All posts for the month May, 2013

One foot

Published May 29, 2013 by Johanna

Kiki’s reaction is totally normal, as long as she doesn’t give in to a drink. I felt this way too, still do often. It’s part of the game. Do I hate AA? Of course I do! I’d love to be able to drink like anyone else and not make a mess every time it happens. But I’ve accepted that fact about myself. I’m an addict. I can’t stop even if I wanted to. The only safe way is the sober way.

One step after the next, I gotta hold on. Can’t turn my life around with only one wish. Many times I look back, wondering what would come my way if I kept drinking and using. Only misery. Only pain. Memories vanishing deep into a blur of violence and self loathing. There’s no viable solution to this but the one I found two years ago when I stepped foot into these rooms. Going to a meeting only helps if one’s ready to listen. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

I wasn’t ready at first – none of it made sense. The jargon, the steps, having a sponsor. I hated all of it. But every time I asked myself whether I’d be a happier man if I kept drinking, the response was always negative.

And it still is. I don’t care how much of a bad day I’m having, drinking will always make everything worse. I think Kiki doesn’t like the meetings I’m going to. Maybe they’re too structured. Maybe they impose too many rules. Maybe they’re too restrictive. Maybe they brainwash people into becoming zombies, who can’t feel anything but their addiction.

Can I replace my addiction with another addiction? Can I ever feel free from all this pain I used to feel? I yearn to belong to the world, be part of something bigger than just me. Kiki enjoys being weird. I don’t. There’s nothing enjoyable about being different.

Praying to my higher power, I wonder what I could say to Kiki to convince her the program works. Kicking and screaming are a logical part of her recovery process. Even I can’t claim I know all the secrets on how to successfully get sober. Two years are a mere drop in the pond. There’s so much more to learn. Preachers won’t achieve anything if behind the curtain their actions speak less loud than their words – a truth I’ve witnessed way too often. So many behave like saints, but truly they haven’t changed one bit. They remain liars, cheaters, afraid to face the truth and stare at their reflection in the mirror without wearing the hypocritical mask they so adore to display for the whole world to see. I could never stand hypocrisy. And recovery takes a lot of honesty, too much sometimes.

It’s hard to embrace the truth. And I realize Kiki is entitled to feeling pissed all the time. Fighting her recovery is like fighting the desire to grab the first drink. It’s a battle of every second. The mental peace doesn’t come right away. For certain people, it never even comes. Fear rules our lives. The fear to beat our addiction overcomes the fear of relapse. We self-destruct constantly. Success doesn’t mean much when all we know is failure. But we can win. We can be free at last. If we really want it, we can have it.

Do I want it? Yes I do. I never desired anything else so much. Even in my wildest dreams, I never pictured I could accomplish so much in so little time.

Kiki is only at the beginning of the journey. A couple of weeks sobriety will make people react this way. I felt mad at the entire world my first year. Many times I ached to burn the big book and walk back out. Picking up a drink seemed the best solution to all my problems. Until not picking up made the most sense of it all.

I’m right where I’m supposed to be. Never in my life did I believe in something like this, but it makes perfect sense. I let go of the obsessive control. My insanity isn’t the one to show me the way anymore. I can’t trust my flawed judgment, but I can rely on my instincts. The universe has a purpose for me. No need to call a higher power God, for I am an atheist. If I walk inside a church, I pray. Doesn’t mean I follow the bible like a blind dog. There’s too much I question for me to believe blindly.

But there are things I will always relate to. And AA offers such solutions. Kiki will understand these concepts soon enough. I have faith she’ll know when the right time has come.

No need to overstress and live under pressure. NYC is a pressure cooker already. Staying sober in this town isn’t hard given there’s so much more to do than drink. How can people get bored and rely solely on booze to stay entertained?

I never drank for the sole purpose of drinking. Alcohol gave me the luxury to shut down completely, forget my thoughts and let go of the control. When I drank, I didn’t try to control my addiction. My addiction sat behind the steering wheel and drove me home every time. There are too many memories I’d rather forget. Too much depression, and self-loathing. Questioning my existence since I was a child. Doubting God’s presence until becoming a believer again. Praying for forgiveness and not admitting my wrongs. Feeling righteously justified to do whatever it took to get things done my way. Selfishly seeking my purpose, and being inconsiderate to every one around me. Hating more than loving. Despising myself to the point of forgetting why I should be willfull in the first place. Not trying to understand the world because I knew everything there’s to know and no one would teach me anything worthwhile anymore. Letting go without letting go. Lying to myself. Living in constant denial. Repeatedly expecting a different result while not changing any of the patterns that drove me insane. Staying angry, breaking things, beating myself up, wanting to die.

