All posts tagged: Booze

How The Walking Dead Kind of Saved My Life

It’s sort of a funny story now, the way it all went down, when I look back on it alive and sober. Because clearly I wasn’t going to be for much longer, and while that may sound melodramatic, I promise you, it wasn’t. By about September of 2011, my life had basically turned into a long string of drunken, unhappy, hazy days. I woke up, drank, wrote, slept, ate, drank, passed out, wrote some more, drank, drank, maybe saw a movie or went somewhere in between, drank, went to bed, and did it all over again the next day. Occasionally, I managed to show up for a freelance gig at an office for a week or two. With the exception of a morning “eye-opener” at home, I didn’t drink during my working hours, based solely on principle (and fear of getting caught). But the minute 5pm hit, I was dying for a drink, so I’d hit a bar ASAP before heading home to continue. Where was my husband through all this? He was there, dealing …

How I Cope When My Exes Are Everywhere

You know that feeling. Your heart starts to pump wildly and you can feel it booming at hi-fi levels in your ears. Like a corset, anxiety pulls your lungs together so tightly you can barely breathe. Your body goes into flight or fight mode and you either find yourself running for the hills or remaining frozen in your extreme discomfort. You’ve just caught site of an ex. And not just any ex, but one you loved hard and deep. The ending was bad. The parting had been brutal. And just a couple of weeks ago, I had this experience. My husband Andy and I were in the Dominican Republic, staying at an all-inclusive resort for a wedding. Shortly after we arrived, I sat in the breezy open lobby overlooking the ocean, waiting for Andy to return with beach towels — and it happened. I spied an ex on the other side of the room. My face felt hot, and it wasn’t due to the Caribbean sun. Instantly — and pretty much instinctively — I swung …

When I Got Clean, My Apartment Did Too

“Messy Bed, Messy Head” I’ve heard this saying forever. And I get it — if your bed’s not made or your home is untidy (and you keep putting off cleaning), there’s a chance your clutter may be a reflection of something troubling going on inside of you. I never gave this slogan much credence. Because while I’m no neat-freak, I’m also not a messy person. I like things to be organized and presentable, however if a pile of clothes are left on my bed after a rushed morning, or our living room is littered with glasses and plates because of a successful dinner party, I can wait until the next morning to clean it all up. And none of that, I thought, meant I was “troubled.” I still don’t think it does. However, since getting sober, this little phrase has taken on a whole new meaning. When I was active in my alcoholism, especially during that last year when I was more or less staying in my apartment and drinking all day, messy wasn’t even …

40 Going on 25: Planning My Part Two

  I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the world of work. I got my first “real life” gig right out of college as a publishing assistant, and every job since then has pretty much fallen into my lap. That’s not to say that I didn’t work hard to become qualified for those jobs, or that I’m not proud of all that I’ve learned and achieved along the way. It’s just that I never had to sit down and carefully plan out what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go or how I was going get there. One thing just seemed to organically lead to another, and after spending close to 15 years total at three jobs that I really, really loved, it seemed like the perfect time to embark on a freelance career. So I did. This was about four years ago. But then life threw me for a bit of a loop. I suppose that loop had actually been there for a while, curling up tighter and tighter inside of me, making …

Keep Climbing: How Bouldering is Similar to Recovery

Athletic, I am not. Drunk or sober, it makes no difference — “active” activities have never been an important part of my life. They’ve never been a part of my life period, with the exception of reformer Pilates, which I only recently started seriously practicing on a regular basis. I was into doing at-home yoga for a time, but that was back when I was often quite sauced, so my video-guided workouts consisted of a few cat/cow poses, maybe a couple of downward dogs, followed by a straight-up vodka martini while I sat back on my mat and watched the rest of Rodney Yee’s masterful technique. It was just a couple of months ago that my husband convinced me to try indoor bouldering, courtesy of Groupon’s discounted class and weeklong membership to Brooklyn Boulders. And THEN I remembered that I not only liked it, but I had also made a metaphorical connection to recovery while our instructor was explaining the basics of the bouldering technique. And once I hit that climbing wall myself, I realized just how …

