#DadLyfe · Attempted Humour · Life & Recovery

Happiness, Holidays, Engagements

“Happiness, Holidays, Engagements”

This past Christmas was amazing. Plain and simple. 2017 I spent the holidays white knuckling sobriety and trying to come to grips with the idea of making it through life without alcohol. This year I spent it being thankful for life, around family, and with the funniest little six month old trouble maker constantly crawling around the house to try and drink water out of the cat’s fountain. (Max is obsessed with her fountain; perhaps he thinks he is a cat as well). I didn’t struggle with any urges to drink and avoided certain events that I thought could spark one. Christmas is obviously different when you have a kid and this year was just a small glimpse into how exciting it will be as Max gets older and understands what’s happening. We hosted Christmas dinner at our house and both our families showed up and prepared dinner for us all to enjoy. It is wonderful to see how much everyone cares about our little devil. Everyone put away their normal Christmas day traditions to come spend it around a little baby who can’t even say words. I was amazed at just how much love was directed towards this little guy and how big of an impact he has on everyone around him. I know how happy he makes me, all he has to do is crack a smile and I’m ready to cry harder than when Mufasa dies in the Lion King, but it is just remarkable to see the extension of joy spread to everyone around him. He is so loved and it is amazing to be able to see and recognize just how beautiful that is. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I understand that more and more every day. I know he depends on us to survive, but I don’t know if he will ever know just how much I needed him. He made it the best Christmas ever after a near unendurable experience.

“Will You Marry Me?”

There was also another major occurrence over the Christmas break. Nadaira and I got engaged! The mother of my child and my partner in crime agreed to spend the rest of our lives together. On December 30th her friends got her out of the house (she totally knew something was up), and Max, Ruxin, and I dressed up in our finest attire to “surprise” her when she got home. (the boys were looking DAPPER!)

Nadaira and I live together and have a baby. I’m sure an engagement isn’t a huge surprise, but it is still extremely exciting. The thought of saying “I Do” to the woman I love, while our toddler son runs around the ceremony distracting everyone, and all the non-parents say “why doesn’t someone just get that kid to stop!” is the thought of blissful happiness to me. I absolutely can’t wait for that day.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Now I’ve been quite open about my alcoholism (being open is the whole point of this blog), but as most people do, I carry some other baggage through life with me. I pretend to like Football around my sports watching buddies, I shame eat burgers in my vehicle more than I will ever admit, I can’t play Monopoly without cheating, and I have been engaged before. This is no surprise; I imagine most people taking any time to read this post probably know I have been engaged before, so I don’t wear that with any sort of shame. Life is a collection of experiences that you can only hope to learn from, and while I wear no shame for having been engaged previously, I do wear shame about where my life went after it ended.

After my engagement ended there was really only one thing I wanted to do and that was to party. I wanted to drink with the boys, swipe right on tinder like it was my job, and experience single life as a young adult. I was 25 and didn’t know what it was like to be single. I wanted life to be like a TV show. Hang out in classy bars wearing a blazer saying things like “this round is on me ladies!” And I certainly tried that. I had lots of single friends who liked to socialize and we spent an insane amount of time and money bars trying to live some movie like idea of happiness. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t like that. You want to be this suave character and realize that you’re about as smooth as a dirt road after a rain storm.

Given my lack of skills with the ladies I worked on a different relationship, and that relationship was with alcohol. It is the most deceiving disguise for your emotions. Rather than reflecting on my life and dealing with a fairly significant life event, I chose to drink my face off and hide my emotions behind a thinned blood stream. I hid this way until Nadaira and I started dating later in 2015. We started to get serious and then I had to move to Sudbury for work. As sad as it was to leave, it put a massive emphasis on the fact that a person was making me happier than alcohol was. And while I didn’t quit drinking until 2017, it was being in a relationship with someone who I cared about that allowed me to transition to a place where I could even consider quitting drinking.

I lasted 8 months in Sudbury and took a job back home. I have emphasized this before, but when I decided to quit drinking in 2017 it wasn’t because I was at the lowest point of my life. It was because I wanted to avoid the lowest point of my life. I drank like a fish for a year and a half with the perception that having been engaged would deter anyone from wanting to be in a relationship with me. Now I was at a point where I lived with someone and we were expecting a baby. She knew I had been engaged but that didn’t matter. It was time to stop having a pity party for myself and look around. Yes I had baggage, but the only thing that was actually impacting my life was the “antidote” to the baggage. (The antidote was booze). Accepting that alcohol is the root of your problems as opposed to the medicine for your problems is hard, but it was the step that allowed me to understand what I had in front of me… An amazing life, with an amazing girl, and a soon to be amazing child.

