Tag Archives: New Year’s

“Why is Nothing Working? It Must Be Me!”

Have you ever heard this saying around the rooms of AA, “Alone is a dangerous place”?  I got another lesson last night in how true this is.

As someone coming up on 28 years sober, I’m usually in pretty good place.  Those demons of shame, not-enoughness, loneliness, self-pity, envy, awkwardness, self-loathing, and many others that fueled my drinking and nearly killed me — they still live in my head, but their megaphone batteries are weak, and I’ve made friends with most.  When they show up, I try to A) view them as familiar characters and B) invite them to tea, as Buddha invites the demon Mara in the brilliant Buddhist story. In other words, I acknowledge I’ll never be rid of them, but each is a voice from my psyche trying to help me, though their methods are flawed.  The difference between befriending and believing these voices — that’s the key to emotional sobriety. 

Shitty Committee

But last night, no such serenity! I tripped over all their wires, bought all their Brooklyn Bridges, and was, in effect, sucker punched.

What happened? Over Christmas, Alex, who normally makes coffee and sets up the meeting space for my AA homegroup, Salmon Bay, was visiting family on the east coast. I volunteered to cover for him, in addition to my normal “cake person” duties. Maybe 8 years ago I’d been coffee maker here, and in 28 years I’ve made a lotta coffee for a lotta groups, so I was sure I’d be fine.  Alex handed me his key to the church.

coffee brewer

    But WAYYY older

Last night, I got there 45 minutes early, had little trouble unlocking, grabbed the big storage tub from the closet, and fretted a bit about how much coffee to put in. As an avid tea drinker, I had to Google the matter, but everything was “per cup” with nothing about 2.2 liter airpots, and I felt somehow too flustered to do the math.  So… I dumped what looked like a good amount into the filter, placed it in the brewing basket with the airpot below, and hit BREW LEFT.

Nothing happened. 

A light was flashing at the top of the machine: READY TO BREW.  Under that was an ON/OFF switch. I pushed both of these and BREW LEFT for short and long periods. Maybe I should try BREW RIGHT.  I moved everything over and repeated the process. Nothing.  I searched the kitchen walls for instructions, checked the power, whether it was connected to water.  The tea spigot water was warm, but not hot.

Meanwhile, time was ticking away: no coffee, no room set up, just an increasingly freaked out alcoholic.

I called Alex in Virginia where it was past 10:00 PM.  He didn’t answer.  I sent an email to the entire homegroup with the subject line, HELP!  Then I put a large tea kettle on to boil, said f*ck this, and went out to set up the meeting space.  

Something was wrong here, too. We normally have several big round tables off to the left and a U-shape of rectangular plastic tables in front of the secretary/chair table. But the room was filled with 7 round tables, two of them plastic. Why couldn’t I remember those plastic ones?  Where did they go? 

stove burnerI was dragging the wood ones to the left when I smelled smoke. I ran to the kitchen where a dirty burner or drip pan was billowing clouds of smoke that filled the kitchen. I turned on the fan and propped open the church door, but it was bad. While I was in there, just for fun I spent another minute pushing all the goddam buttons on that bratty piece of shit coffee machine.  Nothing.

At this point, I reached a FML peak of frustration. In my 10 years at Salmon Bay, except at the pandemic’s height, there had always been coffee, decaf, and tea at this meeting. Always. Now, for the first time ever, there’d be none. That and the round tables looked all wrong, too crowded.  I hadn’t even begun to set up the U-shape.

WHY couldn’t I DO this???  WHAT the goddam hell was WRONG with me?!  What a ridiculous embarrassment, to be such an incompetent idiot!  What would everyone think, especially that person who always seems to not like me?  


I heard the door.  Phil, our outgoing secretary, came in. He’s still recovering from a near-fatal episode of a kink in his intestines, so quite fragile, but I don’t think I said hi or asked how he was feeling, never mind remembering he had 10 years sober this month. “I can’t figure out the f*cking coffee maker!” — that was my hello. “What’s with the smoke?” was his answer.

