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Triggers to overdrinking

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    Triggers to overdrinking

    Identifying and dealing with your triggers

    Mike on What triggered the switch?

    Too many nights I couldn't remember some large part of what happened. Too many hangovers, "normal"-sized to extra large. The fear that my life was being eclipsed, consumed and derailed by alcohol abuse.

    The last straw was 2/8/14. I drank all day, into a black out. And when I came out of the blackout, several cops were helping me because I was a hot bleeding publicly intoxicated mess, who needed my adult son to retrieve me get home and then to ultimately go to the hospital the next day to get plastic surgery for injuries I don't even recall sustaining. That was finally enough for me.

    Since then, I've followed a relatively simple program of MM based principles. And I have an appreciation for how life is different (and in nearly every respect better.) I now realize that abusing alcohol was not making any aspect of my life easier or more fulfilling. Quite the contrary. And if I know that if I have a problem to face today, alcohol abuse is not the solution. It ultimately just makes ANY challenge harder and ANY problem worse.

    And that's what happened to the "bring-it-on let's tie one on kind of guy" which I was for years. He got sick of "the life". And he got on the yellow brick road, after falling down hard at the corner of Alcohol Abuse Avenue and Life Lessons Lane.

    Thankful the price wasn't higher. It could have been. - Mike D.


      Big John on Excuses

      The story of Job is of course one of the most well known, profound and thought provoking commentaries on the human conditions of anger, and Jim I thought you just did an excellent job of catching some of it's high points in a way that should give everyone - whether a believer or not - food for thought.

      There is a lesser but more contemporary example I would like to put forth: Forest Gump.

      Sure, he was purely fictional. But who hasn't seen this movie and not seen some parts of themselves, or at least parts of the person we would wish to be? Like the story of Job, the story of Forest Gump has too much nuance and depth to say "here's the point". But what stands out for me is that regardless of how badly Forest was treated over and over, the only time he became outwardly angry wasn't because of how anyone treated him but was because of the abusive treatment toward someone else - someone he loved.

      There are things in all of our lives that we have every valid excuse to become angry about, and some people seem to go through life using those excuses on an almost daily basis. Who can blame "angry" people for being so angry? Not me. But where does all that anger get people? Seems like the only place it gets people is in a place of more anger. What does all that anger do to alleviate the situation(s) that they are so angry about? It doesn't. Anger may allow us to sometimes feel justified, but not at peace.

      To me, anger is like drinking. It may have its place, but the more we drink, the more we drink, and the more angry we are, the more angry we are. They both feed on themselves, and eventually start to eat away at the very person we wish we were.

      So to use righteous anger in the moment for the benefit of another may have its place. But to be angry because we didn't get what we wanted or thought we deserved - whether from someone else or from ourselves - only serves to take us farther away from having it. We don't have a lot of control over how we feel about things, but we do have total control over what we do with those feelings. If we're not in control of ourselves, then who is?

      Forrest Gump did what he felt he had to do, no matter the situations and the people around him, led only by an inner sense of right. What actually seems to be special about Forrest is that, regardless of his intelligence, he has the capacity to discover simple truth and life values that all the others around him miss. For all the perfectly good reasons he had to be angry, he instead displays simple goodness in everything he does. He felt emotional pain, sadness, grief, and yes even anger, but he refused to dwell on those
      things and instead was for the most part what eludes so many of us... he was happy, satisfied, and at peace with himself and the world around him.

      That may seem idealistic, but I don't think it so much depends on who we are or what life throws at us but on how we choose to look at it. Just like true moderate drinking might to many of us also seem idealistic, what a wonderful ideal to work toward. We are limited not by what we have or haven't done, but only by what we believe we are capable of doing.

      Big John


        JustPlainPhil on how Stuff breaks and we survive anyway, nominated by Kurt
        DW = dear wife

        So a couple of weeks ago while we had eight adults and six grandchildren
        living under our roof for the holidays, our main microwave oven in the
        kitchen quit working. Heated up a breakfast sandwich, and when DW wanted
        to heat up her coffee, nothing, nada, kaput. And it was only a couple of
        years old, too! (Grumble, grouse, grumble.) So, I picked it up, flung it
        in the trash can outside, went and brought the downstairs microwave
        upstairs so we'd have something for these 14 people to use. When they had
        gone, I went to Costco, but the one I wanted was out of stock, so I bought
        a lesser one. Got it home, it wasn't close to as good as the one I threw
        out, so next day went to Walmart to get the one with the great reviews,
        but they didn't have it in stock either, so went to a further-away Walmart
        which had it, brought it back home, it works great. Next day returned the
        Costco one.

