Sunday, June 15th, 2014.
We walked and talked for hours, down along the Lakeshore then up through High Park. Before long he had confided in me, told me his story about alcohol and drugs. As he was sharing, I just kept thinking: uh huh, yes, that’s me, that’s me, been there, been there, omigod yes, yes, that’s me, that’s me. I told him I, too, had considered joining, or at least checking out AA, but simply hadn’t. Yet.
Thursday, June 19th, 2014.
I went to my hometown St. Catharines for my niece’s grade eight graduation. I had two vodka Caesars before the church ceremony and three vodka sodas afterward. I came home to Toronto and had a bottle of wine. I texted my friend from Sunday and told him I was sorry, that I wouldn’t be calling after all because I was sad and wouldn’t be a good conversation partner. He said: « Okay. I understand. I’m sorry you are sad inside. Do you mind if I call you quickly just to say hi? I feel bad leaving you alone when you are bummed. » Pretty nice, huh?
And cue the verbal flood gates! Poor thing. In the hour we spent on the phone I had relayed what was incredibly only a tip-of-the-iceberg synopsis of my childhood with a crazy, abusive, alcoholic mother and other such fun topics. I didn’t tell him I was drunk at the time, of course. I wonder if he knew.
Friday, June 20th, 2014.
I couldn’t get this AA business off my mind. I stayed in that night, proud of myself at choosing not to drink, to get to bed early, to make the most of the next day. I went to bed happy. That’s how it always goes: I’m good for awhile but not for long.
Saturday, June 21st, 2014.
I’d had a bike ride planned with a neighbour. But my bike was in the shop and wasn’t ready in time for the ride after all. I had to cancel the morning of.
A huge part of my personal challenge is that I do not deal well with unstructured time. I see the whole, free day gaping before me and it swallows me whole. I become paralyzed. I have to have something planned. Instead I found myself with endless hours of free time on my hands. I could have run, read, written something. Instead, I lay there in my apartment, watching the gorgeous day pass me by, sinking me further into the quicksand. It was happening again. I couldn’t function.
This is where I would normally drink, the quick fix to numb the foresight of the empty day and the loneliness. But on this day I kept thinking about my friend’s story and my own and this AA thing that I was considering. So on this day, I didn’t drink. In this way I was still physically paralyzed but not mentally pulverized. I even laughed at myself. I thought: Oh poor you, Christina. You have the day off and you are relaxing at home doing nothing. What tragedy! But I wasn’t relaxing. I was freaking out, incapacitated, unable to make myself a coffee, go for a walk, a run, read a book. But still, on this day, I didn’t drink.
Finally at about four in the afternoon I mustered up the wherewithal to get on the subway. I headed down to Kensington to read and write. I did this. The sun was shining. It was a perfect day, warm and happy. Everything was okay. I had just needed to get out of the house. I had salvaged the day. All was good. So I decided to have a nice glass of wine. One glass of red, the perfect compliment to my seat on the patio and the sun on my face and and the World Cup game in the background and the two thousand words written toward my next blog post. Yes, a nice civilized glass of red. It was a lovely day after all.
Two glasses of wine, four double vodka sodas and a gram of coke later, I forced myself to bed at four in the morning.
Sunday, June 22nd, 2014.
I sold my car two months ago (partly because I continually drank and drove). That’s an extra thousand dollars a month disposable income I have. I also live basically rent-free due to income I receive sharing my space with international students and travellers. I make over seventy thousand dollars a year as a school teacher. Still, with all this, I woke up this morning at negative five hundred dollars in my bank account, my credit card maxed, tired, hung over and, this time, absolutely flabbergasted. I just could not believe it. Again? Really?
Courage breeds courage.
I googled AA Toronto and found a meeting at St. Paul’s Trinity Church on Bloor at eight in the evening and I went. I was too scared to go to the front and accept a 24 hour recovery chip, but that same nice friend from last Sunday gave me his.
Monday, June 23rd, 2014.
What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s what I’ve been doing: oh I’ll only drink on weekends or I’ll only drink on weekdays or I’ll have a $20 a day budget for all food and beverage, or this or that. Nothing worked. Doing it on my own wasn’t working. I wasn’t replacing the long, scary hours alone with anything.
Courage breeds courage.
Thank you to my friend who was so forthright and shared his story with me. You gave me courage. Thank you to this group for welcoming me and making me feel at home, instantly. You give me courage. Thank you to myself, for finally looking in the mirror and doing what I need to do. You have courage and you’re going to need it.
