Alcohol is a solution

Alcohol is a solution

My last post was a little cryptic. It was one of my more poetic posts. I was playing with language because I was trying to make sense of things which don’t make sense. When I started I was trying to make sense of big issues like war, poverty, racism and sexual assault. By the time I finished it several days later I was thinking about my own life. Specifically I was thinking about the role alcohol plays in my life.

I’m what is commonly referred to as an alcoholic. I tend to reject labels but as they say, “if the shoe fits…”. The label alcoholic is one that I identify with strongly, I accept it, I embrace and I will even take pride in it. Society tends to look down on alcoholics and attempts to instill shame. Shame is a destructive force and so I reject it. Alcoholics are not defective people, they are just people. Sure they do some fucked up things sometimes but everybody who does anything will fuck up from time to time. Bigger things can mean bigger fuck ups. Combine that with social stigma and ostracization and you’ve got a mess. I happen to find most alcoholics to be pretty freaking amazing people.

For me, alcohol is not a problem. Alcohol is a solution. It may be an imperfect solution but there are no perfect solutions. On the whole, alcohol has served me pretty well. Alcohol has been there for me when all else has failed. Alcohol is like a best friend… only more consistent, and more predictable. Alcohol has been my mentor, teaching me countless life lessons. Alcohol has held my hand as I’ve attempted things I never thought I could. Alcohol has taught me courage. Alcohol has taught me to speak my mind. Alcohol has taught me vulnerability. Alcohol has taught me how to ask for help. Alcohol has taught taught me the power of forgiveness. No matter what I am feeling, regardless of my state of mind, alcohol can put me in touch with my true self or give me an attitude adjustment when needed. Alcohol has been with me for virtually every major life event. Alcohol has introduced me to the vast majority of my lovers, partners and friends. Alcohol has got me through every brake-up and has even helped me end unhealthy relationships when nothing else could. Alcohol has been my medication for chronic illness. Alcohol has been my motivation to keep going. Alcohol has been my reward for a job well done. Alcohol has fueled most of this blog. Alcohol has literally saved my life.

Yeah, alcohol is pretty amazing stuff!

As I look at my life and all I’ve accomplished I realize that I owe alcohol a deep debt of gratitude. Alcohol has worked for me and it has got me to this point. I just have this aching feeling like there has to be more to life. Maybe I’m wrong but I know that I’ll never find out as long as alcohol is in the picture; keeping life exciting and making everything okay when life gets too much.  In order to see what is around that bend, I’m going to have to break up with alcohol. I’m going to have to become a sober alcoholic.

Yeah, right! Like that ever happens. Sounds like a flightless bird to me. 

Well, as it turns out there are a lot of sober alcoholics. They even gather in groups multiple times a day, every day of the week. I’ve been going to these gatherings and what I’ve discovered is that like the ostridge, these people are pretty freaking amazing. Them do seem to be rather down on my beloved alcohol however; blaming it for the problems in their life rather than celebrating it for their accomplishments. Still, despite our differences we seem to have a lot in common. As I listen to their stories it sounds like my life. We may not share the same perspective but the experiences are pretty similar. When sitting with these sober alcoholics I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be. I can’t help but thank alcohol for helping me find this place. I think my new friends feel the same way because when I said, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for alcohol”, they all nodded in agreement.

I heard a speaker the other night say that the Alcoholics Anonymous steps and program are not something to believe in, it’s not something you learn from, it’s something you do. I think what he was saying was that the beliefs and knowledge come from the doing, not from the steps themselves. I’m not going to AA because I believe in it, I’m not going to learn how to be a better alcoholic, I’m going because I need something to do. Alcohol has been my thing to do and it has works to this point. The one thing I want now is the one thing it can’t get me. I want sobriety and alcohol will no longer get me there. I’m sure that there are other ways but Alcoholics Anonymous has a proven track record of helping alcoholics find sobriety. As they say, “It works if you work it.”

