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.
Tag Archives: isolation
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.
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.
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.
This was something I jotted a little while ago, and have been very reluctant to place here. But it’s been enough of a recurring theme, at varying levels of intensity, that it’s worth it, I think. It’s mostly a low level thrumming in the background more, but recurrent and consistent, and just putting it down helps me to move forward in many ways. So there’s that.
Just get through this. Endure. It’s a passing thing, temporary. These emotions, this negativeness, will pass. They always do. But they always return. Which is the truer state?
I am jealous sometimes. I am envious. I want, in this case, to be accepted, to go out and be able to hang out, have fun, to laugh with others. And in the same breath, I have to find a way to accept my loneliness, because I can’t. I can’t go out to a bar and hang out and laugh. I can’t go out with anyone anymore, it seems. The temptation to drink will be there, and it might overwhelm me, and so I am jealous. I want to actually enjoy those things, be able to go out, socialize, laugh, enjoy the bond of friendship, the presence of others. I want to be able to enjoy, truly enjoy a fine Scotch, too. But I can’t. It will take hold of me; the gentle, warm finger of Scotch will so quickly turn into the rusty claws raking iron nails along the muscles and tendons of my arms and hands, shaking them furiously. I have to remember that. And accept the loneliness of freedom from that dirty cage. This is scant comfort right now, though, and it reeks of despair on either side. That’s alright; I’ll take what I can get until I can get more.
I can’t concentrate; I can’t be distracted by study, or even idleness. My head fails me, and fills instead with the empty muck of this isolation.
I can see why people want to make an Other of this stuff, to be able to put it all off into It, hand over the care and be free of it. Instead, I bleakly look and see that this Other is none other than myself. I have no recourse but to take responsibility for my Self, and square up and face it. Often, this fills me with inspiration and a true sense of beauty, enough to take the next step forward, feel the wind of the world spinning. Not just now.
I rely too much on externals for my sense of well being. I need something less ephemeral; I need a me, self-constituted and comfortable, steady. I am not That.
So I hit 90 days yesterday. Oddly enough, there was very little fanfare, neither internally nor externally, which was absolutely fine with me. The trick right now is to resist (and the Sick Little Disease In My Head has already tried this shit) the urge to justify a fuck-up by saying something along the lines of, “Well, I guess it’s about time you had yourself a fuck-up, son. Don’t worry, lots of people have relapses, it’s alright. Hell, I don’t even know if one shot counts as a relapse, does it?” and so on from there into all the standard roundy-rounds of justification that the Sick Little Disease In My Head can come up with.
I had wanted to go to my normal Thursday morning meeting this morning to at least say at a meeting, “I got 90 days!” but I had zero sleep Tuesday night, so by Wednesday night when I got home, I was pretty exhausted, and when the alarm went off this morning, there was very little chance of me responding positively to it. I do wish that I had, though, because I think that there’s a fellow there that I would like to ask to become a sponsor, but I want to go sit down and have coffee or something with him and do a two-way ‘interview’ of sorts. Last week, the man even brought me a book. Of course (and please see the 5,000 pound fucking phone post), I have his phone number and e-mail, so I could just call or write to see what he’s got going on this weekend. That goddamn phone and everything else it stands for (including my shitty self-esteem) are, I fear, likely to be a long-term ongoing struggle for me. That’s alright, though; it’s a struggle I’m good with fighting. Really, I shouldn’t be surprised, since that sort of thing has been so very very difficult for me just about all my life.
I should add that the last few days have just been absolutely wonderful. While there are some other things that have contributed to this overarching sense of satisfaction and well-being that I can’t really go into, I will say that one of them is a sense of mental fulfillment. I’ve begun academic work again in earnest (I had tried once before earlier this year, but… well, I went into treatment, didn’t I?), and I have finally begun to feel my brain kick in and get challenged and pushed and oh my fucking lord it feels great!
I also fulfilled a long-time dream and went to this artist in concert that I had been listening to for years and years and whose music has carried me through a lot of shit in that time. I’ve never been a huge concert-goer, although I do love them, but this one had to be among the top 1 or 2 of them all. I think she brought tears (the good kind) to my cheeks no fewer than 6 times. Yeah, that good.
<<sigh>> I suppose it’s time to get back to the books. Never been happier to say that, though. And I will still be up early tomorrow to get to a meeting so that I can get that tiny bit of group recognition that, and I don’t think this is awful of me at all, I honestly want and think I deserve for making it this far.
