Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dodging the Question

One of my hobbies is playing rugby. Every year I worry that maybe I'm getting a little too old (contact sports take their toll, eh?) but once I get out there and start playing, those worries disappear, because it's just so damn fun.

I played my first game of the season today, and a good time was had by all. I'm bruised and battered, but in high spirits, and am looking forward to a quiet evening at home, watching TV and maybe a DVD or two. But something's missing.

In rugby, there's a tradition called "the Third Half", it's the time after the game when all the players meet up in a bar or club house, buy drinks for the other side, and generally make asses of themselves by singing songs and playing drinking games. God I love the third half. On my old team that I played for just a couple years back, I was the guy to lead the club in song, and had quite a reputation as a stalwart drinker who wouldn't let the club down in a boat race or chugging obstacle course. I play for a different team now, and am a bit more quiet around them so haven't had a chance to gain that sort of reputation, but I've been known to throw a few beers back now and again.

A few months ago, back when I wasn't sure if this sobriety thing was a long-term plan or just a phase, I thought that maybe after a long, sober winter, I might enjoy a drink or two after a game. In fact, that could be my drinking night! I would only ever drink after a game. And maybe after a practice. Or if rugby was on TV and some guys wanted to go to a bar, or even if I was injured a bit and had nothing else to do at home.....

You can see why this plan wouldn't have worked out.

Since I decided/realized that I am an alcoholic (okay, why do I always want to qualify that word? I almost wrote "probably an alcoholic" or "pretty much an alcoholic". Do I think that leaving a bit of verbal wiggle-room will get me off the hook here?), I had to scrap that back-up plan. I understand that even one drink is the first step back to where I was, and I really have no confidence that I could keep myself away from booze for the long term if I give myself the opportunity to cheat. I'd kind of forgotten about the plan.

I've been out with my friends when they're drinking, I've been to bars. I mostly feel comfortable being with other people in social situation s where they are drinking and I am not, but today I took a ride home right after the game and avoided the after-game drink up entirely.

It's one of those cases where I know that I wouldn't cave in or anything, but that I would just feel too sad to have to tell people that I'm just drinking pop, to sit out of any boat races and chugging contests. There are some days where you have to answer the question: "Am I going to drink today?" But today I needed to avoid the question entirely.

We have another game next week, and when I'm there, I WILL go out with the boys afterward, and I'll have a good time. But today, for my first game of the year as a sober man, I wanted to give myself some space.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Small People, Big Lives

I've been feeling pretty down lately. I left my job without a backup plan other than some savings that will see me through for another month, maybe two, and now instead of being snapped up right away because of my marketable skills, I'm getting a lot of "no"s and "sorry"s and it turns out that my skills aren't as marketable as I'd hoped. It's hard to hear rejection so many times, and it's bringing up a lot of fears and insecurities about myself, about my past, who I am as a person.

In short, it makes me feel like I was stupid to dream big and to believe that I deserved to be treated better at my workplace.

But I've been reading some of these blogs about our struggles with alcoholism and maybe other addictions, and knowing that I share something in common with people who have been through so much, and are fighting for something so special as sobriety, as (for now, anyway) reminded me of how far I've come in so short a time.

For those of us who are doing our best, living on the edge between being "mostly normal" and drowning in drink, we climb mountains every day. We are superheroes. We are doing something that is very, very difficult, and every single day we spend sober, we are showing that we are that much stronger than we thought.

I can't put "almost 7 months sober" on my resume, but I know that my sobriety is a testament to my strength and determination, to my willingness to take care of myself and the people I love, and to be the best version of myself I can be. Alcoholism sucks, but being able to fight it is pretty awesome.

Waiting is the hardest part

One thing that people have told me is that I am very patient, and it's true that from certain perspectives I am. I work in customer service, and patience is a required skill. I also have patience with little kids (in a visiting friend of the parents kind of way: I have no idea how my patience would hold up if I were a parent), and it would take a lot for me to lose my temper with a child.

But the people who have told me that I'm patient are very often people who don't know me very well, because in truth, I don't think I'm very patient at all, and I think a part of that is because of my alcohol abuse.

When I was drinking, I had no patience where booze was concerned. If it was a day that I'd decided to drink, the work day could not go fast enough. If it was the weekend, it would sometimes take an act of will to avoid drinking from the moment I woke up. If I was going out with friends, I'd make sure to attend the pre-drinking party, and I'd also make sure I had a glass poured even before I was leaving for that (A pre-drinking, pre-drinking party?). If it looked like we might run out of booze before I passed out, it would become very important to me that we make a liquor run. I would get tremendously frustrated with non-drinkers and their inability to remember what time the liquor store closed (I still know the closing and opening times of my local places: the wine store's the best because it's open late every day except Sunday). I've thrown temper tantrums because I've missed my chance to buy booze and would now have to wait an entire DAY to get more.

Part of patience is being able to delay gratification, but part of addiction is wanting your gratification RIGHT NOW.

