How To Spot An Alcoholic

Of course, we all know the easy way to spot an alcoholic: red face, preoccupation with alcohol, unable to stop drinking once started etc etc. But today I am going to share with you some insight on characteristics of an alcoholic you may not know. Keep in mind, that what applies to spotting an alcoholic also applies to spotting a relapse because drinking alcohol is only a symptom of a greater problem inside the heads and hearts of people inflicted with the disease.

  1. Anger and resentment- This is nothing new to someone who is in AA. The whole book is written around this subject. Alcoholics have a pattern of being angry and resentful. Often, if I am on social media and I see someone with hostile posts I instantly become suspicious. Alcoholics are triggered by what they deem to be unfair acts against them especially when it comes to close relationships. The disease makes it very difficult for the alcoholic to not take someone’s actions personal. However, in recovery we learn that even the most atrocious acts of unkindness are not personal and we are taught to believe what other people say about us is none of our business.
  2. Comorbidity- Almost all alcoholics have secondary afflictions of the spirit, mind and body that manifest prior to the age we begin drinking. I suffer from anxiety and depression. Always have. In recovery, we are bonded by identifying in each other the same twisted personality traits. It seems like everything we feel is to the extreme. Alcoholics are extremely sensitive. In alcohol we look for relief in caring so much about anything and everything.
  3. Big Plans but No Follow Thru- The brain of an alcoholic is very different than a person who is not inflicted. The pleasure centers of our brain are not naturally full and it takes action every day to get into a pleasurable space. Alcohol replaces action in a way that we think of a big ideas, sometimes brilliant ideas, that are never completed due the fact that the intake of alcohol gives us the same reward response as if we had actually followed through on goal or a task. For example, when I want to write a book, if I drink I most likely will never write the book because alcohol makes me feel as if I had already done the work. This is why in recovery action is far more important than thought. Someone in relapse will begin slowly not to accomplish anything that is important for daily functioning and in the grander scheme of life.
  4. A Track Record- This is very hard for alcoholics to see. We feel things are happening to us. That we are just unlucky. It is very difficult for an alcoholic to link their drinking as a consequence of what they choose. An alcoholic does not have to be drunk to make bad decisions. Once again, drinking is only a symptom that masks what drives a person to be reckless, irresponsible and sometimes very foolish. And the next thing we know we have multiple situations transpiring at once but cannot figure out why. For instance, we get in fights with significant others, our bills are not paid or we lack money, our health deteriorates and we stop doing things that we usually love all at the same time.  When someone is in their disease it is almost impossible for them to be accountable because their disease wants more alcohol. I know that is hard for a normal person to understand but it true.
  5. Unhealthy Boundaries- I am not sure if our inability to have healthy boundaries starts in the family of origin who is likely full of other alcoholics or if it is just the nature of the disease. But alcoholics do not have healthy boundaries. They are often promiscuous, codependent and often expect others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves. They are abusive and they let themselves be abused. They do not know where they begin as a person and others start. This is very hard to master even in sobriety because our extreme feelings and thinking tend to create scenarios both in our heads and in our lives that cross lines of respectability and human decency.
  6. Great Senses of Humor- Recovering alcoholics know how to laugh at themselves. They are usually very funny with off color remarks and ideas. The way we view the world is quite different than a normal person and we are not afraid to embrace that side of themselves because they are usually rewarded by other people for it.
  7. Moderation in Moderation- Alcoholics are all or nothing thinkers. Balance is just not in our vocabulary. If we eat, we eat a lot, if we exercise,we exercise a lot, if we love we love far too much and we don’t see much reason to change.  We have a history of doing everything in our life to excess. Once again, we have a blind spot. We are unable to match our thinking with our behavior. We do not see the link unless we are practicing being mindful. I do not think being moderate ever becomes easy for someone even they have years of sobriety. That is why it is helpful to go to meetings, have a sponsor and be able to tell on ourselves. Otherwise, we slowly or quickly unravel into some sort of extreme.
  8. A Need to be Special- Alcoholics almost always feel that they do not fit in. Because of this, they have a desire to be more “special” than their peers. They truly believe they are superior because of it. But at the same time, being special creates distance which in turn breeds loneliness. One of the greatest things I learned was to find the similarities I have with my fellows if I want to feel fulfilled in my relationships.

This list is not extensive. But it can tip a person off to know if someone has a problem with an alcohol problem. I usually can spot someone right a way. However, it is seldom useful to tell a person that they are alcoholic. An alcoholic usually can figure this out on some level and either desperately tries to hide it or is willing to seek help.

