Dispute dangerous feelings like shame, guilt, and regret with Gratitude; it’s much easier than washing it away with booze because ever really gets it clean.
After my run yesterday, I stopped to get a shot of wheatgrass and a bottle of water. While in line I noticed the store had a display of Home Brewed Beer and Root Beer. I wanted to buy one of each just for the taste. I was never much of a drinker, but I did like the taste of both.
Soda always made me feel bloated and uncomfortable.
If I can’t get the carbonation out of it, then I didn’t enjoy drinking it.
Beer is an entirely different story.
I tried to be a good drinker. To drink with the best of the drinkers, but I could never develop that muscle.
Still, I persisted and participated, but the experience is quite humiliating.
But I didn’t buy either because I choose not to drink today. In the past, I would have let myself convince myself that I just wanted to taste the beer, but I know me much better today.
D.S.B West Coast, San Francisco, USA
While waiting in line, an image popped into my head- from the west coast D.S.B. gigs. I was in San Francisco, sitting in a back patio of some bar/club/or apartment, I can’t remember, and Billy Death Threat/Tragedy offered me a beer. I naturally refused the beer with my typical response – “No thanks. It would open up a dangerous doorway for me.” I spoke with him for a few moments about why I didn’t drink.
During this time in my life, I was sober for about 5 years. My fight with the table saw had yet to happen. Sobriety still meant something to me.
Super fast forward- Austin, Tx.
I’m fucking wasted in some club with Luke. Ears ringing from either the No Fucker set or the massive amounts of cocaine still firing in my brain and I hand Billy a beer. The look he gives me is strange. I know this look. I’ve seen it before. Its a look of alarm, maybe sadness, but I translate it to mean-Concern.
He says, ”I thought you don’t drink?”
I lie to him and reply, ” Ah, yeah…that was before. I have better control over my drinking and responsibilities now…So I have a few every once in a while. Only once in a while now. It’s okay. I can handle it. I know my limit. Cheers.” Beer bottles clink. We drink, and I high tail it out of there.
I feel the shame rising inside of me. My integrity crumbles just a little more.
I still had not learned how to handle anxiety, especially in social settings. Hell, I still have problems with this today. It seems words never come out the way I want them too. As a way to handle the anxiety I feel I talk incessantly about myself. You’d think I just shut up and let the feeling pass. But this wasn’t just casual conversation. Billy was asking about something that I was adamant about only two short years ago.
I have to get away from him before I start trying to explain why it is that I feel I can drink. Instead, I would shed light on the fact that I have no control and have no idea what I am doing anymore. Runaway fast because the feelings of shame are starting to reach the surface and this is so fucking dangerous. The easiest and quickest way to shove this feeling back down in the hole it belongs is to head to the nearest dark corner and snort some more coke.
Back to the present day and I’m still in line.
I look away from the display. I feel a little twinge of nervousness inside. The feeling rising inside of me is the shame, regret, and guilt for my past. Dangerous feelings which I used to sedate with heroin. Yesterday morning, I dismissed the anxiety with thoughts of gratitude. I thought about the person who I am today and how thankful I am for all the gifts my recovery continues to place before me. When I leave the store, I continue to think about my relationship with beer.
My routine with alcohol was
Beers #1and #2
– I’m feeling good, and it took about 90 minutes to finish. A drinker without a substance use disorder would stop here, maybe even open up beer #3 and nurse it the rest of the evening. But no-Johnny was never normal. I moved on to
Beer # 3
– The third beer went down naturally like ti was water, but so did that feeling of fun-loving happy-go-lucky. Here comes anxiety, worry, and unease.
– The depression is starting to build. I can’t shut it off. Not only am I depressed I am starting to get horny, but this causes more depression because I start thinking about my past, all the sex I sold for dope. The secret love and lust I harbored for some of those I hung around with begins to surface, and totally get the -What ifs- rolling.
I start to spin through my past, convincing myself how different life would have been if I grew up gay today instead of 1984.
What would have been different?
Nothing would have been different because I would have had first to find a way to accept myself, love myself, and stop the wheel of self-destruction from spinning out of control.
