Sunday, 15 November 2015

Montreal #Roots Entry #35

I was born and raised in Montreal Quebec. It is a mix of French and English speaking people with a strong emphasis on preserving our individuality amongst other Canadians. There is a combination of blacks from Haiti and the other Caribbean islands. A high populations of Armenians as well as Moroccans and a multitude of Arab speaking immigrants. It's no secret that the city is run by the Mob which has been exemplified numerous times from high profile homicide coverage of Mob members. We can't forget having some of the richest chapters of biker gangs that help to run this beautiful city. The most corrupted criminals in this historically rich city is the provincial Government who kind of...just play by their own rules let's say. We are such individuals that we still get ridiculed to this day by other Canadian for foolish separation dreams that old Quebecois try to push back in the day...and some even now. As individuals our bars close at 3am as opposed to Ontario and several other Canadian provinces that have a 2am last call. Nope we need that extra hour to party and before that we can go grab our beer and/or wine at any convenience store, Gas Station and even grocery store until 11pm. This type of freedom with alcohol can be liberating for some. Especially when you're used to the typically more conservative Canadian rules. Our drinking age is 18 instead of 19 and our relaxed attitude does not frown upon having a few drinks daily. However this can also go in a bad direction if one has the alcoholic disease. Montreal is like Disneyland for alcoholics, mixed with being Canada's sex capital which is the perfect mix for the worst decisions. I've lived in Montreal for 22 years before moving to Toronto in November of 1997. Since 1991 I developed an iron liver and lung. I learned to smoke and drink like a champ from the tender age of fifteen. I developed my impeccable rolling skills, that I still posses by the way. At the same time I started discovering the multiple of easily accessible alcoholic beverages that Montreal has to offer. Like most people I drank Labatt and Molson beers. Even back then there was Labatt Blue Dry beers that were more than 5%. We had the 6.1% and then went on to having 7.1, 8.1 and even a 10% which is almost the percent of alcohol that wine contains. Before Reb Bull became a popular energy drink I was drinking tall cans of Red Bull beer that was a 7.1% that kept me nice and fuzzy for part of the early 90s. Montreal also has their own Micro-breweries that produced some of the most mentally lethal beers with odd names. For example Eau Bénite which translates to Holy Water in English. There is also Fin Du Monde which was a whopping 10% beer. Fin Du Monde translates to End of the World, which is absolutely correct for someone who drinks a few of those daily. Being the Hip Hop head that I am, when we discovered 40 ounce size bottles of Malt Liquor, which is just cheaply made beer. We used to make several trips to New York City where you can also buy beer at corner stores. Over there we saw all the American beers that are usually pretty weak in the alcohol amounts, on average being like 4% to 4.5%. However 40s went straight to the head. In NYC you could get a 40 ounce for $1 maybe $2. When certain underground Montreal convenience stores started illegally importing them they would charge upward of $5 per bottle. We wanted to mimic our favorite rappers like Wu Tang and Snoop Dogg who even had St.Ides malt liquor commercials. They knew from early that Hip Hop loved 40s and it was one of the first alcohol endorsements that rappers received. Now we have Ciroc, Rosay and a plethora of rapper endorsed liquor brands. At some point when I started making more money my palette changed and we started getting into imported beers like McQuiewin's an 8.5% beer from Scotland and Japanese Saki. This is all available at our conveniently located SAQs (Society Alcohol du Quebec). This is the stores that I started to cultivate my taste for hard liquor. The SAQ is filled with some of the best imports of hard liquor that isn't available in other Canadian liquor stores. Liquors from the West Indies, France, Italy and Greece to name a few. Greek liquors like Metaxa and Ouzo which I used to drink at my ex girlfriends parent's house. Her dad always had a bottle around and he knew that she would drink a little. I used to have to hide when he woke up for work the night shift so he wasn't supposed to the know that I was there. However I feel that he suspected that it wasn't his daughter that was beating up his liquor bottles. Or the fact that they were becoming watered down. Yes, Montreal the historical city of sin. Which is ironic since it was once owned by the Catholic nuns. Education and the cost of living is low with 1 bedroom apartments still under $1000 in the downtown area. All the better for the young McGill and Concordia students to spends some of that extra money on the fine spirits that Montreal Quebec has to offer. This place can be dangerous for someone who doesn’t have control over their addictions or even realize that they may be alcoholics. Montreal helped to develop my tolerance level as well as beginning the destruction of my liver. Now 5 years sober , when I go back there I'm not affected by massive beer selection at all local stores. It is now a friendly reminder of what control is and how it can easily be lost. I still love my hometown and I can personally tell you all that there is no city like it in the world. Merci