If You Can’t Laugh at Yourself

So here I am, engaged again. I’ve received a few “try and make it to the wedding this time” jokes, and that’s okay. I’ve been joking about it for years. I am who I am because of everything that has happened in my life and if I couldn’t handle a few harmless jokes at my expense I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the league (I make fun of my friends a lot, and ruthlessly). This Christmas was amazing and I am over the moon to be engaged to my best friend. (Although I suspect if it had taken much longer I may have been hearing Beyonce’s Single Ladies blasting around the house). I could ramble on about how happy I am forever but I will end it by paraphrasing a Rascal Flats song like the lame idiot I am. I’m grateful for the broken road that has led me where I am, because there is no place I’d rather be.

wedd

Life & Recovery

“Oh Captain, My Captain”

“Oh Captain, My Captain”

December 18th was the anniversary of Chris Farley’s death and it got me thinking about him and Robin Williams. They were my childhood heroes. Their energy was electric and they were hilarious. They showed me that I could embrace my weirdness and not only be accepted by others, but getting a laugh could make it feel like everyone in a room loved you. I must have watched Jack, Mrs. Doubtfire, Tommy Boy, and Beverly Hills Ninja 50 times each. I learned that doing a funny voice or playing a character was an easy way to get a laugh if you committed to it. I mentioned in my first blog post I have struggled with a pathological need to be liked by people. From a fairly young age I found trying to get a laugh was the best way to satisfy this need. Even if somebody doesn’t like you, getting a laugh from them at least makes it feel like they do. This is ultimately why I structured my personality around trying to make people laugh. I certainly didn’t have the charisma or talent of Robin Williams and Chris Farely, but watching the documentary I am Chris Farely and reading the biography Robin, I learned that on top of trying to be like the adult characters these people played, I lived a very similar childhood. Both had interesting parts of their story, but these men came from loving families and didn’t have an overly traumatic upbringing. Their assent into comedy greatness, on some level, came from the need to be liked as well. Again, I would never compare how funny I am to these legends. They were larger than life. But it is absolutely fascinating to think about how much I idolized these people growing up trying to be like them, and how painfully similar my struggle with substance abuse was to theirs. Chris Farely overdosed and Robin Williams took his own life. If you’re going to commit to trying to be like someone else, you can’t just avoid the bad parts…..

“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.”- RW

In the documentary I am Chris Farley, longtime friend Bob Odenkirk (Saul from Breaking Bad), says “You can’t walk around being funny all the time. You have to be yourself sometimes, and you have to be alone sometimes.” I don’t need to do a play by play of my life and compare the similarities of Chris Farley/Robin Williams to get my point across, this quote says it all. When your main drug of choice is attention, being alone can be very hard. Having a pathological need to be liked is an impossible itch to scratch if you don’t like yourself. You can get temporary satisfaction form a drink, a drug, laugh, affection from someone else, and countless other short-term cures. You could be the funniest person in the entire world, and be the most celebrated person on earth, but it is impossible to be liked by everyone if you don’t like yourself. I think this is the part of the equation that many people who need to be liked can never figure out. Everything can be going so well from almost every perspective, but you still have to look in the mirror and lay in bed at night. You can’t hide from yourself.

“Seize the day. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us is one day going to stop breathing.” – RW

Robin William’s death is actually a little more confusing than most people are aware of. Yes he committed suicide, but the original story was that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and essentially committed suicide to avoid the suffering. Williams actually suffered from a form of dementia called Lewy Body syndrome and had been misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s. Lewy Body syndrome attacked his brain, and despite years of sobriety through the AA program and an intense love for his family, he was the victim of a powerful disease. The reports from his family regarding his downfall are heartbreaking. It was only after his death that the coroner’s report confirmed the misdiagnosis of Parkinson’s. It is sad that there is a wide ranging misconception about his death. While he certainly struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues, the man who committed suicide was not the real Robin Williams.

I bring this up because this revelation was huge for me. Robin was an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and had been sober for years. He loved his family and friends as much as humanly possible. He wasn’t a recovering alcoholic that couldn’t handle a Parkinson’s diagnosis; he was the victim of a complex form of dementia that tortured him. It is important to know that. My hero stopped drinking the same way I did and it gave him his life back. His life was taken by a different disease, not alcoholism.

Chris Farley lost his battle and I can’t help but feel he may have misdiagnosed himself. Perhaps he was trying to get everyone else to like him but never knew how to like himself. I can relate to that on the highest level.

