Elle Severe Presents

What It’s Like To Quit Drinking, Too

In Authors, Life, Musings, One Beer In, Past Loves on August 22, 2014 by Pabby MFNP

Q: I’m asking the questions here and I have a lot of them but not a whole lot of time. You have mentioned that the first year was toughest.
A: Yes, the first year was super tough. I basically had to retrain myself and break out of any habits associated with getting f’d up. Also, I felt so sorry for myself like I was the first person to ever have to go through something like that. Related, in 1999, I had to have stomach surgery for a small intestine blockage and the recovery was brutal. After the surgery, it took a while for things to start working again and the pain was intense but I had to go off pain medication in order for my stomach to start working again. I remember taking walks outside in the bright sunlight and watching all of the people continue on with their lives and I wondered if mine would ever be the same. Would the world just keep on turning, while I sit there in anguish? To a lesser degree, that is what I felt like in my other recovery. I always wondered how I was supposed to get through it and when I would start to feel better.

Q. Wow. When did you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
A. It was during one of the mornings at bachelor party in Montreal that I went to about two months after I stopped drinking.

Q. You went to Montreal within two months of quitting drinking and smoking weed? Was that wise?
A. No, not at all. Montreal has always been something of a playground for me. It started when I took a high school trip there and was able to legally drink even though I was only a teenager. Then I would return every few years as it called out to me like a beacon. I always saw it as other people might see Vegas. Plus, I had enough adventures there to warrant its own blog post. One time I woke up missing a shoe. One time I went to a cathedral seeking sanctuary and passed out in front of it. Many times, I drank whole pitchers of beer with breakfast. One time I gave someone about $100 to buy weed for me. They got in a sports car and sped off. I considered chasing after the car and then I saw the car pull over on the next block. Five minutes later, the guy came back to me with the biggest, most beautiful, most fragrant bag of weed I have ever seen in my life. So no, it was not wise for me to go to Montreal within 2 months of becoming sober.

Q. Well, why did you do it then?
A. Because I had committed to organizing and driving my friends to the bachelor party and as bad as I felt about having to become sober, I would feel worse if I let my people down. But also, if I was going to be forced to battle my demons, why not meet them on their home turf and say “Come at me, bro?!” Anyway, it ended up being a great thing because during this trip, I started to realize that perhaps I would make it after all. The first day was uneventful, I drove everyone in this big van we rented and when we got there, it was everything we wanted it to be. In fact, at one point, we were walking down the street and then I looked both ways and then started screaming “Wooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and started charging across the street like I used to. I realized that I didn’t have to drink to be a complete fool! This filled my heart with joy. Then the rest of the night was fun and it was the next morning where I had the full revelation that I was going to be just fine.
So I set my alarm in order to move the van in the morning because in addition to having a drinking problem, I also have a problem with paying for parking. The place where I parked had a sign that said that I had to move it by 8AM or it would be towed. So I got up at 7:50 and as I was waking up, I realized that I had survived my first night in Montreal without drinking which was probably a first for me. Then I walked down to the van and started it up. I realized that I had the van to myself and everyone would be sleeping for a while so I could take a ride if I wanted to. As I may have mentioned before, Montreal was something of a magical place for me. At least a few nights a year, I would dream about it. Roaming around and exploring some corner that I had never seen before. In dreams and in reality, I always found that if I took a turn here or a turn there, I found an arcade that I had never been to or some place that sells poulet which means chicken and continues to be the only French word that I know. But it always centered around Saint Catherine Street and I used to love walking from one end to another and I always wondered where it started and where it ended. Well, all of a sudden, I had this opportunity to go explore the very beginning of it and put the wondering to rest. This opportunity was afforded to me because I wasn’t drunk and I was able to wake up before everyone else who was currently still sleeping. While a major part of my life was closed off, perhaps new doors will be opened and I will get to do things that I couldn’t do before! I turned on the radio and popped in a cd by a band called Guster. The first song is “What You Wish For” and I have always loved it but I quickly found that it had a profound and timely meaning for me that morning. Listen along here and follow the bouncing ball below. I have changed some of the lyrics to what I thought they were and I have put in the meanings it had for me and how I interpreted it in bold.