Friday, 14 August 2015

ALL OR NOTHING (You Can't Save Everyone) Entry #34

Being the Sober Emcee can be a heavy responsibility to bare sometimes. I've been a part of the scene for while now here in Toronto and there is a lot of nightlife that goes on in this city. For the past 5 years I've been able to go to clubs and afterhours in the face of several bottles of liquor and still not have the desire to have a drink. For that I feel blessed! I've learned in the rooms of the 12 steps meetings that everyone's path is different on the road to sobriety. Sometimes not everybody makes it. For the most part the people that I surround myself with are not heavy drinkers. They can hold their liquor and party when its get together time. I've become a sponsor (Sorta) over the years, however my sponsee would need to make the decision of "All or nothing" when it comes to this tricky alluring force called Alcohol. All or nothing for me means that I have to know that I'm going to probably be one of the only people at the club not drinking or drunk. Yes we have the designated drivers in the club too, but half of them are drinking anyway and girls who are usually prudes (Joking...maybe). All or nothing means being more selective with the women I talk to and the fact that it might be an issue that I don't drink, inturn making it hard to get to the naked twister. I don't get wasted on my Birthday or on New Year's eve and when I toast with someone in the club I'm tapping the glass with my bottle of water. Don't feel sorry for me though because for me the trade off for the so called sacrifices, is my life. I know I am an alcoholic and am fully accepting of my alcoholism and know that if I drink to have the aforementioned pleasures, that indulgence will be my eventual demise. I still have fun when I go out I've learned that my charm with women didn't come from the bottle and learned to channel my inner mojo. Those are temporary pleasures to me and I'd rather my life. Plus I can still have all that shit anyway, have a focussed and clear night (and morning) as well as remember the memories that I'm creating in my life. Over the years I've seen a few friends try to get on the path to sobriety. Some going to rehab and then coming home and saying; "Hey I've learned to control it" now feeling that they can do an alcohol cut down program. Hopefully that works because I'm very aware that "All or Nothing" isn’t a small thing. I've brought a friend to 12 step meetings upon their request and seen what I thought was enlightenment. Maybe there was but after a few dry days the bottle won. I've watched a once close friend now get to the point where I can see the rock bottom in him. Alcohol has diminished him and may have him completely homeless, dead or in jail if he doesn't seek help immediately. The most I can do is try to be an ear if needed or a word if my advice is asked for. For the third mentioned situation I can't do anything, I fear that he just won't make it. This can be hard but on the road to making my life more productive within my sobriety, I can't help everybody. Until these cases realize that they are a part of a worldwide group of us who've realized that we are powerless over alcohol and it has no longer made our lives manageable. Basically step 1, admitting the alcoholism. Until that step is taken and these cases realize that there is no such thing as the Cut Down Program for us alcoholics, I can only provide help through example. I can’t go out of my way. My phone is on for 2 out of the 3 cases but unfortunately I will not be going out of my way. Hopefully they seek the help they need and with that and some time in sobriety, maybe I can add on as (hopefully) an experienced sober assistant. For now though they're on their own, hopefully they read this blog as it has been recommended on a few occasions. Until they want to be saved and take the steps towards helping themselves, I can’t make them stop drinking, only they can. Therefore unfortunately I can't save everybody. Bless

