My Stolen Life

what was SUPPOSED to be. i’m not kidding, even down to her Chucks it’s perfectly me in another lifetime but in THIS lifetime that brown bag was filled with rotgut whiskey instead of fresh daisies and the bike was actually a police squad car

Of course sobriety is awesome, and of course I wish I had found my way here sooner . . . MUCH sooner.  I try very hard not to play the “what if” game because that ends well for NO ONE but as a flawed and imperfect human being, I cannot help but obsess over what COULD have been sometimes, instead of what was and is, even though I’m beyond grateful that my story is one that I’m still privileged to be here to tell.  That is, I’m alive.

While in Germany I was able to escape to Amsterdam for a few days and it was mostly awesome, when it wasn’t completely chaotic and anxiety inducing.  Busy folks everywhere.  Tourists and locals meshing together through the canals and side street eateries.  Pungent and competing smells from every bodega and bakery. Public trolleys and trains whizzing by with spaghetti-like crossing tracks and no discernible patterns. I watched a young gal peddling her bicycle through the cobble stone streets, with her groceries placed neatly in her front basket and a small short-haired dog in a little seat on the back.  She donned a straw hat and was wearing a vintage yellow embroidered dress.  She looked carefree and full of promise.  Naturally, my first instinct was to quickly glance around for the movie cameras that were surely going to be visible to me at any moment, as this scene was just too sublime to be real, but I assure you, it was real, and my disbelief quickly turned to jealousy and simply put, sour grapes.

You see, THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ME.  She is clearly living MY LIFE.  You know, the one I pictured in my head while I was sitting upon all those bar stools, spending money I didn’t have, telling tales that weren’t true, sleeping with people I didn’t know.

My gaze burned holes in her as I recalled every single minute of my life I’ve spent sitting behind a desk staring at a clock and willing it to move faster.  I quickly recounted all the days and months and years collectively I’ve spent hungover and ridiculously useless. How pathetically accurate AND ironic is it that the word I’m using is wasted? Time I’ve wasted, money I’ve wasted, and that doesn’t even touch the POTENTIAL I’ve wasted, and save getting me started on opportunities. They were wasted, because I was wasted.

my amsterdam bicycle experience was a tiny bit different

Some people never recover so in the great big scheme of things, of course I’m grateful for every single second of every moment, but I also can’t help but look in the rear view mirror and wish hopelessly for a “do-over”, and I know that’s not a notion specific to drunks.  I’m certainly not saying my life is one big regret, not at all – quite the opposite.  My life is so freaking ass-kickingly awesome that I am furious at myself for not getting to it sooner.

And here’s the thing, I’ve done my share of living, believe you me.  The point is not that I wish I could go back and make completely different decisions, but of course that is absolutely true as well.  No, what I want is to go back in time with the knowledge, compassion and clarity I have now. I want to see those “missing” years through SOBER eyes, not just as blurry memories like dirty streaks on a window where you can only see the vague outlines of what actually happened.  If only I had hit rock bottom sooner.  If only I had given sobriety a shot years ago.  If only I had LISTENED to all the warnings and advice.  If only.  Let’s also remember that I am still new to sobriety.  I don’t have everything figured out, not even close. Many would argue I wasn’t near ready back then and I wouldn’t have listened, anyway, and they are one hundred percent correct.

It’s not that I think if I’d gotten sober years ago I may have invented the fucking Kindle or cured Cancer or anything as fruitful and contributory as all that, but I can’t help but wonder how different my path would have been, if we had been introduced earlier.  As it turned out, I had to be introduced to some policemen, a few jails, multiple courtrooms, a few counselors, and ultimately some grim yet realistic liver Doctors who told me I was going to die before I would hold out my thin yellow hand to shake hands (tentatively) with sobriety.

Here’s my simple summation; my fear of dying outweighed my fear of living sober, but ONLY JUST.  It was a barely discernible amount, but that was all I needed.  A half ounce of hope.

It’s hard to forgive myself, but most days I still try.  Some days things still just aren’t far enough away in that rear view mirror, you know?

