The Christian Alcoholic

Being a born-again Christian and having to struggle against physical addiction is one of the most paradoxically challenging things I have ever had to endure.  It goes against what I was taught in church, it’s embarrassing, and there are few people that will even admit that it’s real.  This blog entry will be the culmination of my experience and perspective on what has claimed many days, weeks, even years of my life, and my struggle to rationalize the teachings of Christ with the gritty reality of my weak human flesh.

About me: I have had a propensity towards substance abuse since I was a teenager, which was a good 30 years ago.  I used to smoke tobacco, then during my rebellious late teens, I moved on to pot, krystal & speed, cocaine, LSD, and probably some other stuff that I can’t remember.  I started drinking when I was 18, and have been on-and-off with the booze ever since.  Drinking has been my go-to drug of choice during various rough spots on my life journey.  Lately, my big problem came when my daughter ran away to Mexico a few years ago, and then my drinking ratcheted up significantly when my wife went through breast cancer.  My daughter has since come home, my wife is in remission, and I am only now getting over those most horrid trials of my life.  Over the past few years, my drinking had gotten to the point that I was buying the largest whiskey I could get on Monday, drinking every night, running out around Thursday or Friday and making trips to the corner store for beer, God-awful Four Loco’s and whatever else had a high serum gravity.

I’m married, I have four kids, two grandchildren plus one on the way, I live a fairly quiet life in the suburbs, I have a house, two cars, a decent job, and enough money to pay the bills and buy special things every once in a while.  No-one knows I’m an alcoholic; I hid it well.  I am still addicted to alcohol, even though I haven’t had any in a while, and I would like nothing better than to buy a whole case of whiskey, quit my job, stay home & get drunk continuously until I die.  That, for me, would be wonderful.  I choose not to, for the sake of my family, but I selfishly crave the escape that only alcohol can give.

I got saved about 26 years ago, when I met my wife, who had just found out she was pregnant.  Her boyfriend, my best friend at the time, dumped her, we fell in love, and I went to church with her.  She got saved after taking some Bible classes, and to prove her wrong, I took them too; of course, I couldn’t resist the truth and logic of the scriptures, and after a few weeks, I gave my life to Jesus Christ, trusting Him for my salvation, got baptized and spent many years going to that little church any time it was open.  I tithed, I gave, I attended, I played in the church band, and as much as I could, I worked.  I even taught a kid’s AWANA class once.

I just celebrated my 25th anniversary to the same wonderful girl, who has patiently endured my drinking problem for years.  She is the kindest, most loving and understanding person I have ever met.  If anything, she is the reason I stopped drinking.  If it weren’t for her, I probably would have never even attempted to conquer this debilitating illness.  She and my beautiful children are the only true motivation that I have to stay sober.

So what’s the point?  I guess I’m just trying to say, hi, my name is Mark, and I’m a Christian Alcoholic.

Disclaimer: This blog entry is not intended for perfect people.  If you have no bad habits, believe that anyone with a drinking problem is not a true Christian, you finish every sentence with Praise the Lord, have never had a sick day in your life and can smile for 18 hours straight, then please go find somewhere else to spend your time; the last thing I want is someone looking down their nose at me as I spill my soul out for the whole world to see.  Go judge someone else; believe me, I have already judged myself more harshly than you ever could.

I also use cuss words when the emotions get strong.  If you are offended by words like crap, poop, doo-doo, booger, shit, fuck, lesbian furburger… (did they leave yet?)  Look, I’m not perfect, I don’t admit to being perfect, in fact I aspire one day to be mediocre; I’m weaker and lazier and stupider than I ever imagined I would be; but God loves me just the way I am.  He made me out of dirt, and dirt is dirty.  So please just take all of that holier-than-though shit and cram it right up your ass as you follow your stuck up nose out of here.  I’m here to be honest, and I need my readers to accept what I say as honesty; there is no ambitious pretention here.  If you’re still reading and want to send me some hate mail, please contact me at gofuckyourself@ls1m.com.  I’ll read it, get upset, throw things, calm down, and send you a polite reply, I promise.

Is that even possible? Some people would claim that the terms Christian and Alcoholic never belong in the same context.  After all, when I got saved, I was freed from the power of sin.  I think we can all agree that being habitually drunk is a sin.  Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, I think is how the verse goes.  But there are a lot of sins; surely we can’t be instantaneously perfect?  Why then would God try to encourage us to seek “perfection” (read: maturity)?

Being a Christian is simply being born into God’s family.  When you’re born on earth, you are a child of Satan, the ruler of this realm, with inherited sin via your fallen bloodline.  You have to be born again, of the Spirit, to become God’s (although there is an exemption for infants and small children), and the only way to get there is through faith.  Once you have trusted Jesus to take your place on the cross, to pay your price for being a sinner, then you are a Christian.  In God’s eyes, all sins, imperfections and vulnerabilities, all are blotted out.  When God looks at you, he sees the perfection that only Jesus’ shadow can cast.

It is true, that you should not be the servant of sin, but who among us is without sin?  Wasn’t the whole Jewish law’s purpose to bring us to Christ, to show that righteousness is not of the law (works) but by faith?  And if the apostle Paul couldn’t overcome sin, if even he, personal prodigy of the Messiah Himself, recipient of oodles of spiritual gifts, even if the mighty, dedicated Paul the Great said in desperation, Who shall deliver me from the body of this death, what makes people think that we can also be free from sin?

The bottom line is, lack of sin doth not a Christian make.  A judgmental prick it maketh instead.  No, being a Christian is due to your faith and trust in a holy and righteous Saviour, DESPITE your sinful nature.  It is divine to forgive, and we, like all of His children, need constant and unconditional forgiveness, because we sin.  We will sin constantly, every moment, while on this earth, until the day we die.  So it is indeed possible to be a Christian Alcoholic, just like it’s possible to be a Christian thief, liar, adulterer – heck, even my old pastor was an adulterer, stealing another man’s bride and abandoning his own.  Nobody’s perfect.

Am I alone?  Heck no.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten comments or emails from my blog about people thinking they were all alone, that they were the only ones that had this “secret sin” of alcoholism.  To be sure, alcoholism is a sin, it’s bad, and you should stop drinking today, forever.  Sounds easy when you say it, but doing so is an immense challenge.  It’s like food: why don’t they tell fat people to “just stop eating?”  Why is the diet industry raking in billions every year, cashing in on promises to make people skinny?  BECAUSE IT’S HARD.  Every day of my life, from the time I was able to read billboards or understand commercials, I have been confronted with the idea that beer can make you popular, make you sexy, grow hair on your chest, solve all of your problems.  It’s a lie, but it’s so interwoven in our culture that it’s part of our thought processes.  It’s no different that gluttony: a lust for food is no different than a lust for drink, and both can kill you and BOTH fail to make you skinny, popular or sexy.

