Helicopters

According to my calendar, I have been alcohol free for 365 days.  I don’t feel like it has been a full year, since I quit in late April last year, and it is now only early April—so my new one year mark is April 30th.  I want to be 100 percent certain I have been alcohol free for a year before I solidify the occasion on my blog.  It feels good to be so damn close.

I went to a fundraiser this past weekend.  It was an event hosted by the company I used to work for—actually, it was an event I used to plan each year on behalf of the company.  It is an annual concert to raise money for individuals and families impacted by HIV/AIDS.  Last year during the event I got drunk.  We had a local winery donate about 40 bottles of wine—and since a big part of organizing/hosting the event entailed meeting and greeting—the wine enhanced, or so I thought it did, my socializing capabilities.  Most people I know think of me as an extrovert.  I’m always smiling, laughing, engaging people in conversation, etc.  However, I personally think I’m more of an introvert—and a true extroverted personality sort of gets on my nerves.  Me, I just know how to analyze social situations.  I know when silence is awkward, and how to fill awkward silences with what people in the room want to hear.  Heck, I know how to ensure that awkward silence doesn’t exist in a room I’m in.  A big part of my professional career has revolved around public speaking and community relations—even on my most hung over morning, I could entertain and inform a room full of people. I could knock out a presentation—then go to the restroom to splash cold water on my face, take a few deep breaths, put on a fake smile then re-enter the room like I was the happiest man on the planet.  Is this a skill?  No.  My smile was my disguise.  I know how to work the social system.

People who didn’t know me thought I was a great dude.  The people closest to me thought I was an emotionless, bitter man with a chip on his shoulder.

Last year, after drinking a bottle or two of wine—I went home and drank several shots of whiskey and a six pack of beer.  By 3:30am I stumbled to bed in a drunken stupor, flopped my big ass in bed next to Katie, farted, rolled over and passed out. A real class act, right?

This year, I was the designated driver to the event.  I picked up a few friends around 7pm; we went to the establishment where they hosted the event—and those I drove started ordering drinks right away.  I ordered a few sparkling waters for myself.

Speaking of myself—I felt comfortable being myself.  I didn’t have to fake a smile, or run around making sure everyone was happy and taken care of.  I just sat back, enjoyed the event—and had brief, but meaningful conversations with old friends, acquaintances and colleagues.  A few people that know me best said “it’s so nice to see a glow about you.”

My buddy who I drove to the event opened up to me after his sixth or seventh drink.  He put his hand on my shoulder and said “mannnn, you used to really focus on the negative aspects of things—and now, it seems that you’re really thinking things through and focusing on what needs to be done, not just the problems. I see the change in you.”  I understand part of what he was saying.  I appreciate his alcohol induced compliment—but only one part of what he said stuck out to me, which was: “I see the change in you.”

Once I quit drinking—I started focusing more on solutions rather than problems– good things as opposed to the negative—things I can control as opposed to the uncontrollable.  I feel more at ease.  I feel more in tune with my emotions and feelings.  I feel more confident and comfortable in my own skin…I don’t need to depend on alcohol for that comfort any longer.

I can, oddly enough, compare my alcoholism to an over-protective parents’ impact on a toddler.  I know—weird comparison, right?  But hear me out.

I used alcohol to hide from feelings I didn’t want to address—shield myself from problems that caused me anxiety.  The longer I used alcohol to deal with my issues for me, the less capable I became of coping with life.  The more dependent I became on a substance to solve my problems—the more severe my problems became.

A helicopter parent (term for parents who are way too over-protective) jumps in the middle of pretty much every challenge a child may face—from conflict resolution and every-day tasks like putting on clothes to socializing and structure.  The more the parent intervenes, the less the child understands how to cope with every-day life.  So, once the kid goes to Kindergarten and mommy/daddy don’t: clean up after them, wipe their bums, protect them from the playground thug and/or how to conduct himself (in this example I picture a boy) in a classroom…you have yourself a messy kid with shit all over his undies, crying on the playground and acting a fool in class.

Last year, I was the kid standing on the playground with crap stains in his pants.  My playground was life, and booze was my helicopter parent.

I suppose my helicopter parent comparison derives from me being a father, and seeing a lot of Lila’s classmates so confused and unprepared going into Kindergarten.  Like “mom, you’re not going to sit next to me all day in class?”  So sad for the child.

My situation differs because the poor kid doesn’t know better—but it’s similar in the sense that we both had to adapt when our crutch was removed.

In the end, if you are an alcoholic—you have to admit that there’s deeper issues than just drinking.  Alcohol helps us hide from certain aspects of our life (work, family, etc), stress and some underlying sadness/denial that exists within our minds and hearts.  Giving up alcohol is just the first part of recovery—because when the withdrawal goes away, and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror…all that you were hiding from is staring right back at you.  Then, the most challenging aspect of recovery begins—putting those puzzle pieces together.

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