Myth of the High-Bottom Drinker

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A friend recently said to me, “At least you’re a high-bottom alcoholic, if you have to be one.” I couldn’t really agree with her about being a high-bottom anything. It kind of depends on where you might have ended up had you not begun drinking at all. In other words, you don’t have to be homeless to have been hit pretty damn hard by the “grapes of wrath.”

I am reposting this blog (written at a blessed 10 days sober!) because I think we sometimes use the term “high bottom” to show that we weren’t really all that bad, were we?

Day 10 at a Fork in the Road

Hope for the Heavy Drinker

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Quote by me.

I’m here on the same mountaintop where I got sober over a year ago. The sun is rising, and I can hear the wind whispering in the trees. And here’s what I want to tell anyone who’s losing hope of ever getting sober.

  • I lost hope hundreds of times. On the day that I quit drinking for good, I had no idea that that day was it. It was just another desperate attempt to end a battle that had gone on for far too long.
  • I didn’t have a moment of clarity or a parting of the heavens to let me know that this was the day. (As the author of “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” will tell you — epiphanies are cheap. I had had hundreds of epiphanies, but that didn’t stop me from drinking.)
  • ALL I did, the sum total, was to decide I would not drink that day. That was it. And it was a decision that I would repeat over and over again.
  • Giving up is not an option. Life won’t let you, because life loves you. You will be bombarded with signs from the universe to quit drinking. And you will never run out of chances to quit.
  • Thousands of people stop drinking every day. Every single day, lots of people are able to stop drinking. These people are often more hopeless, with worse circumstances, and are farther down the rabbit hole than you are. So why not you? Why not today?
  • You absolutely cannot imagine how much better life will be. Just like you can’t really “remember” physical pain, you can’t remember how amazing it feels to wake up happy to be alive, anxious to start the day, loving what the world might bring you. You will experience days like when you were a kid, without a care in the world.
  • It is so worth it. If you could zoom forward even a few months or a year into sobriety and look back on how far you’ve come, you would quit drinking RIGHT NOW. If you could see the future you — healthy, confident, serene — you would be thrilled to jumpstart the journey NOW.
  • Yes, you will still have problems, but now you can learn from them. You will understand so much more about why things happen and how you can change your relationships for the better. And these problems will eventually fall away. Life will get so much easier.
  • Millions of people want to help you do this. The world is at your feet when it comes to recovery. There are books, bloggers, support groups, AA, SMART Recovery, addiction therapists, new friends, rehabs, vitamin supplements, yoga groups, and angels all at your beck and call. All you have to do is reach out.

From high on the mountain, I give you my hope. Please take it. I don’t need it anymore.

💕

Success! The 30-Year Plan to Sobriety

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So so many of you have asked me “Wow, you have over one year of sobriety! What’s your secret??” So I’ve decided to share my sobriety plan for FREE because I am that evolved spiritually, now that I am no longer lunching on wine.

This plan is simple, easy to follow, and fool-proof!

To begin, choose a starting date. Then set aside 30 years or so (more if you’re a slow learner). Go out and buy your first six-pack. You are now ready to … LAUNCH!

DAY 1: You are young!

Call up some beer-swilling friends. (A quick shout out to Lisa, Carly, Dan! You know who you are!) Invite them to meet you at the local pub.

Have a “Get Ready Beer,”  because a friend has taught you that this really takes the pressure off getting the bartender’s attention for that first drink. Plus, it’s one less beer you have to buy at an exorbitant price.

Drive to the pub.

Throw yourself completely into group mentality thinking. Use the group’s mood to guide your behavior. NEVER be that sullen person refusing to order a drink, which often drags down the rest of the group. Learn to keep up! When drinking lulls or people want to go home, always suggest one more round.

Earn a reputation for fun! When you reach the witching hour (that magic time of night when a decision must be made to go home or not, because maybe the bar is about to close or it’s a school night), speak up! Loudly yell “One more round!” Order shots for the table.

Drive home. TIP: If you have that pesky double-vision, cover one eye and concentrate on keeping to the RIGHT of the center line. Drive to the LEFT of the center line if you are in the UK, Australia, Honk Kong, or South Africa. If you’re not sure which rules apply, don’t drive.

Day 2

If you made it home and are not too hungover, go to school or work. If you didn’t make it home, try to locate your car. If you find it, drive it home.

If you are unemployed or have been fired, lucky you! Sleep it off.

Call your friends around 5 PM (or whenever you wake up) to commiserate and find out what all you did. TIP: NEVER make this call before drinking the Get Ready Beer. You can’t laugh it off without a buzz.

