What next?

Someone asked me the other day if I still feel like drinking sometimes.

The answer is YES. Sometimes, perhaps most often, it is at social occasions when it would be nice to join in with everyone else.

But my problem was more with “stress” drinking rather than social drinking. I had a day like this last weekend when we had to cram in two soccer games (across town from each other), yard work, grocery shopping, and laundry. Then it was dinner time, and cleanup after dinner, and making lunches for the next day … I stood there in the kitchen really wanting a glass of wine.

We didn’t have any in the house, so you could say this is all moot, but I have two basic strategies for dealing with this situation. If it’s really bad, I just stop what I’m doing. I go sit down somewhere quiet, telling my hubby and kids that I need some quiet time. I turn on my meditation app, or just sit quietly. I check in with myself — am I thirsty? Hungry? Do I have tension somewhere? (Neck, shoulders, back.)

But sometimes this isn’t possible. If I’m out somewhere, for example, or maybe I don’t feel I need a major intervention. That’s when I ask myself, so I have a drink. What next? Do I have another? Do I still have to make the lunches? Most importantly, has any problem been solved? I also visualize that feeling of being tipsy — not the good “ahhhh” feeling, which is really only at first — but the woozy, flushed, over-warm feeling.

It helps take me out of the immediate desire into thinking about what drinking would really do for me. So this has become a little catchphrase for me whenever I feel like drinking. So I have a drink. What next?

Two years sober

I know I haven’t posted in forever. As a peace offering, I submit this photo of my dog:

buster2

How could anyone be mad at that face??

I wanted to mark this day because Mother’s Day, 2013, was my last day of drinking. It’s the day I went to the hospital, the day I realized I needed to change my life. And I did change it.

I’ve been having a good day today. I mentioned awhile back that I was writing a screenplay. Well, I finished it, and I’ve been trying to reach out to anyone and everyone who might be connected to the theater or film industry.  Today I got an email from a friend of a friend, who is involved in local theater. She offered to set up a reading of my script with real actors, so I could see and hear my words being performed! How exciting is that?

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday, and a special sober happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

 

Dreaming about Drinking

I’ve gotten to the point when I don’t think about drinking during the day very often. I have reaped enough benefits from quitting that the siren call of drinking is muted – or drowned out, har har.

And yet, in the night I often dream about drinking.

I’m not sure what this means. Wish fulfillment? My unconscious still working through issues? I am starting to see a pattern to these dreams. They usually involve being presented with an opportunity to drink. Then I usually decide I am going to drink, but then things happen that prevent me from being able to do so. Sometimes I do drink, but then circumstances conspire to keep from drinking any more.

I thought I would share with you the dream I had last night, since it was pretty typical. I dreamt we were hosting a party at our house. The guests were people I didn’t know very well. (Oddly, the Seattle Seahawks were there. Marshawn Lynch ate all the tacos.) I was tasked with mixing all the drinks. A woman asked for a Manhattan, and I found I had no idea how to make one. I remembered that the end result was brown, so I mixed together cream, hot cocoa mix, and vodka (ew!). I decided, if she doesn’t like it I’ll just have to drink it myself.

She took it, and wandered off. I kept waiting for her to come back. When she didn’t, I thought: I can make one for myself anyway. But my hostess duties kept preventing me from doing so (including making more tacos!). I kept thinking about that drink, and I woke up still wanting it – until I came fully awake and was relieved it was only a dream.

That’s the positive side to having these dreams: I always wake up relieved that I did not, in fact, drink. So that’s maybe what my brain is doing for me: rehearsing making a different choice. It always reinforces for me my confidence with the choice I have made.

 

Abuse, unspecified

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and they did something they haven’t done before: gave me a copy of my medical report for me to take home. I think they have a new computer system.

This wasn’t a full medical report, just a summary. It listed, for example, medications I’ve taken, recent lab results, date of my last physical, and previous diagnoses. For this last, at the very top it says “Alcohol abuse, unspecified: in remission 5/2013.”

I suppose I should feel good about this (the “in remission” part), but instead it made me feel ashamed and exposed. I imagined every doctor, every nurse, every tech who pulls up my file seeing this emblazoned at the top. I suppose it upsets me to think that this won’t go away. It’s like cancer or something, I can’t make it disappear, it just goes in remission. It will always be on the list.

On another note, my husband and I started watching The Wire on DVD (no spoilers, please! We’re only on season 1), an HBO police drama set in Baltimore. There is a scene where two characters, heroin addicts, are forced to attend an NA meeting. Waylon (played by Steve Earle!) is the former junkie, now clean, who gives a speech at the meeting:

Here’s the line I loved: “When it was almost over for me, when I was out there standing on them corners without a pot to piss in, everyone who knew me or loved me cursing my name, you know what I told myself? I said, Waylon, you’re doing good.”

That’s that wolfie voice that I talked about last time, whatever you want to call it:  the drug talking, the inner addict talking, that little part of you that doesn’t care about anything as long as you can have a little drink.

