Forgiving Myself

Painting by Dale Frank, title unknown

Since sobering up (yes, again) almost 72 hours ago, I’ve found new vices in old standbys like Extra gum and Crystal Light packets. The craving was actually so strong for the Crystal Light (the Kroger brand, naturally) that I made a special trip to the grocery store to procure some. I had a cup of the caffeinated grapefruit variety tonight before work, and it pretty much knocked my socks off. I forgot to bring any packets to work, and my pastor–whom I met with for almost two hours on Monday–told me that any time I feel a strong urge to drink, I should do something good, loving, and/or courageous. Typing my thoughts out in hopes they help someone else could be considered all of the above.

To be back at this exact same place again is both harrowing and a relief. The above painting by Dale Frank (I’m sure it has a long, witty title…they all do–you can read more about him *HERE*) pretty much sums up how I felt about five days ago. I’d hit rock bottom again and I knew it, but I wasn’t ready to quit drinking. I was so paranoid about getting a DUI, however, that I couldn’t even leave where I was at to get in my truck and go home. So I sat down for about 20 minutes and just prayed. And talked to myself, and prayed some more. I felt nothing but immense shame…shame that I’d apparently learned nothing from everything that happened a year and a half ago that led to me being sober for almost seven months. Once I finally got home, I was afraid to get out of my truck and go in the house, because I knew the vodka bottles would be staring me in the face. I hid the open one in a dresser drawer and promised myself I’d stay sober for 24 hours. And I did…exactly 24 hours, down to the minute. This is the kind of thing addicts do, to prove to themselves that (and I quote the infamous phrase) “I can quit whenever I want.” They also lie to everyone whom they’ve asked to hold them accountable for their drinking. I lied for 11 months…I’m sure people suspected, and I admitted to having had some champagne to drink at a dinner party. I actually drank so much champagne on New Year’s Eve (a drunk guest left half a bottle in the hotel lobby and told me I could have it) that I had a headache for 24 hours. I drank in the DMV parking lot while waiting to get my Nevada license tags back in February. Heck, I was drinking in my truck on the way to the interview that didn’t happen at the Four Seasons in the exact picture I posted on the blog last week. And every single time I could rationalize it and make it seem okay. Another thing that addicts are pros at, believe you me.

So why am I spilling my guts about it? I was accused last time around of doing it for attention and because I have a flair for the dramatic. Someone told me I needed to go to AA instead of being so open about it, which is precisely one of the reasons being an alcoholic is still such a taboo in 2012, and considered a blatant sign of weakness in many cultures. (As is any mental illness, for that matter…you’re clearly not “bucking it up” enough if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, etc.) People seem to think if it’s swept under the rug, it’ll all go away. I don’t want to be criticized for going against AA policies, but the one time I’ve been to a meeting, I was the only one of the five of us in the beginner’s group that hadn’t been shooting up heroin. That’s not meant to be shocking or dramatic; I’m stating a fact. I honestly left the meeting feeling like I didn’t have an addiction problem; thankfully I’d been sober a few months by this time and had no inclination to drink any time soon. I think each person deals with recovery in their own way; I work best under pressure and I know that if I don’t get things out in the open, I’ll slip very, very quickly. And that’s what getting sober is: a full-time job that you have to work at, no breaks allowed. I lived for almost 29 years without a drop of alcohol, and I know I can do it another 29+. I have to at this point; I don’t have a choice if I want to keep my liver and my sanity. And a job, and the privilege to drive. I could’ve so easily lost all of that, and I would’ve been another jobless, car-less drunk with a bum knee. No joke.