Meet up again. Same place. Same people. Same time.

Day 3 through Year 10: Build Your Stamina!

Continue every day for ten more years, or whenever your schedule permits.

Don’t do things that are too demanding mentally. If you are in school, shoot for just passing grades. Same goes for jobs. Avoid ‘real jobs’ as long as possible. Always work below your potential so that you can give minimal effort. Don’t raise expectations! Show up just enough to not get fired.

Take jobs that enable your lifestyle: restaurants, bars, sales! Take this opportunity to travel on the drinking circuit. If you somehow save a little money, spend it on a weekend splurge/drunkfest with your friends. You deserve it!

Decade 2: Growing Up

You made it. Yay, you! Now it’s time to take a breather and begin some much needed work on maturing.

In your second drinking decade, you will begin to find helpful signs that you need to change. Some of these signs will be life’s typical milestones, coupled with this nagging feeling of wanting more. A dog? House? Marriage? Children?

One sign is that some of your drinking buddies are growing up as well. They won’t go out as much. They want to go home early, which is OK because, believe it or not, you will too! Sleep becomes more important. You will also start to get some serious feedback from your body that you can’t quite continue as you have been. Stubbornly slog through by drinking more, because persistence is key to the success of this plan.

Decade 3: The Home Stretch

You look like shit! (LOL!) No seriously. Your looks are going to slide this decade, but no worries. You will be in the kind of mental state where you notice this, but then it just gets added to the pile of other shitty things that are happening to you.

There’s so much to discover in this decade! And all you have to do is keep drinking.

Here’s a checklist of what to look out for:

  • Declining health (as mirrored in your looks).
  • Financial instability.
  • Cognitive decline, including long and short-term memory.
  • Hair loss.
  • Deeply troubled relationships.
  • Legal problems.
  • Loss of friends, except for other drinkers.
  • Plummeting self-esteem.
  • Comments from loved ones (whoever is remaining) about drinking habits.
  • Nagging thought that maybe alcohol has something to do with the state of your life.

During this decade, attempt to quit drinking for short periods of time. Then attempt for longer periods of time. Keep attempting, allowing a year or two between attempts. Or commit to every Monday for the entire decade. You choose!

Final Day

Wake up one day. You will be hungover, just like almost every other day. Attempt to quit, with just a whisper of hope that it might be possible. Ask for help.

Succeed. 

Wine: A Wolf at the Door

Kenwod Vineyards 30 Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon.

(After a long drawn out post about not blogging about “negative” things, the wonderful people in the blogging world set me straight. Writing here is about being honest, and I was not feeling particularly positive at the time this was written. I now realize that this is OK, and have reposted this blog entry.)

___________

It seems so innocent.

It’s just a food substance that has been fermented. Over long, long centuries, my ancestors and yours have been drinking it.

I’m thinking a lot these days about this fermented substance, and what it does to people, and every one around them. And I’m not so sure it’s safe for anyone.

Wine is described in ways that disguise what it really is. It’s poison, loaded with sugar to disguise the taste. It’s a bait and switch, selling you one thing, but giving you another. It’s a predatory loan from a brutal mobster — the slippery devil himself. And Lucifer, described in the Bible as “perfect in beauty,” is the ultimate salesman. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

No one sees it coming. There’s no prettier packaging than a nice chilled bottle of wine at an expensive restaurant, with waiters and other patrons assuring you that all is well, that this fermented substance you are about to drink is a great thing. It’s a symbol of success and leisure and exotic locales and prestige and camaraderie and ease. Welcome to the club! You deserve this.

A toast! Somebody make a toast.

Suddenly, you are a mini-celebrity. People at other tables raise their glasses. “We’re all in this together,” they seem to be saying. And it feels like the truth.

Who doesn’t want this? Which of us, having stumbled through the day — sometimes well, sometimes in aching, lonely defeat — doesn’t want to join the table? To eat, drink, and be merry! To merge with humanity effortlessly. To feel less alone. To celebrate. To forget.

It’s communion. Communion of spirit. It’s everything holy about what we’re supposed to feel at the table of God himself.

Or so it seems.

Sometime later — could be years or just a few hours — in the early morning light of gray defeat, alcohol becomes something else entirely. Now it’s a disheveled thug that appears by your bed. A loan shark, expecting to be paid, with outrageous interest. And there are no boundaries to what he can do to exact payment.

Like the grim reaper himself, he has no scruple about who he takes or when, how unfair the circumstances, how blindsided those left behind.