I stopped going to church years ago.  There, that’s another sin – forsake not the gathering of yourselves together.  But you know what?  I can go to church if I’m fat.  People might judge me if I overeat, but not much.  I can go if I’m an alcoholic too, as long as I’m sober, but what if people there knew that I was an alcoholic?  There’s such a stigma attached to alcoholism, such shame in not being able to control your drinking, that people just don’t tell anyone.  It’s like a disease, but it’s also your own fault.  It doesn’t matter if I never drive or go to work drunk, that I’m never violent, that I hide in my home office and don’t hurt anyone else: it’s just embarrassing, and people just think it’s a problem that you have to solve, much worse than overeating.  Have you ever heard of a Food Abuse Intervention?  Of course not.

Just because other people don’t share the same sin as you, just because they are weak in different areas, does not mean that they are better than you.  Everyone has problems.  My problem just happens to be an unpopular one, and truth be told, it does have the potential of being deadly, and not many people eat too much & kill someone on the way home, so I guess the concern is warranted.  But church should be a place of undeniable acceptance.  Sadly, often it is not.

Will I lose my salvation?  Absolutely, positively NO!  What did you actually DO to get saved?  Did you serve as an altar boy for ten years?  Did you donate a kidney to a dying lion at the zoo?  Did you sell your belongings, give the money to the poor, fill out an organ donor card and then toss yourself off of an overpass?  Irrelevant.  Salvation is by faith, not of works, lest any man should boast.  So if you can’t boast about how your earned your salvation, if there’s no way you could have been good enough to merit eternal life, then what makes you think you could ever be bad enough to lose it?

There are certain things I expect from my children.  I expect good behavior and school participation and help around the house.  But what could they do to not be my children any more?  Attempt suicide, huff paint, cut themselves, spend a week in a mental institution, and go to Mexico because their boyfriend was running from the law?  (Sorry honey; I know that’s old news, but it makes such a good story…) My children have my total, unconditional, unequivocal forgiveness, based on nothing more than the fact that they were born into my family.  I might get mad, but they will always be my kids, and there is nothing they could ever do, or not do, or say, that would negate that fact.

Jesus said My father is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of His Father’s hand.  Not even you.  You can no more easily reverse your natural birth as you could your spiritual one.  It’s just not possible.

Am I a Christian Alcoholic?  I started to drink, a lot, and I had excuses.  I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway.  I rationalized it away at first, blaming it on the stress of raising teenagers in modern America, or the profound horror of finding out my wife had cancer, or even just thinking that drinking was “my portion,” that I was allowed to take pleasure in this life, that God didn’t want me to be miserable all the time; what am I, Amish?

I knew it was getting bad when I started hiding.  It was OK to go get a beer or two on a Friday night, or to order a margarita with dinner.  But I started to buy it every day, then to save money I started buying it in bulk, and I wouldn’t let my family see me bringing it inside.  I hid it in the car, and snuck out later to retrieve it when everyone was asleep.  I stopped recycling because I didn’t want the trash men to think I was an alcoholic.  I smashed my bottles up and put them in heavy-duty trash bags so no one would know.

But I knew.  I was an alcoholic all right.  I knew it was getting bad.  It used to make me happy for an hour or so, then I’d fall asleep.  The buzz started dwindling down to basically nothing, then I’d basically turn into a zombie (lights on and nobody’s home), and the hangovers went from a headache the next morning to an entire day and a half of being basically worthless, unable to do anything.  I knew that if I drank on Sunday, I couldn’t drive, much less function, at work on Monday.  I used up all of my vacation days staying home to nurse hangovers, and often I felt so bad I was honestly scared that my heart would stop.  Of course, a couple of hours after I felt good again, I’d be back on the bottle once more.  My life consisted of little more than drinking, passing out, getting hung over, and planning my next binge.

Alcohol was all I ever really thought about.  I felt like a bird over water, just waiting until I could land on the next Jim Beam island.  And that was it: I was no longer controlling my alcohol intake, but it was controlling me.  I was hooked.

Should I tell someone?  Yes.  And no.  For me, I had to be selective.  The last thing that I wanted was to tell my mom about it, so every time she saw me she could say, How are you doing with that drinking problem that you’re not supposed to be thinking about?  I love my mom a lot, but she can be a little nosy.  No, I wouldn’t say pest.  Or nag.

I went to a therapist, and the first session she told me all about how wonderful Alcoholics Anonymous was, how it’s the only way to get help, you can’t do this on your own, here’s a list of all the meetings in the area, I want you to do 90 meetings in 90 days.  Hmph.  I took the book home and burned it in the grill.  No, thank you.

I’m extremely shy in person.  I can write, I’m OK one-on-one, but put me in front of a group and I will turn white as a ghost and pass out.  I leaned heavily on my wife’s support.  I confide everything to her, because I can trust her: she won’t judge me, she won’t pester me, and she won’t give up on me.  Ever.  I never gave up on her, you see, when she was depressed, when she first had kids, isolated in an apartment with two toddlers, spending hours each day playing a mind-numbing video game, in the closet, which was the only place the computer would fit and be out of the kids’ reach.  I would come home, step over the discarded diapers and spilled Cheerio’s, see her sleeping on the floor, exhausted, with the baby next to her in a sugar-induced coma, slowly close the door and clean up the kitchen while I waited for her to wake up.  And my wife did similarly for me.  Occasionally it made her mad, but more often than not, she sympathized, understood I was going through a rough time, and she helped me out.  I can’t tell  you how many times I’ve sobbed on her shoulder, spilling my guts out, and she just patiently comforted me as she waited for me to finish complaining.  It really helped.

Everybody needs someone to know.  I don’t suggest putting a burgundy “A” on your shirt and letting the condescending world at large know your imperfections.  But I would suggest you tell someone you trust.  Keeping all that bottled up inside, if you’ll forgive the pun, is just like shaking a soda bottle; one day it’s gonna blow, if you don’t let it out, safely, securely, with someone who isn’t going to turn around and rebuke you.  It might not even be a Christian, or even a family member.  Heck, if it’s your thing, go to AA, I’ve heard it works great for some people.  But the sooner you share this secret sin, the sooner you can forgive yourself and move on, and know that you’re not alone.

