Alcoholics Anonymous: Not a Cult, But Close.

I’ve had two years to reflect on my time with A.A, the people I’ve met there, and the people I continue to meet who swear by the program. My opinion of the program is unpopular but I stand by it. My attitude toward The Anonymous has been called judgmental and “holier-than-thou” but while I am certainly judgmental (and I thoroughly enjoy it), there’s nothing holy about me or my opinions.

One should never feel obligated to apologize for a judgmental worldview

Rating things on a linear scale is how we decide what is good, bad, pretty, ugly, etc. It helps us avoid danger, find true love, evaluate political opinions, and decide whether or not we like tacos (if you don’t, you’re dead to me). So when people criticize A.A. as being judgmental, I don’t consider that to be a negative quality. I do the same thing… The Russell Brand “we are all one and the universe provides” mentality isn’t for all of us. I judge other addicts all the time. Truly, one of the things that helps to keep me sober is to know that I’m doing it better than a lot of other addicts. I believe most of us feel this way but few are willing to admit it.

To say that I have a problem with Alcoholics Anonymous would be inaccurate. I think it’s a valuable tool for the type of person who needs it. My goal is to steer the people who would not benefit from its dogma toward other forms of recovery. You see, a very specific type of person needs A.A. Yes, everyone who is willing to work the program will likely achieve sobriety… but if you’re not the kind of person who needs to be told to clean your house every Friday, say thank you to people, or beg some imaginary god (or your toothbrush, as A.A. claims anything can be your higher power), it’s only going to make you feel stupid.

I went to A.A. meetings every day for two months after getting out of rehab

It was the most depressing, worthless experience I’ve had in recovery. Tables upon tables of abject failures talking about how much they missed drinking and were holding on to “sanity” (they love that word despite having no clue what it means) only by the grace of The Big Book. I marveled at how someone who was sober for 25 years could still be obese, uneducated, and working a dead-end blue collar job.

A lot of these outside A.A meetings

That’s the crux of it, though. Maybe the type of person who needs A.A. will never achieve more than that. When you’re barely hanging on to your sobriety and need a program of 12 steps to tell you exactly what to do every day, there’s no other room for growth. Maybe that’s fine. Maybe most of the world (A.A. boasts the largest membership of recovering addicts of any program, after all) isn’t capable of achieving anything better than the minimum. History surely suggests that is the case. There are exceptions but not many, I’ve found. As anybody can use the program, inevitably some great men and women get mixed up in it and fool themselves into thinking that if they don’t go to a meeting every day they’ll relapse. Is it even worth trying to stop going when the incorrect move might mean relapse? I can’t answer that for anyone.

It was worth it for me and I’ve never felt better.

Step 4

While I’m openly not a member of A.A. and don’t explicitly follow their steps, I think part of the difficulty I’m having in feeling like my sobriety is as productive as it could be is that I never did step 4 or 5 (or anything beyond that really but I feel that step 4 is especially important for people to do regularly, even those not in recovery). While listening to a podcast episode between Russell Brand and Jordan Peterson over the last couple of days, I’ve come to find how this may have made me stuck. You can’t fix your house if you don’t know what needs to be fixed in it. Today, then, I’m going to be making my moral inventory.

This is actually hard work. I mentioned to someone yesterday that your mindset doesn’t simply change over time by itself, you need to do real work to change it. Step 4 is part of that work… a big part, probably. To showcase just how difficult this is, I was going to include a short list of my character defects that I feel comfortable sharing in this post but I can only think of one that I’m not horribly embarrassed of (telling white lies).

Of course, part of this exercise is to think about events that happened in your day that made you angry or sad and so on and examine what part you had in those events. I think the point of that is to understand that we are at least somewhat responsible for everything that we feel and we don’t have to act upon negative feelings. If you lie to or insult some people, they may get angry and attack you back but if you do that to me, I curl up into a ball mentally and think “oh my God, they’re right”. Moral inventories are a way past this.

I just wanted to put this up quickly to hold myself accountable today because I want to get a great deal of a page filled before work is out. If I find enough of these defects that I feel comfortable with sharing, that will be tomorrow’s post.

It’s Frustrating to be at the Whim of Others

Disclaimer: Don’t read this if you’re opposed to cursing or if you prefer to see me as an engine of positivity who never feels anger, sadness, or uselessness. We will return with our scheduled programming Monday.

One of the most difficult things about my sobriety is that while I am sober, I still have to live the life that I have caused myself through my alcoholism… for now anyway. Living with my mother and still very alcoholic brother is the major cause of my depression these days. The house is extremely dysfunctional and dirty, and it reminds me daily of how broken my family is (and by proxy, I am). Now don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and our relationship is better than it ever has been but she causes so many problems for herself which then spill over onto me because I am the responsible member of the family. It’s not fair but it is what it is.

