Finding Balance – A Week in Review

This past week has been a whirlwind of activity, thoughts, and a bit of confusion.  I left for my annual sales conference in Miami on Wednesday of last week.  I consciously chose not to get up for my morning meeting because I knew that I had a long day ahead of me filled with airplanes, Uber rides, meetings, cocktail hour, and a dinner.

Wait, what?  Cocktail hour?  Sober people go to cocktail hours?

Yes, sometimes we do when we have a good reason to be there, and a work event is generally a good reason.  That doesn’t mean that we drink, it just means we show up.  Sometimes you have to suit up and show up.  So I went to cocktail hours on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, and had non-alcoholic drinks. My non-alcoholic drinks of choice were, club soda and lime, Red Bull, Ginger Ale, and Espresso.

The meetings were generally good.  I found that I was much more able to focus on the content being presented because I was actually present.  I wasn’t hungover. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t tired.  I actually had a pretty good time and tweeted about it:

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Shame, Insanity, and Awesome Sauce

Shame. Such a powerful feeling; closely tied to guilt.

We feel shame when we do something that we know we ought not do. Painful, humiliating, dishonorable, shame robs us of our self esteem. The actions that lead to shame might be simple foolishness or out right immoral. Regardless of the severity of the action, shame can be traced to self-awareness and the recognition that a mistake was made.

During my active alcoholism, when I was drinking daily, I harbored a great fear of seeking help because I didn’t want to be ashamed. I didn’t want to admit that I had a problem because I was afraid of being ashamed of being an alcoholic. I was afraid of being ashamed to say that I go to AA.

That’s the stigma that our society puts on addiction. Our society, sees addiction as a moral failing. Society tells us that only losers become addicts and only people who can’t make good decisions become alcoholics. And so, addicts and alcoholics often don’t seek help because we are afraid of the shame that will come with the label.

In addition to the stigma, our addiction tells us that we should be ashamed to seek the help we need — that admitting we have a problem is shameful. At the same time, we feel guilt and shame about the problem but don’t recognize these feelings for what they are. And so, we find ways to cover those feelings of guilt and shame — many of us turn those feelings into anger with others.

I didn’t recognize the shame.

This year my son is in second grade at a private school. He attended this school last year and was warmly welcomed by the students and the teachers. His entire perspective changed as a result of going to this school and at the end of the summer, he actually told me that he wanted to go back to school. This was a major victory since he’d spent the entire year of kindergarten telling us that he didn’t want to go to school every morning.

We take him to school and pick him up because there is no bus service. Last year, I dropped him off in the carpool line most days, even though I knew that he didn’t like it. For reasons that I don’t understand and he can’t vocalize, he wants me to walk him into school every day. And not just to the door, but into his classroom. Fortunately, this completely acceptable at this school.

At the beginning of this school year, I dreaded this. I tried not to do it. I was angry with my son because he wanted me to come into his school.

I was barely able function enough to make coffee and drive (my son) to school in the morning. I did not want to face people who might notice that something wasn’t right with me. I was afraid that someone would find out my secret.

I was ashamed — but I didn’t recognize the shame. I was just irritated that my son didn’t have the courage to walk into school on his own. I actually thought I was angry with my son, an innocent boy, for wanting me to walk into school with him.

Pure.  Insanity.  In reality, I was angry with myself.

After I got sober and started regularly attending meetings, I realized that I no longer have to be ashamed of my addiction — because I’m doing the right thing and getting the help I need.

I realized that I was actually ashamed of my drinking — I have no shame about quitting drinking or admitting my problem.

Over the past few months, I’ve started to enjoy walking into school with my son. Nearly every day, I talk with his teacher and see his classmates. I get daily updates from his teacher on his progress.   Some days, I see other parents and we have short conversations.

My son’s classmates tell me what’s going on in their worlds, show me their most recent projects, and ask me when I’m going to have them over for pulled pork again. The boys in the class line up to give me the “secret-high five.”  (Full disclosure:  the “secret high-five” is when you hold out your hand and a kid head-butts your palm. I do it low-five style but they call it the secret high five, and giggle about it.)

Pure.  Awesome Sauce.

Today, I’m no longer ashamed and so I’m no longer afraid.

So, this is where I am

The thoughts that I’d been having over the past few days stuck with me into the evening yesterday.  Despite my best efforts to occupy my mind with other things including listening to music, playing my acoustic guitar, opening up my electric guitar to see if I could fix it (it’s busted and probably will not be worth repairing), and taking a long walk in the cold air, I had trouble shaking those thoughts.

So, I went to a meeting.  And that helped.  As I walked into the meeting I thought to myself, “I sure hope this speaker is a good one.” And she was.  She had a story to tell, but more importantly she was good at conveying a message of hope.  I went to bed last night with good thoughts in my mind.

And then this morning came around. Continue reading

Is this how it will always be?

Some days are better than others.  I think I’ve been generally positive about my sobriety so far, and I am truly happy to be free of the chains of drinking every day.  But, I’d be remiss if I let the world believe that every day is strawberries and cream, because they’re not.

I’ve had a good day today and spent time with Mrs. TKD and Mr. Grey, but in those silent moments, I’ve been in my head.  Deep in the recesses of my head.

Is this how it will always be?

Some days it feels like I’ve traded my obsession with drinking for an obsession with not drinking.  There are days when all my quiet time is consumed by thoughts related to staying sober.  Today has been one of those days.

I can’t believe I’ll may never taste a beer or whisky again.

Will I ever set foot in Zeno’s again?

What’s right, the AA doctrine or science? 

I wouldn’t call these thoughts bad, just questions.  I wouldn’t say that I’m craving alcohol, but rather missing it.  The truth is I don’t want to drink today, but I don’t want to think about a life without ever having a drink again either.

Alcohol has been a big part of my life for a long time — not always problematic, but there, part of who I was. In some ways, giving up alcohol has been like giving up part of my identity.  I know I’ve got to learn more about myself and that perhaps these thoughts will quiet over time.  But today, they’re driving me a bit nuts.




A risk I’m not willing to take

I won’t say that there’s no chance of me ever drinking again for a couple of reasons:

First, relapse happens. I pray that it doesn’t happen to me, but I am conscious that it could.

Second, modern science has shown that a majority of heavy drinkers can moderate successfully. I know that goes against the 12-step doctrine, but the doctrine was written nearly 80 years ago — when there wasn’t a great deal of good science on the subject.

Still, I’m not willing to take the risk.  I’ve gained far more than I’ve lost by giving up the booze.

My New Years Hope

New Years Day — A time to look back and a time to look forward. For many, a time for resolutions. I’m not making any resolutions this year, because I’ve learned that I really need to work with the next 24 hours. Besides, I have failed keep true to my resolutions so many times in the past — why set myself up for another failure?

The year 2015 will go down as one of the significant years in my life because I finally took action and addressed my drinking. It had been a long internal struggle which culminated in a gradual surrender over the period of four days in late September. That surrender gave way to freedom.

While the last three months of 2015 were markedly better than the first nine because I was sober, they weren’t easy. The first nine weren’t particularly happy and certainly weren’t healthy.  I was in a special kind of hell most of the year. 

So, here’s hoping for a happier and healthier 2016.