Should I quit? That’s up to you.  If you are truly a Christian, and you are truly an alcoholic, then the obvious answer is yes, it’s a sin and you should get rid of it.  It may not be the biggest sin in your life; if you’re a mass-murdering dictator or a methamphetamine drug lord, child molester, or maybe have a collection of frozen body parts stashed under your barn, then maybe those problems over-shadow the need to cut back on the drinking.  Also, some people can drink responsibly.  I tend to doubt it; it’s a drug, we’re all human, and eventually the drug will take over the willpower, but if that’s you, hey, enjoy it while you can control it.  As long as it’s not hurting anybody, a drink here & there, in my opinion, is fine.  Jesus drank wine, you know.  Some people think it was just fruit juice – an idea that never existed until Prohibition – but why’d they call him a wine-bibber instead of a juice-bibber?  Small amounts are good for you, anyway.

But if you’re like me, and the booze is ruining your life, relationships, health and career, then yes please seek help or commit to either cutting back or going cold-turkey.  I’ve tried both ways.  I did the tapering off, got down to one beer a day, then I went back to two, then one beer and some liquor, then just one little bottle of whiskey, then what the heck just buy the whole top shelf… the all-or-nothing thinking, where I just tell myself NO! seems to work for me.  Of course, dropping off cold-turkey has its own perils.  Shakes & seizures are the biggest risk, apparently, but fortunately (or not, as it turned out) I was on clonazepam for anti-anxiety, which prevents seizures.

The first five days: The first five days are rough.  For me, I had such a bad hangover that I couldn’t drive, my heart was pounding, my eyes hurt from the inside, and I was fervently drinking water bottles in the interest of self-survival.  It also happen to be the day my doctor cut off my anti-anxiety prescription clonazepam, so I was suffering drug withdrawal at the same time.  I think my odds of staying alive hovered around 50-50, because my heart was pounding, I was shaking, and the drug withdrawal took away my protection from seizures and replaced it with anxiety, brain “zaps” and twitching.  My blood pressure went through the roof, I hardly slept, knowing there’s a good chance I wouldn’t wake up.  I was constantly doing the relaxation techniques (see below) and it was exhausting.  It’s the worry about what might happen, that can cause the anxiety and make me “trip out,” so I just focused on God and His divine ability to control my future.  I figured, if He wanted me to come home that night, then He would take me, and there’s little that I could do about it anyway…

Thankfully, I was able to get Dr. Ignoramus to realize that stopping a very dangerous (though surprisingly common) drug like clonazepam was a very, very risky thing to do, and he called in a refill for me.  After that, things kind of calmed down.  I knew if I could just make it through day 5, I would be out of the woods, or at least, I could lay down at night without feeling guilty that I had never gotten around to writing that will.

Things that help: lots of water.  I had bottled water in our storm shelter, and I would drink two of them down, sit in a recliner and meditate, and repeat.  Exercise is also very, very good.  Alcohol is removed from the bloodstream via the lungs, so aerobic exercise is a wonderful way to detox yourself.  Especially with the drug withdrawal going on at the same time, I was conscious of not pushing it too hard, to the point of building up my blood flow and releasing too many stress hormones.  I kept my pulse between 130-140 on the elliptical, for maybe 20-30 minutes.  And if you’re married, sex is good too for alcohol withdrawal.  Heck, sex is always good.  Oh, and vitamins are a must.  Your body is depleted of everything, especially the B-vitamins.  I take a natural supplement called Standard Process Catalyn, plus some “sublingual” B-vitamin drops.  It really helps you get back to normal.

Days 6-26: It takes roughly five days for the alcohol to get out of your system.  After that, the withdrawal is all in your head; physically, the nausea, the shakes, the dehydration: it’s all gone within five days.  Not to say that withdrawal in your head is easier than physical withdrawal.  At least with physical distress you can do something about it.  Psychological withdrawal is much worse.  After day five or so, for a few weeks, all I could think about was how I was NOT drinking.  How do you NOT think about something?  Try this: don’t think about an elephant.  What image just went through your head just now: an elephant, right?

The brain is an amazing creation.  I’m told that it operates on a roughly 30-day cycle.  That’s why they always say it takes 30 days to make a new habit, and why 30 days is a big deal at an AA meeting.  Personally, I believe it’s because of the phases of the moon, which used to be 30 days.  That’s called a “prophetic year”, twelve 30-day lunar cycles, because back when the prophets were around, the lunar orbit was 30 days, not the 28 or so it is today.  Probably changed during the “long day of Joshua” when God tilted the earth to give him a little more time in the sun… but I digress…

My two recent attempts at sobriety failed at days 26 and 30.  Right around the lunar cycle, give or take a few days, yes the brain pattern resets, but you’re also vulnerable to relapse.  The therapist left out that little detail; I was feeling really down because I couldn’t get past that barrier, but turns out, it wasn’t my fault.  It’s a very vulnerable time.

Days 26-34: I was doing much better, relaxed, sufficiently distracted, and starting to feel like I might make it, until Old Man Moon started messing with my head.  I was hit by a panicked feeling of desperation: there’s no way I can do this, it’s not worth it, I can’t live like this, I’d rather be drunk and miserable than sober and miserable, fuck this shit, I’m getting something, is the store still open, maybe just a fifth, I better get two just in case… Oh, the bullshit I can come up with when I want to have something I shouldn’t.  The good news is that these attacks, these periods of weakness and self-doubt, lasted at most maybe one or two hours.  Once I muscled through them, waited them out, they were gone and I could relax until the next one hit me.  I drank lots of coffee and ate more Oreo’s that I should have, because that hyped me up, but I was desperate to just put something in my body, try to take the place of the booze-shaped void, fill it up with sugar and caffeine instead.

Days 35+:After struggling through and making it past that critical juncture, I was back to self-control, not letting my mind wander, trying to relax and keep myself busy and distracted from my addiction.  I read a book “Kick the Drink” that was pretty good, but it was written by and for sanguines – from the four temperaments, see Tim LaHaye’s Why We Act the Way We Do, an amazing book, should be mandatory reading for all conscious adults – but Kick the Drink is all about this part animal guy that had to enjoy all of his social life without getting drunk.  Party animal I am not!  I don’t have to worry about drinking at the pub, or at a Bar mitzvah or New Years Eve celebration, because I don’t do any of that stuff!  I gave the book away (hey at least I didn’t burn it) but it did help.  A little.

That’s all I can really offer at this time.  I’m going to list a few more topics below, but basically, I’m a sinner trying to overcome a very common sin, something that snuck up on my while I was thinking I had Christian immunity, but turns out there is nothing that can’t hurt me, there is no pain or trial that I have magical protection from; if God wants me to go through these fires, then I can do nothing to stop them.  I can only trust that He knows what He’s doing, that He will give me the strength to persevere, that His intent is to bring me THROUGH the fire, not burn me up.  I’ve made it this far, the blaze is behind me, but I walk a path of dry grass and glowing embers; I must be cautions, because re-ignition is far too likely to let my guard down, and I don’t want to start over again.

