Accountability

I’m dating myself. Does anyone remember Bartles and Jaymes “wine coolers?” I think it was the first time alcohol companies started aggressively marketing to young women.

My first job back in the day was at a grocery store chain. I worked in the meat department. No, I wasn’t a 16 year old butcher. I was the kid who steam cleaned all the equipment after the butchers had gone home. A good job if you are trying to quit eating meat. I’m not going to tell you how bad the meat grinder smelled after just one day of use. They gave me that particular job because I worked well without supervision. As I go on you will realize I probably needed more supervision.

Okay, back to the sickly sweet, fruity tasting wine coolers. Not only did they come in a nice 4 pack of glass bottles, they also sold them in plastic 2 liter bottles! This is where I came in.

I had the run of the store and nobody questioned anything I did. I got a good idea. (In my 16 year old brain.) I went out onto the floor and grabbed 2 two liter bottles of 7-UP and carried them back to the small walk in refrigerator at the end of the butcher shop. Then I went to the warehouse part of the store and stealthily took 2 two liter bottles of wine coolers.

The walking fridge had a drain in the floor into which I emptied the soda bottles. I carefully transferred the wine from the 2 liter bottles into the 2 liter bottles of 7-UP. At the end of my shift I would carry it down to the front of the store and pay the cashier 99 cents for two liters of wine coolers because that was the price of the 7-UP.

Looking back, I think it was a pretty ingenious way to start my alcoholic career driving home and chugging my pilfered wine.

I only lasted about a year at that job. It’s another funny story. I got fired but not for stealing wine coolers. I knew a kid who worked alone in the dairy department and our freezers were next to each other. We spent a lot of time talking. But this kid was a real wise ass. To the point annoying as fuck. He said something to me and I impulsively wrapped his head with the strapping tape I had in my hands. He tried to get it out but it was hopelessly stuck in his long hair. As he started to freak out the store manager walked through the swinging doors and wanted to know what happened. That was the end of my butcher career but not the end of my drinking. I guess I was pretty determined there.

All Night Long

This is a day in the life from when I was 10 years old and lived with my grandparents. Every morning my grandfather would get up early to drive my grandmother to her shitty job. Then he would drive to his shitty job. After a long day at work he would pick her up on the way home. On the way back to the house they would pick up a 12 pack of 16 ounce cans of Narragansett beer for him and a bottle of Jenkins whisky for her. (bottom shelf)

My grandmother enjoyed “Hi-ball’s” which in her vernacular was three fingers of Jenkins over an ice cube. My grandfather must have chugged the beer because that was a lot of liquid and he would finish it by the end of the night. (Every night)

In the evenings my brother (7) and I were only allowed to sit on the couch in the living room or to get something from the kitchen. My grandparents would sit on the other couch and start drinking. Back then there was no cable television. There were only 3 broadcast networks on VHF (Very High Frequency), 4 if you counted PBS. Those were the channels that came in clear if the rotary antenna on the roof was adjusted correctly. We also had UHF (Ultra High Frequency), which sounds better but it’s not. The picture would be full of static. That is where my brother and I would find “Creature Double Feature” and Texas Wrestling on Saturday mornings.

My grandparents would start the night in a good mood; Watching the news first and then moving on to prime time television. After that they were drunk enough to start arguing with each other. That was a sign for my brother and I to go to bed. It didn’t help much. I think my brother fell asleep quickly most nights but I never slept as a child and I stayed up listening to them yelling loudly at each other. Even from upstairs I could hear them clearly. By this time my mom had already slipped out the downstairs window to hitchhike to the bar where her sister worked. (My mom was almost 30)

They didn’t fight over normal things like money etc… They fought about things that happened years before. I don’t know if they looked at the clock but they always seemed to finish up around midnight. Then they would fight over who got the last word. My grandmother would be going upstairs and yell, “You want the last word, you got it!” and he would yell something similar. Both of them telling the other to take the last word but they were taking the last word by saying that. My grandfather stayed downstairs. They didn’t sleep in the same room.

The next morning would be the same day all over again.

The Cure For What Ails You

I thought I was going to quit drinking coffee cold turkey this week. I thought it would be easy. I thought. I was only drinking two cups a day. Apparently I was underestimating how strong I was making those two cups.