Simply wanting to end the pain.

Will Kiki understand she has a choice? Because that’s all it’s about. The decision to stay sober is ours anytime of the day or night. Even when I think everything’s lost, I focus on the positive. Nothing’s worse than drinking when I have cravings. One day at a time, one foot after the other, until the road that takes us far away from our addiction seems like a long forgotten feeling. The feeling wakes up every once in a while, yet with time, it becomes weaker and weaker. Long forgotten memories of a dreadful time. One foot in the right direction, and everything will get back to normal.

To be continued…



Published May 20, 2013 by Johanna

It’s impossible for me to sleep. I toss and turn, unwilling to give myself a break. Cravings have become stronger since yesterday. Being overtired doesn’t help. I’ve been accumulating the hours, jumping in a cab at midnight, returning to the office at eight. My mind is restless. I want to shut it down with booze. Drugs. Anything that’ll make thoughts disappear.

Memories of the rape keep flashing back. Lack of memories mostly. That night I was blackout drunk. But I remember the overpowering smell of laundry detergent. Every time I walk by a laundromat, I cringe. Can’t stand that smell. I need a shower to remove all the shame and disgust I feel mostly about myself. Water can’t remove pain and humiliation. Like a stab in the heart, I have been murdered and somehow, I survived. I hate myself for drinking that night. I hate myself for being fooled so easily. The wound has been ripped open. Bleeding, burning, stinging. All I want to do is disappear.

I remember the days following the incident. I take pills to kill my thought process. One, two, three, I need an entire bottle at this point. And if I swallow an entire bottle, let’s pray I don’t wake up tomorrow. I’m a freak. A monster. An anomaly. I hate myself. This addiction is driving me nuts. Where’s God in all of this? If there’s really someone out there controlling the fate of the universe, why have I been cursed with this plague? I can’t fathom spending the rest of my life not touching a drop of alcohol. I can’t fathom spending the rest of my life with the memory of someone violating me at my weakest point.

There’s no positive outcome possible. I don’t believe in a higher power. In all our conversations, John keeps talking about how his higher power is always there for him, whispering sweet things in his ear. Who the heck is he hearing? Voices. My minion is schizophrenic. That’s the only answer that makes any sense.

We’re individuals running after an ideal we’ll never reach. I like my alcohol. It helps shut my brain down for a little while. Too many thoughts clutter my mind. I wake up in the middle of the night, eyes wide open, ideas running wild until I’m too exhausted to keep them still and logical.

So not to forget them, I put them down on paper, to keep a memory of the million meaningless ideas flooding my mind all at once. I need drugs! Make the voice shut up. Make me go to sleep. I can’t keep going like this.

Finally turning on the light on my bedside table, I get up and walk to the bathroom. It’s three in the morning, and I look as pale as a ghost. A drink of water will calm me down. Maybe a sip of NyQuil will put me at ease. Two sips even. Do I have NyQuil? Rummaging through my medicine cabinet, I realize I don’t have any. I finished the bottle last time I had a cold.

I always finish the bottle – even when I don’t have a cold. I’m an addict – what else can I say? I live to numb the pain out. My feelings are too strong. Too overpowering for the every day routine. Working at this sales job is not what I wanted. As a kid, I dreamed of becoming a movie director. Why on earth didn’t I pursue this instead? I thought I could be normal. Happens I’ll always be weird.

Argh! Anger is coursing through my veins and I ache to scream like a wild animal. What remains when I’ve lost everything? This disease is driving me closer to insanity. I want to shut my brain down. Nuke it forever. Destroy the intelligence and become a vegetable, so I can finally live at peace. God if you exist please help me! I hit my head with my fists. Pounding hard to remove the insanity out of my brain. If the solution was that easy, it would have worked by now. It’s insanity in itself to want to remove a disease I was born with just by repeatedly bashing my skull with my powerless fists.

I’m going to cry. Seriously I’m going to cry until I can’t take it anymore. And then I’ll slit my wrists in a hot bath. I’d rather take pills at this point. I just need to make the pain stop somehow. Disappear in silence. Slip away through the cracks of the wooden floor. Become a liquid version of myself and evaporate like water when the heat is on high. This journey led me only deeper down the abyss. I can never climb back up. My hands grab onto the walls of my prison, bleeding nail beds, skin ripped to the flesh, but I ignore the physical pain. I’d lose a limb in exchange for a little peace.