My sister on the other hand, I am not so sure how I feel about her. Her mistakes have frequently caused hardship in my life one way or another. She has two bastard children whom I am always guilted into babysitting, my mother has to pay all of her bills because she is underemployed and destroyed her credit which affects me because I then have to help my mother pay for the things she needs, and perhaps the best of all is that none of us got an inheritance from our father because it was used to buy a townhouse for my sister to live in. I don’t care about the money, it wouldn’t have been that much (enough to get me out of debt for sure), it’s just icing on the shit cake.

This townhouse has again become a problem. My sister is living there illegally because the rules of the complex state that the owner of the townhouse must live there full time. My mother is the legal owner because, as I said, my sister has abysmal credit so even if my mother loaned her (loaned haha yeah right) the money, she wouldn’t get approved to live there. The complex is run by a fairly racist woman who is upset that my sister has black men entering her townhouse “at all hours” (in her defense she works nights so this is impossible) and scaring the other residents. She then accused my mother of not actually living there… which is of course true… and said she’d hate for her to lose her investment.

So, what will probably have to happen now is that I will have to move into this townhouse with my mother while my sister and her bastard children move into our house so that my mother doesn’t lose everything. The only good thing about this is, as I said, my relationship with my mother is pretty good now and the two worst members of my family will be living in a house together far away from me. But, I just spent $200 renovating my bedroom and will be moving into, unbelievably, an even smaller space. The complex is a complete ghetto-hell… I work in a court so am fully aware that most of our litigants who are drug addicts and alcoholics live in this particular area. Just the kind of environment to live in to really make me feel like my sobriety is taking me places.

I don’t know what’s going to happen for sure. I don’t even really know what the point of this post is. I’m frustrated that the direction of my life is completely out of my hands. I’ve been depressed and angry for two days. I’m about to go to the gym for the first time in weeks to blow off some steam. After that I don’t know what I’m going to do… I’m so bored and annoyed. There’s tons that I could do and I don’t feel like doing any of it.

But we’ll see what happens.

I’m Writing a Recovery Book

When I was new to recovery, I joked with my therapist that everybody who achieves long-term sobriety ends up writing a book. Perhaps this was cleverly masking my actual desire to do the same. I’ve always wanted to write lengthy projects like books or even eBooks, not on sobriety of course. Looking back on the last month and a half, I’ve written about two pages a day for 40 days… a little over 80 pages, probably. Considering most “light reads” are between 200 and 250 pages, I’d be almost half way there if I was writing consistently about the same subject.

My desire to write a book on recovery isn’t to capitalize on alcoholic’s misery, which is what I told my therapist I saw most of these authors doing. I want to write one because when I was trying to sober up and I was reading a half-dozen books on the subject, they were all completely full of crap. I read a thousand pages of wishful thinking and rose-colored obliviousness that did absolutely nothing to help me. The worst of the worst was “The 30 Day Sobriety Solution” by that hack who writes the “Chicken Soup…” books. It basically amounted to “if you wish hard enough, you’ll get sober”. If that has worked for any of you, please let me know in the comments. I’ll hold my breath.

I’m excited to start. I know it will be a lengthy process and most of what I write probably won’t even make it into a first draft. I’ll probably get as much out of it as a hypothetical reader would because it will teach me so much about the writing process. Nelson has recommended a few books on writing that I intend to check out once I’m paid again (so much for not buying more books until I finish my current hoard!)

Lastly I wanted to thank everyone who wrote positive comments yesterday, it really cheered me up and I finished the day strong! The general consensus is that I need to stop beating myself up for not being busy 24/7 and just take some time to relax. I’m taking that advice this week. There are still a few things I want to do just to keep a streak going (reading and of course my classes) but my workload will be considerably lighter. I feel much better today, more confident and optimistic. I also have my therapy appointment after work which I always look forward to. Now that I’m well into my recovery, our sessions are mainly just musing about life which I don’t really have anybody to do that with.

Hope everyone has an awesome day!

Dealing with Burnout Again

Just not feeling it today. By “it” I mean “anything”! I normally try to post super cheery, optimistic things, because there’s already plenty of negativity out there if that’s what someone wants to read, but allow me to indulge for today. I won’t get too negative! Thank you, my friends.

