2020 is getting harder

I meant to write about being distracted, but then I got distracted

Yesterday I set out to write a short blog about how, in this current moment, I’m falling apart a little bit. It’s hard to focus this close to the election, especially while the nation is in turmoil.

It’s hard to do work when everything just seems so loud.

But, we’re all trying to do as much as we can, so I wanted to write about how I was holding up under the pressure. What else is a personal blog for? And after a call with a friend I even had an intro mentally mapped out for the post.

Instead, at the end of the day, I only had this pile of shit:

Yoof, that’s fucking awful.

Regardless, everyone I talk to lately is having a hard time. Everyone is struggling to focus. No one is at 100%.

So let’s be kind to ourselves and each other. We can’t do everything, and we cannot do more than our best. Hugs.

How to ruin some steak and not worry about it

A whole year. That’s a long damn time.

A year is 365 mornings, 365 shots at having a good lunch. It’s 365 tries at getting to bed on time. It’s 12 full months of working out, if you have the heart to do it. It’s four quarters of self-improvement. It’s two half-years worth of books.

A year is an ocean of time.

And a year can also be nothing more than the snap of your fingers, no time at all.

That’s how time felt Monday, as Liza and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary.

The date — June 22nd — first snuck up on us, later tumbling into our lives as it went from weeks away, to tomorrow, to today and, now, in the past.

When the anniversary did come up, it wasn’t what I’d thought of when were getting married. In a non-COVID-19 world we would have both taken the day off of work and gone off to do something decadent. But, we live in a very different reality than we used to, so Liza and I both worked regular shifts and got to hang out for one (1) hour before she had to work for another hour or so.

But when she was free, we set to work as a pair in the kitchen, Liza making a pretty damn good chimichurri sauce while I boiled some potatoes to mash and tried to make some steaks. Because we planned this dinner in honor of our first year of being married, I’d picked up some expensive pieces of meat that I was initially stoked about.

In the end I came to fear the both of them.

Ever unwrap some steaks and just stare at them, unsure of what the fuck you were thinking? That was me. Reading the recipe we had planned (and had managed to not mess up in the past, when we used thinner pieces of cow) impending trouble was obvious.

If I followed the directions to the letter we’d end up with 80% raw beef and no one would get to eat. So, I’d have to just change the timings on the fly. Right. No worries, I told myself while puffing on a JUUL in nothing like a panic — this will work.

After all, I was the main cook in our union before the pandemic. And since COVID came around I’ve only had more time to practice. I can make things now without looking at books! I know some recipes by heart! I feed my family of two! I am accomplished!

Wrong, buddy. Instead of managing to properly change the timings and temperatures for our steaks — hunks of deceased bovine that had grown to a full foot-thick in my kitchen imagination — I managed to sear them beautifully while leaving the insides far rawer than I have ever been comfortable eating.

So I ran them through the cast-iron gauntlet again, full of cracked pepper and rotation, sharp-eyed observations, and faux-confidence. This will work, I told myself.

After the second round of searing, the steaks — having now had more than twice as long as the recipe called for on the fire — were still effectively raw in the middle. So I panicked and cut the damn things up and seared the fuckers as little steaklets.

That is defeat.

Oh, and I didn’t boil the potatoes quite long enough so my shot at garlic mashed potatoes only came out as a B-. Hell, we were even low on butter.

But none of it really mattered. We got to eat in the dining room instead of on the couch, and the dogs begged, and we talked about our first year as a formal team. Being married is good. It’s so good that after wringing myself out in the kitchen trying to win a battle I wouldn’t, eating with Liza brought me back to Earth in good spirits and calm mind.

It’s lovely to find your center in someone else. Sure, we’d be fine individually. By the time Liza and I got back together she was already wrapping medical school and I was post-rehab. But as a two we are pretty fucking great. I’m way happier, and flat-out healthier and saner and smarter, when she’s around.

So, fuck the steaks, whatever. Next year — knock on wood — we’ll get to go out and have someone else handle the preparation and relax a bit more. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of my first year of marriage for anything, even the times when I was floundering and shouting at a dinner that was falling out of grasp.


