HOME ALONE

a little warm-up to my girl’s night IN

Last night my husband was out of town due to travel for his work and I was left home . . . alone.

Many of you can probably appreciate the sweet freedom this allows.  When you live with someone it can be liberating and borderline decadent to have your home all to yourself, especially overnight. My Mom has long exalted the praises of a night spent solo and I wholeheartedly concur. This rarely happens for me and I couldn’t help but giggle at the vast difference in how I spent my evening last night, as opposed to how I may have spent the exact same evening a few years back.

You card-carrying alcoholics KNOW what I’m talking about. YES YOU DO, AND I CAN SEE THE   NAUGHTY GRIN CREEPING ONTO YOUR FACES RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE.

It’s hard to describe, really. We all know what our “single” behavior is like and it’s exactly like that but when you’re a drunk it takes a little bit more of a dark self-destructive turn than one in the direction of healthy self care.  I would love to sit here and tell you that I would use that time to catch up on my feminist and political reading and make myself some sort of wildly colorful salad and apply a charcoal mask while polishing my toenails, but that was never the case.  Not even close.

My nights would always start out innocently enough, with one or two (all right, more like four to six) very crisp martinis and some Gillian Welch on the stereo. Fast forward three hours and I’m blackout drunk; eating a sackful of greasy slider’s while singing “Round and Round” by RATT at the top of my lungs in the living room while Fight Club simultaneously blares from the tv set. Then there would be the inevitable phone-call to my dead friend Ben who always answered and always encouraged me to have yet another stiff drink and we’d be bitchy and judge-y together often until the wee hours of the next morning.  In his defense, he did talk me out of cutting my own bangs for two decades so I owe him solid props for that.

my, how times have changed

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this rare ritual unabashedly and really, no one but Ben was the wiser, and that’s exactly the type of thinking that can keep a drunk white-knuckling it for an entire evening in sobriety. NO ONE WOULD BE THE WISER. No one would know if I ran to the liquor store and I could totally get white girl wasted and hide/destroy all the evidence before my husband’s return. This type of dilemma can torture a drunk, certainly, but not this drunk, at least not last night.  One could argue that I would know, yes, me – the actual drunk doing the rationalizing but this is where you’ve forgotten that while not all liars are drunks, ALL drunks are liars and lying to ourselves is our speciality.  Sure I would know. But would I care? No, because we don’t care when we think we are getting away with it.  Childish, I know, but so very accurate, in my case anyway. In fact, I’d even congratulate myself on how mature and responsible I was for saving money and not driving.  Practically a role model and a law-abiding citizen, I was. Blurgh.

But I care, now. I care a lot now.

I guess my pain is too darn close in the rear-view mirror for me to even entertain these types of horrid thoughts, and I’m truly grateful for that. Of course the thought crossed my mind, how could it not, given my years of practice and experience? But the thought was fleeting, and laughable, really.

my not-so-distant future

The truth is that I spent my evening with Cortez, our asshole cat, and we shared some chicken fajitas and Mexican street corn. I scrolled through some social media and flipped through the new Rolling Stone. I turned off all the lights and we bundled up under fluffy blankets and watched the Season 2 finale of Ozark while eating chocolate chip ice cream covered in marshmallow fluff (now my guilty pleasure) and chocolate syrup. I was in bed with said cat listening to my meditation app by 10pm, I shit you not. And you know what?  IT WAS HEAVENLY.

It was simply lovely and I remember everything. I awoke this morning before sunrise and went to my bootcamp instead of waking up to the aftermath of a frat party wondering where all those bruises came from and what are tater tots doing in the bathtub?!?  

What do you do with unexpected time to yourself?  I promise I won’t judge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing sixteen shots of Fireball and sobbing your way through Steel Magnolias. NOTHING I TELL YOU.

 

There is no off season

*it’s worth watching this trailer to hear Ryan Bingham’s fantastically creepy version of Bowie’s  The Man who Sold the World.

If you’re like me you’re following Marty Byrde and his family, friends, and foes through Season Two of the brilliant Netflix series, OZARK. Holy shit balls, it’s intense, isn’t it? I haven’t finished the season yet and I’m reluctant to because I’m not sure my feeble heart can take it. Binge-watching is my jam but I’m slowly languishing on each episode because I’m horrified to see where it’ll end, but I also don’t want it to. Rumor has it there will be at least one more season, so I don’t have to prepare for withdrawal just yet.

The other night I watched a touching scene between Buddy and Wendy, and Buddy said something that immediately got my attention. And FYI, I’m not giving anything away by relaying this scene to you, in case you yourself are watching and in mid-season.

Buddy is totally the real deal.

Buddy:  “There was a French writer, a long time ago – he was old for those days and very sick, lungs and ticker all going, and he was stuck in bed. Now, this guy’s a loner all his life. But he tells the lady taking care of him that he wants to see his friends, say goodbye. So she sends out word, and all his friends come to his little hovel, gather around his deathbed, telling stories. And you know what happens?