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A good day

Today has been a good day. In fact I’ve had a couple of good days so far this week and it’s only Tuesday. I woke up yesterday with a strong sense of guilt. Actually I woke up with a strong sense of embarrassment but after I let that go the guilt quickly emerged. This is not an uncommon experience after a night of heavy drinking but I think it’s more common when whiskey is involved. Sunday was a whiskey night.

Anyway, I felt like I had an apology to make. I’ve been doing a lot of wrestling with shame, guilt and apology. Frankly, I haven’t seen the point to any of it. I have seen guilt as imposed by the outside as an attempt to control and shame as a lack of self-love. An artist should never apologize for their art and no one should ever apologize for who they are. If you are being a genuine authentic person, you should never need to apologize.

Or so I thought.

I have apologized however. I do see their social purpose and benefit of apology but I’ve not really understood what it meant and how it was associated with guilt and shame until recently. To be honest, I still don’t understand it completely but I think I’m on the right path.

Brené Brown has a couple of TED talk videos dealing with shame and guilt that I have found eye-opening. I highly recommend watching them both (in order) but the main point I want to convey here is that guilt is saying, “I did something wrong”, shame is saying, “I am wrong”.

But understanding this still didn’t help. I still couldn’t see the difference. When I’ve done something that hurt another person they hardly ever say, “you did something that hurt me”, they usually say “YOU hurt me”. As I result I hear, “I am wrong” and I’m not willing to take that on.

It was only yesterday, AS I WAS WRITING “Do what you do” that I realized that I am not my actions. That is not to say that I’m not responsible for my actions, only that they don’t define me. It just means that I can separate the two. It means that I can separate shame and guilt. It means that I can apologize for what I did without having to apologize for who I am. This is a good thing. Considering that I’m going to do what I do, I may have to get really good at apologizing.

So back to my story…

I felt like I had kind of been a dick to my friend the night before and that my actions may have hurt her. I sent her a text message stating as much and it turned out that I was right. I had made a situation personal that didn’t need to be and that prevented me from being the compassionate empathetic person I want to be. I’ve got my hang-ups and insecurities and I do that. I also have the ability to recognize it, take responsibility for my actions and apologize.

Fortunately I was also presented with an opportunity to make amends. Her favorite bar-tender was leaving Mortimer’s after eighteen years on the job. She wanted to go say good-bye to him. She was going to drive to see him but driving to drink is stupid. Cold weather biking kind of sucks too but if you have a friend that bikes all winter long, maybe it won’t be so bad. I got to be that friend.

So vowing not to drink whiskey, I set out to help my friend get across town to south Minneapolis by bicycle. There are a couple of things to know about cold weather biking. The first is to dress in layers so you can stay warm. Second is to not sweat. This means biking slower. It also means taking breaks so we stopped half way at Clubhouse Jager for a drink. On the way back we stopped at the 311 Club.

To not bore you with details, let me just say it was a successful night. I was able to polish off a couple of glasses of wine in my friends garage before I was completely done. I crawled into her bed, chilled to the bone, but quickly warmed up sandwiched between my beautiful friend and her awesome pit-bull.

I woke up this morning at about two in the afternoon. I wasn’t moving too fast, as is typical for me, but I was pleased to not be hung-over given that I drank a total of thirteen drinks the day before. I snuggled with my friend some more before embracing the day.

I’m in a period of transition between working my ass off as a pedicab driver and tackling a really long to-do list of all the things I have been putting off. The wonderful thing about having a really long to-do list is that just about anything I do will move me forward. Today I decided to tackle mowing my lawn and fixing the drip in my bathtub.

I borrowed my friend’s power mower to mow my lawn. Most of the year I can do just fine with my push mower but the first time I mow and the last time I mow I really need the power of a gas mower. In the past I have rented, but having a friend who will loan me theirs is even better. Fixing the drip was easy, I just needed to take the time and get the part. Today was that day.

So life still sucks but it is what it is and what it is is a lot. If you keep it simple, do what you do and pay attention you may find that some days are pretty damn good!

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