Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Starfish Thrower

I did manage to abstain all of Monday but we went to some friends' casa for dinner last night and the moon was full in the sky above, and the breeze was soft as we dined alfresco in their courtyard kitchen. It was a night made for wine. So I had four glasses and then after a moonlit stroll home I had another totally superfluous glass. Yes, I drank more than I had allotted myself but I didn't reach my definition of drunk and I didn't wake up with a hangover. No hangovers since New Year's Day is a small success but I'll claim any success I can. I abstained again tonight. I really, really wanted a drink at from 4:00-6:00 pm but I kept my hands busy and made a list of why I wanted a drink and another list of why I shouldn't have a drink and the nays won tonight.

You all know I do a lot of talking to my co-writer (GOD) but during my most desperate nights I talk to everybody I know that has "crossed over," pleading for their intercession. The one person (are they still called persons when they're dead) I couldn't talk to for years was my mother. Even though she supposedly can see what goes on down here, I was too ashamed to talk to her. My drinking escalated greatly after my mom died. Not because of grief but out of a sense of freedom. My Mom was kind of my super conscience. I always worried what my mom would think. Too much,actually. So when she was gone so were a lot of the restrictions I had put on myself. I couldn't "talk" to her because I couldn't bear her disappointment in me or my disappointment in myself. I eventually got over it. I know she worries about me but I know she's there to support me and give me strength too. I know this all sounds crazy but I think I got a message from her today.

I was walking our stretch of beach this morning and I decided to poke around a new batch of rock that was uncovered by the uncommonly low tide. The cap'n I used to do this regularly in the Bahamas and after the hurricanes we found old coins and all kinds of assorted treasure. (Don't tell the Bahamian government). My treasure hunt this morning didn't turn up any bootie but I did find a starfish that had been marooned on the beach by the low tide. It was still alive so I picked it up and flung it back into its salty home. It reminded me of a story the priest told at my mother's funeral. He said Mom was a starfish thrower. You have probably heard this story but it's a good re-read.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man, a scientist but also a poet, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" The young man paused, looked up and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked, Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference for that one!"

His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn't know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to the cottage to begin his writings.

All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late in the afternoon he realized that he the scientist, he the poet, had missed out on the essential nature of the young man's actions. Because he realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe and make a difference. He was embarrased.

That night he went to bed troubled. When the morning came he awoke knowing that he had to do something. So he got up, put on his clothes, went to the beach and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish into the ocean. You see, what that young man's actions represent is something that is special in each and every one of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.

And that is your challenge. And that is my challenge. We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our stars wisely and well, I have no question that the 21st century is going to be a wonderful place.


A lot of the time I wonder if I should be writing this blog. What is its purpose? What is it supposed to be teaching anyone that reads it? Certainly not how to manage their drinking successfully since I obviously haven't figured that out for myself. Maybe I'm supposed to keep writing it because if even one person feels less alone in their struggles, it has made a difference. I hope so.

Thanks,Mom! Love You!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tell Me Again Why I Don’t Want A Drink

I didn't blow it last night but I didn't abstain as I had planned either. An expat American couple cook in one of the local hotels down here and every once in a while they host a special dinner and all the expats attend. The expats down here have divided themselves into groups according to the village or neighborhood they live in, nationality (ie. British, Canadian, American and Texan), special interests such as karaoke enthusiasts and karaoke despisers and so on. Last night all of our peeps stayed home and although we knew practically everybody there, they were with their chosen groups and the cap'n and I were desperately alone with each other. So I had a beer just to make myself more comfortable in my surroundings. Then I had another one before the cap'n even finished his first. Then I had a third one just for the hell of it. Finally some of our friends showed up. I ordered a glass of wine but it was so horrible that I couldn't drink it. It's probably the only time I can remember walking away and leaving a full glass of alcohol on the table. Karaoke started up and we quickly made the decision to head for la casa. Don't get me wrong, I love karaoke. Karaoke doesn't love me. I'm one of those drunks who know full well that I can't sing but I'm still hogging the mike and caterwauling away. And since my goal was to remain forgettable last night I knew I had to get out of there before I started channeling my inner Janis Joplin.

