Repression FAIL

“You were kind of a late bloomer as an alcoholic, right?”

“Yeah, I didn’t really start drinking seriously until around 2004 or so.”

“That makes sense, it fits. Because you strike me as the kind of alcoholic who’s drinking to kill something inside of you. Not really that y0u’re trying to kill yourself, in fact, but something inside you.”

“Yeah, but there comes a point where I don’t really give a fuck which one dies.” That’s scary. Scary scary shit.

************

Separate, unrelated (?) entry follows:

Over and over I’ve heard about how alcoholics, when we stop using, often face a sort of flood of back-logged emotions that we’ve been avoiding for years, and that we don’t know how to deal with them, which can make the experience overwhelming, confusing, and very painful; our coping skills are often negligible at best. I do realize that I have difficulty experiencing in full my own emotions, or even just letting them happen without putting up a fight. This is not necessarily because of my alcoholism (although likely exacerbated by that); this was true of me long before I seriously began drinking.

Beginning around 1998 or 99, I began using the example of crying at a television show or a movie or a song (and I actually thought myself quite ingenious for coming with/realizing this and even thought it to be emotionally healthy, or something like that – a useful tool, at any rate). It was, I said, a safe place to have an emotional experience, with definite boundaries. There is a confined safe space to enter into, have a more or less “satisfying” emotional experience, and then leave it behind. Nice, neat, tidy. That theory may, in some way. also be indicative of why I seem to find it easier to experience emotions through other people, empathetically or sympathetically, than to experience or confront my own emotions.

I started to try to explain some of this to my shrink a few days ago, and he said, or kind of questioned, whether I might be trying to “warn” him. Entirely possible. But this whole thing with emotions scares me, both because facing whatever these  emotions are is scary as fuck in its own right, but also because I fear that if I do not or cannot, I will never escape the cycle of drinking, that “it” will end up driving me to the Bottle, make me drink; that I will succumb and accept defeat and destruction; that I will fail… again… and again; that my only escape really will, in the end, be death, not the pretty kind, the alcoholic kind; the kind that will scrape those rusty claws over all the people I care about & love, and it will then dig its claws into them, too, and never let go.

So I want this shit to come up from the ooze. It needs to. But I don’t know, you know?

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Well, That’s That… Right?

Yesterday, I finally and quite suddenly (after being told it would likely be another few months before I would know for sure one way or the other) that I do, in fact, get to keep my job. For the past three months plus since leaving treatment, I have been going to work and getting paid, but not allowed to do just a whole hell of a lot pending the results of an investigation begun as a direct result of my abuse of alcohol. As near as I can tell, it’s all done now and I get to go back to work. There is a not insignificant part of me still waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I am nonetheless very glad. Although oddly enough, I think the majority of the glad-happy part stems from being able to be around my colleagues again, my friends, many of whom I count among my Family, the Circle. That’s all, I think. Just wanted to drop the good news down on proverbial paper.

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Family, Family and Spikey Walls

Often, there is nothing more frightening than family to the alcoholic, for a variety of reasons, whether it’s because one’s family are essentially practicing alcoholics and one is horrified at the prospect of temptation or whether it’s because they are essentially teetotalers and one is afraid of their judgement, however much they say nothing about it and however confident one is in their love and support. Atheism can add another level of emotional complication to the family issue and dynamic as well. When one’s family is, mostly, well, the polar opposite. Not only is my family religious, they are deeply religious, with one exception (He may be an alcoholic, too, I’m not terribly sure. I think he handles booze better than I do, for all that he has a couple of DUI’s on his record.) They are involved in their respective theologically conservative Orthodox churches deeply, whether as President of the council or as a Deacon. My Dad credits certain explicitly mystical experiences with changing his life and converting him to Christianity (…from Christianity… but that’s another story for another day), rescuing him from the drugs and alcohol he had participated in rampantly from a very early age. He even used to tell the story of how God literally spoke to him (as in, yes, with an audible voice) telling him that my Mom was the woman he would marry from the very first moment he set eyes on her across a crowded hangar where teenagers gathered for concerts. So, yes, going home this weekend for the holiday was stressful. It was nice, too. I love my family, and my parents, given all the variables, really did a wonderful job raising us kids. And, I told a couple of my oldest friends that I’m an alcoholic, and they had the good grace not to order that beer at lunch that one of them talked about wanting to order before I told him that I don’t drink anymore and why.