I’m scared. Just like the speaker said yesterday: admitting I have a problem means never drinking again! At this point, less than forty-eight hours sober, I cannot fathom. I leave to spend the summer in Paris in six days. I’ve already googled and yes there are meetings there, too. I will go.
Je vous promets, je me promets.
Tuesday, June 24th, 2014.
I went to my second meeting last night. I couldn’t bring myself to say « I’m an alcoholic » like the other stronger and braver people in the room. I just said: « I’m Christina. » I did speak, though. We had read from chapter four about God. I said:
« Yesterday was my first meeting. I am almost forty-eight hours sober and drug-free.
I was raised by a crazy, alcoholic, abusive, God-loving mother. She used God as a crutch. Whenever there was no money or an issue, it was time to pray to God. What about your working God-given brain and your two strong God-given hands!? No. Sit on welfare, drink, do drugs and make your children suffer and hallelujah!
Eventually and for other reasons, too, I rejected this Catholic, mother-made version of God. So when I saw the word God splashed everywhere yesterday I was like « Fuck. This shit again! »
When I did reject God it left a void that I searched to fill. Eventually I concluded that most religions share the common themes of love and karma, basically. This simple creed became my religion.
I have been told by people who were not raised by my mother that she is mentally ill and thus is not responsible for her actions. I call bullshit! I say that she should have gotten help, then, especially when we children came into the picture. If she chose not to, ignored or denied her illness, then she is responsible for this and I know I sure as hell am not!
When it came to my own illness, which I did not recognize as such, I basically always concluded that I am not hurting anyone the way my mother hurt us so really there is no problem here. I wish I could pinpoint what made me finally realize this week that I am hurting someone: I’m hurting ME. What about me?
So you can call it God, you can call it a higher power, it doesn’t matter the vernacular. Me, I call it love. My higher power is the realization that I need to love myself. That I am worthy. I think drinking was about me trying to fool others into thinking so instead of staying sober and trying to believe it myself. »
I really like hearing everyone else’s story and opinions. I’m glad the focus is on readings and concepts and others and not self-pity or loathing or searching for a « why » that is buried in the past.
Somebody said: « God is a verb. » I love this! Someone else said: « God is Good Orderly Direction. » I really love this!
I will go to another meeting tonight. I need to buy that book!
Wednesday, June 25th, 2014.
So this morning makes three full days sober. I went to my third consecutive meeting last night. It was a reading, a speaker, and a discussion about resentment.
It was interesting and enlightening, just as the previous two meetings had been. These meetings are really working for me in a number of ways:
1. Instead of me on focusing on stopping one behaviour I am focusing on enjoying a new activity. I have replaced the drinking with a positive activity instead of thinking that I will just mentally and miraculously overcome the bad habit; that I will overcome ME. It was just the same with crystal meth back in two thousand. Truly, I can appreciate how lucky I was to have escaped so unscathed that dirty habit that consumed my life for two years. I wasn’t even trying to quit meth. I loved it. I have journal entries from that time that state that I could not imagine life without it. On a crystal meth binge one day I joined a gym. When I came out of my stupor the next day or so, I thought: « Fuck. I spent the money, I guess I have to go. » So I started going. I loved it. Without my really trying, the balance slowly kept tipping to more gym and running, less meth. This is why I always tell people that I am « running for my life. » I literally am.
2. The people are amazing. They are confident, happy, healthy, positive unpretentious people who are choosing a better way. Most of them are even good-looking. They are interesting, deep people with stories and wisdom to share. I have never felt more instantly at ease and at home as I have here.
3. The discussions are cerebral and spiritual and I take something away each time. The focus is not on alcohol but on emotional and mental intelligence, social dilemmas and humane and healthy ways of dealing with them. I mean, I personally know more than a handful of people who are not alcoholics but are just generally shitty people that could greatly benefit from these discussions.
4. The meetings are at eight o’clock. This is a true blessing in regards to my personal challenges. On a regular weeknight, if I have nothing planned or nothing I need to do in the evenings which is most nights (I know, poor me), I panic. I may try to fill the void of the evening with a run and a book and making dinner, etc. Sometimes I can make it through the night this way and then get to bed, alcohol-free. Most nights, however, are not so antiseptic. Most weeknights involve an « innocent » bottle of wine at home with a book. Then out to a local bar for one or two or three glasses more. The justification was that I am not partying, I am just reading, I bring the book to the bar with me, I read it there, why must I beat myself up over such a civilized evening? The point of denial is that I am in no position to be spending on average forty dollars a day on alcohol or anything for that matter, plus more on weekends. And by more I mean more alcohol and quite often, coke.
