01.04.2016

Yesterday I spoke with my brother J and he will come down to visit next week, he said. It was lovely to hear from him. We had a long chat and I told him how it was here.

On Monday I’ll be going into my fifth week. I’m almost at the halfway point. It hasn’t been a cake walk but it hasn’t been super tough either. I haven’t cracked up yet!

I dreamed about Siyana last night. It was something like I found a load of messages on her phone. These messages were actually chats she had open on different dating websites. She was having about 20 different conversations with 20 different guys. I felt sick when I woke up. The dream was highly ironic, as she suspected me of “seeing someone” after she found messages to a friend of mine on my facebook account. She knew the login and went on to check something for me as we are not allowed mobile phones or computers in here, not even access to them. Anything electrical for that matter. They took my electric shaver from me when I checked in. But back to the dream: all the profiles and pictures she had up on these dating sites were really kinky, she was topless in most of them. She had done some modelling, but these ones were beyond any of the photo shoots she had done. I was sick and worried when I woke up. Obviously this dream was telling me something. Was it saying, well now YOU know how it feels to think you’re partner is cheating! Well I hadn’t been cheating. That pissed me off! Why didn’t she just believe me? There was nothing in the messages to suggest I was having any sexual relations with my friend, who happens to be a girl. I met up with her on a few occasions after work for coffee, as I was having these problems in the relationship through the drinking. It was for support. I don’t know why Siyana could not get that.

We had the group therapy session today with K. Some of the questions on the board were: “Do u now see you lived in a world of fantasy?” “From this are you becoming more interested in following what others say than in following and indulging your own thinking in a world of your own?” These questions were becoming repetitive. For the first one I wrote: “Yes I do. I lied so often and so casually to cover up my drinking all through my life”. And for number 2: “I am open minded to what people say. I understand that I have to stop following my habit of thinking, what comes into my mind straightway needs to be checked and examined.”

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After work in the second meeting, we elaborated on what was covered in the first one. The questioning in the sessions seems to get to some of the guys in the group. I don’t mind it at all. It gives me a chance to honestly talk about myself without having to lie or cover up. I have nothing to prove or nothing to be ashamed of in here. Heal what is sick in me. I’m realising that I need therapy. I should have been going to counselling regularly. I make my mind up to that when I’m back outside. It should be part of my recovery.

Then there was a bit of a fight between two guys in the group. A few words were exchanged, then suddenly one of the guys jumped up and threatened to hit the other guy with a chair. A few of the guys in this group have been in prison and sometimes there is a bit of an aggressive air. But this was over nothing and eventually it calmed down. The reaction of saying I’ll swing a chair at him, was definitely uncalled for. There’s a lot of that hard man macho bullshit goes on in here and it’s stupid.

Later I spoke with Siyana. I could tell she was down. I think she wants to leave Ireland and go back home. I also think she thinks that she can’t trust me anymore. I don’t trust myself, so how can she have trust in me. If I can stay sober I am convinced I can restore that trust. Once I’m not drinking I can be that guy that she loves, the guy she perhaps can’t see in me anymore. I can bring that guy back. I hope I can. I wrote Siyana a letter and went to bed.

 

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25.03.2016

I was very irritated when I woke up this morning. Yesterday Siyana told me she had gone through my Facebook messages and she was convinced I had been having some relationship with someone else. I wasn’t. The person she thought I was having this relationship was a friend of mine. She then basically said we couldn’t be together. I felt like well in that case what’s the point of me being in here. But the thing was, I wasn’t doing the program for me, I was doing it to get back together with my ex. And that was for the wrong reason. I’d have to sit down and consider why I’m here.

This morning for our group meeting, the questions on the board were: Is it becoming clear to you that recovery cannot be hurried? Have you made a choice to give yourself all the time you need here? Have you surrendered and decided to let go and let God?

I hadn’t totally surrendered my free will over to God, although that wouldn’t be a bad idea, my own free will having gotten me here.

The counsellor then asked us questions as we read out our answers, trying to draw more out of us. The format was the same as the previous counsellor. He made some good points and said some things that made me stop and think. “The future doesn’t exist,” he said, “all we have is the present, this day, and it’s up to us what we are doing in the present.”