Alcoholism: A fact in my life.

Alcoholism is a disease of apathy. I have always known that alcohol is poison to my body. But the truth is my disease does not care. I can write about my track record pertaining to alcohol. I can talk to sober friends. I can look someone in the eye and admit I still struggle with alcohol but it will never stop me from picking up again and again. It does not matter that I get physically sick or that I embarrass myself. Money is no object because I will find a way. And that is something that I have to live with for the rest of my life.

I remember coming up with this great speech that I would give to young people whenever I had a chance. It goes something like this: Do you know what happens to you when you say you don’t know or you don’t care? The students say no. And I ask again…You don’t know? And they get more interested. And I repeat the question for impact. Do you know what happens to you when you say you don’t know or you don’t care? And then I answer. When you say you don’t know or you don’t care decisions get made for you. You have given up your option to choose. And you don’t even know it. 

But the truth with most issues in life is that we do care. Alcoholics care far more than anyone realizes. We are super sensitive individuals battling a disease with our own mind. And that disease needs to be respected because it is bigger than us, more powerful, cunning, baffling, disruptive and painful than we can humanly handle. And we care. We care that we feel like crap and that our dreams fall to the wayside. We care that we have lost ourselves over and over again. But again and again we lose this battle.

And that is why divine intervention is real. The fact is there will be thousands of days I cannot stop drinking and then one day I ask God for help and I stop shortly after. This is commonly reported by many recovering alcoholics. Furthermore, our problems soften in time and turn into miracles if we stay on task. I am not sure if a “normie” is that lucky. Maybe God allowed a normal person to have many joyous days and we needed the extra help. It seems plausible to me at this point.

Divine intervention has always preceded my ability to live a sober life. When I get out of my way and trust there is something bigger present, my life takes on a new form. Many alcoholics do not like the idea of God. They say that they do not believe it. It doesn’t matter to me anymore if it is true or not. I don’t want to die so I will believe in God. And I cannot do it for someone else. God does not play that game. It has to be for me.

Although, there is nothing better than being in a room full of happy recovering alcoholics. Recovering alcoholics are hilarious. They get each other’s warped minds. We understand that we are isolators, easily resentful, maimed by our own actions. We know the depths of hell each of us has traveled and we are very grateful to be back.We become awesome leaders, lovers, parents and people.

And in a split second we do not care. And the minute we begin to not complete tasks, not show up for commitments, not participate in an active way in our lives we unravel. It doesn’t always pretell a pending relapse but it does say something about the state of mind of the person.

Therefore, my actions must direct my life, not my thinking, if I am to lead a life free from this substance. I do not need to know why. I just need to do it. There it takes great humility in surrendering to this fact. And in humility there is  great freedom. I cannot think of a better way to live than to be free. I could ask for nothing more.

Peace out.

 

 

God is Orange

orange chair

I threw myself into alcohol oblivion while going to different bars hoping no one would recognize me from other bars in town. I was living with my best friend’s mom and she was nice enough to take me in and help me detox and provide much love that I desperately needed. She was a Eucharistic Minister that attended church everyday who was serving God by helping me. And it felt wonderful to be around someone who was not toxic but only held great concern for me.

It was the next day at her house that the truth about my alcoholism became utterly apparent. And one would think  that after the detox, the shakes, the sounds, the voices,the chills, sleepless nights and countless cigarettes that I would never dare touch the stuff again. But it didn’t take long for me to relapse and I started right where I left off; wanting to die.

I knew of one place I could go to get help but I thought I was better than those women. They were criminals and prostitutes with their kids taken away. I could not get help with this sort of foul-natured types. I was from Thousand Oaks. I was upper middle class and I was not about to go.

Jose, a busboy from work confronted me one day. “I saw you running in your car today.””Running?” I thought to myself. I had no clue what he was talking about. “I spoke to the Holy Spirit today and he said you are not one the right path. That God has other plans for you.” This was not what I wanted to hear.

Yet he was right, entries from my journal begged for death from this torturous life I was living. I could not see any way out. It was just a matter of time before I would end it.

A few nights later, I dreamed that I walked into “The House of Hope.” This was the place where the criminals roamed and the prostitutes taunted. But I walked in and the entire room was decorated with orange furniture with barely any room to actually move.

A woman asked, ” What do you want?” I answered in a soft voice that I was looking for the House of Hope. “You got insurance?” she asked. “No, I will go.” I said. “Now wait a minute I will be right back.”She shuffled through the orange furniture until she found her way out. All I could hear as she walked off was something extremely foreign to my ears.

