Whistler’s Wingman – Guest Post

Please join me in congratulating Whistler on his four years sober. When he hit his first anniversary in September 2013, he wrote a guest post and has done a follow-up every year since. You can read them all HERE.

In this post, Whistler mentions the importance of having a wingman or two (or ten) and I am proud to call him one. I guess we can do just about anything on our own, but sober life gets infinitely better once we share it with others.


 

Well. What do you want to hear about?

I’m pretty sure you don’t want to know about the time before, the drinking years debacle, all that… you’ve probably got your own story. What about right after stopping? You probably know that one too, but let’s say the biggest surprise was the huge amount of time to fill with something other than boozing. I mean really, do the actual math, it’s crazy.

Remember the first six months sober, the first year? Day by day is right. Triggers around every corner…like walking through an airport and seeing a familiar bar full of people, drinking and talking, and feeling that pull. But it gets easier once we learn how to take care of the time and triggers enough to begin to cope and tolerate. Then it becomes less about us and a little more about, well, others.

That was another surprise, learning I wasn’t the only person on the planet that life was happening to. I mean, I knew that and always said I quit drinking because of my son. I thought he needed to see me quit so he would quit drugs. And that was as far as I could imagine what stopping was about. After a while I had to look at drinking right in the eyes and say I quit because I want to live a real life. The funny thing is the more I admitted I wanted to live a real life, the more of me faded away. Just like the romance of alcohol (oh and remember the insane rush to drink every day, like clockwork), those mirage memories, this fades away too. I’m learning to wait a little more patiently at the end of line.

And hey, you know this, but just because one doesn’t drink anymore doesn’t mean our new enlightened life is a bed of roses, right? Fact is there’s lots of leftover junk to deal with and then more junk knocking on the door every time the sun comes up. Difference is we are now in a position to do something with it that makes better sense for us and everyone in our wake.

Oh, last thing learned. If you can get a wingman or two, someone in the fight like you, I highly recommend that. I’m telling you, they make a huge difference. When you’re pulling the sober plow shoulder to shoulder with someone who knows the score, it spreads out the load, such an incredible help. And the sober blogs. Thank ya’ll, you have no idea how you helped keep me in the game. So, sobriety. It’s a trip. It works. And life is a gift. I am very grateful.

 

 

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Whistler’s Senior Paper

I love hearing that sober people are still sober. Does that make sense? I mean when I read or hear celebrities and everyday people say something that lets me know they’re still sober. They’re background affirmations, proof that sober life works for those who, well, work it.

You may recognize Whistler from guest posts here or from comments on other sober blogs. He’s a rare breed who never set foot in a recovery meeting and never waivered in his commitment to stay sober and get the most out of his new life. He celebrates three years sober this month and wrote the following to share…please join me in congratulating Whistler on his three years.


I was given this assignment over a week ago. My teacher is very strict by the way, and I am feeling the pressure. I would advise anyone who wants to recall early sobriety details to keep some sort of diary or you can just take a chance, be like me, and remember next to nothing. I have always hoped for a brain like Hans Delbrück but I am very much closer to Holden Caulfield. So I will write this crumby paper but it won’t be like old Hans could have served up.

First off I should let you know that some things change after three years, some things don’t. Your body continues to change. It’s basically an uncontrollable Christmas present like the first two years so things like vision and skin continue to improve and you are able to do a little basic math in your head again.

But be warned some of the weight you lost in year one and kept mostly off in the second year may return (don’t worry the fat has morphed into something different than the booze fat and you just know it’s the kind of fat you could lose in minutes if you really wanted to). The thing that does not change – the thing that remains the gold standard of not changing – is that everybody on the roadway except you still cannot drive worth spit.

My assignment is supposed to be about what this third year of not drinking has been like. Maybe I can compare the last three years to high school.

Freshman year is just a complete swirl of confusion and second guessing about self and life in general. But it’s OK, everyone is still in braces at that point so we just keep our head down, do our homework, and don’t hang out with upper classmen.

Sophomore year. What can I tell you. Totally forgettable. But… one of the most informative years and you do some of your best work in year two. You learn lots about yourself and begin to get an idea of where you’d like to go when you graduate. You show signs of maturing.

And then comes the Junior year. My favorite.

