liebster award … a little late in responding …

liebster2I was nominated for another Liebster Award and am now getting to respond to it. My first nomination was from Are You The Babysitter? and my dear friend RoiAnn. This time I was nominated by My Rants and Rambles blogger, Danny, who found my blog and started following me. We both write about sobriety and addiction; however, I find his to be so much more raw and to the point. It’s a great sobriety resource for newcomers and for those seeking community on problems and successes in sobriety. I sincerely enjoy reading his “rants and rambles.”

I won’t reiterate the deal-e-o about Liebster Award Nominations, since all of that detail can be found in my post, Liebster Award Nominations. I also won’t re-nominate 11 blogs, since I did that already. I missed an aspect of the process in first award post, the 11 “things about me” portion, so I included that below. (See, there is always a reason to read me … you’ll learn something new every time!)

Thank you Danny for the nomination!

11 Things About Me

  1. I love the beach. I have some type of connection to the ocean that heals me and renews me.
  2. I have edema in my right leg that comes and goes, and has done so since 2009. Every doctor I have seen about it has no explanation as to why it happens. And … it just goes untreated. Sometimes I swell and sometimes I don’t.
  3. Acupuncture. Acupuncture. Acupuncture!
  4. I will someday write a novel about my life.
  5. I love tent camping, especially waking in the morning and starting a fire. The smell of breakfast and coffee in morning dew of the mountains is like ambrosia.
  6. I am deathly afraid of bears. I think the movie Prophecy instilled this fear in me when I was in elementary school.
  7. I have named the voice in my head Carl. This way I can argue back and win. If it’s my voice in my head, I can never debate and win. But if it’s Carl, I can debate and argue and win. This helps me maintain my sobriety. Damn Carl…he loves to try to talk me into drinking or using. He also loves to try to make me feel small and weak.
  8. I am engaged to married. No date set, but maybe October of 2014.
  9. I hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail. It was life changing. I chronicled the hike here on my blog.
  10. I am friends with many of my school chums. Most of us went to elementary, junior high, and high school together. I tend to refer to people by both their first name and last name. Always.
  11. I hate grape flavored things. I hate that diners always bring out grape jelly and you have to ask for strawberry.
  12. I just love cheese, raaaaallllly I doooo.

11 Questions For My Nominees To Answer-

  1. What is your favorite TV show?
    Boy, this is a hard one. I love TV and have so many favorites. They change so often, too. I would have to say that House of Cards is spectacular. And, I am a late comer to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, but I have to say that it really has a lot of heart. That family, as weird and backward as they are, really love each other. Jimmy Kimmel cracks me up, but I am usually in bed by the time he comes on (I am old).
  2. Where is one place you go that calms you down?
    The beach. The bathtub.
  3. Coffee or Tea?
    Tea. Definitely! Earl Grey with cream and honey.
  4. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
    Both.
  5. Favorite Disney movie?
    Shit. Another hard one! Apple Dumplin’ Gang, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, the original Freaky Friday, The Incredibles (if Disney Pixar counts), Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians (animated), Fantasia, Beauty and The Beast, Snow White …
  6. Do you believe in love at first sight?
    Yes.
  7. Why did you decide to start blogging?
    Because I have always enjoyed writing and I started posting Notes in Facebook and the feedback from those was very encouraging. I have also always had the notion that I have a book in me … I just need to get it out. Blogging has provided me a platform to practice and hone skills.
  8. Who is someone you look up to?
    My mother. President Clinton. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Emily Post. My partner’s father.
  9. What type of superpower would you want to have?
    Invisibility. Or mind reading.
  10. Right now, if you had a chance to travel anywhere and money was not an option, where would you go?
    Mars. Or France.
  11. What is one goal that you have that means a lot to you?
    To be an honest, fully realized man with a life that is rich and filled with love and respect.
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twelve years …

It’s amazing that it was twelve years ago. I was thirty-two years old. I was hung over and asleep when my sister called me, waking me up, and franticly asking if I was watching the news. I was not.