He doesn’t die.  And then after a couple days, the friends, well, they leave. They have lives. And then he dies. Sad, but sweet. Because, when you think you’re gonna die yesterday, today is sweet.

So, hang in, Wendy. Lose your shit tomorrow. Today’s no day to fall apart.”

Lose your shit tomorrow. Is it just me, or is that a way more kick-ass interpretation of ‘one day at a time’?!?  Sure, one day at a time may sound more acceptable and pragmatic, but isn’t that really the gist of the message? Hold your shit together for ONE day, won’t you? Just try to keep it in a pile for today.  Just for today because that is truly all we really have. I know people in recovery that have had to choose sobriety one MINUTE at a time and that’s absolutely the truth. Sometimes that’s what it takes, and when you are holding on like a hair in a biscuit, that’s all you have. Stay sober for this hour, this morning . . . this day. You can lose your shit tomorrow. And if you’re really lucky, tomorrow never comes. Well, you know what I mean.

I hated hearing those adages and cliches when I first found myself in recovery, but the universe adores irony and I hear them bursting forth from my own lips, at least once a day. Because, well, they’re true. One day at a time isn’t the shitty transparent trick I once thought it was. Again, I was one of those folks that found myself to be WAY too intelligent to fall into the traps of alcoholism, but as some folks are quick to point out, my best and smartest thinking is what landed me in liver failure in the first place. That annoying little fact still sticks in my craw a wee bit.

When alcoholism has you in its talons, you can’t imagine (nor do you want to) not drinking for any amount of time. You certainly cannot think of never drinking again because if you did, your head would just pop off its mount on your neck and roll down the street while imploding simultaneously. The mere thought will break your brain, trust me. BUT, if we allow ourselves to believe that it may (and it’s a BIG fucking *may*) be possible to go ONE day without alcohol, well then, that’s a start, isn’t it?

So, in effect, to me, that’s what Buddy is trying to tell Wendy. You have today, and that’s it, and I know that’s a recurring theme in this blog, but again, it’s simply the truth. That’s all any of us have and some days I do better than others, of course. Some days I can almost taste an ice-cold (slightly dirty) martini on my lips, and those are really difficult days because as we all know, no one graduates from alcoholism. You get to keep it for life. You know, like herpes.

And that’s okay, as helps to serve as a constant reminder of how desperately bad things can get, and how beautifully phenomenal they are now.  Another annoying little saying is “this too shall pass” and that’s the hard times, as well as the happy. That’s right, the good times pass just like the bad and sometimes we tend to forget that.

Next time they do, I suggest we all take a page from the Book of Buddy and remind ourselves; Lose your shit tomorrow. Today’s no day to fall apart.

 

So, tell me – are you watching Ozark? Do you love/hate it? Is it just me that wants to crawl Jason Bateman like a cat pole? Will Laura Linney ever wear mascara that compliments her fair complexion? Where in the hell did they get those baby bobcats? I have a lot of questions.

 

Leap and the net will appear (in theory)

jesus even this photo gives me angina

I’ve been struggling with unemployment for over a year. I’ve been filling in as a Temp here and there, but nothing has really worked out.

Until now.

Lemme back up a sec and mention that although I do enjoy a little mystery here and there, I’m not so good with uncertainty and my life has seemingly been filled with it since being laid off last summer. Turning fifty and starting over (in any capacity) is challenging, of course. It’s a reality check to be sure, and somewhat of a surreal experience. I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that I’ve worked some pretty shitty assignments and have eaten my share of humble pie. And you know what?  That’s okay. Life is full of highs and lows and this frustrating limbo has become a daily reality for me, albeit a somewhat unpleasant one.  Like most small children, I do better with structure and consistency. And snacks.

So here we are. I have landed a job in seasonal retail sales in a field I know nothing about. Now, while this shouldn’t sound all that daunting, I’m suddenly full of fear and self doubt. The confident accomplished woman inside of me thinks this is ridiculous, but unfortunately, she’s not the one I’ve been listening to.  A wise friend of mine is fond of saying he has two small dudes that stand on each of his shoulders, much like the popular angel/devil scenario.  However in his case, one of the them manufactures and sells bullshit, and the other one buys it. I totally get it.

I have all of the tools and resources to be a success in this role, and I know that once immersed in the position, I will intuitively know how to handle situations and be a solid asset. I’m a people person, and I’ve always found sales to be more about people than products, anyway. I know all of this but yet I’m still letting myself spiral into the unhealthy behavior of predicting and choreographing hypothetical ridiculous situations and disastrous outcomes. Now, some of this is legit, at least in my mind. I am literally decades older than most of my coworkers. This excites and terrifies me at the same time. I have always been lucky to have a vast age span in my friendships and we all know I have the maturity level of a 7th grade boy. However, in this situation I’m letting myself be intimidated by the likelihood that these millennials will know a helluva lot more about everything than I will.

Hey kids, gather ’round!   LET ME TELL YOU THE ONE ABOUT THE CURLY FAX PAPER.