And then there’s family. The not blood kind. This is a pleasantly recurring theme lately. I love them. They love me. This comforts me to no end and is beginning to give me a little bit more courage in trying to break out of my shell and just fucking relax a little bit, already. The mental vigilance I’ve gotten in the habit of may be good for keeping me sober, but it’s also been not only exhausting but all too effective at preventing me from reaching out and touching or talking to these other people that are my family. Learning the difference between helpful vigilance and self-pitying self-destructive spikey mental walls that I’ll just get bloody trying to hold up is important.

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It Just Ain’t Fair, Mama Mary, They Never Treat Me Right

Fair Warning: This gets a bit long, feel free to skip about at will.

So. At the continuing care once-weekly small group therapy that I attend once a week at a satellite treatment center associated with the in-patient treatment center I had gone to, they do periodic evaluations with treatment plans that go with it. The first one, which I received very shortly after intake to aftercare, I disagreed with, had wanted to talk about it with the counselor and therefore never signed it. I never talked with her about it, which is as likely a result of my own cowardice as it is a result of never had an opportunity to raise the issue (if I’d really been that concerned about it & been able to summon up the courage, I surely could have made the opportunity to talk with her about it). They never really noticed, as far as I know. It looked as though it was mostly canned, copy-paste kind of stuff, anyway, and after a while, although I never quite forgot about it, I dismissed it as nothing in particular. Until I got my next one. Now, as far as I know, they still don’t have a copy of the first one (unless they just printed out a copy of it & left it blank). I got the new eval & treatment plan on Monday. I’m going to quote at some length sections of it.

I continue to have many long-standing resentments, as evidenced by: a. I often blame others for my current problems; b. I am easily angered by the behaviors of others, and my anger causes me to overreact to their behaviors; c. I frequently use phrases such as, “they always,” “they never,” “nothing is ever fair,” etc.. [sic] In the past I have used these resentments to justify my use of alcohol/drugs.

I’ve lined out the lines that I disagree with. Which is nearly all of it, except that I certainly do have a lot of resentment to deal with, but this is rooted in stuff that I need to dig at with the aid of a therapist I think; it is distinctly possible that I have, at least subconsciously, justified drinking myself to the point of blackout every fucking day because of these resentments. In some ways, yes, the behaviors of other anger me; this is more social issue stuff, though, and is part of having a social conscience and being a screaming liberal. In order to help me with this, I’m to read “Freedom From Bondage” from the BB (done, multiple times, will read again, got it), talk with group members about 3 times I’ve been forgiven by someone else (fair enough, I can do that), talk about individuals I need to forgive (how does one go about the process of forgiving an entire group of children?, but ok I’ll see what I can do – given that I know this is never actually going to come up in group, I’ll at least journal about it – the 3 people that read this may get to read that, too :-P). and talk with my sponsor about the statement in the BB “Resentment is the number one offender.” (This is a good idea, I think, once I get a permanent sponsor – still looking at C for that; I certainly have spent a good deal of time pondering this.) Anyway, this isn’t the bit that really bothered me, so moving on.

I do not have a social network which is supportive of my recovery, as evidenced by: a. my friends are substance abusers; b. I do not socialize with any recovering persons; c. my roommate is a substance abuser, d. I find it difficult to make new friendships in recovery, etc.