The most serious year so far, you know enough to understand what it takes and you apply what you’ve learned. You become comfortable with yourself enough to begin to want to be a part of things. Rip Van Winkle stretching himself awake. A terrific year really. It serves as the foundation for what’s to come.

And what’s still to come is that Senior year, when catching Senioritis and thinking you’ve become bullet proof can get you kicked out of school. Got to be careful, there will be moments. I will need to plan ahead, avoid traps. I am not going to worry it to death but I’m not going to take it for granted either. Other than that if it is anything like the last three years, it promises to be a slow steady gift box of surprises and revelations.

I guess everyone says this. I did not expect it to be like this. I just knew I had to stop. I had no idea what I was missing. No idea.

What goes around, comes around – a guest post by Whistler

Whistler doesn’t keep a blog of his own. I wish he did, but he doesn’t and so I’m grateful for his comments, which started popping up around December of 2012 like little word balloons of kindness and encouragement we get to carry around for the day. 

You may remember his one-year sober post he wrote here, which came together after a gentle nudge from Christy, and I should probably give the Universe credit too. Thank you for bringing another meaningful connection not only to me but to those who are reading. 

Yesterday I had my last post on trees freshly pressed, for which I am embarrassingly thrilled (thank you, Krista!). When I told Whistler and said I was still planning to run his piece today, he insisted I post something I wrote; that any new followers would expect that. But I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason and it’s a great piece and who knows who was meant to read it today. Besides, you are reading my blabber right now. 

Please join me in congratulating Whistler on 1.5 years sober. While he doesn’t track the exact date, today is the first day of spring and seemed a fitting time to post about new beginnings and full circles and the little (big) miracles that come with sobriety. 

US Dry Counties Map
US Dry Counties Map
Blue – Wet Counties
Yellow – Semi-Dry Counties
Red – Dry Counties
Grey – no data

 

When the choice came down to working full time or going to college and working part time, I naturally chose the latter. I figured delay the inevitable as long as possible, right? That was a long time ago, way back in the 70s, and the location of my institute of higher learning was in a still totally dry county.

As in wet vs. dry. There was no alcohol for sale. You had to buy your hooch out of county and bring it back over the line. No driving down to the corner store to buy a six pack. You had to plan and work for your booze.

This inconvenience did not sit well with college-age voters, so we did it the American way and got enough signatures on a petition to make the ballot and then voted parts of the county wet. And so it stayed for lo these years, some of the county wet, some dry. Through no fault of my own I have lived in one of the remaining dry precincts of the county for most of those years.

But progress being what it is, last November my fellow precinctians voted us wet. That means beer and wine can be bought and sold at the corner gas station, and liquor stores can move in and sell the hard stuff. And sure enough, wouldn’t you know a couple of years ago a doctor in town and his brother built a bunch of those larger twelve pump convenience stores around the county, and one of them is only a couple of miles from my hacienda.

As it turns out the dry thing was turning into a huge impedance to local progress. In the dry parts, folks could not order a glass of wine with their sit down franchise meal, so no one would build places to eat in our small precinct. No restaurants equals no city or county tax revenue, which means not only would we starve to death, but we’d die broke and without amenities.

Anyhow, the Doc and his brother have been very anxious to get their gross sales up where they ought to be, and we all know beer and wine will do that because when you buy the twelve pack you also buy fuel, cigarettes, and play the lotto. Apparently alcohol is the backbone of any successful venture.

We can insert moral number one here (there are two). I was part of the original wet move in the 70s and it finally came home to roost. What goes around, comes around. Alcohol sales and all the joy that come with it – noise, trash, traffic, and all the other big and small hassles – are now just a few short minutes down the road.

This is a good time to let you know that when we did go wet back in those heady college days, I took full advantage of local beer and booze availability. As time marched on, I eschewed convenience and opted for anonymity. I went well out of my way to buy my adult beverages in the least frequented spots I could find. I was mortified of being seen buying the stuff, at least in the quantities I was hauling around.

There at the end, the last five or more years, I knocked back close to three 30-packs a week. Looking back, I’m a little surprised I did not get customer of the year at a few of my go-to beer buying spots. Ironically, I even traveled out of the county sometimes to buy beer just so I wouldn’t see anyone I knew.

