Broke and Drunk in Montreal. Help.
November 4, 2009 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Broke and Drunk in Montreal. Help.

Things are rough. My lifelong romance with booze has really gone sour. After a few feeble attempts at getting my act together, I’ve decided I really need help.

Problem is, I’m not sure where to turn. Everything I’ve learned about AA sounds really repulsive, and the prospect of talking to a shrink makes me want to barf. I know that being sort of a misanthrope is part and parcel with my alcoholism, but everything I’ve seen or learned of the experience of getting sober makes my stomach churn, both literally and figuratively.

Drinking is basically destroying me. Booze has infiltrated and poisoned every facet of my life: friends, family, finances, and my relationship with my girlfriend. I haven’t been to a doctor in about a decade, but I’m sure at this point my liver is looking like a decomposed squirrel. I used to think of myself as somewhat bright, but I’m seriously starting to feel that drinking heavily since I was about seventeen (I’m now thirty-four, yikes) has turned my brain to mush.

Also: I’m broke. I just moved to Montreal for grad school, and as you can imagine being a mostly-unemployed student and aspiring writer with massive debts—along with the expenses of a daily drinking habit—does not leave much money or leisure time left to check into a posh rehab facility. Actually, it leaves zero. As you can imagine, the combination of being a wasted lush and being monetarily fucked is not so good for an already crushed ego, leaving one longing for the temporary relief provided by drinking.

The positive side of it is that my girlfriend and closest friends are pretty supportive and understanding, but I know they’re losing patience as I continually fail to clean up my act. I’ve made an appointment to meet with a counselor through university, but that’s weeks away and I’m feeling pretty distraught. I’ve never been to therapy or anything like that before, and even calling to make that appointment drove me to tears.

What can I do? Can I get help that actually helps and doesn’t make me even more cynical and depressed? Is there a program that actually works and is accessible to a poor-ass schmoe like me? To be somewhat coarse: is there an AA for cool people? I’d love to hear anyone’s experiences of addiction treatment that actually inspires me to think positively and not wallow in self-pity. And to try and actually enjoy quitting drinking, rather than feeling like I’m being punished. Or is that completely the wrong attitude to take? But please: no lectures or platitudes. Real, concrete advice. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the medical clinic at school which won't cost you anything. You know that you're already paying insurance via your student fees and that there's provincial health coverage, right? There's a doctor on campus who will have ways to help you.
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 AM on November 4, 2009

and the prospect of talking to a shrink makes me want to barf.

Since addiction is based on avoidance, I think that you ought to pursue what you've been avoiding through drink. Go to the shrink. You don't want to talk about the things that make you drink. I think you need to soon.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:12 AM on November 4, 2009

To be somewhat coarse: is there an AA for cool people?

I've never been to an AA meeting, let alone one in Montreal, but back in my (much) younger days I was a little aggressive in my "experimentation" with other controlled substances, and found myself, much to my surprise attending and greatly benefitting from NA meetings, which are essentially the same thing (Big Book and all), but focused on other substances.

The short answer is "Yes, there are AA meetings for 'cool' people", but it may take you a little while to find the right meeting.

Here's a page that lists Montreal-area meetings. You lose nothing by going to one or two. It's not a cult, and nobody will make you do anything you don't want to do, including talking. After the meeting, you can seek out people you think seem interesting, and ask them about different meetings. Or not. There's no pressure, and you can, should, and frankly have to do this at your own speed.

You might try a meeting in a college-y / hipster-y neighborhood if you want "cool" people, or you could perhaps try this one, which is organized by the "HIP, SLICK, YOUNG AND SICK" group:

Wednesday 7:30 p.m.
4985 Queen Mary Road
* Public transportation : Snowdon Metro
* Language Spoken: English
* Meeting closed to public (alcoholics only)
* (Discussion)(Young People Welcome)
* Non-smoking meeting
District: 87-08 - Montréal - Laval - Laurentides (English)
posted by dersins at 10:15 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every AA group is different. I went for a while to both AA and Al-Anon meetings (I'm not an alcoholic but a close family member was, and I was trying to get support for myself and a grip on what alcoholics experience/how they express themselves), and I went to several different ones. Some were preachy/religious, most were "define the higher power as you see fit", nearly all hewed closely to "take what you want and leave the rest." I ended up going pretty regularly to one meeting where I clicked with the feel of the people better than at any other, but it took some trial and error.

Part of your resistance to AA and/or therapy is almost certainly because of your disease(s) - both the alcoholism and the depression. Change is terrifying, and resistance to it is natural. But in your case, especially, as you know, it is necessary. You are putting up defensive barriers - a posh rehab center is not your only option - and this too is part of the disease.

