Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quick Update

So, I just got off the phone with a potential employer to discuss salary (this is where I suck at negotiation, because somehow I accepted exactly what was offered) and she informed me that provided my criminal background check comes back clean (it totally will), I'll be getting a job offer. So, yay!

Everything I've seen about the team I'll be working with hits all the right notes. It's also closer to the field I want to be working in, Human Resources, so it could lead to a better opportunity down the road.

It's a pay cut from my previous job, but what I've learned is that when I am not spending hundreds of dollars a month on beer and vodka, I don't actually require very much in the way of funds. It's a liveable salary.

And most importantly, I will be employed again! The risk I took by leaving my old job the way I did didn't lead to disaster. Provided this works out, I did everything right this time: I'm not a homeless, anxious, depressed drunk who can't get himself off his friend's couch.

I'm going to hold off on any real celebrating until I get the actual offer, but I will feel a little lighter in the loafers today.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Years and years ago I had a different blog. I kept it up for quite some time, and even now it's interesting to go back and take a look at it and see how much I've changed - and how I've stayed the same - over the years. Back then, I was pretty indiscriminate about what I wrote there: I recorded everything. I'm grateful for my honesty back then, but there were some consequences. For one, sometimes I wrote about other people, and - in the case of my boyfriend at the time - sometimes those people read what I wrote, and got angry.

At the time, it was important to me that I write openly and honestly. I struggled with that a bit, because at the end of the day it sucks to hurt people you love, but more often than not I decided to write what I wanted and deal with the consequences if and when they arose.

I'm more circumspect now, I think. As I get older, some things - like not hurting loved ones - became more important and other things - like airing other peoples' dirty laundry online to complete strangers - became less important. These days, when I write online, I try to be respectful, especially of the people in my life, but that doesn't mean there aren't conflicts.

One of the things I prize about myself is my openness and honesty. I can lie, and do so when I'm scared, but it isn't a comfortable thing for me to do. I'm not able to put up a front for any serious length of time. I find it exhausting to pretend to feel something that I don't, or to bite my tongue when I feel strongly about something. I say what I'm thinking and don't have very much of a filter. Lucky for me I'm mostly a nice guy, so the stuff that comes out of my mouth isn't usually hurtful or terrible, though I'm certain that my tendancy to reveal things about myself has had a personal cost. Some people have told me that I appear inconsistent in my views and attitudes. I don't know that this is true, exactly, but it is true that I think about things from a lot of different angles, and so depending on where you catch me in my thinking process, I could end up saying very different things, including things that, at the end of the day, I don't really believe. But I more than likely believed it as I was saying it.

Sometimes in life, there are things that really affect me, and, for the purposes of this blog, affect how I feel about my sobriety, but they involve other people and won't necessarily paint them in a very flattering light. In cases like that, I struggle to figure out how to be honest and open about my feelings about living sober and not hurting people I care about.

This is just a round about way to get to the point, which is that two weeks ago someone close to me - who, in general, has been an amazing and stalwart supporter of me in pretty much everything - did something that hurt me pretty badly. What he did maybe wasn't that bad, but the timing of it, the nature of it, and how that interracted with my own history and issues, made it  feel bad.

So, that's been affecting my mood over the last few weeks, and it has sucked.

I'm writing about it now because since it happened we've had some chances to talk about it and we're coming out the other side.

I'm writing about it here because it's another bench mark in my sobriety, a sign of my maturity in how we handled this situation. Maybe if I'd been drinking I would have handled it in the same way, but I also might have used it as a trigger to go on a bender, or might have started a fight and lashed out, turned my hurt into anger and then hurt someone I loved.

Yeah, it sucks to feel hurt, and I was feeling pretty miserable about the whole thing for a while, but I know that I handled things as best I can. I was able to bring an element of thoughtfulness to the discussions, to keep perspective.

As a drinker, I handled a lot of situations as if I were a teenager, including temper tantrums and a self-centred attitude of entitlement, the idea that any crisis is earth-shattering and cataclysmic. Part of the sobriety process is finally growing up. And that doesn't mean not feeling things deeply (is it possible that adults feel things more deeply than we do as children? That the reason kids react so strongly to minor slights isn't because those slights feel worse but because kids lack perspective and can't tell minor issues from major? I'm too biased about my own feelings right now to say for sure), but it means that we have more tools and more strength to deal with those feelings.