*sigh*

I’m not unique.  We all have a little bit of “woulda- coulda -shoulda” in us, I believe.  But I also believe it’s where I go from here that counts now, and that’s a darn good thing because as luck would have it, that’s all I have; this moment and forward.

That’s all we have.

So, tell me.  Do you guys lie awake at night and re-live every regrettable decision you’ve ever made and replay things over and over in your head like a terrible b-grade movie until there are tears running into your ears as you stare at your ceiling fan and wonder where thirty years of your life went?!?

No!?

Never mind.

You guys I bought some fancy schmancy leave-in conditioner to repair my ridiculously dry and straw-like hair and instead of having shiny luxurious locks like Gloria in Modern Family, I look like the victim of a low-flow shower head.  Remember that episode from Seinfeld?  When Kramer goes “low-flow”!?

low flow is a no-go for Jerry and the gang

Anyway.  That’s what I’ve got going for me today.  It’s a holiday week with the Fourth of July and all things USA taking place. I’m not sure how patriotic I feel, especially after just returning from our trip to Europe. I guess I just don’t feel we have a whole lot to be proud of these days.

With the holiday festivities and all that goes with that, naturally the subject of temptation and relapse has been popular in some of my recent discussions.  The topic of relapse is always swirling around in the circles in which I run now.  Whispers in hallways, slow nods in meetings, and heartbreaking embraces in parking lots alert me in to their presence and unwelcome intrusion.  Like death over our shoulders, the threat of relapse is ever-present, promising twice the doom and bowel shaking destruction as before we quit,  vowing to take us down with it this time. I personally have not suffered a relapse. . . YET.  We drunks love to use the word “yet”.

  1. “Well, I haven’t gotten a DUI….yet“.
  2. “My spouse/family/children/lover hasn’t left me…yet“.
  3. “It’s not like I drink during the daytime…yet“.

It may seem overly dramatic but it’s the truth, Ruth, because if you do in fact have a drinking problem and do NOT get the to root of things, it WILL continue to progressively get worse and THAT I CAN ASSURE YOU LIKE I’M SITTING HERE TYPING THIS.

The other day I was listening to another alcoholic wax poetic about his impending relapse.  I use the word impending, because he used it as well.  Over the years I have heard many a drunk express FEAR AND ABJECT TERROR at the thought of a relapse, sure, but never have I heard someone casually mention the inescapability of its IMMINENT arrival, prior to actually having done it.  I’m using the word casual but he wasn’t what I could really call casual, he was visibly upset and anxious about this blip on his radar screen that only he could see.  As I listened I was somewhat incredulous. If you can foresee a relapse than ostensibly, you can prevent it, right?  Not always.  Therein lies the insanity, you see.  YES, IT IS INSANE BUT NOW I GET IT, BELIEVE ME.

“Sometimes you have to fight a battle more than once to win it”

– Margaret Thatcher

People say that a relapse begins LONG before you pick up the drink. It can be a break or a snap in your psyche, your heart, your serenity, your situation, your mood/feelings/spirit/soul, WHATEVER, it starts LONG before you find yourself clutching a bottle of cheap vodka while sobbing and watching “Under the Tuscan Sun” for the zillionth time as you scream into your pillow about how you’ve wasted your entire life and every single opportunity you’ve been given.  Say, just as a completely random and unrelated example.

I know when I’m getting “twitchy” and that’s my word for it.  Some of you out there know what I mean.  You’re just “off” a wee bit. It’s sensing that whisper and attending to it that prevents it from steam-rolling over any last thread of rationale you have, a week or a month later.  I don’t care HOW you’re getting sober, if you SENSE that twitch, pay attention because like the Divine Miss O says about the Universe and communication; it will start as a whisper, like a feather gently dusting over your intuitions, and again as a soft nudge as it gains strength, but if ignored long enough, it will result with the feather transforming into a mace protruding with rusty spikes and it will beat you within an inch of your life.  This, I know.

