Tag: 90 days sober

90 Reasons not to Drink for 90 Days: #12 and #13

jt on snl

#12 Reason for not Drinking: it isn’t the middle ages anymore

Back in the middle ages you could justify drinking a gallon of beer a day for the combined reasons that it was an excellent source of vitamins* and a lack of potable water sources.  Beer was safer and so people (especially monks) drank way more alcohol than water and were sometimes paid in beer.  Well, it isn’t the middle ages anymore and it’s hard to justify a gallon of beer a day habit.  The good news (if you’re sad that it’s not socially acceptable to drink gallons of beer) is that the earth’s water sources are, again, becoming polluted beyond safety and produce is becoming less nutrient rich all the time through the use of pesticides and unsustainable farming habits.  The day when beer is once again a reputable source of fun, excellent flavors, and good nutrition isn’t all that distant.

#13 Reason for not Drinking: because Sid didn’t drink today

My friend Sid is forgoing beer right now to help support me in my challenging time and today she didn’t drink during her parents’ visit.  She missed an opportunity to drink with her dad who is one of her favorite drinking companions.  If I was to drink beer tonight after she has abstained I would not be able to call myself a good friend any more.  Since she’s one of my favorite people – I am not drinking tonight more emphatically than any other night since I started this.  I AM EMPHATICALLY BEER FREE.  For Sid.

I am also emphatically NOT drinking tonight for Bobby and Kymber who are doing this challenge with me and also Cathy who is doing her own version of it – you all are in my thoughts tonight as I am being emphatic!  Oh – and Nadine too, who went sober before me to reach some similar goals.  Nadine – EMPHATICALLY not drinking for you too!

But, especially because Sid lost a great opportunity to imbibe, for my sake.

Tomorrow I may be a lot less enthusiastic so, you know, enjoy.

*They didn’t have nutrient-empty beers back then like Coors or Bud.

90 Reasons not to Drink for 90 Days: #11

torture

#11 Reason not to Drink: to build character through misery

One thing I constantly worry about is not having enough character.  Sometimes, if life doesn’t throw you enough character building experiences, you have to create them yourself or remain a wishy-washy creature limping along with a tattered exoskeleton instead of a proper spine, no practical understanding of pain or misery, and probably a limp handshake.  All my life I’ve been waiting for these character building experiences people are always talking about to happen to me.  I know that to be a good writer you need to have a close personal relationship with misfortune and unhappiness.  Yet misfortune continually passes over me for other souls.  I used to cry at night about it.  I used to pray that I might break a bone or lose a job or have to give up smoking so that I could be a fully realized character.  Well I’m not waiting around another day – today is the day I do something to make myself unhappy and become the writer I’ve always dreamed of becoming!

*****

Apparently Fridays are going to continue to be difficult without anything special to look forward to.  And by special, I mean beer.  I could try to replace it with all kinds of other treats but most treats that aren’t beer are sweet or super fatty or worse for me than beer.  I think I just need to live with the doldrums of deprivation.  Learn to be ALL UP IN MY FEELINGS about my depressing Friday night sobriety.  Like right now.  I’m definitely all up in my fucking FEELINGS right now.

90 Reasons not to Drink for 90 Days: #10

chapter four

#10 Reason not to Drink for 90 days: because I love writing more than I love drinking

(Dedicated to my friend Jimo, a patron saint of the arts)

There is nothing more gratifying than to have people excited for you to finish your second book in a series.  It means they really liked the first book.  My friend Jimo just read my book and suggested that my next reason not to drink is to get the second Cricket and Grey book written more quickly.  Which is actually one of the bigger reasons I knew I needed to give up alcohol for a while.

Everyone knows that writers shouldn’t drink hard when they’re struggling to get a name for themselves.  You start the heavy drinking AFTER everyone knows your name.  That way, when you crash and burn it will go down in spectacular history rather than just be the shame of your family and friends that is never mentioned.  I mean, if you’re going to be a problem drinker, you may as well be interesting and public about it.