For a long time, I believed all of my problems with heroin were because I failed to let the world know about my sexuality. I was angry with others who so easily came out and told the rest of the world to fuck off if they couldn’t deal with them and the fact that they were queer. I could never do this.
– Pull out my handkerchief, blow my nose, wipe my eyes because my life was such a tearjerker. Reminiscent of my failure and shortcomings created regret and guilt. I needed to speak about all the pain I kept inside, so I made up stories and fairytales about some non-existent friend who in fact was me.
The fairytales are me disclosing stories from the night before, but omitting myself as the main character. I’d just start you about some event I was not particularly fond off only of getting it out of my head. Always confusing and esoteric and most likely never succeeding in my mission.
Whether the story was about sex with some old man in a parked car for money to buy drugs. or the familiar story of me glorifying the heroin high, but of course I was repeating what was told to me. When I started doing dope the crew I hung out with was against it. It was okay to smoke opium, eat hadfulls of Vicodin and Loratab, but god forbid if you did dope. The reality is that I was the kid in the car with the old man and the guy who did that little shot of heroin.
How could I actually fool you into believing I was telling a story of someone else when I knew to many details? You see I knew too much about the event. I knew about the year, make model of the care, where it was parked, the smells, the sex, the amount of money, and any other interesting fact. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure to sit with me when telling a story, I add all those interesting details in sometimes never making it to the end because you can no longer take my going on and on.
Dispute dangerous feeling with more booze
If you were with me during any of these episodes of Johnny and drinking, I apologize. You were the unlucky one because as you know, I would not shut up about the past and long list of guilt, shame, and regret. Somehow I make myself out to be the victim as I recall memory after memory. Even when I a fond memory popped in my head, I’d find a way to make it dark and depressing. If you were trapped listening to me rant over and over, you know how hard it was to escape me. I’d follow you around continually talking you up and down. Pleading and begging you to find the time to make me feel whole, to fix me, to tell me I’m wrong about how I think.
I drain the last of my beer and realize I’m sitting alone. As I crack open the next beer my sadness and constant loneliness I feel inside turns to rage.
– I can no longer handle the depression and anxiety, so it has turned to anger. Here it comes, in the old days it was referred to as beer muscles, but I’m not sure what is called today. Nonetheless, I’m now pissed drunk and angry. I cannot process what is happening around me. The guilt and pain I feel are pushed back down and replaced with anger. I spit venom. And a treat to be around.
If you don’t dispute dangerous emotions you are never sure where they might lead you.
While the anger builds inside of me, I find the courage to speak my mind. I’d bring up the past when I felt wronged by someone or something. Whoever is with me gets to listen to me bitch and moan incessantly about how so-n-so did this or that to me, and he has to pay. When I randomly start bitching about pedophiles, I was giving you a doorway into my past. The biker and my cousin who raped me over and over, why didn’t any of you see that I was crying for help. All the hints were there. I laid out the scenes perfectly for someone to put it together, but no one ever did. In my fucked up drunken mind begins to blame you for not knowing me, caring about me, loving me.
Someone please help me
Now I feel fucking betrayed, hurt, let down by all of you. No one cares about my feelings, my pain, the shit inside my head I live with from moment to moment. No one knows how I run angrily around the neighborhood crying. I quicken my pace to try and rush past the memories trying to consume me.
Somewhere during beer 6, 7 or 8, the paranoia kicks in. I start to look around the room and notice groups of people watching my way laughing, whispering and talking shit about me. Seriously, if you are having such a good time on my account don’t let me spoil it, instead, let’s turn it up a fucking notch.
Then my gaze would be drawn on others around me. Thoughts would start popping off in my head, and the stares would result in my questioning:
Why the fuck are you looking at me?
Do you know me?
Do you want to know me?
I continue to get angry, and I can no longer control my emotions. Eventually, I would get up and march over to another person’s table and start my typical shit.
When I finally accepted the fact that I was gay and not just a junky who sold sex to men my violent outbursts rose to celebrate my coming out.
A typical exchange would sound like:
I would direct my glare at someone who I felt was particularly interested in what was happening to me than the people he was with- “Hey?” A questioning look from the person I was yelling at would signal to me that I had his attention.
