Presidents Weekend, Maine, 2016

IMG_1972On Friday we did something that most folks would find foolish.  We headed north rather than south in the middle of winter.  We flew to Maine.  We left the relative warmth of Maryland (23F when we left) for the relative cold of central Maine (-9F on Sunday morning).  But our time here has been full of warmth.  And not simply because there’s been a fire burning non-stop in the white cast iron stove in the living room, because we’ve been with our good friends, Shawn and Andy and their daughters.

IMG_1942We flew into Portland around lunch-time on Friday and headed into the city to find some grub.  We settled on a place called Duckfat.  Now, I’m a fan of duck fat — whether its the name of a restaurant in Portland or the actual fat of a duck, so there was really no other option.  I didn’t even need to look at the menu, which by the way, is full of goodness.  Belgian Frittes, Brussels sprouts with lardons, brisket panini’s, a nice selection of beers — even if I’m not drinking them, I still look a the menu — and house made sodas (I did sample a cherry flavored concoction which was fantastic).

IMG_1956After lunch, we took a trip to L. L. Bean in Freeport.  Mr. Grey had a blast looking at the fish in both the trout pond and the fish tank.  We also got him a new winter jacket — a 650 fill down sweater — which ended instantly the fights about wearing his winter coat in the cold.  Best $99 I’ve spent in a long time.  After a sufficient amount of time (and money) was spent at Bean, we headed up the road to Oakland.

It had been two years since I saw the entire Kalback clan at one time.  We instantly fell into good conversations and the kids started to play as if they’d been playing together every day for the past two years.  We all snuck out on the ice of Salmon Lake for a bit before the light faded and it was an early night for everyone.

A few years ago, we visited in the fall, and I have very distinct memories of feeling like I couldn’t get enough to drink.  There was plenty of beer available, but I could tell that my drinking was different than my friends.  I was not satisfied with a few beers.  Looking back on that, it should have been a stronger warning sign to me than it was, but I didn’t heed that warning.

IMG_1979Saturday, after having breakfast, we headed out in the cold and snow to a place called Quarry Road Trails, where the kids sledded and Mrs. TKD and I went for a snowshoe walk on a trail. As we were walking around I couldn’t help but think to myself, this is what its supposed to be like.  This is living.

One thing about Maine that’s for certain — you get a real sense of the vastness of the world and the universe.  You come to understand quickly that you are a tiny speck in terms of the rest of the universe.  There’s something chilling and awesome about that realization all at once.

After returning to the house, Shawn, Andy and I went for a snowshoe hike on with their dog Cutler.  I overdressed and quickly found myself hot and sweaty, which was not a good thing in the cold.  We were only out for an hour, but by the time we got home, my sweaty undershirt was making me cold.  I’d remember that the next day.

Sunday was very cold and the wind was chilling.  My weather underground app said that it felt like -23F.  I believe it.  Because of that, our outside time was curtailed quite a bit.  We took the kids to the local Y and they enjoyed some time in several bounce-house contraptions.  Shawn was kind enough to watch the kids while Mrs. TKD and I went into Waterville and had a cup of coffee at Jorgensen’s Cafe.IMG_1971

Again, in the late afternoon, Andy and I took Cutler for a stroll.  I wore less clothes and was not cold at the end of the hike.

In a few hours, we’ll be packing up and heading down to Portland for the night and then tomorrow we will be flying back to Maryland.  It will be back to the grind for me and with that thought there is a sense of dread.  That may mean its time to start making some other changes, but it’s to early to tell.

 

25 is not 30

Having a Laugh with Schwinger
Having a Laugh with Schwinger
Photo by Marvin Joseph

Update:  This is a post from another blog.  I migrated it to this blog because it’s an important part of my story.  This was posted just over three years before I fully surrendered and accepted that I am an alcoholic.

Calculations have never been my strong suit. When I announced my plan to go on a 30 day alcohol fast, I didn’t look at the calendar. Today is July 20th. Day 25. It’s also my fraternity brother’s surprise 40th birthday party with the boys.

When I first realized that I would be 5 days shy of the 30 day goal, I panicked. How the hell was I going to get together with my old crew – a crew with which I’ve got many hours days years of drinking history — without taking a drink? Early on, I discussed it with Mrs. TKD and even she said, “Maybe you should give yourself a break on that day.”