Do Not Disturb (My Recovery)

It’s been six months since I last wrote a post for Bottles Down. I didn’t make a conscious plan to take a break. I didn’t stop because I feared I had revealed information too personal (that ship sailed back in 2011) or because I was bothered by the attention I received. In fact, I felt the exact opposite — the feedback I got was nothing short of astounding; never in my life had I felt such a consistent wash of concern, encouragement and hope as a result of something that I wrote. And even the criticisms were valuable — it’s important for me to be reminded that I can follow my heart and take risks, and that I won’t shatter if someone disagrees with me. Despite all of those positives, however, new ideas for this column would not come. Weeks passed, I had nothing. I attributed my dry well to severe writer’s block, something I’m STILL struggling with today (if I’m honest, even writing this post is painstaking). I’d never really understood the concept of …

When Booze Became More Important Than Bob Dylan

One could argue that Bob Dylan was not at his peak live performance level when I saw him in concert in 2005. Granted, this is coming from a one-time Deadhead who believed Jerry Garcia was a genius, even when he forgot lyrics and bumped his head against his microphone. But I was in no position to judge. While Dylan’s legendary, scratchy voice echoed from the stage, I was in the lobby of the Beacon Theater, practically begging the bartender to hurry up. Pour me my beers, man, and fast. It was just taking too long. My mother and cousin, who were both inside enjoying “Visions of Joanna” and now “Highway 61 Revisited,” were surely starting to wonder what was taking so much time. [pullquote]Music had become something that sounded so good when I was under the influence, like a triumphant anthem applauding my inebriation, but so dull when I was sober.[/pullquote] And what was taking so much time? The musty, slightly weed-scented lobby was practically empty since Dylan was on stage. Getting two beers, one …

I’m Still Learning How to Cry

Last week, my first nephew was born. I didn’t expect this, but when I saw my sister holding that beautiful boy for the first time, I started to sob. And I did so once again when I held him in my own arms. I hadn’t experienced tears like this in ages, and those salt-water runners felt like a magic elixir. And the little boy nestled in my arms? Pure beauty. Pure bliss. He was one day into this life and already I knew I’d love him deeply for the rest of mine. On the way home from the hospital, as I practically skipped down the street with an enormous grin, I started to think about the act of crying. I mean, there’s nothing like a good, cathartic cry, right? You know, those let-it-all-out sob-fests that leave you feeling oh-so-much better once you’ve purged yourself of pent-up emotions. I remember having such soothing feelings of calm after one of these, as I wiped away those purposeful tears, like I’d just cleaned a ton of icky gunk …

The Cues to Drink — And They’re Not Always What You Think

Every alcoholic is different, and every trigger — those things that make us crave a drink — is different for every alcoholic. If you take a big fat Ketel One martini filled with olives and stick it right under my nose, there’s a 99.9% chance that I’ll be triggered to drink. Or if you force me to smell a woodsy-yet-slightly fruity merlot, then yeah, I’m going to want to taste that. And as I’ve mentioned before, there are also those outdoor cafes that used to make me Frogger around the blocks of New York City. The mere view of those lovely people enjoying lovely drinks in the sun while discussing their lovely lives was enough to make me want to say to hell with this whole sober thing. But those are pretty obvious triggers, right? Then there are those other types of triggers — the sly and insidious ones that are so sneaky I sometimes don’t even know that I am experiencing them. Like this chair in my apartment — really, the most comfortable chair …