In the restaurant today, C was in charge, who was much more laid back than L, and this was a relief. It’s bad enough being here and having to deal with your own thoughts and the place itself, then on top of that be continuously told to do this-do that for 5 hours a day, when you’re volunteering in the place anyway. It was quiet enough apart from the usual lunchtime rush. The good thing about being busy is that it stops you thinking. Action is the enemy of thought. But all action wasn’t the answer either. I did like time to think and reflect, sit and read and mull over things that were outside of me, ideas and things. It was just when my own self doubts and feelings of worthlessness came avalaunching in on top of me that I started to go crazy.

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That evening we had our AA meeting. The chair, like the last one, had an interesting story and spoke well. Jim, a middle-aged taxi driver from Dublin, said a lot that resonated with me. When he was drinking he said, he couldn’t have cared less about anybody. Not even his family who he loved. Strange what drinking does to a person’s mind. I’m the same. Everybody I love doesn’t matter when I’m drinking. And i used to struggle with this and for years my mother used to say, my drink was just a character problem I had, a moral weakness. I used to believe that and it just made me feel alot worse again. Today I don’t believe that. Drink is like an allergy for my brain. It is so powerful a chemical to me that it literally makes taking more of it the only thing that I want, a thing that I will put before anyone and anything. And that is terrible. I don’t want to drink but craftily my brain tricks me into thinking this time will be different, this time just enjoy a few sociable drinks and go home. But the reality is it never plays out that way. So I decide to stop drinking. But I can’t. I keep forgetting about the damage it has caused and again I find myself picking up that first drink. The battle is lost again. The problem for me was, I never had any defense against that first drink. I never went to AA. I tried counselling, and this did help for awhile. But inevitably I#d find myself drinking again. I never had a program.

But the positive thing was that I found myself liking these AA meetings in there, which were compulsory. This was what i needed. “I have a chance now,” I heard myself saying. I have a fighting chance to beat drink if I can keep coming here and listening, sharing. And in fairness it has worked for maybe millions of people. Why not me? And I remember thinking on the way out of the meeting, I can learn the tools here. I can beat this thing. It was the first time I had genuinely ever had these thoughts. Before, I could never not see myself drinking. I could never envisage stopping. Now I was starting to. One day at a time this can be done.

23.03.2016

This morning was pretty much a replay of yesterday morning: struggled up at seven, missed breakfast, into meditation, meeting, then over to work in the restaurant until three.

When I went over to work, Neil my room-mate was there. I thought he had the day off – as we both worked there – but it was nice to see him there working; the day would be more fun at least. It was busy and the work was finished in what seemed like a flash of the eye. We then had to run over for our 3 o clock meeting, the continuation from the 8 o clock meeting.

The questions on the board this afternoon were: Is it beginning to come to you that you have been living in a world of non reality? What has this been like for you? Have you ever tried to free yourself before from this way of life? What prevented you from becoming free in the past?

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Hard hitting stuff! We alcoholics are masters of lies and duplicity so yes we are living in a world of non reality to some degree or other. Some of the guys in the group had difficulty answering these questions. Yes the questions were nosey and yes they were presumptive and bold. Either the guys couldn’t accept they were alcoholics or they couldn’t get honest enough with themselves to dig deep for answers. To tell someone they have been living in non reality could be construed as offensive I guess. But I had kicked my ego out the door when I got here and i was willing to knuckle down and do the program. Anything so I wouldn’t go through the pain of where alcohol had brought me the last few times i drank. I’d just had enough.

It had taken everything and the binges now just got so bad, I had literally burned every bridge and any sort of joy I used to get from it. Even the first drink now would cause such a tremendous feeling of guilt, as I had been trying to give it up for the past year, falling off the wagon every few months, with disastrous results. My partner had kicked me out – and it was a very loving relationship when i was sober – my job was gone, and I had been staying in a hostel as I had nowhere to live, family were just exhausted with me at this stage I had fucked up so many times, so it was actually pointless even to reach out to them. Same with friends, I didn’t have any anymore. This was the lowest point I had reached, it was a new low. So coming in here was the only option for me.