Friday, 15 May 2015

Bartending School Entry #33

I am coming up on my 40th birthday in less than 2 months and I feel good, and sober. As I give thanks for everyday and move forward in life, I also use this as a time of reflection. I think back to 13 years ago back the summer of 2002. I was on my way to turning 27 years old and going through a low point. At the time I was completing community service for a minor drug(Weed) charge. A few months prior to that I was on the run, sleeping from hotel to hotel because a close friend and business partner who had been raided after an investigation. Then to top it off, my girlfriend/common in-law wife kicked me out of our apartment after being fed up of my drinking, cheating and all around drama. Life was on tilt and my drinking was spiking higher than ever. I had become accustomed to the finer drink mixtures like Errol Flynns; a mixture of 1 ounce Cognac (Usually Hennessey) and 1 ounce Grand Marnier. Sometimes I'd drink a 26oz bottle of Grand Marnier in 1 night then pass out on my chair with my ex probably shaking her head at me in disgust. My business partner and I would enjoy bottles of Don Perignon (I think aged since 1996)and have a bottle each..minus the glass. I had a customer that would use fraudulent credit cards that would buy several bottle of the expensive champagne at $120 a bottle. Then he would come and sell them back over to us at $60 a bottle or he would use the bottles to work off the tab that he sometimes would accumulate with me due to drug debts. It was like one addict feeding another in a fair exchange. My business partner and I were under the impression that we were the real life versions of who our favorite rappers wanted to be. We were the street guys that they portrayed in their songs. At the time I had no day job, I hustled, ran our record company and my street team. However by 2002 the street team promotion had started to dwindle with the inception of online download sites such as Napster and Kazaa, as well as the hefty fines that record companies were starting to receive for vandalism. City officials and citizens were getting tired of seeing their street light poles covered with cardboard posters. Record sales were dropping causing record companies to cut back on employees as well as promotional materials. The phone starting dying for street team gigs adding fuel to the fire that blazed through my 2002 life. One positive is that I had lost over 50 pounds for the first time with the help of a personal trainer. During the weight loss process I was introduced to the white liquor, brown liquor theory. This is the belief that drinking white liquors like; vodka and white rum were better for people watching their weight. Brown liquor requires additional sugar to make it brown, therefore being less conducive to weight loss. I was adamant about cutting down on my pop and juice so I started voiding the chaser in my alcohol, which just upped my tolerance exponentially. So what does a 26 (and a half) year old alcoholic do when his world is crashing around him? When his best friend is in jail? He is potentially under a drug investigation? His legal music industry gig is dying and his girlfriend of 7 years leaves him??...... He joins a bartending school! Yes, The (Non)Sober Emcee decided I wanted to be the black Sam Malone. I felt the decrease of the music industry income, mixed with the decline in hustling business from the excess movement that I was doing from being on the run. In January 2002 I rented an apartment in Yorkville. For those not familiar with the downtown Toronto area, Yorkville is a very expensive and ritzy area and I rented a one bedroom apartment that cost me $1400 a month plus $125 month for parking. I was convinced that I needed to get into the workforce. I took a bartending course down on Broadview Avenue and Danforth Road in the east end of downtown. At school I learned how to make a real Long Island Ice Tea, Cosmopolitans and several other drinks. I learned about the ingredients for my favorite liquors as well as ones that I never knew that I liked.The brown liquor, white liquor rule was reinforced and I discovered the value (non-value) of Gin for someone watching their weight. Gin is essentially made with Juniper berries, berries are healthy equalled Gin is better for me. Right? Wrong! An alcoholic in a bartending school is like a banker robber at Brinks security guard school. It was like a crack-cocaine addict not only learning how to transform cocaine into crack, but also how the cocaine was created itself and all the ingredients. This was a dangerous education. I never took homework as serious as I did for this class. Especially when it required memorizing popular bar drinks. I would buy all the liquors, the liqueurs and even vermouth so that I could practice making drinks for quizzes. I was naturally one of the best students in class. I was the best host when anyone came to my apartment. I would use my guest (and myself) as my guinea pigs as I mixed all kinds of drinks for us from my textbook as my "Homework". This is the time where my tolerance rose to where I thought I needed a whole 26oz bottle to be satisfied. I discovered the after hour bottle delivery services, had a crazy balck out with some strippers (See Entry #21 Blackouts Part 2) and I became more familiar with the after hours underground club scene. This would eventually become the scene that was part of the setting for the beginning of my demise but eventual sobriety.... Bless