When she left I noticed a radio. But what played from it seemed unfamiliar. It was like a thousand angels singing at once. Music so beautiful, I became mesmerized and I completely forgot the orange room with the firm lady and why I was even there in the first place. It was the loveliest sound I had ever heard in all of my life. No instruments, only acapella. And voices sung from the end of time out of the speakers of this old rusty radio that radiated the unconditional love that we all search for.

Then I woke up.

I could not shake this orange room dream. It was like no other. And for the next few nights when I woke up I felt like someone was holding me in my bed. But I was alone. Things were not making sense.

My best friend’s mom became aware I had relapsed. The feeling in the house grew cold.When I fist moved in all doors were open throughout the house and now they were closed. I was making the mom sick with stress. No one wants an active alcoholic in their home. Yet I had nowhere to go.

She finally confronted me one morning after I had a night where I blacked out and made a terrible mess in her home. I did not deny anything. But I was not about to go through withdrawals again without  being under the care of a doctor.

I was  accepted in the hospital and I shook and I sweat and I was scared and I was ashamed. The doctor gave me some Valium but when I went to sleep I dreamed of some snake man pushing me into a smelly swamp of serpents. “Is this where you want to be?” The Snake Man screamed. “Is this what you want?”

I actually woke up and I was sure that the doctor had given me LSD. But this was good old fashioned delirium tremens. Like many before me, I was experiencing hell on earth.

When I was finally released from the hospital I was pretty ecstatic. I had no cravings for alcohol and I was willing to do what it takes. I told my best friend’s mom that I was not going to call the House of Hope, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I just want to see if it is orange.

Down into the barrio I went. The streets of San Pedro shared great violence among its residents. But I had nowhere to go. And as I pulled up in front of this halfway house/rehab I could not help but notice two of the brightest orange chairs sitting outside the gate waiting as if to say hello. ORANGE. No doubt about it. Flawless beautiful orange.

And I was home.

 

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

In the mornings, looking over the Ventura sunrise, I began to show up at the grocery store to buy liters of gross white wine.I was thirty years old, I had very little money at that point  but I tru…

Source: The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

alcoholism_treatment

In the mornings, looking over the Ventura sunrise, I began to show up at the grocery store to buy liters of gross white wine.I was thirty years old, I had very little money at that point  but I truly could not stop drinking around the clock. Alcohol had me in its clutches.

I thought I could fool the checker at the grocery store by purchasing a potato or something small with my wine so that they would think I was having the wine for the evening. I would also go to many different stores but eventually I was recognized everywhere I went.

One time I went to this liquor store at 8am sharp. I casually walked in slowly to pretend I was in no hurry for my wine. The guy at the counter rang me up and then smiled “I haven’t seen you in a while.” I felt caught and ashamed. I was not fooling anyone but myself.

While most alcoholics drink everything they can and pass-out, I always saved a glass for the morning. I desperately wanted to avoid the pain of withdrawals and therefore I stayed very disciplined about that rule. I rescued myself from myself in a sense.

But..more problems accrued. Beside the normal financial problems and relationship problems that most alcoholics create, I had essentially leaped into being part of some Jerry Springer Show  production with no way out.

Pregnant!  But by whom? I had been sleeping  with two guys off and on during the summer. The days were blurry and my peculiar ability to remember dates and times suddenly disappeared while my life was being lived out in the fog of substance abuse.

Well, I did what any normal person would do and left a message on one of the guys answering machines about the pregnancy. It is fair to say this did not go over well.  But I did not know when he would return my call and I needed to talk to him now. I had a hunch he was the father because condoms were used in all my sexual encounters except for one time when this guy (who I actually knew for many years) had sex with me in the middle of the night with no protection as I laid sleeping.

The message went something like this, “Hi (jerk -0ff) , if your daughter is there turn off this message immediately (long pause) but I am pregnant. Please call me back.” I heard from him shortly and he was like “get rid of it.” But I thought I was pro-life and I was very hurt how insensitive he was being.

Please know this: All my life I was exposed to the 12 steps of AA. I knew them by heart. I looked forward to some at an early age. For example, the inventory one…oh yeah. I was ready to do that by age twelve. But there was one..an important one I could never fully understand and nor could anyone else unless they are truly in the grips of addiction.

Step One: I admit I am powerless over alcohol; that my life had become unmanageable. Powerless? Unmanageable? Hmmm…that was starting to make sense. And for once in a long time I had a moment of clarity. My life had become unmanageable by me.

