Help me get my life together
December 31, 2006 8:31 PM   Subscribe

How do I fix myself on the cheap?

After reading this post, I realized that maybe the hive can help.......

I am a 35-year old male. I have had a hard life. A few years ago, I finally found happiness, with a decent job, a girl, successful hobbies, and life was great..... until she decided that the grass was greener on the other side.....

So now I live in a rooming house, lost my great job due to my drunkeness, lost my hobbies (hot rods, I had to sell them), lost my driver's license (I smashed my hearse into a parked car), lost a lot of friends, and pretty much my life is a mess......

I am a talented musician (have had records released on major labels), a smart guy, and the girls seem to think I am attractive..... all in all, a great guy with great ideas, and I see the world as a fascinating place with much hope and love...... despite the current conditions......

I now work as a hack at my job, WAY underpaid (my boss accepts my drinking), and am one paycheck away from being homeless at any given moment........

I romanticize Bukowski and Thompson....... just for background info purposes.......

I am pretty sure I have OCD and AADD.......

What can I do to get my act together? I tried AA and those people scared the hell out of me..... I have no family to help me..... I have to continue to work in order not to lose the little I have left, and find myself in a circle of hell...... in short, I work to drink, and I drink to work......

What can I do to get myself out of this hell? I need to get my head straight, indeed...... I feel that I have much to offer the world, and if I could, make things better for all of humanity, but I can't help myself.....

I have thoughts about checking in to a facility, but then I would lose my possessions..... no work equals no storage.....

I am an agnostic Rom with a history of alcoholism in my family.....

I live my life based on zen, but realize that I am slowly killing myself with this lifestyle....

I am prepared to pull up my boot straps and bite the bullet, but I don't know how......

So my question is:

Where can I go/What can I do to try and get off the booze on my own? AA is out of the question, as are any in-treatment programs...... I have already kicked the drugs on my own....

I am watching my life fade out in real time and want to get back on the right track.......
posted by peewinkle to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, with you ruling out workable solutions in advance, I can't say that you seem really sure you need to give up drinking. If you're really at a point where you'll do anything, then you'll do anything.

Try a different AA group. They can be vastly different from one another, just across town. You didn't say what exactly about the group you attended struck you as weird, but if they threw The Jesus at you or something, that's not really the norm.

FWIW, there's a damn lot of musicians who got to where you are then moved past it to sobriety. I'm just a non-famous one, but I've sat next to a few famous ones at meetings. The music industry churns out broken alcoholics like nobody's business, and the long list of now-sober ex-drunk musicians pretty well shows it to be an occupational hazard. Maybe talk to some older guys in the biz who've gone sober?
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:48 PM on December 31, 2006

What about the AA members scared you? If they seemed overly zealous, cult-like, or super-religious, it was just the nature of that particular group, not AA in general. AA is not supposed to be like that. The unfortunate reality is that when your means are limited (definitely not an uncommon problem among alcoholics), your options are limited. AA is a free resource, open to everyone. It's intense, sure - at the beginning you're using it as a substitute for an addiction to alcohol. But thankfully, it really does work.

The reason I say this is because I have alcoholism in my family too, and 12-step programs are the only things that have consistently worked for us. Most recently, my half-brother hoisted himself out of a 30-year addiction to booze (etc) thanks to AA.

Your brain chemistry has been set up to make sure it gets its fix of alcohol, no matter what. There's nowhere you can go, and nothing you can do, to change that all by yourself. You can try, but I think it'll be a losing battle. I mean, you sound pretty desperate - if you could have done it yourself, you already would have done it, right?

You absolutely have much to offer the world. You seem like a wonderful, kind person who's truly earnest about getting better. It's difficult, the hardest thing you'll ever do, and the humility involved might be the hardest part about it. But I believe you can do it. I wish you all the strength in the world and beyond in kicking this.
posted by granted at 9:00 PM on December 31, 2006

If you really are/were that deep in the music scene, they are the people to help you out.

