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Sober in Shanghai, Sober in LA

A Corollary with Dementia

From this article:

In time my better-than-expected (albeit painfully slow) progress on my book about dementia—from which this essay is derived—became its own puzzle. Looking back at the chapters I’ve completed, I ask myself, “How come I can still write? Could I be faking dementia?” Since the indignities accumulating in my ADLs as well as conversation-inhibiting lacunae in my speech are classic markers of early dementia, the discrepancy between those failures and my preserved writing ability must be part of my story too.  When I betook myself to my doctors, my friends, and the Internet, I found that I am not the only person who appears to be “faking.” For example, a counselor friend tells of a retired philosophy professor from her alma mater who can no longer bathe, dress, or feed himself, but directs canonical philosophy discussions with visiting former colleagues. A sprinkling of peer-reviewed neurological research, too, reports the “unexpected preservation of a cognitive function in individuals with dementia.”

At the meeting I attended Saturday night in Solvang, the speaker was a long-haired and bushy-bearded older fellow who had gotten sober at 61 years of age.  He was a good speaker.  His story was entertaining and his message was helpful and on point.  But there was no avoiding the fact that this gentleman had eaten a lot of acid in his time.  He had that quality about him.  There are those in meetings who are more obviously damaged than others.  You can sometimes spot the former tweekers, for example, and the former coke addicts as well.  They display some of the qualities in sobriety of those still actively involved in their respective addictions.  The other night I went to a meeting in Arcadia.  A very damaged old homeless fellow was there.  Wet brain?  I don’t know.  I’m not a doctor.  Something though.

Yesterday in the car I was telling my wife that I feel lucky in that I don’t display so obviously the damage done.  I might display more than I think, of course.  It’s hard to gauge objectively the perceptions of others when stuck behind one’s own eyes.  But even if I’m right, and I don’t display much obvious damage, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  As with dementia, the last skill sets affected by long term substance abuse are probably those that are most practiced and central to one’s daily work.  For me, that’s written and oral language stuff.  But I notice the damage when I lie in bed, and can’t keep thoughts on track.  I notice the damage to my short term memory.  I notice the trouble sitting still, and the struggles with impulse control, the problems with follow through, the instant overreactions, and the delayed reactions.  In short, I notice the brain damage, even if others don’t.  I’m like the writer with dementia.  The reader may notice nothing wrong, but that doesn’t mean all is well.



And then came the sleep

Last night, I slept from about 10PM till midnight.  Then I was up for maybe half an hour.  Then I slept soundly until 9AM.  We went to breakfast and packed up, got home around 3PM.  And I settled in for about 3 solid hours of nap.

Sobriety, like drinking, is unpredictable.  I think I’ll return to a mantra from about a month ago.  I’m really bad at predicting things.

Bad evening

The Paso Robles meeting this morning was fine.  Which will have to count as follow through on that.

I had some frustration this evening and made a mess, which makes my head squirrelier than it should.

This trip is comprised of 15 total people in three condos.  This evening, my condo was responsible for dinner.  So my big plan for the day was to make beans.  Long story short, after tending to them all afternoon, I burned them at the very end, right before dinner.  I had to grill the burgers, and left the beans alone for too long, and I burned them.  I was frustrated.  I snapped at my wife.  Then went out to smoke a cigarette.  She came out to comfort me, but I didn’t want to be comforted at that moment, I wanted to be left alone for a few minutes.  I told her as much.

Then I came back inside and the other people arrived.  My wife asked me to lead the family before-dinner prayer.  She wants to “display” that I have changed I think.  Which is kind of annoying.  But that’s fine, I don’t mind leading the prayer.  But I needed a heads up ahead of time.  So I started to do it.  Then she cut me off, and told me people weren’t ready yet.  I didn’t like that.  I said, “God, thank you for my wife who alerts me when people are ready,” and then proceeded into the regular part about the food and the company and such.  She didn’t like that.

All in all it wasn’t a good evening.  I went to an 8 o’clock speaker meeting, which was quite interesting, but obviously didn’t clear my head.  I’m back to the condo now.  She’s mad at me.  I’m mad at her.  It’s my fault.  She didn’t do anything wrong.  But I don’t want to do the whole “I was wrong, I’m sorry” thing at the moment.


Eric’s Ongoing AA Travelogue

So, the Alano club* in Solvang is very nice.  If anyone should happen to visit Solvang, I highly recommend it.  There’s a ton of good sobriety in that room.  Everyone was “on message.”  I was quite surprised that I was the only out-of-towner at the meeting, given that it was Friday 5:30 PM and this is a vacation destination.

Also of note was the interesting format.  The meeting began with the group reading sections from the “AA Group” pamphlet.  I’ve never encountered a group reading a pamphlet out loud before, during any of my stints in the rooms.  It was cool.  The pamphlet is so dry.  We read about the role of the GSR, how to take a group inventory, and stuff like that.  After each section, the chair asked if anyone had anything to share about that which we had just read.  Then we read the second half of chapter two, and the appendix footnoted in said chapter.  Finally, the chair went around the table prompting each successive individual to share if he or she wished.  The meeting was going to end before everyone had a chance, so the chair took a group conscience and the majority voted to extend the meeting until everyone had a chance.

It was a very interesting, very good meeting!

Tomorrow morning, we leave Solvang bright and early and head up the coast an hour and a half.  The wife’s got some sort of craft fair thing she’s going to.  While she’s doing that, I’ll be hitting the 8:30 AM meeting in Los Olivos Paso Robles. So fear not!  I’ll be back here on the blog tomorrow with more exciting news about AA meetings in Santa Barbara County San Luis Obispo County.

And… I have officially begun my 4th step.  I have created a new document, inserted a table with 4 columns, put a heading on each column, entered a name in the first column, and saved the document to my AA folder on dropbox.  I’ll keep pecking away at it over the course of the weekend.  I’ll probably do more tonight, in fact.  But the important news is that it is officially underway.

*It also just so happens to be literally a two minute walk from our lodging.  It’s right across the street.

Same pattern, 3 days in a row

So I’m “irritable and discontent” again.  Each of the last three days, at the end of the work day, I’ve found myself annoyed and snippy.   Tuesday I was kind of dickish to my family.  Last night, I didn’t see them until after the Roxbury outing, by which time I felt good.  This evening, I’m being short with my daughter and generally churlish.  Nothing happened at work to make me that way.  I had thought perhaps a lack of productivity the last couple of days was to blame.  But today I got good work done, or at least better work done, and I’m still in a mood.  Why?  Well…

Sobriety at home feels different that sobriety in Shanghai.  I have more hours of actual time and less general exhaustion.  I’m not processing a new city, I’m not going back and forth between places all the time, I’m not going to quite as many meetings, and sobriety’s just not as new.  This moodiness began on Tuesday, just about when I’d fully recovered from the jet lag and gotten back into home mode.  I’ve got associations here.  I associate the end of work with getting intoxicated.  For the last couple months before China, with smoking weed and watching TV.  Prior to that, with drinking.  Now, nothing passive seems interesting.

Also, work here involves a lot more office time.  I had only two office days a week in China (days where I just sat and worked on the computer).  Office days gave me some trouble in China too.

Last night, the meeting cured it, and I came home happy.  I think I’ll try a new meeting tonight and see what happens.  It’s a better option than sitting here being unpleasant.


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1100 Paces

Sober in Shanghai, Sober in LA