Woke up today to everything grey
Since I stopped drinking, I did walk around like there was a cloud over my head following me around everywhere.
And all that I saw just kept goin on and on
Last night, everything kept going on and on. The fun didn’t really stop for anyone else in any way.
Sweep all the pieces under the bed
Close all the curtains and cover my head
Maybe, I should just go back to bed?
And what you wish for won’t come true
I’m not going to be able to quit drinking, am I?
You aren’t surprised, though, are you?
No, not very….This was a foolish undertaking. How am I supposed to stop doing something that is so deeply embedded in my soul?
If this serenade is not what you want
It’s just how it is, it keeps goin on and on
Come out, come out where ever you are
Would you do it all over right from the start
Good question. If I had to do it all over, I don’t think I’d change a gd thing! I’ve had fun up until now.
And what you wish for won’t come true
You aren’t surprised, though, are you?
So what you wish for won’t come true
You aren’t surprised, though, are you?
Maybe what I wish for will come true. I survived my first sober night in Montreal and here I am exploring the city. It’s not all bad!
Once had this dream, crashed down in Oz
Not black and white, but where the colors are
Please hold for a Jerry Maguire singing in the car moment:
I never dreamed that I would let it (drinking) goooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!
And IIIIIII will get what I deseeeeeerve (a normal life)
Keep all the secrets under the bed
Open the curtains, forget what I said
And what you wished for could come true
You aren’t surprised, though, are you?
So what you wished for could come true
You aren’t surprised, though, aaaaaaaare you?

At the conclusion of the song, I was crying tears of joy like a crazy person. Also, I was able to see the future and I knew that would make it.

Q. Wow. So what was at the beginning of St. Catherine Street?
A. It was just a residential area. Some brownstones. Nothing of particular interest.

Q. Are you going to tell me that you started to see that it’s about the journey and not the destination?
A. No, but that’s a pretty good point.

Q. Ok, let’s wrap this up. You may have lost some of the readers at crazy tears of joy. Please tell me about something good that came out of your sobriety.
A. Everything I have and everything I am I owe to not drinking but specifically in April of 2004, I was able to cross one of the goals off my bucket list. I had always wanted to run the Boston Marathon but I never thought I could do it because binge drinking and smoking would make it impossible to train. Well, to be honest, I didn’t train much but I was able to jump in and “complete” all 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon. The race itself was something of a microcosm of my first year of quitting drinking. For one, on the morning of, my friend called me to see if I was still doing the race. I said ya and he said you’re crazy. You’ll never finish it. When I quit drinking, I thought everyone was thinking that I’ll never be able to do it. Perhaps there were people who might have voiced that they didn’t think I could do it but my biggest detractor in this was me. I heard a little voice that said you’ll never be able to do it. This little voice annoyed the piss out of me and I soldiered on just to prove that voice wrong. During the race, something on my body would start to give and I’d want to quit and I’d hear this voice, “You’ll never be able to do it.” For the first few miles, it was deceptively easy to tune out the voice. “You can’t do it.” Yes, I can. I think I can. I think I can. Mile 7. Which in my sobriety race was an all-inclusive trip to Mexico. “You’re going to an all-inclusive place in Mexico? Talk about setting yourself for failure.” I can do this. I can do this. Mile 9. “I didn’t think you’d get this far but you still won’t go the distance.” I just have to keep moving. Ignore that pain and that one. Mile 12. I see a tv crew. It’s Harvey Leonard and I ask to be interviewed for some reason. He asks how it’s going. I say I’m starting to think this isn’t the smartest idea I ever had but it comes out sounding like this with my Boston accent, “I’m stahtin ta think this wasn’t tha smahtest idea I ever had.” Mile 13. “You’ll never be able to do it.” Mile 15. Everything hurts. “Might as well quit. You’ll never be able to finish.” Keep your legs moving. Mile 16. Is that a green line stop? “Get on it. You’ll never finish…” Shut up stupid voice! Mile 17. I sit down for a minute and realize that I might not be able to start again. Why did I have to pick the hottest marathon to date? “Good enough reason to quit. It’s too hot to run in this. Plus you’re wearing a dark blue running shirt. You’re a dumb dumb even Harvey Leonard knows it.” I get moving and keep going. Mile 18. I arrive to a new town and I’m taking so long that each new town I get to seems to be in the process of cleaning up. It’s like arriving to one circus after another but I’ve already missed the show. Did I wait too long to quit drinking? Mile 19. Everybody hurts…. some days. Everything on my body hurts… all day…. “Quit!” Stop making fun of me!!!