Drinking makes me stay up super late and get up late and then start writing late and the later in the day it is the less likely I am to get any actual good writing done.  I was getting really pissed off at myself because I want to be on a much more disciplined writing schedule.  You have to be if you want to finish writing books and promote them and write more.  Writing well is hard work and deserves to be treated as a first priority.  As much as I love beer, I love writing more than drinking.

There will always be time to drink hard later but there isn’t always enough time to write good books now.

90 Reasons not to Drink for 90 Days: #8 and #9

checkout line

#8 Reason for not Drinking: Laziness

Because it would require a trip to the store and interrupt my important schedule of re-watching Fringe.  Plus, my decaf PG Tips would get cold.

#9 Reason for not Drinking: giving checkers a break

My Grandpa always accused  me of being a damn bleeding heart (liberal).  I finally see what he means because I have come to feel sorry for the checkers who have to ring up my beer night after night.  It’s got to take great fortitude for them to hold back the comments they want to make about how often they see me in their lines.  In fact, just raising their eyebrows at me has got to be terribly wearisome, so one reason not to drink is to give those poor suckers a break.

*****

As a side note, I want to be opposed to not drinking tonight and if I wasn’t so tired I’d definitely be casting off an irritated rant.  As it is, I juiced about 20 Mandarin oranges today (surprisingly taxing activity), didn’t hit my stride with chapter 4 (so made very little progress), used up a bunch of apples by baking them with some sugar and cinnamon just so they wouldn’t go bad, did some dishes, went to the bank, made two runs to Max’s school, managed not to shower, folded two loads of laundry, and took pictures of mold.  I mean, I barely have the energy to post this post, let alone work up a good gripe about another boring night of no alcohol.  I just want you to know that I’m irritated in theory, just not in practice.

A New Watershed

P1000513

In my dream last night I was in some situation where a bunch of people were staying in the same house and there wasn’t enough room for everyone and people had to share beds and it was stressing me out and I was trying to get people to stop telling others they could stay with us.  People had to double up in beds and use couches.

I left the building and walked down a path to some public park where there was a natural pool guarded all day.  I tried swimming in it but it was unsatisfyingly shallow.  My friend Tracy, however, disagreed.  I agreed to keep an eye on his basket with his sleeping child in it while he got changed in the abandoned-ish department store abutting the pool.  I continued to watch his child while he swam out of our sight.  I sat with her on the banks and was surprised when she woke and was not a baby at all but a small child.  I had to find out why Tracy was gone so long and told her to stay put (I’m a terrible babysitter apparently) and walked back toward the pond only to discover there was an uprising of park workers having a protest in the middle of the pond.  Most of them were older black men.  Around to the back of the pond’s guard building there were a few homeless guys who I backed away from very quietly.

I finally discovered that Tracy was changing back into clothes in the department building and his child, back in her basket, was outside his changing room.  I said he needed to hurry to catch the train.  I needed to catch it too and so we walked together.  We were walking (his girl was now walking with us) in a wildly industrial built-up urban environment with streets passing over streets and different trains and buses everywhere with little signage and we kept missing the right trains and continued walking the industrial roads and asking where to go to catch the next one.

Tracy and his daughter were gone and I was part of some complex of people and my mother was working in a deli that was actually only fronting as a deli and they took all their calls on vintage telephones and they always had tons of people waiting for food.  I needed to find food for Max and was walking towards the deli to see if they had anything, checking out other diners and delis on my way down the street.  I lost a little gold hoop in traffic, after picking up walnuts from the gutter, and watched three cars run over it.  I didn’t want to get entangled in my mom’s deli and the stuff that was going on there.  But I ended up there anyway and my mom kept trying to suggest everything on their menu to me and I was getting impatient and then someone found out I was there who shouldn’t have and so I had to do something about the phone they take orders on.  But I didn’t have time to do it right there.  I needed to rewire it without them knowing.

