couple of weeks ago when I was dizzy and my blood pressure fell & my pulse went down below fifty.  I went to my general practitioner, the on-duty nurse at my job site, my shrink and an ear-nose-throat specialist.  I’m perfectly healthy.  Or so I’m told.  Normal ECG, no hearing damage, good auditory and sensory response.  But, I’m still anxious, my body is restless but lacks energy, I’m losing focus and can’t remember words.  I now have a 20-pound weighted blanket to help me feel secure when I sleep, but I can’t lay it on my chest or I’ll get stabbing chest pain.

I know what it’s like to die.  Nobody believes me, but I swear to God, my heart stopped.  I was lying down and couldn’t move.  No energy, and I just felt so heavy, like gravity just kept getting stronger & stronger.  I fought against it, but couldn’t open my eyes or move my fingers.  Everything was quiet and I just sank into my mattress.  I was powerless to wake myself up, communicate, open my eyes, say or do anything.  I felt my chest fall into my back and I couldn’t stop it.  I breathed out and then, stillness.  Dark, still quiet.  I was expecting some sort of fireworks or angels or one of those out-of-body experiences.  No tunnel.  No light.  Alone.  Very, very still and completely without sound or feeling.

My wife thinks I’m crazy, but I know what happened.  I guess it wasn’t my time yet.  I woke up.  Somehow I forced a scream, which came out as a mumbled groan, and my eyes woke up to my pounding, restarted heart.  That day I bought some baby aspirin, which I take now when I can feel myself slowing down, getting heavy.  I haven’t, but I thought about, writing down my super-secret passwords at night so my wife could find them in the morning, so someone could get into my affairs and pay the bills after I’m gone.  I had a friend at work who got a pacemaker when he was about my age.  He was perfectly healthy, but an overnight monitor revealed that his heart slowed down to near death at night.  Doctor told him one day it’s just going to slow down too much & stop.  I’m pretty sure I need one of those, but like I said, nobody believes me.

If I do die, I want my tombstone to say “I told you I was sick!”

Other than the whole dying in my sleep thing, I still find every day a struggle.  I can only pray that God still has a purpose for a burned out recovering drunk like me.  Still manage to go to work every day, and to accomplish some small portion of our remodeling project each weekend.  My car is aging along with me; every day it seems to sprout a new leak, lose more paint or develop a new habit, turn on another trouble light on the dashboard.  The latest trick is after twenty minutes of driving, the transmission decides it’s gone far enough.  I can rev the engine nearly to redline and barely accelerate.  I guess 150,000 miles will do that…

I sincerely hope that eventually, maybe in another six months, I’ll be better.  I started working out again, and I’m taking more vitamins, trying to clear this fog and hedge my bet against the grave that will eventually claim me.  But youth is gone.  I’m in a daze, stumbling through life, no longer searching for anything, just trying to survive, pretending to be interested in the day-to-day monotony, keeping up with the bills and various obligations.

I guess it’s better than hugging a toilet though, right?  Yeah.  It’s definitely better.  Much better.  I guess I can only go up from here.  If I don’t go to hell first, that is…

-Mark

FRIDAY!  Last night I didn’t die.  I felt heavy as a rock, and I had my first good night’s sleep in a long time.  All of this anxiety is really wearing me down.  My wife reminded me that she’s seen me stop breathing at night before, so I’m going to yet another doctor for sleep apnea.  Come to think of it, my friend with the pacemaker, that’s how he found out.  He went to a sleep clinic and they woke him up and said, dude your heart just stopped, you need a pacemaker…

As I was reminded by hulioathome’s comment, I’m not really destined for Hell because I’ve been born again, into God’s family.  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  True that… thanks for the reminder, hulioathome, I needed that.

Have a nice weekend, dear reader.  It will get better.  If not soon, then eventually…

-Mark

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.

I’m still here

It’s been 75 days since my last drink.  I haven’t heard from any of my readers; maybe nobody is reading my blog any more, I don’t know.  But just in case, I wanted to let you know, dear Reader, that it is possible to stop drinking.  I can honestly say that even though I still have the urge to just take myself off the grid, plunge into something that will make my mind take a reality break, relax me so I won’t feel guilty all the time, I don’t want the booze.  The thought of drinking brings back a lot of bad memories.