I quit caffeine before when I was drinking two whole pots a day but I did the reduction method. I spent a month slowly making each pot with less and less coffee grounds until I tapered down to one weak cup per day. Then I quit no problem. No withdrawal symptoms I had heard about.

This time thinking I only had two cups a day I figured it would be too easy. The first day was easy. Until I got the headache around 10pm that night. I knew it was from lack of caffeine because I never get headaches. It didn’t stop me from sleeping. The second day I woke up and my legs would not stop bouncing up and down vigorously. It was so bad my calves hurt. I’ve had that happen before but never so bad. I looked online and found one reference to it. To test it out I went to the store and got an iced tea which has less caffeine. I drank it and within 10 minutes my legs were perfectly fine.

The next day my addicted mind started making “reasonable” sounding deals with itself. That’s what happens during withdrawal. Your brain plays tricks on you to get what it wants. This deal was no coffee in the morning but I could have tea in the afternoon to calm my legs. That sounded like a good deal. So I immediately went and bought some for “later.”

That went well for a couple days but it still wasn’t enough caffeine to feed my brain. I had cleared all the coffee from the house so I found myself shuffling over to the store first thing in the morning to get a good large cup. “It’s only for this one day” my brain told me as I put up an ineffective fight.

I am now on my third day of “just one day.” I have never had withdrawal from coffee before and thought I would avoid them with my small but strong two cups a day habit. My brain causes just enough pain to get what it wants. It tells me if I do it I can end the suffering.

I’m right back where I started a week ago. But now I am afraid to quit again. Do I really have to go so slow with my small habit? I feel silly having to cut down to one and a half and then one and then just a half cup until I can finally cut it off easily. It takes about a month to do that. I don’t have that much time or discipline.

The problem is I hate being addicted to any drug. I’ve been trying to quit stuff my whole life but I want it both ways. I want to enjoy it without being addicted. It’s always hard to see when you’ve crossed that line. I even try to quit my psyche meds but that never goes well. My anti-psychotics, anti-manics and anti-depressants. All of them are going to kill me but I am forced to take them. Not really, I could quit but I am one hospitalization away from being mandated to take monthly injections.

So I try to handle the drugs I am allowed. Nicotine was the most insidious. Alcohol has gone from being days to now I am racking up some months without it so I feel safer. I never imagined caffeine would be so hard. It’s only the middle of the week so I can only guess how I will handle tomorrow morning. If I write more you will know.

Last night I made sure I had two dollars to buy a coffee this morning. (Planning your next fix is a red flag for addiction.) I went back for another cup because I had a bad sleepless night. It made me feel horrible. (Using more than intended is another red flag.)

Now it is at the point where I am spending as much money on single cups as I would on a whole container. I decided I am going to buy a whole container and make it myself. (Protecting the supply is another red flag.) My cold turkey attempt to quit caffeine failed miserably. I have vague plans to try slowly reducing the dose until the container is empty.

Still Smokin’?

I spent 20 years smoking. I spent 19 years trying to quit. I don’t count my high school years where I smoked casually, having a few while I partied or sneaking a few from my mom. I would stop and start and never have any cravings. I met my first real girlfriend in my 20’s and she rolled her own Drum tobacco. Of course I thought that was cool. We smoked together like that for a couple years and when we decided to quit we went cold turkey and had no problem. For that reason I couldn’t understand how so many people couldn’t go without. My real problem came after she broke up with me. It wasn’t immediate but about 6 months later I was in the store and impulsively bought a pack. After that I couldn’t stop. I don’t understand why it happened at that point in my life. I had smoked a whole pack before.

My quitting cycle went like this: The patch, the gum, cold turkey, fuck this I’m not quitting. I did that over and over. The patch would work okay at first. That is because it replaced the pack a day of nicotine I was smoking. After 2 weeks they stepped me down to a lesser dose. That is when I would start smoking 5 cigarettes a day to get up to my normal nicotine level. They warn you against smoking while using the patch. I would stop and that was money down the drain.