        This morning go to make a cup of coffee, and the Keurig says de-scale.
        Never mind I de-scaled the bugger last month. So, while dw went off
        babysitting, I de-scaled. It takes over four hours. And it still said
        de-scale, and the pump would go for about half a cup, and then just sit
        there and moan. So, onto Consumer Reports website, and Amazon, etc. Four
        hours of research later, I find Walmart has a couple of recommended
        models, so I go there and buy them both. One for the kitchen, and a much
        cheaper knockoff for the basement, where we do most of our entertaining.

        Now, it should be wine time. Time to celebrate my big win. With wine.
        Except, today is an abs day. But, I really want a glass of wine.

        Nope - I'll have one of those fancy Keurig coffees, please. And when it
        gets cold, I'll just heat it up in my bodacious new 1250-watt microwave!
        Tomorrow I'll have that wine, and it'll be oh so sweet, too.

        Just Plain Phil


          Sup (and others) on Is That All There Is?

          How many of us are numbing out depression, or just a life that's disappointed us in some way?
          I think there are the heavy drinkers who are young, perhaps new in their excess and smoothing an awkward transition into adulthood, and then the middle-aged crew who have simply found that life hasn't met our expectations.

          So we drink because... why? Drilling down to that answer is so difficult. On some level it's also unsatisfying - do I really want to find out that I've given up on happiness? That life's disappointments have kept pace with me, no matter how far I try to outrun them. That some people die of old age, still trying to outgrow their shitty childhoods?

          What's the alternative to drinking? Blind optimism isn't my bag. And relatively speaking, there are a lot of good things about my life, so part of me feels this flaw is internal. A kind of ‘what am I still complaining about?' But the personal work that still needs to be done is the hardest stuff - I've tackled all the easy stuff already. What remains is stuck and stubborn, much like myself. Is change harder with age, or has all my life been quietly shifting into readiness, until a shuddering click will fall into place like a ground fault shifting, and suddenly the contour of myself will be different in the morning. I don't have answers, just questions on this dreary morning. The only shimmer of hope I can think of is that when we wake up to our sober lives - it's a newly sober life. We haven't exactly been taking good care of our lives and steering for sunny shores, have we? No wonder it's a bit of a wreck.
          What would it look like with six months sober? Six years?


          Marco replied:

          Yep, this is exactly how I feel. I hate that I keep complaining when I have been blessed with so many great things in my life. In fact, I've surpassed my dreams in most ways. So why the hell am I down or depressed?
          Why is it so hard for me to just be content and happy? I know depression runs in my family and I've abused myself for more than half my life, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. But even a kid I remember waking up pissed off or depressed for no apparent reason.
          I've been taking Lexapro for almost three weeks now and initially I felt a surge of happiness. This week, however, I feel like I've come back to Earth. Maybe I just need to accept that I'm a moody person and I should t overthink it. Who knows? Maybe I need to carve out time for therapy? Maybe the further I get away from alcohol, the clearer I'll get?

          Kary replied:

          When I first sobered up, life seemed miraculous. I had made my life so damn hard for so damn long, that when I quit drinking, the lack of pain and exhaustion was such a gift that I floated through the first three years and everything seemed to come so easily for me because I had made everything so hard for so many years. Now, I realize that real life is just damn hard. It is. Drinking lifts the burden for a while and makes it feel light about our shoulders, like a bright gauzy scarf, but it doesn't last. I believe it is the human condition to keep striving for a perfect life and it is against our nature to sit back and take life as it is and just deal with the day-to-day as it comes. Where do you get if you do that? You stay in one place. I stayed in one place for so long because as long as I had those moments of gauzy reality, I was satisfied, they were enough to keep me happy. Until they started making me miserable.

          Nothing worth having is easy. A good life takes hard continuous work. And, yes, sometimes that's all there is.

          Megan replied:

          Thanks for that post, sup.
          I'm having some similar feelings, but I think that's good for me. I spent too many years using alcohol as a band-aide instead of facing the problems. I know the "what am I still complaining about?' feeling - but
          something is wrong, something is missing. I need to find out how to deal with that and if I spend too much time drinking I'll never figure it out.

