Milestone

 

 

I’m not sure where to start.

Staring at the above picture sends a ripple of mixed emotions through my veins. I could go all triumph over tragedy on your asses, but I won’t. I don’t feel that way. . .not today, anyway. This picture fills me with quiet hope and solemn pride but also really packs a ruthless and sickening gut-punch.*

Jesus take the damn wheel did that green shit really and truly come OUT OF ME?!?!

Yes. Yes, it did.  The other fun fact about the above photo is there is yet another pitcher of neon green goo to the right of the FULL one.  Swear.  I remember asking the technicians in the laboratory if I could take a picture, and how they looked at me with soft eyes, staring blank stares at each other.  I also remember thinking back then that they probably just couldn’t believe my bravery and my exemplary sense of humor, but since then I’ve realized that they were staring at me because I was dying.

1,000 days.

For the last one thousand days I have chosen life.  Life with all of its imperfections and flaws, as well as its joyful surprises and rewards. I’ve chosen love, and I’ve experienced unconditional love as well.  I have witnessed grace and forgiveness. I have screamed at the skies and collapsed in sobs.  I’ve experienced terror and uncertainty, and shame and humiliation.  I have formed bonds with a tapestry of humans  that linked their arms together in unison to catch me when I threatened to plummet into the seemingly hopeless abyss of my own self-created destruction.

I know I’m usually the first to make a joke of things or go for the easy laugh, but not today.  Today is a day of reflection, pride, and yes, some triumph. But some days it’s just still so raw.  The wolves still circle at my door, y’all – don’t get me wrong. But these days, if I do the next right thing and keep my intentions true, they’ll lay down for a spell and stop their anxious and restless pacing. I have to live in my truth and some days are easier than others.  I know this is the same for many of you and I honor the warrior in your spirit, as well.

They say that without the darkness, we wouldn’t see the stars.  Well, I can see the stars now, and they shine with an ethereal brilliance that sometimes blinds me.

They’re lighting my way, you see.

 

 

*My sincere and heartfelt thanks to all of you for letting me share my story with you.  And now I have to make one itty bitty joke because after proofing this post I couldn’t help but think that “gut-punch” is totally what I should caption the above picture.  GET IT!?!?  It’s the “punch” from my guts! WHO WANTS A MARGARITA?!?  See?  I really just can’t help myself.

 

Hear me roar

I admit, these days I’m playing a wee bit loose and fast with my posts while searching for gainful employment that doesn’t make me want to drink myself onto another transplant list and/or hang myself.  Blurgh. However, I must pull my cranium outta my rectum and get on the bus for the month is closing in on us and I still haven’t covered Step 4 in my monthly series.

To recap, we’ve covered honesty, hope and faith so far – step four, simply put, is courage.

COURAGE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF FEAR, BUT THE TRIUMPH OVER IT.

Nelson Mandela

I’ll be the first to admit that when it came to courage in MY story, I’m not sure that I possessed it, but I wasn’t really given a choice.  One could argue I was given a choice and I could’ve chosen to continue to drink myself to death in the summer of 2015, but I guess the universe had a different plan for me.  I guess I also had a different plan for me – I really didn’t want to die. I don’t know if that’s courage or survival instinct or just stubbornness, but I do know that giving up wasn’t ever an option and I’m genuinely not saying that because I want a slap on the back, I’m saying that because it’s the truth. Also, in absolute candor, I don’t think I realized just how sick I really was back then. I know – you would think that lying in a hospital bed having your abdomen drained repeatedly after having a shunt inserted INTO YOUR LIVER that you’d think perhaps a problem was afoot.  Not this dumbass. You couple a slow learner with a late bloomer and you’ve got…well, me.

Of course, courage doesn’t always have to be so grandiose and epic. Courage can just be getting out of bed some days, amirite?!?  I recently shared a fantastic life-affirming breakfast with a dear friend who I don’t see nearly enough.  We covered the usual topics, i.e;  what we’re reading, our current president quite possibly being the antichrist, and incorporating trans fats and avocados into our daily diets. As we were chatting she expressed some anxiety over a new water aerobics class she had just signed up for. We both commiserated about just how nerve-wracking it can be to try something new. Especially alone.  Now, let me just remind you that we are two grown-ass accomplished women, as if that matters. I shared with her a recent story from my own experience.

