Jan 2019 09

Since I linked to this article and it’s getting traffic (hello 8 readers!), I should preface it with a) It’s long, I could use a good editor b) It’s really only useful if you’re doing Dry January, and c) I’m not an expert – if you need serious help, consult a recovery program or therapist or doctor. : )

First of all, it is quite possible I am the worst person to heed advice from. This is the blind leading the blind as they say. I lose the car in the airport parking lot. I’m not sure what this has to do with advice on how to navigate a Dry January, but you have been warned that I’m not the best leader is basically what I’m saying.

By the way, that’s a weird saying – blind leading the blind. I mean, if I was blind I think I would be comforted by finding another blind person to fumble through things with. Hey, they understand what I’m going through. But again, besides the point.

So I write this because I have friends who are attempting their first Dry January. Why January was chosen as the month to not drink, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s cause the holidays are so full of excess and booze that a detox is needed (and possibly of the spirit as well – I’m looking at you, you toxic capitalism-loving Christians!). And of course, New Years Resolutions.

I was out on Thursday night and a friend in the group said he was starting his Dry January ‘right after tonight’ – January 3rd. So clearly, some people are having a problem with this one. And I’m reading some social posts about it, too.

So I offer my advice. For what it’s worth.

My credentials, before I give said advice?

I am 31 days sober right now. And starting last October 1st, I did a 34 day stint before I broke that one. At first I regretted breaking that one, but it solidified my suspicions that me and alcohol probably cannot just be friends. I slid back into terrible habits in November. Good to learn.

And I am not some tourist when it comes to alcohol. I moved there. I know the town well. I’m a local. I can drive a cab there – I know the streets and back alleys.

I drank. I drank a lot. For years. Over 20 I’d bet. Your New Years Eve is my Tuesday. 10+ drinks not uncommon, multiple types too, including shots, closing the bar on a work night – child’s play. I was proud of it. A couple times a week, maybe. And I was doing that at least one if not both Friday or Saturday night too since I was in my late teens. It was fun (see the problem for me?).

I don’t know how long I will not drink. I’m not sure this is a permanent thing, but I do like the positive things it is bringing to my life so far. But it’s hard. I get it. I understand you, you booze-loving person reading this. I want a bourbon sometimes. Right now, as I write this, I’m picturing a rotund, amber-filled glass on top of a pristine napkin. One or two freshly chiseled ice cubes are floating on top, glistening in the light of the dimly lit bar as it is slid towards me. Hi sailor.

Agh.

1. Case in point. You’re going to want a drink. That won’t go away. Just feel it and it’ll pass. It’s okay to feel that way. Just don’t have one. It’s a day-by-day, and sometimes moment-to-moment decision to make.

2. That being said, you can’t think about February 1st. Think about today. Get through today. Think about the number of days you can add to the ‘Didn’t Drink’ tally, as opposed to how many days you need to get through. Celebrate the days behind as opposed to looking at the task ahead.

3. Hanging out in bars is tough. I wouldn’t suggest it right away. But if you’re like me, and your social activities are all pretty much based around hanging out and drinking (you can’t get new friends in a month – and even though they’re drunks, you love your friends!), I’d suggest you find some alternatives to booze. I order de-alcoholized beer if they have it (The Budweiser Prohibition is good, or Beck’s ain’t bad). Or a Red Bull and soda (which is like smoking Menthols apparently, everyone is aghast). It keeps you in the ritual of drinking without the booze. But it will be weird at first. You’ll think you have a big red light above your head calling attention to you, the non-drinker. You don’t. You’re imagining it.

4. Get ready for peer pressure. This is a tough one, and I’m still navigating how to deal with it. I get all kinds of strange responses when people hear I’m not drinking. I’m now at the point where I keep it low-key but inevitably some idiot friend of mine (ahem, D) will exclaim ‘Hey everyone. Andrew isn’t drinking anymore. Isn’t that amazing? I couldn’t do it, but yay Andrew!’ and then it’s an issue. “Dry January” if you must explain. And then just move on. Defend your choices though. At first I was apologetic about it, but now I just push back if I get hassled. “C’mon, Andrew. Have just one with us.” ME: (if they persist) Fuck off. Not happening mother fucker, and I suggest you shut up unless you want to swallow some teeth and bits of glass with that drink you’re about to put up to your lips that decorate your currently pre-reconstructive surgery ‘before’ picture face. – Be tough. Sobriety is no place for the weak. Would love to say that by the way. But usually I just stop at the ‘fuck off’.