Four years (and two days) off the bottle

How I forgot my sobriety date, again.

I don’t have a copy editor for this personal blog. Please send all typos and corrections to r.lawler@samsungnext.com. Thanks! - A

I got my quitting drinking date wrong again this year.

In self-defense my first day off boozing wasn’t that great. It wasn’t bad, not really. It was better than nearly every day that came during the three or four years leading up to it. But I spent the day in a hospital, so, it wasn’t really great.

I quit drinking on May 23rd, 2016, but my first official sober day was May 24th. That’s because while stumbling around Monday morning on the 23rd I had a small sip of a leftover drink. By order of the Higher Prelates of AA, Tuesday was my first full day off the bottle and was thus the one that counted.

That has never felt quite right as I really quit Monday morning, and, by the time I woke up Tuesday I’d wandered through a few emergency rooms and was out of San Francisco, taking up temporary residence in Cupertino and Sunnyvale. But what can you do.

All that’s a long-winded way of saying that it’s not a huge shock that I thought my sober date was today, until this morning when Liza checked her calendar and realized that we’d missed it.

The mistake is not stopping us from celebrating. I’ve stocked the house with carbs, ate a burger, went on a long walk on the beach with my partner, and even played some frisbee in the sun. Liza and I are off this week and the East Coast is finally warm, making this particular week a gift — today is close enough.

Pretty Damn Good

A year ago, wrapping my third year away from alcohol, I was 29, engaged, officially living in San Francisco, and commuting across the country every two weeks for a job that was more stress than it was worth. Now I’m 30, married, settled in the East Coast, and in a new (old) job that let’s me stay put. My work-related stress is down by about 85%, and I can do more push-ups than back then.

Not that all things are good. They aren’t. But more and more of my life’s foundations are settled, stable, and well-laid. I hope I can say that again next year, and the year after.

If I manage to, it won’t be my doing, or at least not entirely. I’ve been floating gently along on an updraft generated by the people in life that I love, and, deservedly or not, love me.

Drinking coffee in the shower this week, thinking about this post, I was a little taken aback at how long the list of people who have helped me has become.

AS for getting me help initially. EW and BL for catching me when I really did fall over. MM and AA (the person, not the group) for forming my sober coven. AW for being a pillar of strength as well as guidance. OT for fitness love. Out in Providence I’ve got a new crew of folks who have my best interests in mind, including DH and RJ and DJ and LW and RW. And there are friendships that exist across the country, DO and AO in Eaglesville, KL and F in the Bay, the Destiny Kids ArrKayEl and T, bymyOWNself and F and L, and calmTreebeard and K. Not to mention the rest of mine and my partner’s families.

And there’s Liza of course, around whom my universe contentedly spins. I could write a whole post just about her love and support from the last year, but she wouldn’t let me post it.


It’s been a whole fucking year. One filled with change and surprise and stress, but also with sheets of filled paper ripped away, leaving new, crisp pages for the writing.

I think about that every day.

Not everyone who winds up an addict gets to have a second go. A lot of folks just don’t. I’m always going to be ecstatically in debt to everyone who refused to let me fully dissolve into bourbon.

I’m excited about the future. That alone is a miracle. Optimism isn’t free and I’m glad to have mine back.

As always, if you are struggling with drinking, ping me. I’m here for you. You deserve the same support I didn’t deserve either. You really do. Hugs. — A

Not drinking during the pandemic

Staying sober during quarantine. Or, how not to have fun.

I don’t have an editor for this personal blog. There is a typo or two below. The world will keep spinning! — Alex

It’s early May 2020.

We’re an age into the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States, and the wear is starting to show.

At the grocery store this Sunday the customer base was about one-third properly masked, and one-third wearing industrial covers they’d seemingly found deep in their garage. The final third of folks shopping for tins of beans and other bits of haute cuisine covid looked like knock-off bank robbers, wrapping bandanas around their faces as if to say hey, we tried.

It’s an odd time.

But for a group of folks the COVID-19 era has brought with it a particular set of challenges, folks who can struggle with changes in routine and social isolation: addicts.