I thought about it. I admit it sounds like the wise choice. Why set myself up for failure? What would one day hurt? I’d be close to 30 days – a number that was arbitrary anyway. And I could pick it back up again on the 21st. Maybe extend an extra day to make up for it?

All of this was rationalization.

When I started this, I recognized that I’d been putting it off for a long time because there was always “the next big event” and I was stymied the Fear of Missing Out. I recognized that there will always be something on the calendar that would normally involve a drink or two six and that I needed to just commit.

Roundstone-by-Andrew-Spell-sm
Roundstone, by Andrew Spell

And so, I made the commitment and announced it to the world.

I’m sticking with this commitment today. While I would love to share a cold one with buddies today, or enjoy some of the fine rye whiskey I bought to commemorate my friend’s joining LONLYBNO (league of no longer young but not old), today is not the day. Today is day twenty-five.

25 is not 30.

An Important Call and an Update

crossUpdate:  This is a post from another blog.  I migrated it to this blog because it’s an important part of my story.  This was posted just over three years before I fully surrendered and accepted that I am an alcoholic.

Sunday night, I had a relatively long conversation with a friend about my drinking. My friend has been sober for quite some time after coming to the realization that he was an alcoholic. He told me that I was doing a good thing by taking some time off and offered that there might be some good in exploring A. A.

I admit that I’m highly resistant to the idea of A. A. for a number of reasons. First, I’m not sure that I’m an alcoholic. I do understand that many alcoholics are also unsure or unwilling to admit to the disease. I’m also keenly aware that there are people who have a habit of heavy drinking who are not physiologically addicted to alcohol. These people are generally classified as problem drinkers rather than alcoholics.

Secondly, as I have reviewed materials publicly available on the A. A. site and as I understand them, A. A. has a strong basis in religion and I’m not entirely comfortable with this. Six of the twelve steps make reference either to a higher power or God (Source: This is A.A. An Introduction to the A.A. Recovery Program):

  • Step 2 “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
  • Step 3 “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
  • Step 5 “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
  • Step 6 “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
  • Step 7 “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
  • Step 11 “Sought through prayer and mediation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to cary that out.

I’m sure that there are other benefits to the program, but frankly, I am not a man of strong faith. I am a firm believer in Free Will and personal responsibility. I cannot accept that a higher power is responsible for the direction of my life. As such, it seems very unlikely that I can rationalize working on this problem within the confines of the AA program.

Still, after talking with my friend, the I have not ruled A. A. out. He shared his story with me before asking to hear mine and he told me how A. A. is helping him. I know that the program has benefitted millions of people since it was started in 1935.

I truly appreciate him calling, in fact he was one of the first people to call me about this and that says something, because while we are definitely friends, we don’t particularly know each other well having only known each other for about five years.

My friend also recommended a book, Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism, which I ordered immediately from Amazon in paperback (my iPhone didn’t show it as a kindle book, but I found that it was available on kindle the next day – so I bought it twice).

The book was written in the 1980s, and so at first glance it might appear to be dated (it refers to BAL rather than the more modern BAC), but it is a fascinating read that discusses the science of how the body reacts to and processed Alcohol. I’m about a quarter through it at this point and looking forward to getting through the whole book.

In particular, there is a chapter dedicated to the discussion of problem drinking versus alcoholism. I’ll be very curious to read this and see if it informs me more about my own situation.

I can say that I’ve not had any significant withdraw symptoms. In the first three days, I had two migraines, but have been migraine free since then. At least one of those migraines can be attributed to a nightmare scenario at work. I have had the urge to have a beer at the end of the day, but this hasn’t been a compulsion or an overwhelming craving – and I have beer and bourbon (as well as other less desirable choices) in the house. So, if I really wanted to have a drink, it wouldn’t be that difficult.

Thus far, I have maintained true to my conviction to fast from alcohol. I set an arbitrary number of 30 days in the beginning because a month seemed like a goal that was not too short, but not to long and had meaning. Having said that, I am no longer counting down the days to my next drink – rather, I’m counting down to the day when I will decide what my next step will be.

It may be to have a drink, or it may be to keep going. I’ll decide that when the time comes.