Oh, God. In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, I’m doomed.

some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.  delicious ambiguity . . .

-gilda radner

I lamented this exact thing to my pal Carol yesterday and in typical Carol fashion, she predictably put her own spin on it, and gave me a brilliant analogy. “It’s like you’re on one of those rope bridges,” she said. “You’re mostly supported, but you can’t see the other side and it’s all wobbly and unsure, and your footing feels somewhat unstable. You’re pretty sure you’ll make it to the other side, though, but it’s genuinely scary. You just have to find your solid ground.”

Solid ground.  Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?  Isn’t that the desired end game?  To feel sure of ourselves and steady and supported? Again, I don’t mind mystery, it’s the uncertainty I can do without. Life is uncertain. There’s always a first day of school. No one wakes up knowing exactly what the day holds.

So with that comfort and knowledge I will get in the shower. I will put on my proverbial big girl panties and face my day with a confident smile and willingness.  In my final interview, they told me that they can teach me the skills, that I just have to have the will.  The will to learn, and to be taught. The will to learn from my mistakes and not take things personally. Suit up and show up, folks, and the rest will fall into place. Life is change and if you’re lucky, growth. These are also the promises recovery has taught me, so I feel like I’m in a bit of a full circle moment, you know?

So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

And if I could do exactly that, without explosive diarrhea, well that would just be great.

Rage against the Dying of the Light

*spoiler alert: I have used images in this post from the HBO series finale of Sharp Objects

you know this face if you’ve ever taken your Mother into a dressing room with you

Like many of you, I got hooked quick and hard on HBO’s series, Sharp Objects. Not only do I now have a girl crush on Amy Adams, I’m also terrified of her.  In a beginning episode, she’s buying liquor at 9:30am on a weekday and another scene shows her flying down the road, windows open, smoking a cigarette with Zeppelin’s What is and What Should Never Be blasting, as she downs a bottle of vodka, and tries to stop the horrific memory montage in her head.

On some level, it was like looking in a mirror. Her character differs from me in that she truly seems to want to do the right thing, and only hurts herself. She suffers less rage than abject pain, but one certainly leads to the other. It hit me dead-on as a disturbing reminder of myself in years past. The freedom of not giving a shit. The liberating abandon of no one caring, including yourself. The sweet but painful release of all of that poison escaping out into the universe, instead of just rotting inside of you. Music so deafening that you cannot process your own deepest thoughts and isn’t that exactly the point? My fists repeatedly striking the steering wheel in uncontrollable anger as I screamed into the night sky. Warm vodka burning like turpentine down my throat as it lit a furnace of anger, fueling more and more absolute black rage.

RAGE.

And for a split, sick and deranged second, I really missed it. I missed my old coping mechanism. I could feel the warm wind in my own hair as I watched her driving, trying not to spiral out of control.  Sweat and mascara dripping from too much booze and the relentless pursuit of release.  Release.  I could feel the pulsating steering wheel beneath her hands while the screeching music swirled through the car, adding to the chaos. The suicide soundtrack, I used to call it.

It pains and shames me to type it, but let’s be honest, there are times when I still want to handle my problems exactly this way.  We may know better, but we obey our pain, don’t we? I sure did and three years into this journey I’m still not sure why I held on to so much hateful and consuming rage, and for so hopelessly long. Almost anyone from my past can recall some sort of snippet of the vehemence of my fury, I’m sure. I was infamous for it, especially in my Hollywood daze days.

I would create a path of ruthless destruction in my wake on a mere whim, channeling vitriol wherever I could. I suppose I wanted everyone around me to feel as hollow and useless as I felt. I was seething beneath the surface because in effect, I was poisoning myself with my own hatred. I was above happiness, if that makes sense. I knew suffering and felt the vacuous void of emptiness all around me. I knew better than to be happy, I thought. If you were happy, I reasoned, you weren’t paying fucking attention. 

As I move forward in this recovery process, I am humbled and sickened by the flashbacks my brain still allows me. Like nightmares, I recall brief but haunting images of the wounded and shocked expressions (how I absolutely reveled in shocking people) of the people I’d hurt and I can hear my own cutting and barbed remarks searching out their targets and the dark satisfaction I’d feel when they’d land and deploy, bullseye.

The real horror is that I enjoyed it.

I truly believe that back then, and unfortunately even in the not-so-distant past, that I took folly in causing pain. I equated it with power, somehow, and I’m ashamed and repulsed to admit it.     I justified my behavior to others by saying that I simply would say what no one else had the courage to say. I would “tell it like it is”.  I was brutally honest, after all. Emphasis on brutal.

It wasn’t courage, it was cruelty.

The truth is that I was vicious and mean, and I was a merciless bully. I put you down to make myself look more accomplished, stronger, more reckless and wild. . . whatever.  It was sick and it was wrong and of all the terrible things I’ve done in my alcoholism, the worst of them came out of my mouth. I’d like to say “it wasn’t me” – it was my sickness and my pain, and my own insecurities spilling out like infectious tendrils, trying to strangle anyone within 6 feet of me.