God bless you, my fellow Christian alcoholic.  Be not ashamed, be not high-minded, and do not fear the judgment of man.  We’re all in this fallen world together, nobody is immune, everybody goes through trials, but in the end, all it does is get your feet dirty, and with God’s help and unconditional love & forgiveness, not only are we still clean everywhere else, but Jesus is always there, waiting to wash our feet when we’re ready…

Just relax. I absolutely hate that saying.  When I was first married, with kids and a job and grown-up responsibilities for the first time, I got stressed out.  I had (and still have) chronic migraines, ulcers, acid reflux, a hernia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – any stress-related illness known to man, is on my medical chart.  The doctor’s advice?  “Just relax.”  It’s like my wife asking me to just tell her how I feel, or what’s wrong.  I can’t do that – I’m a guy!  It takes me MONTHS to figure that out!  To relax, I had to learn how, with techniques.

1. Deep breathing sounds simple enough, and it does really work.  Making a conscious effort to inhale deeply, hold it, and exhale slowly, can really slow your thoughts down and make you relax.  I do that constantly, whenever I feel my shoulders are bunched up towards my ears, when I can’t think straight and have thoughts racing randomly, aimlessly inside my hollow head, then four or five long, deep breaths really do the trick.  Easy for a dummy like me to learn, too.  Sometimes I also chant to myself, IN with cool relaxation, OUT with harsh frustration.  Not out loud of course; I’ve got enough of a crazy dude reputation as it is.

2. Progressive relaxation is when you lie down in a quiet place, close your eyes, and starting at your toes, you tighten them up, hold them for ten seconds, then release.  It teaches you what relaxing actually feels like.  You do that progressively, focusing on one muscle group at a time, going up from your feet, ankles, calf muscles, etc., until you reach the top of your head, thinking of nothing more that turning off your muscles, letting them rest, allowing your whole body to eventually just sink into the floor or mattress and lie perfectly serene and at peace.  I often fall asleep, or enter a self-aware, self-hypnotized state, where there’s nothing in my mind at all, just me, the air, and the hum of my window air conditioner.  It’s nice.

3. The therapist also taught me about visualization.  The idea is to imagine a place where you are at peace.  It can be anywhere – a meadow, the woods, a beach, waiting in line for your turn at the drag strip – but the goal is to imagine it with all five senses.  What do you see?  Clouds, sunset, birds, green leaves.  You hear the wind, the ocean, the growl of a nitro-infused race engine.  What can you smell?  The salty beach air, the fresh flowers, burned rubber.  OK, maybe the drag strip thing isn’t the best idea, but you get the picture.  If you can use all five senses, and see/feel/smell/taste/hear everything around you, then you’re there.  In that moment, at that serene, safe place, you are at peace.  Once you do that a few times, you can close your eyes when you’re stressed out, and flash back to it in an instant.

Distraction, distraction, distraction: One of the problems with quitting doing something, is you need something to take its place.  It’s extremely hard to quit drinking when you’re sitting in a chair with nothing to do or think about except how damn thirsty you are.  So indulge yourself in a new hobby, something you’ve been wanting to buy or do.  You’re going through a tough time, you’ve taken on a huge challenge, and you deserve a little something.  I bought myself a fancy grill and started cooking some amazing new recipes.  You can buy a new TV, or rent movies, get a chocolate fondue fountain and fresh strawberries, get a mountain bike & see if your teeth can stay in while your body gets jarred around on a steep single-track.

Everybody’s different, and everybody’s got different needs and desires.  I used alcohol to quell the disappointment inside of me; I’m old, I’m fat, I’m lazy, and there are dozens of well-intentioned, unfinished projects all over the house.  I have to accept that I can’t do it all, I can’t fix everything, but you know what?  I can smoke a turkey that makes my mom’s bird taste like roadkill.  I never had such a fancy grill before; it’s something completely new to me, and it’s fun, and since it takes several hours to slow-cook meat in it, it keeps me busy and my mind off of drinking.  Plus, it tastes good and provides healthy food for the family.  Being successful at something small, completing a puzzle, cleaning out a cluttered drawer, getting laid – whatever keeps your mind occupied, is worth it.  It’s OK to treat yourself: get a puppy, adopt a rabbit, get that assault rifle you’ve been eying at the gun store: something, anything is better than being drunk and feeling sorry for yourself.

Good is a relative term: If we all agree that generic, imitation, low-quality, 190-proof fake Everclear is the worst of the worst when it comes to alcohol, then anything less than that, by comparison, is good.  I know.  I tried some.  Nearly choked to death on that shit.  But the point is, don’t beat yourself up if you trip up & fall.  If you have a shot of tequila in a moment of weakness, that’s OK – it’s a slip, just get up & try again.  If you absolutely can’t stand it any more, and you have a beer, hey that’s better than the tequila, isn’t it?  It’s OK to make a mistake, to change your mind, to give up, mess up, screw up – we’re all human.  God knows this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to kick this nasty habit.  It’s not easy, and any improvement is good.

If you’ve got cancer, you needn’t worry about your toenail polish, right?  So if you’ve got alcoholism, then stressing over your hairdo or your diet or changing your oil on time is just silly.  You’re sick.  You have a disease.  And no matter what anyone says, it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.  It doesn’t matter how you got here; you’re here now, you’re improving, you’re trying, and if it takes a full package of Fig Newton’s to stop you from guzzling booze, that’s OK.  You have a cancer, remember?  Fig Newton’s are toenail polish.  You can worry about your waistline later.

And in the words of Forest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

God bless…

The Sober Journal

The short version: I reached my goal of 35 days!  My pain diary is below… a trip down Hell Lane… topic closed…

OK I’m sober.  I hate it.  I need a replacement for the alcohol, but nothing (legal) comes to mind.  E-cigs are a poor substitute.  What can I do, take, buy, ingest, that will make me forget about my stupid life, make my stupid brain shut up?  Anyone got any ideas?

Yesterday, Friday, 10/12/13: Was hung over, so pretty easy to remember not to drink.  I got up at 4, went to the gym, managed to stay all day at work, we rented a movie & I collapsed from fatigue at 8:30.  Pretty darn lame Friday, but sober, so I’ll take it.