What have I become? I don’t believe in God. Can’t imagine a life where I’m shackled to the ground like a prisoner because of my addiction. No prayer will help me, unless I help myself. I feel sick. Mentally ill from a disease so powerful it prevents me from seeing clearly. My addiction is my blessing and my curse. I welcome it and reject it, love it and hate it. There’s no place on earth that will content me unless I surrender completely.

But can I surrender? Is it even possible to let go of the pain and give in to pleasure, just like normal people do? How can I be normal? I can’t be like everyone else. I just can’t. My life is a nightmare. John doesn’t know how I feel. He can’t be that smart. He never told me his story. I don’t know what he went through. Will he tell me someday? Will he lift the curtain and show me his dirty secrets?

Do I even want to know his dirty secrets? What if he’s worse than me? What if I realize this addiction got the best of me, and I will never be able to defeat it? Maybe tame it. Maybe just forget about it. Maybe just learn to live with it.

I feel desperate. At the end of my rope. What’s left for me in this world?

Yesterday, I confided in John. “Can I even cry?” I asked as we strolled down the park in search for a little quiet. He looked at me the same way he’s always looked at me – with very compassionate eyes. I didn’t see judgment. Just understanding.

“You’re only human, you know?” he answered.

I sighed. “What’s after all this crying?”


I shook my head. “I don’t believe it.”

He patted my shoulder. “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.”

I scowled. “What does that even mean?”

“You’re trying too hard. Just keep it simple.”

“This AA jargon is driving me nuts.”

He laughed. “You’re not the only one.”

“Do you ever doubt the program?”

“All the time. But that’s the fun thing about it too. The more you fight these ideas you learn at meetings, the more you realize you couldn’t be elsewhere. It’s all about finding a balance, that’s it.”

“Did you find that balance?”

He shrugged. “After a while, you do. Don’t be impatient.”

“I can’t help it!” I frowned. “This whole thing just doesn’t make much sense. I don’t believe in God!”

“You don’t have to believe in anything. Just work on your recovery. Would you be happier if you drank? Ask yourself that question. If you answer yes, then feel free to go back out. No one’s keeping you here. You don’t want it, leave it.”

His words hurt my feelings. It felt like he didn’t care anymore.

“I’m not here to tell you what to do,” he added. “If you don’t keep faith in yourself, no one will help you achieve that.”

Listening to him, I wanted to cry again. Nonsense. I was born a fighter. I couldn’t get a hold of this disease that was eating my brain. Was it really too hard to achieve?

I was pretty sure then I could accomplish anything if I only put my mind to it.

“Are you lost in your thoughts?” John asked. How long had he been staring at me?

“No, not really. I’m just confused. Lost. Yeah. I am lost. And fucked up in the brain.”

He laughed. “It will all make sense. Just be patient.”

“You telling me that makes me want to punch you in the face,” I snorted.

“Everyone feels that way every once in a while,” he said.

We joked around and his laid back attitude made me feel a bit better. Yet, deep inside I was still so unsure of what was going to happen with me. It was so easy to drink and forget, and now all my feelings bubbled to the surface, raw to the touch. Everything seemed too trivial to matter. I was beyond the self I was used to, hiding behind jokes about my minion when in reality I was scared to face the truth all along. Despite his age, John was wiser than me. Not so impulsive, or impatient.

“I’m a big loser,” I mumbled. “This addiction is going to get the best of me, I feel it.”

“If you keep thinking that way, you’ll never get anything done. Don’t think of not drinking ever again. I always tell myself I’ll drink once I’m old enough not to care anymore. Which might not happen after forty years of continued sobriety. One day at a time. Just look at it this way. Does that make sense?”

I nodded. “I guess.”

“You don’t seem very convinced.”

“Well there’s nothing very convincing about this whole charade, don’t tell me you believe in this!”

He sighed. “Fine don’t be convinced.”

Was he mad at me? Was it all I could manage? Pissing people off?

John walked away from me.

Yep, I think he was mad.

“Are you pissed at me?” I asked.

“You do whatever you want, Kiki, you’re a free individual. This addiction of yours will never go away if you keep resisting. But you have to find the balance. I can’t help you unless you help yourself. And no, I’m not pissed. I’ll never be pissed at you unless I find you drinking scotch out of your desk drawer again.”