Since returning home from my GOLDEN JUBILEE (read:  50th birthday extravaganza) my yoga practice has been reinvigorated and it’s really about time. I had let it slip down the priority chain as finances are abysmal fleeting these days.  In an effort to try different types of yoga and additionally save money, I found a hip and highly regarded yoga studio in my city that offers donation-based “Karma” yoga. Perfecto!  Well, kinda.

As I drove up to the studio I noticed a gaggle of young and taut gals decked head to toe in trendy yoga wear heading into the building.  They were smiling and laughing and EVEN THEIR PONYTAILS WERE PERFECT.  Instant insecurity made my stomach plummet and my throat tighten. I started sweating and pitting out in my generic yoga-wear.  I quickly glanced at the clock HOPING that somehow I was late for the class and therefore it would be RUDE to interrupt it and I’ll just come back some other time when I’m feeling a little better. Like in fourteen years.

If you know me in real life you know that I have never been late in the entire capsulation of my existence. I’m dead serious, and if you DO know me in real life feel free to comment below with one of the times I made you damn near murderous because of it.  So, I knew before looking at the clock that tardiness was not going to be the case so I quickly began reciting the litany of other reasons I could tell myself why I wasn’t going in.  As I started to spazz out I realized my reaction for what it was;  fear – plain and simple.  I’m too old, too fat, too uncoordinated, too farty and entirely too out of style to join that yoga class.

I looked at my reflection in the rear-view mirror and I could see the miserable and familar panic in my own eyes, and just like that, I was sick and tired of being afraid. The reality of the situation hit me and in a flash of mock bravery I opened the door to my Jeep and before I knew it I was standing in front of yet another beautiful gal with cheeks the color of pink rose petals and eyelashes like the open wings of angels, asking me for my name and donation.  “Jesus Christ, what is this . . .yoga for supermodels?!”, I asked, only half-way joking.

“I know, right?”, she replied. “You should try working here, it’s enough to give anyone an inferiority complex!”  I let THAT SHIT sink in for a moment and said, “well then, I’m obviously in the right place”.  She nodded vigorously in agreement and we both laughed.

Guess what happened?  NOTHING.  Well, yes, something DID happen – I went to said 90 minute yoga class, met some other kick-ass gals, LOVED the teacher and walked out of that hip and trendy bonsai-zen-incense burning studio with my head held high and my body energized. If only I had a mic to drop, I would have dropped it. That’s how good it felt to conquer that insecure and scared voice inside of me.  I can only imagine how it might feel to live your LIFE that way, and I’d like to think that some days, I’m on that path.  I relayed this story to my sweet friend and she and I too shared a laugh at how NO ONE feels completely self-confident and cultivated and proficient and has their SHIT TOGETHER all of the time.

I received a note from her yesterday. She went to her water aerobics, despite the voices in her head that tried to convince her otherwise.  She admitted she was fearful but she plundered forward and you know the rest, don’t you?  She enjoyed the class, met some other fantastic ladies like herself and can’t wait to go back. COURAGE, guys.  It doesn’t have to be thunderous and monumental. It can be the quiet and sometimes fragile voice inside of you that is just one damn ounce braver than your fear. Courage is changing your trajectory.  Courage is being honest with yourself, and your addiction.  Courage is facing down your demons and confronting what needs to change, head on. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Courage is recognizing the patterns in your life that aren’t serving you anymore.

So, if you have a chance sometime soon, step out of your comfort zone.  I promise you won’t regret it.  You may even have fun, or learn something, or discover something new and wonderful about yourself, or the world.

But remember, there’s a very fine line between courage and stupidity.  Please don’t cross it.

 

Let go

As I started toying with the idea of starting this blog it was suggested that I define my purpose before venturing forward. My mission is two-fold. My first order of priority is to help anyone I can who is struggling with alcohol. I know there are other voices out there but everyone’s experience is unique and I feel that we all can learn from each other. Secondly, I hope to take some of the stigma out of addiction by sharing my story, warts and all. I hate that expression. . . warts and all. For us drunks it really should be bruises and all because I cannot tell you how many times I awoke came to only to find ugly purplish-green marks in the weirdest of places after long nights spent with my boyfriend, Jack Daniel’s. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I had fallen down the stairs or possibly slammed my hip into a door frame while busting a move in a Lady Gaga dance party.  One just never knew, but it happened a lot.

Anyway, it’s still my story. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes notsomuch. It’s life on life’s terms.