“Our job is improving the quality of life, not just delaying death” -RW

Long story short, I like myself right now. I spent my teenage years and young adult life looking for the approval of others and I often got it. Having someone say I was the funniest person they ever met was like injecting temporary happiness into my veins. Alcohol was the lubricant to be funnier on a more outrageous level. Parties and social events opened up new audiences to how hilarious I thought I was. Ten years of this cycle wore me out. I was terrified of being alone despite having the best friends and family I could ask for, I was drinking to the point of loser drunk almost every time I drank and I was starting to question what I really offered this world. I felt like Barney from the Simpsons. He’s around for a loud burp or something stupid to get a laugh, and then he is probably at home battling his demons. I didn’t want to be Barney anymore. I didn’t want to be the character in everyone’s life who showed up at the party for that stupid drunken moment. I had reached a point where people were laughing at me, not with me. Getting a laugh from being a joke instead of telling one is not a gratifying experience.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned since quitting drinking is how to like myself. I’d be lying if I said I still don’t enjoy making people laugh, but my existence and happiness doesn’t depend on it. Instead of needing to get a laugh to perceive happiness, I am happy with a bonus if I get a laugh. Robin Williams and Chris Farley are still my heroes and through their stories I have been able to learn enough to avoid their fate for now. If there is something poetic in my lifelong relationship with these two men, it would be that trying to be like them contributed to my downfall, but learning from them has saved my life. Rest in peace, Oh Captains! My Captains!

Uncategorized

A Christmas Intruder

“Hark, what’s the noise out by the porch door?”

Last night at approximately 1:50am I was woken up by our 120 pound dog Ruxin barking his head off. Now occasionally he barks if someone knocks at the door, but I have literally never heard him bark like this before. I run out and he is standing at the top of the stairs like a confident beast, barking and growling in the direction of the door, ready to protect the household. Anyone who has ever met Ruxin will laugh at this, as he spends 90% of his time horizontal on the floor and only gets up to politely greet people coming in or to come bum food off you when you’re eating.

As I looked down over the stairs I could kind of see a figure through the window and when I turned the light on it was clear that someone had turned and walked back down the porch steps. There hadn’t been a knock at the door and what I thought might have been the wind blowing something over, quickly turned to an almost paralyzing fear…. Someone was trying to get into the house.

I had just woken up and was obviously a little out of it, but the image of a black coat descending the stairs was ringing in my mind and with a 6 month old baby sleeping in the house, the stakes were significantly higher than any other time I have experienced a strange noise or knock on the door. Pardon my French but I was fucking terrified. Was this person going to go try and break in? Were they potentially going around back where the patio door would be easily breakable? Do I grab a knife? My mind was running like crazy and the feeling in my stomach combined with the rise in my heart rate was unlike any I had ever felt. I was ready for a physical altercation but in all honesty, I had never been so scared in my life.

I gathered my thoughts and realized “We have a security system and a door camera!” If this were a mystery novel, we are approaching the first real piece of evidence in this heinous crime! This wannabe intruder will be identified and persecuted to the full extent of the law! “Nadaira!!! Can you check the camera!?!? I think someone was just on the step!”

“Let’s Get Ready To RUMBLEEEEEE”

As Nadaira logged into the security system I was getting ready to call 911. She gets in and says “Oh my God, there was someone there!” Now we have his face. Still jacked up from everything going on, I recreate the scene in Home Alone in my head where Kevin goes outside and yells “I’m not afraid anymore! You hear that!? I’m not afraid anymore!” Upon a quick look, this is a young guy and he is wearing black, and I am ready to tie paint cans to the ceiling and booby trap the shit out of the house in case this joker comes back. He’s going to get a lesson in how physically harmful Kevin McCallister’s tricks are in real life. I realize after examining him a little further that he seems quite small. Perfect! I don’t need any tricks. I’ll just whoop his ass Labrador style and hand him over to the police. Dad level “Badass” achieved! I’ll be telling Max about this for rest of his life and he will be so proud of the time his dad basically took on the Grinch! You won’t be getting the last can of Who Hash in this house you criminal! I’m about to become Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Yippie-Ki-Yay, Mother Fucker.

“Let he Without Sin, Cast the First Stone”

After my one minute fantasy of vigilante justice, we play the video a few more times. What was a terrifying scenario quickly evolved into a bit of poetic justice. This poor lad wasn’t dressed in black like a cat burglar. He was wearing downtown clothes with an extremely dapper black pea coat that I am actually jealous of (I wish I could ask him where he bought it), and had his hair gelled up gorgeously. Again, I was jealous of him having hair, let alone how magnificent it was… What we had thought was a Christmas intruder coming to terrorize our home, was actually a young man so drunk that he was clearly at the wrong house. He was probably on his way to a Tinder hook up, dude had style.

Now I mention this evolved into a little poetic justice. The reason I say this, is because this is just karma coming to bite ol’ Mcgrew in the behind. I have literally been this drunken dumb-dumb and gone to the wrong house when absolutely obliterated…. TWICE!!!!