He ended his observations with a terrifying final thought.  “I don’t think I’ve had enough pain”.

I knew what he meant. For years and years the consequences of my drinking didn’t outweigh my desire.  I had a lot of “YETS” still, you see.  In a larger medical sense, I’m certainly considered lucky, and some would even say somewhat of a miracle, if you believe in those kinds of things. Early on in my recovery,  I joked about how I hadn’t really “lost” anything due to my alcoholism.   I mean, I still had my husband, family and job, after all.  Another alcoholic looked at me wide-eyed and confused.  “You have Cirrhosis.  You almost died.”

Oh.  Yeah, that.  I almost lost my life. You wouldn’t think you’d need folks around to remind you of that sort of thing but I’m here to tell you, YOU DO if you’re an alcoholic because ONLY another alcoholic will understand the fundamental insanity of that last paragraph.

I will continue to reach out.  I will continue to remember my pain.  I will do the work. I will try to help others when and if I can. I refuse to keep tripping over things in my past but I cannot let myself forget it, either.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my damn hair because I look like that thing that crawls out of the well in The Ring.

 

We survived Germany and it seemingly survived us, and as Forrest Gump would say, that’s about all I have to say about that.  I am here to tell you that the Germans really enjoy their meat. Further more, they enjoy boiling their meat.  Can I also just mention that it was the hottest June it’s been in twenty-five years so that said restaurants that also enjoy boiling their meat also have NO air conditioning and THAT can be a somewhat challenging environment in which to dine, say, without barfing.

I’ll admit to eating my weight in german chocolates, Amsterdam waffles, and pastries of every variety.  Deliciously ripe strawberries and cherries were everywhere we turned. There’s also another little season that’s quite a celebrated event and that is Spargelzeit!, which is white asparagus, a speciality to Germany in the month of June and evidently worthy of quite a celebration, because it too was everywhere, always looking somewhat undercooked and sickly.  It’s more fun to say out loud than to participate, really.  SPARGELZEIT DAMMIT!

minus the ham and you’ve got a mushy plate of yellow, trust me

This is evidently what the hell I ordered but since I am NOT a big meat eater I asked them to hold the ham and well, then all you have some spargel and taters.  Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that . . .for your first seven meals.

Continuing on with the topic of things that were out of my control on this journey, let’s just lump everything together.  Europeans still smoke. A lot. There is no ice. THERE IS NO ICE. Most places do NOT have air conditioning.  These are the top THREE things I heard on repeat for the first three days we were in Germany from my incessantly complaining uber-observant husband. This began to wear me and my annoying optimism rather thin,  and I ended up bursting into the frustrated tears of a near nervous breakdown whilst strolling through the fairytale-like village that my Uncle calls home.  As the failed liaison of the trip,       I  got overwhelmed and emotional.  That happens in sobriety, so they tell me.  Feelings aren’t facts, this we know, but sometimes they’ll bubble to the surface when you’re not doing Jagerbombs to keep them muted and hidden away. This happens more often these days.

headphones, glasses, journal AND waffle?!? CHECK.

An overseas family trip of any type is stressful.  Couple that with finances, time off from work and schedules in general, it’s no small feat. Then you throw in extended family and a second language and a foreign country and you’re bound to have a little confusion here and there, amirite?  YES.  Yes, I am.  

I am here to tell you that I came the closest to losing my sobriety THUS FAR.  I knew I wouldn’t drink, but I have NEVER EVER WANTED TO SO BADLY since my liver decided it had had a little bit of enough in 2015. You know, murderous rage. The kind of slow burning resentment and slow building fury that you can ONLY have with someone that IS a spouse, a sibling, or a parent.  