The A Word

Am I or am I not an alcoholic?

This is something we drinkers seem to spend a lot of time asking themselves, and I wonder if it is helpful.

On the pro side, I think the fact that the label exists gives us an opportunity to put a label on a problem. It is undoubtedly a problem which has existed since the first alcoholic brew was brewed. But older terms like “drunkard” and “sot” are entirely pejorative, while “alcoholic,” at least in theory, is more neutral and clinical.

Also, embracing the term gives one a blueprint for what to do about that problem. If you say “My name is XXX, and I’m an alcoholic,” everyone knows what that means. You give up alcohol “one day at a time”, you attend meetings, you follow the twelve steps, which no one knows except the “admitting you’re powerless over alcohol” one, and the one where you have to apologize to everyone.*

At any rate, there is a kind of peace, I think, in embracing a label. In addition to giving you a blueprint, it gives you instant membership into a group.  This can be your group that you meet face to face, in your AA meetings, and also just a badge of “this is who I am.” An army of people who share a certain characteristic, which gives them a certain bond.

On the other hand, I think that many people who may be concerned about their drinking strenuously resist the “alcoholic” label. Or they spend time trying to figure out if the label fits their behavior — time that would be better spent thinking about what to DO about their behavior. Thus the old saying “People who aren’t alcoholics don’t lay awake at night trying to figure out if they’re alcoholics.”

As for myself, I do not call myself an alcoholic. But is there a good reason for that, or am I just in denial? In honor of this post, I decided to answer the 26 question quiz that was designed by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. I am answering these as I would have in the months before I quit drinking.

(I first found this quiz in Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story)

1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone? YES

2. Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink? YES

3. Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out? YES

4. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it? YES

5. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available? YES

6. Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be? YES

7.  Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking? YES

8. Has a family member or close friend express concern or complained about your drinking? YES

9. Have you been having more memory “blackouts” recently? YES

10. Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough? NO

11.  Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily? YES

12. When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking? YES

13. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking?  YES

14.  Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking?  YES

15.  Have you ever had a DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking?  NO

16.  Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking?  NO

17.  Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking? NO

18.  Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking? YES

19.  Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking? NO

20.  Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a “little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind? NO – but I did find a “hair of the dog” helped a hangover

21.  Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to?  NO

22.  Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time? NO

23.  After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there? NO

24.  Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking? NO

25.  Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking? YES

26.  Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol? NO (that I know of)

Holy that’s a lot of “yes”s! According the site, answering yes to even two questions means you might have a problem and answering yes to more than 8 questions means you should seek help immediately. I have 15 yeses. Yipes.

I like these questions because the thread running through them is “Are you using alcohol to self-medicate?” and “Is your drinking slipping out of your control?” – rather than things like “do you drink alone”/”do you drink in the morning?” etc.

So after that, does it still make sense for me to reject the “alcoholic” label? Maybe not. But I still maintain my belief that normal drinking to problem drinking to alcoholic drinking is a continuum. And while one can pick an arbitrary point along that line to say this is an alcoholic and this isn’t an alcoholic, I don’t know how helpful it is to do so. I think I prefer the Allen Carr “pitcher plant” approach, which emphasizes the addictive properties of the drink, instead of the addictive nature of the drinker.

If you would like to take the test at the NCADD site, here it is.

*I do know more about the 12 steps now.

Out of the mouths of babes

I ran an errand with my daughter, a quick grocery store trip after dinner.

On our way to pick up a gallon of milk, we walked through the liquor section.

My Daughter:  Mom, why did you used to drink brandy?

Me(scrambling for an answer): A lot of grown-ups do. I thought it helped me. But I realized it didn’t.

Daughter: I’m glad you don’t drink anymore, Mom.

Me: I am too.

 

 

What are you doing with your sobriety?

I’m writing fiction again.

I used to write constantly — stories, mostly.  I wanted to write a novel but I never could get one going.  I think I was intimidated by the architecture of it — how to sustain a plot.

Having kids was the main reason, or I guess I should say the first reason, I stopped writing.

Drinking was a way to cope with being a parent, and I only realize now how much energy it sucked out of me.  I thought it was helping me.

About a month ago, I suddenly started writing a screenplay, which I have never done before.  I got the idea for it, and I told myself, don’t worry that you don’t know anything.  Just start writing.  And I did, and I’ve kept it up.  I mostly take it scene by scene.  If I get stuck, I just jump ahead a little bit and go back and fill in the gap.  It helps that my screenplay is based on real events in history, so the story is there, I just have to prune and shape it.

At about the same time, my best friend, who lives in another town, asked me if I wanted to try a writing exercise, known as the letter writing game.  Basically, one person writes a letter in character, another person responds with a different character.  You just keep writing back and forth and see how the story develops.  We’re just getting started, but it is so much more fun than I even imagined.

I’m writing again.  And, I have to say, it is fantastic.