Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Two weeks

Here’s hoping for a one termed shit stain on the body politick. 

What’s two weeks compared to fourteen months of sobriety, four years of this terrible presidency, six years since I started at OpenDNS, which opened up a career path for me way beyond my expectations, eleven years since owning our own home in the Bay Area, thirteen and ten years since our daughters were born, nineteen years of happy marriage on balance, with a few bumps along the way, twenty seven years since moving to California in the first place, thirty five years since my childhood worldview was shaken and I moved from Berlin, WI to the Chicagoland area, and fifty years since I was born?

What’s two weeks - after having to endure the worst form of projection and shamefully divisive behavior, to the point where our kids are conditioned to believe the exact opposite of anything that comes out of that man’s mouth, not to mention his supporters on my side of the family from whom I’ve become estranged, probably for good - for these last four years?

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to learn how to sit and wait, to slow down, to stop being in such a hurry to get from point a to point b. And though two weeks cannot go fast enough now, with the possibility that suspense may linger longer than two weeks - I hold out hope that there’s still a chance for us to straighten out the rudder and stabilize this shit - I mean ship. What’s another two weeks after thirty years of journal writing and seventeen years of blogging in this very space? Or four years of college along the way?

Tick, tock. 

Soon. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Sobering on

Now that I've been sober for a year, I've stopped counting the days but not my blessings. Grateful that it hasn't felt like a daily struggle to prevent myself from taking that first drink. Happy to know that this habit I'd developed over thirty years or so, one that had crossed a line into the danger zone around five years ago, seems to be gone from my go-to things.

 

Has the coronavirus crisis been an unintentional help in some way? Would I have otherwise felt like maybe it would be okay to slip away for a bit by now and saddle up to a bar somewhere, for some "me time?" Since I'm giving "voice" to that on the page, the answer to that question must at least be "maybe." But I think a soft maybe.

 

Something else has kicked in. Could it be mental toughness from putting in the work, first physically, and later psychologically, to refrain from taking that first drink when feeling stressed, uncertain, doubtful, confused, knowing that drinking will just make things worse? Or is it more automatic? Is it the subconscious, sending warning signs to the part of my brain that are stronger than the signals that would normally lead me to automatically say “fuck it, I need a drink?”

 

I’m not going to give myself the credit for having enough mental toughness, or that willpower alone has helped me get through this. I think the bigger reason is built-in somewhere, and automated - at least, over the balance of this time. And I think that “something” is somehow related to the healing process, of the body healing itself. And that “body” is the whole body, including the mind.

 

In Proust Was A Neuroscientist, the author Jonah Lehrer argues, among other things, that Walt Whitman’s central poetic idea was that “we do not have a body, we are a body. Although our feelings feel immaterial, they actually begin in the flesh.” The central thesis of Lehrer’s book is that poetic ideas, such as this one, have in more recent times been proven scientifically correct in the field of neuroscience. The artists – Whitman, Proust, Stravinsky, others, were onto something, and then the neuroscientists in our own time mopped up with the facts to prove them.

 

If that is true, might it be then that my body, having been given a long enough break from a negative substance influencing it and given enough time to start healing from the aftereffects, is now sending signals to my mind to stop reaching for the thing that has been giving me physical ailments such as appetite loss, abnormal bodily functions resulting from liver damage, and also psychological problems such as resentment, unfocused anger and random grievances in order to keep me safe? But safe from what? Death? Loneliness? Was it the outright fear of loneliness and isolation that provided the initial shock therapy to aid any willpower that I did possess, to quit cold turkey and seek early help? To buy time to start healing? And could it be possible that I was not truly sick enough from alcoholism that this initial time to heal was long enough to sustain itself?

 

I am more convinced now than ever that the mind and the body are intertwined if there is any way we can get to figuring out the holy grail of what the "soul" actually is. One informs the other. Therefore, perhaps my alcoholism was not far enough advanced for me to be able to completely ignore these signals, so long as I’d had enough time away from the daily intake to prefer what life is like without it?