It’s been a very tough road.  Along with the alcohol, I tried to cut back on the clonazepam, which was an absolute nightmare.  I’m seeing a shrink now, who put me on Zoloft, bringing my medication total to 6 daily prescriptions.  In fact, after I take my morning pills, I’m not hungry for breakfast.  Weird, huh?  I don’t like being on medicine, especially the stuff that messes with your head, but I’m following his advice for now.

Just a quick little check-in.  Don’t have anything profound to say.  Just wanted to tell the world, 75 days, I did it!  And so can you.

Take care

-Mark

55 days and counting

So it’s been 55 days since my weekend nuclear meltdown, near-death alcohol overdose, hangover from hell and drug-induced psychosis.  My ears are ringing, I have no desire to do anything, I have no interest in anything, I’m just empty, empty, empty.

It’s not supposed to be like this.  I’m almost 2 months sober, and I keep staring at that empty bottle of Jim Beam wishing I could go back to when it was OK to have a drink, I didn’t do it every day, and it was fun & it didn’t ruin my life.  I wish I could get excited about something, anything.  It’s my day off.  I watched two movies, ate a ton of junk food, smoked some meat, changed the oil.  Wow.  Can’t wait to brag about my “exciting weekend”.  What’d you do this weekend, they’ll say.  I’ll reply with a evil grin, “5w30, dude, Mobil 1 all the way!”  Ugh.

I now take five prescriptions.  Let’s see – reflux, cholesterol, blood pressure, plus I’m still on clonazepam, which my doctor won’t refill so I went to a shrink who gave me number five, Zoloft, for depression.  I’m a blob.  I’m numb.  I don’t even know if I’m here.  Really.  I have no hope.  I can’t imagine being happy.  I can’t imagine anything ever changing.  I still live in a crappy house, drive a crappy car, spend every dime I have trying to make family’s life better, am in significant Christmas debt, I’m gaining weight, can’t get motivated to do anything, and basically hate life and have nothing to look forward to.

Everyone else is so damn happy for me.  Good job, that’s amazing, wow, 55 days, keep at it!  It’s nice being around all the time, following my wife with the shopping cart, helping with the dishes, feeding the dog.  I still go to work, but I’m a clock-watcher; hardly anybody else is there now, all taking Christmas vacations, but I’m all out of vacation time so I’ve got to work every day except Christmas.  I still have the same problems I’ve always had; but now I’ve got nothing to do but sit around and think about them.  Every problem seems huge and unsolvable.  I can’t even spell without the stupid spell-checker.

So the doctor says once the Zoloft kicks in, about 3 more weeks, I’ll feel totally great.  Hmph.  We’ll see.  I guess I’ve made it this far; might as well stay dry until then, I don’t know.  It wouldn’t be the first time that, surprise!, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Almost nothing is.  Everything is great when you’re imagining, when you look to the future, see hope, and dreams, and when they crumble and die all around you, there’s nothing left, just an empty shell, robotically dragging itself through daily routines, just make it through the day, just make it until bedtime, just make it to work, just survive, just keep breathing, don’t give up.  All based on the glim, dim, fading belief that just maybe it’ll be better.  Eventually.

The promised land of sobriety sure looked grand from my drunken valley, but so far it feels more like a swamp than a majestic forest.  Just sludge and mud and bugs and heat and nauseating monotony.  This has got to get better somehow, right?  I mean, I’ve made everyone else happy, being sober – it’s bound to get back to me, eventually, right?  There’s got to be something for me in this life; after I’ve given it my all, sacrificed and slaved and worked and sacrificed some more; there has to be something, some prize, some reward, some compensation for giving my energy and resources to my family and taking nothing for myself.  Because it just feels horrible, when you do the right thing, and everyone is happy, except me.  I just don’t know.  I have a sliver of hope.  I can stay off the booze, pretty sure I can do that, but then what?  And why?  So I can work?  So I can keep fixing my old car?  So everyone will have their slave, the family fix-it man and bottomless money machine?