Eight o’clock is around the time of the evening when I start to run out of hope or optimism or things to do and the void of the evening envelopes me and I drink. Instead now I come, I will go, to these meetings. By the time it is over and I chit chat a bit and take the subway home it is after ten and this old bitch is tired. I go to bed. It’s great. Traditionally, when I wake up in the morning, before even opening my eyes, I would always think: « Okay. What day is it? What did I drink last night? How difficult is this morning going to be?? » I had that flash this morning, and when my new answers registered, I laughed at myself. It felt fantastic.
5. The approach to healing with such an utter lack of poor-me has me enamoured with the program. I have no desire to dwell in the past to figure out the whys. I have no desire to lay blame and and have let go of my victim perspective a long time ago. I am not saying I don’t have some resentment or moments of anger but generally I prefer to focus on moving forward rather than looking back; dwelling on the positive and not on the negative. Both will always be there so the choice is always mine.
* * *
There was a gentleman there tonight who had been ten years sober and had relapsed recently and was now two weeks sober and had attended forty meetings in that time. Forty. I teared up instantly. I love this man! And I get it. The need to go, the comfort and support of coming. And I admire him! And when I hear about relapses it scares the fucking hell out of me and he is helping me to face that fear and be proactive about that and learn through his story and his strength.
Another gentleman referred to resentment as rewinding and replaying the same event in your mind. I liked this simple visualization of the process. Than he added that the theatre was in our head and while we were brooding and watching it over and over, the star of our film was off living their life. This echoes another wisdom I have adopted. That is that forgiveness is not about the forgivee but about the forgiver. The script is mine to write. It is not about waiting for amends to be made to me, emotional debts to be paid, apologies to be made. It’s about cutting your losses and not being trapped by what is beyond your control.
Finally, another man said: « The problem is that when I was sober I was too sober. » I think he must mean what happens to me when I get paralyzed on the brink of a large block of free time. I always thought and said that I am a high-functioning type « A » OCD and really I am just self-medicating with alcohol. Self-delaying was more like it. Delaying any iota of personal growth, self-acceptance, self-love.
Friday, June 27th, 2014.
Today marks the start of my sixth day alcohol-free. I’m so happy with my progress; that I am finally progressing! I feel so healthy and on the right track. I no longer have the ridiculous financial burden of my car, I have put the bottle away, I have received my summer payout and am out of the negatives in my account, and if I choose, if I continue to choose, it is only greater and better things from here on in. The stars are aligned and the sky is mine. Carpe diem.
I have attended two social functions since giving up alcohol. I went and did not drink. In fact, I like being around drunk people. They can drop all kinds of foolish coin on drinks and I can still partake in their fun and silliness but for free.
Sunday, June 30th, 2014.
I had set my alarm for 5:28 this morning in order to catch the sunrise on my thirtieth floor rooftop patio at 5:38. I didn’t make it up there until 5:43. So there It was already, low in the sky, huge and round and perfect. I’d missed Its surprisingly speedy and exciting manifestation on the horizon, from not there at all to thin, glowing orange line to enormous, magnificent, radiant fiery sphere, all in under five minutes. It rises quickly! I stood there in awe of its beauty and watched Its ascent into the sky. It weaved it’s path between the clouds which, with the sun’s light behind, I could see were drifting north and out of its way, also quite quickly.
The first time I’d ever went out to watch the sunrise was the last day of my first summer in Paris, in August of 2012. I watched with a group of seven or eight other strangers, likewise gathered on the steps behind the Sacré-Coeur. It was breathtaking. I have made it a point a number of times since to repeat this awesome and sacred act here at home. It’s an unspeakably special and peaceful thing. So this morning, which officially marks one week alcohol-free, I marked the event with this very personal and holy ritual.
Last night I went to my fourth meeting. By contrast, this one was rather unremarkable but still incredibly useful and fulfilling in giving me a place to go to and a community to belong to and an hour to reaffirm my path and a pause in which to quietly celebrate my success. I bought The Big Book, finally, as I have now learned that it is called. I look forward to reading it and being exposed to its wisdoms and positive messages.
I am elated that I have finally arrived to this place. I have known for a long time that I needed to address my pervasive and persistent dependency on alcohol and I am over the moon that I am finally doing so. As I have said, I always do well at things in the beginning, so I by no means consider the battle won. I am congratulating myself only that I have taken up arms and that it is finally begun! Carpe diem.