To the extent that I have a social network, they are all uniformly supportive of my recovery. They may not always know precisely how to go about doing that, but they are. Hell, they got me into treatment. I love them for the evidence that is of how deeply they care for me. They cannot be faulted if I don’t reach out to them the way that I know that I should; that is my fault, my weakness. Even if I haven’t figured out how to overcome that weakness, I know at least that it’s mine. A) My friends are most definitely not substance abusers. They are able to drink responsibly, something which, now that I am not drinking, I recognize I am unable to do. B) I do not socialize. Period. End of story. Although I’m trying to, and I admit that it is extremely difficult. I am even trying to socialize with recovering persons (or person, at any rate; I’m an introvert, let’s do this one person at a time and work our way up, shall we? Groups are… a fucking nightmare at this point). C) My roommate is not only not a substance abuser, but has been extremely conscientious in completely abstaining in my presence. He had one or two drinks when we went camping last weekend, and he drank when he went on vacation. (I was not there, much to my chagrin, and I suspect if I had been, the vacation might have gone a bit differently, and so I’m glad he got the chance to get away and cut loose a bit, really. I felt awful when I found out that the reason he hadn’t been drinking at all was because of me. He never drank much, anyway, and that only when he was out with friends; he doesn’t really go out that much, soooo… I felt {feel} bad that he’s been doing that, although enormously grateful.) D. Self explanatory to anyone that’s got a single fucking clue what it’s like to be so very very introverty as me. It’s all hard, really really hard.

I’m supposed to choose 2 people from group with whom I’d like to strengthen my relationship. No. Doesn’t work like that. Well, maybe the one guy, but hardcore AA’ers might get pissed since he’s an addict only & not an alcoholic. I like his reserve and the devil’s advocate position he often takes. I’m also supposed to talk with an AA member (done) & volunteer to help set up chairs, or wash dishes & what-not. Most of the meetings I go to, there’s not much of that to be done. I take coffee around when appropriate, help break down tables/chairs at my Thursday meeting. I probably should see if I can do more, though. That’s supposed to be the road into service work, especially for the newly sober who don’t have enough sobriety time, to serve in the official service positions. And I’m supposed to talk about the “negative impact my substance abuse has had on my social group and activities.” I’ve about talked that one to fucking death. There’s not even a horse left to beat, it’s just a bloody mess on the side of the road.

Broken Tree

The above essentially pissed me off because it dissed the people that care about me the most, and I get a little Mama Bear (sorry, Ms Palin, you don’t get to trademark that shit) about the Circle, about my Family. However, perhaps more relevant to this blog is the following section. Here’s where it gets really fucking nuts. Ready?

My past experiences with religion have been negative, resulting in a reluctance to examine a Higher Power concept, as evidenced by: a. I am unwilling to attend Twelve Step Meetings because I do not want to hear about the need to have a Higher Power; b. I feel angry toward religion and religious people; c. I feel anger toward those who say they are religious but behave as “hypocrites”, [sic] etc.

Where to start, where to ohmyfuckingjesus start? This is not just shit that I disagree with, it’s patently false. To say that my past experiences with religion have been negative just because I’m pretty up front about the fact that I do not believe in a god, any god or deity, is pretty goddamn presumptuous. It’s also false. I didn’t stop believing because my experiences were negative. In fact they were, by and large, pretty positive, at least as I thought of them, then. I wanted to be a priest, for chrissakes! And a theologian to boot! And, in the end, that - seriously pondering & thinking about this stuff, is what started me down the slippery slope to recovering from religion. There were a lot of other factors that made space for that deconversion to become possible, but it is certainly clear that someone like me is not going to spill that kind of very personal reflection-stuff in small group! And I am not and have not since the beginning of treatment been reluctant to examine the concept of Higher Power. I knew it was going to be difficult as an Atheist, so I tackled that head on pretty much right out of the gate. I’ve come up with a couple of concepts that work for me, don’t have fuck all to do with the existence or non-existence of a deity, and that I continue to tinker with as the need arises.

Okay, getting to the bullets. A) I go to meetings about 5 times a week, and that’s stepping down to a manageable level from the 2-3 a day I was attending for the first 2 months out of recovery, excepting most weekends (I tried those & mostly, the weekend meetings, much to my surprise, are fucking huge for one, so I don’t like them, and then also when I have my daughters, they don’t really like going & it’s not usually appropriate for them – we tried a couple of times). B) The only anger I feel toward religion is of the Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens type. I fucking love those guys. Well, and maybe Jennifer McCreight & Greta Christina & well-the-list-gets-bigger-as-we-go-along. I do not hate or feel anger towards God. Let’s get that clear. For the same completely obvious reason that one does not hate elves and trolls and fairies or even Darth fucking Vader. They do not exist. C) I only feel anger towards hypocrites in the same kind of social conscience sort of way I spoke about above. And I can’t feel too much anger towards anyone I see behaving hypocritically in my personal life since I have to reflect on the extent to which I am or have been a goddamn hypocrite myself.