You shouldn't have to ask very many musicians if they know anybody who was fucked up and got clean. They will have ideas. I can't remember the name right now, but I am quite sure there is an organization that *specifically* caters to treating drug/alcohol addiction in musicians. Sort of a "in" support group, if you will.

If you kicked the drugs, then you have it in you, you do.

As far as your possessions, that's all they are, forget about them. If you have something with a lot of sentimental value, like an instrument or similar, then again, those same musicians might be able to store for you, etc.

Yours is not an easy situation, but you have at least identified that you have a drinking problem, and you need to get sober.

That puts you a long ways along the road to recovery. Seriously. You're already one giant-step ahead of the game.

Best of luck to you. But don't give up. Just don't do it.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:07 PM on December 31, 2006

I'm not sure what exactly was scary about the AA meeting you went to, but I've heard a lot of people prefer AlAnon (no affiliation with AA or with any religious denomonation). Here'a link to the Wisconsin chapter, where you can read more about them and find a meeting, if that sounds like it would be any better for you.

Best of luck.
posted by twoporedomain at 9:19 PM on December 31, 2006

Twoporedomain, Al-Anon is affiliated with AA, but it's not for alcoholics; it's for those who are in relationships (familial, friend, or romantic) with alcoholics. It wouldn't be a substitute for AA.
posted by granted at 9:26 PM on December 31, 2006

I quit drugs & booze 3 months ago. I'd gone to see a shrink to complain about my life, and after a very long and in depth introductory interview - during which I gave for the first time my complete and honest life story - he just sat back and said, "I want you to stop drinking and taking drugs." At this point I realized that I'd been intoxicated for most of my adult life (17yrs, half my life). He wanted me to join a substance abuse group, but I quit on my own because I had the revelation that for me it wasn't about other people, shrinks, programs - it was about me making choices and standing up to my own (strongly hedonistic & self-destructive) will. Recently I gave up smoking too using the same method - self awareness when I'm making habitual destructive choices, choosing to do something else instead, and realizing that it's the better option in the long run; kind of like choosing to put your money in an investment account for your future rather than blowing it now. I read somewhere, "that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred."

This certainly worked for me, and I'd certainly not be so sanctimonious as to assume the same thing would work for you, or indeed that we have even walked in the same boots; but perhaps there's something in there you can use.

Also, I found that having read a lot of books in the past about people dealing with addiction really useful - remembering their stories of how they coped certainly helped me cope. Ann Marlowe's How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z and Susan Shapiro's Lighting Up: How I Stopped Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved in Life Except Sex spring to mind, as well as Augusten Burroughs' Dry - the latter two I picked up in my local library.
posted by forallmankind at 9:49 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

What can I do to get my act together? I tried AA and those people scared the hell out of me

Good. You are sane. It's a cult, though some groups may feel good for some people. Try going to Rational Recovery's quick online course. Some consider RR's more recent stuff a bit cultish and that last link also gets you to SOS abstinence group, which I hear to be very good. You can do it: imagineer a new life. People in SOS did it. Personally, I used the RR course for something non-alcohol related, so I'd vouch for it on that basis, and I have a drug counsellor in the family so I vouch against the establishment (13 steps lead down).
posted by Listener at 10:30 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

(Slightly but not really off-topic: definitions of cults. As 12 step programs are free and have no leader and get to do whatever the heck they want group by group (which is why there are atheist groups and gay groups and S&M groups and whatever), it's hard to give any credence to the cult claim.)

More on topic: Hey, good for you, man. Sounds like you know what's what. But: if you quit drugs on your own, why not quit drinking on your own? You're refusing the more traditional methods of sobering up, so it seems you're gonna have to reinvent the wheel a little.