A couple of guys who were my allies took off with me on my mission and we agreed to keep an eye out for a restaurant with food I could get for Max.  I wired the vintage phone into a dress while Bill Hader, one of my allies, played with some pastel colored heaps of jello while supporting my efforts and discussing with our other friend what the hell we could get to eat that wouldn’t  be awful. I was trying to wire the phone into both side seams of the dress and one side seam was uneven and so I trimmed it but then realized that I didn’t have enough seam width to do the wiring.  Then I realized, with relief, that I only needed the phone to be rewired on one side.  Some part of my dream self also realized that the phone didn’t have to be wired into the dress at all, just to itself.

This morning: woke up with splitting headache, worried about the phone wiring job I was doing in my dream, and also, I lost 3 pounds in 5 days.

Turns out Bill Hader is just as sweet in my dreams as I imagine he is in real life.  At this point I think it would send me over the edge to discover he’s an asshole in real life.

I wonder if the whole cast of SNL will eventually end up visiting me in my dreams/nightmares?  I’ve already forgotten who visited me last but it was recently.  (Was beer holding my memory for me?)  I’d like to know why the fuck nearly every dream/nightmare I have involves either packing and moving debacles, tons of people staying in the same place in which there isn’t sufficient room, or a complicated mess of missing buses and trains.  I don’t think I’ve had a dream without one of those elements in them for years now.  EVERY.  FUCKING.  NIGHT.  And the highways between all my dreams continue to grow.  Dreams of the past forming connective tissue with the dreams of the present.  Old characters, new places.  New situations, old buildings.  Same dream segments easing into new chapters.  Remembering the old dreams in new ones.  I don’t care how ordinary that is to anyone else, it continues to fascinate and kind of twist my brain around.

So I haven’t had any alcohol in five days.  Today is day six.  Here’s something I’m sure of: going completely without is the right thing.  Not just because, obviously, I tried drinking less before and couldn’t do it.  Not just because, as I’ve admitted, it’s become a problem needing correcting.  It’s the right thing because I have much to learn from this sobriety.  I don’t like it, I find the evenings depressing and tedious without beer.  When I used to not drink a few days a week I didn’t feel this way because I had beer or wine to look forward to come Friday.  But I have this feeling that the austerity of cutting myself completely off is something my spirit needs.  Not because alcohol is bad.

(FUCK YOU. ALCOHOL IS NOT BAD, PEOPLE ABUSING IT IS BAD.  BEING SOBER DOESN’T MAKE YOU A BETTER OR MORE PURE PERSON.)

I have always believed that to be lost to hedonism is just as unhealthy as being ascetic.  Health, real health, is in the balance of things.  To have such severe self discipline that nothing passes your lips that your body doesn’t strictly need, that isn’t completely pure of toxins such as sugar or alcohol or unhealthy fats is to mistreat your body, mind, and spirit, as much as it is to overindulge in such things to a point where it makes up half of what you consume.

I know a number of people who are obsessed with their diet as a means of reaching extreme “health”, to live as long as possible, to be as fit as is humanly possible, to be PERFECT and thin and not age and I listen to them evangelizing their diet and their exercise like its a religion and their obsession with health strikes me as being as unbalanced as my love of alcohol and cheese.  I have witnessed the dark side of extreme “health” in people for most of my life* and believe me, you can have a liver as pure as a newborn baby’s and be stripping yourself of other vital things.  Sometimes it’s your brain and your spirit you are strangling.  Sometimes it’s the austerity of your diet that is secretly taxing your system in ways you can’t tell until complications arise.  That feeling of lightness and alertness?  Might just be your body reacting to an unnatural amount of meat or raw food or lack of variety or not enough balance or not enough bulk to support your physical and mental activities.