 

I’m going to go with my gut when I say that the fear of loneliness and isolation is a stronger signal being sent to me than now than the pull of any temporary respite from the daily grind that alcohol might have given me along the way. In the back of my mind, I know that had I kept on the same path I was on up until this time last year (or, really, before the first time I quit for almost 7 months back in 2018), I'd be truly alone right now, in some unfamiliar apartment, by myself, estranged from my wife and family. The person I was becoming on the previous path was not sustainable for me to hold together all of the other things I hold dear such as family, work that is meaningful enough, and self-respect. Things were slipping. Alcoholism is a creeper.

 

One year sober and counting doesn't mean I've escaped loneliness. I'm struggling right now with another kind of loneliness. It's not debilitating, by any means. And I'm not sure I'm all that upset feeling left out of the mainstream of my friends and family who can keep on drinking socially to the degree that they always have. But now that I’m stone cold sober all the time, the effects of alcohol on others are a lot more noticeable. Its harder to relate to people who are intoxicated these days, because I’m not sharing that journey. It’s often a one-sided conversation, and hard for me to open myself up to intimacy. Sure, I can play along, because there is a kind of conversational muscle memory that takes over. But it’s not the same. 

 

The loneliness I sometimes feel is one that I can't replace by only surrounding myself with sober people. I can't do it. I wouldn’t want to. There are support groups that can help. Some tried, some failed, some worked. I leave open the possibility of setting aside some time and going back to a meeting. But not a Zoom meeting. I can make do without that.


Now that this is all on the page, I can gently let it all go. Just wrap it in a bow, lay it all out in a boat, put some candles and flowers in there, a picture or two, and let it drift out slowly to sea.

 

One more thing: it really is better now than it was before. Even if it’s annoying at times. If there were a crystal ball to show all of our possible futures, my gut says the course I’m on now will probably lead to a better outcome than the one I was on before. Speaking of crystal balls, Dan Rather shared a line about one just this morning, one he said he’d heard long ago about prognostication: “Those who live by the crystal ball end up eating a lot of broken glass.”  

 

Letting go is the thing.







Friday, August 14, 2020

1 year


I did it! Time heals all wounds, isn’t that right? Last year on this night I was talking to my friend Marcos about being asked to move out of my house and he graciously gave me a key to his place which I didn’t end up needing to use. What a difference a year makes! I’m still here - and if my biggest struggle now is cutting out the portions of yogurt and granola and chocolate nut crunch trail mix, I’d say that’s a marked improvement. 

It was hot last year at this time. It was almost as hot as that today. But I didn’t need the big industrial fan all night in the living room, blowing cool air on me as I slept on the couch, with the loud noise drowning out my sorrows. 

K and I made amends quickly - as I had already proven I could stop drinking before - time along that path again healed me, and us, back up. Admitting to myself I just couldn’t be that person who could get away with trying to drink socially without crossing the line anymore. 

Once again, as before, the voices of resentment that were amplified with the drink went back on mute when I stopped. It was easier physically the second time around as well. It took a few months to work through the psychological withdrawal. I’m to the point now where the little voices inside myself are saying “Why would you take that first drink? It just leads to more suffering.” Physically, by this time last year I was losing my appetite - and my bodily functions were showing the tell tale signs of liver stress. 

Once I quit again, my appetite came back with a vengeance - and it is this I now need to pivot to for year two. I’d read Recovery 2.0 once before. I’ve kept it near my bedside table to pick back up again. I also keep a copy of Recovery Dharma handy as well - for some informal self meditation guidance, though I don’t really meditate in the traditional sense, or on any kind of regular basis.

The covid crisis has helped me in my recovery - fewer temptations socially, that’s for sure. But I’m also feeling like I can cope with it better because I’d already become accustomed to one day at a time. And now everyone else had to get a feeling of what that’s like - to shelter in place. I’ve been sheltered in place, in a sense, for a year now. Since August 13, 2019, and once before for about seven months, from March 11th to September 29th, 2018. Now that I think of it - these next five or six weeks are ones I’ve been sober for three years in a row. I’d have been well on my way towards year three of sobriety in a row by now without the ten month of joyless drinking I went back to in between. As I’ve said before: drinking...it was fun. Until it wasn’t. 

Allie and Mason dropped me a sand dollar in the mail last week, which arrived just this evening. I guess the USPS really is slowing down. But the timing of its arrival was perfect, right on the dot. It says “1 year.” I’ll see if I can’t embed a picture on here, and bid you all a good night. 