In my opinion, the whole "bite the bullet" and "bootstraps" stuff is a little intense, and also very lonely. I think you're in need of understanding friends--the loner thing will get you in the end. Now, where you get those? That's the question of our lonely age, isn't it? Join a temple? Start your own sober club? Head to a monastery? I think you need something that brings value and satisfaction--and friends. Hang out at a knitting shop all day? A senior center? The public access TV studio? Recording studio? My only real thought on the matter is that going it alone is just gritting your teeth and laying in your rented room staring at the ceiling. It's agony without sense, where instead what you need is a feeling of usefulness and belonging.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:08 PM on December 31, 2006

Responses thus far have focused- quite rightly- on the most pressing and salient problem (the bottle). But it also sounds like part of the problem is that you are using alcohol as a way to cope with and "medicate" depression and anxiety (the possible OCD and ADD). And who can blame you? It does the job on the cheap, and doesn't require a perscription or health insurance. Unfortunately, the long-term costs are devastating.

You may be able to make things better just by quitting drinking. But you may also need to find a more direct and helpful way of addressing what may well be psychiatric issues, with professional guidance and under medical supervision. It doesn't sound like you have much disposable income or a job that has a cushy health plan, but you might look into local free or low-cost community resources that offer outpatient counseling and/or psychiatric services.

I make no assumptions here- only thinking of ways that might help you make life a little easier and let you be the person you want to be.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:45 PM on December 31, 2006

Best answer: IMO, AA is a cult. It replaces depence on alcohol with dependence on the AA group. This is not necessarily a net posiive outcome. To my knowledge there has never been a single reputable medical study that showed that AA was worthwhile.

There are ways to tackle alcohol addiction that do have measurable positive outcomes. AA is not one of them.

Some form of cognitive behavioural therapy which focuses on positive coping strategies for the problems that led to the alcohol abuse in the first place is much more effective. Whether you get this through an official program of some sort (SMART recovery seems to fit the bill in the US; I'm sure there are lots of others), or through ask metafilter is up to you!
posted by pharm at 1:52 AM on January 1, 2007

(I'm not going to keep at this, really, but disinformation is not helpful to people. None of this is to say that there aren't many options for alcoholism treatment. But as someone who's worked in the field, I don't see any reason to let bias intrude here, so: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:37 AM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are resources available specifically to working and former musicians.

MusiCares is set up by the RIAA. Phone (323) 993-3197 or toll free (888) 627-6271. The official website is crap, but you can start here for an overview of MusiCares and unaffiliated resources. A description of MusiCare programs. This page describes programs in the northeastern US and says the following: "Applicants for financial assistance achieve basic eligibility by documenting five years of employment in the music industry or having made six commercially-released recordings or music videos."

The AFM reserves its services to current members. Your local should be able to make referrals to musician-friendly therapists and organizations, whether you're current or not.

You've paid your dues -- figuratively, and in the case of union and Association fees, literally. Time to cash in.
posted by ardgedee at 8:57 AM on January 1, 2007

It's the booze, man.

You and I have about an 80 to 90% similarity in almost every respect, and even though I still drink a bit (once a week or so - beers and a few shots) I don't do it like I used to and that's made a big difference.

That booze brings you down to that less-than-zero state and you're left with nothing to do but drink to make it go away - and then it gets worse.

It's not a cure-all. It won't solve all of your problems. But put away that booze for one year, and if possible, look for a different place to live.

You've got your music, and that's more than a lot of people have.
posted by rougy at 9:08 AM on January 1, 2007

Best answer: Try to not drink today. Try again tomorrow. Don't stop doing this.

"life was great..... until she decided" - dependence on the choices/actions of others for the basis of your own internal sense of happiness is not healthy. " I see the world as a fascinating place with much hope and love...... despite the current conditions" - and they are only the current conditions. You can change them. "my boss accepts my drinking" - find one who won't. "I romanticize Bukowski and Thompson" - one day I realized that guys like this would never write a book about a guy like me. "I am pretty sure I have OCD and AADD" - mental health problems coupled with alcoholism can make things more dificult. Proper diagnosis and treatment may be necessary in order to successfully overcome the alcoholism.

"What can I do to get my act together?"

Try to not drink today. Try again tomorrow.