Our friends joined us at our house for a last glass of wine but by that time I had been able to put the brakes on and I sipped my diet Sprite while they enjoyed their vino blanco. So not a total disaster but not a total success either. I made the vow to try abstaining again today and it's almost 7 pm so I think I'm going to make it although there were a couple of hours earlier when I really wanted one. What kept me from breaking my vow? There was a post on one of the message boards today from someone asking if anyone else had noticed that their anti-depressant medicine worked better when they quit drinking. I've never been on anti-depressant meds but I have noticed a marked mood elevation when I've been off the booze for about a week. Duh! Alcohol is a depressant. I guess I thought the effects only lasted as long as the booze was in my system but now I believe it has lingering effects. Or maybe I just feel better about myself and that makes me happier. Whatever works for me.

So tonight I'm out there trying my best to find my way to happy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blew It!

My piety didn't last long. I'm not much of a beer drinker but there are times when an ice cold beer sounds too good to be ignored. Friday afternoon was one those times. Beside the two bars that the gringos down here frequent the most there are several locals owned bars. One of our favorites is Comote's. It's cleaner and it doesn't seem to be crumbling as much as the others and it serves great botanos. Botanos are appetizers down here in Mexico and they're free. Comotes serves up about half a dozen botanos which include ceviche, refried beans, a fish dip, a pulpo dip (octopus), a potato dish. You get all of this and chips and they keep them coming for as long as you're sitting there. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were with some of our best buds including my friend who was giving me grief about not drinking. She was relieved to see that my wagon ride didn't last long. We had two beers and then we left and went home, which would have been fine had I stopped there but nooooo….I had to have just "one" Jack Daniels….and then I started playing DJ and then cap'n and I sang and drank the night away. By some quirk of nature, I didn't have a hangover the next day so I drank again on Saturday, all day. But I took it slow and basically nursed my drinks and I didn't have a hangover again this morning. I'm not sure what I did to deserve this reprieve from hangover hell but I'm not testing the gods again today. So I'm abs'ing today. Tonight one of the restaurant/bar is having a rib dinner which will be attended by most of the expats and I'm determined to not drink. I figure if I noticeably abstain at some of these public events it might negate the times I have made a public nuisance of myself. Yeah right. Peoples' memories are very long when you act like an ass and very short when you don't do anything memorable. But I'm going to try anyway.

So today I'm out there doing my best to be totally forgettable.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Friends In Low Places

I walked into the bar last night and Carlos, the owner, was very proud to show me the bottle of Jack Daniels he had purchased. He doesn't usually stock it because it is so expensive but he knows that is what I like to drink and for the past month I've been having to lower my standards and drink Jim Beam. Then my friend who also loves to drink Jack Daniels ordered each of us a drink. I thought, "What the hell? I'll just have one." I've sung that tune a few too many times. Luckily, I was able to have a quick question and answer session with myself before the drinks got mixed (this is Mexico, they don't do nothin' in a hurry down here). I asked myself why I was ordering that drink and the answer was because someone else expected and wanted me to have that drink. I didn't want it. I really didn't. Plus Gaby, my girl Friday, was giving her designated driver (moi) the evil eye. I cancelled the drink, much to the chagrin of my drinking buddy friend.

Usually, I find that after the first incredulity and shock that I actually turned down a drink, most people lose interest. As long as I'm not bugging them about their drinking, what do they care? This was not the case last night. After several comments and queries, I caved. No, I didn't actually order a drink but I took a few sips of my friend's drink and made comments that I'd probably be off the wagon soon. Just trying to fit in with the in crowd. What the hell? I'm 48, not 14. Was I trying to make them feel better about themselves or was I afraid I wouldn't be included anymore? Blacklisted.

Blacklisted is when somebody gives up drinking and all of a sudden they're not invited to any of the gatherings anymore. They're voted off the island, cast out of the inner circle and ostracized. I've been guilty of doing this myself. One winter we returned to our sailboat in the Bahamas to find that over the summer one of our buddies had gone and sobered up. Well hell, cross him off the sundowners in the cockpit list, we sure are going to miss him. The next winter we came back and he was drinking again.

