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.

Forward

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.

A

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.

Comms, self-care, and doing my best

Holy hell this news cycle

Hey, I wanted to write about something that hit me over the weekend. Namely that, between Twitter DMs, texts, WhatsApp, Tweets, work and personal email, LinkedIn messages and the various Slack groups that I am in, not to mention phone calls, Zooms, and other group chats and calls, I’m maxed out.

I mean that both personally and professionally. The world I write about is on fire, and I’m struggling a bit under the comms load. This is a blessing, and one that I do not want to discount; people reaching out with news and tips is lovely and I am thankful.

But the news influx and comms flow means that I am dropping things, both by accident and on purpose, both professionally and in my personal life.

I will keep doing my best but some things are going to lose priority, like reading email from folks I don’t know.

When things are back to normal — hopefully soon — I’ll be less of a shit friend and irksome person to reach. But if I don’t tune out a lot of stuff I won’t get any writing done.

Ok that’s it, I just felt bad for being slow to respond to things and wanted to apologize. Hugs. — A

A few tips on not losing your shit while working remotely

From my home office, where I am still mostly sane

I don’t have an editor for this personal blog. If you find a typo, say it out loud three times and then forget that you ever read it. Love you. — Alex

All of a sudden working from home is hot. I’m not getting into the whys this morning, as I’ve been stuck covering COVID19 for the last few weeks and need a break. But as it seems that a great host of folks are about to start working from home for weeks, I wanted to share some tips.

Here are my credentials: I worked from home for The Next Web (TNW) for nearly four years in two different states. Then I joined TechCrunch and spent the first year working from home because I was stubborn and stupid. After that I spent some time in the office, and during my Mattermark year had to go in. But at Crunchbase I was pretty quickly back to part-time remote, moving to 50% remote for a few more years, but in a new state.

So I’ve done international remote and domestic remote, media remote and media-at-a-startup remote. I’ve done it in remote teams, and centralized teams.

Here’s what I’ve learned from non-quarantine remote working. Not all of these will apply to you today, but in general they are ok bits of advice. At least they have been for me:

  • Get the fuck out of the house in the morning: Do this every single work day unless you are sick. Doing so will make you do more laundry, recall how to present yourself, how to use your voice, and it will help you develop the sort of small relationships that are the building blocks of life; get to know every coffee spot near your house, ever diner, every park. Oh, and walking is good for you.

  • Develop the most distinct work space that you can pull off: I am lucky rn that I have a seperate building to work from in my backyard, but before this I tried to define work and leisure spaces as best I could. A room for work that is different from the rest of your house is great. Do not work from the couch. You are not unemployed, do not act like it.

  • Get better at cooking: It’s easy to order in when you work from home, and easier to lose control of your body’s structural integrity when you are alone. Rage against the machine and learn how to make some simple food for yourself. Don’t order tacos every day.

  • Home gym, or die: On the theme of not falling so out of shape that none of your clothes fit, start working out during the day. A few dollars into a kettlebell, a good mat for yoga or situps, and some free weights will pay back hugely. Try to never have a day when you don’t do some pushups, maybe a few jumping jacks. You sit so much at home, fucking move.

  • How to phone call while remote: Pace, if you can. Get up and walk around the house or your home office. Move. Get the blood flowing. You are going to die in that chair!

  • Use your fucking video camera: Be presentable enough to be on video chat for your meetings. Don’t live in squalor. Tidy your workspace. Put on a shirt. Show up. Be a human.

  • Call your friends: If you work remotely, you are probably seeing fewer humans than before. Supplement that by calling your loved ones. As much as you can force yourself to.

  • Snacking, self-esteem, and general health: Try to have high standards. Don’t start eating whole jars of pickles. Invest in yourself, because it’s easy to get sad when you are alone. And slipping standards of self-care are only pushing you in one direction.

In short, your mental and physical care need different inputs. You can be healthier and happier remote. It just takes a lot of work.

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