But I’m not sure I believe that. As Amy Adams’ character quotes Machiavelli, “it’s better to be feared than loved“. There is a part of me where the darkness still resides and as long as I choose not to feed it, it will continue to lie dormant. Some days that’s a tall request, you see, because rage is hunger. A hunger for something missing, something stolen, something that will make you whole and enough and worthy if you could just find it amongst all the carnage, hopelessness and despair.  There are days when I can still feel it.

I have a lot more peace now, and I’ve tried to atone for the wrongs I’ve done. I’d like to think that I’m not the same person anymore, in all the ways that matter, but I know that’s not completely true. However, I try to be better, every day. I’ve certainly been shown more forgiveness than I’ve allowed myself, but I’m working on it.

Most days, the light wins.

A NEW YORK MINUTE

put on your roller skates and embrace the orchestra

Last week I had the unexpected, yet exceptionally delightful fortune to tag along with a generous and dear friend to New York City to see ELO in concert at Madison Square Garden.  Um.  Yeah.  ELO IN NYC, y’all. See?  Unemployment DOES have it’s benefits, just not health benefits.  I’m pretty sure I was the only one that she knew that could jet off to Manhattan on a Tuesday morning with no important plans to rearrange unless you count knitting and watching The Talk.

I’ve been to New York before but this was pre-sobriety and almost twenty years ago so suffice to say that things had changed a bit. And indeed it was a blurry trip, but this time, for all the RIGHT reasons.

The energy of the City was palpable and this time, I wasn’t impervious to it. The concrete, the noises, the sirens and horns. The smells from shops, bodegas and street vendors. People of all ages, races, nationalities and backgrounds converging into one pulsating circus of humanity. The concert itself notwithstanding, it was a trip of a lifetime, and yet, less than 48 hours. We must’ve walked twenty miles a day it seemed, and I may not be far off.  From the Statue of Liberty to Central Park to the 9/11 memorial and the Oculus and to Greenich Village and Times Square – we were gals about town. We ate Peruvian food. We took a rickshaw through Central Park. We went to Strawberry Fields and I sang along with the makeshift band playing “give peace a chance”.

it’s easy if you try

I’ll be honest, there were some powerful feelings happening. My last trip to New York was with my dead friend Ben, who passed away last year. It was bittersweet to skip through Chelsea without him by my side, snarking and giggling, and drinking vodka tonics. My throat almost closed shut when we approached the 9/11 Memorial and I saw the deep peaceful pools engraved with the names of the dead, and heard the ambient sounds of the water that give the area a natural inclination to silence and remembrance. Tears of sheer joy streamed down my face when ELO broke into It’s a living thing as I danced my ass off in the explosions of their ethereal light show.  You guys, I had no idea I was numb, until I wasn’t.

turns out you’re allowed to eat pasta without a carafe (or three) of vino

We also literally stumbled upon this neighborhood and had some delicious Capellini street-side with some gorgeous young ladies next to us actually speaking Italian and it felt like I was an extra in a fabulous movie, save for my smeared mascara and buttcrack sweat from the August summer heat. I just ruined that entire image, didn’t I?

It was magical, pure and simple. My girlfriend’s generosity was rivaled only by her hilarity and I cannot imagine navigating that City without her, we literally laughed and danced our way through New York.  I’m learning slowly to live in the moment and appreciate each day for what it is. My gratitude for my life and the people in it, is enormous and sobriety has given me that appreciation and presence.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

And still I rise

I swear you guys, this job search is just getting weirder as time goes by. Suffice to say I am still “out there” and still interviewing and filling out online applications, and my ego and self esteem is responding accordingly. Now one can beat us up like we do ourselves, no? As I’ve mentioned before, my high school yearbook predictions had me as pegged as an unemployed alcoholic at fifty, so clearly there were some predispositions in my formative years. Okay, I kid, but seriously, starting over is tough and of course the irony here is I’m a WAAAY better employee now, than I was, say, for the last two decades. Go figure.

I experienced a group interview for the first time recently and I gotta tell ya, it wasn’t nearly as horrific as I had thought it would be.  As soon as they mentioned we’d be interviewed together I stood frozen in terror,  mouth agape at the thought of being compared to these hip and keen millennials, because honestly, I’m just over here hoping my bra is hooked correctly and my shoes are from the same pair.  However, once the interview began, I quickly saw how this was going to work to my advantage.

The gal to my left was really pretty, and really young and earnest, and I immediately liked her and felt a slight kinship with her, maybe because of her trembling.  She confided in me that she had chugged her first ever (!) neon-colored tallboy energy drink about thirty minutes before this interview and that she was fairly certain she could feel her heart beating in her left eye.

This little tidbit was no secret when she was asked her first question. Y’all.  She was about to rocket out of her chair and shoot headfirst across the room.  She was really chatty and there was some awkward nervous laughter sprinkled in that made me cringe for her, but all in all, she seemingly pulled it off. I was thankful that she was setting the stage for me to projectile vomit.