Depending on your level of physical dependence on alcohol, you may need medical assistance to stop drinking. Going cold turkey can be dangerous. You should probably make an appointment with an MD to evaluate if you need medical help to quit alcohol - if you can't make the phone call yourself, please ask your girlfriend/a friend/a family member to help you with this.

Good for you for reaching out and asking for help. It won't be easy or fun. It will be hard work. But you are not alone. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 10:15 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

You sound like the type of person for whom Rational Recovery may be worth taking a look.
posted by torquemaniac at 10:20 AM on November 4, 2009

nthing that each recovery meeting is different - it depends on who comes to the meetings. Try a bunch of different meetings at different times and in different places to see whether you feel comfortable with any of them. Since you're in grad school, I'd also suggest trying a few meetings near school. Convenience can't be beat, and if you're in college, you may take more readily to a group of other college-educated people.
posted by zippy at 10:26 AM on November 4, 2009

Part of meetings is simply giving yourself something to do for an hour and a half besides drink/use. There's also the responsibility of showing up somewhere people expect you, and having someone to call if the urge to pick up becomes too overwhelming.

There are no two meetings that are exactly alike, and meetings are what you make of them. You don't have to believe everything that's said, or even believe in the process, very much. It's mostly about putting some structure into your life that isn't about drinking, and telling people that you're there because you want to stop.

Good luck.
posted by xingcat at 10:30 AM on November 4, 2009

Think about who told you AA is repulsive, I bet they are still drinking. I also never wanted to go to AA but I went anyway. I accepted that my way was not working for me. I think the biggest way it helped me was that I was showing how much I wanted to be sober. I went every day for a few weeks and then on and off for another few months. I haven't had a drink for about ten years and don't miss it. I didn't want to do the whole 12 step program but I know if I ever start to drink again, I will return and do the whole program however it is suggested to me. AA is free and it is composed of every type of person, if you don't like one meeting, go to another. I wish you the best of luck, you seem motivated and insightful.
posted by InkaLomax at 10:34 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think you have much choice at this point, but to give AA a chance. You need support, you need to hear other people's stories and gain insight into the illness that alcoholism is. Usually there will be literature and resources - or at least someone to ask there - about getting connected to a counseling clinic. I'm putting out the list here for local meetings where you are. Please go to one asap.
posted by watercarrier at 10:40 AM on November 4, 2009

Go to an AA meeting. Come down off of the 'cool' mountain and start your recovery with everyone else. You're dying up there.

Some of the people are older and unrelatable, some of the people are annoying, some of the people are replacing their addiction to alcohol or other substances with an addiction to a twelve step program, some come and perpetually whine, but guess what? All of those losers are kicking your ass at not being a a loser right now.

It's your fear of growing and changing that makes AA and/or therapy unpalatable for you -- not the fact that you are above it. When you were in your teens it was maybe acceptable to believe that your personality and problems made you cool and interesting, and eventually you'd just need to die younger than most do because of your uniqueness. Now you're 34 and in physical and emotional trouble. You can make your teenaged dream come true (it's better to burn out than fade away), but don't tell yourself it's out of necessity because there's no place for you. It will be unnecessary and sad.

Most folks at AA meetings come from all walks of life. Almost every one of them has been right where you are right now, and also through all of the things that you would go through in recovery that you can't even imagine with. Some of them are unbelievably wise and brilliant. Not only that, they're available to you in Montreal at all kinds of hours, are willing not just to listen to you struggle with your addiction without rolling their eyes or getting frustrated like your friends and family are (since they've been there, oftentimes tenfold), will give you their phone numbers and email addresses and will tell you to call them when they need it, and MEAN IT, and they'll do it FOR FREE. I'm not in AA but I think that's fucking cool.

I know you were being flip when you said "is there an AA for cool people?" but I have to say, that is, to me, the lamest thing anybody could say. You've clearly never been to a meeting. How could you make an assumption about something that has proven to save so many lives? You don't come off like an insightful, smart, tragic guy who's in a rough spot. You sound like a hipster in a trucker hat making proclamations about how people should be without knowing the first thing about it.

I know that you're in trouble and that this is terribly hard, and I know that this post sounds INCREDIBLY harsh. If you're serious about your recovery and stopping this cycle and embracing a REAL life, not a drunken one that's going to kill you sooner than you should die, this is only going to be the very first in a long line of people calling bullshit on the mental safety nets you have in place to keep drinking. It's TERRIFYING to let go of the only thing you've known as part of your identity for your adult life. I actually think the only way you can do it is with the help of people who have been there before.