With blazing headache, cotton mouth, and swollen bloodshot eyes, I turned on the news and watched what had already unfolded in New York City, and what was continuing to unfold in our nation.

While the day was something I lived to experience, something real; it is also a day that only lives in history books for children, something to ponder and imagine. It makes me feel my age to say, “I remember when …” and truly mean it. I picture myself an old man while neighborhood children sit at my feet; glasses of lemonade glisten with condensation that drips and puddles on the teak side table and wood porch boards.

I will share what I have shared before. I will share what I remember. I will share what I experienced. What I felt, heard, and saw. Many of my friends will do the same, with their children and grandchildren; my sisters will share with their grandchildren, my grand nieces and nephews.

I will always remember and never forget. No one alive on that day will ever forget.

Here is what I remember. Here is an experience I enjoyed in remembrance.

my baby takes the morning 1 train …

I no longer ride the 1 train or any other subway train for that matter, but when I did, this situation really happened. It was November of 2009, and I was commuting to work in the Fashion District. I wrote about my morning commute experience and posted it in a Facebook Note. (Remember those?) For those of you in New York who commute on the subway, this story will ring true. For those of you who don’t, I hope you still find it an enjoyable read.

subway art

First, I am not one to be confrontational on the subway. I usually just suck it up and deal with it like everyone else. Second, I believe that everyone has to have some level of social and communal accountability. When you live with millions of people, you need to be aware that you are not the sole person in the city, on the sidewalk, on the subway, in line at the CVS, or waiting for a table.

Lastly, — and then my story will begin — riding the subway is a way of life in New York. There’s a sub-culture element to it that one wears like a badge of honor. Some people can give you transfer directions from any station to any station that sound like they are reading the letters in their bowl of Alpha-Bits. “Take the A, C, or E, or the B or D, to Columbus Circle. Then take the D to Herald Square. Then take the N, R, or W to Spring Street and you’re in Soho.” (OK, New Yorkers, it’s true that one need only stay on the A, C, or E to get from Columbus Circle to Spring, but I am just painting a picture to emphasize a point.)

It’s also important to note that the MTA is constantly raising subway fares and reducing services. This makes the future of riding the subway a greater challenge than it is today. Every morning, waiting for the 1 train at the 79th Street station, I am amazed at how many people are on the platform. Then the train arrives and it’s already packed. Everyone tries to pile in, but sometimes you have to wait for the next train.

Today, while trying to fit into the subway, I noticed that everyone was crowded in the door areas but the center aisle had lots of room. This is a common occurrence and normally not cause for concern. However, today, more people were trying to get on the train and no one was moving in, so I had to say something.

“Hey you guys. You wanna move in? There’s tons of room in there.”

People just looked at me.

“OK, I’m not kidding. Move in. There is tons of room in there. Scoot in! Scoot in!”

People moved. Some ever so slightly and some moved into the center of the car.

A woman who was standing at the first holding pole said, “I can’t move; I have a bag.” Ok, that’s fine, I get it; however, she was standing facing the length of the train instead of facing the side of the train, and was completely blocking anyone from being able to pass her to reach the middle seating area.

At 66th Street station a bunch of people got off the train, as is normal during commute hours. I was standing at the door, so I stepped out and let them pass. As I got back on the train I proceeded to move to the middle seating area. That same woman just stood there … completely blocking the way.

“Can you move so that I get where there’s room?” I asked with a tinge of acid in my tone.

“I can’t. I’ve got this bag,” she replied dismissively.

I proceeded to push her aside and step over her bag.

“You are unbelievable. How inconsiderate and inappropriate!” she barked.

I decided to not act on what I really wanted to do: beat her to a pulp. That would have been completely inappropriate and not very gentlemanly. Instead, I chose to tell her exactly how I felt.

“Excuse me? Look at the way you’re standing. You are completely blocking the aisle and no one can pass you. If you would just stand facing the windows, people would be able to pass and not have to be crammed together at the doors. So let me ask you this: who is unbelievable and inappropriate? Me or you?”

Then, the most amazing thing happened. Some of the people that were standing and sitting in that area applauded. They actually clapped and shared in my viewpoint and frustration. It was fantastic!