I threw out all the alcohol in my arsenal on Tuesday afternoon. Two and a half bottles of Sam’s Choice vodka (it’s hideous tasting but is only $9) and some beer that I have no idea where it came from (one of my hotel stays, probably) that I’d resorted to drinking in the last couple of weeks to lay off the vodka. That’s the first time I’ve done more than take a sip of a beer in my life…I was guzzling these cans of Bud Light like there was no tomorrow. I was telling a friend that I couldn’t even bring myself to pour it all down the drain, so I drove to the nearest casino and left the box of booze by a trash can in the parking garage in hopes someone else would take care of it. Almost like I was dropping off an unwanted baby. What does this say about me? I’m sure the addiction specialist I’m waiting for my appointment with will tell me. In the meantime, I’m thankful that–for whatever reason that will be forever unknown to me–God spared me losing my job or getting a DUI (or both). I know I have to move forward and that the only way is up from here. I’m still in the “honeymoon phase” where I’m so glad I quit drinking and am riding high from the support of friends and family. From my past experience at the rodeo, I know this wears off by the two-week mark. I’m glad that I have the support of a caring pastor this time around, and I hope I have a better therapist than the one last year who told me at the very end of my last session with him, “Don’t tell anyone I asked you this, but don’t you have to agree that music sounds so much better when you’re buzzed or drunk?” Guess what? It doesn’t.

In closing, the below Dale Frank painting is what my mind feels like right now. There’s still a lot of chaos and whirring around, but the shame is gone. It’s all gone…adios. I’m learning to forgive myself, because God’s already forgiven me. With that said, I’m reading a wonderful autobiography (by a celebrity, as if I need to spell that out) that I picked up at my new favourite antique store on Tuesday. I’ll do an entry on this remarkable woman’s story in my next blog. In the meantime, my prayers are with those in the path and aftermath of Isaac, and anyone dealing with the sickness or loss of a loved one (several people come to my mind immediately and my heart is breaking for them). And my fellow addicts…if I can make it, so can you. That’s a promise.


Painting by Dale Frank, title also unknown (my apologies)

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  1. jannica

     /  August 30, 2012

    i think it is so good for you to write about what’s going on. who cares if others think it is for attention or being dramatic. i think it’s not only therapuetic for you…but will probably help someone else reading it. it is easy to fall off the wagon (sorry…only phrase i can think of)…but good for you for picking yourself back up and for putting it out there. hopefully this is reassuring to someone else struggling with addiction. and hopefully your post brings you lots of support that you will need to get through. i’m thinking of you…and pray that your new therapist will be amazing and exactly what you need! a great therapist is definitely important! πŸ™‚ also…good for you for forgiving yourself…i think that is probably the most important thing in the whole process. i don’t think you can move forward in any situation while holding on to anger, resentment, etc. thinking and praying for you!

    • Thanks, Jans! I, too, hope I get a good one. My pastor gave me better advice than any therapist or medication I’ve ever paid for. But I know I need to see someone for the addiction side of things re: why I’ve let the alcohol itself overtake my life. I now know this will be a lifelong challenge, but I know I can beat it.

  2. Dear Brian,.
    As an addiction specialist myself, I really admire you and support your effort to keep your recovery in the open. Many people compound their secrets by trying to do this privately, and it makes it so much harder. I do urge you to try to find another home AA group, as they are all very different! Here at home, I have found that even the “old timers” group is really helpful to beginners b/c of the sponsorships there. I run a treatment program (the one I took over when my mama died) and see clients all day. We keep journals, (which you are fantastic at!) we work the steps, we work on keeping priorities in place and honesty. From this blog, it sounds like you are back on track! You can do this. You can do this. πŸ™‚ Stay strong!

    • Thanks, old friend! I keep forgetting you took over her practice. I might have to ask you for some advice. And yes, I realize that AA experience I had wasn’t typical of most (nor should I really be talking about it). I need to at least try it out one more time.

  3. The title of Dale Frank’s painting is “A petulant tsunami of regrets and broken promises littered her chest drawer”. The paintings is currently exhibited at Art Statements in Hong Kong until November 18, 2012.

    • Thank you, Dominique! What a fitting title for the painting. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to see the painting in person during my lifetime.


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