Phil went in the kitchen. He said a bunch of things, pushed a bunch of buttons, and then delivered this Earth-shattering pronouncement: “It’s broken.”

I showed Phil the round plastic tables. “They don’t belong here,” he said. “We can fold them up and put them aside.”

The smoke had mostly cleared out by the time people started to show up. Many tried the coffee machine and shrugged.  Someone poured the smoke-producing but boiling kettle water into an airpot, I set out the tea things, and we alcoholics had ourselves a wonderful meeting — complete with birthday cake.

When I got called on, I told the tale above. “I was going crazy until Phil got here, and then all of a sudden, nothing was a big deal anymore. To me, this just shows how much we need each other.  Alone, I can catastrophize anything.  It just takes one person facing the same predicament to make it okay.”


                The demon Mara

Maybe when Alex gets back, he can show me how to slap up that bitch machine to make it work.  Til then, I’m happy with the magic of AA, shared community, and friendships. I’m even grateful for those 30 tormented minutes, because they reminded me how my whole effing life used to feel before the steps showed me what was broken, what useless buttons I kept pushing in life. Those demons and I, not only did we have tea, but we were joined by every tea-sipping member of my homegroup.  

Happy New Year, Alcoholics!  



PS: It WAS broken!! We could tell because the following week it was A) spotless B) devoid of the filters normally on top.

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Filed under AA fellowship, Alcoholism, character defects, Meetings, Recovery

New Year’s FOMO and other Alcoholic Horsecrap

What is FOMO?  Fear  Of  Missing  Out.

It’s that sinking feeling that someplace you’re not, lots of amazingly cool people are having an absolutely stupendous time. Maybe there’s kickass music and people are lookin’ sharp n’sexy and having a fuckin’ blast and – oh my GAWD!!! Can you believe what those two did?! That is so hilariously outrageous!  It’s not just goin’ aParty-Dancing-Vectorll over Facebook –it’s like a “fun times” montage out of a Hollywood flick!  If you could be there mixin’ it up you’d feel – oh my god – so damn good! You’d be dialed into life, you’d be carpé-ing the fuckin’ diem all night long!   But you’re missing it!

As Katie Perry sings:

Last Friday night

Yeah we danced on tabletops
And we took too many shots
Think we kissed but I forgot

Yeah we maxed our credit cards
And got kicked out of the bar
So we hit the boulevard

We went streaking in the park
Skinny dipping in the dark
Then had a ménage a trois

Yeah I think we broke the law
Always say we’re gonna stop-op

Here’s what the song leaves out: live those lyrics and you end up with a busted ankle from falling off the damn tabletop, years of credit card debt, and maybe even salmonella because you skinny dipped in a fucking duck pond.  You’re lucky if you don’t end up in jail with charges on your record or an STD from the ménage a trois with morons.  Of course, it goes without saying that you’ve poisoned yourself again ‘til you’re heaving up bile.

Lets-partyNo, Katie doesn’t really mention that part. Neither does your FOMO.  It airbrushes away all those pesky consequences and lures us with the promise of a bright and shiny “great time.”

It’s Also Called Immaturity
For normies, FOMO spikes in youth when they’re highly peer-oriented, but as they mature into adulthood, FOMO diminishes to a rare blip on the screen. The trouble for alcoholics is, once again, our perspective is skewed.

Our disease carries many tricks in its bag.  Though normies don’t understand, we  often speak of it as having a mind of its own, exploiting whatever ploys avail themselves to keep us using or, in recovery, to trigger relapse.  A lot of alcoholics crave adventure – a sense of living on the edge.  So addiction broadcasts FOMO to persuade us that swallowing a neurotoxin is really the key to livin’ large.

Much like the craving for alcohol, alcoholic FOMO can never be satiated.