Life is just crap.  No wonder I started drinking.  Sober, it’s just so bland, boring and tasteless.  I sure hope it will get better.  I just has to…

 

One. More. Time.

I’ve tried will-power.  I’ve tried the Last Call program (see my review, below).  I’ve tried mind games, tapering off, metering my intake, switching to just beer, and nothing has worked.

Until today.

An important step in learning not to drink alcohol has got to be realizing what it is you’re actually putting in your body.  To save some money, I was going to buy some 190-proof Everclear, but the shop owner talked me into getting an imitation brand – same proof, more booze.  Nothing in this world could possibly be worse than no-name-brand imitation Everclear.  Popped the cap off, too a whiff and WHOOO! that stuff is STRONG!  Smells like rubbing alcohol mixed with jalapeno juice, gasoline and red pepper.

For a week, I put about 150 mL of that crap into a measuring cup, filled the rest up with diet coke, and choked it down.  Once I went back for more, took a swig right from the bottle, and gagged & sputtered for a good 30 seconds, which might not sound like a lot, but not being able to breathe as poison eats your insides out, not knowing if it’s going to stop, can sure put things into perspective.  Not to mention waking up choking on my own reflux, repeatedly, all night long.

So now I know the enemy, laid bare, naked and uncovered.  Not so tasty without the hops, crushed ice & lime juice, or 7 years of soaking in an oak barrel, are you?  Like seeing a prostitute in bright light.  EW! Is THAT what I f’d last night?!  I need a shower…

Not only that, but I’m just plain burned out on the stuff.  It used to make me happy, at least for a little while, and my hangovers lasted until maybe noon the next day.  Now, I skip the whole happy stage, go straight to zombie mode, and my hangovers last a day and a half.  If I drink on Sunday, I don’t dare drive, much less try to go to work, on Monday.  I feel like PacMan.  The more you play, the less effect the little dots in the corner have.  Now they don’t even slow down the bad guys.

So I’ve been doing a light beer every day or every other day, just to keep from going through a really painful withdrawal.  I have a therapist.  Kind of pissed at her.  She spent a good 10 minutes trying to talk me into going to AA.  I finally told her no, let’s just try this first.  She actually wanted me to do 90 meetings in 90 days; has no idea of my social paranoia.  I don’t do meetings; I can do therapy, but don’t tell me to go to a group of alcoholics, give them my name, have everyone hug me and tell me I’m still a good person.  I will punch them in the face.  The therapist gave me a directory of all the AA meetings in the neighborhood.  I burned it in the gas grill.

I’ve been having nightmares about college.  I hate college.  It took me years & years & years to convince my parents that it wasn’t my thing.  They always said it was never too late, I could always go back & get “my” degree, like someone is sitting around waiting to give it to me, already with my name on it.  In the dream, I’m always confused, can’t find the dorm, or my books, forgot to go to class, can’t remember my schedule.  But why now?  Why have nightmares about college, a vivid dream of being lost & reacting with rage when someone teasingly took my pillow, threatening him with a gruesome death – I haven’t wanted to kill anyone for weeks…

Then it hit me: it’s the stupid AA meetings.  It’s college all over again.  I don’t want to go.  I will not go.  if they make me go, I’m going to go nuts, kill everyone in the building, buy a huge bottle of whiskey, and pass out in the tub so I’ll drown in my sleep.  I have another session with the therapist in an hour.  Session number two, and my wife is coming with me.  If she mentions AA again, I’m leaving.  I don’t know if I’ll get drunk out of shear rebellion or if I’ll just bitch & moan about it the rest of the day, but I’d rather DIE than go to a meeting.  And if I have to stab someone (or myself) to get them to take me seriously, so be it…