I had a long list of things to do after work last night but instead I went straight to bed. I’m not sure what happened, it almost feels like my medication has suddenly stopped working. That’s impossible, right? Whereas before I was full of energy and motivation to git ‘er done, all I want to do right now is sleep and watch TV. I don’t feel depressed, and really don’t think that I am. I just don’t wanna. Anything.

So, I took a maintenance morning. I normally wake up at 4:30, jump out of bed with my feet already running, read and write my WordPress content for the day, and plan out my morning in my planner. Not today! I slept until 6am, showered, and left for work. I still haven’t even filled out my planner although I know I will when I’m done with this because I simply can’t function successfully without it. Even just writing this, I’m already starting to feel a little better. It could also be the energy drink starting to work its delicious carcinogenic magic. Yep, didn’t feel like making coffee this morning so I got a Lo-Carb Monster and two donuts. Gluttony is my sin for today!

My nose is still a constant worry. I think I traumatized myself, haha! It’s totally clogged with scab and snot (I’m sorry for that visual) and I want to blow my nose so desperately but I’m scared to until at least Thursday night (two full weeks). Even then I’ll probably still be scared. I just can’t go through that ordeal again. It was so draining and terrifying to have blood pouring out of my face for almost 8 hours straight. TWICE. The second time was totally my fault and that’s why I’m paranoid about doing anything now.

I also lost a fair amount of followers yesterday. I don’t know why this bothered me so much. I tried to consciously talk myself out of it but I’m just an anxious person who overthinks things. I *know* that most of my followers are not actually reading my posts. That’s the same for anyone who has a lot of followers. Many people just follow your blog in the hopes you’ll follow them back and they never return. I’m okay with that. But I sat there all evening analyzing what I could have said that made people suddenly “not like me”. Pah. As if that even happened. Those of you I actually communicate with are still here, that’s all that matters. And it’s even funnier that it got me so worked up because yesterday was also my biggest day for likes by a LOT. So thank you all for that!

There are things to be positive about, though! My back pain is totally gone. I can stand, walk, run, etc. for as long as I want and feel no pain. I was a skeptic at first but I will vouch for chiropractic doctors from now on. I got one of those “free” books from a Facebook ad… the ones where you just pay shipping and they try to up-sell you on $300 life coaching sessions. I just took the book. It’s actually pretty good though. Nothing revolutionary or mind blowing but I think we should all read a self-help book at least once every few months just to remind us to do these things. I’m reminding myself to keep my head high, a smile on my face, and to at least greet the people I see at work. I really need to work on my confidence and social skills next. I’m naturally the bad kind of introvert… totally isolated and disconnected from the rest of my peers. When I was younger this was a big problem and led to some pretty negative things, which I’ll probably go into in a later post… this one is getting too long.

So, all in all I’m alright. Not a great day. Not my highest point. But it’s already starting to improve. Thanks for listening, as always! You all are great. Hope you crush your days and experience something new and positive.

Strange Days

Although I’m keeping up with my 30 day blog challenge through my illness, I’m obviously way off schedule! It’s also difficult to stay in a positive, cheery mood when it feels like your nose is on fire and I don’t like posting anything when I’m feeling down or angry. It’s not a good idea for anyone, and I definitely indulged in that way too often in my drinking days. So I’m going to keep this one short because I’m still in a somewhat negative mood today.

I took the day off of work because I don’t want to move around too much. I am very paranoid about opening this scab up and bleeding all over the place again. It’s happened once already but that wasn’t after a cauterization, so realistically I’m probably okay now. My “friends” (social media folks) are really irritating me today and I don’t know if they’re doing it on purpose or if I’m just overly sensitive because of how I feel. Probably a mix of both. I still have a lot of people in my online life left-over from my addiction. I thought it would be okay to stay in touch with them because they aren’t in my actual personal life and they aren’t addicts themselves. I’m thinking I might have been wrong because old Brian wasn’t very good at choosing friends.

Phew, almost went on a rant here about those people but I deleted it! See, don’t post when you’re not feeling well! I’m off for now. Hope everyone has a great Friday!

Thank God it’s Monday

Sincerely. Sunday is the worst day of the week for me. By Sunday, I’ve done everything that needs to be done and I am genuinely bored. When I get bored, I get extremely unhappy. Wellbutrin masks a lot of the feelings but I was dejected enough yesterday for some to come through.

Superficially, I know that I need to learn to be okay with just being. It’s very difficult for me to not be bored, though. Gaming used to be my primary hobby and now I’ve almost no interest in it. Losing interest in things you used to find joy in is a sure sign of depression but I’ve also found joy in new things. My new hobbies simply don’t take up enough time! They could. If I let them. I digress.