Walk On By: How I Spend My Summers Sober

Spring and early summer in New York City is one of my favorite times of the year. The sun is shining, it’s warm but not sweltering hot, you can just throw on flip flops and be on your way, and the streets are swarming with (mostly) happy, sunshine worshipers, walking their dogs, laying out in the park and filling outdoor cafes. But this outdoor magic can quickly become a danger for a recovering alcoholic. The people sitting at outdoor cafes, enjoying cool glasses of white wine or early evening martinis — take on a romantic, almost otherworldly glow if I choose to lay my eyes on them for too long. Suddenly what I see is much more than what is really there. I see solace. I see a refuge where all my problems will disappear. I see a place that will be a steadfast and unquestioning companion. Like that woman at that table with her Macbook and a beer. Surely I could do that? Work on my column (let’s pretend it’s not about alcoholism) and enjoy a …

You Loved Me Even When I Didn’t Love Myself: A Thank You Note to My Mom

Although I’m not a mother myself (however I am a proud new aunt!), I imagine that most moms welcome it when their kids cry on their shoulders, or come to them for some TLC when feeling flu-y, or call them when worried about a new job, or have been beaten by a broken heart. And of course there are the happy occasions, as well — the birthday parties, graduation parties, celebrations of first jobs, and a feeling (I imagine) of absolute pride when watching the now-adult child she raised to be polite, poised, successful and fun. But what I suspect a great many moms may not know about are the moments that seem similar to the ones above, but are a bit….off. A sob-filled phone call that doesn’t make very much sense, and comes from a voice that doesn’t 100% sound like that of your child’s. A plea for a visit to your daughter’s apartment to help her get over a sudden bought of the flu, which seems completely legit at first, but then doesn’t …

My Journals Knew I Was an Alcoholic Before I Did

For many years I wrote nightly in a journal, with a pen and a bound book of beautiful empty pages, which I filled fast and furiously before bed. Then one day, I stopped. As near as I can figure, this quitting occurred around the time Wifi came into my life and my apartment. Instead of bringing my journal into bed with me, I brought my laptop. And while I’m pretty sure I simply meant to shift my personal reflections to the digital writing device I was now using so often, clearly I was an analog-only journaler. It was in 2007 — ironically, the same year I started a Facebook account — that my 20-year journaling career came to a screeching halt. I realized this a few weeks ago, while organizing boxes in my stuffed-to-the-max storage unit. I found one filled with all of my old journals; writing that began in the 8th grade and went right through my 32nd birthday. There were more than 30 various notebooks in that box, of all different shapes, colors and sizes. …

6 Movies That Don’t Shy Away From Addiction

Unlike our fabulous Piers Marchant, a seasoned movie reviewer I am not. However, I have seen my fair share of films about alcoholism and drug abuse (three stints in rehab, where weekly “Movie Nights” consist solely of anti-addiction flicks, will leave you with a vast viewing history). And obviously, I now have an honest interest in the subject matter myself. The following rundown are films that I feel address the disease of addiction in a way that’s both entertaining and realistic. (Or at least do a hell of a good job trying, as far as Hollywood will allow). They are the antithesis of 28 Days, the Sandra-Bullock-goes-to-rehab vehicle that, despite some good performances, pretty much wraps everything up into a nice, neat bow by the time the credits roll. These movies don’t let the disease get off so easy. While there’s hope (and why shouldn’t there be? we have to have hope to stay sober), there is also no bullshit. We know that the protagonists’ problems will not magically disappear once the final reel has …

5 Helpful Tips For Hanging Out With This Alcoholic

Recently a friend of mine, who was a prominent figure during my drinking days (but not an alcoholic himself), asked me: “So, like, what are we gonna do when we go out now? Do we always have to go get coffee?” Um, no. But it’s actually a very fair question, as I’m sure it’s hard for my friends, who all know I’m now sober but who also know that my favorite pastime — for many, many years — was drinking. Happy hour? Check. Karaoke 2-for-1 night? I’m there. Super Bowl party? You’re goddamn right (even though I hate football). And so on and so forth. When I first got out of my third rehab in April 2012, I stayed on the down low for quite a while. Because at that point, I couldn’t be around alcohol at all. I literally did not trust my arms; I feared they might come to life on their own, grab the first open bottle they saw and slam it to my lips. Then I got to the point where …