I’ll update this  later.  I doubt anyone is reading this anyway, but it helps me to express myself.  I’m not a social drinker.  I drink alone.  I hide it.  I’m scared of people, mostly in groups.  Paranoid of being put into the center of attention, of being called on.  And I don’t know how to say No without violence.  Maybe the therapist can help me with THAT, before I choke her to death… or maybe I’ll do what I always do, swallow my emotions, be kind, wave goodbye, and pound the steering wheel all the way home as I cuss & swear I’ll never try to quit again… dead by 50, no doubt…

Update 8/30/13: Well, I’ve made it three weeks without getting drunk.  I had a lite beer today, as I did yesterday, but not the three days before that.  So, a beer a day for a few days, then a few days not, then a few daily beers again.  The therapist says that making it one month is important, because our brains work on a 1-month rhythm, just like a menstrual cycle.  Probably has to do with the phases of the moon, but in any case, after 30 days my cravings should go way down.  After three 30-day cycles, they should be gone for good.

I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve learned some relaxation techniques, and they really do work.  One is I imagine I’m in a place, any peaceful place that I care, but I have to imagine it in all five senses.  My special place is on the beach.  I can hear the ocean, see the waves as they crash onto the shore.  The sun is setting and the sky is lit up with a blazing sunset.  There’s a crisp, salty air as the night cold moves in.  I hear seagulls chirping nearby, and my feet are sinking slightly in the sand.  In the chilly night, my wife is hugging me, with her head on my chest as we enjoy the time together.  We have to leave soon, but not yet, which makes it even more special.

Other stuff I already knew.  Slow breathing helps.  So does progressive relaxation, which I’ve been doing for years.  We’ve talked about issues I have with my dad, she confirmed something I already knew, that he’s got OCD, and I’ve learned to pity him rather than feel like I’m under his control.  And I also quit coffee.  I’m back on e-cigs, but I did quit coffee, because I figured if I don’t get hyped up on caffeine, I may not need the booze to crash later.  So far, so good.

I want to tell you that when I start taking care of myself, and stop jumping up to help anyone who comes in my cube with an emergency, when I walk slowly on purpose or take my time & breathe before I check my email, well, people don’t like that.  I could sense it the first day after therapy.  My coworkers have lost their slave.  Oh, I still do the job all right, but I do one thing at a time, and I don’t rush like a crazy person because you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  In a week, day, year, ten years, NOTHING I do at work will matter.

My wife is still getting used to me being up and lucid at night.  The family likes it, I think.  The therapist kind of ticked me off the last session.  I brought my sweetheart with me, and I think she sees her as bossy and she might even be competing with her, because my wife knows more about me and psychology than the therapist does.  But I’ve been a good student, I’ve done my homework, I’ve learned what I need to learn and practiced it.

That’s all.  I have to go now.  I really think this is going to work this time.  I really do.

Update 9/16/13:

I made it 30 days.  Then I got upset.  I can handle one or two bad situations, but four?  I kind of lost it.  I got a citation from the city for having broken appliances, rusty cars, trash & building materials on my property.  They gave me two weeks to clean it up.  The only problem is, none of that is true.  The only thing I could figure is there was some stuff left over from the swimming pool in the back yard – a ladder, some pipes in the ground by the deck – and I was appalled that it was still a violation, since it’s been there for months, and enclosed by a 6-foot wooden fence.  The inspector said the complaint was called in, so I’m suspicious that my nosy back-yard neighbor phoned it in.  Jerk.

I drank, I got mad, I took that PVC pool ladder that I had made & hurled it at the back fence, yelling obscenities and don’t remember much else.  The next day there was crap all over the yard.  Now whenever my 14 year old son has a friend complain about someone, he says, You want me to throw a PVC ladder at him?  I cleaned it up all right.  Threw it all away.  And I still don’t know if that’s enough.  They won’t tell me exactly what to do, so for the last two trash days I’ve had all seven trash cans filled with sawed up old wood and PVC.  Now when I replace the pool with a big new one next year, I’ll have to do all of that over again.  Or can I?  Maybe I can’t build anything myself any more.  Maybe I’m not supposed to have any privacy.  Maybe I’m just supposed to go to work, come home, sleep, wake up, repeat.  And that’s it.