In university we had a house party one of the last nights of exams in the house I was living in. We got polluted at the house and then went out to a few bars. The last place we went was the university campus bar and I had lived about a 5 minute walk from it the year before. I was extremely intoxicated and my muscle memory from having been to this bar so many times while living in my old house must have just walked me there. Luckily the people that lived there weren’t home and after an unknown amount of time I realized where I was and went to my actual home. The other time I banged on our neighbors door for 20 minutes because my key wouldn’t work. Luckily they knew me and other than being briefly afraid of the knocks on the door, they were able to politely inform me I lived one house up…

At this point I had to abandon my mixture of Home Alone and Die Hard Justice and have a little giggle. We had already called the police and they came quite quickly. I actually knew the officer so we had a bit of a laugh. At that point I was more concerned about the poor little drunk than I was angry. I showed the officer the video and it seemed like a cab had dropped him off and may have even watched him come in. They were going to follow up with the cab companies and see if someone may have dropped him off and make sure everything was okay. I cracked the joke to the officer that “I have been this guy before, so hopefully he’s alright.” His response was “Oh I have no doubt in my mind you’ve done that before McGrew.”

“You Must Be the Change You Wish to See in This World”

After all was said and done this situation was a little funny. From my fat ass standing in intense fear in nothing but boxers, to laughing with a police officer about how drunk I used to get, there was a whirlwind of emotions in this 30-45 minute event. I’ve never quite felt that level of fear and responsibility at the same time. I’m glad my dad reflexes kicked in, but there is a part of this situation that made me feel intensely vulnerable. I imagine there will be many scenarios like this throughout life as a parent and I hope little misunderstandings like this can help prepare my nerves. If this had actually been an intruder I likely wouldn’t be writing a silly blog post today, we’d be dealing with a much different aftermath. We are very lucky to have a camera as only having the image of someone running down the stairs would have made this a far scarier situation.

I also can’t help but hope the drunk guy got home okay. If I was still drinking I don’t know that I’d have the capacity to forgive this person so quickly. It’s a little ironic that the person I was while drinking would have likely chased down a drunk guy mistakenly trying to come in our house. I’m thankful for this change in me. While prepared to do what needed to be done, I didn’t beat the hell out of someone to make myself feel like a hero. I evaluated the situation and we were able to laugh about it after. We actually felt bad for the guy and that is exactly the person I want to be. So while this was an unfortunate misunderstanding, the silver lining was a showcase of personal growth.

I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t give our dog Ruxin a special shout out. I’ve never seen him react like he did last night and I’m equal parts surprised and proud. As I mentioned, Ruxin is 120 pounds but has the easiest going demeanor possible. He probably would of gave the guy a trademark dog hug if he made it into the house, but for the situation that was ongoing, he was the protector of the house. He gave his meanest bark and growled for only the second time I’ve ever heard. The whole time he leaned directly against my legs as if to say “We got this shit.” The cat, however, was nowhere to be found…. That little pussy.

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#DadLyfe · Attempted Humour · Life & Recovery

A Christmas Carol: McGrew Edition

I am a huge fan of Christmas. Maybe it’s because I grew up Catholic and have a subconscious love for Baby Jesus. Maybe it’s because there are so many days off that you can spend with family and friends. Either way, I have always loved Christmas and drinking my face off was a big part of that. Being an alcoholic at Christmas was excellent for me because it was one of the few scenarios where many non-alcoholic drinkers got on my level. I would go home to Labrador and be lucky if had more than a day or two sober the entire break. The Christmases I have spent in Newfoundland weren’t much different; Tibbs Eve (December 23rd for people not from NL) until January 2nd was an absolute blur.

Last year was my first Christmas without alcohol and I wish I could say I enjoyed it, but that would be a lie. It was the hardest two weeks I’ve ever experienced in my life. There were about 20 different times I almost convinced myself that I could just have a few drinks over the holidays. If I were in the five stages of grief, Christmas would have been the bargaining stage. I started to come up with elaborate deals with myself to be able to drink at certain events. Fortunately, I never drank but I white knuckled a lot of nights while fighting with my brain on a level I had never experienced. My Ghost of Christmas Past was constantly reminding me of how much fun I’ve had with friends drinking. Being in the mental state I was, it was hard to get through it. But much like Ebenezer Scrooge, I was visited by the ghosts of Christmas Present and Future in order to balance out my perspective. Here is a quick look into the visits from these insightful Ghosts.

“The Ghost of Christmas Past-McDrunk”

As I mentioned, one of the great things about Christmas for me was that many normal drinkers tend to drink a lot more than usual. Many of my Christmas drinking memories include a group of people doing crazy things as opposed to just me embarrassing myself. I have about a million examples, but one of my favourites was Boxing Day when I was 19 years old. A group of my buddies in Labrador watched the World Junior Hockey game at a friend’s house and got right into the spiced rum. Hard liquor in general brings out the devil in me, but rum specifically brings out a devil that shouldn’t be allowed in public.