For folks sober from one thing or another — or all things, if that’s your jam — suddenly having your life’s patterns ripped up and made void, while also denying you social interactions you might have depended on for support (AA meetings, meditation spurts at a local zen center, overly aggro frisbee golf against your friends, whatever) is a particularly potent cocktail.

I’ve been dealing with this. If I was drinking, having a period of time in which I would be stuck at home, and very few people could see me would sound like paradise. After all, what time could be better to get hammered around the clock? Everyone else is suffering from their own stuff, so pass the breakfast vodka and call me on Thursday.

However, I am not drinking at all, and haven’t for years, and am thus sitting at home with the dogs and Liza trying to hold my shit together. This has taken some work.

In that vein, here are some learnings from my newly-reformed life of an inactive alky who wants to stay that way:

  • New patterns to fill old, lost patterns. I work from home most of the time, but I’ve traditionally done so with a number of daily walks and food routines that helped keep me both ambulatory and sane. When COVID-19 arrived, however, my coffee and lunch spots closed. I sat at home for too long at the start of quarantine. That was no good. Since then I’ve added new routines to my life that have helped. Evening walks, making myself make more trips to/from the coffee source, and more intra-day time outdoors with the dogs have been good.

  • Weight gain. This has been going really well. I was working on shaving my body-fat percentage this year thanks to a stupid personal goal of seeing my abs before the end of 2020. Ha. So much for that. We have M&Ms in the house, and four types of ice cream. I’m trying to keep my consumption low but I’m slowly gaining weight. That’s just fine. I’ll shed it when I can get back into the gym (more on that in a second). As one sober friend once told me, no one ever got arrested for fat driving. Amen. I shall eat my way through. (My goal, of course, is not zero self-harm; it’s zero alcohol.)

  • Getting better at bodyweight exercises. I miss the gym. I miss having the correct dumbbells for shrugs, being able to do decline sit-ups, and a solid bench for flys. Alas. But what I have done to help stay sane is double-down on what I can do. More ab wheel. More pushups. More pushup variations. And more air squats until I ruined my lower back this weekend. You can’t stop moving. If you do you won’t sleep and then you’ll drink. So rek your body in new and fun ways!

  • Investment into hobbies new and old. I now own hardware to do F1 esports, which is dorky as hell and I love it. I’ve been buying more books than usual, boosting the pressure on myself to keep my pace up. (16 books so far this year, a little behind my anticipated pace; I’ll do better.) And I am letting myself nerd-out on shit that I love. I’m rewatching the 2019 F1 season. Why not!

  • Talking about it. My sober friends and I text a lot. One sends me memes about substance abuse that are funny as hell. Some of my other friends are consuming more drugs and alcohol than before. So I’m talking to them about it. We’re all helping each other.

That’s why I wrote this. I promised a few friends on Twitter that I would. But it’s mostly for me. I need to talk about it.

I hit four years without drinking later this month, and I intend to make it.


Hangin' on

What a wild time to not be doing something different

I’m incensed and largely useless. That’s my problem today.

I’m can’t stop reading about the President aggressively going after oversight — effectively, I should add, given the complicity of his party in his behavior — and, even worse, anti-democracy efforts by one of America’s political parties around the nation. There are enough examples of this that I don’t need to highlight any particular instance from the past few weeks.

It’s acceptable to be a terrible President, to a certain degree, as the democratic process should provide redress to the people of the nation to vote against its leader, their party, and anyone upholding their policies. But when we continually chip away at the ability of certain people to vote, and we see elections regularly decided by thin margins, I can’t help but view our democracy as fading.

Anyone opposed to an open and free franchise is opposed to democracy. And our political media couches arguments relating to ballot-access in partisan terms, as if the right to vote was little more than a shuttlecock to be bandied about, a topic of conversation and something fit for punditry instead of something that should be inviolate, immovable, and a shared bedrock.

I’m beside myself that we allow political movements to limit voting access of groups of people — usually based on race — and carry on as if this was all ok, something that just happens, and about which we can do nothing.

Our children will read the history of today and judge us for our failings.

And all the while, I’m not working on the issue. I’m just doing my day job and making dinner at night. I hope my hoped-for children press me one day and I tell them I failed. I’ll ask them to do better.

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