Part of the problem could also be that I’ve been unable to go to the gym for the last four weeks and that’s making me feel incredibly lazy. I injured my back even further past the four weeks and it’s taking a very long time to recover. I’m on two different medications for that, an anti-inflammatory and a steroid… my morning pill regimen has become almost a fist full!

I look forward to the work week, every week. Sadly, my only face-to-face friends are coworkers. Are those even friends? We never see each other outside of work. Perhaps we could if I asked. I’ve always been terrible at asking for what I want. That should be a goal for September: find somebody to spend time with. People think that dating is hard, try finding a male friend!

Reading back over this, it sounds like I’m depressed. I’m not, I swear. I have a lot to be grateful for and I am grateful. But people like me always want more. It turns out that while in addiction I was very much a codependent B-type, in sobriety I am a major A-type personality! Well, nothing is that black and white… personality is a spectrum, like anything else. Every week that passes while sober, I get better at living a normal, healthy life. When I look in the mirror, I look even better than I did when I was a track athlete in high school. I always had a gut because of all the sugary drinks I consumed as a kid. That’s gone. I lose about a pound every two days. Once I can get back to the gym I’ll feel even more confident in myself.

It’s just those Sundays…

Also, I just got an odd spike in traffic. Has anybody else experienced that? Normally at this time (5am for me), I have about 12-20 views. I have 90 right now! Very disproportionate to the number of visitors, too. If it’s genuine, I’ll take it…

 

Getting Back to Basics

So, yesterday was a horrible day but I’m glad to be healing and starting to get back into my routine. I’m using this opportunity, though, to reset. Today I’m not going to use my planner or do anything that isn’t absolutely necessary! My biggest character defect in sobriety is doing too much and burning myself out. Hell, who knows, maybe that caused the nose bleed? (probably not.)

I have a good bit of homework to finish that I was going to do yesterday but was too drained after getting out of the E.R. I have a pretty good schedule for schoolwork every week so I’m not that behind, I just need to finish filling out a worksheet for the thesis paper I’m writing. It’s a study of the effects of social media and texting on students’ academic writing. My position in the paper is that the language and grammar used in social media spills over into academic writing and has a negative effect over-all on language. There’s also plenty of evidence that this isn’t true, but I had to choose a position and that one had more research to work with.

Doing whatever I want, whenever I want, is going to feel a little strange today! I’m used to having a to-do list to check off but I just want to take it easy and recover. I’m still terrified of touching my face for fear of breaking the scab in my nose and starting the whole process over again. I keep tasting blood in the back of my throat but I know that’s all in my head because if my nose was bleeding, it’d be pouring out of my face. Hopefully, by Tuesday I’ll be back in the swing of trying to write blog posts that have more substance than “me, me, me” and back on schedule with the rest of my life.

Might go to the park today. I’m running out of things to photograph around my house and really am trying to advance my skill in composition every day. I’d like to photograph people more, but I’m too shy to ask people if I can do that right now. That’ll improve over time. I tried some “light drawing” the other night and it didn’t turn out at all, so I’ll have to work more with that. I probably just wasn’t using a decent flashlight. I’ve heard those toy lightsabers work really well for it so I could see if the local Target has a cheap one!

Ta for now!

Hi, My Name is Brian and I’m a Caffeine Addict.

We recovering alcoholics are acutely aware of addictive behaviors. Many in recovery transfer their addictions onto other actions such as sex, gambling, and even video game use (which I’ve also had to combat in the past). So when I say that I am a caffeine addict, I’m not saying it in the way a basic blonde girl in line at Starbucks says “oh my gawwwsh I’m addicted to coffee!”, I mean I drink caffeine nearly from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. It’s an obsessive compulsion and it has to stop because it’s affecting my sleep, my work, and my free time!

woman wearing red tank top holding white ceramic mug
“oh my gawwwd you guys, I’m such an addiiiict”

Today I’m making public the beginning of my new recovery! I’m giving up caffeine cold turkey. No liter coffee this morning at work, no 6-pack of Diet Coke after work. Now, I’m no fool… I’ve done this whole thing before with alcohol. I know how hard it is and I know that this probably isn’t the last time I’m going to drink caffeine before I finally quit for good. However, making it known and putting it out into the world will give me extra motivation to go without it more often than not.

In recovery, we learn that to be successful you have to have a game plan, so I’ve outlined a few steps I’ll follow when that familiar beast starts crawling up the back of my throat:

Have a back-up plan. I will crave caffeine. Hell, I already am. Fortunately, there’s a slew of beverages out there to replace it with. I’m going to stock up on La Croix after work today which was my go-to when I quit drinking alcohol. It has the carbonated fizz to trick my brain into thinking I’m still drinking soda and it contains absolutely no sugar. Perfect match for my current diet!