How to Survive the Deep Freeze — Without Booze

I hate winter. Especially once January hits, and we’ve got four long months ahead and nothing but freezing forecasts and deceptive wind chills. I get blue. Really blue. Like a lot of us do: Seasonal Affective Disorder is in the DSM, after all, and while I may suffer from a touch of it, I think most of my melancholy comes from this disease called alcoholism. A disease that, I’m now learning, I’ve suffered from for a long time before it really dug its teeth into my soul and brought me to my knees. Now that I’ve accepted my illness (and its severity), winter has become a critical time for me to use the tools and coping skills I’ve learned to stay sober. Chief among them: knowing how to normalize those self-sabotaging and self-defeating thoughts that take residence in my head when I isolate myself (which is a typical winter practice for me, especially as a freelance writer). [pullquote]While I wouldn’t say I was any less of an alcoholic in the spring, summer or fall, there …

Rehab Antics: Saved by the Nude Pooper

It was a freezing-cold December and I was trapped in a rehab center in the middle of Wernersville, Pennsylvania. The facility was nice enough, but still, it was WINTER in where-the-hell is WERNERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA. I had already been to two 30-day inpatient programs and relapsed, so clearly there was something I wasn’t getting. But I was still horrified when faced with the fact that I had been recommended for “extended care.” Thirty days was one thing — 90 more on top of that seemed INSANE. In hindsight, it was the best decision I ever made. I needed that time to really understand how sick I was and how much work was involved if I truly wanted to stay sober. But I wasn’t happy about it at the time. None of us were — quite a few of the friends that I made in primary care were subjected to the same fate, and we were all terrified of what the next three months had in store for us. Would torture be a part of this new phase of …

What the Labyrinth Taught Me: Meditation is Possible, Even If You Hate It

When I first learned that prayer and meditation were paramount to getting sober (via a traditional 12-step program), I knew I was doomed. That alone was enough to make me flee from AA meetings eight years ago. (Though I’ve since returned, it took a while.) I grew up in New York City. I’ve always felt comfortable in chaos. Silence scares me (or it used to, at least), so I was none too eager to sit in that silence, for who knows how long, in an effort to find my “inner peace.” Honestly, I was afraid I’d find out what I was pretty much already certain of — that it didn’t exist. As a kid, religion was not a part of my life. Neither of my parents practiced or taught me any particular beliefs. Though I’ve always felt that there is something bigger than us making the world go round, I didn’t think there was any need for me to tap into whatever that something was. Quite frankly, I believed it was none of my business. …

Masking It: The Night I Started Hiding Alcohol

After a six-month, self-imposed period of abstinence from alcohol, drinking crept back into my life — while I was in costume. It was Halloween night, 2009. I was dressed up as a hippie, with a long, blond, knotty-dread-ish wig (topped with a colorful tam) and a floor-length, swirly patterned dress. My husband (then fiancé) matched me as my mate in his own wig and Grateful Dead tee, and we brought along my old Cabbage Patch Kid to complete our peace-and-love family. After dousing ourselves in Patchouli oil (the scent of which stayed with us for days — don’t ever do this), we were ready to attend a party that one of our friends was throwing. But before heading out, I grabbed a vodka-filled water bottle and stashed it in my hippie sack. (I know, I know, how very Lohan of me. Trust me, she didn’t invent this trick.) What can I say? I was in a party mood — perhaps inspired by my peace-drugs-and-love costume. I really wanted to have a few drinks that night, …

