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Going Back to AA

I'm going back to AA. Jesus. Kill me.

My problem with AA is that the degree of degenerates and losers that these people were before joining AA makes me feel like I'm not an alcoholic. If you've never been, an AA meeting is basically a round-table discussion where people talk about how much better their lives are now that they're sober and they couldn't do it without AA. They tell horror stories from their drinking / using days.

All their stories go something like this: some guy had just gotten his seventh DUI, his wife and kids left him, he had ten dollars to his name and so he bought a bottle of cheap vodka. I'm not exaggerating at all. I heard that story. You hear a few stories like that and you think, “I'm not one of these people.” What do I have to say? What are my problems? I get bad hangovers. I get depressed. And sometimes I have sex with girls that I wouldn't if I weren't drunk. Big fucking deal, right? Join the club.

I am a functional drunk. I can get completely wasted at home alone. The next day I'll go to work, get things done, and come off just as professional and effective as anyone else. When I was bartending, I would sometimes show up to work drunk (on St. Patrick's Day or other holidays) and perform my job just as always. Nobody would notice. I (usually) stay out of trouble, I'm nice to people, and I always make it home safely. No problems. However, given my current situation, I want to spend some time sober and I don't think I can do it alone. I need AA.

In 1997 I was convicted of '2nd degree burglary' and 'Stealing over $150' – two felonies in the state of Missouri. In 1998 I was sentenced to 3 years in prison on a 'suspended imposition of sentence' (SIS), which means the sentence only takes effect if I violate probation. So, in effect, I got 5 years' probation. My best friend George, who didn't calm down from our wild ways in between our arrests and our sentencing, didn't get probation. He ended up serving over a year in prison. His first night in prison was the true story from the ending of Lock & Sock: Based on a True Story.

In the days after the sentencing, I remember thinking: “How the hell am I going to go 5 years with no police trouble?” At that point in my life, it was inconceivable. I was involved in nonsense trying to be a thug on the streets of South St. Louis. Police trouble was a given. My dad had kicked me out and I was living with a girl who worked at a strip club and her 3-year old daughter. I was selling weed out of the apartment.

One night the police had me cornered on the street, drilling me with questions. They thought I was selling heroin. If they had entered the apartment, they would have found enough marijuana to charge me with a felony. My prison sentence would have become a reality. The next day I was throwing an acid party when my mom called. High on LSD, I realized my lifestyle wasn't sustainable. My mom invited me to live with her in Arizona. I agreed. I didn't tell anybody my decision. I just disappeared from the apartment one morning. The 3-year old girl watched me go.

I spent over a year sober in Arizona, working and earning credits at community college. Life was work and school. And a few AA meetings, but I didn't bother with the steps. I started weightlifting (honestly, weightlifting and boxing were positive byproducts from my fear of going to prison and getting punked by buff niggaz). On the whole, Arizona was an uneventful time and I had no friends, but it was crucial to my personal development, specifically in how to lead a normal life free of crime. That was 1999. It's been ten years. I need another period of sobriety in the interest of personal development.

Unlike in Arizona, my current situation is different. I'm not faced with the possibility of battling prison niggaz for respect. I've learned to live within the confines of the law. I've learned how to get very drunk on a regular basis while adhering to societal interests. I've graduated from being an anti-social drunk to a productive drunk. But I want more. I need a boost in productivity.

After Arizona, I returned to St. Louis and enrolled at UMSL. I also returned to drinking, but (almost) no drugs. I joined a fraternity in an attempt to become a normal, middle-class white guy. It worked for a while. I got involved. I went to Washington DC in August 2001 for a fraternity convention. On my first night, I got so drunk that I broke my leg in a bar – the fibula bone just above my ankle. By sheer coincidence, I was helped through the Dulles airport by a woman in AA and I decided to go sober again.

I lasted about four months while becoming active in the fraternity and climbing the leadership ranks. I credit my sobriety in this period to my successful election as president of the fraternity in 2002 (I also credit the classic Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People).

I returned to drinking just before being elected and continued through graduation and the beginning of my career. I had a 3-year relationship with a wonderful girl named Anne-Marie, who I wrote about in An Open Letter To My Ex-Girlfriend. After she left me, I drank more. About a year after she left me, I got depressed. I went to an AA meeting with a friend from school. At that first meeting, I went to the bathroom after a speech and cried for a few minutes.

To this day, I have no idea why I was crying. I didn't relate to the speaker's story, I don't even remember it. And I generally don't cry. I never cry since my dad used to scream at me before I went through puberty and was simply too weak to endure it. But now, in this AA meeting with no imminent danger, I had to go to the bathroom and cry for a minute. WTF?