Why do we do that? The cap'n even suggested that I fake that I'm drinking. He said with my personality most people can't tell the difference when I'm drinking and when I'm not. WWhhaatt?! One of my main purposes for not drinking is so that people don't think of me as a drunk but I should go ahead and act like I'm drinking so all the other drunks will still like me. Just a wee conflict of interest there. No wonder I drink.

I don't have any answers tonight so I guess I'll just figure it out as I go along. Unlike most everybody else at that party last night, I didn't have a hangover today so Na-na-na-na-boo-boo, I'm sticking my tongue out at you. And I didn't have a drink today so no hangover tomorrow either. Now I'm starting to feel almost pious, which may clear up the mystery of why ex-drinkers don't get invited to parties.

So I'm out there doing my best to stand by my convictions and remain my humble self and thanking God for hot packs and broad spectrum antibiotics. (I'll never tell).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I guess I should have qualified my remark yesterday that every morning could be like yesterday morning if I chose because it's blowing like stink this morning. I guess my Co-Writer wants to show who is in charge. Last night I attended a monthly fundraiser for the kids in the next pueblo. There was alcohol served but I refrained. It was pretty easy since drinking is not the primary motive of this get together and it is one of the few events down here that is not held in a bar.

Like the song "I love this bar", there are very few bars I don't like. Maybe because I've spent so much time in them, they hold a feeling of home for me. Your friends are always there to welcome you and hell if they're not you'll make a few new ones before the night is over. I find acceptance in bars. A sort of comaraderie among reprobates. But I really don't want Barfly etched on my tombstone. I don't want my bar life to define me. A week after we got down here one of our local bar regulars died. You know him/her. The guy or gal that has their personal barstool and even if they're not there hunched over their drink nobody sits in their seat out of respect. And the sure knowlege that they'll be back to claim it pretty soon. This lady left the bar one afternoon to go home. Her husband followed an hour later. He found her dead. She had bled to death from ruptured esophageal varices. In case you don't know, esophageal varices are usually found in alcoholics. Of course, we held her wake at her favorite bar and only when her son gave her eulogy did I get a glimpse of the "other" person she was. I missed out. Of course, all of us down here sat around the bar after the wake and swore we were all going to turn that infernal leaf over and drink less amid cries of "Hey, who's turn is it to buy the next round?"

The problem down here is that everything takes place in bars. I haven't had a drink in a week but I've been to the bar three times and today is another birthday party at another bar. You can't avoid going to a bar unless you lock yourself in your casa. Even in the states, when you walk into most restaurants the first thing you see is the bar. The problem with that, one recovered alcoholic told me, is that going to the bar when you are trying to stop drinking is like going to a barbershop, eventually you're going to get a haircut. Of course, we were sitting in a bar when he delivered this somewhat confusing analogy to me. So the bars aren't going to go away and I'm going to keep walking into them. I've just got to channel the "other" me and make sure I don't stumble out.

So I'm out there today doing my best to find my "other" me. Now where did I leave her. I'll let you know how I fare at the birthday party. I've kind of hedged my bet by offering to take my housekeeper/girl Friday with me. She doesn't drive and I told her I wouldn't be drinking so she'd have a safe ride home. She probably has fond memories of the last birthday party she attended with me when she had to pour me into the car and then help the cap'n drag me into the casa. God, you better be riding shotgun with me today. I better start practicing saying "Coca Light, por favor."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year

I'm back! After a rather long hiatus accompanied, of course, by several displays of public drunkenness, a lot of hangovers, and a few sober days, I have returned. I'll get to all that on a later date. I'm back in Mexico…

As the sun rose this morning a lone blue heron perched on the seashore in front of my casa gazing out to sea. He sensed me watching and spread his great wings and glided weightlessly over the water. The gulf was so still that the line between sea and sky was erased in the dawn mist. Later a band of tiny shore birds skittered in front of me, leading the way, zig-zagging as the water did its dance of advance and retreat. I wandered through our tiny Mercado and bought some fresh squeezed jugo de naranja. They put it in a plastic bag and tied it around a straw. Take-out Mexican style. As I made my way back home I stopped to talk to other beach wanderers. Three new friends and an old one.

This is how all my mornings could be, if I choose.

I'm out there doing my best to collect mornings like this.