About a year and a half ago I quit it. All of it. Had to really. My life was falling apart on every front. Hell in a hand basket. One of the reasons I quit was my 21 year-old son. I felt if I stopped drinking, he might stop doping. Made sense at the time.

Well, he came by last night for the first time in a long time and walked back to the garage to hunt me up. I have not seen him look and sound that strong and good in a long time. He’s working, loves his job, his boss, the people he works with. He has an apartment, he’s taking care of himself, all without drugs since September.

He is making his way. We both are. Not perfect by any means. We’ve got other problems, but we’re coming around.

And that brings us to moral number two. It’s a lot like moral number one but with a different ending. Maybe my good choices influence other’s good choices? You never know. What goes around comes around.

Whistler’s turn around the sun

I am thrilled, honored… even tickled to announce this guest post by a commenter you may know as Whistler. I’ve always been struck by the strength, hope, and humor in his words. For such a limited format, his comments felt powerful and left me wanting to hear more of his story. Alas, he has no blog of his own. 

Thanks to a gentle nudge from Christy (in where else but the comments…it’s like a fun after-party, minus all the drugs!), Whistler sent the post below, which shares a glimpse of his experience, strength and hope. 

I hope it brightens your day too and please join me in congratulating Whistler on his one year sober. 

Went to see the doctor the other day for my yearly physical. Please understand, this doc and I go way back. Also understand, up until a year ago I had been drinking for 30 something years. If I wasn’t a blue ribbon drunk, I’m certain I was at least a prize winning drunk.

And just so you know, alcohol doesn’t immediately evaporate when we drink it, which means my doc is accustomed to seeing my weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and all those other body parts and functions at unhealthy highs and/or levels. By the way, you know he never once asked me about my drinking? Not once. Of course I never brought it up either. Would you, ignorance being bliss? He’s a good experienced doctor so I know he must have known.

Of course when I think about it, I suppose most everyone must have at least suspected. It’s hard to camouflage a drunk, but drinkers tend to walk around like we’re wearing the cloak of invisibility. I went the recluse route, but even little kids and dogs know something’s off kilter when they see it. Denial is strong stuff and a drunk in denial is particularity obstinate.

Anyhow, I have to do a yearly physical with this doc or he won’t continue to order my prescriptions (blood pressure and cholesterol, go figure). Plus every few years (next month) I have to have a flight physical from a different but specially qualified doctor. Yes, I used the word flight but please relax, I am not a commercial pilot and I never drank when flying or flew drunk but… how do you separate daily drinking from daily living? I mean, can one completely separate the influence and consequence of alcohol from that which is a practicing and over-indulging daily drinker?

There’s more to drinking than just being drunk and then hung over. Some of you fellow former drinkers know what I mean. The foggy overall mindset of a drinker combined with the mental race to the next beer can oblige some mighty stupid tricks.

But back to passing flight physicals. It is not that tough if you schedule it on an early Monday morning with your last beer the previous Saturday night, drinking gallons of water, and concentrating like crazy. And it takes great concentration. Like the time I got pulled over by the Highway Patrol and they gave me the eye test finger following thing because I smelled like a brewery. But of course the best way for a consistently heavy drinker to pass a flight physical is to know the Flight Physical Doctor (this doc died last year so don’t go looking for him) for dozens of years and he’s a buddy of your retired commercial pilot step dad who doesn’t drink at all. Remember when it comes to objectives like that, it’s not what you know, it’s definitely who.

So, my doc was happily surprised this year when he saw my lighter weight, my exceptionally normal blood pressure, and my green with envy cholesterol levels. I suspect he thinks these results were an outcome of his good doctoring and suggestions but in truth, it was the simple product of sobriety. No joke, without booze I feel better, look better, think better, live better. Now I almost look like I know what I’m doing some days. My doc probably thinks better late than never.

Oh, and that horizontal gaze nystagmus sobriety test conducted on the roadside by the Highway Patrol? He had me dead to rights but he let me slide. Gave me a warning for failed license plate lights. That was the last time I drove drunk. It was one of the last times I drank. It was one of the reasons I stopped drinking. I framed the warning; it’s on my workshop desk. He will probably never know what a true good he did for me. God, please bless Officer Brooks.

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