Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Little things

I'm really close to 4 months now. I'm 98% sure that I will not be drinking on our vacation this month (we'll bring a friend so that my boyfriend can have someone to keep him company over free drinks and I can just be my boring "read a book, bed at 9" self). I'm more fit than I've been in years. My mood at work is nothing short of lunacy - I smile at people! I tell jokes! I am charming and lovely! I shave!

I can do this, I'm pretty sure,...unless I forget and screw up. Rugby season (I play rugby) will be tough, because there are very, very, very few things as nice as a cold, cold beer after a long, rough game. I dunno if club soda will cut it, but I guess it will have to. Fuck. I hadn't expected to think about that today...oh well.

Anyway, the point today is that for the most part I've managed to set up a pretty solid routine: I get up really early (like 4am early), eat breakfast, shower and shave, go to the gym, then work, then home. I'll do the dishes or some other household chore, make supper, say hi to the loved one if he's home from work, and then bed around 8 or 9. Repeat. So long as I stick to this, there isn't really temptation.

But the yesterday I had to go out of my way to pcik up some groceries, which took me past one of my usual liquor stores and boy oh boy did I feel a pang of longing...just go in, pick up a 6-pack or a pint of vodka. Because it's been so long since my last drink, I could probably get toasted off of just that...just one night, maybe to remind myself of what I'm giving up....

It was over as soon as the store was out of sight, but it was a little unnerving how deep that pang was. I guess I'll take it as a reminder that I need to remain vigilant. Scratch that 98%...I need to be 100% sure that I am not drinking anymore. There is too much at stake.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wine with Dinner?

Last night was dinner with my partner's parents. I'm slow to warm to people, but I've known them for 3 years now, and they are nice, engaging people with interesting things to say, so at this point I'm slowly letting down my guard, but we're not there yet, so sometimes I get a bit antsy at visiting with them so often (we see them on average every second week, whereas I see my family once or twice a year) but it's always a good time.

They are a family with deeply ingrained rituals, and one of those rituals is wine with supper. I stopped drinking back in October, but they still, without fail, offer me wine every single time I come for dinner. I suppose this is where telling them that I am a recovering alcoholic would be useful, because I feel like they would ultimately be respectful of that. But not right away, and that's why I'm not comfortable telling them that. So my not drinking is a resolution, to be examined and renewed next January.

Thing is, I haven't figured out what the polite exchange for someone choosing not to drink and for others not to press the issue is. It's bad enough that the temptation is there, but typically I get offered alcohol two or three times right away. I have to say "no thanks" two or three times before they stop. It's frustrating and embarassing to me.

I don't want to tell them that I have a drinking problem, because, stigma and shame aside, I don't want to hear another person tell me I don't have a problem. This also happens all the time: "I can't drink because I have a drinking problem," "Oh, Marc, you're fine! I've never seen you get out of hand. Here, just have a beer!"

If you read this and you are a drinker, please do not say this to anyone. It is incredibly awkward and the person you are telling it to should not be required to share with you the embarassing, shameful, tragic, and just plain sad experiences that have led them to stop drinking.

Anyway, with my partner's parents, I think I'm going to start bringing "fancy" flavoured soda water to dinner, and hopefully that will satisfy tradition enough that they don't feel obligated to ask me to drink wine.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brains, BRAINS!

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about our career trajectories and sort of out of the blue I mentioned how grateful I am that I have stopped drinking, because where I am right now, I kind of need all of my brain power running at its best in order to make good decisions. While in many ways things are very comfortable for me in general, I can see that the future is bringing with it a lot of change and potential opportunity, but there are so many moving parts and possible outcomes that trying to take all of it into account would be impossible if I weren't at my best.

One of the outcomes of nearly 4 months of sobriety is that I feel myself changing and growing, I feel like I have all of this power to determine my future and to set goals and make decisions that will help me ensure a safe, happy, stable future. Instead of only looking forward to the next drink or the next party, I am looking forward to the next year, the next decade.

So, even when this is hard (I'm pretty sure I had one of those dreams where I get really drunk and ruin everything last night), there are dividends that are paying off already and will continue to do so down the road. I want to be a powerful, intelligent, compassionate, mature man, and being sober is how I will do that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hanging by the nails

I have days where I feel certain that there's no way I'll even be sober for a year. I know that time work on my reasons, make them seem less urgent, whisper to me that maybe this time I will manage my drinking like a responsible adult, so why not just give it a try.

I think it's harder because it's January, and all the resolutions are new, and so very fragile, and even though I've been sober since October, it's like I'm only 3 weeks in. The distance between 3 months sober and 4 months sober is feeling like forever. That's one advantage to drinking: you don't really count the days. Not drinking has a lot of counting.

But things are going pretty good, for the most part. Things are more smooth with my friends, my health is better, I think I'm doing better at work (and I've got a job interview lined up for a position that pays more). I've been regular with the gym. I'm back at school taking a night class.