Today, Saturday, 10/13/13: Beautiful day outside, was hoping for some action but my wife is pre-occupied with her own stuff.  She became the PTO president of a growing school that never had a PTO before, and now she’s finding out how political an environment it can be.  I end up helping her a lot, drafting emails & doing web stuff and other junk she’s not good at.  She’s better at talking, feelings, relating to people, being cheerful, but me?  Well, I’m her behind-the-scenes geek.  Happy to help, I am, because I’m not much good at anything else.  Just work.  Work, work, work.

Made the mistake of doing the budget, found out I’m a couple of thousand dollars behind my upcoming obligations, and after working for 25 years I have enough retirement to live for one year.  Woo-hoo.  At least I can say that over the last 25 years, raising four kids, I’ve stayed married to the same wonderful girl, who has never had to work outside the home, ever.  For that, I’ve given my life energy time and health away to a large corporation in the hope that I’ll be able to stay there long enough to earn a pension, so at least I won’t starve once all the kids are gone.

Why is it that I get up every morning during the week, make plans, get excited, can’t wait for Saturday to come so I can finish a project, and here it’s almost lunch time and I haven’t done a darn thing, I’m depressed and unmotivated and just wish I had a huge bottle of whiskey so I could forget what a loser I am.  Geez.  Work takes every bit out of me, by Saturday I’m wiped out, and just when I recover from busting my ass at my job, it’ll be Sunday morning, time to go back to work for a few hours and do some programming to make up for the day that I left early.  What’s in it for me?  I know that’s a selfish thing to ask, but what – I get to have a computer so I can boo-hoo to the world about how pitiful my life is?

Let me enumerate the things that have got me down.  I have four major ones, that I cannot change:

  • My dad.  He is a perfectionistic, judgmental, but very sweet and usually pleasant old man, he just has a very narrow definition of what is important, and it’s a little askew of normal.  If there’s something he wants, he gets it, because if Dad isn’t happy, then no one is happy.  He talked me into spending my summer vacation with him and my siblings in Colorado.  I have to call him on birthdays and any special occasion, because he’ll make me feel 2 inches tall if I don’t.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very nice person, but has old-fashioned, extraordinarily rigid ideas, is very ego-centric, has chronic OCD, and is able to make people feel absolutely horrible if they don’t do what he thinks is mandatory.    In his late 70’s, he isn’t going to change, and I will continue to be under his authority on those “special” occasions, like I’m still his kid, and I cannot change that.
  • My neighbor.  We call him Mr. Grumpy.  Once he found a tricycle on his property, so he put it inside his locked gate & I had to go beg it back.  He once heard the kid’s thrown tennis ball hit his rotting fence and said, Oh so now I know why the fence is falling down.  He drew a line, put up a sign, and confronted our lawn crew about mowing on their property; they now have to stop about two feet from the property line just to appease them.  My lawn guy agrees, said they are “not nice people” and would never work for them.  Most recently, I got a city citation for having garbage in open storage, and the only thing that I can think of is some leftover pool parts in my own back yard, but the idiots in the city government never answered my calls and never told me what the “violation” was, so I don’t know if I fixed it or not.  But that’s another thing that I cannot change, and now I know I’m being watched, and I am not free in my own back yard to do what I want.
  • My car.  I bought myself a sports car 13 years ago, and it’s been wonderful until lately.  The door locks failed, the transmission slips & leaks, the rear end leaks, the power steering leaks, the oil leaks, it misfires when it rains, and the paint is peeling.  I just bought a new minivan for the family, plus used cars for both of my grown children, and there’s no way I can afford to replace my aging vehicle.  I just have to keep fixing it and patching the leaks and praying for a big sack of money to fall from the sky so I can buy another one some day.
  • My job.  I’m appreciated, respected, abused, taken for granted and overworked.  I’m stuck on the current company ladder rung and see no way out.  My raises have been mediocre over the past few years because I can’t get promoted.  Plus, they make me do stupid stuff that I’m not good at, which I won’t specify here for fear it’ll get back to the boss, but it’s never enough, always more more more, and half the people are moving on to other jobs at other locations.  But not me.  My parents & my wife’s parents live close by, there’s no way I could transfer, and barring some fantastic opportunity that miraculously appears, I will be there in my cube, obediently grinding away my life, for the next fifteen years.

So those are four things that I am stuck with that I cannot change.  If I could see some hope in just one of them, it would be great, but my nosy stupid neighbors are not moving, my dad will never change, I can’t afford to upgrade or replace my car, and given that my entire extended family is depending on me, I cannot change jobs.  So I’m trapped, and my only escape from this crushing, guilt-driven reality is alcohol, unless I can somehow dig myself out of this pit of despair and find another way to change my outlook.  I tried buying myself something.  I recently bought some Bose Bluetooth wireless headphones so I could use them at the gym, but they don’t make me happy.  Nothing does.  Not my computer that I built for myself, not the new wheels I put on my sports car, not the half-day off from work that I spent with my wife.  It’s all just momentary distraction from a dull, painful reality.

I know that if I can make it until Wednesday, when I have my next checkup, that’s five days since my last drop of whiskey, and the withdrawal symptoms will be gone, but I disagree with my therapist; I don’t think I’m physically dependent on alcohol, I think it’s mental.  I don’t get epileptic shakes and a fever; I just get a slowly growing anxiety, like I’m trying to hold my breath, a bird over water, just make it until the workday is over, just make it until bedtime, just make it through the next day, fight traffic, appease my dad, pay the bills, fix the cars, finish some stupid home-improvement project.  Just waiting for something that never comes, some relief from the unending procession of responsibilities and drudgery, until I can’t take it any more and I pay another visit to the friendly man at the liquor store for some much-needed relief.

I know I need to be more positive.  I could look at things in a better light: my parents love me, and whatever my dad does, he does out of love, he doesn’t know he has OCD, to him everything he thinks is right and appropriate.  My neighbors are OK; could be worse, they could have heavy-metal garage musician children, throw loud parties, or be verbally confrontational.  My car still runs like a bat out of hell, and thanks to the suspension upgrades can turn on a brimstone, and all it requires is a fluid top-off every week and a repair now and then.  Who needs door locks, there’s nothing in there worth stealing anyway.  Shouldn’t really complain about my job; it’s one of the gloriously blessed Obamacare-exempt corporations, the pay is good, the benefits are fantastic; could be worse, a lot worse.