The woman got off the train at the 59th Street station. I proceeded to my regular stop, 42nd Street- Times Square and then off to work; practically skipping to the office while relishing in a moment that I think could happen “only in New York kids, only in New York.”

s is for super 2 p is for perfection

green eye

i am doing my best …

I admire my fiancé’s relationship with his father. Simply put, Kirk and his father have a relationship, one that from my perspective seems ideal. It is completely unlike my relationship with my father.

He and I don’t have a relationship and haven’t for years. I usually describe ours as “strained.” Recently, and with the help of my therapist, I have come to terms with the way our relationship works. But I sometimes wish that it was a strong as Kirk’s is with his father; you can see the influence he has had on Kirk.

When I look back on my childhood, I can honestly say that my dad was a good dad. We did fun family things together, like camping trips to Mount Shasta, or exploring the Bodie Ghost Town. Christmas morning’s would bring presents with riddles written on tags that hinted to its contents. My sisters and I would read the riddles to try and figure out what was inside. There were family dinners around the table, where we would pass the Wol Taf Klim (low fat milk) and soccer games for the teams we played on, usually coached by him.

Once, when I was in fifth or sixth grade, I was in the front yard playing a game I invented called “Dorothy Gale from Kansas.” I would fill a bucket with water and pretend to be heading to slop the pigs or to be coming from the barn with a bucket of fresh milk. Then … all of sudden … without warning … I would be caught in the middle of a horrific twister! I would scream and spin around in circles holding the bucket in both hands. The centrifugal force would keep me spinning faster and faster, my arms stretching. I would spin until I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand any longer. The twister would rip the bucket from my hands and I would tumble down to the ground and find myself laying in the green grass of a far off land.

During one very rousing game, my dad came out of the garage with a football.

“Scott, let’s go in the street and toss the football,” he said cheerfully.

I looked at him, completely puzzled.

“Why?” I asked, with all the snark that a pre-pubescent child can muster.

He looked at me blankly.

 “Oh forget it,” he said as he walked back into the garage.

He and I went to a local amusement park together, I assume at the insistence of my mom, which I am sure was meant to be “bonding time.” All I remember from that adventure, was feeling completely out of place with him, sitting on rides alone while he watched, and walking around embarrassed to be with him. The only sense of connection I got that day, was through keeping secret that he got a speeding ticket on the way there.

As I grew older, nearing and clearing puberty, our relationship became different. I see it now for what it was: my father was not equipped to have a gay son. He didn’t know what to do with me. He didn’t know how to talk to me. He didn’t know how to be the father of a gay boy. He did the best he could.

My mom and dad got divorced, he moved to Santa Cruz, and when I was twenty I went to live with him and his wife. I had already been through my rebellious high school years, and was now in the workforce. They lived in Aptos, California two streets up from the beach. The location was amazing, but our relationship was very surface. We would talk about work, the weather, and general topics, but nothing deep and meaningful. And definitely never about dating or relationships. He was starting to get back into his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness, which I feel caused more strain on our relationship, being that the flames of hell were licking at my heels for being a heathen homo.

I’d like to think he is proud of my accomplishments. I’d like to think that he knows I am a good person and have tried to be a good son. I just don’t know for certain that he does and I doubt I ever will. We have a sort of “don’t ask/don’t tell” communication policy. I share updates with him mainly via emails sent to my entire my family. I have never received a response. I have sent links to my blog posts, but I have never received a response.

We’ve always been cordial, don’t get me wrong. When I do see him at family functions, once or twice a year, we hug hello and goodbye, we discuss work or no work, or we talk about the weather. He has met past boyfriends, but has never attempted to get to know them, and he doesn’t really seem comfortable acknowledging any of my relationships. Again, I think he doesn’t know how.
When Kirk and I were in California for my niece’s high school graduation, he showed the most compassion I have seen in years. As we were leaving, he actually hugged Kirk and told him it was very nice to meet him. I’d like to think that he saw how happy I am, how happy Kirk makes me, and that he can see how I am changed person, a grown man.