This doesn't mean that you have to go to AA meetings two times a day for the rest of your life, or that you'll start spouting the serenity prayer spontaneously at work, or that you'll be honking all day because you love Bill W. on the freeway. You might go to one or two or a few and find it's not for you, or it might speak to you. Or you might find someone there who can help you get to a good sliding scale therapist, and work with that person to get there instead. The point is, you have got to do something NOW, and AA is THERE and it's FREE.

Alcoholics are fresh hell in the lives of those that love them, and frustrating and annoying to those who aren't emotionally invested. Go to an AA meeting. Those people can help you help yourself.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:56 AM on November 4, 2009 [25 favorites]

Just found another resource for you - it's called Centre Lifeline Chabad Project Pride -

Chabad Project Pride is a non-sectarian organization dedicated to helping those who are struggling with any aspect of addiction and addictive behavior. We offer a full range of recovery options as well as comprehensive youth prevention programs, helping the family and all those affected. Their phone number is 514-485-5121 - this their website.
posted by watercarrier at 10:58 AM on November 4, 2009

Nthin AA. get over the "cool" thing, and go to a meeting. the thing i noticed about AA meetings was that they were truly democratic. bums next to bankers. and if you don't like the first one go to another one. go every night to every AA meeting you can find until you find one you like. congratulations on admiring you have a problem, thats the first step.
posted by chasles at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2009

Everything I’ve learned about AA sounds really repulsive...

Go to AA anyway.

posted by General Tonic at 11:16 AM on November 4, 2009

You sound so much like me.

I found AA meetings, even going to different locations and times to be useless. Same with a psychologist, councilor, doctors advice, etc. Words didn't help me.

When I was in Ontario, there was health care covered in-patient medicated treatment. Same thing here in BC. Waiting periods for a bed vary. There should be the same thing in QC. Maybe sign-up on the waiting lists for a few of them. Try not to relapse if you do get into one when you get out. One note, pretty much all the private places want you to be sober for 3 days, which kind of defeats the purpose since the first 3 days of withdrawal are the worst.

One of the things that did help was Ativan, but doctors are extremely reluctant to prescribe it for longer than a week due to it being potentially addictive as well.

One thing I've found is that a large part is simply habit. Being used to having a drink beside you to sip on. If you drink beer, try substituting ginger ale. If it's red wine, maybe try grape juice. Cocktails, cut back on the inserted booze. Straight booze, well, drink enough and when you wake up on the bathroom floor covered in vomit and shit, it sort of takes care of itself, although it can take cycling through different liquors before swearing off hard booze for good.

Other than that, most of the advice I've been given is exercise, healthy foods (almonds were always suggested), find distractions and activities where alcohol isn't served, don't keep it at home - want a drink work for it by having to go to a bar - as the Montreal winter weather really kicks in it should be a deterrent.

Take note of how long it takes before withdrawal kicks in. Hold-out your arms and see how much your hands are shaking. 12 hours isn't too bad, but still need help. 6 hours you've really got a problem. If you have a drink or two in the morning to steady-up, do your best to keep it at that, although I know it's hard to stop once you've started.

Anyway, just some thoughts from my experience.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 11:21 AM on November 4, 2009

To be somewhat coarse: is there an AA for cool people?

Sorry buddy, but you're not cool.

You're an alcoholic, and that's what AA is for.

posted by General Tonic at 11:23 AM on November 4, 2009 [7 favorites]

One more vote for AA. Grad school is brutal, and it has a pretty heavy drinking culture on top of it. You'll need people who will help you stop drinking, or you'll wind up with the drinking eviscerating your intellectual work as well as your intellect.
posted by jrochest at 11:23 AM on November 4, 2009

Whether you choose AA or Rational Recovery doesn't matter. You're asking, is there a way I can get sober without it being a long, painful process? Sorry, no. You're going to have to confront all the things you've been spending your whole live avoiding by drinking. It's going to be horrible. But you will feel so, so much better down the road that it will be worth it, no? You're using all these little worries (what if they're not cool? What if I feel some self pity?) as an excuse to not do anything about it. Just GO to a meeting, somewhere. Do it.
posted by Melismata at 11:38 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the idea to check out a few of them. There are multiple reasons for the suggestion some AAers make to go to 90 meetings in 90s days. Here are 4:

1) you're too busy to drink.
2) you're hanging out around other people who aren't drinking (even if they're uncool).
3) you're forced to try out about every meeting within a 20 mile radius, just to make your quota.
4) you're hanging out with people who aren't going to trip out on the fact of you drying out, which all the uncomfortableness that entails, and they'll likely have good suggestions to make it easier.