I went about a month in March 2007 without a drink, attending AA meetings and focusing on gaining mass. I packed on 10 lbs of muscle that month. I booked a flight to San Francisco for a few days during my Spring Break (I was a student). I read The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson on the flight. And I got drunk in San Francisco. And off the wagon.

I finished school and moved to Peru in 2008. Around October 2008, I stumbled upon Henry Rollins' life story. Henry Rollins was the front-man of hardcore punk band, Black Flag. Henry Rollins has always been sober. An interesting quote of his: “Keep the blood clean, the body lean, and the mind sharp.” I was inspired to quit drinking again. (Read Rollins' classic essay on weightlifting, Iron)

I went six weeks sober (without AA). I was busy writing and pursuing various interests outside of drinking, like seeing historic monasteries and climbing mountains. A good friend's going-away party was scheduled in that period and I didn't drink. She teased me all night that I was boring.

I was doing well sober. A friend in the States emailed me, saying that her brother would be coming to my town in Peru and I felt pressure to go out drinking for his sake. But to be completely honest, I started drinking again because I needed a woman and didn't know how to find one if I wasn't out drinking. It wasn't long before I met a precious little Lolita. However, I didn't stop drinking just because I had a squeeze.

In summary, I've had four periods of sobriety in my life since childhood:
  1. ~1½ years in Arizona rehabilitating in fear of prison
  2. 4 months in the fraternity after breaking my leg
  3. 1 month as a grad student in AA while depressed
  4. 6 weeks in Peru while inspired by Henry Rollins
I want a significant personal development stretch like each one of these was, but on a long-term basis like the Arizona phase when I learned how to get along with society. That time laid the groundwork for how I got through five years' probation (5 YEARS!), seeing a P.O. every month. They look at your paycheck stubs to make sure you're working, examine your school schedule, and of course monitor any trouble with the police. You have to ask for permission to travel more than one county away. Interstate travel must be submitted in writing. Any time you see your P.O, he or she can “drop” you. They require you to take a urine analysis for drugs. I MADE IT 5 YEARS THROUGH THAT SHIT!!! My entire undergraduate career.

In Peru, I had drunken adventures and fucked a lot of girls that I wouldn't have without alcohol. Now I'm in Colombia.

I have no friends. I don't know anyone. I don't have a “real job.” It's easy to pass the nights in my apartment drinking. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to do healthy things that inspired my last sobriety stretch. I want to get jacked up on coffee while working on my writing. Or maybe be a generally intense dude like Henry Rollins. And I need to work on my new business deals.

I'm going back to AA.

When it all comes down to it, I don't want to be like my old man. Don't get me wrong, he's been a great dad, my primary role model in life, and he's always there for me. And I'd be a great man if I achieve what he has. But at the same time, I think that people ought to rise above what they were given in life. And I think that if I'm going to achieve more than my father has, the secret to success lies in not drinking.

Plus, I don't want to be like the old man. God bless him, but he hits the bottle almost every day. I don't want to be in my fifties and making 40oz cocktails made with half liquor before it's dark outside. The guy yelled at me like no other when I was a kid. I used to be proud of having a tough old man, and for being emotionally tougher than others my age. But I'm recently realizing that it may have given me lack-of-confidence issues. The man used to scream at me until I cried – when I was just a boy.

Two obstacles to my quitting drinking:
  1. Alcohol is a major part of who I am
  2. I rely on alcohol to meet women
It sounds weird, even pathetic, but alcohol is a big part of my personality. I'm a loud, wild drunk. A clown. I'm the life of the party, the center of attention. It's who I am, it's how I see myself and how others see me. I won't be just quitting drinking for this to succeed. I'll have to fundamentally change my personality, which may be harder than quitting drinking.

Also sounds weird, even pathetic, but I don't talk to women if I'm not drinking. I once heard a guy rationalize his own drinking and smoking marijuana by saying that it dumbed him down to the point where he could find women interesting. Sorry ladies, I know this is terribly offensive, but I almost agree. I love women, but on an affectionate / cute basis. I rarely find myself at all interested in women's ideas or opinions. So I have to drink to meet them, to carry conversations, and to establish affectionate relationships. If I'm going to succeed, I'm going to have to learn how to create substantive relationships with women - without alcohol.

I probably shouldn't have this attitude going in, seen in the first paragraph on this post and in a recent Twitter post: “I'm going back to AA. Somebody please kill me.” It's a tough decision, but I am looking forward to sobriety.

Old-school Black Flag performance of "Rise Above"


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