Let’s see. Here: 


Sunday, August 02, 2020

Thoughts on our times at the river

A good friend of mine has said that quitting drinking is like being a salmon swimming upstream in our culture. For me, I’m not really trying to swim up against that current. I’ve got me an old lawn chair, and I’ve plopped it into the river, just outside the current, in the water enough to keep cool, to watch the parade of partiers floating by. It’s not always fun to watch though. Especially after dark. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Since 2020 sucks, we decided to step up the adulting

We are 102 days into COVID quarantine, otherwise known as: Today's date is March 118th, 2020. 

Might as well do some next-level adulting. So we are: 

1. Refinancing our mortgage
2. Drawing up Will and Trust
3. Investing in Solar Energy

We already: 

1. Got our house's foundation seismically retrofitted in accordance (and then some) with the EBB (Earthquake Brace and Bolt) program in February
2. Got rid of those kid bunk beds and put in new twin beds for our daughters, painted and re-arranged their room in accordance to the times (and new decade which, so far, sucks). 
3. Painted the living room (finally, after 11 years of owning this place)
4. Invested in back yard furniture and an inflatable pool to give the kids an outlet during this crisis

I remain alcohol free. 10 months in, with August 13th the year mark. I do not crave alcohol at all at this time. I've learned to live without it, and I am not yearning for the old days. When the bars do open, I'm going to find one where one of my favorite bartenders from years past is tending bar, sit there a while, catch up on things, order some seltzer and lime and give a $20 tip. This is not part of a 12 step program, for the record. I haven't worked the steps. Formally, at least.

It's amazing how much you save when you don't travel for a while. Or drink. After decades of terrible revolving debt, we're officially out of it. Some of this is due to some career luck and fortune. Some of it consistent, hard work. Or meaningful work, at any rate. Smart work, maybe? A combination therein, depending on the time of year. If you deliver and exceed expectations in your work, but personally feel like it doesn't feel like you're working hard enough, is that something to be ashamed of? There are a lot of people out there out of work now. We're doing what we can to help out. Anyway, I can't always claim that my career trajectory has been one of deliberate planning, of specific goal setting, or really, knowing any kind of design at all other than seeing the opportunity that presented itself and seizing it, then living up to it.

I'm comfortable enough with myself to know how lucky and privileged my life has been in so many ways. Not inherited, certainly - I started from somewhere and worked my way to where I'm at now, I wasn't handed anything without having to prove my worth. What I mean is there haven't been barriers and I need to acknowledge that and do everything in my power now, such as I have it, to make sure I am not putting up any barriers of any kind to others. 

I'm not sure why I'm speaking in platitudes, it kind of feels like I am today. As being 50 is sinking in, I'm realizing that the things I'm out to go and get are not for myself, but for my family. And who I'm trying to be is someone to set an example as someone I aspire to be. Calm, mild mannered, friendly, judicious, generous, easy going, but fair, tough when I have to be. 

More platitudes. And I probably rarely present as most of those things to which I aspire. 

Much has been written in this digital life, in the small character spaces, about what's fucked up right now. I'll share those thoughts for those spaces, and keep this place for the the rest of the story (Paul Harvey RIP). Paul is certainly from another time. Speaking of which...

My dad just turned 93 on Sunday. I don't think anyone, including him, thought he'd be around this long. I'd been ruminating that if Olivia were to reach that age, it would be the year 2100. I can't help but look ahead now. But in doing so, it's fun to make comparisons from the past. When my dad was my age, the year was 1977. My mom, 1985. Grandparents: 1945, 1958 (x2), 1960. Great Grandpa Swan? Would have been 1909 but he didn't make it.

One of the things about being in a family where the men have kids later than usual is that, I think, counterintuitively, it tends to prolong your life. Or maybe there is something in your body clock or rhythm that already know this and your life sort of plays out accordingly. I'd be surprised if I don't make it to 80. Or I won't, because I'll be dead. But 93? I think I've had too much to drink in my life for all of that already. Then again, there is my mom, who drank a lot more than I ever have, and for a much longer period, and smoked (I've never smoked). She's 84. For a time I used those habits to inform my own - fatty liver? I'm fine. I'm sure my mom has that. High blood pressure? My folks are still kicking and they've had that. 