We had to limp away and heal a little bit before we could come back to re-assess the damage, you see. Have you ever had something go so completely wrong that there was actually a point where you remember thinking that there’s no coming back from this now and the best you can do is hope to sweep your remaining shit into a pile-like mound and use every last thread of your sanity and composure to weakly push it through the door?!?!  HAVE YOU!?!?  Because I have.   On a scale of one to Handmaid’s Tale, I went FULL ON Aunt Lydia.  My husband got sick*, like flu-sick, and then I got sick. Our bank cards got canceled.  We missed trains.  I over complicated EVERY. SINGLE. THING.  If something COULD get miscommunicated, it did. We got lost daily, and not in a good whimsical exploration-y way.  In a “if I circle through ONE more roundabout I’m going to punch the first goat I see” kinda way.  

Did I mention it was hot?!?  You know what?  I DIDN’T HAVE TO BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE DID EVERY FIVE MINUTES.

I should also mention that we took in countless breath-taking views, visited the legendary Cathedral in Cologne, dodged bicycles in Amsterdam, and spent some lovely and memorable times with some family members I rarely get the good fortune to see, so that, in itself made the trip absolutely priceless.  

statue depicting Anne Frank outside her home in Amsterdam

The other part, was, well. . . a learning experience?  My husband and I have both “owned” our behavior and we both know we could’ve done better.  Really, a lot better. A few week’s ago he cut his ring finger on his left hand rather badly and has been wearing his wedding ring sporadically since, so I asked him why the other morning.  “Well, every single time I put my ring back on, it tears the scab off.”  

Well, honey, now THERE is an accurate metaphor for marriage. Maybe our future doesn’t hold a future of international travel, but I’m glad (mostly) to be the one in the seat next to you.

 

*I actually looked into shipping a dead body back to the USA versus just cremating him and plopping him in the vineyard behind my Uncle’s property and then decided he could rot like fat white asparagus for all I cared.  FYI, this was DAY FOUR.

 

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.

 

What dreams may come

Follow your dreams. Unless they’re trying to kill you.

Recently someone in one of my recovery meetings brought up “drinking dreams”.  They’re pretty common among the newly sober and I myself have them almost weekly, even approaching three years of sobriety. I don’t really mind them or give them much credence, I mean, it’s a dream.  I know they can seem real, but when I awake, I’m usually just super grateful that it was a dream.  In my crazy ass night scenarios, I am already intoxicated in said dream and then some good but nosy samaritan reminds me that I’m an alcoholic and I am paralyzed in terror and panic and immediately wake up – I assume before my black shiny liver shoots out my asshole and skids down the hallway.

The person in the meeting was disturbed by his dream, so much so that he brought it up as a concern. In his dream he said he knew he was drunk and didn’t really care and wondered what that meant about his inner resolve.

Some twenty years ago I had a dream that I was trying to shove a baby into my garbage disposal in my cheap Hollywood studio apartment but the baby kept crawling out before I could hit the switch.  In this horrific dream I dutifully grab a broom from the closet and hold the baby down with it while flipping the switch to grind it up.  Um, yeah – I know. . . but come on folks, I may not be smitten with kids, but I don’t (usually) feel like chopping them to bloody pieces in my kitchen sink.  The point is, it was a dream.

Fast forward to Sunday morning where at 4:12am I awoke with a violent start and what immediately followed was such bone-crushing sorrow I could barely lift my head off of the pillow.  I was standing across from my Mom, whose face was wet and shiny with tears.  She was crying to the point of hiccups.  I was shaking my head in disbelief, saying “No, Mom…I promise I didn’t know – I thought I just have a couple and it would be okay, I’m so so sorry.” I  was having a terrible dream where I had just found out that my liver was shutting down as the result of my “sneaking” a few here and there.  In my dream I was genuinely remorseful and surprised at the news. It was such a helpless and gutting feeling – standing  there in front of someone who has believed in me, admitting that I had failed her, and myself.  I awoke with a heavy heart and crippling shame.  OMG IT WAS SO REAL YOU GUYS. It sounds somewhat ridiculous but the after-effects of that dream stuck with until lunchtime.  I could NOT shake the feeling of uncertainty.

It’s coincidental that I have just started a Tibetan Lojong class on compassion and awakening AND KARMA so I guess one could say I’ve already gotten a little ahead in my studies and had a valuable little lesson in karma this weekend.