So there are four things that are bothering me, and I cannot change.  My neighbor will probably never leave.  My dad’s OCD will make me do things like spend all day yesterday in church watching my parents get a 50-year-anniversary blessing from some big shot priest with a big white hat.  My job is slowly killing me and I’m shackled to that cube for another 15 years minimum.  And I’m sick of having a car that leaks and rusts and breaks and doesn’t even have locking doors.

I’m late for work.  Noone will notice.  Oh, I went back to a beer-a-day again.  Drank 375mL that first day, then one of those smaller ones (200?) the next, then a beer, and that’s been almost a week.  Got a therapist meeting this afternoon.  Maybe she can help, but I doubt it.  This will be my fifth session and I just don’t know how I’m going to change anything.  I put the word out to an old boss that I’m interested in a transfer, and I’ve been looking at new cars in case I magically get rich, but I certainly can’t do anything about my OCD father, but at least we’ve paid our dues for a while, and my neighbor is at the very least afraid of me, if he was home while I was throwing stuff at his fence.

That’s all for now.  Struggle, struggle, struggle, then a painful death.  My life, abridged.

 

Someone pray for me

Well, I’m going to have a go at it again.  I’m going to try to control my drinking.  Yesterday (Saturday) I went through almost a half bottle of whiskey.  I started drinking in the morning, and I fell asleep and can’t remember what happened until about 2 in the afternoon.  I woke up with cuts on my hands that I don’t remember getting, and for some reason my muscles are sore.  I threw away a whole day; it’s Sunday morning now, and I still feel spacey.

Yesterday was the first time my drinking has affected my work.  I got a phone call from someone at work – I know because of the prefix on the number – but I have no idea what it was about or how I reacted or if I slurred my speach or said something I shouldn’t have.  I had to look the number up to figure out who it was.  Turns out it was the guy I’m working with, he’s supposed to let me know when they’re going to start up this big machine at the chemical plant where I work, so we can start testing some new controls.  Basically, I’m on call, pager and cell phone in my pocket at all times, and I’m supposed to be sober.

My family has been amazingly patient with me.  They must really, really love & respect me, because they have given me months & months to come around.  My wife and I had a long chat about things, and she’s willing to take this to the next level, now that it’s affected my job.  I mean, I could get fired, if I even have the tiniest, measurable amount of alcohol in my body, which, some mornings, I bet I do.  And by next level, that means moving out with the kids over the summer.  I would lose her.  And, my secret would be out.  I can’t lose her.  It would kill me.

I’ve often thought, what’s in it for me to quit?  I stayed sober for 30 days recently.  You can read my sad tale in the Last Call Program Review, a very lengthly and somewhat popular post on here.  If I get liver disease or die, my wife will get a large sum of money from my life insurance, she could pay people to do what I do, pay off the house, buy a new car, and I would be in Heaven.  Well, the sudden death of a friend recently has made that a little more of a real picture in my head, and the story in the news today of Rick Warren’s son killing himself – Rick Warren runs the huge Saddleback church & wrote A Purpose-Driven Life – makes it a big reality check.  I read a little about that kid.  He went to all of the best doctors, counselors, tried all kinds of medication, and this crushing, despairing depression never left him.  Nothing worked.  He asked his dad, Why can’t I just kill myself and stop all of this? I know I’ll go to Heaven.  That was a decade ago.  He hung in there, helping at church, probably a very empathetic guy.  Most people with serious depression feel things very strongly, and can’t let go.  I know I do. I’m like a stress and misery sponge.  But if his faith in God, plus a limitless amount of support, didn’t work, then I can forgive myself for not having the faith to just trust God & He’ll solve all my problems (like the preachers always say).

So last time there really wasn’t anything in it for me.  Nothing changed.  I was hoping for some reward, but all I got was a lack of side effects.  No real appreciation.  It’s like nobody noticed.  But, I have to stay here.  My family needs me to make the difficult decisions.  I have to be here to protect my wife from my dad’s family.  My dad is OCD and controlling, and without me to protect her, he’ll come over and take over everything.  I’m going to stand up to him; I made a tough decision yesterday, one that I know is going to hurt his feelings and could bring about cripling emotional revenge.

