Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I was a breaker of my own rules
I found this list while cleaning out my night-stand drawers a couple months ago.  I scribbled this down in early 2012, when I was desperately trying to limit and control my drinking.  I was tired of my drinking affecting my life in such a drastic way, so I felt it was time to make a list of rules that I would have to follow.  I taped it to the wall beside my bed, so that I would read it before I started every day.

1. No drinking before work

As someone that works every night, at a bar, I have quite a bit of free time every day before I clock in.  During my downward spiral of alcoholism, anxiety, and depression, it became customary to calm my nerves by having a drink (or seven) before work.  The only thing that would calm my early-morning jitters was alcohol or a pill, and alcohol was cheaper.  This usually meant that I would start drinking early in my day, and would also cause me to crave drinks throughout my day from then on out.

Not doing this would've saved me a lot of trouble.  But as my daily withdrawals grew, it became increasingly difficult to obey this rule.

2. No buying alcohol to keep at the house

I knew I was developing a problem when I started to pick up bottles of Jameson at the liquor store on my day off.  I'd then go home and start taking swigs from the bottle and spend my entire day off doing nothing but soaking my organs in alcohol.  This would usually cause me to want to go out and be around people.  So, by the time I got to the bar, I was already drunk from the six or so drinks I'd had at the house.

But keeping a bottle at my house also meant staying drunk throughout my day.  I'd take a swig before leaving the house before any activity, and upon returning home.  This increased intake fueled the fire and made my withdrawals much more severe upon waking up in the morning, or when facing extended periods of time when I couldn't drink.

3. No shots except at The Grocery after-hours

This one is stupid.  I was attempting to tell myself that the only time it was okay to take shots was when I had closed up shop for the day at The Grocery (the name of the bar I manage).  But one shot would always lead to a few more.  And then I'd go to a bar, and order more shots.  Blackout would soon follow.

A friend once told me that my problem was that I took shots.  He said that my problem would go away if I'd stop ordering shots and just do what rule number 4 says.  But my problem was greater than just taking shots.

4. Sip your drinks when out

In an attempt to move away from constantly taking shots, I started messing around with 2-part liquor drinks, like rum and coke or gin and tonic.  But I would fly through them so quickly.  I'd knock one back on a 5 minute average.  I had a craving I couldn't satisfy.  I just wanted more and more and more.

So I made a rule to just sip drinks, instead of guzzling them down like an alcoholic (which, I very much was).  I started ordering less-tasty beverages like scotch and rocks, but my palette would quickly adapt and I'd start guzzling those down too.  Plus, once I had one cocktail, I couldn't help but through in a few shots too.

5. No shots while at The Grocery off the clock

When I'd go up to The Grocery on my off days, it usually ended in disaster or embarrassment.  I'd have nothing but time to kill and an appetite for liquor to feed.  I'd also usually be well on my way by the time I got there. 

But truthfully, I really just wanted to hang out and be social.  My non-stop drinking habits prevented this from happening.  Ideally, I'd simply sit at the bar, order a beer, and socialize with friends without any worries.  But what would really happen is that I would order a beer, take a sip, and then get that hunger and order a shot.  I'd suck down two or three cigarettes and order another beer and another shot.  I'd talk and talk and talk, my speech becoming more and more slurred, and soon enough I'd be ten drinks deep having only spent an hour at the bar. 

My time sitting at a bar-stool, which I wanted to purely be social, overwhelmingly became exclusively an exercise to feed my hunger for alcohol.  Blackout.  Embarrassment.  Bam.  Wake up and another day has passed and you have no idea what you did or what you said the previous day.

6. Drink less liquor, more beer

This one was another futile attempt at getting off liquor.  Beer was "safe" to me because I couldn't drink it that fast.  I didn't really like the taste all that much.  But, as stated before, once I had a sip of beer, my body ached for a shot of liquor.  I would become obsessed.  I'd feel deprived.  The beer wasn't enough.  I needed moreI'd get frustrated to the point where I'd rationalize taking a shot instead (or in addition to) the beer.

Plus, I soon found a variety of beers in which I enjoyed and therefore could guzzle pretty quickly.  See what I mean?  Futility.

7. Keep yourself in check, fucker.  Your problem won't get better if you keep doing the same thing over and over.

I, like many alcoholics, was convinced that I could solve my problem without quitting drinking completely.  More than that, I wanted to solve my problem without quitting.  I didn't want to give up alcohol.  I was scared shitless to do so!

Every morning I would wake up and see this list, realizing I'd broken any combination of rules the previous night.  It didn't matter how many times I'd read the list, or recited it in my head before ordering a drink.  I was doomed to fail because I did not accept that I was an alcoholic, and that abstinence was the only solution.

The number one question I get asked is if it's hard for me to stay sober.  My answer is always the same:  No.  But I've never faced a challenge quite as difficult and horrifyingly futile as trying to limit and control my drinkingIt was the decision to stop, and dedicate myself to that decision for the rest of my life, that made staying sober "easy" in comparison.

I'm just one of those people that can't have just one.



  1. You've conquered such deep problems that some people will never grow from. You can conquer anything you set your mind to. Your strength is admirable. Keep up the writing.