It's a matter of being more aware of the subtleties of life. And it means that I can learn to write posts that are honest an d open, but that don't burn the people close to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Better or Worse

Years ago, back in my first attempt at sobriety, there was a blog I read (can't remember where, though) by someone who was just a few months ahead of me in the sober timeline. She wrote with humour and insight, and a few of her entries stuck with me. Her blog warned me about "drunk dreams" before I encountered them myself, and in a lot of ways helped me to form my own ideas about sobriety and my addiction.

One entry she wrote was called "Better or Worse?" and I've been thinking about that one a lot lately. It was about how when you go to the eye doctor, they put you in the "lens machine" (whatever it's called) and ask you to compare and contrast several sets of lenses, asking you which lens is better, which one is worse. The optometrist would switch back and forth, and sometimes the two lenses were so close that it was difficult to tell which one really was better. I wear glasses myself, so the analogy stuck.

The point of her entry was that there comes a point in sobriety where you start to wonder if life really is better without the booze. The objective answer is pretty much "hell yes, what the heck are you thinking???" but sometimes, especially if you're having a bad string of days, or are feeling that boredom that sometimes comes with being sober, it gets difficult to see the difference.

Today is my 7 months sober day, I've been unemployed for just over a month, and I think I'm feeling a little bit depressed. For some reason, I'd thought that I would pick up a new job much more quickly than it's looking like it will take now. Even if my expectations were reasonable, having no job to go to stops being awesome by about day 9, at least for me. I would never have described myself as someone who needs to stay busy, but, well, I guess I am.

On paper, if I were drinking, this would have been a disaster. Right now, I'm sending out resumes, I'm answering the phone, I'm helping to keep the apartment clean, I'm basically pulling my weight and doing what I need to do to keep myself and the boyfriend sane, and to make sure that when opportunity knocks, I'm not passed out on the couch with a wicked hangover. If I were drinking, I'd have blown through my savings in about two weeks, I might have put off important tasks (like applying for Employment Insurance), I'd be pissing off the boyfriend, I'd be miserable and would be far more than "a little bit" depressed. The last time I was without work this long, I WAS a drinker, and that escapade ended with me being evicted and having nowhere to go.

So, better or worse? Definitely better.

Except, today is one of the first really nice days outside. It's patio weather. It's "cold beer on the balcony" weather. Mojitos with friends, sangria at the bar, grab a cold one and come on over because summer's almost here!

And this is where the analogy about the eye doctor falls down for me. Because when the optometrist is flipping between those two lenses, and it's difficult to tell them apart, that's because the lenses are so close to each other that they're practically identical. It's not easy to tell them apart, because they're almost the same.

When I look at my life with booze and without, we're talking about two completely different worlds. There is nothing the same about them at all. The idea that it would make no difference, that's an illusion. It seems like they're comparable only because there's something wrong with me. Its like doing the lens test with someone who's blind: that they can't tell the difference between the two lenses isn't a problem with the test, it's a problem with the blind guy. If that guy is smart, he'll stop asking himself which lens is better, and will get out of that chair and find himself a seeing eye dog and a white that will actually HELP him live his life.

Today, I'm not asking myself if it is better to be sober or if it is worse. That question has already been answered. Today, to celebrate my 7 months, I'm reminding myself that things are pretty good.

And in fact, between my coming up with the idea for this post and now, I've had two calls about possible jobs that will, with luck, turn into interviews. I've also checked online and my first Employment Insurance payment will come in tomorrow, and it's not too bad.

So, right now, better or worse? Definitely better.

Oh, and PS: Thanks a bunch to all you guys making comments. Makes me a little nervous knowing that I'm writing for an audience now (but then, why the heck do an online journal, eh?), but it also makes me feel better and more accountable. So, thanks.

PPS: Today is NOT 7 months. I quit on October 5th, and when I looked at the little date thingy on my computer and saw "3/5/2012" I was all "Oh, the 5th already?! Time flies!" But it is not March 5th, it is May 3rd. Everything else in this post is (more or less) accurate, however.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

At my doctor's yesterday, when I mentioned that I had problems with alcohol but had been sober for over 6 months (I don't think I used the word "alcoholic" incidently, my avoidance of that word never fails to amaze me), he asked me a little bit about my history with booze, specifically when I started drinking.