Story?  Well, my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by inviting all three of his kids & their family to a house for a week in Colorado.  The problem is, my brother is like a thousand times worse than my dad.  I don’t think he realizes that he comes across as arrogant, condenscending and judgemental, but he does, and it reduces my wife to tears and sometimes hatred and rage.  She comes home crying after a meal with him, because of something he said, critisizing her dress, our kids, our choices, our lives in general.  He’s so much smart than we are, or thinks he is, and never misses an opportunity to flaunt it; you know he took debate in high school, and since then I could never win an arguement; he could prove water was bad for plants, I swear, all science and truth to the contrary.

So I promised my dear wife that she wouldn’t have to go on this trip.  It’s going to be hard to tell my parents, they have it all planned out, they’re buying the plane tickets, paying for the hotel or house, but I’m scared of what will happen if – God forbid – she has to share a bathroom with my brother.  She can’t be that close to him without going crazy.  I’ve seen it, and it ain’t pretty, let me tell you.  So I will take on the task that noone else on earth will do for her; I will tell my parents that my wife can’t go.  Not sure what tact I’ll use yet – I could either blurb out something about her upcoming cancer tests, or I could tell them the truth, just put it out there, stand my ground and take whatever consequences there are.  And they can be brutal.  If my dad feels like I’ve violated a sacred tradition, he can make me feel as small as spit on a hot sidewalk, like when I got drunk & didn’t call my mom on her birthday.  For some reason, that’s like the most important thing in the world, and it took weeks before I felt the knot in my stomache release. Waterboarding’s got nothing on my dad…

So, what’s in it for me this time is my wife.  Not just that I want to avoid losing her; I love her, and I realized that I need to be here to fulfil my role as leader.  No, I never decide what we’re going to eat, I never pick out the furniture, but when I see indecision on her part, that’s when she needs me the most.  I decided which washing machine to get, based on performance & reviews, and she approved the looks.  I decided which T-shirt company to use for the school when she couldn’t make a decision & was too scared to mess up.  And I decided to keep her & my brother apart to prevent an explosion.  I have to be here to take the heat, to bear the responsibility, and to make the big decisions; when there is danger ahead, and sometimes only I can see that far down the road, I have to do it.  I have to be the one.  It’s my job.

So please pray for me.  Last night I poured the rest of the whiskey down the drain (again) and I’m going to make a fresh start.  My wife has encouraged me and offered me something that I love (wink, wink) if all I drink today is one normal beer – not the four loco, not the huge Malt liquor, just one, regular beer.  Pray that I’ll be able to resist, because my marriage, my job, my life and my family are on the line.

I can’t leave.  I’m the dad, and my family needs me…

Update 4/18/13:

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve had any whiskey.  I had a couple of slips: went out to eat & ordered a margarita the size of your head, and a couple of nights ago I DID have a four-loco, plus one beer, both 24oz.  Those sugar drinks are cheap, and I don’t just mean in cost.

Total lack of motivation for anything.  I feel so, so … what’s the word? … Sober.  I don’t get excited about coming home to drink one lite beer and watching TV until it’s time to go to bed.  I don’t have anything left after work, especially on Monday, Wednesday & Friday, when I get up at 4:30 to go to the gym before work.  I just wish I was able to stay home.  I hate work.  I really, really hate work, you know why?  Rules.  Laws. There’s just too many of them.  It’s stiffling.  Don’t speed.  Don’t smoke. Don’t drink.  Don’t shoot squirrels in the back yard.  Geez, it’s unending.

The news from Boston has me down, and now this morning I hear there was a huge explosion in Waco.  I’m so bummed out.  The best I can do is just survive.  If I make it through the day, that’ll be an accomplishment.  Tomorrow is Friday.  Yippee.  Pizza and a movie, followed by two days of unmotivated boredom and responsibilities.  Yuk…

Update 5/5/13:

Good news!  I haven’t been back to the liquor store in almost a month!  This has worked out pretty darn well.  I do drink more than I should still, but you just can’t get totally wrecked on light beer, it’s just not possible.  I don’t wake up trying to remember what happened, I have mild hangovers if any, and if I do drink too much, I just get sleepy.