So we down an incredible amount of rum while playing drinking games, throw on our backwards hats and American Eagle dress shirts, and head to the bar everyone goes to on Boxing Day. Now this presented an issue because half the guys were only 18, but we were hoping they would be lax on the door. We arrive at the bar and we can see the bouncers asking people for ID like they are TSA agents at a New York City Airport after 9/11. I mean, they were going a bit overboard. It’s finally our turn to get inspected by these jokers and I’m hoping I can lay on some McGrew charm to let our buddies in. We are not leaving anyone behind here tonight – we all get in or no one gets in. No one was the plan for the bouncers and they rejected a few of the boys.

We hung around the lobby because it’s December in Labrador and about minus 50 degrees. We’re fired up and pissed off, but at the same time the bouncers were doing their job, even if they were taking it a little too serious. While we were deciding where to go next, one of the bouncers was kicking an underage girl out of the bar and being way too aggressive. He basically dragged her out of the bar like she was a rag doll and then he went to slam the door in her face to make a statement, but the door smacked her in the face VERY HARD. We witnessed all of this and were already pretty angry with the bouncers, so being the rummed up heroes we all were, we decided to intervene and stand up for the girl… that is a polite way of saying we started a massive fight with the bouncers. We all went in swinging and it was absolute chaos. In our minds we were doing the right thing, but given the rum flowing through our veins, we may have been a little out of line. The fight ended and we had clearly shown the bouncers who was boss. We stood up for justice and on top of that, we all ended up getting in the bar without paying cover. We saw this as us doing the right thing and being rewarded with admission to the bar for free! Realistically we were pissed off a few of our buddies got rejected at the door and had a reason start a fight without being considered complete assholes. But none the less, free cover and administering a lesson in respecting women is how we all remember it.

This is just one example of many Christmas memories that are really just memories of drinking with friends and having a laugh. These memories aren’t filled with examples of me being the only one getting out of hand and that is why I think Christmas was so hard for me in 2017. When you associate almost all positive memories with Christmas and many of those revolve around drinking, it is easy to start forgetting about all of the negatives alcohol has brought along as well. Part of alcoholism is a mental obsession with alcohol and that obsession was very prevalent when I was visited by the ghost of Christmas Present.

“The Ghost of Christmas Present- McStruggling”

In the Charles Dickens story, this ghost shows Scrooge how other people celebrate Christmas, which then shows Scrooge what people think of him. This was what made everything so hard for me. I knew that all of my friends would be drinking over the holidays and enjoying themselves, and I knew there would be a little part of them that would miss having drunk McGrew around (at least that is what I convinced myself). The quote I often use is “Nobody wants Bruce Banner, they want The Hulk,” and that is exactly how I felt. I had brainwashed myself to think that I wouldn’t be the same person. I was frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t control my drinking but thought that one last attempt to be a sensible drinker might work.

I was starting to ignore all of the progress I had made and was really struggling. At one point I was preparing a speech for my girlfriend and family to tell them what I learned from a month of not drinking and how those lessons would now allow me to be a sensible drinker. I was basically practicing this speech envisioning applause and excitement from the outside world because I would be back on the booze. That is how obsessed with alcohol I was. I was telling myself people would be happy The Hulk was back. My girlfriend was pregnant with our son, my parents had poured their heart and soul into supporting me quitting, my friends had gone out of their way to make sure that they understood my decision and that it was for the best, and I was here preparing a speech that would have them applauding with joy at the thought of me drinking again…. this is clearly madness! Needless to say I was still utterly infatuated with alcohol.

I was going down a rough road and I played chicken with a dozen of Coors Light at the convenience store by our house multiple times. Struggling wasn’t even the word. I felt imprisoned by my desire to drink and my willpower was holding on by a rubber band that could not stretch any further without snapping. Right when I was at my breaking point, I was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and thank God he came….

“The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come- McDad”

There is only one thing that could break the spell that had me fixated on a world where I was going back to drinking last Christmas, and he wasn’t even born. Max, my unborn son, was the only reason I didn’t snap that rubber band I was hanging on by. Going back on the booze wouldn’t have been a massive surprise to any of the other stakeholders in my life. Many of them probably expected it. I certainly would have disappointed some people, but I had disappointed people before and they have a tendency to get over it. People who care about you have this amazing capacity for forgiveness and I’m sure the people in my life would have accepted me drinking again to a degree. It would have been awkward at first, but they would have got over it.

However, there was one person who may not be able to get over it. Max was due to come into the world in June and he wouldn’t have the capacity to get over the disappointments and bullshit that my alcoholism would bring to the table and he wouldn’t deserve it. That little boy deserves a father who dedicates his life to him and his mother, and if I drink there is no way I can be that father. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come showed me Christmas with my little boy and my amazing girlfriend. It showed me Christmas morning with a cup of coffee watching him open presents. It simply showed me a life that was far better than any of my positive drinking memories.