For some people the whole point of living is to live as long as possible and as healthily as possible, and anything that gets you closer to immortality becomes a drug.  I don’t care about living forever.  No amount of health will make any of us live forever.  If you spend your whole life in the pursuit of extra years of life you miss a whole lot of living.  It takes as much energy and time and commitment to turn your body into a temple as it does to turn it into a landfill.  Real health, mental/physical/spiritual, is a balance between hedonism and asceticism.

I have been dwelling in the territory of complete hedonism.  A huge unhealthy imbalance.  I have gone so far into that territory that it’s important to pull back with electric force.  I’m seeing that I was right in thinking that the only way back for me is to be completely sober for a period of time.  It’s like putting on the emergency breaks physically.  I’m not going completely in the extreme because I still have my coffee (albeit, only partially caffeinated) and I can still have sugar (not a real vice for me) and I haven’t cut myself off from cheese (major vice).  But the alcohol is my real joy, my real pleasure, my real indulgence and I don’t want to lose it forever because I love making liqueurs and I want to learn to ferment my own brews, and sharing such beverages has the same power as breaking bread to take down barriers between people, cross broken bridges, and warm bones in the thick of the killing winter.

I need to feel what it is to live without it so that my body has this memory to hang onto.  I need to feel what it’s like to be completely dry so that when I let alcohol back in my life I will hold this feeling up every time I start getting close to the line again.  I’ve been on the other side of the line for too long and my body has been lost for so long in pain, some part of me gave up on it so long ago that the feelings of health that used to keep my hedonistic pleasures within healthy limitations are too weak to guide me.

Today I’m remembering the time I felt healthiest and most balanced in my life.  This is what I need to focus on because it’s my goal.  I was 32 years old.  I had finally had my mental illness officially diagnosed and was taking medication for it which was a life changing relief, I was drinking moderately, I was going to the gym at the Y alternating with jogging and cycling myself and Max all over the place, I was finally shedding the pregnancy weight, and I was eating really well (moderate portions and great variety and hadn’t given up cheese or other pleasures – just ate them in smaller amounts).

By the end of the year I had actually gotten below my pre-pregnancy weight and was down to 164lbs and the best part was that by that time I’d long since stopped counting calories and I was just living in a comfortable routine that felt good.  People like me don’t live life (ever) without experiencing plenty of internal drama and ups and downs but, compared to my whole life before, I was doing so well.  I wasn’t smoking cigarettes anymore, medication for my mental illness allowed me to enjoy my time with Max a lot more, and I was enjoying exercise because it made me feel good.  I hadn’t weighed myself for a while when my neighbor Eddy commented on how great I was looking and I wondered what was different and that’s when I weighed myself and was so pleased to discover I’d exceeded my goal.

I felt so good.  Mind, body, spirit.  I was the happiest I’d ever felt in my life.  Life dramas never stop, no matter how healthy you are, and our life had plenty of that but when you feel good in your bones, when you feel good in your mind you can take the drama in stride much more gracefully.

The funny thing is that at 164 lbs I was almost 30lbs over the suggested ideal weight for my height (5’7″ = 135lbs).  Fuck that shit.  Yeah, so I was chubby-ish but I had a waist and I could wear the styles of clothes I love, and I FELT GOOD IN MY BODY.  I tossed the shoulds and recommendations  by the medical association and asked myself what was right for me.  What’s right for me isn’t to be really thin and fit enough to make an athlete proud.  What’s right for me is to live a life that includes indulgences and pleasures that I couldn’t have if I wanted to be that thin.  Anyway, I look too thin at 135lbs so doctors can shove their “ideal” numbers up their asses.  I have always emulated women whose bodies have substantial flesh on their bones while keeping a lovely shape.  Marlene Deitrich rather than Nicole Kidman.  Rosiland Russel rather than Maggie Q.

What makes life worth living for me is a balance wherein exercising and drinking beer are equal parts pleasure and health.  Where both contribute to my well being and my sense of a life being fully lived.  I don’t want to live forever, I just want to live richly and fully.