Unfortunately, I have to say that the crazy is alive & well in AA. This should come as no surprise, but this took me aback for a moment, even at AA. So this guy, the one with the crazy, sports a gaudy gold chain with a three inch cross or so on it, and not to be overly stereotypical, but this looks odd on a middle aged (probably 50 or so) balding white guy with a salt & pepper mustache and tastes in clothes about as good as mine. That was Clue 1. He has also talked a lotta God when he has spoken before, which is often in the few times I’ve seen him as he is one of the chronic relapsers who has finally gotten serious about sobriety, gotten a sponsor and really wants to talk about it. A lot times, a lot of good stuff gets said by these people. I think he may be the exception. He begins with the standard congrats to birthdays and welcome to newcomers and thanks for the topic what a great topic, then rambles on for a little while (he has loud, kind of high pitched, kind of gravelly voice, too – the one at a crowded bar that you can hear from across the room over blaring music and voices) and then wraps it up like this: “And I just wanna say, I believe in God. I mean, I really really believe in God. I mean, I’ve seen Jesus, he’s appeared to me, I’ve seen his face! Right in front of me! Just like you’re in front of me. I’m serious, I had to talk to my priest about this and everything! And I wasn’t even stoned when I saw him!” There was something about him having been made a minister in his church just last week, too, but he’d kind of lost steam by then (I think he’s been clean and sober about a week and a half or maybe two, so not really sure how that plays). Really, dude? Really really? Holy shit. I’m pretty sure I held everything back except for what I hope was a subtle eye-roll and a whispered, “Oh Jesus,” which seemed kind of apropos after it escaped me. I had my face buried in the book that the reading had come from (I was catching up because I’d missed the first part of the meeting because I was at a life-drawing class, about which more later), so I don’t think anyone noticed my momentary lapse into complete disdain. And most of the room seemed to just nod along, like, right on, man, yeah, you totally saw that. I mean, perhaps not. He may have been that insistent about it because he sensed some incredulity in the room.
Needless to say, in the midst of what I took at the time to be the credulity floating fairy-like through the minds in the room, I felt out of place, as I often do at many meetings wherein the God-talk gets thick and heavy-handed, which is quite a few of them. And besides that, revisiting the current favorite isolation them, at the moment, I’m also in the awkward position of feeling out of place with a lot of the Atheist groups around. A lot of them meet in bars, and I’m not yet comfortable with the idea of heading to a bar for whatever reason. And then, as an example, when discussing the upcoming American Atheist National convention at a small, generally convivial gathering of Atheists, someone made the joke, “No, no, the other AA, the good one,” at which I too timidly tossed out, “Well, you can be both. Just, you know, saying,” but I don’t think anyone heard me or took notice. At any rate, I felt awkward and out of place from thereon out for the rest of the meeting, probably unnecessarily so, but still I just sat and didn’t say much for the rest of the meeting. Except when somebody mentioned the much bandied “No atheists in foxholes” line, at which I had to concur, “Yeah, I fucking hate that. I usually just point them to the website and list some friends.” I don’t think anyone gathered from this that I myself had been a soldier at one point (although very religious at the time, and hardly in a foxhole), but that’s not really surprising since the person talking about that was a vet that had been wounded in combat and therefore, rightly so, was much more an authority on the subject than me. (How a meteorologist gets wounded in combat, I’m not precisely sure.) Anyway, moving on.
It is now the previously referenced later. This life-drawing class is almost the most therapeutic thing I’ve found so far. This was the second class, and while I didn’t feel as good about the work I produced during the class as I did the first one, it was still a wonderful class and I am delighted that I’ve begun to draw again. I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time, actually, but before now, I was too busy getting drunk, and even when I wasn’t, I was too shaky to do any drawing, much less produce anything resembling a straight line. Hell, I couldn’t even write, and there were days when the shaking was getting so bad I couldn’t even really type. So every time I pick up a pencil or stick of charcoal, it is in fact a celebration of freedom from the prison that had become my racked forearms and hands.
And! I had a more or less pleasant random social interaction at the class last night. This seems like a fairly minor thing, and in some way, it is. In another way, it’s huge for me. When the woman next to me saw me popping an ear-bud in from my iPod so I could listen to American Freethought’s podcast while I worked, she said, “Oh, music. Now that was a good idea.” Now, at first, it didn’t occur to me that this was an attempt at talking, and I responded, “Well, actually, Podcast, but , yeah. I love having this.” “Oh, yeah? What Podcast?” “Um, American Freethought.” “Oh, cool.” Then it was time to draw. The longsuffering model took a break, and I looked over. Internal dialogue: Say something. Say something, anything, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Remember what they said, you just say, Hi, or whatever. I see that she’s wearing a Conan O’Brien Late Late Show T-Shirt. “So did you actually get to go see Conan tape a show?” “Yeah, I did!” “Really, that’s awesome! How was it?” “I went in ’06,” she begins, which I misheard as her saying that she went when she was 6, which led to a further awkward moment where she thought I was asking how old she was, which, granted, would have been incredibly fucking rude of me. But then she went on about how she was the last person to get in the show, and the friends she’d been standing in line with for hours and hours didn’t get to go, but she actually got to be part of a skit, and so it was a fantastic time anyway. And all I had to do was think it was really cool that this stranger, whose name, of course, I never did ask and still manage to bumble quite a bit (Progress, not Perfection, even in the little shit, I guess). Didn’t say another word to her the rest of the class, but still, it was a fairly normal social interaction with a person. Baby steps.