It is halfway through December and I haven’t played one game of chicken with a case of Coors Light; and I don’t think I will.

MAx

#DadLyfe · Attempted Humour · Life & Recovery

Bachelor Parties, Bad Behaviour, and Babies

I was recently invited to a bachelor party in Myrtle Beach with a group of friends. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the party, but it got me thinking about the last bachelor party I attended before ending my relationship with alcohol. It is important for me to note that I have the best friends in the entire world. None of my immediate friends (that I know of) suffer from alcoholism, so I don’t want to give the impression that they are a bunch of drunks. A lot of my friends like to drink but they can handle themselves perfectly fine. In fact, it was partly comparing my own drunken antics against my friends that helped me realize that I wasn’t like them. Even in the scenarios where some of my friends have drank too much, my obnoxious insistence on them getting polluted was likely a contributing factor. I am very lucky that when I told my friends I was quitting drinking they were completely supportive. The only temporary change was that people didn’t know what events were appropriate to invite me to and if they could still drink around me, which was quickly resolved with a few honest conversations. My friends and family embraced it from day one and supported my sobriety. I am very lucky in this regard, as so many people who make this significant change have to cut some people out of their lives in order to go down the right path. For this support, I am eternally grateful.

“All You Gotta Do is Put a Drink in My Hand”

In June of 2017, I helped plan one of my best friend’s bachelor parties in Nova Scotia. We arranged an amazing weekend where we would golf, spend time at his family cottage, play drinking games, and do whatever we could to have a laugh throughout the weekend. A few of us flew to Nova Scotia a few days early to spend the night at the groom’s parents house and spend a bit of time with his family. We arrived early in the morning and went right to the golf course in his hometown of Wolfville. It was a beautiful summer day and the drinks started flowing. We were all really excited to be on vacation and to celebrate our friend tying the knot. Anyone reading this knows that I’m going to drink too much on the golf course this day. It is day one of a four day weekend, we are less than 12 hours into the trip, and Ol’ McGrew is getting through Coors Lite and Palm Bays like a kid searching for Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I am fired up for this weekend and I am FIRING it up!

We get through the round of golf and I’m about 90% of the way to a full tank. I’m getting loud but not quite too loud. I’m being inappropriate but not TOO inappropriate. We head to the local butcher to get some meat to grill up for supper and for some reason I buy $200 worth of beef jerky and start hand bombing beef jerky in the car like I’d been on a hunger strike. We get back to the groom’s house where his amazing family is there to enjoy supper, have a few drinks, and have a normal summer family gathering. My last memory is watching a few people peeling potatoes and one of our friends showing up with a 24 pack of beer (that I requested). So one of our friends hasn’t even started drinking yet and I’m at a point where I’m starting to lose memory. I have flashes of playing washers in the back yard and listening to Stan Rogers in the basement while playing pool and darts, but these are mere flashes at best.

My next full memory is waking up in the living room on an air mattress and having to run outside to get sick. Unfortunately, I had gotten sick the night before as well and I did not make it outside. I received a call from my girlfriend in the morning to make sure I was okay. I didn’t remember talking to her the night before, but my phone showed that I did call her, so I was terrified at what my dumb ass had said on that call. From her description the call went like this*:

Steven: “Hey Bebe, just calling to let you know I’m going to be home late. I’ll be home but it’s going to be late, so you go to bed!”

Girlfriend: “Ummmm. Where are you?”

Steven: “At a bar!”

Girlfriend: “What bar?”

Steven: “On George Street!”**

*My words were much more incoherent than transcribed here

** For anyone reading this who isn’t familiar with George Street, it is a small street in S. John’s, Newfoundland that has the most bars per capita in Canada

Here is a quick reminder that I am in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, at my friends parent’s house, and George Street is 1540 kilometers away. LITERALLY across the Atlantic Ocean. I’m going to be a little bit more than “late” and now I have someone else worried about my well being on top of the poor souls that had to physically endure my antics.

“Hello Darkness My Old Friendddd”

As you have probably guessed, I got sick all over the living room of the groom’s family home. My poor buddy had to clean puke off of the couch and floor of the room he grew up watching Barney and playing with his calculator! (He is an accountant so I imagine a calculator was a staple toy for him). The groom and another friend spent the night making sure I was alive and cleaning up the mess I made. (I told you, my friends are unreal). When I learned about my actions the next day, I was extremely ashamed. I had made an ass of myself countless times; at 28 years old, this was a low that I hadn’t experienced. This was one of the first times his parents met me, I was chosen as the emcee for his wedding, and they see this pathetic loser come terrorize their home with drunkenness before the real party even started. I can only imagine how worried they were about the state their cottage was going to become. (Disclaimer: His parents are the nicest people alive, they reinforced that it was no big deal, but I still can’t believe it happened. I sent an apology card along with a gift card to get the couch steam cleaned when I returned home after the party, but to this day I’m still embarrassed by this situation).