All of this, to some, might sound sad, which it is sometimes. But I look at it as both of us are trying our best. I have to believe that he tried to do his best when I was young, and that what he does today is him trying his best. I have to feel confident that I am doing my best in my actions. If I send emails to keep him in the loop, I must see that as me doing my best. If I remind him of our plans to be married next October, and get nothing but a nod and blank stare, I need to see that as me doing my best in keeping him informed. If he hugs me hello and good bye the few times that I see him each year, then I need to see that as him doing his best to demonstrate paternal love. I don’t blame him for any of my issues. He was only doing his best.

But I do think about the inevitable day when he passes away and how I might feel. I will have to gather the strength to truly feel that I had done my best. I don’t want regrets or feelings of what could have been “if only I did something different.” I can’t expect him to respond to email messages, to discuss how my relationship with Kirk is progressing, to ask questions about my sobriety or the challenges I face as a gay man in a straight man’s world. I can’t expect him to change, otherwise I am setting myself up for major disappointment.

All I can do is tell myself that I am doing my best. Every day, every interaction, every un-replied to email, every “how’s the weather conversation,” every so often I see him.

I am doing my best.

not mine … not mine … not mine … MINE !

This is no longer my state to which I pay taxes, and whose governor is married to Sandra Lee, the “from a box” chef who has an amazing life story.

This is no longer my city, which hustles and bustles continuously, and fills with tourists who don’t know how to walk properly through a crowd.

This is no longer my county, which has the same name as the island on which I have lived for the last eleven years.

This is no longer my borough, where when traveling to other boroughs feels like it requires packing for a three-day journey.

This is no longer my neighborhood, gentrified, Jewish, and architecturally stunning.

This is no longer my street, whose abbreviation, WEA, can be used as the street name on letters and they will still find their way to my post box.

This is no longer my block, where the doormen next door know my name and the names of my dogs, and where car accidents happen often because cab drivers pay no attention to red lights or limit lines.

This is no longer my building, where my doormen know every intimate detail of my comings and goings (which is sometimes embarrassing and mortifying); where I know the faces of neighbors and their dog’s names; and where I can borrow a 6′ ladder from my Super at the drop of a hat.

This is no longer my floor, with seven quiet units, and where Bunny, the neighboring dog, barks whenever any sound in the hallway occurs, no matter how slight.

This is no longer my apartment, which gave me memories and life experiences; where I could look across the street from my living room window and see into an unknown family’s bathroom; where I have seen the husband, wife, and son relieve themselves; where I have asked myself why they have not purchased a shade or curtain; and where I wrote A Love Letter to 401 WEA, an essay rejected by the New York Times.

This is no longer my living room, empty and echoing, while I type this post before leaving my keys with the super and saying goodbye for good.

BUT …

This is my fucking chandelier and I am hellbent on taking it with me.

chandelier

Liebster Award Nominations …

liebster2A friend / fellow blogger, RoiAnn, has a great blog about her life as a “Queer mama co-parenting by love, step, adoption and the skin of my teeth“. It’s called Are You the Babysitter. Yesterday, RoiAnn asked me to go to her blog and “play” with her in relation to something called the “Liebster Award”. I had never heard of this before, and it seemed odd that she asked, especially since I received a comment from a new follower who mentioned that they came upon my blog via hers and the Leibster Awards. (Thank you, PipiBebe!)

What? What is going on? I am so confused.

I had quite a busy day today that was filled with breakfast making, lounging at my neighbor’s pool while they were out-of-town (they said we could!), napping, and hanging out with Kirk and the dogs. I didn’t have time to check my email throughout the day and did not see or read her comment or her blog post until later. I told her I would look at it once I got home from my AA meeting lastnight.

Here’s what I learned (but not from personal research – I am plagiarizing RoiAnn):

The Liebster Award was started as a way to tell other small bloggers that their work is appreciated, and to do so in a more global manner. Other blogs are referenced, thereby driving traffic to ones’ site as we reference each other. And it happened for me yesterday. I got two new followers, which doesn’t happen often for me … unless I beg Facebook friends to follow me.