5. Talk about it. So ya, even though above I just said to keep it low-key, talking about it helps. Just not with drunk people in the bar, perhaps –

“Are you judging my drinking, Andrew?”

“No, I’m just not drin…”

“Fuck you, Andrew. Look at smug sober Andrew, everyone. Whooo woo.”

But I’ve found that a bartender that understands is very helpful – more than one server/bartender has shared their ‘I stopped drinking/did a sober month’ story and it really helps. You don’t have it to navigate it alone. Hey, look at me, I’m writing a ridiculously long blog post about it right now cause I’m feeling it tonight.

Hot tip: Women who have had kids are your best friends to talk to. They get it. They were sober for months. You hope.

6. Enjoy feeling great. Cause you’re going to feel that way soon. I know, I know. I didn’t believe it either. And I certainly didn’t do this for the physical effects necessarily. But everyone kept telling me – you’re going to feel great, Andrew. And I was like, ‘Fuck off, I feel great drinking’. But I feel more rested (when I do sleep, geez). My mind is clearer. I’m told my skin looks like I’m a Noxzema Girl (look it up). It’s easier to get going in the morning, for sure. That happened around the two week mark both times now…

7. You’ve got to be okay looking at booze. You can’t escape the fact that alcohol is everywhere. Even if you stop going to bars for the month, alcohol is pervasive in our culture. TV shows. Movies. Advertising. Walking by the LCBO or Wine Rack. Seeing someone carrying a bag with booze in it. That is tough. ‘When you want something you see it everywhere’. Expect to be challenged.

8. Find a new hobby to fill your time. I’m not good at this one yet. I read more. Write more. Picked up the bass a bit more.But this time of year is tough. In the summer I’d just hop on my bike or go for a walk. If you’re a winter person, lucky you… Find a new hobby. Do something different for January. Binge watch a new show, whatever. Call friends you haven’t seen in awhile. Write! Fuck more! Something…

9. I think to succeed at this, you really have to want it, obviously. And to know WHY you’re doing it. Set that goal. Without knowing ‘why’, I think there’s no point. Just to know you can? That’s enough I think. For me, I think I used it too much as a coping mechanism. I wanted (and it’s an ongoing thing) to see what my life is like without it – my relationships, my writing, my days. I’m finding out.

10. Dry January is a crock. Just like Sober October was for me. Day 1 is really whatever day you want it to be. January 4th is fine in my friend’s case. But you can do it. Made it 10 days and slipped? Start over.

11. Learn what your triggers are. There are all kinds of things that might make you want to drink. Seeing other people drink might be it. Smelling it might be it. Stress might be it. Being at a restaurant and ordering a nice dinner, maybe – I have trouble looking at wine lists right now. Can’t read them. Too tempting. Just it being Friday night might be it.

12. This isn’t advice, but I’ll end with saying I’m not against drinking. If you can do it in moderation, great. I am learning that I can’t. At least not yet. That’s not my goal though. Right now, my goal is just not to drink today. And then I’ll deal with tomorrow the same way. That’s the best advice I can give.

 

Good luck. Call me or email me if you need help. We can meet for a Red Bull and Soda. Or coffee. You can do this. It’s not easy.

 

X

 

 

 

 

Jan 2019 08

 

‘If you lose a reusable bag, the Universe is saying it was never your reusable bag to begin with.

However if you find said lost reusable bag that fell out of your pocket – a whole three days later down the street outside the skid Howard Johnson’s hotel, and someone hung it on a bike post amongst some stripped down rides – then the Universe is saying it is indeed your reusable bag after all.

And also to wash it out, cause this is Parkdale and who knows what someone used it for in the last three days.’

– Andrew

 

NOTE: This shit really happened. Lost a bag on Saturday. I was bummed. Found bag on Tuesday! Not bummed. 

 

 

Jan 2019 07

Today is the 9th Anniversary of my mother, Yuki Shimamori’s, death. A strange tribute to a very difficult lady that I continue to get to know better even now.

“Hit him! Just give him a good clout, Bert.”

My mother was always appealing to my father for him to dish out some kind of physical discipline on me.

“Oh, and what’s that going to prove?” he’d say.

For what reason, I was never sure, but my mother was convinced that a good beating would knock me into line. Her line, whatever that was. I think I knew early on that there was no pleasing her. And rather than try, I think I caught my father’s sense of wanderlust and this infuriated her even more.

