Alcoholiday ... What a Blast!

Alcoholiday ... What a Blast!

For many, alcohol is a small component of life strictly for celebrations, getting together for "a drink" that really means only one before driving home safely, with maybe an infrequent overindulgence. And then there are people such as myself who seem completely unable to modulate and enjoy the experience of drinking, though certainly not for lack of trying! When I started "Alcoholiday," this was yet another project that the emotionally draining, 4:30 to 9:00PM telemarketing job made necessary for peace of mind. After a three-year hiatus that ended when I got "recruited" as an insurance agent, the decade and a half of drinking that followed, "light" consumption during weeknights and epic bouts on the weekend, may have contributed to this campy take on a boozy holiday bender in Waikiki, or Miami, or Tahiti, or some other tropical locale.

Throughout my stint as a booking agent, this fantasy beach condo vista was about as close as I was going to get to one of the "$1,500 vacations" we breathlessly offered to those who'd filled out an entry and were "selected" for a "paid vacation" that we'd have to take away at the very end if they didn't meet income requirements. In the daytime, all efforts to boost my insurance income in Summer, 2017, bore absolutely no fruit, and in early August I began the sad process of boxing up possessions to move into storage when my adult son/roommate left for Humboldt State, departing in late July to visit with his grandparents first. The last few payments on an extended five-year Chapter 13 bankruptcy almost complete, that humiliation with all the prejudice and limitations it brought on by filing--to stay in possession of my black 2008 Toyota Corolla--could be put in the rear-view mirror if I could just find a way to keep stabilized and doggedly working both occupations despite having to let my apartment go.

One cool thing about "Chris," the telemarketing manager was that he encouraged those employees with artistic inclinations to draw and color while not on a sales pitch. With some contacts being passive-aggressive and others vicious, with long stretches of dead air in between conversations with nice and not-nice people, I sought refuge in my imagination and daydreamed ("evening dreamed?") a life where I could frivolously and lavishly spend on such an outrageous thing as a real, honest-to-goodness exotic travel vacation. Using the box of old, waxy oil pastels from junior high that my son re-gifted as he headed to his university career, I drew the fruity, not-so-little drink in the foreground, envisioning owning what I sold, a lifestyle to which I might have already become accustomed.

As my inability to overcome the desperation of life as a nightly drinker, all day and evening worker catapulted me into my car on the streets, I nevertheless had a vested insurance contract and wouldn't allow myself to be "run off" by the bosses I had been told when recruited that I wouldn't have in the business. The accounts they wanted to take over provide new and residual income to this very day, while the accounts they assigned to me without asking continue to be a lot of work with little compensation. Without corrupt leadership, the need to work side hustles never should have been my concern. After all, we're told before we're even recruited that we're business owners, so why the hierarchy?

Based on an appointment my market boss only got to attend with me back in 2005 because I set it with the HR Director of a 10,000-lives account, I should have been enjoying a prosperous lifestyle even during and since the Great Recession. I had opened about forty accounts by the time this opportunity developed. Instead of being hailed as an example for others to follow, immediately I got targeted by organized harassment from mid-to-high-level bosses and other agents. My attempts to go "off grid" from time to time over the many years since, hoping in vain that various regime changes would allow me to go to the office and attend meetings without experiencing harassment, always resulted in the cowardly, mean comments and behaviors resuming when I'd get a new "leader" and start actively participating again.

About two years ago, I realized that a move my market boss made up to Washington state may have been so that he and his heretofore undisclosed network of relatives in the business could steal the fruits of my labor, (possibly) using a nonconsensual pornography smear campaign as a distraction to me, and maybe to convince the company's HR Director to go along with cutting me out. She did this after accepting a second follow-up appointment when I called her months after he left, which she cancelled when I called to say the "broker development coordinator" in a separate car might be running late. The woman took the opportunity to then say she didn't have time to meet.. When I called a month later, she kept it simple:  "We went through our broker," and when I stayed professional and thanked her for her consideration, she responded with a loud, "Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" and then hung up on me. It took many years of being connected through social media to the more well-connected, highly prosperous "agents" to notice certain relationships that simply wouldn't have come up at all in the minds of most agents.

The smear campaign got started by this man all the way back in 2006. When other leaders got their "time," not only did it not end, the abuse intensified. Was the relentless toxicity due to the comments I wrote on LinkedIn in 2010-2013 about being set up to fail as a manager through mistreatment? Or did the resumption of past abuse spring forth by means of an ad I read on Craigslist Orange County back in June of 2006 for a "Golf Buddy" under Casual Encounters?  It sure read as if my market boss wrote it ... maybe that man I knew since age 6 hooked up with him? Hmmm... anyway, back to the birth of "Alcoholiday." The slow, merciless strangulation of my self-esteem that spanned the 2010s made every attempt to open up business that much harder in an already much more difficult market than when I'd started.