Q. Water Boy?
A. Yes, basically. Mile 20. Ok, power walk time. Mile 21. Ok, walk-walk time. “You can see the green line pretty clearly now. Just quit.” Mile 22. Run into my friend Angie. She’s in the same boat as me but doesn’t look as broken as I feel. Mile 23. I’m officially talking to myself and starting to lose my mind: This is some f’d up repugnant sh*t. I will never forgive yo ass for this. Next, I think I see the Citgo sign but it looks so…….farrrrr away… doesn’t anybody stay in one place any more, I can do do do do, that look in your eye. So far awayyyyyyyy. Oh I’m f’d up. “I told you. You’d never be able to finish. You should have just quit.” To the tune of Frere Jacques:  I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you. Do me vou. Do me vou. Shemela matina shemela matina, dong ding dong. “I don’t think that’s how it goes.” Oh what do you know about it! Mile 24. Someone me and Angie had been running with earlier, decides to quit. I don’t say anything but inside I’m thinking, “You f’ing loser! Who quits on mile 24 of 26?” which looking back makes me feel bad since I shouldn’t judge other peoples journeys.  But this gives me new strength to try and jog again. Then I get about 10 feet and the searing pain up my body compels me to go to back to a walk. Eventually I get to the home stretch and I do get a second wind to jog. I could easily cry tears of joy that I finished but I was too dehydrated for tears. Later, I would faint a little bit from dehydration but the voice finally shut the fuck up. I had finally earned its respect. I could complete a marathon and I could quit drinking and no one including myself could doubt me. Victory was mine.

Q. Congrats. I wanted to ask you one more thing. Earlier when you were talking about the song, you made an allusion to the fact that if you were able to go back, you would do everything the same. That sounds a little strange given how hard it was for you to quit.
A. Agreed, I know this sounds crazy but for me, everything had to happen the way it did. When I hit my crossroads, it feels like it was the exact right time. If I hit it earlier, I might not have been ready to commit to quitting like I did. If I hit it later, there might have been too much damage done.

Q. I see but if you could go back and tell yourself to cool it with the drinking then maybe you won’t have to quit altogether, you don’t think it would help?
A. No, I honestly don’t. I’ve had people tell me to be careful. To not be like them but I believe there are some lessons that you have to learn for yourself. For example, you can say to someone, “Listen, I’ve gone down the same path you’re going down and I can tell you with 100% certainty that if you continue as you are, you will eventually fall down the stairs.” Then that person will think, “No, that will not happen to me. It may have happened to you and to other people but it’s not going to happen to me. With me, it will be different.” Then you say, “Ok, well good luck.” Then if you have some time and listen, you can eventually hear a bump ba dump, ba dump, dumpdadumpdumpdump. Uhhhhh…..” Then you yell down, “Hey, are you alright!?” “I’m not sure…. I think so…” But for me, it took all of my experiences and the threat of losing it all to realize what I had to do and I finally did it and never looked back, figuratively.  Literally, when I do look back and think of the old days, it’s hard not to do it to the soundtrack of the 10,000 Maniacs, “These are Days.”  Feel free to have a listen here.

Q. That’s awesome. No more questions, your honor.
A. What?

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