I'm a week shy of 7 months sober now, and I'll say that one of the good things about being at this point is that my brain has stopped pestering me about the next time I'm going to get drunk. I still have moments, and it's surprising and horrifying how powerful those moments are, where I crave booze (I was going to write "a drink" but the problem, as I've said, isn't that I want a drink, it's that I want many, many drinks), but those moments seem to be less frequent, and for the most part I'm not as obsessed about the drinking as I was in, say, my first three months.

It's nice, not having that ticking clock in my head counting down to happy hour. And I think that in some ways it's helped me to be actually patient, instead of just appearing that way sometimes.

Which is nice, because if anything requires patience, it's job hunting. I don't have many stand-out prospects right now, and even though it's only been 3 weeks, it feels longer. I just want to have a new job RIGHT NOW. I wouldn't have ever described myself as someone who needed to work all the time, and when I'm drinking I certainly don't, but this new, sober me is going stir crazy.

And, the only thing I can do is just keep sending out resumes and waiting for those calls. I'm getting phone interviews, so it's only a matter of time before something clicks, but at the same time I'm getting a lot of practice with being patient.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I am not dead!

I am not dead! Or relapsed, either. I've just been sick with the flu and a little bit down due to my being unemployed and not knowing what to do with myself during the working hours. I'm getting interviews and call backs, so this should be temporary, but until then, I've got my fingers crossed.

I'm off to an interview right now, as a matter of fact!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

There are always reasons

YesterdayI had a doctor's appointment. My doc is closing up shop for some semi-retirement, and I'm gonna miss him. He's the sort of no-nonsense guy that I need for a medical professional, because as self-aware as I sometimes appear, I'm the king of denial when it comes to actually living my life. He's been urging me to think about quitting my drinking ever since I first saw him to get out of a really terrible anxiety period, and I was looking forward to telling him about my progress (6 months tomorrow).

He was happy for me, but he had something more serious to discuss. Last year I went to a sleep assessment thing, where they hook you up to a bunch of wires and tubes in a lab and expect you to get a good night's sleep while they watch you through a camera. One of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever done. I was supposed to go to a follow up appointment, but ended up missing it due to a combination of anxiety and alcoholism. Well, my doc had the results, and now I've got one more reason to stay sober.

I have "Very Severe" sleep apnea, which means that I stop breathing when I sleep. It took a moment for me to process the words "very severe", because my doctor doesn't throw those wordss around at random. I guess during the sleep study I stopped breathing long enough for them to register a dip in my blood oxygen levels over 350 times. In one night. My doc said those periods were all very short (and I answered: "Of course they're short! At 350 times a night, if they were long I wouldn't be breathing at all!"), but because of the related health issues around apnea (including increased risk of stroke and heart disease), it's pretty serious.

Then my doc explained something about sleep apnea and alcohol. When someone stops breathing when they're sleeping, their oxygen levels in their blood start to drop. Most often, the brain detects this drop, says "uh-oh!" and then wakes you up so that you can start breathing again. Now, in the intoxicated brain, this signal doesn't always get through. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how an alcoholic dies in his sleep and then traumatizes his life partner by forcing him to wake up to a dead body one morning.

So, today I have to call the sleep clinic and schedule another session. I'm hoping that the combination of sobriety, getting more excercise, and not smoking pot will all lead to a better diagnosis, but I'll probably have to be one of those guys who sleeps with a face mask for the rest of my life.

But I was drinking heavily for months after that first sleep test, which means I stopped breathing more than 30,000 times, many of those times after drinking huge volumes of alcohol. I have no idea how many times I escaped death, but let's just say I've got another good reason to stay away from alcohol.

Monday, April 2, 2012

By A Thread

I had a close call over the weekend. Not with booze, (for those keeping track, Thursday is my 6-month-a-versary) but with another addiction (habit? dependence? Labels, ugh.) that I don't talk much about on here, because I'm still sorting things through: pot.

Not to go into the details, but I've smoked a fair bit of marijuana. I don't have as near a bad relationship with it as I do with alcohol, but I've noticed that I do tend to use it to replace alcohol, and especially being booze-free has made me more aware of what effect pot was having on my life. Last month, to coincide with my booze-free date, I stopped smoking pot.

The plan in this case is similar to what the booze plan was: set a date when I could start smoking again, and then see what happens. The date is in about a month, but yesterday, after a nice brunch with friends, one of the friends produced a joint for the walk home. I really wanted to partake, and in the moment my resistance was about as tough as a soggy paper bag. When the joint came my way, I demured, but I know without a doubt that if anyone had said "Oh, come on," I would have accepted without hesitation.

This sort of thing worries me, but I'm not letting it get me down. Because I refused in the first place. And that's a kind of progress.

But I what I DO need to do is re-evaluate. If I am to live completely sober, I need stronger defences and stronger motivations. Sometimes we're hanging by a thread, and that thread is the greatest thing in the world, because we're still hanging, not falling. But even spider silk has its limits, and I could definitely use a safety net.