The answers to the questions came very easily to me, because I have analyzed this stuff before, plus I’m good at getting my thoughts onto paper.

After the 5 o clock mass I called Siyana. It as a bad conversation because I brought up money. I asked her how much she transferred to my account and she got sore about it. She told me she was €150 short on her rent as she had to book flights to Bulgaria.I told her to be more care ful with the money, then she got real argumentative…oww. I guess I should have kept my mouth shut…God the way i used to waste money on benders was capitally sinful. She said she didn’t want to talk anymore and hung up. I went back to my room in a shite humour.

I was sitting in bed reading my book, lost in my own world, when the security guy came in and flashed his torch, despite the lights being on in the room, “Rosary has started,” he said. So i got up and went into rosary.

I went back to my room after and shaved. Then I went down the hall to the phones.The phone wasn’t taking the coins so I couldn’t call. Just as I turned the phone started ringing. I picked it up and it was Siyana. Lucky coincidence.

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We had a more amicable conversation this time.She vented about the money thing and how she’s independent. I agreed. She said 12 weeks wouldn’t change me, “I can tell from listening to you that you have changed.”

“I’m only here a wet week,” I said. “I’m here to change.”

I needed her. I need her I mean. I need these phonecalls is what I’m saying. I need to hear her voice everyday. I told her this. She said a lot of stuff then. Things that were on her mind. How she just wants to be happy with what she is doing now.

“We have to live in the present,” I said. “Stop comparing it to the past or to someone else’s life, or how you think it should be now.”

Then she said she wanted a baby, that she wanted to be a mother. She said I wasn’t ready to be a father.

I changed the subject and eventually we were in agreement over something. It gave me the peace I needed to go to bed with.

 

22.03.2016

After breakfast I fell asleep in the meditation. Meditation is compulsory and lasts for about 45 mins. Everyone sits down in the main hall together trying to meditate between constant coughing, throat clearing and shuffling sounds, as some soft music comes weakly from the speakers. It’s pointless really. So I fall asleep sometimes.

The group meeting was after that. We wrote down answers to a list of questions the counsellor put up on the board. “Explain what it was like for you to live in the blindness of addiction?” “Can you see that you were living a double live?” “Describe how you lived in illusion and fantasy?” “How complicated did this make your life?”

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These questions were easy to answer. I became honest with myself. While in addiction, I did live a double life. I always tried to hide my drinking to family and often lied about where I had been or where i was going. In work people knew more about what was going on with me than my family. I tried to keep the veneer of normalcy (i guess) going but the veil had slipped off a good time ago and I was the only one who still thought I was wearing it. It was my late teens and early twenties and the level of drinking and partying was insane. I would often go drinking to bars on my own the following morning of a party while everyone else would be dying of hangovers. I would continue drinking to cure any hangover and keep going right into the night and next day. I would bump into perfect strangers in bars and end up talking with them for hours on end, bar hopping, doing drugs, whatever…Madness. It seemed fun at the time and it was all new for me. Luxuriating in that drunkenness was bliss at the time. For a moment I felt centered, like this was how I was supposed to feel, cause most of the time sober I felt shit. I felt nervous and everything seemed difficult. I was always slow to catch onto things and often awkward and shy around people, not knowing what I should be saying. But with alcohol all that stuff vanished. I spoke with the confidence of a parliamentarian. It was confidence and oblivion: the pill to everything that was missing in me. It made me whole, just for that short time. It made me feel at peace. I knew drinking like this was not good. Alcoholism was in my family and it affected us all. I was guilty but at the same time It stopped my overwhelming rush of thoughts, fears and doubts that would wash over me everyday from the moment I woke up in the morning. It was the answer to my prayers. At least so I thought.

Mark, our counsellor, was getting us to read out the answers. Then he’d probe us with questions, like an interrogator, to see how we held up. Why do you think you did that? Are you a people pleaser? What do you think gives you the right to think other people should like you?

Most of us found it difficult to answer these auxiliary questions he had, lined up, like grenades. But Mark wasn’t asking because he wanted us to feel bad or wanted to catch us out. He wanted us to think about our own thought process.

