Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas is coming!

Today is Sunday, Dec 20, and for the first time that I can remember, all of my shopping is done! As a matter of fact, it's been done for almost two weeks. It's definitely nice not to have to "panic shop". I guarantee at least ONE person reading this blog will spend most of the day on Christmas eve fighting mall traffic trying to get those last minute gifts.

Let me give a word of advice - SHOP ONLINE.


Some things that have been contributing to my life lately:

--This is a very cool website where you can purchase gift certificates to restaurants at a fraction of the cost. Example: a $50 gift card to the Capital Grille will cost you $20. The site has offers for HUNDREDS of restaurants in the DC area, and thousands of others nationwide.
--Jen and I discovered this one about six months ago. You sign up for the free daily emails, and you get one email a day with that day's offer. We recently bought a $20 admission tickets to the Museum of Crime and Punishment for $10, and they offer everything from cupcakes to spa treatments. I HIGHLY recommend this one, as well as it's counterpart, LivingSocial.
--This is a very inspiring site about a guy who started with one red paperclip (hence the clever name), and traded up, 14 times, for a 2 story house. Capitalism at it's finest.
--Absolutely brilliant money advice guy. If you want real-world advice and common sense anecdotes on how to get out of debt, stay that way, and build wealth, you must read this book. Before we started, we were on the path to paying off our debt in 7 years. Now it will be done in two, including cars and student loans. No get-rich-quick scheme, no punchline, just a straight up plan.
--We just spent two days in the Times Square area. It was an absolute blast! The weather was freezing cold, and we were stuck carrying our bags around the whole second day, but it was worth it. We finally got to the NHL store, (with Stanley Cup shaped Christmas tree, complete with lights), shopped on 5th Avenue (the Tiffany store alone is 6 stories. Nice.), ate pizza in Little Italy, saw the Naked Cowboy, watched 2 people play the BIG piano at F.A.O. Schwarz, see the Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall, and see the HUGE tree at Rockefeller Center. Not bad for only being in the city for 24 hours. Thanks to LivingSocial and Priceline, we were able to do this whole trip for around $250, including theater tickets.

As I was writing this I learned an important culinary lesson. Hershey bars and kisses can be melted down for whatever purpose you need. However, this cannot be done in the microwave.

After winning last night in Edmonton, the Washington Capitals reached the 50 point mark at the earliest point of the season in franchise history.

I just finished watching Dexter Season 4. Still bitter that my "friends" on Facebook couldn't keep the final episode twist a secret, so I went into it knowing what happened. Not cool.

That's it for now, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

3 months+

As part of my recovery process, I decided to take a new job. Yes, I'm still slinging drinks, I just needed a change of venue. Someone who has been a good friend to me over the years called me about a month ago and needed a replacement at the club he manages/co-owns, and after some deliberation with myself, decided it would be a good move for me. It has turned out to be exactly what I needed to get my head back into real life.

I have been sober now for three months and some change, with no slip ups. My Starbucks consumption, however, has increased dramatically :) I even found some non-alcoholic wine so that I'm not completely left out during certain times where wine consumption is absolutely necessary. Ikea also has some great sparkling ciders that I picked up for New Years. I never associated wine and champagne with "drinking", so I thought maybe I would be okay to "exclude" those from my retirement from drinking, I thought it best not to tempt fate and just stay away. I'll never know how it would have turned out, but at least I won't have to chance having to start all over.

Once again, I thank everyone that has been there for me and stuck by my side through my recovery - your support has meant the world to me!

P.S. - You can now find me Friday through Tuesday nights at Fly Lounge in beautiful Midtown DC.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flash Forward

I am completely hooked. Sadly, it seems like every show I ever like gets canceled, so I'm not too optimistic. But it's pretty badass so far!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Changes!

I'm beginning to notice a few friends introducing positive changes to their lives. This makes me happy. I'm not going to get into the catalyst for my decisions, at least not any more so than I already have, but it seems like everyone has a breaking point. For some, their problem is alcohol, some drugs, some family, some friends. It's not always about addiction. But since these friends have begun writing about their struggles, I decided to write my thoughts for the week.

A good friend of mine read me a quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that had an impact on me, and I'm hoping my friends can glean something from it as well:

"For what it's worth: it's never too late... to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. "

This is such a simple philosophy, but it seems to slip through the cracks from time to time. There is no reason to settle for less than the best in life. Not happy with your job? Find one that you love. Unhappy in your relationship? There are other fish in the sea. Does something have control over you that makes you unhappy? Fight it off. Eliminate from your life anything that means to do you harm. Are your friendships one way - are you the only one contributing positively? Take some of the load off. Some might say "get new friends", but choose wisely.