Monday, 16 February 2015

24 (Hours) Entry #32

So, what do I do after celebrating 5 years of sobriety? Say I'm cured and go to the bar and have a drink? Maybe hit the liquor store and grab a bottle of Smirnoff? I've accomplished a lot over the years and I have and had more than my share of problems. Some may think I should "reward" myself with a drink. Some may say, 'Dude, 5 years is a long time. You're good now, have a drink.' When I tell people that I haven't had a drop of alcohol in 5 years I get mixture of congrats and side-eyes. I meet people who also do not drink but just out of preference. However we are not the same. Yes, it's been 5 years and this is a celebration, so what do I do next?..... I start another 24 hour without drink and at the end of that(hopefully) I live another 24 hours without drinking. This is because this is how I've lived for the past 5 years and the same goes for the millions of alcoholics that live on the sober side of the fence. We don't make long term future projections, we live 1 day at a time. The day that we get too far ahead of ourselves is the day that we can lose. I've mentioned before in previous entries that there is no such thing as 'cured' for us. We wake up everyday and just try to be better people than yesterday. One of the ways we do that is by not drinking alcohol because we know that from the first drink things will get worst. Whether it's fast or a slow, it's a guaranteed process. Thankfully I've been blessed with the lack of desire that many of us alcoholics possess. I haven't wanted a drink since that faithful day 5 years ago February 17 2010 when the vice squad kicked off the door of my downtown apartment, just steps away from the Toronto Eaton Center. When I lay on the metal based cot in my cell in the don jail, the desire to drink alcohol left my physical and the will to live took over. Over the years I've shared in these blog entries, all the trials and tribulations that I've gone through as well as my victories. I went through 3 years of parole under the supervision of the CSC (Correction Services Canada). I've tip toed around them and went to the clubs even though I wasn't allowed to due to conditions. I hosted several nights at clubs as well as judged hip hop battles and done several stage shows pushing my music and my brand. Even though there was alcohol everywhere I stayed unaffected. All these circumstances were usually accompanied with a bottle and/or glass of Hennessey and/or Vodka. Now this is something that is a foreign concept to me. There has been numerous times in my dating life that I tell women that I don't drink and it equals out to me not getting to the next step. I've been asked why by women as well as pressured to have "Just one drink" with the light of a set of open legs at the end of the tunnel, but I still said no to the drink and ultimately to the open legs. I've been battling the underlying pain of having a mother with Alzheimer along with all the tremendous responsibilities that come with that. I've gone through relationship turmoil, financial problems and all the things that make one want to sit back with a beer or a shot at the end of the day. But I don’t. Not out of resistance but out of the lack of desire. Part of the things that keep each 24 going is this blog, as well as the opportunities that I've had to speak and tell my story. I've spoken at 12 step meetings for the anniversaries of other alcoholics like myself celebrating their milestones. The numerous times that my dear friend Tara Maldoon invited me to speak at the F-You (Forgive You) Project. These are places that I've able to speak freely about my crazy experiences with alcohol, the streets, sex, incarceration and all the twisted and wonderful things that make me who I am. In conclusion I am extremely grateful but I always keep in mind that I'm different. We all have a list of short and long term goals. Maybe getting that dream house, or your favorite car, getting married, getting a diploma. As alcoholics we have all the same goals as the o called 'normal' folks. However all alcoholics have one common goal, that's making it through another 24 hours sober. To all my brothers and sisters across the world living in sobriety, have a happy and sober 24(hours). Bless