So, to help me grapple with my lack of fucking belief, I’m to read, guess fucking what, the “Spiritual Experience” appendix in the BB. Done. And Done. And done. And fucking done. I frankly don’t find it to be all that magically deep, profound, or inspired, but I’ll keep going back to it from time to time to try and see what others see in it. Not that it’s bad, either, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before. I’m also supposed to talk with the group (won’t happen, not because I’ll refuse, I just know how our group works, and it just won’t ever come up) about my understanding of the material and how it may “relate to my search for a Higher Power.” Ugh. The search is done. It’ll get tinkered, but I don’t want to pretend to believe in God just because that’s what most people in AA associate with Higher Power. I’m also to talk with the group about the concept of using “Good Orderly Direction” as my HP. Fuck that trite bullshit. I will not use the word God in any form to describe what my idea of  a power greater than myself is. The thought behind it, I understand. I get it. It even works for me in some ways, but if I say “God” in the context of HP, I have just given the rest of the people within a proverbial earshot tacit permission to believe that I mean it in a way that approximates the same way that they do. No. Flat. No. “I will discuss the way in which this would help me in my recovery.” Well, lady, it won’t. It won’t help at all. In fact, if you really want to see someone slip and fall from our group (which you seem to, since you keep lamenting the fact that noone in our group has in the last couple of months – huh? really? this is something to lament?) go ahead and keep pushing this issue. I guarantee it will drive me to the bottom of a bottle of cheap-ass Canadian whiskey faster than any other goddamn thing.

Ok, almost done, stick with me. Sorry this has taken so long. All of this, in the end, would be neither here nor there, beyond just making me mad, if it weren’t for the fact that this is the shit that insurance (i.e. work) is paying for. So now I’m worried that if I make too many waves or simply stop going, this will come back to them and negatively impact me at work. As in, negatively impact the fact that I still have a work. The woman that wrote this was not there on Monday and I’m fairly certain that next Monday, being the 4th holiday, there will not be a small group meeting, so I’ve got a full 2 weeks to get this all twisty and boiled up in my head. Yay. If anyone reading this actually made it to the end, you’re a goddamn trooper. Not the faceless stormy kind, the knife-wielding rope-tying kind.

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Testing the Waters

I went camping this weekend. With a whole bunch of wonderful people who were also drinking. A lot. Or not really a lot, in point of fact, but it seemed like it to my jealousy-beast. The rest of me knew that they were fine. Anyway, the point is, I did alright. It was fun & (kind of) relaxing (mostly, sort of – I am clearly conflicted on this point – I am definitely worn the fuck out, completely drained – whatever it was, it still took a lot of some kind of effort). I only had moments where the pain cut deep, and the sense of odd-man-out was palpable, at least to me. The tension of constantly being on guard and watching myself may have part of what was so tiring about it. I am incredibly glad that I went, though. Social skills are… yeah, still not good. But fuck that, most of these people knew where I was at, even if it’s clear that they don’t really get it and can’t and I shouldn’t really expect that of them (Jesus, I shouldn’t wish the process that it would take to make them GET IT on anyone, most especially them); they accept me where I am, even if they wonder why I am so much quieter and stand-offish and awkward than I was before. I hope they can see that I love them, still, and it’s not that I’m being aloof & cold. (Fuck, man, stop that shit! Little spinny-mind, stop getting twisted ’round your own little self!) Good test camping, further experimentation warranted, and there was a lot of beautiful to be open to. Moving on.

Test Camping

Also had a long chat this afternoon with C, a guy from AA. We talked about a lot of things, but it all revolved more or less around AA & alcoholism, which in a way was the best thing, since it’s become such a hugely central part of my self-identification that I can’t share with very many people (honestly, would you want to hang around with a guy that was constantly talking about his addiction & all the black oily shit that goes with it? But, especially at this stage of the game, it’s on my mind every fucking minute of every fucking day – yes, it is that central to my mental existence). This is the first time I’d invited anyone to coffee, and it was good to get to talk. I don’t know for sure if I want to ask this guy to be my full time sponsor, but it looks good. I hadn’t expected to chat for 4 hours with him, that’s certain. Still not the kind of conversation that makes me mentally orgasm or anything, but still, it was a good conversation.