You have to give the devil his due. It’s a masterful disguise, that pretty bottle.

Decades ago, I watched a New Year’s Eve episode of the Oprah show. It got my attention because it featured a high school girl about my age who had the same first name as me. From what I remember, this Shawna and a bunch of friends got their hands on some alcohol at a party. Some young men at the party convinced Shawna to drive them somewhere because they were too inebriated to drive themselves. They all piled into someone’s convertible, and Shawna, not used to heavy drinking and inebriated as well, ended up driving at a high rate of speed into a brick wall, killing two of the men, critically injuring everyone else.

I was amazed at the poise and calm with which this young woman, who had been a typical high school success story — beautiful, athletic, smart — spoke about the event and her later efforts to make peace with herself and the boys’ families. But underneath the poise, she had a haunted look, as if she had resigned herself to being forever guilty — a sacrifice made to a rapacious wolf, on behalf of the rest of us.

Though the story aired well before the rise of the internet, I’ve searched for it online, and haven’t found it. This girl’s story, however, has never left me. I was a casual drinker then, if that, but me and my group of friends were beginning to experiment with drinking, and then inevitably driving home. I remember thinking, with a slight chill, that could be me.

 

The Heroes of Addiction

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What if, as I have been reading, life on earth is really just a classroom?

And what if only the hardiest souls choose to come to earth in the first place because of the turmoil and uncertainty they know they will face?

And what if, before you agreed to be born here, you got to choose what challenges you would face to guarantee the most dramatic advancement in your learning?

And what if, of the hardiest souls who come here at all, only the bravest choose to face the challenge of addiction?

And what if, having chosen to face this, all fell into place, as agreed upon, and you became addicted as planned, and not because you are weak and scattered and selfish?

And what if your addiction brought about the greatest possible learning experience for those around you because, like you, they chose to experience this time here, with you, and have learned immeasurably by watching you do battle with addiction?

And what if, just like in the movies, all the good guys in heaven and earth are put here to help the hero (you) overcome this addiction, and that all you have to do is reach out for help?

And what if, like in a good movie, you are guaranteed success? That you have already succeeded by accepting the challenge, because only the bravest of souls do?

And what if, as the hardiest of souls, agreeing to the hardiest of challenges, you are already a hero?

 

Here’s to you, my friend.

water toast cheers

 

Missing the Sober Universe

cheesecake

I am here and still alive, for those of you who have noticed my absence. I so miss this connection! I am traveling around with just an I-phone (although I know you all blog from your phones, I can’t) with an entourage of relatives, with no real place to check-in with my beloved blogging friends.

So far, I’ve gone to two weddings (sober) and had a blast, three days with the parents, a week of vacation at the beach, with another long weekend with countless in-laws coming up, and the idea of drinking has barely surfaced. It holds the same power now as my desire to have a giant piece of cheesecake — I glance at it, notice it might be appetizing, realize how sick it will make me, and then POOF! — the thought is gone immediately as I turn my attention elsewhere.

What they say is true, although I never believed it. The psychological desire for alcohol goes away. I thought I’d be salivating the rest of my life, watching the world have fun without me. I could care less about it now. Amazing!

Happy Wednesday all, and I will chat with you soon.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Two years ago, and every year before that, I used Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) as an excuse to go out to dinner to celebrate Mexican heritage, or something like that. I’m not sure what the holiday is about exactly. We would get a group together to binge on margaritas, chips, and salsa. Maybe even a few shots of Cuervo, if somebody ordered a round for the table. (It would be rude to refuse.)

Then again, I used every holiday as an excuse to celebrate, no matter how obscure … St. Patrick’s Day, Bastille Day (what is that anyway?), the Chinese New Year, Yom Kippur. But soon every day became like a party, and I had a hard time convincing even myself that there was a reason to celebrate. The low point might have been drinking alone on Christmas Eve.

But today, at 400 DAYS SOBER, I got up, celebrated by going out to breakfast, and then went around town looking for an office space. A really cool one with big windows. For business purposes. As in I’ve been looking for a place away from home to concentrate on my creative talents. Instead of drinking the day away in a bar, pretending it was a celebration.

Never in a million zillion years could this have happened while I was drinking. By a conservative estimate, I’ve saved $12,000 since I quit drinking. (Conservative because I may have had health issues, possibly a car accident, possibly a DUI. The possibilities here are endless.) Instead, the possibilities for success are astronomical. I turned the train around, and then just kept chuggin’ along. I hope you are doing the same.

So, A VERY HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!

May you have many more. ♥ ♥ ♥