It’s a way of connecting bloggers together. I think this will help me create a network of blogger pals who can give me feedback and encouragement. It seems that the Liebster Award is like a virtual pat on the back. And I do feel a little like Sally Field at the moment.

“You like me, right now, you like me!”

It is akin to the Twelfth Step in AA, in the sense that it’s a way of spreading the message to other bloggers, giving back to our community, and being of service to others. I can help someone get noticed, increase readership, or add followers by listing them and “paying it forward.”

How It Works

  1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog. (Thank you, RoiAnn!)
  2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answering the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees.
  3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
  4. Display the Liebster Award logo.
  5. No tag backs, meaning you can’t just re-nominate the person who nominated you.

Eleven Questions & Eleven Answers

  1. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
    I had two breakfasts. The first was two slices of rye toast with cream cheese and apricot jam. The second was egg fritattas made with red bell pepper, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, jalapeno, and bacon; and cooked in silicon cupcake cups. I also had some cherries, my favorite summer fruit, and a cup of Earl Grey tea with honey and half-and-half.
  2. Train, Bus, Bicycle, Car, Skateboard, or your Own Two Feet?
    Since moving to the suburbs from Manhattan, I will say that I miss the convenience of the subway. Use my two feet for dog walking, but I have to use my car for driving everywhere else. I need to buy a bicycle, especially since I live in a beach community.
  3. Paper or Plastic?
    Paper plates. Paper napkins. Paper mache.
    Plastic on the furniture to keep it neat and clean.
    I think you are trying to seduce me.
    Those were the first thoughts that popped into my head.
  4. If you could retire tomorrow comfortably, would you?
    My mom would say that I am retired now, and I am pretty comfortable, so I must answer yes. But, even if she didn’t say that I would answer yes.
  5. If you’ve ever been locked out of your house, how did you get back in?
    When I lived at home, I would “break in” through my parent’s bathroom window. When I lived with roommates, I would either go to their work to get their keys or wait for them to come home. When I lived in New York City buildings, the doormen always handed over the spare key. Recently, Kirk and I were locked out our house in Charleston. He crawled through the dog door to get inside. Yeah … there it is: an open invitation for burglars. Nice.
  6. What is the first book you remember reading and really, really liking?
    The Frightened Forest by Ann Turnbull. I love it! I wanted to make it into a movie when I was young. I checked out a copy from the library in 1978 and I still have it. Shhhhh! Don’t tell.
  7. What is something you say every day?
    Fucking shit!
  8. Have you ever jumped out of an airplane?
    No way. And I doubt I ever will.
  9. How do you celebrate New Year’s Eve?
    Quiet time at home, or with a few friends, eating dinner and playing games. This year, I started a Gratitude Jar. I put slips of paper with what makes me feel grateful on them. On New Year’s Eve this year, I plan to read each one and recall how lucky I am.
  10. What are the printed words closest to you right now?
    Persepolis, the graphic novel. It is on the dresser in the guest room where I am right now and is the only title I can read from where I sit. Kirk is sleeping in our room, but my keyboard banging was keeping him up so I had to come in here.
  11. How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?
    I believe I was 6 or 7, but I can’t recall. Isn’t that funny, I remember so many things from my childhood, but that escapes me.

My Nominations

I am supposed to have 11, but I don’t. Isn’t that horrible? I have eight, one of whom I started reading today.

  1. Life After Amway
  2. 18 and Writing
  3. The Thin and Thick of It
  4. Write with Warnimont
  5. PepiBebe
  6. Opinionated Man
  7. Charl1010
  8. Shawn Rabideau Events
  9. Crystal Keeper

Nominees’ Questions

  1. What toothpaste do you use?
  2. Who was your favorite elementary school teacher?
  3. What was the last book you read?
  4. What reminds you of your favorite grandparent?
  5. Toilet paper: over or under?
  6. What is your all time favorite movie?
  7. Righty or lefty?
  8. Dog person or cat person?
  9. What makes you a good neighbor?
  10. When do you feel you’ve been at your best?
  11. What are you grateful for today?

wanna beer ?