Now fortunately that was the most outrageous night of the trip for me. The rest of the weekend was really fun. We had lots of drinks and partied at the cottage. Played golf, full contact football, drinking games, put the groom in a chicken costume, and made him chug beer. It really was a great time. However, come Sunday there was a notable difference in the other attendees and me. While everyone else was hungover, they hopped in their cars and went on their way. I was so hungover I could barely move and found myself almost unable to function. I literally slept on the bathroom floor in the morning because I thought I might get sick and could not move back to a bed. I debated getting a hotel in Halifax because I didn’t know how I’d survive the flight. I was in such rough shape that I went to the hospital on Monday worried I hit my head or something. The doctor asked me some questions and unsympathetically told me to drink lots of water and take an Advil. She gave me doctor speak for “You are an idiot. Grow up,” and she was totally right, it was time to grow up. In four months from that weekend it was really time to grow up….

“Ohhh The Times They are A Changinnnnn”*Bob Dylan Voice*

Four months after that bachelor party my partner and I found out we were expecting a child. A few weeks after that I made the decision to quit drinking and that has obviously gone very well for me. But there is a curveball thrown into the story that is quite amazing when I reflect. The groom from the bachelor party, one of my best friends in the world, was about to become a Dad too! His child is only 3 months younger than my son, Max. Not even a full year after that weekend there was a baby boy living in my house, I was 7 months without a drink, and my friend and his wife were expecting a baby in a few months. I got so drunk I painted my friend’s childhood home a gross shade of McGrew; was told by a doctor I was a moron; told my girlfriend I’d be teleporting home from Nova Scotia, and; l left the imprint of my hungover body all over the Annapolis Valley. Now I have a human being living in my house relying on me for survival. It was the ultimate shift. A shift that I couldn’t be prouder of, but I also get to attack this new life with one of my closest friends. I’ve gone from drunkenly body slamming him in a chicken suit (repeatedly), to texting him on the weekend about the longest period of time our babies have gone without pooping. He is a class A guy and an outstanding father. Although I feel I can take some credit for his fatherly instincts, as he has literally cleaned puke off me and put me to bed when I couldn’t walk….multiple times.

Life is absolutely amazing. I have a partner that is an unbelievable mom and a son that smiles every time I walk into the room. He is six months old and smiles his way through life. Those six months haven’t been without challenges, but overcoming those challenges has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I get to face each day with a positivity that didn’t exist before November 2, 2017 and the added bonus of no hangovers. What a gift to be able to experience the most important journey you will ever face with the love of your life and one of your best friends. All of my friends are amazing, but having one of your closest compadres understand the world of getting shit on and thrown up on (by a baby this time, not me) is remarkably refreshing.

Max

#DadLyfe · Attempted Humour · Life & Recovery

The McBlog

WHY BLOG?

I’ve been flirting with the idea of starting a blog for a long time. The reality is that I write things fairly often, but I never end up actually sharing them. In knowing I’m a bit of an idiot, I’ve accused myself of being vain for wanting to share the things I’ve written. However, writing has been a method of therapy for me since I ended my relationship with alcohol on November 2, 2017. In the last year I welcomed a baby boy into the world, quit drinking, and started a new job. Those are three major life events to go through. Things have not always been easy and in order to keep my brain in check, I often type up what is on my mind and come back to it a day or two later. This often shows me if my thoughts were dominated by confusion or moments of weakness. Throughout those write ups, there are often some interesting words on the page. Words that could perhaps give someone a laugh or have someone relate to the struggle I am going through. While I don’t intend this blog to be a vanity project, I can’t help but fantasize about having one person who is going through a hard time read my words and find something helpful. Lord knows I have taken countless amounts of comfort and strength from the words of others.

WHO IS MCGREW??

McGrew is my nickname. My name is actually Steven McGrath, and sometime in Junior High, I adopted the persona of McGrew. Ultimately it is a silly play on my last name that likely came about to match the ridiculously silly character that I was. I tried very hard to be funny, crossed the line with jokes, said the things people were thinking but wouldn’t say, and wore every laugh, giggle, and smile like a badge of honour. Pushing the limits to get a laugh and be liked by my peers is not so dangerous when it includes doing funny voices, making prank phone calls, or saying something outrageous. However, fast forward to young adult life with alcohol focused activities, and it gets dangerous.