To return to that place I have to lose 110lbs.  That’s the full picture.  Last monday I had 113lbs to lose.  I haven’t been thinking about losing weight at all this week because I’ve been too focused on how much I dislike evenings now that they are so empty of beer.

I’m doing it.  I’m doing it because I miss that sense of joy I used to feel after a long walk or a jog around the abandoned weed filled high school track after having pushed myself to do one more lap.  I miss that happy anticipation of an evening with friends in which the wine and beer would flow freely and I could drink as much as I wanted without guilt because I knew I would go a few days without soon after.  I miss getting up in the morning and asking myself if I feel more like a French beatnik or a repressed secretary from the 1950’s and then dressing up accordingly.  I miss getting dressed and made up and then not thinking about my body or my appearance again for the whole day.

I’m doing it.  This time is different than all my previous efforts for the last several years.

Because this is my new watershed.

*My mother and many other adults in my life were doing juice fasts and smoothies and raw food long before any of my peers were and I saw what that can result in.

90 Reasons for not Drinking for 90 Days: #4

money pit

#4 Reason not to Drink for 90 Days: Save Money

All the beers I like to drink are expensive compared to Coors and other stank beers.  It costs a lot of money to buy good beer.  We have a much bigger rent than we used to.  In fact, this week is going to be a mega-squeeze and we wouldn’t have been able to afford to drink beer anyway.  We would have resorted to drinking two (and a half) buck Chuck which we do when we’re really low on money but we always end up going back to beer the second we can afford it.  We really can’t afford to drink good beer now.  Even when 3 months is done we won’t have a lot of leeway so this is better.  We may as well get used to taking beer out of the regular budget.  At least, not in the quantities we go through it.

*****

So I haven’t had any beer for 3 days now.  Why haven’t I lost 10lbs already?  How  come my skin isn’t magically more clear and my eyes more bright?  How come I’m not farting fairies and riding on the backs of angels?  WHY IS EVERYTHING STILL EXACTLY THE SAME EXCEPT MORE BORING?

Don’t answer that.  I just feel like shouting at people who are always extolling the magical benefits of sobriety as though it will instantly transport you to a better place.  It’s the same kind of evangelical fuzzy talk that paleo-diet people try to sell you.  Same as the anti-gluten crowd who believes that everyone is allergic to gluten and just haven’t discovered it yet.  Obviously your blood isn’t transformed in just three days.  Magical benefits of all the great health crazes take time.  I know this.  It’s just that I feel like yelling right now because I’m neither madly craving beer nor feeling the least bit  virtuous or physically better for not having had any alcohol for three days.  The chest cold is certainly holding me hostage for the time being.

A little later.

My dinner was disappointing.  The mediocrity of it offended me.  It was a Thai curry.  I used a curry paste I bought from the Thai market the other day.  I’ve already confessed my true feelings about Thai and other Asian food traditions here.  I don’t like them very much in general.  I’m a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food person.  But I love Asian markets and Asian culture so I feel that I should love Asian food.  Plus all the people I know who love it – but we’ve already had that conversation.  Anyway.  It’s Friday night and I’m not having beer.  I’m sick, so it’s not like I really want it.  My body can do without it.  But having a disappointing dinner means that there’s nothing else to look forward to tonight.  There’s no Friday fun.  No festive beverage.  So I just bitched and moaned about it for an hour on Facebook.  Having a disappointing dinner made it seem extra depressing that I’m not having any beer.

I’m on a bit of a downward spiral.  How does one look forward to drinking tea?  I can drink tea any time of day I want.  I can drink as many cups as I please any time I want.  There’s nothing special about it.  My resolve to not drink is in no danger of cracking.  But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it, do I?