There was a break then until 12, when we had Mass. I took a walk around afterwards and bumped into one of the younger lads in the group, Adam. He was out working in the grounds. He was complaining about how pointless what they had him doing was: What they had him doing was sweeping the stones into the path from where a few of them had gone into the grass. It was pretty pointless actually. He was also picking up twigs from the grass. I felt lucky landing the job in the restaurant come to think of it.

After dinner I rang Siyana and she had loads to tell me about what was going on in her work. That’s one of the things I first liked about Siyana: there were never awkward silences. She had no problem talking. I think that’s another reason we blend so well, cos I’m fairly quiet. If i’m in the room with another quiet person we usually don’t get along, unless I’m drinking of course. I told her I’d call her back later as she had to get back to work

19.03.2016

Saturday. Was up just before 9 to get breakfast in. I was as quick as a fox getting the porridge and toast as the staff  were taking everything back into the kitchen. After my cleaning duties, I read for a while then rang Siyana before going to mass. She had just woken up. I asked her what she was up to. She wasn’t 100 per cent sure she said. She was going to book her tickets for Bulgaria.

About 2.40, my name was called out on reception. It was my Mam and Dad. We went for tea and a slice of banoffi cake in the restaurant. It was good to see them but I felt anxious at the same time. We talked about my nieces and nephews, how smart one brother’s kids were and how crazy the other one’s were.

“I might just do six weeks in here,” I said. “If I feel strong I will leave.”

“No stay for the twelve. It’s only twelve weeks,” my Mam said.

“Easy for you to say though. You’re not in here.”

Da didn’t say anything as usual. He drummed his fingers on the table and looked around in the absent way he does.

After the tea, my mam bought a few plants in the garden centre. We put them in the car and went into the coffee shop for another 15 mins. My Mam said her brother and sister were over from England and that she’s would be up again in two weeks.

I waved them off in the carpark. That was the difficult part, watching them go. I went into the TV room and watched the rest of the rugby match, Ireland v Scotland in the Six nations. That was the final match and Ireland ended up finishing 3rd.

I rang Siyana again before bed. She was sad that we were separated. But not more than me. It was lonely in here. Tomorrow we get our jobs, which will make the time go quicker.

 

17.03.2016 – Paddy’s Day

Today was…Quiet…Oh so. Got up about 8.30 as it’s considered a weekend day in here and we can lie in for that bit longer. After my obligations to the house/institution, I sat in bed reading for the whole day practically. This book I’m reading, Riven Rock, is as slow as death by being beaten with feather pillows but the writing is sheer sublime. He writes sentence after sentence where you’re left cooing with appreciation. Literally a page of sentences, where you’d be happy for one of them sentences for every few pages you wrote.

I spoke with Siyana three times. The first time I called, she was working. We didn’t speak for long. She was unhappy about My sister Julie deleting her off Facebook. Siyana tried to send her a message, a happy St. Patrick’s Day message, but realised that Julie had blocked her. Julie’s a bit funny I told her. She’s not even friends with me on facebook, I said, if that makes you feel better. Julie’s essentially a nice person, if you just don’t get too involved with her, I told her, not wanting to hurt my brain thinking about our relative positions in respect of Julie. I’m one hundred percent sure Julie wasn’t thinking of this triumvirate and how it felt about eachother etc. Don’t worry about it. She had to go back to work, so I said I’d call back about six.I went back to my room and read until dinner.Dinner was sausages, beans and chips, not the most satisfying meal health or taste-wise but I was starving so I lapped it up like a dog makes short work of it’s dinner which has arrived late, like a bowl of pedigree chum dog food. A whole dining hall of alcoholic pedigree chummers lapping away at their industrial issue plates.

I rang Siyana again that evening. She told me she was on her way into town. There was a bad leak in her bedroom ceiling. She wants to move out of the flat as soon as possible. The place is a kip. Without thinking, I said we could move in together, into a nice one bedroom apartment, after I got out of here. I was too fast again though. Then there was a mutual hesitancy in the conversation.

“I was talking to one of the girl’s in work who told me her brother was in and out of the rehab six times,” she said.

“Did he complete the twelve weeks though?”