Been a little while. So this one’s likely to go a bit long on me.
Last week I had what I’m pretty sure amounts to an anxiety attack of sorts. That’s what I’m calling it, anyway, with the caveat that I’ve not got the medical expertise to actually label it that and that I’ve never had one before and therefore don’t have much to compare it to. I don’t think it was the full-on real deal, but it did last about 18 hours, including sleep (I dreamt that my brother and I killed someone or possibly two someones and I was freaking out about hiding the evidence and the bodies and wondering what the fuck had just happened – I may be rethinking this whole Wishing I Could Remember My Dreams thing). It was incredibly surreal and uncomfortable and once again, there was no wall of whiskey to protect me from whatever it was. I have absolutely no desire to do that ever ever ever again. I’m pretty sure that it was kicked off by all the stress surrounding the uncertainty of whether or not I will be keeping my job, but it spiraled out into all kinds of other things that were very unfocused and difficult to keep track of. During this whole thing, it never even occurred to me to call someone, anyone at all until someone pointed out to me that I should call someone. Even then, though, I couldn’t do it.
In small group this week (technically, continuing care, but really, it’s small group therapy), this became the topic of conversation, and the counselor said that it was a self-esteem issue for me. Although I hadn’t connected that particular underlying issue to that particular dot, I probably should have, and regardless, it hasn’t made it any easier to pick up the fucking phone. I did get over it a little and call my sponsor and meet with him last week, but haven’t talked or e-mailed or anything with him since then; I don’t know if I thought getting over it once would suddenly remove the difficulty or what. No magic pills here, little lion man. Ugh.
I do also confess to being a little annoyed at the counselor’s diagnosis of self-esteem because when I told her the very first time that I had met her that this was an issue for me, she solved the problem in 10 seconds or less by telling me that the solution was to help others. OK, fine and wonderful, and not to say that it isn’t true either, but – won’t be going to you for individual therapy. Or perhaps I should get over that annoyance and go to her anyway. On the other hand, though, I’d prefer to keep one-on-one and small group counseling separate, I think.
It did also come out that I am ‘not religious’ at small group, which was, oddly enough, related to the isolation topic. When I was religious, that was the entirety of my social group. Then I went into the military, where the drinking began to get serious. Then I got out. Then I became not religious. I have not gone out and made social connections that had nothing to do with booze or God in so long that I am completely at a loss. No idea what I’m doing. Not even a little.
Moving back a little, counselor’s reaction: “What do you mean by you’re not religious anymore?”
“I mean that I’ve come to the conclusion that there probably is no God.” Confused look on her face. “It’s just that simple, I’m not angry about it or anything like that, it just is part of who I am, and that’s all. Nothing to it.”
“Okay, well, what was your social group outside of religion back then?” Give the lady credit for getting over the no-God and moving on pretty quickly.
“That was it.”
Then the conversation progressed a bit further and we went around the room. Turns out, I’m not the only alcoholic in the room that tends to isolate. Most of us in that group do. So now I have homework. Call this other guy in the group, even if it’s just to say, “Hey, calling because I’m doing what I said I’d do and, you know, calling.”
Which brings me to the last little thing for this blog entry, and it’s either really funny or really frustrating. When asked if I had a home group yet, I talked about one meeting I’ve been going to pretty regularly that meets at 6:15 in the morning 3 days a week that I really like. I mentioned that the only down side was the lack of women in the group. “What, for dating?” Shit, she caught me off guard, dating is the very fucking last thing I was thinking about when I mentioned that. In fact, the only reason I had mentioned it was because the one or two women that show up for that group had mentioned how nice it was when another woman showed up. “Umm, no. I just like more balance. No dating.” “You know, you shouldn’t do that in the first year of sobriety.” “Yes, I know. Dating is… well, it’s not… well, it’s complicated.” I left it at that, hoping it would go away. Nope. Kept getting shit for it. Somebody mentioned a possible meeting that I might like. Counselor: “Are there girls there? You know, for balance.” “Look, I’m not a dude’s dude! I don’t like talking about guns & shooting shit or fixing cars, I like talking about books & politics & shit!” Jesus, I wish I’d kept my fucking mouth shut just then.
Ok, but here’s the question that occurred to me later, which I did in fact have the good sense to keep inside my mouth: Why do all the married or otherwise coupled couples get to couple in their first year of goddamned sobriety? Why do they get the incredible comfort of another human being’s skin and breath next to theirs, another human being’s fingers to tangle in theirs, another human being’s chest to rise and fall against their back all night long, and the rest of us just have to fucking do without fucking? Just wondering.