But then other things caught up. I think it was a mid life crisis. It's past now, and I'm looking ahead. When Olivia turns 50 it will be the year 2057. Brenna, 2060. Will I be around by then? Maybe. See #2 above. All of that's just a signature away now, and then Kiera and I don't have to worry about all of that. 

What to call this phenomenon other than next-level adulting? Grandulting? 


Monday, May 25, 2020

SOS

I woke up a little earlier this morning, from a dream I guess, hearing an old song of mine in my head called SOS (Symphony of Silence). My first waking thought was, "oh yeah, that would have been a good old tune to dig up" for the impromptu gig I did on my 50th birthday. Truth is, I haven't thought much about that song since it was cut as a b-side on the first (and one of the only few) 7"s Beulah released, back in 1997. It technically came out before our first record, Handsome Western States, but SOS was recorded after all of the material that came out on "Handsome" was completed. The 7" has long been out of print - we didn't print that many to begin with, I think maybe 1,000, so it is pretty hard to find.

My next thought, as I was now fully awake, was wondering if I could remember it without the herculean effort of grabbing my heavy-ass convertible ladder from out back, bringing it in so I could go up in our attic and find the bin to dig out either the lyric sheet, my old copy of that 7", or both, and then realizing that there was a reason I gave away my old LPs last year - I no longer have a turntable and I don't have a space for an old school hi-fi stereo setup with a receiver with the proper hookups for an LP record player. And though I was reasonably sure I could find the lyrics I printed out many years ago in my box of memorabilia up there, by then I figured why not just google it and see what comes up. The first pass at it, SOS (Symphony of Silence) brought up an assortment of artwork, a rather emo song complete with a professional video, even a band. I refined the search a little, to "Beulah SOS." Sure enough, bless the heart of someone whose tag is "ninini!" for taking the time to upload and post the song on Youtube. There is a special place in my heart for completists. They are the keepers of all things - just in case. And from the looks of it, I may in fact be the sixth listener now of that post.

"SOS" is a cute little two minute ditty, but the song itself isn't all that remarkable. What's remarkable, for me, is it's the one and only song of mine ever released with Beulah. For the first record, Beulah was mainly just me and Miles, my borrowed Tascam 238 and "borrowed" (using the term loosely, more like unauthorized use of) equipment (especially drums, thanks Dave Sanner) from the practice space where my main band at the time, 17 Reasons, shared with a band called "Shitty Shitty Band Band." There are a variety of reasons why I never contributed any "complete" or even "partially complete" songs to Beulah after that - among them were: they weren't that good and, I pretty much stopped writing songs with any regularity after the summer of 1996.

Well, there is the case to be made for "Gravity's Bringing Us Down," a song that was originally Pat Noel's, which Miles took and incorporated into this song, along with a very small melody line for the bit in the chorus that goes "my trigger finger's cocked, and I'm feeling weak, open wide, I'm paralyzed" that was "borrowed" from, or, maybe more appropriate to say "informed by" a song I had written called "Shake Your Bottle." The line in my song (which extends a bit longer in the same melody) goes "How happy you will be depends on what you take, you open up the pillbox and you grab the microphone, now you've got something to say." I think the idea of my song was something along the lines of using one's med bottle as a maraca while singing Karaoke to get through life. Or something. Like I said...my songs (or at least my lyrics) were not that good.

At any rate, when it came time to credit songwriting on our third record "The Coast is Never Clear," Miles told me that Pat didn't want me credited as co-writer on his song so, in a bit of horse trading, I got credit for arranging on "Coast is Never Clear" as a whole instead. They voted, and I was overruled. Or something like that. Anyway, my job really was arranger and music director by that time anyway (music director often meant remembering all the bits people played, even Miles himself, as people weaved in and out of the band, so I could help them learn - or in Miles' case, remember - how to play them).

Oh, and the concept of arranging informs the other reason, even in the beginning, where I didn't really feel like trying to submit any songs I had written anyway. For me, Beulah was a refuge from the role I tried to play in all other bands, as leader, singer/songwriter/frontman, and I was enthusiastically diving into trying to do all of the other stuff "but" that. I suppose admitting that I was overruled by Pat on what was originally his song is a little like fight club. We don't talk about fight club. I won't sue, I promise. I wouldn't win, and enough time has passed anyway so who the fuck cares? The legal fees would vastly outweigh any royalties. Plus, as far as I can tell, the subject of that song is limp dick and I'm fine with not being credited on a song about that. I've got enough problems of my own.