The gum is a joke. It sounds like a good idea. You just chew a piece of gum when you get the urge to smoke. The problem for me was I always had the urge to smoke. The convenient thing about the gum is I could chew it indoors and other places I wasn’t allowed to smoke. My actual use of nicotine went up, not down. I remember trying it while I worked a job. I would smoke in the morning before I got to work and then I would chew a couple pieces while I was inside working. Then fire down a couple butts during break and back inside to chew some more. Oops, lunchtime, another two butts and back inside to start over again. Like I said the gum is a joke to me.

Going cold turkey was impossible. I would get a gnawing sensation in the back of my neck at the base of my brain. It was horrible. It wouldn’t go away until I gave in and smoked a cigarette. Most days I could only make it a couple hours until I broke and bummed a butt off someone or I could get to the store and buy a pack to replace the one I crushed and threw away because I was “finally done.” Sometimes I could make it a whole day without breaking down. I think the longest I went was 2 days. It was not in my head. I was physically and psychologically addicted. The only thing left to do was quit quitting. About 6 months later I would get disgusted and start the whole cycle again. Hoping it would finally work.

Finally the decision to quit came from outside. I had just gone on disability and I didn’t have enough money to support my habit. It was ridiculous to spend all my discretionary income on cigarettes. I think Chantix had just come out. I found out a month’s worth of Chantix costs about as much as a month’s worth of butts at a pack a day. I asked my psychiatrist if she would prescribe it to me. She said it had a danger of making me depressed. I told her I was already depressed and if it got worse I would call her. She relented. I took my monthly cigarette money and bought a box.

Chantix works by blocking the action of nicotine in the brain. You can smoke all you want and you won’t get the satisfaction, but it also eliminates the cravings. That is what I needed. I couldn’t live with that gnawing at my brain. They say to keep smoking regularly for the first week while you take the pills and then you should be ready to quit.

Should be. I cut way down but I still had that psychological addiction. At the time I was talking on the phone with a woman I met online. I would call her around midnight and we would talk for a couple hours. During this time I would have to smoke 2 cigarettes. She would always catch me because she could hear my lighter clicking in the background. I had no problem not smoking during the day but I had to have a pack on hand so I could smoke those 2 at night. That was my normal routine throughout my smoking career. 2 cigarettes before bedtime. I just couldn’t stop doing it. I had to break that habit because my prescription for Chantix was running out and if I still had that connection, I would be right back up to a pack a day.

You’ll be happy to know I did it. I was free from nicotine. I was so happy. That was about 10 years ago. The only time I broke down was when I escaped from the ER while they were deciding whether to put me in the psych ward. My mom picked me up and I just started chain smoking her cigarettes. I think I had 3. Other than that I never had an urge. I can sit right next to people smoking and not even think of it.

I don’t know if this will work for people who vape because that is a direct injection of nicotine into your bloodstream. But it blocks the action so I think it should be the same. I’ve talked to other people who said it made them depressed or gave them bad dreams. I had no negative effects from it.

If you want to quit nicotine I would recommend this. Especially if you have insurance. Doctors will give it to you so fast. They really want everyone to quit. I’m not sure how much it costs now but I bet it is comparable to a month’s worth of cigarettes depending on which state you live in. I had tried and failed at every attempt to quit but it was so easy with Chantix.

Independently Yours

Pink Panther drunk

9pm. I planned on being drunk when I posted this. It may still happen. I don’t know. Seriously, I had it all planned out. All the way down to the detail of how many beers I was going to drink per hour. My attempt at controlling my drinking. I started writing this at 9pm for two reasons. One is that was the time we used to get to the bar when we were partying a lot. In our minds the alcoholic was the guys falling off the barstool when we cam in. We couldn’t be alcoholics, we have it under control. ( even though we partied until the sun came up). The second reason is later in my attempt to control drinking I would buy beer at 9pm. That way if I nursed it, by the time I ran out of beer the store would be closed and I couldn’t buy anymore. So I would just go to sleep after the beer was gone.