I tried AA and those people scared the hell out of me" - not an uncommon experience for the newcomer, but it has a lot more to do with your own state of mind. Try again. Try to keep an open mind about what is going on. For the most part they just want to help you quit drinking and stay sober themselves. Works for some. And it's free.

"I have no family to help me" - I had family and they didn't want to help me. That was the result of my actions and no fault of theirs. After I was sober for a while my relationship with my family changed completely and continues to change and grow. "I work to drink, and I drink to work" - that's your choice. It's not some sort of inescapable metaphysical trap. You are free to make different choices.

"I can't help myself" - this is something you're going to have to sort out. You reject outside help, claim you can do it on your own and yet you choose to wallow in your perceived helplessness. Get over it. It's clobbering time!

"I live my life based on zen" - I don't want your zen. But maybe there is something here that can be of help. Befuddling your brain with alcohol isn't terribly zen. Zen should lead to clarity of thought and a deeper understanding of your relationship with other people and things(possessions). Maybe a little more study in this area would be benificial to your efforts.

"What can I do to try and get off the booze on my own?"

Keep it simple.

Try to not drink today. Try again tomorrow.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 10:23 AM on January 1, 2007 [5 favorites]

A couple of thoughts:

Please see a doctor before your quit drinking cold turkey. There are withdrawal symptoms, and you can get help for them.

I've been weirded out at AA and NA meetings before, as well, when I've gone to support friends. But it really, really works for many people. Whatever it takes to get sober, you know? Don't give up on it; try to find a group where you feel a connection with some of the members there.

Good luck.
posted by jokeefe at 10:31 AM on January 1, 2007

90 AA meetings in 90 days. Just do it. Then go from there.
posted by lustra at 11:15 AM on January 1, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed, please stop the AA derail, or take it to metatalk or email, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:47 PM on January 1, 2007

Response by poster: thank you jessamyn, I thought I made it clear that AA is not a sane option for me.....

I tried it, and when asked what my higher power was/is, I looked the questioner in the eyes and replied, "aren't you?"

A LOT of things here aside from that/those, to give me some thoughts to consider.......

I realize that I need to help myself, and that The Hive cannot fix my problems for me, I am just looking for some insights......

which I have now.....

at least a few......

a few more thoughts (if this appropriate to this reply):

any thoughts on homeopathic/herbal substances to help my health as I enter the withdraw? not so much as to relieve my cravings and urges, but rather to ensure my optimal health?


any suggestions for getting out of bed in the morning? I mean, what DO you sober people do upon awakening? Yeah, coffee, push-ups and GMA, but I am looking more for a positive mantra, I suppose, of sorts.......
posted by peewinkle at 8:39 PM on January 1, 2007

Response by poster: oh, and for the record, AA scared me several times..... sometimes I went on my own, other times, I went to support friends......

I could not accept the lack of an open-mind.....

any thoughts of individuality were automatically associated with "being sick" and/or "that evil devil guy....."

I understand that it works for some people, (I have witnessed it) but not me........
posted by peewinkle at 8:51 PM on January 1, 2007

One impression I get reading your post is that you seem to have come up with a lot of reasons why you can't get outside help.

Some thoughts: you might find unsuspected support among friends and family if you can communicate that you are really serious about giving up drinking and turning your life around, but you won't know unless you ask.

Your boss, given he has some idea about your problems, might be willing to work with you over treatment - not all treatment is inpatient, some may involve only brief inpatient stays. But you won't know unless you ask.

You might try looking for free/scale rate clinics and/or counseling as a start, if you can't afford a regular doctor visit to talk about it. Particularly given other problems you mention probably seeking some kind of accessible and cheap/free counseling would be a good idea.