The Universe is vast and ageless and infinitely mysterious, but it also has one ridiculous sense of humor.

The Ritual

these asshats cost me countless hours of serenity this weekend

 

In this blogging endeavor I have sworn to myself to write with humility, authenticity, and if I can manage it, fearlessness.

This is the part where I admit I’m a fucking lunatic.  Notsomuch fearless as authentic.

This past weekend I snuggled up with Netflix and decided to queue up a thriller. I adore scary movies and the new British flick, The Ritual popped up as a match, so I decided to give it a go.  What a rare treat!  An empty house, a full cup of hot tea, an asshole cat snoozing by my side, and a horror movie at my disposal. Life is good, no?

No.  Well, yeah, but it’s complicated.

Within the first ten minutes of the movie my shit went pear shaped, as they say in England.  Fuck.

The premise of the story is that there are five lifelong  friends and one of them gets killed in a robbery gone wrong (in a liquor store, I might  add) and it was his dream for the five of them to go back-pack across Sweden or Norway or some crap so they decide to do so to honor his memory, and of course, there’s some evil shit in them there woods. Duh.

Anyway, one of the first scenes in the movie is the four of them (above) atop a mountain with a picture of their fallen friend on some makeshift rock memorial and they pass around a black leather covered flask and they all take a swig out of it in remembrance of their mate.  When they had all drank, they poured out (are you fucking kidding me?!?) some on the ground for their pal, made a toast,  and subsequently, the movie moved on.

BUT I DID NOT.

I suddenly transported myself to a situation in the wreckage of my future where I am faced with the same dilemma and I wondered to myself if there’s a window in recovery for something like this.  I mean, the consequences  of my drinking have already cost me gravely at the expense of my liver and Cirrhosis, and I don’t often think about drinking ever again, save for an occasional short-lived craving. When I do notice “normal” people drinking in movies I just think to myself “well, how nice for you to be  able to drink like a goddamned average and ordinary person, you buttfucker”, and I move on, like the mature and sophisticated adult that I am. . . but I couldn’t this time because I became OBSESSED with the scene above.

Let’s invite my crazy down into the parlor for a spell, shall we?

The first thing that occurred to me was that of course I would take the fallen comrade’s drink for him/her in a show of solidarity because obviously I would love him/her the most over all of our other friends. Then, I jumped to the fact that one little teensy weensy shot of whiskey would not even resurrect a buzz in me these days and as far as I knew, they only had that one flask so WHY COULDN’T I have just one somber little whiskey shot at the makeshift funeral of my fake and non-existent best friend who tragically just hypothetically died?!?!  LIKE I AM AN INTERNATIONAL BACKPACKER AND COULD BE FACED WITH THIS PREDICAMENT ANY DAY NOW.

But in my head, it could and what the fuck would I do?!?  I mean, all of my current friends already know that I’m a raging drunk so they probably wouldn’t let me even hold the flask in the first place but COME ON PEOPLE it’s not like there’s a liquor store in the background, is there?  They are like DAYS away (well, I won’t spoil the ending but suffice to say they don’t have to worry  about the evils of civilization for very much longer) from ANY type of city and/or liquor store.

I had to shut down the din my head. My reaction was borderline Pavlovian. The scenario kept playing over and over in my crazy-ass circus of a brain until I could somehow justify a situation at some point in my life on this earth where I can rationalize having just ONE MORE DRINK before I die.  Isn’t that dismally ironic?  Isn’t that pathetic?  Isn’t that delusional, demented and deranged?!  Yes, it is.  They talk about the insanity of alcoholism and here it is in black and white.

Not drinking is SO MUCH MORE than just not drinking.  I had to finally circle back to the part where the guy got killed in the liquor store in the first place.  So, if he hadn’t gone into the liquor store, he would not have interrupted the burglary in progress, and he would still be alive today so clearly the message here is that vodka is nefarious and malicious, and will kill you in ANY WAY THAT IT CAN.  Okay, that *might* be a little bit delusional and somewhat far-reaching, but IT IS MY POST ISN’T IT?  This is what it’s like, in my head, all. the. damn. time.