When I visit a restaurant, it is inevitable that I will hear two phrases. If there is a wait, the host/ess will ask, “Would you like to sit in the bar and have a drink while you wait?” and then once seated, the server will ask, “Would you like to start off with a cocktail or some wine tonight?”

These questions used to strike fear in me. I would get nervous and anxious waiting for these questions. I would answer almost apologetically, as if my not having a drink would make them think less of me or cause them great harm. I felt compelled to explain why I would not order a cocktail, a beer, or a glass of wine; otherwise, they would think I was crazy. I would curtly reply, “I don’t drink” and then order something non-alcoholic, never making eye contact. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Wine glasses would be removed from the table, along with wine and cocktail lists, and my order of iced tea or a soft drink taken. I would feel ashamed. Ashamed of what I knew: That I could not, under any circumstance have a cocktail or glass of wine. You see, with me, one cocktail would turn into two or three; and one glass of wine – Wait, what? One glass of wine? Let’s be honest – one bottle of wine would turn into two, followed by a few ports with dessert, and then drinks at bars on the way home.

That method would bring out the best of my worst characteristics. At first, I would be funny, joking, laughing, and talking. I would progress to talking too loudly (usually about people nearby), slurring, drinking more, feeling compelled to pick up the tab (especially if in a large group), and berating others at their expense. That would evolve into self-consciousness, self-doubt, paranoia, defensiveness, and ultimately anger. I would stumble my way to a cab and either head some place to drink more and hook up, or head home and pass out.

The question “what do you want to drink” also arises in social situations, like dinner parties, cocktail parties, or other events. I had been home from rehab for two weeks when I attended a BBQ at a friend’s Brooklyn apartment. After the door opened, I received a quick apartment tour and then a tour of the booze and mixers. This was a group of friends where drinking together was a pastime. It is what we did. We would eat, drink, talk, laugh, and drink some more. There was confusion and amusement at my response.

“You don’t want a beer? How about wine? A mojito?”

This was my first time in a situation where I had to say no. I was frightened and nervous and felt sick to my stomach. I had not told many people, this group included, that I was in rehab. Saying no felt like a confession of all I had done wrong in my life.

“No. I don’t feel like drinking tonight,” I said.

What it felt like I said:

“I just got out of a 28 day in-patient rehab program in Minneapolis. I have been sober for a little over two months now. I can’t drink or do drugs anymore. I can’t have even one drink. Not wine, not tequila, not gin, not port, not scotch, not rum, not even beer. If I have any of those, I fear that I will fall back into old behaviors of drinking to excess, drugging to excess, and hating myself for every bad decision I have made in my life because I can’t control myself. Now I hate myself even more for having to say no, because I know you think that must be crazy. Who refuses a drink? Only alcoholics. And now you are thinking, ‘Oh my god! You are an alcoholic!’ And now I am thinking that you hate me and I should just go. I am no fun anymore. I am a bore. I can’t even laugh at your jokes. Not only because you are slurring your words, but because I can’t really understand the point of the joke, because I am not drunk. Regardless, I am no longer fun and I will never be or have fun again. I hate myself for not being able to drink.”

And I did.

I was ashamed and afraid that I would no longer fit in. I drank and did drugs to feel comfortable in social situations that made me uncomfortable. Drinking helped eliminate my social anxiety. The recovery community calls it “Social Lubrication.” I could converse, laugh, joke, feel connected, and feel like I fit in when I was drunk. That is, until I no longer fit in. When that happened, things got messy.

I would go out alone to get drunk. I would maybe throw up, maybe not. I would get home and drink some more, or do a few lines, smoke some weed, or hit the pipe. I was alone, a mess in my own apartment and life. What started as a way to be more social became an isolating and lonely necessity to get through a hard week, a rough emotional time, or just a regular Tuesday. When the haze would clear from my head, I would cry. I always loved that moment when the tears started to fall. It confirmed that I actually did have feelings. Ironically, I was using to excess to block out feeling anything at all.