Due to my confidence having been battered relentlessly by gang stalking and denial of internal opportunities unfairly hoarded, for two years prior to the telemarketing position I actually overcame my trepidation and drove as a rideshare driver for a company that won't be promoted here. It was great when I signed up in late 2014, as the rate per mile was $1.65. Cue the "race to the bottom" that soon followed and had me driving only when absolutely necessary to pay bills and completely fed up by the end of 2016. Prior to that, I'd briefly returned to selling fine jewelry at a once distinguished, now completely diminished retailer. This was a position that I excelled at in the late 90s/early 2000s, making great money for myself and the company. The manager at the Mission Viejo location and I had discussed and agreed upon certain availability, and immediately upon hiring, she scheduled any and all hours and seemed angry when I stood my ground about not working regular business hours during the week. When I picked up available hours in other departments that fit my schedule, this was frowned upon, and so on and so on until I got fired via an elaborate setup that was highly unethical. I kept it simple on the exit paperwork, though.

I reminded myself the once-well paying side gig no longer included commissions that made dealing with aggressive clientele worthwhile and redoubled activity to open new insurance sales accounts. With company leadership in the field (and looking back now, headquarters?) seeming to interfere, these were few and far between. I sure didn't want to go back to retail ever again, rideshare had lost me forever and the telemarketing job was the only one I ever got from reading an ad, calling to set up an interview, and being hired all in the same day. And the stated rules against ingesting cannabis on break time were liberally flouted, with tacit approval from Chris until the higher ups made it an issue that had to be discussed with the room.

Barely avoiding spiteful eviction by means of a letter instructing apartment management to use the agency-fronted security deposit to satisfy final rent for the last few weeks, I was looking at, a) sleeping in my car some nights, a motel whenever funds allowed, or, b) "temporarily" quitting drinking while going into a sober living home for $150 per week until I could get my finances back on track. I knew my credit score would be very low when my Chapter 13 BK got discharged, a point to start from, but nobody would rent to somebody with that kind of credit score. Surely, between supplemental insurance and evening telemarketing work, I would be able to turn things around in no time, and "get my life back." The righteously angry landlord and caught-in-the-middle property manager didn't just accept the letter, but "pushed back" until I left the apartment empty and spotlessly clean, I did my best every evening to focus on job performance and help myself to rise above, and started working on what would after a few months become "Alcoholiday."

Interestingly, the Friday night before moving into sober living, I thought this would be "the last hurrah" for a while, until I could get my own place again. There was half a bottle of wine, which would be my usual "minimum" consumption along with some nasty iteration of Four Lokos. Why couldn't I bring myself to drink it? To keep a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in, I would be more than happy to abstain for a little while; did I really want to start the night before I took the leap and got some help? Strangely unable to drink, I poured the dark red liquid down the sink and continued wrapping and boxing up glassware from the agency-donated china hutch. I set aside the decorative wine glasses from which I frequently sipped, a lot, and other relics of the "Los Angeles Leakers" Thursday nights when Power 106 would blast along to my lonely intoxication process, or the other evenings when The Eagle or The Sound would accompany.

Clearing out the apartment the next day, I surprised myself by putting all those wine glasses outside of the trash bins so that anybody could take them, as well as the shredder I bought in 2006 for $100 that jammed frequently. Boy, did they help themselves, and quickly! Offering the heavy china hutch to the lesbian couple next door, which they accepted with all glass inserts--I'd recently worried about having not provided the two largest until I realized the ones in storage go with the coffee table--still thinking only about myself and when I'd be able to escape sober living, and dreading the surprises and horrors I would experience through AA meetings, I resolutely showed up at the gigantic 1960s Anaheim split-level on a Saturday evening. 

This would be quite a learning experience. One, sober living homes in California are both completely unregulated and outrageous money generators for the individuals and corporations that own them. Secondly, when you don't have a criminal record and do have a college degree, the people who got sentences reduced in part due to AA that is pushed in sober living want to mark you up somehow, someway, something fierce. Next, trained professional staff is needed at each living quarters, not former hairdressers who hate college grads because all of their siblings have degrees and they can't get their cosmetology license back yet, or MediCal recipients bitter about a car accident with injuries "worth" $200,000 (despite retaining at least some apparent mobility) if not so indigent.

Further, no rules exist that require convicts who enter sober living as part of their sentencing agreements to leave once they've completed the programs, leading to "gangs" of extremely tall/plus sized bullies controlling some houses in perpetuity and going East German Stasi on anyone they decide to target. The woman managing the Anaheim beehive on a quiet suburban street hadn't attended an AA meeting in over two years, yet I was mandated to go and experience all the ways in which (in my opinion) AA works to get people to shut up about being abused by those holding power in society. At the house, I found that the unannounced inspections of my personal belongings had indeed occurred from the fact that items weren't put back the same as I'd arranged them.