The guy to my right was obviously living the dream, and I also liked him immediately. He was twenty years old, middle eastern, and very handsome. He had only landed a scant few jobs in his life and was just “kicking about” and “seeing what’s out there”. Well, how nice and cavalier for you,  you YOUNG AND SMART AND (let’s be honest) DREAMY TECH-SAVVY LITTLE SHIT. He wasn’t nervous in the least and answered every question with unrehearsed honesty and a little distant part of me wanted to kick over his chair and pounce on him like a howler monkey.

So all of this to say, it was pretty darn amusing up until the point where dude asked ME to “describe one of your most humbling experiences“.  Jesus Roosevelt Christ, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?  I sat there and blinked. My first thought was to chirp, “Well, here’s a fun fact; I’m an alcoholic . . . so quite frankly my entire LIFE has been one humbling experience, so I’m torn on which horrifying and emotionally scaring experience I can entertain you with, for starters.”  I guess I could have mentioned something in the beginning like when I’d dig a dirty cigarette butt out of someone’s half drunk beer and finish it at a concert?  Not sure that’s as much humbling as it is disgusting, but I also know that it’s not a bragging point. How about when I had to tearfully admit that I seem to only quit shaking after I’ve had some vodka . . . at 7am?  How about my ridiculous attempt at giving myself an enema because that is one humbling experience, lemme tell ya.  You know, because it’s not liver failure, it’s clearly constipation. Ahem. I could go on and on with even more pathetic examples, but none of that is particularly helpful.  There’s a line between humbling and humiliating, and I’m pretty sure I have a surplus of both experiences.

Starting over is incredibly hard.  Feeling inadequate is scary and uncomfortable.  Stepping out of your comfort zone is terrifying, yet exhilarating, and I’m ready for mine to expand.  In fact, I’m ready for everything inside of me to expand; my understanding, my compassion, and my desire to learn. I know I can’t make up for lost time but if there’s one thing I surely have, it’s life experience and if I can offer some assistance and be of service to someone along the way that might need it, all the better. When I help others, it smoothes my road as well, you see.

I’ve recently joined a bootcamp that meets at 5:45 am for a workout and as tough as it is, I absolutely love it.  I feel alive in the morning and that wasn’t always the case, as you can imagine. This morning as we completed our workout and stretches, we were instructed to lie down on our backs and take three deep breaths.  As I did this, I stated up at the morning sky.  It was a faded light blue with streaks of crimson and pink stripes appearing, as the sun slowly peeked from the horizon, starting it’s new day as well.

I can’t really describe the feeling that came over me except to say that it was peace.  I heard nothing but birds chirping and my own breath and felt this overwhelming sense of calm inside of me that *almost* made me weepy.

Wait.  That’s not completely true.  I did hear something. I heard the universe quietly telling me that everything was going to be alright.

 

*can I also just mention that there was a candidate in the group interview that brought in a service dog?  It was wearing a bow tie. I’m not sure why I bring this up but I feel you should have a full understanding of this group interview situation and just how screwed I was.

HIGH DEFINITION

edna was an early feminist too so she had her own set of rules, natch

So, here’s something I’ve been wanting to address, but since I haven’t completely found my own voice yet in this matter,  I’ve found someone much smarter and infinitely more eloquent to help me to verbalize my own thoughts and beliefs on this subject.  Well, she verbalizes them and I wholeheartedly concur.

I get asked a lot about what constitutes sobriety and to be sure, this topic can get a lot of folks really heated up. It seems to be a slippery slope with dissenting viewpoints on all sides. From antidepressants to kombucha – people ask me about the particulars that define sobriety.

again, open to interpretation

Here’s the thing; I don’t know.  I only know what works for me.

Hip Sobriety is a kick-ass site run by non-alcoholic (by her definition), Holly Whitaker.  I do not know Holly personally, but I consider all of us sisters in sobriety.  I absolutely dig and admire her work, and her tenacity.  Naturally, she’s covered this on her site/blog and in an effort to save myself a fucking aneurysm and/or stroke the trouble, I’m going to refer you to her words, as I agree genuinely with her synopsis.  Plus, her site is awesome-sauce and a truly helpful resource. There’s even a handy little link to it provided to the right of this page under bookmarks.

Looky here!  Check out this link to read about Holly’s take on sobriety.  And mine, for what it’s worth.

There’s a legitimate “live and let live” vibe in recovery, for which I am grateful.  There’s also a lot of really strong and firm opinions out there and folks love to share their opinions of what is right and wrong, in their book. I try not to bother with everyone else’s right and wrongs, and just focus on mine. Because really, those are the ones that matter to me and I’m already quite familiar with my own unique brand of lunacy, so it all works out.

You know if you’re bullshitting yourself.  You just do.  I could get really deep into this and peel back endless more layers but that’s a rabbit hole I’m not going to go down, nor do I need to.

It’s MY sobriety.  It’s MY recovery.  It’s MY story and I’m the one writing it. And you if you guys think I’m passing up tiramisu because I’m an alcoholic, you’re wrong.