So here’s what I did.  I’m going to post this in my Last Call Program Review, too.

Step one: Only beer.  If I want to drink something, I have to go to the corner store and buy it, and only what I plan to consume.  No 6-packs, or kegs, or cases, in the name of saving money.  I’m not going to quit.  Tried it.  Been there.  Done that.  Doesn’t work.  One 24oz beer a day, or I’ll feel deprived.  Just doing that is a huge improvement over coming home and guzzling hard booze every day, then barely being able to function at work.

Step two: I don’t go into the liquor store.  Ever.  I can’t handle the temptation.  Just like if there’s more beer in the house I’ll find an excuse to drink it, if I go to the liquor store I’ll see myself as giving up again and go back to old habits.  No event is so joyous (or painful) that it justifies getting drunk on whiskey.  If I want alcohol, I have to go buy it from the corner store.  Period.

Step three: I promised to forgive myself.  The goal is only one, 24oz light beer a day.  Some days are worse than others.  I’ll come home after a hard day and just want to switch myself off; get so buzzed I can’t hardly walk.  So some days it’s two 24oz beers, others its a Four-Loco or some cheap “high gravity” stuff; It’s OK.  I can make a mistake, I’m allowed.  Every day is a new day; every day starts over, and I don’t beat myself up over drinking too much the night before.  As long as it was in a can, and it came from the corner store, it’s OK.

Step four: I started exercizing again.  I’ve been working out at the gym in the mornings; it’s the only time I can really call my own.  I’ve tried stopping at the gym on the way home, but I’m always tired from work and sometimes I have to work late.  Getting up at 4:20am was rough at first, but I did it.  And it makes me feel good about myself, and by the time I get to work at 7:30, I’m relaxed and ready to go.  At first it was awful, dragging my lazy butt to the car, half-asleep, then coming home barely able to move & getting ready for work.  But as I get better at it, and I don’t have a hangover, and I don’t let my pulse get over 130-135, it gives me energy instead of draining me.  Haven’t lost any weight, but I think my muscles are stronger … a little.

So a typical day goes like this:  I get up, splash water all over my head (so people will think I just took a shower), head to the gym, do 20-30 minutes on the elliptical machine (pulse around 125-135), then two sets each on four random weight machines, come home, shower & go to work.  Then on the way home, I buy a beer (or two if it’s been a rough day) at the same convenience store (I know they probably think I’m an alcoholic, but I don’t care), say hi to the wife & kids, lock myself in my home office, playing a video game, drinking my beer, and puffing on my ecig, until the stress of the day is gone, dozens of zombies are dead, and I’m ready to relax and be with my family.  If I feel the urge for more beer than I bought, I either check my BAC & then go get some, or lately I’ve just been taking Benadryl to make me sleepy.  An hour after that and I’m asleep…

That’s it.  I know I’m not perfect.  I know I still have a problem.  But I’m improving.  I’m not drinking half as much as I used to, and my kids never see me go crazy, my wife never has to take them away for fear of their safety, and the worst that happens is I stumble a little on the way to the bathroom, or fall asleep in the recliner.  Maybe someday I’ll be totally sober, but not today; today I’m happy that I’m better than I was yesterday, and that’s good enough for me.

Update 5/11/13:

I am about 45 seconds away from giving up.  Why does it have to be like this?  Did Dad drink?  Yeah. How much?  I don’t know.  He had a big bottle or something.  You seem drunk.  You’re drunk.  No I’m not.  You seem drunk to me.  Well, shit, I guess I might as well be.  I mean, if I’m getting called a drunk, nobody makes any distinction between having a few beers and being an alcoholic, if I get thrown into that category anyway, why not?  Huh?  Why not just booze it up, because everyone thinks I do anyway.  Fuck it.  Just fuck fuck fuck it.  There.  I said it.  Might as well say it again. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.  Same with beer.  Or liquor.  Or whiskey.  I drank a beer.  I’m a drunk.  Might as well have another one.  And another one.  And another one. And another one. And another one.  Drink drink drink drink drink.  Hell, if everyone thinks I’m a drunk, and nothing is ever ever ever ever good enough, who cares?  If you’re going to fail if you don’t get an A+, why even try for a B?