I’m also incredibly grouchy because for 24 hours now my throat and upper chest have been scratchy and itchy without any relief.  Usually ricolas help and they have, a little bit, but not enough.  I got almost no sleep last night.  I clear my throat about 10 times a minute and try to cough to relieve this awful feeling.  But it won’t go away and it’s freaking me the fuck out.  When I cough it makes me want to gag.  This being sick gig is messed up.  And now Max thinks he’s getting sick.  So – major bummer.

So there’s nothing to look forward to any more except morning coffee.  Which, as I’ve said a hundred times but will repeat in case anyone has missed it, is 2/3 decaf because I can’t have much caffeine or I get palpitations.  So it’s not the caffeine.  It’s the great flavor that I love so much.  Hot black coffee with no sugar.  3 cups a day.  And I can’t drink coffee in the evenings.  Again, not a caffeine issue.  I just can’t.

I had a whole huge rant in this post that I erased.  It would have irritated at least 10 people I know.  I didn’t have the energy to smooth it out and shape it and curate the points I make like I often do.  It’s a small miracle I even got dressed today.

The nothingness of my evening stretches out in front of me.  Or, at least, I think it does.  It’s hard to see what isn’t there.  I guess I’ll go check on my kid and then maybe I’ll crawl into bed and not sleep.  It’s only 7:45pm and I haven’t slept much for 3 days but what else is there to do?  If I don’t get into bed my catatonic stare will seem more weird.

When there is no beer I hate evenings.  I hate them.  This is good, actually.  This bitter enmity I feel about the hours between 5pm and midnight.  It means that I will retreat to bed and begin staring at the wall much earlier than I’m used to and eventually (I hope) I may just train my body to get to sleep earlier so that I can get up at 5am and start writing.  Training myself to sleep earlier didn’t work when I was a kid, nor when I was a teen, nor when I was a young adult, nor when I was an older adult.  So it’s a stretch to believe that I can train it to change its feelings about early sleep times in my middle age.  But this is what I’m going to cling to right now.  This hope that I can make my evenings almost non-existent and instead enjoy my quiet down-time at the other end when dawn approaches.  It’s a magnificent time.

Alright, off to stare at the wall.

90 Reasons not to Drink for 90 Days: #2

wedding ring

Reason #2 for not drinking for 90 days: Wedding Ring

Somewhere around when I hit 200lbs my fingers got too fat to wear my wedding ring.  Nightmares of having to cut the thing off made me set it aside for thinner days.  For reasons I can no longer remember and probably weren’t major anyway, I didn’t have it resized.  Well, 200lbs is far behind me at this point and I’m tired of not wearing my band.  I can’t afford to buy a new one at this point and, really, I just want to go back to being a regular sized person so I can wear the ring I already own.  Not drinking alcohol for a while will help me get started towards that goal.

*****

Day two of being sick.  Definitely don’t have the flu.  This is just an annoying cold.  Tonight while I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner I realized that I would not be drinking beer and the realization made me think “There’s nothing to look forward to anymore” and then “Not drinking beer for 3 months makes my life feel empty.”  If you were to point out all the amazing things my life is still filled with I would be very annoyed and probably get snappy with you.  And I would be a bitch and not apologize.  I’d come up with a bunch of dreadful dark things to say in retaliation to all your cheery light and you would feel my dark cold shadow slowly creep across your skin sucking all the joy from you-

Anyway, it’s only 7:15pm and I am not sure what to do with myself.  As soon as I’m not sick I will cut out a quilt for a little girl and I can work on that while watching tv.  I do like hand stitching.  I find it as meditative as knitters find knitting.  How perverse of me that if you were to make that suggestion to me I would definitely growl at you and that’s when you’d finally see the sign posted next to my head “Don’t feed the animal suggestions” but it would be too late.  Then you’d finally give up on me, wash your hands of my pessimistic stink, and join the happy people who play games and like balloons and the smell of candy and the sound of Christmas bells and who still willfully believe in fairies.  I’d slink away to find the nearest empty cave and finally start my life’s true calling: being a beardy hermit.

That’s all for now my fellow commiserators!