Yeah you, Have you ever had your ass handed to you by a faggot?
An alarming look would come across his face as he’d say, “What the fuck are you talking about? I’m not bothering you.”
“Well, you keep looking over here like I am bothering you. Maybe you just want to fuck?”
“C’mon man, we are just out having a good time, You don’t have to be a dick.”
“Why don’t we just step outside and I’ll show you what being a dick is all about.” Blah Blah Blah. I’d continue this until someone I was with would step in and calm me down. He would then have to apologize for my behavior to the other group of people. Meanwhile, I just sat there drinking and staring and carrying on. I was oblivious to the extent of my assholishness.
It wasn’t uncommon for you to be pulled out of the fun you were having in the club because I ended up at someone else’s table yelling and screaming at someone to mind their own fucking business. Insane right. I hated and loved myself so much that I made everything about me.
In my defense, I was not into physical violence. I would count on others not wanting to fight. Or I’d rely on you pulling me away before I got my ass kicked. Of course, that didn’t help when one of my victims found me alone a week or two later. I’d been jumped so many times for my ridiculous behavior. The sad part is I couldn’t remember your face, what I said, or why the fuck you would want to kick the shit out of me.
Beer 6, 7, and 8 was usually the onset of the blackout.
It would have been better if I passed out into a clump at the table, barstool, fireside, or storefront stoop.
Do not confuse blacking out with passing out. Blacking out is more dangerous. It’s beyond being stupid drunk. I’ve had many hazardous blackouts. Do you know the difference between passing out and blacking out? Passing out is when you just shut down, fall asleep, lying there unconscious.
On the other hand, a blackout is when you are conscious just unaware of what is happening around you.
A blackout is alcohol-induced amnesia. You will spot a blackout the next morning when you have to call your friend up and ask him about what happened the night before. My blackouts were most often moments of uncontrollable crying mixed with violent outbursts.
Passing out was just God’s way of looking out for me. This is when he puts me down for the count, safely, quietly, without any fuss. Whoever I was with would stow me away in some place soft and warm to sleep off the booze. I would always promise myself never again when I awoke. Eventually, I knew I was a shitty alcoholic, so I graduated to shooting heroin full-time. It was faster less feeling, and it tasted great. Utica Club, Yuengling, Wiśniówka or Old Grand Dad had nothing on Tombstone, Renegade, or the Blue Note dope stamps.
Standing in line thinking about this created an uneasy feeling inside of me. Guilt, shame, and regret were rising into my thoughts. Anxiety and a little twinge of nausea worked its way into my gut. I looked around the store, felt the sweat running down my back, and smiled.
Dispute dangerous feeling with gratitude
I smiled because today I am grateful.
I never have to worry about feeling or acting the fool (well, others might beg to differ here, ha) because today I choose not to drink. I don’t have to wake up and wonder what happened the night before. I don’t have to wake up smelling spilled beer and stale cigarette smoke all around me. Nor do I wake up smelling the spent heroin escaping every pore and hole in my body, with my stomach howling, head spinning, heart pounding, and body begging to be fixed.
There is so much I am grateful for today. Gratitude is a powerful tool in recovery. If you are not using the power of gratitude to help you through the seconds, minutes, hours or days in early recovery, you should start. You always have something or someone to be grateful too.
Gratitude will provide you with the mental clarity to see the big picture. You are able to see all the joy, love, and care that is extended to you each moment of the day when you look through life filtered by gratitude. As I stood in line, I noticed all that I was grateful for at that moment.
If you do not know where to start with gratitude, I suggest getting a cheap composition book and start keeping an account of all that you are grateful for each and every day. Your gratitude journal might just save your life.
Gratitude can help you learn to forgive yourself and work through the compulsion to drink. Gratitude can help you learn how to find fulfillment in the moments you spend quietly alone with yourself. Gratitude can be the difference between relapse and recovery.
What are you grateful for today?
I am grateful that I don’t pretend I can drink safely. Thankful that I choose not to drink today.
So what’s your story with booze? Are you able to have a beer or two with your friends without it jumbling the code in your head?
Or does alcohol jumble your brain creating chaos and shame?