I think I was afraid of losing friends because I wasn't drinking anymore. Sure, I had fun hanging out with those people and partying all day or night, but when it was all over, I was broke and felt empty inside, or so miserably hungover I could barely function. But once I made the decision, some of those "drinking buddies" were still there, offering their support and have been really cool about keeping me on track. those are the real friends. The others? Not sure, haven't really talked to them. It's when you make positive changes in your life that you learn some of life's most important lessons.

So to all of you embarking on your own personal journey - I wish you all the best of luck, and offer you my unconditional support.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One Month in...

I had my last drink exactly one month ago today.

It's amazing to me how much better I feel. I always felt like "living" was going out and getting crazy with my friends, staying out all night and feeling like crap the next morning. For the first few days it felt kind of weird making such a huge adjustment in my life, but now I'm starting to notice things I never noticed before.

We still go out to dinner, it just costs about half as much. Admittedly, Jen and I are on opposite schedules, so we still see each other about as much, although Sunday funday has taken on a completely different meaning, but I won't get into that here. :) I estimate that I'm saving $1000 a month, maybe even more. We've been able to take care of some things that we kept putting off for a long time. Neither one of us had even done any CLOTHES shopping since...wow, I can't even remember. We took care of that a couple of weeks ago. We're saving money for new living room furniture, we're going to paint our condo, and all of our bills are paid on time with money left for savings. It's definitely a nice change from how it was before.

"Living" has taken on an entirely different meaning for me, and it's really nice.

Today is 09/09/09. From today's Yahoo news, "As the final numeral, the number nine holds special rank. It is associated with forgiveness, compassion and success on the positive side as well as arrogance and self-righteousness on the negative, according to numerologists."

Today I reflect on my new goals in life - forgiveness (of others as well as myself), compassion for others, no matter their situation, and success - not only in this journey, but in life as a whole; and to purge from myself any arrogance and self-righteousness. It should be noted for the record that this blog is not, and has never been meant to sound or appear self-righteous at all. It is merely a place for my thoughts and reflections.

As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Does EVERYTHING have to be partisan?

Ordinarily, I would go off on a tirade about how I'm pissed off and one "going-on" or another, but for today's purposes, but I'm going to try to be a little more objective today.

Recently, people got all up in arms about President Obama reaching out to the country's youth. Some called it pandering, some said it was in poor taste, and others had FAR more vile things to say about the leader of the free world for how he was spending his time and taxpayer dollars.

Today, President Obama spoke at Wakefield High School, right here in Arlington, VA and simulcast a live feed to millions of students K-12 all over the country. He touched on several vital issues facing the youth of this country, primarily the importance of staying in school and furthering their education. He told some inspirational stories about kids from al lover the country that overcame socio-economic obstacles to go onto higher education and get great jobs. He stressed the importance of setting and acheiving goals,a nd volunteering and giving back to one's own community. He did not just give students a lecture that they've heard hundreds of times before, he gave details, examples, encouragement and advice.

It's been said many times that hindsight is 20-20, and after reading the transcript of the speech, I couldn't agree with this statement more. Perhaps if I could have had the opportunity to hear something like this when I was a kid, my life may have turned out different. This is not to say that I'm not happy with my current station in life, I couldn't be happier. Okay, a big lottery win would put a pretty big smile on my face, but I digress. I'm healthy again, I have a wonderful wife and family, a great job that I love, my bills are paid and money is in the bank, and I've been given a second chance in life to do the right things. But through all of it, I often wonder "What if? What if I had given one ounce of shit in school? What if I had gone to class every day? What if I had done something so simple as graduate high school? Well, I didn't. No high school diploma, no college, no Ph.D. I don't sit behind a desk and have power lunches. I don't trade stocks on Wall Street, and I don't diagnose or treat diseases. I sling drinks to college kids. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

But I also don't clean bathrooms, sell stolen shit out of the back of a car, or beg for money on the street. I accepted that I had made mistakes, and I chose a path that would not only pay the bills, but I actually enjoyed. The President's speech to the youth of the nation today was about recognizing and taking personal responsibility. So you came from a poor family. SO WHAT. Work hard and break the cycle. So you come from a rich family. BIG DEAL. Do them proud and make something of yourself. To those that have already missed their wondow - QUIT WHINING. There options out there. Go to night school or get your GED. Find a job you love, or go out and make a difference in your community. As President Obama said, "You can't let your failures define you, you have to let them teach you".