But that’s just me.  You, do you.

Sun of a Beach

I’m the one on . . . well, you know which one I am

So despite the irrefutable facts of not having any money or even my having a job, we’ve decided to take a long weekend trip to the beach.  Well, it’s sort of the beach, we’re staying at a Super 8 off of the interstate about 43 miles away from the beach but they have cable so there’s that. Despite my years in California, I have never been what you’d call a “beach gal”. I guess that’s because I was always at some local dirty bar with some pun-y name like “Squid Row” getting drunk with a stranger claiming to be a pirate, and doing shots of Fireball at 9am, instead of appreciating the majestic gifts of the ocean.

Don’t get me wrong, I adored getting drunk AT THE BEACH, I just never really wanted to be ON THE BEACH.  I mean, c’mon, think about it. The heat ruined my martinis and have you ever walked for any length on a beach?  It’s a horrific sandy trudge that will almost sober you up, and that’s uncalled for, isn’t it?  Unless you get right down by the water, and no thank you. I have an arrangement with the sharks – I stay outta their ocean, they stay outta my yard. So far, so good.

local law enforcement didn’t care for my “seahorse” impersonation

I’m grateful my dead friend Ben isn’t here to regale you with all the ridiculous beach stories from our checkered past. Back in the day we trolled South Beach, Key West, the Santa Monica Pier, and Venice Beach, and I think we’ve been forcibly removed from half. Once, on mopeds. That was great fun for everyone involved, except the Key West Police Department. The more we giggled, the madder they became, which naturally led to more giggles. I miss Ben.

just once for the love of god can I please be this gal?

So it is with trepidation and some terror that I approach this trip. I am sober, sure.  But there are also teenagers that will be there and I will have to be an adult, I imagine, and y’all know I hate that shit.  Speaking of adulting, I mentioned up there that I am still job hunting and can I just tell you guys that I have been up for consideration OF AN ACTUAL JOB, but it’s been somewhat challenging and I’m not really sure why.  I have had THREE interviews in the last THREE weeks.  I have met with The Dude that Runs the Show. It is a receptionist position and I know that receptionists have it hard everywhere, but come on, I’m not expected to split any atoms sitting there, right?!  Anyway, they were said to be weighing out their options when yesterday (again, after three weeks) they contacted my Temp Agency and asked for references.

this is exactly how I’d like to “express myself” as well, Joanna

REFERENCES.  For a receptionist position in a run-down building where nothing actually seems alive except maybe the mold around the bottom of the ancient wood paneling. Really?Remember back in the day when there were “party lines” and shit like that?  I wish they still had those but I’m pretty sure you can still get a porn number, can’t you?  Porn number? I don’t even know what they’re called.  You know, where you call a number and someone talks dirty to you?Please tell me those are still out there because I am putting Ron Jeremy as my top reference and please, by all means, won’t you call him!?  And what’s MORE . . . I’m a godforsaken TEMP, you ASS CLOWNS.  I’m already VETTED by that exact process, you know, IN ORDER TO SAVE YOU TIME.

I just can’t imagine why I don’t have a job.

I’m hoping that I can survive this trip to the beach with two teenage girls and my husband,  WITH MY SOBRIETY INTACT, and without driving for seven hours like Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County where she clutched onto that door handle willing herself to jump out in the pouring rain at the red stoplight. She chose not to, for love of course,  but I’m thinking that a rough landing at 75 mph in a muddy ditch sounds like a good trade-off at this point.

My blood type used to be whiskey positive

Even Robert Downey, Jr (patron saint of alcoholics and addicts, everywhere) is celebrating with me

So, next week I will celebrate THREE whole years in sobriety. While that may not seem like a lot to you civilians, it’s almost inconceivable to me. I say celebrate, and by all means, it IS a celebration, but it’s been a difficult and painfully emotional journey – yet, so absolutely worthwhile. Everyone’s story is as unique as they themselves but the one thing I know to be true is that recovery and sobriety aren’t for those who need it, but for those who want it.

Of course, not many WANT it until they find themselves in pretty dire straits. A lot of people call this the “gift of desperation” and I suppose it is indeed, exactly that. You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it. It’s killing you and ripping your life apart, but you’re powerless to stop. My situation was a little different in that my body finally waved the white flag, but, believe you me, I was ready. I’ve worked really hard to be honest with myself, identify crappy patterns, and to DO THE WORK that comes with being a sober, grateful, and serving human being, rather than spending my days running around like Courtney Love loose in a pharmacy.

I see a lot of posts out there about how differently things are in sobriety than in active alcoholism and a lot of folks publish helpful reminders and useful tips, as well.  While I appreciate the importance of self-care, nutrition, and yoga,  I couldn’t help but create my own personal list of things that have changed in MY life since putting the plug in the proverbial jug.  I feel it would be remiss of me not to be frank with y’all on what it’s really been like.