I guess I'm just in the emotional doldrums right now. One thing I'm learning is that moods come and go, and so next week I'll probably be zipping along like a little sober dynamo, making sobriety work.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I went to Boston with my partner this past weekend, the first of two vacations we have lined up for the winter. In advance, our hosts knew that I didn't drink, and were fine with it, and it really didn't come up, except for towards the end where one of our hosts asked (with his great Bostonian accent) whether the next time we visited I would be sharing a beer. I told him that anything was possible, and that the current plan is to not drink for a year and see what happens. But the answer is supposed to be "No, because otherwise it will mean that my life is on an undesireable trajectory, and anyway, you probably wouldn't like me as much."

I feel like in a subtle way I am setting myself up for failure by holding off on saying this is permanent. I don't know why I need to think of it as a temporary thing, something I'm just "trying out", as if it's all for laughs and all of the work I'm doing is just an experiment after all. Because there is ample evidence that I should not be drinking.

The biggest sign of that is how much I really want to. I mean, I really, really want to. Right now, while I have my defenses up, life is good, I've been at the gym, I'm relaxed, I feel loved, etc, etc, I don't want a drink. But if I try a little thought experiment, if I say to myself: "Drymarc, would you like to get a beer right now?" Hoo boy.

I know that the first sip of beer would be glorious. And I know that it would be the first of many, many more sips.

While on vacation, our hosts offered my partner some scotch, and on another day, some wine. Both were good versions of what I would ordinarily drink, and they discussed how expensive they were, how they tasted, how long they were aged or what year they were from etc. I nodded politely, but to me their worth can only be measured in how easily they would get me drunk. I have absolutely no interest in what a "good" scotch or a "good" wine is, that's just window dressing. The point is getting drunk, if I'm being honest.

Since I've been sober, I've started to see how other people actually drink, and it's kind of amazing, because how I drink and how they drink are completely different. And if I even tried to drink like these other, not-alcoholic people, I would hate it. I would chaffe at the bit. I would despise them for taking so long, for "savouring" their sips, I would hate the time they take before refilling their glass, I would scoff at them for saying they feel drunk after only three or four drinks. Drunk after four drinks?!? Are you shitting me?? That's a snack! Barely!

Our second vacation this winter will be one of those all-inclusive deals, probably in Cuba, where there is sunshine, a beach, pools, and, oh yes, open bar. I'm of two minds on this, because, well, open bar! And it's vacation! Do it!!!

But I think the best choice for me is to stay sober, even if it feels like I'm wasting the biggest perk. Because I know that if I drink, it will take that much effort to stop, even if it is only on vacation. Right now one of the things going for me is that I am almost 4 months sober, and I'd hate to ruin that record just because it's 25 degrees and I'm sitting at a pool.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Hard Parts

So, 3 months sober a few days ago. And I'm not kidding when I say that most days this is ridiculously easy. I mean, I'm just not doing something. That kind of involves no training, right?

When I'm done work, I just -don't- stop by the liquor store for a 6-pack or two.

When I'm bored at home I just -don't- sample my partner's leftover wine.

When I'm at a friend's party, I just don't bring a quart of vodka, and instead sip my fresca or soda water and enjoy the hijinks with a clear head.

But then, some days, it's really hard. Part of why it's really hard is because of how easy it is most of the time. I worry (because it's happened before) that I will take my success at not drinking as a sign that I could start drinking again. I have to remind myself that that's just not how these things work. The thing is, I would drink for the sole purpose of getting drunk. When I think about alcohol, I think about getting wasted. There is no other equation. In my head, booze always equals getting trashed. This is a sign for me that drinking is a problem.

Sometimes things are hard because of what's going on in my head, but other times it's what's going on around me. I've become hyper aware of how much alcohol is in my culture, how surrounded by it I am. When I'm joking with co-workers about how hard our day was, someone ALWAYS mentions beer or wine as a coping strategy. When I say something funny, someone in the crowd will say "I'll drink to that!" Even though I've told my partner's family that I'm not drinking these days, they still pour a glass of wine for me at dinner (which then sits untouched and increasingly elephant-like in its obviousness as dinner goes on). A friend told me that I don't need to quit drinking, because I seem to be fine. I wanted to slap him, even though I think he thought he was being nice. He has no idea whether I should or should not be drinking, and it was rude of him to presume.

At New Years, I was asked half a dozen times why I was giving up booze. And I've barely even come out to myself about my drinking difficulties, so I don't have a ready answer for someone else. I worry about the image of the steretypical boozehound sneaking into their minds when they think of me. Better that they think it's a health-kick, rather than an attempt to put stability into my life.

My partner has been great about this, I'm gonna say. He's supportive in all the right ways, and when I complain about wanting a drink, he's sympathetic but supportive. He sees, more than anyone else, how sobriety is changing my life for the better, and knowing that I am improving his life, makes it worthwhile for me every time.

I wish it was easy every single day, but that's not how it works. In the end, I'm storing up my easy days, husbanding my will power for when it is really hard. The holiday season is behind us now, so the hardest part of the year (other than summer-patio-beach-cottage season) is done. Onward and upward, right?