I’ve actually been doing this since Thursday when I was at my daughter’s house. I was pointedly uninvited from today’s party. It’s the best of the year. And it’s my favorite holiday. I’ve never been a patriotic, celebrate America type of guy. I jsut like fireworks and partying in the summer. That’s why I was uninvited. Last time I was there I drank most of the Jagermeister and got really drunk. It’s a bad idea for me to be at a big party. A band, a bonfire, beers. A bad combination for me. I can drink and have a good time. My problem is I don’t stop until the beer runs out. Anyway. I was both anger and despondency. But it’s turned inward on myself. I’m pissed because it’s my fault I can’t go.

It was on the ride home I gave myself permission to drink. It only took a second. It was a thought of reaching into the cooler at the store and pulling out a potent six pack. Then the dopamine rush. The tingle in my brain. The plan was set in action. Everything I did was because I was going to drink on Saturday night. (This sucks. I can hear fireworks all around me but can’t see over the trees) Yesterday I listened to an audio book for the first time. It was to take up most of the day so my mind was kept busy away from thoughts of drinking. Today I made it to the food store so I could stock up on a good meal. Get my belly full before I started drinking. It was dinner that did it surprisingly. I had my once a month rib eye steak and mad a full dinner out of it and while I was doing that I did a 180 and decided I wasn’t going to drink. (Or at least try not to) Every thing turned into a treat. I ate a can of Pringles and 2 chocolate caramel bars. Hopefully I didn’t celebrate too early.

That’s my new addiction If I quit drinking. I will eat. I’ve already gained some weight. Better than smoking. I’ve done that and it’s awful. Some people pick up a serious habit after they quit drinking. I’ve seen people fire down 2 cigarettes in a 5 minute break. I can’t start smoking again. I was horribly hooked. Oh well, I’ll get fat. I’m not really unhealthy. I”m just addicted to everything.

11:02pm This is the time I would assess my situation. The store closes in half an hour. Last call for alcohol. If I bought a 6 pack of double alcohol beer at 8 I would be out by now and would buy another 6. That’s why I have to wait until 9. I’m doing pretty well tonight. I just rested in bed. No pangs. I think what made my decision for me was the hangover. Now if I drink it takes commitment. Not only commitment to drinking all the beer but also a commitment to an all day hangover the next day. And I mean all day. Until the minute I sleep again. All this time hearing a voice telling me I’m worthless and should kill myself.

Of all the stupid things I’ve done while drinking that could have been my rock bottom. Who knew it would be something as mundane as a hangover that made me want to quit. It was the repetition. I did it 14 days in a row. Really drunk. The next day deathly hungover. Over and over again. I just couldn’t take it on the last day. How could I do that to myself?

I don’t know what makes this holiday so special. I made it through my last birthday no problem. Same with Memorial day. It was the summer holidays I drank on the most. I think it was having it put right in my face. People talking about the upcoming party as if I wasn’t sitting right there. Knowing why I’m not allowed. And deserving it.

The witching hour I didn’t even use the shut down as an excuse to drink. That’s pretty good for someone who doesn’t need an excuse to drink. I never had to drink every day. That doesn’t make a difference though. I usually go periods of time without drinking and then drink heavily. So I have to watch out. Tonight was pretty weird. I can be stubborn when I put my mind to it. I don’t remember backing out when I made such a detailed plan to drink. I always follow through.

I’m good, but it’s easy now that the store is closed and there is no way to get booze. I just don’t think about it. Plust the bar is shutdown so I didn’t have to go through that period of knowing the bar will serve me until 12:30am. I had to stay away from that place. After a manic month in there drinking like I was rich and putting it on my credit card. It took me forever to pay that off.

I don’t think I need to type anymore. I’m going to cram my head into the pillow and listen to the t.v. until it is time to go to sleep. I’m still surprised. I don’t reverse course like that. I fully believed I would be writing some fucked up shit while drunk. Since I found out about it I’ve been scheduling my posts for after they are written. Yesterday I wrote a “review” of the book I listened to but it won’t show until Wednesday. I didn’t want to do that Here. Either way I wanted to post when I was done writing and see what came ouut. Also I don’t think anybody will be reading on the Holiday weekend. that’s another excuse to drink. I’m “special”. I”m the only one at home alone while everyone else is out having a good time, right? Good Night.