But powerlessness? I don’t know. I simply thought I am pregnant I will go to meetings and give the baby up for adoption. And when I say simply I mean…I was totally freaking out and was at a total loss for a solution. It is one thing for me to abuse myself and whole other to try to bring someone else in the world while I was so sick.

I got in the car, drunk, and headed to my first AA meeting. But I was spinning and inebriated therefore I ended up in Taco bell instead.

From then on…maybe every forty minutes I would declare that I would not drink every again along with smoking nasty cigarettes, too. But then the withdrawal would come and i had to have the drink. I truly belonged in the hospital but the only thing I figured out was that I was absolutely powerless over alcohol.

I fell to pieces and made an appointment with Planned Parenthood to see when I could get an abortion. In my eyes, I would have killed that baby anyway. At the point of no return nothing is clear.

The guy who got me pregnant paid for half and never spoke to me again.

I was early enough in my pregnancy to have the at-home abortion with medications. Therefore, early in the morning, completely alone, I follwed all the doctor’s directions and for 12 hours with a glass of wine in one hand and a Tylenol 3 in the other, I cramped, I cried and I died inside a little more that day. It was the loneliest day of my life. And I still live with the guilt of having to make that decision fifteen years later.

But I was powerless and unless there was a miracle, I was just going to continue to go down farther and farther into the abyss. Luckily, miracles do happen….

 

 

The Days of No Return

header-sub-abuse

After my father died, I went a little crazy. Actually, a lot crazy. If anyone has lost a parent especially the parent that raised you, then you will know the great pain and strange grief that unfolds after the parent’s death.

First of all, I was starting to get suicide ideation back. I could not stop picturing myself with a gun in my mouth blowing off my head. That started 4 months after he died. I finally went to an urgent care where I was introduced to antidepressants via sample packs. I did not understand at the time I needed to take the same amount every day so I would take 10mg one day, 100 mg the next and then maybe 25mg the following days. Nothing in my life was in order.

My first husband and I bought a house with some of my inheritance money. It was a small house that was perfect for he and I and our six cats. It was our little home and he worked hard to make it nice.

My first husband was not aware that I had started drinking up 15 drinks a day. I had been since I took care of my dad in hospice at my home. My ability to care about anything was completely lost. Therefore, when I was mixing my Zoloft with 15 drinks of alcohol a day and smoking pot, my decision-making was based on anything that would keep me numb.

The summer of 2000, my ex husband and I had gone to Italy for a wedding. When I returned from Italy…it was on!  Dinner parties at my house  became common. Drinks and laughter and mania continued and I really thought I was happy.

But this is when my hands began to shake. I had gone to enough AA meetings with my father to know that this was not good. But I could not stop. Alcohol was taking over my life. Eventually, after taking mushrooms and talking to some close friends, I came home and asked for a divorce. He was stunned. I was cookoo.

Immediately, after he left I called the guy I had been in love with over the course of my entire time spent with my ex husband. The guy had a girlfriend but for some reason I decided that he was my property and I had dibs. Not two days after we went out did he declare that he loved me. I wasn’t ready for a new relationship but who cares, right?

This guy could always read right through me and I had never had anyone so smitten over me at the time. Although, it is important to mention that this guy was an excessive alcoholic who could be compared to Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. But I had crossed a line that many other alcoholic people cross. The point of no return.

We stayed together for one year and half and he was extremely abusive. But I was not innocent either. Plus, he continued to see his ex girlfriend behind my back. And I unbelievably thought I was being wronged by her when I was the one who stole her boyfriend in the first place!

There were times the police came because we fought so loud. And TV’s were thrown out onto the lawn. My little house became a breeding ground of wild abandon with pot smoking, drinking, cigarettes and total delirium.

I was about to leave him when he came home one night to say he had cancer. I was far too loyal to leave anybody in that position so I waited.

Things got worse. I crashed my car, I maxed out all my credit cards and decided I did not need to pay my taxes. The promises of payments to some creditors for my ex husband and I became greater debts unbeknownst to him. And I lived in awful fear of doom and gloom where the mailbox was not my friend and I could no longer answer my phone. They turned off cable, the trash stopped and I could no longer make long distance calls. I could not see how far of a hole I was digging but the bottom was still far away.

In the end, I made a decision to move back to California where there was no greeting party waiting for me. I had lost my friends and I was not prepared for the trouble that awaited me.

Still…it went on until one day.