          Maisie replied:

          In a wonderful book called A Lamp in the Darkness by Jack Kornfield, I found this quote:

          There is praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute.
          Did you think this would not happen to you? - The Buddha

          There are dark times in life and alcohol lets us push past them and then focus on the misery we've created by drinking. When we give that up, we've still got the dark times.

          Zanne replied:

          I don't have a lot of answers either, Sup. I think we are all flawed and though we may triumph or evolve beyond some of this, certain not so great tendencies in our psyches seem to plague us. I was sober for 21 years, February 29, 1988 to June of 2009. I found alternative ways to run from fears and uncomfortable emotions, some more productive than others, food, perfectionism, work, exercise; but overall these were years of progress and acceptance. There were happy times as well as times of traumatic loss and grief. I'm definitely in the middle aged crew who have found that life has not met my expectations. Maybe we are better off letting expectations go.

          The last six years, have been a return to the drink. The first two were good. Mostly moderate and fun, though I was aware of some part of me anxiously watching and waiting for the drunk to resurface. The 3rd year, I began to drink more than I knew was prudent, but life was good. I was in love. This is just a phase. I will return to strictly moderate and rational drinking, no worries! The last two years the battle with the wine bottle is on. Since finding MM last spring, I've made a little progress which I'm grateful for, but I am aware that I'm avoiding strong commitment to this pretty wonderful group, which hinders progress. If I don't really commit, then I can't really fail. This defense is one of my favorite not so great tendencies that has plagued my life. I have found this phase of drinking makes me more prone to complaining and feelings of victimization, self-pity and self-centeredness. I'm much more likely to fall prey to destructive emotions and thoughts than I was during the sober years. I've had major life changes in the last three years, some good, some difficult, that add up to a lot of stress. Using alcohol to cope has only compounded anxiety and sadness. The sober, stoic woman of steel I once was seems lost. (Maybe there is an upside to that?)

          It is almost midnight and the very first snow fall of the season is happening outside my window. I am awed by the beauty, and very pleased to be seeing it sober. And that is all there is right now.

          Asking questions is a good thing but sometimes we think ourselves into the ground over the difficulties of life and that can be a kind of escapism.

          Just Plain Phil replied:

          I just saw again the commercial for NON-24, medicine to help blind people sleep better. In the commercial a blind woman carries a large basket of laundry down the stairs, puts it in the washer and starts it, then opens the huge door to her luxurious home to greet her (daughter?
          granddaughter?) as she comes off the school bus.

          Life met my expectations all right. Just a bit too early, I'm afraid. Now I'm 4+ years retired with probably 30+ years of life left and I've met all my goals. Time to enjoy life and do what I want to do. But what if you've already done all you want to do?

          I have glaucoma, so even though I'm treating it faithfully, the chances of me being blind before I die are very great. Hoo, boy, am I a ray of sunshine this morning or what? Another cup of coffee and I'll be good as gold!

          On another note, we will be entertaining guests later this afternoon. One of them has advanced prostate cancer. It's been removed, but the cancer is back. So, it'll be chemo and radiation for him soon.

          OK. Enough already. I'm sitting in my new living room, my granddaughter has just left for dance class, my two golden retrievers just got their morning rubs and hugs, hot coffee is by my side, the weather outside is frightful and the fire inside is so delightful, and life right now is simply grand. I'm not hung over - it's been 15 months since that happened.
          And right now is, really, all we have, right now.

          Be well, my friends.


            Pono to someone struggling with holiday anxiety and depression

            I'm hearing different messages in your cries. And I understand them both. One is that you are lonely and the other is that you actually want to be alone so you can do the things you have learned to do that will help you check out from your loneliness.

            Being alone and being lonely are different. I am completely alone. In fact, since I started holiday last Sunday, I haven't seen a soul. Just me. And Christmas Eve and Christmas will pass and I will spend them alone. Two years ago, I was lonely. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas and the three preceding days in an alcoholic haze...alone...but bouncing from bar to bar across Tokyo...running from loneliness. And, as you can probably guess, ending up in hell.

            What is the difference? In layman's terms I would say learning to become your best friend is the key to eliminating that lonely hole inside. It sounds like you have engaged in a lot of therapy and are familiar with many officially recognized approaches to sanity. So I am not going to tell you to do X or Y kind of therapy. To be honest, therapy and medication never worked for me.