I still covet the prayers of those of you that have expressed your support here & other places.  My drinking problem is globally public and I really do appreciate the positive comments I have received, from people all over the world.  I’ve told my wife that if the self-control and therapy combination does not work, I’ll step it up a notch, an outpatient program or lobotomy or something.  One thing I do have is a loving, caring, sweet wife, kind and sweet children, two adorable grandchildren and another on the way.  There is a lot to live for, and I need to live, not only for those that depend on me, but so that I can enjoy life rather than suffer through it.  A lot is riding on my ability to control my addiction, and I have the best of intentions of quitting, and I have a small bit of hope that a year from now, I’ll read this and see it as a major turning point in my life, when my painful little world I lived in became less bleak and I followed that ray of sunshine out of my cloud of misery and into the light of sober contentment and happiness.

Or maybe I’ll just say fuck it and get drunk.  Again.

Sunday 10/13/13: Woke up lite-headed, a little woozy and unmotivated.  My wife thinks it’s withdrawal, and I’m sure it is.  Was going to go to work, but decided not to.  Took the dog for a walk to distract me, ended up over an hour around & around the park.  Ugh, I feel terrible.  This truly, truly is a difficult thing.  I wish I could warn young people not to drink so much, because once you get to where I am, not only is it really tough to quit, but the buzz you get decreases to the point that it makes you feel good for less & less time, and worse afterwards.  Recovery from binge drinking is no longer restricted to the following morning, but extends into the night & next day.  But, no one would listen; I didn’t.

Going to spend my Sober Sunday with the family, trying to come up with constant distraction.  LOVE my Bluetooth headset and Skillet album I bought.  Hard to exercise without music, and all of the music I already had, just reminds me of being drunk because I listened to those songs over & over again when I was drinking.  Now the Skillet music satisfies my craving for heavy metal, but has a good uplifting message that I can relate to.  More to come…

I find it odd that I’m skipping Church on a Sunday, listening to music that talks about how I feel, and one particular song about how I don’t need to stare at stained glass or sit in a pew, all I need is you (Jesus).  So today is going to be rough, but Wednesday cometh… Keep praying, I’m going to do this.  And no more alcohol – ZERO – I’m not tapering off like last time, because one beer leads to another, which leads to stronger beers, which leads to whiskey, and then I’m hooked and have to start this shit all over again.

If you’re interested, I am a born-again Christian.  It’s embarrassing, but I’ve had it with being embarrassed.  I don’t care if anyone knows I sin, because EVERYONE SINS.  Get over it… my sin is one I’ve hidden for years, and now if you found this blog, it’s still kind of secret (unless you know me), but I don’t care if you judge me, because you could never be as harsh as I am on myself.  I have a splinter of hope here, and it’s fragile, but I’m trying…

Tuesday 10/15/13: This is supposed to be the last day of withdrawal.  I’ve been a little extra jumpy and irritable, but not really that bad.  I remember why I gave up last time; I don’t like being sober.  It’s painful; life becomes one continuous, never-ending procession of events, responsibilities, activities, and absolutely nothing to take my mind off of the world around me, worry about the future, guilt about the past, stress and depression, and no way to take a holiday.  Plus today I managed somehow to strain my back and now it just hurts, constantly.

So day 5: sober and hating it…

Monday, 10/28/13: I have had one of, if not the most, scary, hellish weekends in my life.  First of all, I fell of the wagon, got depressed and haven’t updated this blog for a while.  I made it to day 6 or 7, then gave up.  Again.  I take these pills, clonazepam, that I got years ago from my shrink.  They are mild tranquilizers, meant to treat my anxiety & prevent the panic disorder that I developed when my daughter ran away to Mexico because the law was looking for her boyfriend.  That, and the wife’s cancer, are what got me into this pitiful state I’m in right now.

Anyway, being sick of my life, and my job, I had scheduled a meeting with one of the big whigs on Friday about other positions in the company.  I was EXTREMELY anxious and nervous about it – I’ve been at the same facility for 25 years, and moving away to somewhere new, to me, is a HUGE risk.  So, all of my perscriptions are set up to renew on the same day – did that on purpose, makes my life simpler – and I went to pick them up on Thrusday, and found out my clonazepam was DENIED by my doctor.  Not just, he hasn’t replied yet, but DENIED.  I tried to call on Friday, but was so nervous about the interview that I didn’t, well I tried once but got put on hold & forgot, and they close early so I just went home and drank an ENORMOUS amount of Jim Beam.  I had about three fifths, zoned out & fell asleep.

Saturday was pure misery.  I spent the whole day wondering if my heart was going to stop.  Worse, I started to get withdrawal symptoms from the clonazepam.  I did absolutely nothing.  No projects.  No trips.  Didn’t do a damn thing but sit there, drink water & pray that God would forgive me.  Again.

Since I had some free time, I looked up clonazepam on the internet.  The first hit I got was titled, World’s deadliest drug.  I read & read & read some more, and found out that my depression and weight gain are a symptom of long-term use.  Withdrawal can be deadly.  Stevie Nicks talked about it on one site, said it robbed her of 8 hears of her life.  Just turns you off, makes you not want to do anything after work; just crawl into a bottle and swallow your life away.

I spent Saturday night alternately drinking water, practicing breathing techniques, praying and wondering if I would wake up if I fell asleep.  Sunday I was a mess.  Brain “zaps”, muscle twitches, hot & cold flashes, my asthma started acting up, and I wondered if I should go to the ER but was afraid that they would think I was a drug addict.  Left a message for my doctor and he FINALLY called in a refill around noon, and I swallowed the pill in the car (my wife had to drive; I was so jumpy at every sound & movement I wouldn’t have made it) and about 2 hours later started to feel better.

So now I have two addictions to fight, if you don’t count the nicotine in the ecigs.  The trick is, alcohol withdrawal causes seizures, clonazepam prevents them.  So I’m cutting back on both and hoping my body is still young enough to survive.  Lots of water, lots of walks & visits to the gym.  I guess today is my first “sober day” again; I’m at half-dose on my drug and I drank the swallow of whiskey left in the bottle yesterday.  Still twichy and nervous and last night I woke up & my entire left hand was completely numb, but guess what, now I can say I’m an alcoholic AND a drug addict.

This just keeps getting better & better…

Day 4 Thursday 10/31/13: This has been the most difficult thing I have ever done.  Not only am I giving up alcohol, but I’m also dealing with drug withdrawal.  So far, so good.  I’ve not had a drop of booze, and I’ve cut my anti-panic clonazepam dosage in half.  I’m not shaking as much and my sleep is getting back to normal.  Every day, though, it’s a fight.  I’m heavy into the ecigs; got one plugged into my computer and one in the car.  So I’m trading alcohol and tranquilizer addiction for nicotine addiction.  What do you think; an improvement?  At least I won’t crash my car into a wall… or want to…

Went to the gym this morning at 4:30am.  Just took my half-pill of clonazepam, along with the fistful of vitamins that have been keeping me alive over the past few years.  I was trying to figure out how long I’ve been taking that drug; let’s see, my daughter was 16 when she ran away, and now she’s 22, so roughly 6 years.  Long time.  I can do this, though.  It’s possible.  Life can be better.  I helped my kids with their homework last night.  Haven’t done that in a long time.  And I was completely wasted last Halloween.  This time, if I can fend off temptation, I might remember it.