Responsibility.

Everything that was said to the children today is not just good advice for your education, he gave some great life advice, and I'm glad that students all over the country had the opportunity -- no, the priviledge to hear such great advice from a leader who overcomes challenges greater than our imagination every day.

Put your politics aside, and read the transcript of the speech here. Feel free to discuss on my Facebook wall.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

An eye opening tragedy

For the record, I never had a chance to meet Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM, I was merely a casual fan of his musical collaborations.

While some of you may not be clear on how this could possibly be relevant to my situation, there are others that may see it clear as day. But it impacted me nonetheless.

He had been sober for nine years up until the plane crash he was involved in. NINE years. As I approach my three week mark it has me thinking what a long time nine years really is. Aside from nearly dying in a terrible place crash, he seemed to be living life right. The reports that are coming in now are that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend, and that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after the crash that killed four other people.

A lot of the comments I've seen on facebook about this are calling him "selfish" and that "he was given a second chance and blew it". I honestly believe now, more than ever, that you really should not judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins. I've battled more demons in my short life than I would ever wish on anyone, including some things I've never told a single soul, and probably never will. Before I made the decision to stop drinking and get my life together, I battled with depression and thoughts of suicide myself. Until you've felt the agony and despair of someone spiraling out of control of their life, you can't possibly imagine how their brain rationalizes things. I too, feel like I have been given a second chance. I imagine it's about how born-again Christians see it. But everyone makes mistakes, even on the second go-round.

Maybe it was a suicide, maybe it was an accident. Hell, maybe it was a murder made to look like an overdose or suicide. Only time will tell. But what I can say is that in this writer's opinion, there is no one qualified to pass judgement on his state of mind except for himself. But it definitely makes me think about the peaks and valleys in the journey that someone like us goes through. I truly hope that no matter what cards are dealt to me, I'll have the strength to stay on the right path.

The one unequivical truth is that the world has lost a fantastic artist, and he should be remembered for the joy that he brought to others with his music. He will be missed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 19

I guess this is going to be a very sporadic blog, because half of the time I'm just too tired to write.

Today is day 19 of sobriety, and I'm still feeling great. I can't even begin to imagine how much money I've saved, although in week one I did some pretty heavy ebay shopping.

But anyway... last night was one of the true tests of my will. Ever have one of those days that you get home and you just wish you had like three hours to sit in a hottub and watch a movie and sweat out all of the negativity in your life? I realize how "tree-hugging-hippie" that sounded, but seriously. I NEED that right now. Or I need to find a way to convince the powers-that-be at Kettler to open up one of the ice rinks at 3am and let me skate after work.

I just need to relieve myself of some stress. Maybe a week at the beach, or even just a week at home doing absolutely nothing. Maybe a really good massage. I don't know, but something is going to have to give. I know that they say "wherever you go, there you are", but sometimes it's good to get away. I've even thought about taking one day off next week and going to Charlestown and watching horses race and play penny slots. It's cheap, it's close, and I can do it by myself without being bothered.

I'm glad that I've wised up and not turned to the alcohol as a stress relief, because it really only made it worse. The one thing I've been doing more is reading. I never got to do that because I was too hungover to get up before work, or too drunk to read after work. I'm glad I have that back again. I am up to date and have read all of David Baldacci and Vince Flynn's books, and I'm really looking forward to Dan Brown's new novel The Lost Symbol. It only took him what, 6 years? Release date is 9/15, if you can find it.

Let's see, what else... I had coffee with a friend today that I don't get to see nearly enough, and another person that I rarely see at all. It was nice to just sit outside and bullshit about nothing at all, and just enjoy the afternoon. Definitely reminded me why I'm glad I don't live in Fairfax, though. Too much traffic for being so far from the city.

College football kicks off in exactly one week. The two teams I follow (Virginia and Tennessee) are not in any shape to win anything this year, so I'll just root against Florida and hope that they lose on a fairly regular basis. Hockey preseason starts in 19 days! I am PSYCHED for hockey season this year, it is a good time to be a Caps fan!

That's it for now, I'll be back soon!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 14

Today is the two week mark, and everything is still going smoothly. I truly believe that I've made the right choice. I also want to say thanks for the outpouring of support that I've gotten from everyone, it means the world to me that I have friends as great as all of you!

On an unrelated, but equally positive note: Hockey preseason starts in less than a month!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well, here goes...

My name is Jon C., and I'm an alcoholic.

On Sunday August 9, 2009, I finally admitted this to myself. This admission was mine alone, and came without coersion, or at anyone else's behest. This predicament comes with only one solution - stop drinking altogether.