As incredible as it seems to almost-35-years-old me, I actually started drinking when I was 13. I was 13! Jeez! Fun fact: the first time I ever masturbated, I was drunk from stealing hard liquor from my dad's liquor cabinet one afternoon when he was out running errands (I was also reading a terrible novel by Piers Anthony about alien insects that killed people by entrancing them with sexual pheromones and then sucking them dry of all fluids. I have never told anyone this in my life, so there you go, loyal readers).

I remember carefully pouring myself  glass afer glass, moving from one bottle to the next like a bumblebee, trying my best to make it appear that absolutely no alcohol was disappearing while still trying to get as buzzed as possible. My parents were divorced and my dad re-married by then, so I only had a chance to get drunk every other weekend or so. I loved that warm, buzzy feeling, and would just lie in bed and let the room spin or watch TV and while away the hours.

By the time I hit high school, I was already a pro at secret drinking so that when I had my first chance at "public" drinking - at a New Year's Eve party with a few friends when I was 16 or 17, I held my liquor the best. While a friend was puking his guts up after "only" three tall-boys (and it was some brand of "Ice" beer, so 6.5%?), I drank all 5 of mine without feeling the least bit sick. That night, my mom insisted on smelling my breath when I got home: I didn't get in trouble then, but she must have known I'd been drinking. I don't think she knew for sure though that I'd long been nipping from her bottle of rum that she kept beneath the kitchen sink. She herself drank so rarely that a single bottle would last her months.

As a young adult in my early twenties, I discovered a great little hole-in-the-wall gay bar where I learned to play "bank card roullette". The way that game is played is: if you get paid by direct deposit early Thursday morning, you hit your regular bar Wednesday night as soon as you get off work. You run a tab, drinking as much as you like. Sometime after midnight, you begin to test your bank card, trying the machine every 15 minutes until it actually goes through. When it does, take out some extra cash after settling the tab, buy everyone (and yourself) an extra round of drinks to celebrate and then stay put until closing time (or later, if you know the bar's owner and he lets a few of you stick around until dawn drinking free booze from his private stash), then stumble home, picking up poutine and chicken fingers at the local all-night diner on the way. Doing this for two or more years ensured that for every paycheque, my first "bill payment" went to my alcoholism. There were a lot of bounced rent cheques back then.

And so it goes.

I'm reminding myself about these moments, and a few others that I choose not to divulge, because when things are going well, it's easy to forget that I have a problem. It's also easy to forget that for over twenty years, I've been trying to live my life with one hand tied behind my back. If I hadn't already been an alcoholic before I graduated from high school, would I be a doctor now? If I hadn't spent so much of my money on booze instead of bills, would I be a home owner now? Would I have a family? Where would I be?

Two thirds of my memories are influenced by my drinking, whether I know it or not. I have a long way to go, a lot of new memories to pile up, before I can say I've lived a full life. Right now, I can (honestly or dishonestly) lay a lot of my mistakes at the feet of my drinking. I've only just begun to make mistakes as a sober, rational adult.

Time to reaffirm: I will be sober for the rest of my life. I will never drink again. I have too much living left to do, and time is shorter than I'd like it to be. So there.

Good news

I don't have much to say, at least nothing interesting or thought-provoking, but after a REALLY stressful couple of days (for a few reasons), I have some good news to report. First, my Employment Insurance claim is being approved, which means that I will have some income (though less than if I were working). Also, I got the forms I needed to release the pension contributions I was making at my old job. I'd only been contributing for a few months, so it isn't very much, but it adds another layer of financial security, for now (at the cost of my retirement....). Last, I met my new family doctor yesterday and I really like him. He's young and seems very calm, so I'm relieved that he wasn't some weirdo.

So, one month into my unemployment and it looks like I'll be okay for a little while. I won't really relax until I start to actually see the money in my account, but iot's nice to have that stability.

In the meantime, I just keep going. I'll admit that on the drinking front, this sobriety thing has been pretty easy the last little bit. Every now and then I'll feel a pang or craving, but for the most part I haven't wanted to drink. I think this is where it's important to remember that I am still an alcoholic...even though I'm not drinking right now, if I were to start I would be right back where I started.

The good thing, though, is that the longer I stay sober, the longer it feels like I CAN stay sober. Saturday is 7 months. Yay me.