How I Broke Up (and Eventually Got Back Together) with AA

I’ve always had enormous respect for Alcoholics Anonymous. Just the idea that, nearly 80 years ago, two guys, both desperate to stay sober, found a way to help each other, then help others, then write a book and start a life-saving movement — one that now has more than two million members worldwide — is astounding. AA’s history is fascinating, and I will always be inspired by it, regardless of my own relationship status with the fellowship. Because it’s been a bumpy one. Since 2005, AA has been like that boyfriend you love, then leave, then run back to for all the wrong reasons, then leave again, for a long time. Until one day, years later (if you’re lucky), you reunite once more, but only after both partners have had the life experiences they needed to change, to grow, to sort out whatever stuff was getting in the way of a successful relationship in the first place. That, in a nutshell, sums up what my love life with Alcoholics Anonymous has been like. AA is …

Money Don’t Mean a Thing When it Comes to My Sobriety

It’s the horror of all horrors, and it’s happening to me: It looks we’re going to have to give up cable. And our cleaning lady. Even worse, I think I’m going to have to wait out the winter without getting my hair highlighted, which as a beauty writer is as shameful as not taking a shower. Because right now, I’m pretty effing broke. When I left the world of glossy mags almost three years ago, I wasn’t a fool — I knew I was giving up a pretty sweet paycheck, along with a host of cool perks. But I had just spent two weeks watching my dad die, and was so run down and emotionally spent, I really didn’t care. Suddenly, stressing over the factual accuracy of a lipstick price or a lotion ingredient seemed insane to me. And my dad was always the one who told me to do what you love (he was a writer, too), and to take serious chances when you need to. Otherwise, you might never get there. So I …

I’ve Become a Non-Alcoholic Craft Beverage Snob

When I drank (especially toward the end of my “drinking career”, as they often say in AA) the quality of the spirits was of little meaning to me. Sure, I loved fancy Manhattans and extra dry Ketel One martinis, but at the end of the day, a bottle of Old Grandad or a pint of Absolute did the job just fine. And to be frank, I was a vodka girl at heart  — all I really needed was a chilled glass, some ice, and olives. Eventually, I didn’t even need the ice. Or the olives. And eventually, I didn’t even need the glass. So when I’d go out to small gatherings, and my craft-beer-loving buddies would offer me their favorite brews, or my wine connoisseur hosts would kindly offer a glass of their top-tier red, I graciously accepted. But I honestly didn’t give a rat’s ass about the robust, hoppy flavors or woody notes. I just wanted to get drunk. [pullquote]So here’s the kicker. I think my sobriety has transformed me into one of those drink …

Why Intervention Was the Worst Show for This Alcoholic

For this former active alcoholic, Intervention (which ended its 13-season run in 2013) was the best show ever. Not because I identified with or cared about any of the fellow addicts I saw on the screen. Rather, it served as a wonderfully effective way to justify my drinking. I could point to those live-action bottom-hitters and say “Look, ma! They’re WAY worse than I am!“ This trick worked well, especially on my husband, who didn’t understand the disease and fell victim to every manipulative trick a drunk can play on a loved one. Once he even noted that I wasn’t nearly as bad as these people were and that my sister was going overboard when she insisted that my problem was serious. A sly grin spread across the face of the scheming, sauced-up Susan inside me. I had him. Tighten my grip. Essentially, the reality show helped me legitimize my status as a “functioning alcoholic,” and when I purposely decided to become outwardly “dysfunctional” (my dad died, my intake doubled and I did little to …

Quitting Booze Made My Beauty Products Work Better

Clearly, by writing this column, you can see that I’m open about being in recovery. In fact, let me properly introduce myself to you: “Hi, my name is Susan and I’m an alcoholic.” Nice to meet you. For the past 21-plus months, after many failed attempts to get sober (including three stints in rehab — luckily I’m still below the Lohan count, I believe), I feel like I’m finally on my way. I feel like I’m finally starting to understand what this sneaky beast of a disease can do, and has done to me (and my family), and what I need to do, each and every day, to keep it in check. To put it in the simplest of terms, I finally realized I had to stop drinking or I would die. And right now, sobriety is starting to suit me. It’s a constant emotional rollercoaster — between AA meetings and group therapy and one-on-one therapy and time spent with my sponsor — sometimes I just feel like a raw walking wound, stripped of my …