After enduring an actual street person for a roommate who often tried provoking me with unnecessary bossiness, and then the "improvement" of a new roommate who talked constantly at me and wouldn't allow a back-and-forth conversation, I fled the place in spite of the advice of my AA "sponsor." Beautiful and sweet, nevertheless I think this woman was somebody who gossiped behind my back, and once tried to get me to pray down on my hands and knees when I had already made clear that showy displays of piety were ruled out by my religious upbringing. I think a rude supervisor at the telemarketing job who got corrected by Chris for yelling at me held a grudge, although she acted as if she had "forgiven" me, and upon learning the meeting location may have furnished the basis for the harassment to this primary AA group. As usual though, I have yet to develop solid proof. It's just all the similarities in slurs I've heard from many different people in various places ...

When I started as a telemarketer, even though I had to take two full weeks off after a month due to a horrible flu, I had made a good impression and was welcomed back to have above-average earnings, surviving overaggressive friending attempts by an admitted past home-squatting convict "top producer" and friends. Nine months into the job when I quit drinking, I initially adjusted well to the lack of alcohol in my system. Two weeks after its removal, all of a sudden, bottled up feelings of angst and rage suppressed during the years-long smear campaign began to bubble to the surface, including in the work environment. My birthday came around, and when I realized that no birthday card much less cake was planned for me, I actually became emotional since I thought everybody at work received this special treatment. A coworker who would have been a perfect daughter for me saved the day with a card and a cake the next date we worked; what an angel! Kindnesses such as this and the steady progress I made on artwork such as "Alcoholiday" kept me going through this period of increased hypersensitivity.

I got called into Chris'  office a couple of times in Fall, 2017, for counseling but wasn't written up, fired, or constructively discharged at that point yet. Still, due to my reactions to things being said about/to me in the workplace, Chris accused me of "gossiping," and I told him I'd try not to notice what others were saying. "Alcoholiday" was the main art project of this time, and I really struggled to make one section look the way I wanted it to appear. A total of four months elapsed, wherein I learned things such as the wisdom of choosing a solid, thinner cardboard for drawing with oil pastels, patience with drawing over that difficult-to-define spot, and that the softer, more expensive sticks might need help from their waxier cousins to stabilize an area that's been repeatedly covered and rubbed on by fingertips. Redrawing it over and over, layer upon layer of oil pastel thickly caked, I finally finished the project, and decided that I would laminate the page as I'd used regular copy paper instead of the cardboard backing for a calendar like I should have done.

At FedEx Office, I proudly sent the packet through the laminating device, removed the folder to pull the laminated page and surveyed it proudly for about three seconds. That's when I saw it: a long blemish slightly obscuring where I'd repeatedly struggled to convey a sloping retaining wall of rocks from the putting green to the beach. Flowing from the center of the glass partition toward the bottom of the patio the anonymous drinker stands upon, it looked like a destroyed artwork at that moment. Bummed, I showed it to Chris, who suggested that this wasn't such a disaster, after all. "Maybe it's a better example of art now?" he offered. I hadn't thought of it that way and thanked him.

Although I was taking in far too much sugar and piling on weight in spite of my regular workouts and not drinking, at the company Christmas party, I felt as if I'd made it past the roughest patch, that first 90 days wherein AA emphasizes daily attendance, and my performance and income remained positive. The onset of 2018 brought new appointments, tours, steadily good income ... and then, in March, a sudden slowdown in the amount of tours showing up and being credited to me as the booking agent. The company had just hired a new Vice President based in Texas, and we would all be merged with the Irvine location in a new office sometime before the year was up. Was this VP charged with attracting investors through institution of "churn and burn" using employees hired for telemarketing?

My performance, as measured by completed tours plummeted in April and early May, so I requested a two-month leave of absence. This had to be specially approved and thankfully was, so I fled the sober living home where I'd lived and been intermittently bullied for seven months, picked up my son from college and went to my sister's house in Folsom until that got uncomfortable after six weeks. A short-term temporary job that would have paid well didn't materialize ... Returning to SoCal in July and resuming evening bookings for the timeshare company, I got written up after only three weeks for "low performance," and a couple more times into the fall, management went through the motions of "counseling" me to produce better.