Stay busy! Staying active is essential when giving up an addiction. My addictions rear their ugly heads when I am repeating other patterns and sitting down in front of the computer or television is a pretty big trigger. Since I’ve started messing about with three new hobbies lately (photography, drawing, and music), I should be able to keep myself occupied. If I’m too exhausted to do those things, I’ll just lie down with one of my books.

Talk about it. This always seemed so stupid to me in recovery until I tried it and it worked, every time: Talk to someone! Whether it’s my mother, a friend, or you guys here, just stating that I’m craving caffeine and that I need help to distract myself is enough to remind me that I don’t want or need it. If it worked with alcohol, it has to work with measly old caffeine, right?

I’m optimistic! There will be relapses and there will be days where not drinking caffeine is a breeze, but as long as I stay consistent with my game-plan I’ll win.

On a more positive note, my goal of getting my weight down to 175lbs has been crushed! I’m currently sitting at 174 and have been consistently losing about a half-pound a day. My next goal is 165 at which point I will be in the “ideal” BMI range for my height and gender. I’ve probably not been there since my early twenties. Very excited!

Masculinity, Initial Thoughts

I don’t ever promote other blogs here but there is one on which I read and comment on every post. Rinse Before Use is a relationship and lifestyle blog excellently written by two talented friends of mine. It’s witty and funny, covering everything from online dating to book and tv reviews. A lot of what I write and the fact that I continue to write is due to their website. If you have a moment, check out their site. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! If you like what you read, please vote for them in the Infinity Blog Awards.

I’m not really feeling it today, my friends! Normally when I wake up, I jump out of bed and already have an idea for my post making my fingertips itch. No such luck today! But I did challenge myself to write a post every day for thirty days and I am a man of my word! Usually… most of the time.

On Rinse Before Use, they’ve recently been talking about the state of masculinity in the world and that’s a topic I find intriguing, in large part because not only am I a man but I am the kind of man people are usually talking about when they say that masculinity is in decline. We have to be honest with ourselves about these things; it’s the only way one can change for the better.

Growing up with basically an absent father, I learned everything about human interaction from my mother. I can’t even begin to explain to you what my childhood was like. My therapist has helped me to see that, in a way, I was actually the father (which feels kind of gross but true) and had a big part in raising all of my siblings. It’s not a role I wanted so I didn’t do a very good job as evidenced by all of their drug and alcohol problems; I digress.

What my mother taught me, above all else, is that women hate me and I should fear them. She didn’t SAY that, of course. Children learn from what you do far more than from what you say and she was/is a terrifying woman. In my later years that terror turned more into annoyance as it became apparent that she couldn’t actually do anything to me but the instinct to fear her and (by proxy) all women is still there.

The strange thing about this is, as a nice guy (a term that doesn’t mean you’re actually a nice guy at all), I have tons of female friends. In fact, I have almost exclusively female friends. I’m not threatening to women. It’s obvious I’m never going to make a move or treat them poorly because I am just a little puppy waiting for them to toss me some table scraps! Looking back on my past, there are many gorgeous, intelligent women who I can see now wanted me to make a move but I was too weak to do anything. That hurts, deep in the gut. The worst kind of hurt is when nobody but yourself caused it.

All of that said… I am changing! Slowly but surely, my confidence is increasing. Physically, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life which means that, in my locale, I’m also in better shape than virtually every other man my age. That makes you feel good about yourself, let me tell you! Women pay a lot of attention to me now because they’re in miserable, failed marriages with men who let themselves go ten years ago. Of course, they’re still married so that isn’t doing much for my sex life but it’s a confidence boost.

The big boon to my confidence though is my lifestyle, without a doubt. I’m sober, after going through over ten years of struggle that is tougher than most people can even comprehend. I’ve stuck to a consistent exercise and diet regimen. I jokingly said when I first started working out (while I was still a drunk) that you only live once and I want a 6-pack before I die. It was just a ha-ha moment, but it’s actually becoming a reality! Why do we obsess over 6-pack abs so much anyway? Probably because they’re the hardest muscle to obtain; fat forms on the belly first.

I don’t know if this will last. Historically, it hasn’t. I try things for a few weeks and then I quit. But this has been over a month now and it’s certainly due to finally getting my medication straightened out. I can’t emphasize enough how much I believe people who are struggling should see a psychiatrist.

Anyway, look at that! Didn’t even feel like writing today. See you all tomorrow! (or in your comment sections)