For example, New Year’s Eve of 1982, after snorting coke in the car and paying some absurdly high cover charge, my future (ex) husband and I sauntered into a hip and glitzy Boston nightclub. We scored a table near the dance floor, ordered champagne, and lit up our smokes. We danced. But at as the countdown for midnight approached I was struck by the realization I still recall so clearly: We were at the wrong club! The one down the street was way cooler! No one here was even worth impressing because they, too, had fallen for the wrong club!  If only I’d known! If only we’d gone there! I was missing out!!

This pattern would repeat itself for over a decade. I never did find the right club or party or even picnic, because if I was there, a better one had to be someplace else.

Recovery = Reality
FOMO is really just another guise of codependence. It’s not actually a yearning for fun; it’s a belief that we can gain something that will deliver a shot of wellbeing by being seen in the right places doing the right things. At some level, we believe others hold the power to validate us, though we’re actually validating ourselves through projections of those people’s imagined esteem. The esteem has to seem to come from them to be any good – we can’t feel it simply by knowing and valuing ourselves.

More and more I’m convinced most alcoholics are also codependent. The source of pain for all codependents is an external locus of self-worth – often because we grew up in dysfunctional families where we did not get what we needed to develop a strong sense that we are loveable and worthy. We keep chasing and chasing it in others and never getting any closer.

While non-alcoholic (classic) codependents try to subdue their pain by concerning themselves with what others should do and ‘winning’ love by caretaking, alcoholic codependents subdue it not only with alcohol, but with attempts or impress and winCodependent over others, often becoming social chameleons and regarding friends as something like collectible baseball cards.  Active alcoholics can’t really love our friends. We can only seek relief via people – and “love” that relief.

When we get sober, we begin to seek a higher power that can grant us the worth we’ve so desperately sought in all the wrong places. With guidance from sponsors and a growing sense of Good Orderly Direction, we can begin to live a life of integrity that lets us discover our worth as loving and lovable human beings.

But FOMO still nags at us to forget all that. It can wheedle into our minds at any time, but New Year’s Eve is its favorite holiday – especially for the newly sober.

The Big Book’s authors knew all about FOMO.  While they do instruct us “not to avoid a place where there is drinking if we have a legitimate reason for being there” (p. 101), they also caution against attempting to “steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places.”  They warn us to “be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good.”  Not just good – thoroughly good.  In other words, don’t bullshit yourself.

In my almost 21 years sober, I’ve never found a thoroughly good reason to go hang with drinkers at a New Year’s Eve party.  I prefer to usher in the new year with a good night’s sleep and a cushy set of earplugs.  Sobriety fills my life to the brim, and I know it.


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* Katie Perry Lyrics – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdyfr4lU8sk
See also 6 Tips for Holiday Parties



Filed under Addiction, Alcoholism, Codependence, Codependency, living sober, Recovery, Sobriety

Holiday Parties: 6 Tips for the Recovering Alcoholic

…and why they may be utterly useless

‘Tis the season when a lot of us get invited to gatherings where the alcohol flows. If we go, we may find ourselves among normies for whom “drinking means conviviality, companionship and colorful imagination,” as well as some pre-bottom drunks.  Because they’re outside recovery, chances are they’ll be a world away from understanding that for us, to drink is to die.


drinks we see others taking with impunity…        

Normies view alcohol consumption from the perspective of a normal body and mind, which they assume (come on!) we must  have, too – the kind that can moderate alcohol intake at will. Believing this, they may interpret our abstaining, not as avoiding the poison that can bring down in ruins everything we love, but as a party-poopy failure to “join in the revelry.” Even if we say flat out (as I do), “I’m an alcoholic,” some can’t seem to grasp what that means.  They urge, cajole, and act baffled — or mourn for us.  “What?!  We’re talking a single glass of X, here!” (insert spiked punch, spiked eggnog, spiked cider, or plain old booze).