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Merry Mary Milepost 120

Just a note dropped to say that I got 120 days. I referenced this before, but there’s this little piece of me that keeps wondering when I’m gonna fuck it up, and why I haven’t yet. Recognizing the little bastard disease in that voice is easier some days than others. STFU you little twerp, I’m doing fine without you. This song  is actually astonishingly helpful, as it reminds me of the pain, which I forget (this surely evolutionarily installed easy forgetfulness of pain is, I’m more convinced than ever, why women agree to bear children… again) and which is, I’m also convinced, the real reason people do relapse, rather than complacency, not attending meetings, etc.

I got this tattoo on my arm to remind me, too. I’m also a little surprised at how helpful that has been, too. Wise move, me.

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You Don’t Need To Turn Into a Unicorn and Shit Diamonds To Stand Up

I went to two meetings today. I don’t do that much anymore. But I think I just wanted to be around people, even if I didn’t feel like I really fit in. One of them was my regular Thursday morning meeting, which I really like. I had been working up the nerve for the past… well, more than a month to ask if this one guy (sober since nineteen eighty something, I think, which is more than I can imagine at this point) that seems like a really good guy and said that he would probably describe himself as an agnostic if it came right down to it, but has a certain affinity for Buddhism… at any rate, I’d been wanting to ask him to have coffee or something. Finally did that this morning. Every one of those meetings that I’ve been to, he’s made a point to hang around after the meeting to chat with me. I’ve appreciated that. So Sunday, I’m gonna go have coffee with him. This is good, I think.

The second meeting, the guy leading the meeting remembered me from the meetings I’d been to there before, even though it had been a while since I’d been to that particular meeting. He asked me if I’d read How It Works, which if you don’t know is the section of the Big Book that contains the steps. There’s a lot of God in them. I’ve read the steps aloud before and swallowed my conscience and just said all the God stuff, but I’d never read it aloud in context. I don’t know how I summoned the courage, but I told him I’d only read it if I could leave out the God stuff. He said, “Well, do it your way.” Whaaaat? Really? Ok.

Another guy there says, “Leave out the God stuff?”

“Yes.”

“But it’s a God program!”

“I disagree.”

The guy chairing the meeting, a gentle, peaceful hippy kind of guy, says, “Well, let’s see. How do you want to do it? What do you want to say instead?”And he starts throwing out some ideas.

Other guy can’t resist, “What, a weeping willow? You gonna pray to that?”

“I’ll just use higher power. How about that?”

Chair guy says, “That’ll work good.” And he then skillfully navigates the other guy’s train of thought to something more mundane and pleasant, for which I was thankful as I tried to sink into the hard back chair while looking over the laminated paper that had the passage typed out.

And so I read How It Works. With higher power instead of God. It was still unsatisfying, as just the one to one word substitution does very little to mitigate some of the outright theological implications of some Thing magically removing your sins and your desire to drink. Still, though. I did it. I “stood up” for who I am, and nothing horrible happened. No one said anything about it after the meeting. Weeping Willow Guy even shook my hand before he left.

It probably helped that there was the warranted distraction of someone else there who was weeping about slipping earlier that day who was definitely still under the influence to some extent. She rambled for about 20 minutes, and it was so so so painful to see someone in pain, but fighting. At least she was there, and she was fighting. Her addled thought process wasn’t quite making sense of itself, but she was there. She was trying, even if she was simultaneously beating the fuck out of herself and looking for someone (mostly her husband, her sister’s death, etc.) to blame.

The topic was trust & acceptance. I’d read an article yesterday about men needing to shed high expectations just as much as women do (article by Greta Christina here http://bit.ly/m1X4dw). The main point was to stop giving a damn, and just be who you are. Good advice all around. As far as acceptance goes, it seems just as important to apply the Golden Rule here, too, and accept people where they are without unrealistic unattainable expectations just as you’d like them to accept who you are. Even though, realistically, you know that many people won’t, and will judge you. For help with that, though, I turn to the Complete Guide To Not Giving a Fuck, found here http://inoveryourhead.net/the-complete-guide-to-not-giving-a-fuck/ .

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