Getting back to SOS, yes, songwriting credit, that was remarkable...for me. But it's really more remarkable because it represents the marking of time where Beulah transitioned from the two-piece  project Miles and I had to becoming a band, and from the sound of what we were doing on the first record, to the sound of our second release, "When Your Heartstrings Break." And it's all about the people. Steve LaFollette, a member of the aforementioned "Shitty Shitty Band Band," had either just joined, or was about to join Beulah. It's the first track we recorded that he plays on: Bass and keys. And he brought some friends and fellow bandmates from Shitty to join in on horns and woodwinds, including the great Ben Riseling, who jumps right off the vinyl of this track on clarinet. Anne Mellinger, who plays violin and sings backing vocals throughout our first record, also brought in a couple of her friends on strings. They had a weekly gathering they loosely called the "Bierenbach Quartet." They would get together once a week to drink beer and play Bach. They would bring a few more of their friends to add strings throughout "Heartstrings." The expanded lineup of "When Your Heartstrings Break" could, in shorthand, have been written to credit members of "Shitty Shitty Band Band" and the "Bierenbach Quartet" but that would have been just too much.

SOS was one of the last things we did before we released "Handsome Western States." All of the stuff on Handsome had already been recorded, and I think mixed by then too. So SOS was one of the few, or maybe the only thing that documents the time in between. Beulah doesn't have a lot of outtakes or things left on the cutting room floor. Pretty much everything we completed, we put out at some point. And this song is really about the instrumentation, the arrangement. Miles was the instigator in adding these bits to my little song which, if it were left up to me, would have been kept as a little acoustic ditty with a little feedback thrown in or something. In that regard, it was also the first taste of what it would feel like, as a recording engineer with little experience, marginal ability and limited equipment, to try and keep up with a songwriter and bandleader with a million ideas and a determination to aim way, way higher than I was ready for. "Heartstrings" is considered by many of our fans as our best work. And as Miles has often said, your best, or most original work, is usually your failed attempts at trying to emulate greatness (aka Beatles, Beach Boys, Zombies, Brian Eno etc.). "Heartstrings" was a hard record for me to record, because I wasn't ready for Miles' exponential growth. And SOS was the very first taste of that, the first lab experiment, perhaps, on a short, throw-away little ditty that almost sounds like a Vaudeville piece.

There's one other little remarkable tidbit, but it's really more significant to our family, or Kiera's side of the family. Margo (my mother in law), and Gavin (brother in law) more significantly. There is a custom instrument Margo had, called a "banjo mandolin" that she had given me around then as a gift - figuring the instrument would get some use by a musician in the family at some point. It really is a weird sound, and I didn't end up finding much use for it, except on the song SOS. It's the only recording I think I ever used that instrument for. As Gavin began playing and gigging, developing his own material as well as a repertoire heavy with traditional Irish music, I passed along that instrument to its rightful place in the Barry family, and sent it home with him back to Rochester a few years ago. It's a beautiful instrument, and looks great hanging on a wall, but for me it was pretty much a decoration.

Now that I've taken the time to write this rambling essay on a fairly innocuous little tune, I'll probably listen to the youtube post of the song to transcribe the lyrics, remember the chords, and add it to my little set. I may do the concert again with a better computer microphone (en route as of this writing), and add this one in. Or maybe I'll learn it, then record it, and post it here. If anyone's reading, that is. Otherwise, maybe we'll leave it to fight club.

We don't talk about fight club.

The end.



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Nine Months Sober

I was going to wait for any sobriety "brag" posts until I reached the one year mark in August but in the time of COVID I need a distraction, and that distraction is me. It's hard to believe that around this time nine months ago I threw up in front of my friends (ok, chosen fam) outside at Plank for our annual night out after the first day of school tradition. Well, it was at least a two year tradition, possibly three. I'll have to look back in my iPhone photos to see for sure.

I was nursing a two day hangover. I hadn't had particularly that much to drink by that evening, but the pint I ordered wasn't sitting well. And...well, you know the rest.