Alcoholics Anonymous didn't seem like the right fit for me based on their guiding principles, but they have one solid idea on which I'm basing my journey: If you don't drink one, you can't drink ten. So far, it has worked beautifully. I suppose I'm one of the lucky few alcoholics that is perfectly content not to drink.

Confused? I was too, at first. I "stopped" drinking before. The first time was for about one week, after I was arrested for suspicion of DUI just six months after my 21st birthday. Thanks to a considerable amount of money and a great lawyer, I got out of it, but was still required to take an alcohol safety class called Alcohol Safety Action Program, or ASAP. I did not drink during the week leading up to the program, just because I wanted to see if I could do it. I didn't have a problem at all. Very simple - just don't drink. Once the program started, we were told that during the course of the 12 week program (which met every friday at 10am), we were not ALLOWED to drink, at all. We were required to take a breathylizer upon walking in the door.

"Hell, anyone can beat this system", I thought, and I was right. So I went back to drinking, realizing how easy it was for me to stop whenever I wanted to.

Then it got worse. I was drinking every night, hooking up with different girls from the bar whenever I wanted to - it was most 21 year old guys' dream. One morning (well, around 1pm) after one particularly bad night, I walked back to the bar where I had left my car (I had actually been somewhat responsible this time and not driven), only to discover it had been towed. Not wanting to deal with it at the time, One of my regulars (remember, I'm a bartender) offered to drive me home. In his car I was introduced to a new demon that would haunt me for the next two years - cocaine.

I had always been adament that I would never try drugs. Sure, I had tried pot in high school, but it wasn't for me. I had always feared that I would love a drug like cocaine, and those fears were not unfounded. Strangely, I didn't want anything to do with it unless I was drunk. Not just drinking, but drunk. I was bartending in two different places and still living at home with my parents. I was making a boatload of money, and putting close to $500 up my nose, and drinking close to another $500 in alcohol each week. If my parents noticed something was up, they never said anything.

Eventually, drinking cost me both of those jobs. Broke and unemployed, I was not able to spend the kind of money I had become accustomed to. I was lucky once again, and was able to break the cocaine habit, primarily because I couldn't afford it. It was around that time I discovered how my addictions worked. If I stay away from it long enough, eventually I will not crave it anymore.

In February of 2002 I stumbled upon another obstacle. A good friend of mine was preparing to go visit a girl he had been talking to down in North Carolina, and had invited me to come along. We were going to leave the morning of Valentine's Day. I was working at TGI Fridays at the time, and the Bennigans across the street was our watering hole. The night before Valentine's Day I got a phone call from the bartender at Bennigan's that one of my co-workers was passed out at the bar, and that he would appreciate if I would come get him. I'd had a few drinks, but no big deal. When I got to Bennigan's and literally dragged the guy into the parking lot to stuff him in my car, I suddenly felt like I had been hit in the face with a baseball bat. Then again on the other side. When I finally turned to see what had happened, I was shocked to see someone standing there that had sucker punched me. twice. To make it worse, it was someone that I had once considered a friend.

I spent the next eight weeks with my jaw wired shut - it was broken in 5 places. Unfortunately, I was not going to be able to make the trip with my friend.

Turns out, my friend and the girl didn't work out, but she and I had become friends and chatted online pretty much every night, along with other friends of our scattered all over the country. thanks in part to our good friend in Nebraska, Jen and I got closer than either of us ever expected.

That spring, Jen and her friend came up to visit for HFStival. For those of you too young to remember, HFStival was a legendary fesival featuring dozens of bands on three or more stages, kind of like bonaroo, but without the dirty naked hippies. Usually. Anyway, they had gotten a room at a local motel for the weekend, and it was like a big party the whole time they were there. We consumed alot of alcohol that weekend, so much so that I passed out during what could have been the highlight of my weekend. I suspect Jen knew right then and there that I had a problem, but if she did, she didn't say anything.

Despite the heavy drinking all the time, I still separated work and play, and pulled it off very well. Jen and I got married in 2004 and moved to Florida, where my drinking just got worse. I was hanging out with college age kids who had tons of money and lots of free time. I was out pretty much every night of the week getting trashed and staying out all hours of the night. The job market in north central Florida is very poor, at it's best. We struggled to get by, and yet I still went out and spent money. We racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt just trying to keep bills and rent paid, along with all the money I spent out partying.