MEMORIES LIGHT THE CORNERS OF MY MIND

This one is pretty boiler-plate, really. Almost everyone has a story about getting hammered and  not remembering parts of an evening or event, not just alcoholics. However, drunks like to kick it up a notch. We sometimes miss a few weeks, years, or even decades, in our blurred and blacked out conditions. So, it’s two-fold, really. The good news is I remember everything now. The bad news is I remember everything now.

PASSING OUT SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY

Sometimes when I was drunk I would wind up spending the night in a strange place, and often, with strange folks. I once came to in a Hollywood shithole and upon trying to find a bathroom before my escape, came across an almost 10 lb. live iguana sitting in a FRYING PAN on their stove, in their kitchen. I don’t believe the iguana was necessarily for breakfast, but more that it just didn’t have a cage at all and had perched upon the stovetop. Hell if I know. Another time I awoke in a gated neighborhood and couldn’t find my way out the next morning.  I couldn’t go back to ask directions because I had stolen dude’s cigarettes and all the cash in his wallet. Don’t you judge me – there were no debit cards or cellphones back then and my ass had to get back to the San Fernando Valley, somehow.  Now when I wake up, I know where I am and how I got here. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

MORE THAN A FEELING

Feeling and looking like death warmed over was commonplace.  In fact, it was SO commonplace that I really didn’t realize just how crappy I felt every day until I  was sober almost two years.  Of course, I was seriously ill and it took awhile for my body to heal but when it did, the difference was stunning. I haven’t had to take an ibuprofen, vomit, or eat a sackful of sliders to relieve a hangover in three years. My baseline now is feeling pretty kick-ass and when I don’t feel kick-ass, I’m able to deduce the cause pretty rapidly instead of assuming it’s my hangover and/or lifestyle. I’m no longer puffy or carrying around a spare squishy tire filled with cheap vodka around my waist. I am in the best shape of my life, which is not to say I resemble J. Lo, but I’m proud of the way I look, given what I’ve been through. In the interest of total candor, I will also share with you that I also no longer shit my pants. See? I’m willing to bet not a lot of folks mention that little perk of sobriety, but now it’s out there forever and right now my Mother is reading this and thanking the blessed winking baby Jesus that my Grandma passed away 5 years ago.  Seriously though, when your diet is 85% vodka and 15% jalapeños, this is what happens. I couldn’t politely cough for ripping a skidmark by the end of things, and no matter the amount of shit in your pants, IT IS TOO DAMN MUCH, I ASSURE YOU. I have almost as much shit-my-pants stories as waking-up-outside-next-to-a-dumpster-covered-up-with-a-filthy-carpet-remnant stories, and that is saying something. I’m also somewhat nervous and terrified (and almost sure) that some may even crop up in the comments, knowing my ‘friends”. Maybe one day I’ll publish an anthology – upon my own Mother’s death, naturally.  But for now I certainly won’t underestimate the awesomeness of keeping control of one’s rectum.

OH MOSES SMELL THE ROSES

I stunk, y’all. Not always or every day but there were MANY embarrassing occasions in which I was informed of smelling like a brewery, or like I’d drank a bottle of aftershave, or even from literally sweating vodka from my pores, always combined with a little garlic, so I’ve heard. I don’t even want to think of my stench for the years that I smoked cigarettes as well. I bet I smelled like a really bad daytime hooker.  Now I still stink, but it’s usually just honest to goodness sweat from an anxiety attack my yoga practice, and I imagine that’s a vast improvement compared to walking around reeking like formaldehyde.

YOU’RE MY OBSESSION

Call it what you want; a fixation, a fetish, or a preoccupation. For me it was an obsession and it was utterly exhausting. When you have a serious drinking problem, you are constantly on HIGH alert and obsessing over when you can drink, where you can drink, if you have ENOUGH to drink and can you drink like you really want to or are people watching?!?  You know every liquor store and their hours within a twenty mile radius. You have to mix it up a little because there’s just too much shame in going back EVERY OTHER DAY for yet another handle bottle of Three Olives booze.  I would obsess over getting buzzed enough to “deal” with whatever the event was that I was attending. I would carry airplane bottles or a flask, just in case. As my friend Ledbetter was famous for pontificating, “I’d rather be looking AT it than looking FOR it”.  Now, I live my life in freedom from that constant and crippling panic and restlessness. Now I focus on more important and lofty matters like, does Stevie Nicks sing the lyrics but yet feel differently about “Landslide” now that she really IS older, and just how the hell celebrity dancer Derek Hough got past my radar because he is totally the cutie on duty and I would’ve climbed him like a cat pole, back in the day.

Or, really, now. . . who am I kidding?!

WRAP IT UP I’LL TAKE IT

So, those are just a few highlights for you and I’d say they give you some insight to just how glamorous things really were in the years leading up to the shit show and subsequent implosion that was my life. Now I’m living a life I couldn’t have imagined even before I started drinking. That’s a bold statement, but it’s one hundred percent correct, and I can’t eloquently describe to you, gentle readers, the pricelessness of just that; I’m living a life.