Fast forward to now, since I passed my previous streak of just shy of seven months (as you recall, dear reader, my first stint on the wagon was from March 11th - September 28th, 2018), I thought I'd have a difficult time keeping it going from there. COVID has been a distraction, but if there was any doubt I would have jumped hard off the wagon once quarantine kicked into high gear. That has not been the case.

I think the hardest part to overcome was the social, identity aspect of the drinking. Who would I be if not for the guy who liked to have a beer or glass of wine in his hand? Would I fit in? Would I feel left out?

Recovery Dharma helped me in my early days this time around, and it had given me the tools I needed to keep going. I haven't been to a meeting there after about the first 3 months, but it was enough then to keep me going, and to give me some tools to learn to let go of the things that, on balance, lead me to the misery and suffering I was experiencing at that new low point nine months ago.

In truth, what also helped is K examined some of her resentments as well and was willing to let go of them. That part happened unexpectedly fast, it was a little disorienting at first. I had been so entrenched in expecting an adversarial, or at least skeptical, relationship for at least six months after that latest lapse in judgement. After all, we were less than twenty four hours away from telling our kids we were going to separate for a while. But, as she told me later, she realized that I was sick, and I needed to get well. And I made sure to stay on the path to getting well. Sometimes getting well means getting rest, drinking plenty of water and eating the things that don't exacerbate what you're sick with. In my case, it was once again removing the cause of the illness I had, the alcohol.

During my 2018 wagon trial run, it wasn't long before I was preparing for re-entry, since I had set a deadline for myself. This time it was different. Because I knew that, after going back, there was no going back to some previous period of moderate, healthy, social drinking. It was going back to the place where I crossed the line previously. And it didn't take long to creep back. So this time I knew I had to re-examine my life altogether.

I'm on a good path now. I don't look forward to the evenings as much any more, where I could get the rest of my life and obligations out of the way so I could sit down and do what I really wanted, which was to veg out and drink. I look forward to the mornings, where I get up not feeling like shit and have some time to myself to gather myself before everyone else wakes up.

As for the quarantine, two months in almost now - I'm better equipped for dealing with that since I am already in the "one day at a time" mindset. As we can only control our own behavior and not try and regulate the rest of the world through "guilting and shaming," I'm keeping the blinders on and marching ahead.

I also made it to 50. I played a concert of the old songs I'd been holding onto on the night of my birthday, some as old as 30 years. It was on Facebook live, straight from the laptop, immediately after Kiera surprised me with a parade of our chosen fam and crew outside our house, where Nathan almost knocked me flat on my ass, tossing a 15 1/2 lb brisket. I went back and listened to my little concert later. While it's true that should have used a separate mic, not the built-in condenser with the built in noise cancellation -- It sounded like I was singing inside of a toilet and I looked like I was taking a shit half the time while playing -- of course I'm my own worst critic and people seemed to genuinely enjoy it. Those songs were tailor made for that format, because they're better if you're paying attention. They would have faded into the background in some club with people talking in the back of the room. You take the good with the bad, and COVID in this case forced something one might call "the good" in terms of forcing me to put on a concert where people were more likely to want to check out since, well, since there's not a lot of other live music to choose from. Full stop.

I put the performance on my "band page."

Nine months is by far the longest I've gone without a drink (or other mild substance, like pot) since I can remember. Probably since the beginning, when I was 18 and off to college. As with last time, my sweet tooth, something I hadn't had since I was a kid, has returned. And though I've read Recovery 2.0 and reserve the right to move in that direction in due course, I'm not ready for the full bore, hardcore just yet. I don't have a full bore, hard core addictive personality. I've learned that, because my struggle hasn't been to the full extreme like it may be with some people I know and love. I have to be mindful of it, and of complacency in general (in all things outside of recovery as well), but I haven't had any nights where I've been jonesing for the drink. I'm getting used to life without it, and without hangups about it. I have no doubt I'll be back here on August 13, when it's officially one year since I quit, to report back I'm still on the path of one day at a time, not needing to turn to that crutch.

If I can make it to my 50th birthday and celebrate it without alcohol - something unthinkable a year ago, I can make it through anything. I'm making it through this quarantine, and I'll make it for some other tough times that lie ahead. My folks are way up there in age and my mom isn't in the greatest of health now. And although I don't really know what it feels like to have had true loss of someone that close, I'm pretty confident that however I will feel when the time comes, the first thing I'm not going to do is turn back to the bottle. I've had my mid-life crisis and it has passed, and I feel confident that I can tackle what else comes head-on as well, without a need for a crutch or an escape.