            Only you know what it is inside of you that you are running from. The aversion you have to being still with yourself. The feeling that you can't be comfortable in your own skin. These are the very demons you have to stare down, and it takes time and patience and a desire to get to know yourself..a desire to learn to ...LEARN TO yourself unconditionally. It doesn't happen over night. But once you are brave enough to start, the rewards are instantaneous.

            Christmas...New Years...a random Wednesday in doesn't matter. There is someone inside you who wants to live, desperately and only you can help it be free. The negative bullshait that your rattling mind tosses at that soul who wants to live and wants to be loved is not essentially you. It is a trained habit that can be broken. Listen for that crap voice and stand up to it like you would stand up for a friend. And if you can't, well then, you believe in Christ eh? What would that amazing being say to the part of you that is holding you in hell?

            This is not an easy process, but it is not as hard as you think. However, it is a process and you can begin whenever you want...without the permission of a therapist or anyone for that matter...but for yourself. I started this four months ago and I am, essentially at peace.

            I would say, if you have to zone out by your Christmas tree on Xanax it is much safer than going on a drunk runner. If you have to anesthetize this Christmas, take the safest and kindest route. Avoid the binge drinking at all costs. If you don't want to spend time with two families because you have to engage in act of self destruction, call in sick. My point is, save yourself. If you want to take a vacation from Christmas...well, do it. If you feel that it is imperative that you attend these gatherings, show up, hang onto that tiny spark of you that wants peace. Stay mindful of the fact that it is just time to pass. Ask people questions about themselves and listen. Think about how Christ would handle the situation. Then politely escape when you can and get back to your Christmas tree and kindle.

            To be totally honest. It sounds like your biggest fear here is drinking at the family gatherings and then going off on a runner. So you have to meet the challenge at the head and come up with a plan to make sure that doesn't happen. And only you can do that. No therapist can do that, only you. And you CAN DO IT. You do have the power to do it.

            Christ was a man of peace. There is a war going on inside of you. Try to find a way to lay down your weapons this Christmas. Try to remove your expectations and the dont listen to the crap on television that rams "what Christmas should be" down your throat. That is all bullshit, as you have mentioned in your mail. If you feel that getting through the holiday without pills is not possible, take just enough to take the edge off, but not to the extent that you want to chase the imaginary Christmas party in the sky.

            Make this Christmas about you, and perhaps, since you are a believer, your relationship with Christ. Whereas I don't believe in a specific god, per se, I do believe that Christ was an exceptional teacher in the art of love.

            What is it to love yourself?

            You say you don't want to struggle or fight anymore. I understand. Lay down your weapons of self destruction. Let yourself live. Let yourself be at peace without criticism, without comment, without any reason but for the fact that you are alive and you deserve to be at peace.



              Kary on Why I Drank

              As some of you know, I am writing a book about my journey to sobriety with the support of online recovery communities, primarily MM. I am currently writing about the roles that booze played in the different decades of my life. Enabler is a word that is often associated with drinking, its standard definition being "one who makes it easier for someone else to drink," but, in my case, I realize that booze was the Enabler. It made it easier for me to stay unhappy.

              When you don't drink, or you drink in moderation, and you are unhappy, you have two choices, stay unhappy or change. When you drink, you have three choices, stay unhappy, change, or drink, or, in my case, get drunk. Most of my life, I feared that I couldn't be happy if I couldn't drink, now, I realize that I couldn't get happy unless I was willing to change and booze kept me from making those changes. As long as I could drink at the end of the day, I thought I was happy.

              I think that could be one of the reasons that moderation is so difficult. Once we rip aside the veil of alcohol, we see that we are not as happy as we let ourselves be coerced into believing. So then we have to make a choice and the easiest choice is to drink until we once again fool ourselves. I have been here for six years and the one thing I have noticed is that those who successfully moderate or abstain, substantially change their lives once they are sober (we all know the term sober is used for abstainers and successful moderators alike here, right?).

              Many of us come here thinking that if we just get our drinking under control, everything will be better, but, in fact, sometimes the opposite is true. When we get our drinking under control, we become more unhappy because we are allowing ourselves to feel unhappy for the first time. That's how change for the better happens. Most of us oldies have figured this out by now, but for you new members, don't be surprised if you find that moderating or absing makes you unhappier than you were, as someone said here the other day, drinking is often a symptom of an underlying problem.