In my first six months of sobriety, I told myself that after one year I would be able to drink again. I would not drug, but I would drink. It was my plan. However, in my journey of self-discovery along the path of sobriety, I re-read all of my journals that date back to eighth grade. I was amazed to find that my behavioral patterns as a drinking adult were the same patterns I had as a drinking teenager. More, more, more. Do it to feel comfortable. Do it to feel connected. Do it to mask fear. Do it to fit in. Do it to have sex. Do it to hide how awkward you feel. Do it to hide shame about being gay. Do it to hide shame about doing it. Do it to excess. Get angry. Shout. Yell. Pass out. Have others tell you about what you did when you were drunk because you don’t remember. Remember these as being funny stories. Laugh about them. Start it all over again.

I learned a lot about myself. More than I anticipated. I started to identify as an addict and an alcoholic in meetings, something I was not willing to do before. I accepted it as fact and surrendered.

Now when asked if I want a drink, I simply say, “Yes. I’ll have a Ginger Ale.” Or a lemonade or Coke. I have asked for mocktails (cocktails without booze. Sometimes I get looks, but now they don’t bother me. I owe my life to my sobriety. I honor my sobriety and I work hard at it. When one lives in a society that is alcohol infused, and one does not imbibe, one must set boundaries and stick by them. I have to feel confident in the decision I have made to not use. I have to remain aware of the consequences that will happen if I do drink. I have to honor the hard work that I have done to achieve my sobriety. I have to understand that while others can, I cannot. It sounds simple enough, but it is not.

I have an “awareness challenge” for those who drink (responsibly or not):

  • Pay attention to the number of beer or booze commercials you see in an evening or afternoon of watching TV.
  • Notice the number of alcohol print ads you see when you flipping through a magazine.
  • See how many cookbooks start with a cocktails section.
  • Notice how many fun events you attend center around drinking.
  • Notice co-worker’s conversations, especially Fridays around 4:00pm or while at work functions.
  • Attend a wedding, house party, a dinner party, a BBQ, a tailgating party, or a day at the beach.
  • Watch TV shows or movies to see how many scenes involve alcohol, are set in a bar, have dialog based around drinking, or show wine, beer, and booze.
  • Notice when you are asked to wait at the bar and have a drink or to have a cocktail or wine with your dinner.

It can be overwhelming for someone like me. I have become comfortable with it. I can be around others who drink, but when it gets messy, or when people start to “melt,” I know it’s time for me to go. I can host people at my house who drink, and I have a decently stocked bar. Drinking just doesn’t interest me anymore. I am more fun when I don’t drink. I am more interesting when I don’t drink. And I love waking up every morning without any trace of a hangover.

But I am smart enough to know that all of that could change at any moment. And that’s what I need to be prepared for. That’s why I attend meetings. That’s why I talk about my addictions. That’s why I am rigorously honest with myself.

As overwhelming as the media and social messaging are, there are unexpected moments of clarity. A friend was visiting from New York City and he, Kirk, and I, went to dinner at a posh Charleston restaurant. The waiter asked if we wanted any wine to start, two of us declined, and one said he would consider it. Two sets of wine glasses were removed. The restaurant manager came to our table offering a complementary bottle of prosecco and noticed only one set of wine glasses.

He looked at me and asked, “You will not be having wine tonight?”

“No sir, I will not.” I replied resolutely, hoping that I had overcome the self-consciousness of declining.

“I’ve been sober for thirty-one years. How long have you been in the program?” he asked.

What followed throughout our dinner and dessert was some of the most scintillating conversation with this stranger about resolve, AA meetings, and sobriety. At dessert, he sat at our table and we all chatted. He shared his story, his love of his business, his love of Charleston, his advice. He hopped up to hug and kiss patrons goodbye. He introduced us to his wife as he left for the evening. He welcomed us into his restaurant and shared with us a slice of his life.

All the while, wine glasses clinked in the background, toasts were made at tables, diners asked about wine pairings, and the hostess asked patrons to wait in the bar and have cocktails. All of this swirled around me, the world rotated on its axis as it always does; life was in motion.

The only thing that was unmovable was my sobriety.