For myself, I'd include meetings at Rational Recovery/SMART or any of those others in my 90 meetings but you'll get some static about that from the AA fanatics. (Yes, you'll likely run into fanatics. It may surprise you to learn that some alcoholics don't do moderation well, no matter what the issue.)
posted by small_ruminant at 11:48 AM on November 4, 2009

You've actually begun (not completed) the first step of AA

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Many, many disagree with this approach. If you do, just go for a month without drinking.

All AA meetings ARE different. Some AA'ers are real assholes. But on the whole, most people are very understanding. The AA approach is actually based on the work of Carl Jung (cool enough for you?).

On coolness: I go to meetings populated by loggers, bushwhackers, people who come to town from the mountains only once/week. One is a millionaire, one a National Book Award winner. Go figure. We all share one thing in common. And in that room we are all the same. I have two Master's degrees and my sponsor a sixth grade education. He has taught me tons...

Still don't want to do it? That's OK. I belong to an online community composed of die hard AA'ers and people who disdain AA. It is leaps and bounds better than any online community, just like MeFi. . I hope I added the link OK, I haven't done it before.

If not, it is Please visit. Go to "forums." Try the "newcomers" forum. The site caters to all sorts of people affected by all kinds of addiction. Users as well as families and friends. It is terrific. I've made friends all over the world. Real friends. From all walks of life.

Save your life. Is what you are doing working? I am neither drunk or broke. But I sure could be.
posted by private_idaho at 11:49 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The live link didn't work. I'll need to learn how.
posted by private_idaho at 11:50 AM on November 4, 2009

If you click on the alcoholism tag at the top of the page and look at some of the questions where the poster is asking for help in quitting drinking, they usually have one thing in common: none of them want to go to AA. Everyone looks at AA at first and decides it's not for them. Either it's too religious, or they don't think they are as bad off as some of the other people, or its depressing, or the people are too old, or it just seems awful for some whatever reason, or something.

No one wants to go to AA. No one wishes they could go to AA to hang out cause it seems like a fun way to kill an evening. Every single person in those meetings had that exact line of thought - that they didn't belong there. And then they were secretly relieved because they weren't like the people there. It's called Terminal Uniqueness. And it's an excuse. You're making excuses. Go to a meeting. Don't like it? Go to another one. Repeat. Even if you hate the first 10 you go to, that's 10 hours that you didn't drink, and were surrounded by other people who do not drink. You'll find the right meeting eventually. Just try as many as you can.
posted by 8dot3 at 12:44 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know tons of cool people in AA. Sometimes I feel like I know too many cool people and they really start to piss me off. I'm completely serious. I'm pretty sure that at least half the people who come to AA think they're too cool for it. I was in AA all through high school and college and there was never a shortage of people my age who liked to go out and go dancing or go to concerts or whatever, just without drinking. I have found fun and happiness beyond anything I had ever known before or ever could have imagined with my friends I've made in AA. You will not find a more diverse group of people anywhere. Give it a try - put aside your preconceptions and go to a few meetings and see if you can find one you enjoy. You might be surprised. Good luck.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:57 PM on November 4, 2009

It sounds to me like you're waiting until you feel ready to quit. That is "completely the wrong attitude to take." It's an avoidance mechanism. Recognize and reject it. Don't wait to feel ready. Don't wait to find the perfect program. Just start trying now with the imperfect tools that exist, while simultaneously searching for more and better options. Again, start right now. Go to an AA meeting. Try every suggestion you get in this thread. Now. Not later. Not when you're in the mood. Not when you feel comfortable. Not when it feels right. Now.
posted by prefpara at 12:58 PM on November 4, 2009

A resource page for you.

Good luck!
posted by mareli at 1:16 PM on November 4, 2009

The good thing is you seem to recognize the need for change.

The hard part is going to be realizing you ain't cool. And when you get to step 8 in AA it'll really knock you down a whole bunch of pegs on your "cool" scale.

That said, the most important part of recovery is recognizing the need for it. There are lots of different AA meetings, go to several and keep going until you find one that's right. Some groups fit better than others.

Same deal with any sort of psychological therapists, not all are alike and not all methods work for everyone. Gain experience trying, not by listening to fear and rumors. Yeah, it'll take work but that's true for everything in life worth doing.