Prayers are welcome, as always.  I’m not out of the woods yet, but I can see the path ahead…

Day 5 Friday 11/1/13: Quick update, working the weekend; I made it through Halloween without succumbing to temptation.  Now that we’re all done celebrating death, I look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ… oh, I forgot about the shopping… never mind; at least when we celebrate darkness we only have to buy candy… <sigh> credit card, brace yourself…

Day 7 Sunday 11/3/13: This is absolutely the most difficult thing I have ever done.  I want out.  I don’t want to be doing this any more.  I want my crutch back.  I want my booze.  I want my pills.  I want my escape.  Help…

My therapist said physically, alcohol withdrawal ends after 5 days.  Mentally, it takes 30 days to make a significant change in the cravings, and 90 days for permanent sobriety.  And from Internet research, I know that clonazepam dosage adjustment takes three weeks, and getting back to “normal” takes 12-18 months AFTER totally quitting.  This stinks.  I wish I could go back in time and tell that shrink to shove those pills up her ass.  Actually, she loves horses, so she probably does have several asses…

This past week I’ve had one continuous headache, my muscles are still twitchy, my ears ring, I have mood swings, and right now I’m depressed.  I changed my Facebook profile picture to a bottle of Excedrine and a glass of water.  My arms feel too heavy to lift, and I’m sore all over.  I can’t tell if I’m tired, and my mouth is dry.  I just took the dog for a walk, and it helped a little, but I just can’t help but wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.  I’m beginning to think that I might not make it.  This is tough.  Really, really tough.

I know how to DO things.  I can motivate myself to go to work, or help in the kitchen, or fix something.  But how do you motivate yourself to NOT do something?  I’m just beat.  I am so tired of the slow breathing, the walking, the meditation; all the stuff I have to do to keep away from the pill bottle and the liquor store. It’s exhausting.

The job fell through.  I did get a bonus at work, which is nice I guess.  Just enough to cover the Halloween supplies and the cell phone for my daughter (she had a broken screen and I tried to fix it, but broke the damn thing instead so I bought her a new one).  I’m trying to sell my cement mixer so I can have enough money to buy a fancy grill.  Everything is just too hard.  I can barely make it through the work day, much less pursue any hobbies or projects.  The minutes are inching along… I get a half-pill in two hours… ugh I don’t want to do this any more… Jesus help me because I’m on the brink of disaster here… I… want… to… escape… this… horrible… place… and… go… HOME…… (you fellow Christians know what I mean).

Day 11 Thursday 11/7/13: Things are getting better!  I don’t really crave alcohol, the ticks & twitches from the clonazepam withdrawal are all but gone, and the exercise at the gym is finally paying off.  Got my blood work back from the doctor and my chloresterol is down, and my blood pressure is in the green zone for the first time in a very, very long time.  At the moment, I’m at work, typically unmotivated with a mountain of tasks that I cannot possibly complete, but there is hope.

I have a new favorite saying, borrowed from a friend that I got on this blog: “Every day above ground is a good day.”  Amen.

Day 12 Friday 11/8/13: I am now at the “why the heck did I stop drinking again?” stage.  I can read my previous posts and remember, but it’s Friday, I’m home early, the wife is away, and it’s EXTREMELY tempting to get in the car & pay a clandestine visit to the liquor store.

But I won’t.

Life is worth living.  I have to keep at this.  My wife needs me.  My kids need me.  And all the money in the world can’t replace me.  God grant me the strength to resist… I sure as heck don’t want to start over.  Those have been twelve hard-fought daily victories, and I’m gonna be stubborn and stay on target.  Even if it means I raid the leftover Halloween candy.  My numbers are all better – blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, you name it.  I’m getting more muscular and healthier from my gym visits.  I go before work, at 4:30am.  It’s nice, quiet, and makes me more relaxed the rest of the day.

The problem right now is that it’s Friday.  I associate that with partying, letting loose, celebrating making it another week through my slavery – I mean, job – and I’m not really sure what to do with myself in lieu of booze.  Maybe I’ll go grab some orange Oreo’s and watch a movie or something…  Please pray for me; this is still very hard to do…

Day 13 Saturday 11/9/13: Remember when Saturdays were full of projects or fun, and just seemed too short?  No?  Me either.  The clock has slowed tremendously; feels like I’m in a time warp.  Still hanging on (by a thread), but, still in it to win it… just took my half-dose of Clonazepam and waiting for it to kick in.  Did a lot today; up at 4, stretching, playing games on the iphone, on the PC, watched a movie, worked on the car, went to the store, and now helping to cook dinner.  Distractions help.  A little.  Ugh, this is taking forever…

Day 18 Thursday 11/14/13: Still sober!  I was actually in a good mood for about five minutes yesterday.  I am very proud to have made it this far.  Had a little emotional event, a run-in with a painful past, but I’m dealing with it.  Sort of.  At least, I haven’t hit the bottle.  Spending a lot of time with my ecig; I think we’re going steady.

Side effects are subsiding; I don’t crave alcohol specifically, though I wish there was something I could do to escape life.  My body must still be adjusting, because I go through wild changes – not really moods, but outlooks.  One moment I can be excited about the future and love life, another I’m trying to plan the perfect suicide.  Right now I’m dealing with a lot of anger, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from.  Maybe it’s because I feel like I deserve something.  I don’t know.  My car has broken twice in the last couple of days – the tailpipe support broke off, and the heater core sprung a leak, making the ride to work either freezing cold, or toasty warm with a bitter antifreeze smell.

Still, I’m committed.  Gotta make it to day 35 – that’s my new goal, because after 30 days it’s supposed to get better, but right around the 30-day mark there’s a tendency to relapse.  Just ordered a new grille, excited about that, but disappointed that no one wants to buy my cement mixer.  That was the money that was supposed to pay for the wood-pellet grille, but I only had one buyer who offered me half of what I wanted & never called back.  And I still have the same old stupid job in the same lonely cubicle, but I do have a job, I have health care, I’m getting annual raises, so it’s just like my car, just like my whole life; not great, but good enough to make me feel guilty complaining because so many people have it so much worse than me…

Day 25 Thursday 11/21/13: Depressed.  Sober, but depressed.  Nothing interests or excites me.  I don’t understand it.  I’m doing everything right.  Stopped drinking.  Cut back on medication.  Bought myself a fancy new toy.  Spending time with the family.  Exercising three times a week at the gym.  Eating better.  Cooking great food.  But I’m just empty inside.  Just, vague and listless.  I thought everything was supposed to get better, but it’s worse.  People are getting on my nerves, even my sweet, wonderful wife.  I don’t understand it.