If you decide you are willing to give AA more of a chance (and chances are good you are going to get steered this way if you keep investigating your options) you may want to look into your nearest AA intergroup - specifically asking whether there are groups around that cater more to your situation, i.e. not Christian. Someone very close to me went to a group in a medium sized urban area that was known as an "Artists" group and if anything tended to anti-Christian. AA groups are generally self-run and self supporting, all volunteer with only the most minimalistic involvement of any hierarchy, so they really do vary drastically. The people may scare you but it might be wise to remember that a lot of them are managing to stay sober on a daily and long term basis so you may be quick to judge. Anyway, I don't want to harp on the AA aspect, but the fact is that in many cases it is the only free help available and saying it is not an option does make me question your conviction to quit. There might be resources there that can help you but you won't know unless you ask. If there are cheap/free non-AA resources available in your community these people may also be acquainted with them.

I do agree with shoesfullofdust that your characterization of the end of a relationship as essentially precipitating the falling apart of your life is a sign of a deeper personal/psychological/ emotional issue that you will need to get to the heart of and probably get help addressing. But you'll never get there until you deal with the most obvious symptom, the drinking.

Going off your profile, here is a link for southern WI AA resources, here is a link to some free clinic resources in WI. Most people need help to quit drinking. You say you gave up drugs on your own, but if you were not totally clean for a significant period then you did not, you just consolidated your drug use to a single drug, alcohol. If getting help is not an option the reason is probably that you're afraid it might work. Feel free to email me if you want help googling for other resources in your community, I'm pretty good at it.
posted by nanojath at 9:07 PM on January 1, 2007

RJ: I don't want to derail this thread, but those papers you point to are mostly junk science: you can tell just by reading the abstracts — most of them don't even have control populations!

The Cochrane review of the literature on AA and other twelve step programs says pretty much the same as I did: there is no quality science that demonstrates the effectiveness of AA. Those studies which have been done are of such poor quality that it's impossible to place any trust in their results.

To the original poster: the most important thing is that you recognise that you have a problem with your drinking which you want to fix. There are other options to AA out there if you find AA not to your taste & you want some support. Go to it! We'll cheerlead from the sidelines...
posted by pharm at 12:30 AM on January 2, 2007

"...substances to help my health as I enter the withdraw?" - Water. Lots and lots of water. It's cheap and it works.

"what DO you sober people do upon awakening?" - I go to the bathroom :)

If you want a morning ritual or mantra, I suggest that you keep it very simple and straightforward at the beginning. Stay on topic. No props. Don't set the bar too high. Just something that frames your situation and states your goal. This is what helped me: "Try to not drink today." Repetitive drinking gets replaced by repetitive not-drinking.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:40 PM on January 2, 2007

Best of luck to you submitter. IANAD, but my Nursing professors stated more than once that withdrawal from alcohol can kill in severe cases if left untreated. Please seek help if your withdrawal gets bad.
posted by dunderhead at 12:19 AM on January 4, 2007

It's a line that stuck with me w/r/t the lack of an open mind in AA. While I'm not going to tell you to disregard your rational thought process and embrace some form of faith-based recovery, I do think you would find some useful insight when meditating on the idea that your best thinking so far is what has led you to your current condition. The value of [foo]A—for me anyway—isn't the dogmatic approach to recovery but the forced broadening of perspective that comes from listening to other people who find themselves in similar situations.

I also incorporate a good deal of Zen in my ongoing recovery from [foo]. I find it helpful to reflect on how counting breaths is like isolating moments in time. No single moment of time is infinite and thus has a beginning, middle, and—more importantly—an end. Cravings can be considered as time-based expressions of addiction to a substance. They too have beginnings, middles, and ends. Just as no moment of time is forever, so too is any physical craving momentary. Don't think of sobriety as a open-ended assignment. Instead use Zen to evaluate each discrete moment and concentrate on encapsulating each manifestation of physical addiction. This way sobriety is not one long slog where the only victory comes at the end of your life, instead your approach provides you with opportunities every day for the sense of accomplishment that keeps sobriety attractive.

In other words, try not to drink today. Try again tomorrow. Only with a bit of a Zen hook for you to hang it on. Zen works well for me and you indicate that you think it will be a useful lever for you. Just wanted to share my experience and to wish you well in your pursuit. Once you address the addiction problem, solutions to your other problems will appear as if by magic.
posted by Fezboy! at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2007

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