The telemarketing room could be viewed by senior executives through remote video. I think the new VP might have noticed me drawing and creating art when not on the phone in the spring, and this little bit of freedom on the job offended him as well as presented somebody to target right away. A Texan, was he possibly connected to other people from the insurance company and focused on handing me "failure" that would justify all the smears I'd endured on this job and in my insurance career? After making changes to the compensation structure that immediately lowered my income and that of several high earners, six months later this guy showed up just before Thanksgiving, where 40-50 telemarketers were now herded into an area that should have been three times its size, in cubicles that were tiny and not to be personalized in any way. With a big, stupid grin that nevertheless seemed forced, the diminutive fellow insisted on standing on a chair to bellow out in so many words what losers he thought we were. "Don't be alone on Thanksgiving. Volunteer. Go to the movies. Heck, I'd invite you to my house, but I live in Texas!" We reluctantly, dutifully "laughed" at the insincerity. Still having almost no tours showing up, I finally quit the next month when my car broke down and the bus was not a safe option. Chris then admitted to watching this VP brag to the owner, "I cut your payroll by $1,000 a week!" despite the impact that would have on solid producers including me and others.

Somehow, I'd made it to the end of Year 2, the minimum acceptable tenure because I pushed back enough during the "constructive discharge" counseling sessions once my performance began to be manipulated toward ineffectiveness. Because my sister helped me get my car back up and running with a loan that I still partially owe, I would make food delivery my primary side hustle to insurance. For a few months, this helped sustain me in the cheap motel in Anaheim where I tried just to keep to myself, though I couldn't scrape together enough earnings to pay my expired registration. With a looming court date and another traffic stop the day before my car could legit be towed, in April, 2019, I retreated back to sober living for a month where the former hairdresser/house manager forced me to go to Social Services and fill out an application due to my car being parked in her spot to keep it from being towed. Of course, after a long, bureaucratic runaround, it was determined this assistance for expired registration wasn't even possible, however, I'd been signed up for EBT. Though I'll admit to initially feeling grateful as I ended up selling my car for $900 and was going to have to take a "real job" somewhere for a while to get another one, when I discovered that my honest reporting of income for the previous month had been reduced to $400 by the worker, I got very riled up, wrote a letter to Sacramento regarding this deception and stopped using the benefits. I still need to pay back the $200-$300 that I used. Will I ever have excess income to do so? I haven't given up on that dream yet, either.

House manager and "Bertha" who had yelled at me many times for no reason my first seven months there continued to coordinate together. When hair manager actually suggested that housemates start smoking tobacco--but not cannabis which AA has demonized since the 1980s--as a way to get closer to each other, I openly questioned whether she should be encouraging that people become smokers, and the woman blanched a bit before moving on. Within the next week, they set up a morning where big Bertha suddenly needed to spray the counters with Windex at 5AM in the morning instead of when she came home in the afternoon. "No good deed goes unpunished," as I once again started my task of SWEEPING AND MOPPING THE ENTIRE DOWNSTAIRS TILE when almost nobody would be awake, except one street-hardened woman that went out of her way to be obtuse. Bertha came inside from her usual morning ritual of prayer, accused me of making it so she couldn't spray the counters, and despite my maintaining composure as I argued with her, as if on cue the new women in the house emerged from their rooms to pretend they'd been awakened by me defending myself instead of Bertha making up a bogus excuse to attack me.

Deciding to flee that house as I had a "big job interview" coming up,  Bertha couldn't stop me from getting hired at the very company where I didn't yet realize she worked. Wrongly listed on Google as a "credit union," the location is actually a credit card processing telemarketing hub underwritten by a very large, old, once-respectable bank that I ran up against in my insurance career. Keeping an open mind, I got up at 3:30AM at the Tustin homeless shelter, paid $8 each way including tip to the bus depot where a daily $4.50 would transport me to and from this W-2 position, a different kind of a meat grinder that also featured bullies spreading false rumors. I soon realized I was going to be constructively discharged and still tried to improve my performance with five or six other people simultaneously calling the same leads in any geographic location where I was assigned.

Once I had the established income and down payment to qualify for a car, I held on another couple months, occasionally greeting Bertha in the halls as she glared at me, until I pulled the rug out from under the whole lot by quitting as they were preparing to lower the boom. Once again, I'd been set up to fail for reasons not truly related to job performance. But with a car, I was once again able to deliver food, which could be lucrative once I learned to ignore the stated advice during orientation to keep a high acceptance rate in order to receive "higher value offers."

I can't imagine how I might have reacted in this situation had I still been drinking. It had only been two years since I quit, yet my hypersensitivity had lessened enough that I was able to keep cool under extreme thuggish behavior. Though I initially resented quitting drinking, this naturally ended up being for the very best, and over three years later, I am grateful not to be stuck in that cycle. Maybe an "Alcoholiday" looks exciting to others, and I do hope they enjoy the experience as I continue building toward a more successful life.

Back to blog

Leave a comment