Trying to make an appointment with the “AA is the only way” therapist.  Don’t want to start over with someone new.  Tried to call yesterday but so busy at work that I missed her call-back.  She doesn’t work Fridays so it’s another weekend of boredom before I can get any help.  I guess I just don’t deserve to be happy.  I don’t know what else to do.  Hanging on by a thread, in hopes that it gets better after 30 days, like everyone says.  But that wouldn’t be the first time the sales pitch was better than reality; it always is; reality can be harsh, difficult and very disappointing.

My hopes are worn out, but I’m trying to keep them up, trying to be optimistic about it, hoping against all evidence that things will get better.  Maybe tomorrow will be a better day than today.  We’ll see…

Day 28 Sunday 11/24/13: I’ve had a headache and ringing ears for 4 weeks now.  It’s getting hard to remember why I did this.  Babysat my granddaughters a couple of days ago, totally lucid and I was able to spend quality time feeding & changing them (I still remember how to work a diaper) and bouncing around on the trampoline.  Everyone else is thrilled that they don’t have to be scared of what I might do or say, and wonder when I pass out if I’m dead.  But not me.  I’m seriously seeing a blurred line between life and death; they both don’t hold much promise for me.  On the one hand, I’m feeling better physically, able to do things I can’t do when I’m drunk, I remember what people say and what I did last night, and the morning-after guilt is gone.  On the other hand, this is endless agony: I’m listless, emotionless, and if it doesn’t get better soon I’m going to just say forget this and just go right back into the bottle that put this pain in me in the first place.  I may still be miserable, but I’ll think I’m happy.

I did have a bit of an epiphany yesterday.  Sitting in the back yard, throwing the tennis ball for the dog out of guilt, questioning my decision to buy the shock collar that traumatized her to where she shakes all over & won’t leave the back porch for fear, looking at my crappy house and its crappy, dirty, plastic siding, the stupid ugly fence that I put up with warped planks, and letting out a big sigh as I stare at the $1000 pellet grill that I bought, just to find out that a good grill maketh not a good chef; I threw the ball far across the yard, and realized: I did this.  I bought this house.  I got this dog.  I went from a drugged out rebellious teenager, alone and depressed, to a successful programmer with a big house, a big yard, a beautiful wife, four great kids, two grand-kids and one on the way.  And I felt proud.  I’ve done good.  God has blessed me, honored my efforts, and I have enlarged and become greater than I ever imagined.  It’s not perfect, it’s a half-empty glass, but it’s my glass, and it’s half-full with loving, caring people that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.  I done good.  I really done did good here.

That calmed me down a bit.  I also realized something else.  I’m a writer.  I can make people laugh.  I can express myself in writing as well as just about anybody.  And, like most good writers, I’m a tortured soul.  I’m an alcoholic, drug-addicted smoker with chronic migraines and profound self-doubt.  It’s my fate.  God gave me gifts that shine brightest against a background of misery, impossible challenges, oppressive heaviness and winless competitions.  I am my own worst enemy.  I am so grateful that I have a place to share my thoughts, that a few people find comfort in my words, and that God has given me 25 years of a faithful woman’s devotion.  It stinks, but at least I have a purpose during my tenure on this rock.

God done good.  He really has…  Hope I don’t flub it up… Stay tuned…

Day 34 Saturday 11/30/13: Still sober.  Warning to the reader: days around #30 are pure hell.  The last two times I did this, I made it to day 26 & day 30, then quit.  One of my friends that I met here made it to day 32 before he had a slight relapse.  The brain resets itself “around” day 30, and I had a major panic reaction and a few times had made up my mind to just forget everything and get something, anything, maybe just a fifth, to survive.  But, somehow I managed to avoid it, and here I am.  Day 34.  Thirty-four days of pure misery, depression, ringing ears and nightmares.  If this doesn’t get better, then I will resume my drinking again.  I don’t see how this is worth anything to me; everyone else is happy, but I’m miserable.  I bought my wife a diamond ring for our 25th wedding anniversary.  I bought myself a fancy grill to try & distract myself, give me something to do besides sit around and think about booze.  I just got caught up on my tithing, and guess what: big surprise, I’m in major debt, in fact I’ve almost maxed out my Discover card, and I’ve already spent my cash-back bonus and I just placed an order to sell all of my company stock.  It’s not much, since I do that every year before Christmas, but it helps.  I can’t spend anything now until the next Discover billing cycle comes around, which means I’ll have one or two days to order Christmas gifts in order for them to arrive on time.  Bottom line is, I’m broke.  I don’t care.  It’s only money, right?  I just sent a couple thousand dollars to a Christian organization that teaches people about the Bible, plus a few hundred to a missionary that used to be our pastor.  It’s not my money; it’s 11% of my gross income, which I promised to give back to God, according to His commandment.  So, I’m not going to worry about it.  I’m not.  Financially, it’s killing me, especially since the stupid government is taking a ton of taxes out of the same gross income.  My semi-monthly paycheck typically has $1000 just in federal taxes removed.  After you subtract the taxes, the insurance, the United Way deduction, well there’s little left, after I pay the mortgage, utilities, credit card bills, car payment.  I’m just dreaming when I think of replacing my 13-year-old Camaro… there is no way on earth that will happen any time in the foreseeable future.  But, God will provide.  He always has, He always will.  I’ve been this bad before.  When I add up all of my money, and subtract all of my obligations, I come up with negative four grand.  But God will provide.  Somehow, someway, He will provide.  And in the mean time, I will trust Him for the strength to make it through work, to continue to dazzle & amaze my boss & coworkers, put on a happy, dedicated, enthusiastic face, while I suffer inside with a shadowy darkness that can only be described as tomb-like.  I’m just dead inside.  I really, really am.

One more day to day 35, and then I’m going to start a new post.  It’ll be called The Christian Alcoholic, and it’ll be a summary of everything I’ve learned, all of the comments I have received, all of the wisdom I have gotten as I’ve stumbled down this rocky path.  Maybe it will do someone some good.  And then, if I still feel like shit, I’m going to go buy some booze.  I’ll get drunk, feel bad, repent, ask for forgiveness and start the merry-go-round cycle all over again… probably stay on that ride until I’m dead… which may be any time now…

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…