“Yes he did.”

“Well if I do this and go to the meetings as much as I can, I don’t see myself drinking again. He probably did’t go to the meetings, did he?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Well that’s the difference. Guys in here are back a second and third time. They stopped going to the meetings and soon they were back drinking.”

She was walking into town with a few friends from work, they were about to go to some pub – it was Paddy’s day after all. I said I’d ring her later.

I called her again at 9. She was in a rock bar in Parnell St. There was a loud sound of partying and drunken lunacy going on in the background. She told me that last Sunday when they were coming down in the car, my sister Julie screamed angrily at her “Can you stop talking for five minutes!”

Julie is very hot headed. But when she turned around and said this, my ma or da never said anything. Nobody dared to say anything. This really upset her. Julie is a kind of bully I thought. Siyana started to cry down the phone and my heart really went out to her.

“Nobody likes me in your family because I am poor girl from Eastern Europe with bad English…I’m not Irish like you…” she sobbed. Her voice was renting my heart-strings, and there was nothing I could do for her here at the other end of a payphone in the corridor of a rehab centre a few hundred miles away.

“Listen,” I said. “They do like you. And if my sister doesn’t like you so what? I like you! I Love you! That’s what matters! I don’t care if my sister or the man in the moon doesn’t like you.”

“Ok,” she said.

“Enjoy your night,” I said. “You’re my sweet thing.”

“Thank you. I love you,” she said, her voice that bit higher pitched, sounding beautiful and vulnerable at the same time.

16.03.2016

Head felt very stuffy this morning. Missed the meditation at 8. Couldn’t get out of bed for it. Got up at 8.45, washed, went down for breakfast. After we got the cleaning duties done etc, I went down for tea with two of the lads.We had a nice chat and walked around the grounds together. The guys that are in my group are mostly sound and we can share a laugh, which helps. Me and another guy, Neil, discussed our war stories and there were a lot of similarities. Alcoholism is a madness. It takes over the brain, a bit like a kamikazee pilot at the wheel of a plane.

In the therapy class today, we spoke of choices. We can make choices that can be a gain or a loss to our recovery. True. I suppose it’s also a choice of working out which is more of a gain than a loss.

After dinner when I went to the shop, there was a letter for me. On the back, and I didn’t immediately notice the handwriting, “Siyana Kovacheva, 90 Drumcondra Road Lower”. Inside was a card she made for me, “I’m with ya,” the writing said, “even when I’m not.” There was the imprint of her lipstick kiss on it. It was the only Happy St. Patrick’s Day card I ever received, and it was the sweetest thing ever. And it reminded me that Siyana is the sweetest person I’ve ever met.

Mass was cancelled for some reason, so I just lay around on my bed and read for the afternoon. I’m reading two books at the moment, “The Gum Thief” by Douglas Coupland and “Riven Rock” by TC Boyle. I’ve known about TC Boyle for some time but I’ve never got around to reading him. A lot of critics say he’s one of the best fiction writers alive.

In Riven Rock the story is hard to follow as it jumps around alot – also might be down to the librium – but the writing is breathtaking in places. All over the place actually.

Around 7.30 I made a call to Siyana. She was in the middle of a double shift at work, was planning on going into town later. I suppose being Paddy’s Day and everything tomorrow town would be great craic to go out. She doesn’t drink much anyway. I remembered last year when we went out on Paddy’s Day. It was about one month after we moved in together, and even then she was starting to see my drink problem. Me, her and a friend of mine Brian, all went out together for a few drinks. It started out well but eventually the night turned into a disaster. She met up with some of her friends and we were having drinks, chatting. It was all fairly civil enough until I called a friend of mine and got cocaine. We met more people, a couple of Swedish girls included and we all went back and drank and did coke. As if it wasn’t bad enough when Siyana went to bed I stayed in the living room with the rest of them, she having to get up for work the next day but the music blaring until 4 or 5 anyway. I think that set the tone, laid down some kind of marker for how crazy things would get. When she eventually kicked them all out of the house and my other friend Brian stayed on the couch, the next morning when she went to work, me and Brian went drinking again. The drinking binges however possible became worse.