Coming in late, or dirty, or god forbid – just happy. Take cover. Yuki was coming after you.

Whatever it was that set her off, I can say my relationship with her my whole life was very volatile.

She was an angry person. I was 20 before I found out why – her Japanese-Canadian incarceration past. She was sarcastic. Distant. Acerbic. Controlling. Critical… Mean… I could go on and on – because she was a terrible person at times, and I realize I’m a lot like her at my worst (Fuck me, what a realization that has been). She was the most emotional person I have ever known – but certainly not in a loving way.

This is quite a tribute to her on the 9th anniversary of her death, huh?

Anyhow, it became clear to her that my dad was not going to be the disher-outer of discipline. In later years he told me that he once used his belt strap on my sister and I when we were very young. We shared a room at that time, and wouldn’t go to sleep one night, and I suppose my mom sent him in there ‘to be a man’. And he says he saw the sheer terror on our faces after strapping our legs, the look of fear and betrayal, and he swore never to do it again.

So my mother, she took on the role of enforcer with great gusto. It wasn’t random violence – there was always ‘Yuki logic’ for why you were in trouble, even if it made no sense. I can recall spankings, shoes being thrown at me, nails being dug into my arm (those hurt – and that’s some twisted shit), and verbal abuse that I have only relived in some therapy sessions, to be honest.

And then there was the salad tong incident.

Ah yes. The salad tong incident. Nothing would be the same after it.

For the record, I don’t know exactly what I did to set Yuki off that day. I mean, I wasn’t an angel child but I was certainly too young to be smoking, shoplifting, or skipping school at that age when this happened. I think I was maybe 9 or 10.

But her rage was unshackled and I was on the receiving end for some reason.

She was determined to beat me into submission that day. And in our house, just her and I, I ran for cover to escape her. She snatched whatever was closest at hand that looked like it would help her.

A salad tong. The flat spoon-like counterpart to the fork-like one, to be specific. Wooden, about a foot and a half long. She wielded it like a female Japanese warrior and came at me.

She grabbed me by the clothing and hauled me close to her and started hitting me with this salad tong.

Over and over. Whack! Getting hit by a salad tong isn’t like a fist, but each blow stung. Whack! Why did I aggravate my mother so much? Why did she hate me so much? Whack! On my legs. My back. My shoulders. And then my behind.

And then there was a SNAP. And the whacking stopped.

I looked back to see that she was holding a broken salad tong. It had snapped in two from the force of her attack.

My wailing stopped. Her shouting stopped. And we looked each other in the eyes.

And I smiled and started laughing.

I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t laughing at her exactly. I was laughing at the whole absurdity of this situation. I mean who beats someone with a salad tong, anyhow? And the fucking thing broke. It was a shitty quality salad tong.

And amazingly, Yuki started laughing too.

I don’t know why. Was it the same realization I had? Was it her realizing that she was bat-shit fucking weird? Was it her coming to terms with the fact that I was uncontrollable, the world was uncontrollable, and we were just two assholes thrown together as mother and son in a crazy universe?

Who knows.

But we had the giggle of our lives. Literally. Never before or after that did I ever share a laugh with my mother the way we laughed at that moment.

It was a moment full of understanding, and dare I say it – love. Mutual respect. And unexpected joy.

And then it was gone. I never saw it again.

She never laid a hand on me after that day. Oh sure, the verbal abuse kept going. She was still Yuki, afterall. There were no happy endings for her mental health.

But into my teen years, and dealing with her stroke (which made her more nasty), and then her final short battle with cancer – whenever I had trouble dealing with my mom, or needed to find some tenderness for her, I think I subconciously travelled back to that moment and remembered the real person under that terrible, difficult exterior.

If you have ever seen me laugh, and I mean really laugh down to the core of my soul and spirit, and it is rare I admit cause I’m Yuki’s son – I can count the number of times on one hand to be honest – it is all a pale imitation of that salad tong event.

Yuki was awful.

But she had a joyous laugh and enjoyment of life that she hid from the world.

I met my mother that day.

I met myself that day.

In my adult life, I have always made sure to own a pair of very solid wooden salad tongs. I think of her when I hold their considerable weight. They’re for spinach.

#forgedinfire

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 2019 05

 

I think I got asked to stay in and Netflix and chill tonight. By Netflix.

Awkward.

 

 

 

#27days

Jan 2019 03

 

Still watering the tree.

Not cause I’m that big a fan of Christmas. I just hate to see a thirsty tree.