I humbly hope I can hold myself accountable for that.

See you in 3 months.



Saturday, February 01, 2020

Feeling good

No booze update: coming up on 6 months since I hopped back on the wagon. But for the 10 months in between where I swung back into the old habit, I'd be coming up on 2 years in March. 1 year of that 2 year span has been without alcohol and the results are in: I feel better, physically and mentally. I have gained some weight due to sugar cravings, but I don't crave alcohol at this time. The hardest part this time around was getting through the holidays. All the top shelf wine that comes out of the wine cellars of our awesome family, I thought resisting that would be the hardest part. It really wasn't. The hardest part was getting through thoughts and feelings of being unfairly singled out. Loved ones and friends can keep on going like nothing's changed, but dear old me flew too close to the sun and, oh the agony and woe! Truth is, those thoughts were fleeting, and have also dissipated with time. I have nothing to be ashamed of now. No mornings wondering what the fuck I did the night before to result in one of us sleeping on the couch.

It's been a while since I've gone to a meeting - recovery dharma is the place I'd settled on. One thing or another has come up, but I am preparing to start going again soon, especially once get to my previous mark (I think it was 203 days before I grabbed a couple of pints at Oaktoberfest 2018. I had, after all, reached my initial goal. Then fell right back into the shit). Anyway - I needed to process some time for self care, and to enjoy just feeling good about myself, by myself. But I have a big birthday coming up, turning 50. We have rented out BBQ terrace for about 80 people for an A's game on Friday night, May 1st. If I don't take a drink at that party, I can't see really what the point would be to pick the drink back up. I'm not substituting real beer with NA beers this time around. By the time I got to 6 months last time around, I was doing that, having a six pack of Clausthaler a night. Kind of a waste. And then when I picked it back up, there was a part of me in the back of my mind that said: "Do I even really like the taste of beer anymore? What's the point?" I think it was shedding that feeling of being an "outlaw" or something. Wanting to feel like I'm doing something I'm not supposed to be doing because being an adult is boring. Or maybe I was seeking the thrill of sneaking out somewhere and looking for a shrink behind the bar who would listen to my stories without rolling his or her eyes. Or something...I don't know. I think I've worked my way through that now.

I've learned there's a new dry bar in downtown Oakland. I'm planning on going to that soon to see what it's all about. I hope it's not some straight edge shit. I don't think I need to be sanctimonious about my choice to give up the drink. I want to be able to help others get to that place now, not to feel how cool I am compared to all of those losers who still booze it up. I don't think it will be like that though. I'm going to keep an open mind!

Since the beginning of this year, I've been going to the gym a lot more. I'm to the point now where my body is craving it. "More of this, please." That feeling of relaxing after a boot camp and a shower to a nice meal with my blood still pumping is starting to replace where I was concentrating those faculties before. If I cut the sugar on this regimen, I think I will shed that gut. I know there's an awesome six pack of abs under there somewhere!

So, that's the thing for the next 6 months: Keep replacing those old habits with these healthier ones, and to start helping others. I know a bump in the road is probably coming soon, it's only a matter of time. There will be tests, and I want to stay prepared and strong. I'm feeling confident I can face whatever comes - but mindful of the overconfidence that has been called the "pink cloud."

The last thing is - my feeling that quitting drinking has reduced or even eliminated my anxiety still holds true. I do not feel the levels of anxiety I had before. I'm also really working on not trying to be a spazz. A friend of mine shared some old super 8s of us from our summers in the early 90s with my old boat in that lake life. We were young, thin, and carefree, drinking Leinenkugels out of cans, spreading mayo on makeshift sandwiches with a wrench. Silly stuff. When I look at myself now I think: "Have I always been that much of a spazz?" I'm told that is true. So I've been working on calming the spazz, and I had thought alcohol might have been the depressant I needed to do that, but I'm finding the opposite is true.

For now. It's working for now. And I'm feeling good!

One more thing: This article speaks to me.

You can rule that out

One thing we can now be certain of - any issues you may have with my communication, or just anything to do with me really - are not the resu...