I nodded. “Loud and clear.”

So at the end of the day, I was stuck with myself. I knew this whole program was just a joke.

Doesn’t mean I’m going to drink again. I should sleep. Sleepless nights never did me any good.

But how? I’m pretty sure the liquor store’s closed by now.

To be continued…

John is happy

Published May 7, 2013 by Johanna

Kiki seems to have found the faith to fight her addiction. I’m proud of her. The hardest part is done.

“I guess I can live without booze,” she keeps saying over and over, as we walk to Starbucks. The workday has been dreadful. And it’s only 3 pm.

I turned down a job offer yesterday. I thought now was the time to make sure Kiki’s okay. Just can’t be selfish. Yes, I’d have made more money and probably not sweat my ass off spending the entire day with lame sales pitches. But Kiki needs my help. And her health is more important than my financial security.

“Are you mad about not taking this job?” Kiki asks me while we wait for our coffees.

She definitely looked relieved when I told her I’d still be her minion for a while.

I shrug. “I’ll be okay. Another opportunity will present itself.”

She smiles. “I know. I just feel bad.”


“Because it’s my fault if you turned it down.”

“Don’t worry, okay?”

She smiles. “Okay. By the way, Carmen is trying to set me up with her dyslexic cousin,” she adds while tearing with her teeth the wrapping paper around her straw.

I laugh. “Like you need more shit hitting the fan,”

She laughs back. “Yeah. This dude isn’t even good looking.”

“Is it only about looks with you?”

“Nah. I guess I can hand a free pass on dyslexia.”

We get our coffees, and exit the always over-crowded Starbucks.

“Hey you wanna come to a pizza party on Friday night?” I ask.

Raised eyebrows, she stares at me, confused. “A pizza party?”

I nod. “Yeah. You can eat pizza, and you like pizza, right?”

“Is that another sober thing to do when people can’t drink?”

I laugh. “I think you answered your own question.”

She laughs. “Right. Yeah. Okay,” she says.

“Does it mean you’re gonna come?” I ask, amused by her use of affirmatives.

She nods. “I guess.” Sipping her coffee, she seems lost in her thoughts. “Just do me a favor?”

“Anything,” I answer.

“Please don’t invite Carmen and her dyslexic cousin?”

I laugh harder. “Okay. What about the free pass?”

She glares. I nod. “I’ll take mental note of it,” I say.

“Thank you. You’re a good friend,” she mumbles in between coffee sips.

I smile. I couldn’t be happier to be there for Kiki. She has found her balance, even if sober only for fifteen days. An accomplishment really given how often she was drinking. She’s still in a fragile spot, and that’s why I didn’t take this job. There’s so much out of my control, but if I can help just a little, I’ll be satisfied.

“Are you lost in your thoughts again?” Kiki asks me as we pass our office building security.

I smile. “How did you know?”

“I can tell. Need to improve your poker face skills, lad.”


She winks. “I started watching a lot of British shows lately,” she says. “Don’t be a wanker now!”

We both laugh. No one has ever called me “wanker” before.

To be continued…

First Meeting

Published May 5, 2013 by Johanna

So here we are, wherever here is. This church basement smells like an old locker. And look at all these people – young, so young, probably younger than me – gathered here, to talk exclusively about their addiction. But do I really belong here? John came with me after confessing he has been sober for two years. I couldn’t believe it at first. How did he hit such a hard bottom so quickly? I was supposed to go to out patient rehab but I rescheduled. John wanted to take me to a meeting first, so I’d have a better idea about the whole thing.

Honestly, I don’t think I have a drinking problem. These people did hard drugs. I never touched heroin. And smoking pot doesn’t count.

So why am I here? I pictured all alcoholics lived under a bench. I guess not. Some of them are functioning addicts it seems. Still, why am I here? I can stop drinking whenever I desire. I don’t have a problem.

This lady speaking in the front is talking about her life without drugs. I don’t do drugs – well except pot. And I’ve already decided smoking weed doesn’t count.

I’m not an addict. My legs keep fidgeting as I try to focus on what the woman is saying. But I can’t understand a thing she’s talking about. I’m pretty sure she’s speaking the same language as me though. The words just don’t make any sense.

Step? Higher power? What? Gibberish that’s all it is.

As I itch to get off my seat, John gently puts his hand on my shoulder. “Please stay,” he mouthes.