There’s almost as many ways to get sober as there are to get drunk. Well that’s an exaggeration but truly, there’s not just one way to do anything, is there? I’m not going to pontificate for one program over another because in my opinion getting sober is breath-taking and wondrous and formidable, no matter your method.

You have to start somewhere, though. Like Pinterest says, every journey starts with a single step.  A STEP.

UH OH – SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?

C’mon, stay with me.  Don’t balk or sulk or shrug and exclaim, “oh for fuck’s sake she’s one of THOSE people”. Hear me out. During my multiple stays in the hospital during The Great Liver Failure of 2015, I heard one thing said many different ways, and that was this; it’s not that you drink, it’s WHY.  For me, this made sense at a period when NOTHING made sense. It was a foggy and muddy span of time and my barely dried out brain still searches for clarity when trying to access those memories but that one is as clear as a vodka martini. . . WHY!?!  It captured my awareness even in the state I was in, which brings me around to what many folks call Step #1 in recovery.  You do not have to work the steps to quit drinking, of course, but again, I’m just passing along what worked (or didn’t) for me. Step One is powerlessness, honesty and surrender all rolled into one big fat humble burrito that is hard to swallow and you freakin’ KNOW I’m dying to make a ONE BITE AT A TIME joke here but I’ll spare you the bad and obvious comedy in lieu of the better and more helpful point, which is to start at the beginning. DUH.

In my case, this was relatively easy because in NO PARALLEL UNIVERSE was lying in a hospital hooked up to multiple IV’s while undergoing a blood transfusion for portal hypertension in your liver due to alcoholic Cirrhosis NOT A PROBLEM.

Just sayin’, for me, the jig was up.  It was time to get honest with the only person that could do anything at all about my situation. . . me. Now, you certainly don’t have to hit any type of bottom to quit drinking. In my case, it took hitting a bottom for me to realize that the problem I had was in fact going to kill me. Many folks a lot smarter than myself would have wised up long before it came to that but one thing I heard recently really resonated with me and that is this;

“It took every drink it took.”  And that’s the simplest truth there is.  I am constantly tripping over things that are behind me, dammit.

That little sentence there has given me a lot of peace lately, but I’m jumping way ahead. January marks a new year ahead that COINCIDENTALLY has 12 months.  Hmmmm.  DO YOU SMELL WHAT I’M STEPPING IN?!?

GET IT?!?  I did it again with the “steps” thing.  I funny!

Keep reading this month and we’ll talk some more about powerlessness and surrender and I’m not talking about the fun kind like where you have a safety word. Sorry, wrong blog. Try The Party is Sodomy, perhaps.

 

Last Call

Alcoholism

July 30, 2015.

That was the last day I had a drink. It’s been over 500 days now (consecutive!) and while it hasn’t always been easy, I’ll say that it’s certainly been worthwhile, and an extremely long time coming. I was a hard drinker for most of my adult life, say twenty-plus years, but last year or so of my drinking,  you could say I went “pro”. No particular reason, really.  My job changed, my dog died, and I think I battled light depression I suppose. All of that is really just life in general and no one thing made me pick up that bottle. No, that was all me.

Happy hour was usually at 7pm. Then seven became five. Before I knew it, 5pm had become 3ish and I was “rewarding” myself for mundane household chores with a stiff martini or three. I wasn’t driving or hurting anyone. I don’t live under a bridge alongside the interstate. C’mon, I’m not pushing a shopping cart down the road laden with recyclables and a molted live Owl in its basket. I own a home and have a solid education, I can’t be a rueful and pathetic old soak…right?

Wrong.

What your brain refuses to acknowledge your body will not ignore. In turn, I got sick. REALLY sick. I was hospitalized. I had a blood transfusion. I had a wire thread shoved into my jugular vein and threaded down into my liver where a shunt was placed to connect my portal vein to my hepatic vein. My body took on an extra 20 lbs in a greenish Gatoradey-looking bile that was drained via a huge needle periodically. My liver had enlarged to three times it’s normal size. I was given a 35% chance of survival if I kept up the boozing. According to my Doctor I would easily be dead within three years. A liver transplant was discussed but only briefly. They don’t dole those things out to drunks, turns out. You do NOT fuck around with those liver people, let me tell you.

So, those are the Cliff Notes.

That, my friends, is REALLY last call.

So, pull up a stool and come join me while I navigate sobriety, and a second chance.

All served with a splash of humor.