BLINDED BY THE LIGHT

Where have I been, you ask?  I’ll tell you.  ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE.

I feel like a joyous jumping Audrey Hepburn on most days

Between a new job, getting and adapting to my first pair of “progressive” lens eyewear, and plotting to, and ultimately catching a raccoon, I’ve been a wee bit tied up.  I’m immersed in my new job up to my pits and tits and I love it.  It’s amazing.  I’m working with some of the smartest and most talented (and hilarious) folks I’ve ever met.  I learn something (usually a whole lot of things) every day.  I laugh every day.  I make someone else laugh every day.  I’ve found my own little trusted tribe and we’re all getting to know each other better and I’m beside myself with gratitude. In short, it completely rocks and I’m still pinching myself at my luck and incredible fortune but I am also going to just go ahead and throw this out there and own it;  I’ve worked my ass off for the last three years, clawing my way to sobriety and back to good health and this situation, this job and place I’m in now, ALMOST makes liver failure worth it.  It’s THAT good.

I find it ironic and just that I’m just now finding out who I am and what I want my life to be, at fifty years old.  I’ve always been a late bloomer, you know, and wow, was it ever worth the wait.

Bravo Raccoon GIF - Bravo Raccoon GIFsIn other news we’ve had a super ballsy raccoon coming into our home thru the dog door for the last few weeks.  Now, I have nothing against raccoons (rabies aside) but I don’t necessarily want one in my kitchen.  We’ve tried to catch the darn thing repeatedly in a big trap with a few variations of peanut butter sandwiches, to no avail.

We’ve caught a possum. Twice.

Of course the night my husband goes outta town I get all Steve Irwin and decide I’m gonna take care of this thing myself.  I made a peanut butter sandwich and set the trap and went back to watching “The Haunting of Hill House” like the rest of America.

And wouldn’t you know it, right before I went to bed I heard the rattle and subsequent crash of the trap and immediately prayed it was the stupid possum but no, it was a very fat and very surprised raccoon. I was pretty damn surprised as well, but now I feel sorry for the flipping thing and it’s quite a chilly evening, so I got a beach towel and covered it up and TRIED to sleep myself knowing it was just out there on my back porch. That was slightly unsettling. In the morning  I gave it a brownie and assured it that everything was going to be just fine.  It’s now living its best life in the woods on the other side of the river and I hope he remembers me fondly, as I him.

As the leaves start to turn gorgeous colors and begin to let go, I feel like doing the same. Letting go of what doesn’t serve me anymore, letting go of that silly self-sabotage talk and criticism, and learning to live each day in the moment I’m in, one breath at a time. It takes practice, I’ll admit. Some days are better than others and most days there’s still an undercurrent of fear and the persistent thought that I’m not good enough, but I continue to fight that negativity and now I have others fighting right alongside of me, assuring me otherwise.

On top of all of that,  I got new eye glasses.  Well, I got REAL glasses, finally. I’ve been getting by with those shitty “readers” from the drug store for the last five years and I was waaaay overdue for an actual Optometrist visit. So, $307 dollars later I now have new “progressive lens” glasses (code word for stealthy bi-focals) and no signs of macular degeneration. Yay, me! Getting used to them has been a bit of a struggle though, and my brain is having a difficult time adjusting. I feel kinda drunk a lot of the time but not in a good way. You should see me trying to navigate the stair case.  You’d think I was being lowered into the fire pits of hell the way I have to hold on to the railings and delicately hover my timid and shaking leg over each descending stair, my head bobbing up and down until I can get my bearings. Jesus, I bet I look ridiculous.

Well, the good news is that I CAN SEE now and my eyesight was way worse than I’d realized. Lord only knows what I’ve eaten by mistake in the last few years. What I do know is that my vision has greatly improved. Things are much clearer now; more vivid and life-like. I can see the fine details I’d missed before. Now I can see the big picture, the entire picture, and I guess I’m not really talking about my eye-glasses anymore, am I? No, I suppose I’m not, but the glasses ARE a nice segue into my closing, which is this. . .

The last three years have been life altering and somehow, someway, I have managed to find myself here, now, amongst loved ones with an amazing life and future, and my view is nothing less than spectacular. Now I know it won’t always be this way . . . of course it won’t. Nothing is permanent in this lifetime, except maybe Herpes. For now though, I’m full of gratitude and hope, and that’s more than enough.

I’ll say it again, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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.

 

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.”

 

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.