“I Saidddddd YOUNG MAN!!” *The Village People Impersonation*

Having a compulsive need to be liked was the character flaw that started to lead me down the path of alcoholism. I pushed the boundaries of everything I did and I got a lot of laughs. I drank a little bit in High School but not much in the grand scheme. However, when I did, I always had to drink more than anyone I was with, as if it was chemically engineered in my being (newsflash, it kind of was).  I didn’t need alcohol every weekend in high school. I was an honour student, on the basketball team, on the soccer team, captain of my house league hockey team (I actually suck at hockey, this was more of an ironic captaincy, even though I had the leadership skills of Winston Churchill), lead actor in the school play, played bass guitar in the high school concert and jazz band, was in a cover band, and dated the prom queen. When Bruce Springsteen’s song “Glory Days” comes on, I know what he is talking about. I had the best life and had friends across all social circles. I was proud of who I was, and treated everyone like I wanted to be treated. Life was good, but I always knew and hoped that university was going to be a wild time. Spoiler alert: University was a wild time….

“It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere”

Needing to be liked and make people laugh + drinking four to five times a week = bad news. University life was just a collection of  “When is the next party?” and I was always ready to go. To shed some light on just how drunk I would get, here are some examples: I’ve been in the drunk tank three times (once in Quebec while on a solo work trip), I was once so drunk at a house party I was hosting that I got up in the middle of the night and pissed on my laptop while the girl I was dating was in the bed watching, I’ve been found butt naked in the lobby of my apartment building where the building manager had to drag me back to my apartment, I’ve urinated in many other embarrassing locations, and I’ve been carried home or to a hotel room at least 50 times by friends (this list could last forever). Despite these being extremely embarrassing events, I literally wore them as a badge of honour. Talking about drunken nights was the main activity I participated in with friends outside of having drunken nights. I was fun to drink with and I was the guy who went way too hard but could still grab a beer at 8:00am. In fact, I often had to grab a beer to function after a wild bender. I still remember university positively, but it set the stage for my continued downfall.

I made it through university alive, got a good job right out of school, bought a house, adopted a dog, and got engaged. I thought life was good, but I was wrong.

“It Was All a Dreammmmm!!”

When you read the back of a shampoo bottle, the instructions say “Lather, Rinse, Repeat”. Well drinking for me was exactly like the shampoo instructions. To the untrained eye, I had the most adult life out of most young adults I knew. However, my life entirely revolved around drinking. Drinking was the only thing I planned for on the weekend, the only thing I was excited for during the week, and mentally it completely dominated my life. If I made supper, or cleaned the house, it was specifically so that I had that to lean on when I wanted to go drinking with the boys. My life was a constant state of bargaining. Everyone thought I was this nice person, but I took inventory of every nice thing I did, so that in my head I could justify all of my selfish actions. I was a master manipulator. “Oh Bae, the boys are getting together at ____ tomorrow night. I think a few of the girls are going (I knew they weren’t), we should go!” Almost always met with an agreement to go. This was followed by, “Oh Poop! None of the girls are going (I knew this from the start), but no worries, we will go another time (LOL I’m going, I know you’re just going to tell me to). Like clockwork the response was always “No you go! You did this and that and you’re great, you go with the boys!” Mission accomplished. Blackout drunk here I come! This was literally how I lived my life. Everything I did was self-serving in the sense that I just wanted that inventory of good deeds in my back pocket to be able to manipulate others in order to get what I wanted – what I wanted was alcohol, and I got it. Every time.

Extreme Makeover – McGrew Edition

November 2, 2017, after an embarrassing drunken night that was all too common, I walked into my first AA meeting. Sparing those details, I have not had a drink since.

There will always be challenges but right now my life does not revolve around drinking. It revolves around: working hard at my job, being a great partner for the mother of my child, trying to be the best Dad that I can, reading books, having meaningful conversations, watching sports, and just simply embracing life as much as I can. AA has provided me with the tools to stay sober and I have been sober for over a year. I have a lifetime of vigilance ahead of me, and I know that I am only sober for today. Nothing in this life is granted and I am fully aware of how quickly life can slip out of your reach. I lived it. Alcoholism and addiction are a constant battle. I lived through the darkest possible thoughts and now it seems like another lifetime to me. It is so clearly in my memory but so distantly possible. How could I have ignored what this life has to offer? I was knocked down, and fortunately I got back up. It is embarrassing to admit you are an alcoholic to the world, but admitting it is the most freeing and helpful way to lift that weight off my shoulders. I am no expert on alcoholism and I have tons of work to do on myself. I am the cliché character in every TV drama and I am dealing with it in the cliché manner, because it works for me.

So, if you are into self-deprecating humour, moderately crazy stories, stories that make me seem so dumb I’m making it up, and the occasional attempt at positivity, I welcome you to have a look at some of the posts I will be sharing. I am only a master of my own story and my story contains a whirlwind of experiences. If even one person has a laugh or a positive thought from my posts, my mission will be accomplished.

I am an overweight, balding, hairy, recovering alcoholic Dad, who is just trying to not be an asshole, and not raise an asshole at all costs.

“Attack life, it’s going to kill you anyway.”

― Steven Colbert

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