I stare at him, not sure if I should stay or go. “I don’t feel good, I need some air,” I whisper.

He smiles. “Do you want me to come along?” he whispers back.

I nod. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to leave without him, like it’s going to disappoint him.

He nods in response, and we step away from our chairs. Good thing he made us sit in the back, closer to the exit.

As soon as we leave the room behind, I start breathing again.

“I’m sorry,” I mumble.


He doesn’t sound mad. I shrug. “I dunno,” I say.

He moves closer and gives me a hug. “It’s okay, I’m not mad.”

He says that like he just read my thoughts. I can’t let go of him for a moment, like his hug is all I ever needed to feel whole again. And just like that, I start crying on his shoulder.

He pats my back as I weep into his jacket. “You’ll be okay,” he repeats over and over.

If only time could stop now, I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy again. Not even his words can pierce the shell of my own despair.

Why is this funk hitting me so hard? Since when did I let depression rule my life? Maybe this is what existence has turned out to be. A big pile of nonsense.

“Is there really a solution to this?” I ask in between sobs.

John looks at me – and I want to melt in his understanding eyes. How does he know so much about how awful I feel inside? He’s so young. Too young to have been broken like I’ve been broken. He shouldn’t know about pain. He needs to be protected, sheltered.

Just like all these many other young people I saw at this meeting.

Shit. Who am I fooling?

“I guess I understand why you took me to this meeting,” I say.

“Yes, why?” John replies.

I take a deep breath. “Because…”

He stares at me. I’m nervous.

“I have a problem. I have a drinking problem,” I add.

He smiles. “Do you?”

I nod.

“Do you want to go back inside?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say with a shaky voice.

“Okay then let’s go,” he takes my hand and we walk back into the smelly basement.

To be continued…

John feels helpless

Published May 5, 2013 by Johanna

Watching Kiki cry hurts me more than she can imagine. When will she finally see me as an adult? I’m not as clueless as she thinks. There’s nothing I can do to make her tears stop. She’s going to learn the hard way. It’s the only way that works.

I hit my bottom two years ago. I almost got kicked out of college. My drinking quickly escalated from having a few to binging every night. I did coke to keep me awake, and to drink more. I couldn’t eat or sleep without smoking a ton of weed. Clubbing meant dropping acid and ecstasy. By the end of my journey, I was smoking crack and popping aderall like candy. I woke up in the drunk tank more than once. Cops arrested me for disorderly conduct, and I spent a few nights in jail.

The binging didn’t end until I landed in a mental institution. I had developed a high level of psychosis. Paranoia ruled my life. Friends tried to stage an intervention, to no avail. The psych ward  was quite an experience. I detoxed for a while, and took pills to battle my mental disorders. Talking with a shrink didn’t help. All I wanted was drink and use again until I’d die.

Sheltered from the outside world, I saw no way out. When I thought everything was over for good, a nurse gave me a copy of the Big Book of AA. Not convinced the book held the answer to my problem, I didn’t read for days. A book would not help. Nothing would save me. It was too late.

One sleepless night, I opened the book nonetheless. And I didn’t stop reading until I reached the very end. How could someone find the answer to all my questions? The author of this book was a true genius. And for the first time, I felt hope.

My life never was the same after that. I made the conscious decision to stay sober. Drugs and alcohol ruined my health and mostly, my sanity. If I remained sober long enough, I could change and improve. Become the guy I was always afraid to be. Hiding behind my addiction only led me faster to my bottom.

And I never wish to hit that bottom again.

Helping Kiki gave me a purpose. I don’t intend to save her especially if she doesn’t want to save herself. But I can be there for her, just like today. When she’s lost and confused, I can be her guide. Hold her hand and reassure her she’s going to be okay. Her wellbeing is all I care about. Because knowing she’s well helps my recovery too.

Looking at her from across this depressing hospital room, I feel love and compassion. She hates showing her weaknesses to the whole wide world. Even if the whole wide world solely consists of the nurse and myself. Our friendship has reached a new level after this incident. Either she will stop talking to me altogether or she’ll trust me unconditionally.

“I promise you’ll be fine,” I whisper to her as she cries into her pillow.

She nods, and I can tell she’s not convinced she’ll be fine after all. And deep inside, I’m not convinced either.

I can tell myself as much as I’m perfectly able to help her, in the end, her recovery isn’t under my control. She’s the only one holding the key to her own salvation.


To be continued…