[Post Script] I made it through the night but still woke up feeling hungover. My anxiety was out of control. Enough to activate my “fight of flight” response. That lasts forever. I usually drink to take care of it. This week was the perfect storm for drinking. I took care of everything so I felt I could use a reward. I saw my daughter for the day, I cleaned my apartment, I did grocery shopping. I even got laid so that was out of the way. I also felt slighted for not getting invited to my favorite event of the year. Seeing my daughter cuts both ways. I am so happy she is a good kid and part of my life but after I see her I go home alone and I am not part of the family. When she was born the plan was to stay a family. I used to drink after every visit. I just couldn’t handle the fact that I fucked up my life plan. She really is the most important thing in my life. Without her I would let everything else go.

Blame it on Bukowski

I blame it on Bukowski. I blame it on Burroughs, Hemingway, Huxley and all the other alcoholic/addict writers and artists. They are the reason my writing and poetry sucks. Their addictions were glamorized and made to seem like they contributed to their greatness. The truth is I can’t do anything better when I am under the influence. I can’t even read, never mind write. Maybe it’s true for others that drugs and alcohol enhanced their creativity but all I got out of it were substance abuse problems.

Before I started drinking it was Huxley who got to me . Reading the “The Doors of Perception” got me thinking hallucinogenics would be the key to unlocking my creative energy. I was wrong. When I was on them I couldn’t even think to write. The most I could do with a pen and paper was doodle all night only to wake up to find out I had no talent at drawing either.

Maybe the addicted writers et al. really were better when writing under the influence. Bukowsi and Hemingway were committed daily drinkers and they wrote some amazing things. Burroughs wrote “Naked Lunch” during an intense opiate binge. He pieced together scraps of notes he didn’t recall producing and made a best seller. But my favorite of his was “Junkie” where he talks of his attempts to get sober.

My only true muse was a good session of hypo-mania. Many times I would spend my days at work sketching out thoughts and phrases on scraps of paper and then go home to piece them into some sort of sensible poem. Still after many years of rereading and discarding, I’ve only got about 30 poems left worth showing to another person; never mind publishing. (Which was my goal)

At first I thought I was doing well with my substances. I didn’t drink or use drugs every day. Instead I binged. Going long periods with no use, then going over the top for a day or two or three. It wasn’t until much later in life I learned that style of drug use is a major red flag for addiction. Although I’ve ended my days with alcohol and other dangerous drugs; I still struggle. I think about doing something every day. My mental illness doesn’t help matters either, as I used the same substances to try to moderate my symptoms.

My main creative outlets now are this blog, emails I write to pen pals and my Twitter account. I guess I am doing better now if I can write something that makes sense to other people. But that is not always the case.

I don’t want to be one of those people who fucked up his life and now preaches to others. I just want to pass on my experience and the experience of countless others I’ve met later in life. I started out having great times under the influence. But later; I’m not sure when, a lot of my problems came as a direct result of using. My brain was too clouded to realize the cause and effect. Or I would go a while after a disaster and forget and try again. My experiences got worse as I got older but I was too addicted to pull myself out.

I want to say to anyone going down my path. If you are using to deal with your “demons” or bad things start happening as a direct result of using; stop as soon as you can. I wish now that someone had given me that advice when I was young but there was no one available. My uncle committed suicide the year I was born and it pretty much turned everyone in my family into extreme users of drugs and alcohol. I learned at a very early age to deal with my problems in the same unhealthy manner.

I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I still have some creativity. I wrote this too long blog post rather easily. But I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I had never started using. I write pretty much for myself these days. I hope at least a few people read and can relate. I know a lot of older people can but this post is aimed at young people and telling what I wish I had heard at their age. I would suggest going over your work sober; no matter which creative field you are in; and see if you think it really is better.

So fuck you Bukowski. How can you quit your job and commit to being a full time drunk and still become famous? That is most certainly the exception while so many others labor in anguish. I think if I had any talent to begin with it was severely diminished by my chosen lifestyle. I can’t even think of a good way to end this post. I just want to ramble on forever. But I’ve already repeated myself too much.

In school, I wish they had taught us evidence based science about drug and alcohol abuse, instead of a police officer coming in and telling us that smoking weed would turn us into bloodthirsty killers. Here is a link to a post with more warning signs. Digital Nomad . Another huge red flag is continuing to use after a substance has caused damage to your life.