Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Well, What's Done Is Done...

I ended up losing my job last month. So much for what I said in the previous post.

It was my own fault, a combination of stress, anxiety, recurring insomnia (I'd gone five days with no sleep going into that last night I was slated to work), and stupidly neglecting to call in, all aggravated by the fact that I'd started up with the drinking again the month before. It took a very long time -- fifteen years -- but the drinking finally caught up with me. So, I'm currently unemployed, and the job hunting thus far has not gone well. No big surprise there, what with the economy being the way it is. I picked a real bad time to lose my job. That's alcoholism for you.

All the same, I'm not terribly worried about my circumstances. Not yet, at least. In fact, I'm doing quite well, health-wise. For one thing, I've stopped drinking, and not just because I don't really have the money to buy the stuff. Losing my job didn't make me want to quit, either. That did the exact opposite -- after finding out that I was terminated, I was so devastated that I went on what is easily the most self-destructive bender I've ever gone on. For about a week, I drank morning, noon, and night, at one point going four days without a bite of solid food. And the crazy part is, I didn't even want to drink -- I just went and did it. It was utterly stupid.

Eventually, I reached a point when I simply couldn't ingest any more alcohol. That afternoon, I stopped. What's prevented me from starting back up since then, more than anything, was what I started going through the next day: the DTs. I've had countless hangovers, and I've endured some alcohol poisoning in my time. Never had the DTs before. That's some disturbing shit there -- for about ten days altogether, encompassing the round-the-clock drinking and the drying out, I was hovering somewhere between Earth and hell. As of today, it's been twenty-three days since I had a drop of beer or liquor, but I picked Wednesday, September 21, as day one of my third attempt at maintaining sobriety, giving me exactly three weeks. I don't count the first two days because while I wasn't drunk, my system was torn up badly. In addition to the hallucinations, tremors, and paranoia from the DTs, my head, hands, and feet were tingling, my heart was racing, I had trouble with multiple other organs, and I had a case of tinnitus as if I'd just come home from a Motorhead show. Actually, I've had a little tinnitus for a long while, what with having worked in loud factories for sixteen years and played and performed lots of loud music for at least as long, but normally I can only hear the ringing when it's real quiet around me. This time it was front and center, there was nothing I could do about it, and it was beginning to drive me nuts. On the 21st, it receded back to its normal level, thank goodness, though most of the other stuff lingered on for a couple more days. That was when I knew I was starting to recover.

The 21st was also the day I started going to AA meetings again. Step one in the AA program requires admitting that one's life has become unmanageable due to alcohol consumption. The way I see it, my years of heavy drinking ultimately cost me a job with good pay. Sounds pretty unmanageable to me. Step two requires believing that a power greater than oneself can restore one to sanity. This one's a bit tricky for me. I'm certainly open to the idea. Thing is, my views toward this sort of stuff are best described as agnostic. Long-time AA members do distinguish between religion and spirituality, and they place great emphasis on spiritual renewal. That's a big plus in my book, not being too big on religion myself -- I tried Christianity out briefly last year before reverting back to the agnosticism. But when they start talking about their relationship with God, I tend to wax skeptical. Maybe I'm just new to AA and I need to work the steps for a long time before they begin to make more sense. Then again, having lived in an area where the bulk of citizens wear their religion on their sleeves since the late 90s, I've heard a lot of "do as I say, not as I do" moralizing, and that goes on in these meetings as well. But right now, at least in the Richmond area, these meetings are all I have. They're not hurting me, so I intend to stick with the program for the time being. Listening to some of these fellow alcoholics talk ain't exactly fun, but it sure beats the hell out of the DTs.

The dark cloud has a silver lining. In addition to having sobered up, my insomnia has all but vanished. I get a decent amount of sleep now -- and at night to boot. In spite of having no money coming in and no idea where or when I'll be working next, I haven't slept this well in years. As for my blood pressure, I hardly even take the prescription medicine now. Don't need it. The stress, the anxiety, the panic, even my proneness to depression -- those levels have dropped considerably. The drinking certainly magnified all of that, but it's hard not to conclude that the main cause of it all was that damned print shop. For the year and a half I spent in pre-press, my life consisted almost exclusively of being at work and being at my apartment. I didn't go anywhere on the weekends, I just stayed home -- and, more often than not, drank, which slowly made things worse than they were.

That's all over and done with now. I don't miss the print shop, and I don't want my job back. Either of the jobs I had -- not the one in pre-press, and definitely not the one in the pressroom. I don' t want to work for a company that makes me drink when I don't even want to drink. I can't work for such a company. Not anymore.

I have applied for jobs at other printing companies in the area, but I'm looking into other fields as well. My printing career may or may not be over -- it depends on what I can find for work and how that starts to pan out. Having spent sixteen years working in factories and gotten nothing out of it except for a drinking problem, maybe I should end the printing career, especially while I still have five digits on both hands. If I had the money, I'd consider going back to college, though for what, I really don't know. I've already dropped out of college twice, so that's likely not an option. Everything's kind of in a holding pattern.

All I know is, I'm alive, I'm healthier now than I was a month ago, and while I'm not a happy camper, I'm not a miserable drunk anymore, either. I'm just an alcoholic. The difference between a drunk and an alcoholic? Alcoholics go to meetings. I know I could always start drinking again, no matter how lame the excuse I use to justify it; what I don't know is if I'd be able to stop again before it's too late. Between the time I last started up and the time I stopped, only four weeks had passed. It's frightening how fast things can unravel and how far down the scale you can slide in such a brief time when alcohol is involved. You can't make your recovery move forward any faster than the one day at a time it takes, but you can damn sure throw it into high-speed reverse at any moment.

And with that, I'll pass. Til further on...

4 comments:

  1. Expect to hear from me in a little while. Still at work.

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  2. Good luck with everything. I know AA isn't for everyone, but my sister and brother-in-law each have more than 23 years sobriety and are still active in the program. It was something of a culture shock for them when they moved from NY to VA and then NC as far as the overtly religious tone of meetings, but they managed to find groups that worked for them. Anyways, hope all goes well.

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  3. You show a lot of strength and determination which I hope will get you through this transition. If I was religious, I'd pray for you. Since I'm not, I'll just say that I wish you the best.

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  4. Hey sweetie! I go out occasionally with John's boyfriend. He is doing AA, too -- losing John added to his slide down.

    You should sign up for unemployment. Yes they pay if you got fired -- usually. You might check out the Federal site -- they have printers, and it is civil service, not high stress.

    Please take care of yourself.

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