I’m so delighted to have your company on this journey – thanks for reading.  For any of you out there that know me and want to share your memories in the comments below, please do so, as  I probably owe you an apology, anyway.  If you have some “pros” of sobriety of your own you’d like to add, I would love to hear them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go call my Mother.

 

Past Imperfect

multiply life by the power of two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the lights began to dim, I felt a twinge of nervous anticipation in my stomach. The expectant energy was palpable and contagious. Applause erupted from the audience as their two shadowy figures emerged from behind side stage curtains, into the spotlight. They were holding old guitars and wearing knowing grins. The theatre shook from the sheer magnitude of the audience’s screams and the forcible thunder of stomping feet.  I forced my throat to swallow a hard lump, but there was no stopping my tears after the first hard strum of Land of Canaan.

The Indigo Girls snuck up on me in the late 80’s when a college bud burst into my dorm room and threw the below cassette onto my crappy twin bed.  “You have GOT to hear these guys!”, she gushed, “they are unlike anything out there right now!”  She was certainly right about that.  The hot and hip music in my college experience was mostly limited to The Replacements, REM and Bon Jovi, back then.  Not a lot of acoustic female duo’s banging out jaw-dropping two and three part harmonies with lyrics that seared through your soul.

We played that cassette until the song names wore off the cassette itself.  No matter – we had them memorized and spent frequent  nights swilling nickel beers while wailing their spirited and achingly poetic songs in unison, lamenting our own lost loves and slights of humanity.  The Indigo Girls became a sacred rite, and we worshipped them accordingly.

Naturally subsequent albums followed, and each signified a new chapter or stage in my life as well.  I’m nearly certain that the only thing that got me through my two soul-stifling years in New Mexico (besides green chile, obvs) was Swamp Ophelia.  My Mom sent me their Come on Now Social CD during my ridiculous stint living in England and I can remember (oddly enough) many a drunken skip home from the pubs  belting out “Cold Beer and Remote Control”. Beauty Queen Sister saw me struggling as a new wife and stepmom, and also saw the beginning of my descent into what some alcoholics like to call rock bottom.  The point of what could possibly be no return. The abyss. You know, Shitsburg.

I’ve seen them countless times in concert, in many states, in many variations, but this last weekend was different.  For the first time in thirty years, I saw the Indigo Girls in concert, and          I was sober. The contrast to me was tangible and exquisite. While I can confidently promise you that I have reveled in each and every performance, I can’t seem to eloquently compare the two experiences without sounding overly simplistic, to those of you that don’t suffer from this condition, because nothing is simple when you’re an alcoholic.

Can I admit to stopping dead frozen in my tracks as I realized they were going to search my purse?  My heart raced in a Pavlovian response to the sight of flashlights going through bags.  I always, and I mean ALWAYS, was packing. Here’s a fun little fact for those of you not in the know -when you’re a raging alcoholic you have to be pretty darn frugal.  As any drunk knows, a few standard cocktails aren’t going to get the job done, so I felt justified in “topping off” my purchased cocktails from the flask in my bag.  Or tucked in my cowboy boot.  Or in my jeans, directly behind the fly.  They NEVER pat there.  Like I said, I was pro.

Old habits die hard, no?

The show absolutely roared and the Girls kept pace with our energy, allowing us to catch our collective breath in between anthems,  and offered some softer ballads and selections from their respective solo albums. As I gazed around the old ornate and gorgeous theatre,  I saw hundreds of joyful expressions lit in the glow of the stage, and hands swaying in the air. I saw women embracing and dancing in the aisles. Young and old alike were singing at the top of their lungs, some even resembling me, with tears streaming down their faces.  The Indigo Girls are an spiritual experience, not just a concert, and yes, I realize that sounds awfully dramatic and borderline ridiculous, but if you’re a fan, or have seen them live, you know exactly what I’m talking about and I dare say you agree.  You see, it’s not just them, although they ARE the catalyst for the positive energy that bursts forth from each and every performance.

The Women’s March – Washington, DC – January 21, 2017

I imagine it’s akin to what some folks call church. You are surrounded by love and positivity and there’s no judgment or room for anger or dejection.  There is only hope and unity and strength in their oneness and it’s true, the Indigo Girls become one with their audience and each and every person in attendance thought that Amy and Emily were looking inside their soul and singing directly to and for, them.  At least I thought that, and I think I’m right because at one point in the show I looked up at Emily and she looked directly into my eyes, grinned, and nodded her head. As utterly insane as it seems, the Indigo Girls feel like old friends, and in a way, they are.  They understand your tears and they understand your outrage. They inspire and commiserate. They want to change the world for the better and when you leave their shows with your ears ringing and your voice gone, you want to as well, and more importantly, you believe it’s possible.

As the evening drew to a close and they offered up their much-loved Closer to Fine, my tears were purely those of joy and for those almost two solid hours, I was closer to fine.  I was closer to peace and I was closer to forgiving myself, for the past 47 years.

Like Amy and Emily have been singing for thirty years, “it’s only life, after all.”