We were finally able to scrape together enough money to move back to the DC area in May of 2006. The partying didn't stop, it just got worse. There are months at a time that I probably couldn't recall anything that happened. At least I was making enough money that were digging ourselves out of the whole, so what did it matter?

In July of 2008, the worst thing imaginable happened: TT Reynolds, where I had worked on and off since I was 21, was closing. My bartending gold mine was shutting it's doors forever. Fortunately, I had taken a job earlier in the year working at a bartending school. It was fun, but the pay was crap. So I had kept bartending for my play money, and for me, it was a good arrangement. I hated the day job, but at least it was consistant money.

Then I heard through the grapevine that a new bar/restaurant was opening, just a mile from home. I interviewed with one of the owners who I immediately liked, and was hired to be part of the opening team. They had projected an opening date of early October, so I put in my notice at the school and waited for Union Jacks to open. Except that it didn't open on time. For two months I went without an income, Jen was flying solo in the moneymaking department. And STILL, I went out drinking. Once Union Jacks opened, it just got worse. Looking back on it, I feel like I drank in excess pretty much every night after work, and went out on nights I didn't work.

"Enough is enough", I decided. My 30th brithday was fast approaching, and I knew something was going to have to be done. "Coming June 8 - the dawn of a new era" my Facebook page proclaimed. 30 was the perfect milestone to stop drinking. Well, 30 came and went, and still nothing. I just kept right on going, and for the entire month of July I was in a drunken stupor, and managed to keep it hidden from everyone outside my drinking circle. I knew I had a problem, and had even gone so far as to look up treatment centers and AA to get more information. But I kept drinking.

Then, on Sunday August 9th I woke up (or rather "came to"), and couldn't remember the details of the previous night. The night had been the birthday party of one of my best friends, and I had little memory of it, or any of the events that transpired along with it. "This is it", I decided. I spilled to Jen everything I had been thinking and feeling, and told her I needed to quit drinking, I just didn't know how. We had a long talk, and mapped out our game plan. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful person in my life to help me down this path. She has truly made me feel like I'm not alone.

I am lucky to have a few friends and acquaintences who have been down this road, and the first thing I was going to do was talk to them and hear their stories. From there I would weigh my options. Until I was able to do that, I would just not drink. Sunday night, rather than go out like always, I stayed in and watched a movie. "Tomorrow is another day", I thought, "but until then, I will not drink today". When Monday came, I made the decision: "I am not going to drink today. If I don't drink one, I cannot drink ten". Tuesday, same deal. It was Tuesday that I decided to tell my co-workers what my plan was. I expected to be chastised for my decision - after all - we're bartenders. It's what we do. But everyone was very supportive and cool about it, which made it considerably easier. Knowing that everyone's got my back is an enormous boost, and I can't thank them enough for it, especially my bartending buddy J.S. It's amazing that your friends always show their true colors when you're going through a personal crisis, and this was no exception. I saw exactly the colors I expected, and I am forever grateful.

Mission: Sobriety

There are four factors that contributed to this decision.

1. My health. Alcoholism runs in the family. I do not want to end up with liver cancer or any of the other problems associated with alcohol.

2. My marriage. No drinking and partying is worth destroying my marriage. Jen has been with me through some of the toughest times of my life, and I refuse to cause her emotional or mental harm because of my desire to party.

3. My job. I have lost jobs because of drinking or drinking related incidents in the past. This will not be one of them. I love what I do, I love the people I work with, and I'm not willing to risk damaging my reputation there.

4. My freedom. When I drink, I drive. Jail or not, I could not live with myself if I hurt or killed someone because of my irresponsible decisions.

So the first couple of days were spent reflecting on my life over the last nine years. I never really drank before I turned 21. Sure, I had a little every here and there, who doesn't? But not like many of my friends, who were out partying hard in high school. It just wasn't for me. But for some reason, the day I turned 21, it was light a switch was flipped in my brain. All I have to do now is switch it off. As I write this, I am on day ten of absolute sobriety. I have not consumed any alcohol (or any other substances, in case you were curious), and have not even done so much as taste my own creations behind the bar. I am still bartending, and there has not even been an urge to drink. I am perfectly content not to drink. But I know that if I have one, then end result will be that I will have ten or more, and I'm not willing to fall back into that trap.

Thank you all for reading, and for your continued support. While I wrote this blog more for myself than anything else, please feel free to come back and read my thoughts and reflections as I set off on this journey into the unknown.

Disclaimer: Aside from my wife Jen, I will never print any names of anyone involved in any of my stories. If you feel compelled to comment, please respect the privacy of anyone you may know to be involved in any of my stories.