Stick with it, you're farther along the road to recovery than a lot of people. You see the need to change, many aren't that lucky. Neither are the people around them putting up with their nonsense.
posted by wkearney99 at 1:56 PM on November 4, 2009

First, the good news: you're in a big city, and there should be quite a few alternatives available there, both AA and not, as listed in dersins' link above and the phone book. Also, I'm not sure where, or from who, you've heard all these repulsive things about AA, but in my experience they tend to come from two groups of people: those who misrepresent what AA is about (including the creators of South Park, in this episode, and James Frey, who hugely exaggerated his problems with drugs and alcohol for grist for his first bestseller), for whatever reason, and people that have been court-ordered to go to AA meetings, usually after repeated DUIs (Driving Under the Influence). The latter is usually considered a really bad idea by people who understand that alcoholics have to come to the program voluntarily.

The not-so-good news is that it may take a few, maybe more than a few, meetings to find a group that you're really comfortable with, although probably less than you might think. You'll walk into a meeting all astew in the sort of thoughts that usually precede drinking, and experience that shock of recognition as someone starts talking about the things that you could have never imagined saying to even one other person, let alone a roomful of strangers, saying them right out loud, and instead of recoiling, people are nodding in recognition. And then someone else says something similar. And someone else.

And then you realize that they're not strangers.

And eventually you get to a point where, even though you couldn't imagine saying these things out loud yourself at one time, now you can't imagine not saying them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:28 PM on November 4, 2009

Just go to a meeting already. When you finally get that you are not better than the boring housewife in sweatpants sitting next to you and going on and on and fucking on about her mother - that you are both equally fucked in the face of your addiction - you will have achieved a major milestone in your recovery.

And FWIW, many of us have gone through 12 step programs with zero concept of God and without embracing it as if it was a new religion. I looked at it as a job - it was my job to go, my job to the work, my job to stay clean. For a while that was my only job, because sobriety was my first and only priority, but I have not been to a meeting in 12 years.

It's nice on this side; you should try it.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:42 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

What DarlingBri said. It's not awful. It's just another place.

I'm not in AA but I've attended more than a couple meetings and I'm in another 12 step group. All the stress about Steps 4 or 8 or whatever step people have had a hard time with? That varies from person to person and one of the great things about these is that you're never doing it on your own. Also, there are some people who don't do the steps at all and AA is STILL helpful.

Finally, AA may NOT be for you. It's not for everyone. But it's cheap, it's everywhere, and it works for many many people.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:41 PM on November 4, 2009

Great advice above.

Consider reading and applying "Changing For Good." It's far more relevant than it looks.
posted by moira at 4:03 PM on November 4, 2009

There are many, many people who do not like AA and who manage to get sober or even moderate their drinking. Fortunately, you live in Canada, home of actual evidence-based alcoholism treatment so if you see a provider who treats people with alcohol problems and you say you don't want to go to AA, you are unlikely to be made to do so.

So, get thee to the nearest alcoholism counselor and talk about what you've discussed here and they are likely to use a tactic called "motivational interviewing" which allows you to figure out how to achieve *your* goals and is not aimed at getting you into AA. You might want to try AA because social support is intensely helpful and most people who do end up liking it start out thinking they are too cool for it.

But if you don't, there are many many alternatives like SMART recovery (the rational version of rational recovery and Moderation Management and no self help at all just finding social support with people in your life who don't want to see you drunk.

I wrote a book called Recovery Options: The Complete Guide, that you can get on Amazon cheaply that may help and lays out all the options and the research. Sober for Good is another good book.
posted by Maias at 7:27 PM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

One of the strategies I try to take in my life when I want to learn something new or achieve a challenging goal is think about it as though my life depended on it. That way, I never pass up an opportunity to push myself, or spend an extra hour practicing, or go to that meeting/class/lunch about the thing, name it. I end up going to things I didn't necessarily think would have been useful to me, but turn out to be useful. Some things are duds, but hey, that's life. I just go to the next thing on the list, and I keep trying. This pays off enormously when I truly apply it.

The unique thing about your situation is that your life DOES depend on this. So you have even MORE incentive to get the hell off your ass and do everything you possibly can to change your situation and improve your life. You have no excuse right now to not get your ass up and go to every freaking AA/NA/whatever meeting anywhere within walking or driving or public transportation distance. You have no excuse to not be going to the doctor and therapist as soon as humanly possible to get yourself some more help. If you don't like any of what you find, push yourself and keep trying to find another one. Do. It.

Everything you are saying right now, qualifying how you want it to be this way and not that, etc., is completely beside the point of accomplishing what you need to accomplish: saving your own life. Stop wasting time and making excuses. You want to live and enjoy the rest of your life right?
posted by dubitable at 10:00 AM on November 5, 2009

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