I hate this life.  I really, really do.  The next one won’t be much better.  Get to Heaven, Jesus shaking his head in disappointment, I GUESS you can come in, we have some gold dust that needs to be mopped…….

Update 5/30/13:

I hurt my back.  I really twisted it up bad.  That was last Saturday, almost 2 weeks ago.  It still hurts.  Usually, a back strain lasts around 3 days.  Not this one.  Ouch.

Anyone who has ever had a back injury knows that it never goes away.  Sitting, standing, walking, lying down – it always hurts.  After about a week of that, I broke down & bought my first bottle of whiskey in 6 weeks.  I had to have a pain vacation.  So I failed.  I drank enough to not feel anything for a little while, and after that bottle was gone, I was going to be OK.

Then my brother happened.  My older, smarter, taller, more educated, condescending, judgemental, but otherwise nice brother.  We have a family trip planned, where we’re all going to be in the same house for a week.  That has me terrified.  If I have too many run-ins with him insulting my beliefs – he’s a big liberal and is constantly trash-talking conservatives – I’m afraid I’ll blow up.  So, as a pre-emptive strike, I included in one of our back-n-forth emails (it’s our parents’ 50th anniversary and we’re working together on a gift) I included a comment about how it hurts my feelings when he insults my beliefs.  I was not as simple and nice as that, but after years of abuse, I could have given him an earful… anyway, it was a long email, and he gave me a terse reply, saying he was shocked that I would heap insults on him, he’s stunned, and thanks to me, the family reunion is trashed.

I went on a 3 hour tirade, yelling, cussing, throwing things; I was in shock that instead of responding to my email, he attacked me for writing it.  Didn’t eat for 24 hours, I was so stressed out, horrible, horrible stomache cramps from the tension, and a flare-up of my back pain that was finally getting better.  So, that drove me to whiskey bottle number two.

Sorry to bring bad news, but what can I say?  I’m an alcoholic.  I drink.  I try to stop or cut down, then I slip, then I try to stop or cut down again, then I mess up, and the cycle repeats & repeats, and will probably go on as long as my bio-rhythms do – until I’m dead.

It has been a horrible, horrible week.  Took a couple of days off for my back, then hobbled in to work on a project over the holiday weekend (that was due Tuesday), stressed about my project, stressed about the trip and my brother, and in constant pain.  Well, my brother never apologized, hasn’t spoken directly to me since (although I’m still cc’d on his emails to my sister, who’s putting together a photo frame), but I’m OK about it now.  I came to the conclusion that I deserve respect.  He doesn’t have to agree with my beliefs, but he can’t trash them; I won’t take it any more.  Even if I believed that crickets were holy, he should refrain from squashing them in my presense.  That’s it.  I’m a human being and I deserve respect, and I will either get respect, or leave.  Period.

Update 7/6/13:

The family vacation went better than expected.  My brother acted like it never happened, but he didn’t trash-talk conservatives even once.  It was stressful, but we made it, and Colorado was absolutely beautiful.  I snuck a beer a day to help my nerves, I walked with my wife down the trails every morning, and the last two days I drank a fifth of whiskey each night.  Then the last morning, we got on the road about 5am, drove 1200 miles straight, and got home at 1am.  I was THAT anxious to get back home, where I feel safe…

The drinking is bad.  Again.  Of course.  Every day.  Got a hefty hangover today, and I’m depressed.  Of course.  I just posted a new topic about it.  Went to church with my daughter last Sunday.  First time in several years.  It felt strange.  I don’t know if I’ll be back… hard to imagine being an alcoholic and going to church.  They’d have to “cure” me to let me stay, or I’d have to keep it a secret.

I probably won’t update this any more.  Unless something changes… which it won’t…