Standing by our own truth in the face of such reactions can be, for the more codependent among us, socially difficult.  What’s more, watching others take drinks with impunity amid all the sensory experiences of alcohol – hearing the ice clinks, seeing it pour, maybe even smelling it – Whoa! – can rouse our addict from its slumber, enabling it to launch a marketing campaign about the radness of just one drink.


…it’s never enough

Yet the Big Book tells us, “any scheme of combating alcoholism that attempts to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure…. So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there.”

Everything hinges on spiritual fitness, which I’ll discuss a little further down. Meanwhile, here are six tips that have helped me feel more comfortable at events where alcohol is served.

  1. Go in the spirit of usefulness, not to “get” social points or further your “little plans and designs.”  My sponsor used to tell me to see “what (I) could pack into the stream of life.” I show up to give. I can give others my attention, my humor, my encouragement, and my caring for them.  If it’s a homemade party, I can ask the hosts what I might do to help. What matters is not how these offerings are received, but the spiritual flow they put me in.
  1. Bring a supply of kick-ass non-alcoholic drinks if possible, that is, if it’s not a fancy catered type thing. As above, bring them not only for yourself, but others. “Hey, I just happened to pick up some Reed’s Ginger Beer, Martinelli’s, and this amazing Trader Joe’s whatever on my way over! Enjoy!”
  1. Have a recovery buddy. Either bring a sober alcoholic with you, or arrange to check in with one before and after.
  1. Pray your ass off. Pray before, pray during (in the bathroom or just your mind), and pray again when it’s time to leave. “God, please help me remember what’s truly important, who I am, and that you’re with me” might be a better prayer than “Help me not drink.”
  1. Know your boundaries before you go. Once we get somewhere, it may feel loserish to leave early, but screw that. Know in advance that as soon as people start slurring and discussing their favored sexual positions, or when a certain hour arrives, you’re gone.
  1. Have something cozy waiting at home. This can be reunion with your beloved pets/people or some treat you decide on in advance: a good movie or book, a slice of cheesecake, blankie & PJs, or all of the above – whatever makes you happy.

Now for the spiritual fitness part: None of these tips will be worth jack if you don’t love your sobriety.

As a newcomer, you may not think you love it, but at some level you do, because it’s your core, your truth, your life. You want to grow and thrive, and while your addiction promises you guzzling will accomplish this, you know better.

I love my sobriety fiercely – as fiercely as if it were my newborn child. It’s only as old as today. Some people might bring their newborn to a whoopee party. I do so when I bring my sobriety, cradling it close. Some might set their newborn down on a table and wander off in search of social adventures, forgetting about it. Others may decide partway through the party that toting this newborn around really inhibits their having a good time, so they’re just gonna chuck it in the garbage tonight and cut loose.

Any time a well-meaning acquaintance urges me to have a drink, they’re holding a garbage can under my newborn. They have no idea what deep fury they’re fucking with. My sobriety is the source of my joy, my awakeness, my love for all the beauties of this life – and no dumbass party can tempt me to drop it. I don’t need to vent this at them; I just need to remember my life is at stake.

Yet, dear readers, the inescapable fact remains that I can’t always remember.  Addiction lives inside my brain – the very same brain needing to remember. It can usurp the helm at any time and disguise a drink as a fine idea.  AA’s ‘spiritual fitness’ refers to my connection to a god that, for reasons unknown, intercedes during these curious mental blank spots to let me pause (provided my steps 1, 2, & 3 stand in earnest) until the truth returns.  To the extent that following these tips reflects my commitment to those steps, they may help me enjoy myself in the midst of boozers.

Yet the bottom line remains: Party or no party, tips or no tips, I’m safe anywhere if my god is with me, and nowhere if it’s not.


where it leads

21 year old girl, drunk, killed family of 4 as well as her two passengers.  Will she continue drinking, no matter how much she wants to stop?


Filed under Alcoholism, Recovery, Sobriety, Twelve Steps