And truth be told, if you had seen me in the last few months of my drinking, I was far more terrifying than anything in those woods.  Those Brits got off easy on their camping trip.

where did that pepsi come from?

So, feel free to share YOUR insanity with me. Come on, share your crazy!  Do you obsess?  Create scenarios in your head?!  I won’t judge.  Well, maybe a little but only because it’ll make me feel better about MY insanity and really, isn’t that what healing in community is ALL ABOUT!?!   I’m practically Mother Teresa over here.

oh no you do NOT underestimate Oprah

There are few things in life as pure and powerful as my love for Oprah Winfrey.  I have often referred to Oprah as my higher power in recovery and that no longer garners laughs in my meetings anymore because now people are leery (and damn straight) to do so, lest they incur The Wrath of The Crazy Drunken Trainwreck Obsessed with The Divine Ms. O.  And truly, if people can make doorknobs and ceiling fans their higher powers, THEN SHUT IT.  I would consider Dolly Parton as a back-up if need be, but for now, Oprah serves me well.

Oprah surrounds herself with smart people, and she listens and learns.  She’s spent a lifetime doing this and then she in turn, shares what she’s learned. One of these mentors was the incredible and amazing Maya Angelou, whom I had the privilege of hearing speak at an engagement years ago. Quite simply, it was a momentous evening.  Maya Angelou was/is an earthly treasure and I thank Oprah for bringing her message to many that may not have heard her otherwise. One of Ms. Angelou’s most famous quotes reads;

In a last ditch effort this weekend to avoid reality and escape into ANYTHING else than a bottle of SKYY vodka, I went to see “A Wrinkle in Time” at the movies.  Don’t even get me started on how much ass Oprah kicked, but here’s the real kicker, I have never read the book nor seen the original movie. Now, it IS a Disney movie so there wasn’t any hypodermic drug use or anal sex or anything so in that regard it WAS a snooze fest, but what really struck me as how now, more than ever, it’s a perfect tale for our current times.  Good vs Evil.  Light against Darkness. Love vs Hate. Believing in yourself. Authenticity. Speaking your truth. Trusting the Universe. Love is love is love.

As I left the theatre in the drizzling cold rain, I couldn’t help but grin. A few years ago, I thought I knew better. I thought I had all the answers, I really did. If you were to ask me, I’d have sworn up and down that I possessed an open and somewhat awakened mind. I knew who my authentic self was, and I was unapologetic about her.  I’m like Cilantro; you either love me or hate me – and back then, I didn’t really care which.

And then, in the summer of 2015,  I woke up at ground zero of my alcoholism and my whole world exploded and imploded, simultaneously.  Not to be overly dramatic here but unless this type of thing has happened to you in some capacity, there’s nothing I can write on this page to give you an accurate glimpse into that harsh and unforgiving reality.

Have you ever had to question everything you thought you knew? Have you ever looked into your own reflection in a mirror and not recognized the person staring back at you?  There was no light, no brightness of being left in me.  Who had I become?

In four months I will celebrate 3 years of sobriety. And I’d like to thank Oprah for setting the stage for me. You wanna know how I did it?  I surrounded myself with smart people and I listened to them.  I listened to their experiences as they shared what worked, and sometimes, more importantly, what didn’t. I marveled at their strength and nodded along in sympathy at their weaknesses. When they extended their hands out to help me, I grabbed their fingers in a death grip, and truly, that’s exactly what it was; I was fighting for my life.

And now, I know better. Instead of running to the liquor store, I just go for a run. When I need to escape reality, I know I can pick up a book, not a bottle. When I feel stressed out and anxious, I focus on my breathing. I’m learning to meditate and listen to myself, and the Universe.  This didn’t happen overnight, of course – you have to want it, and you have to work at it – because your life depends on it.  Like they say, the only thing that has to change is everything, and naturally, that’s terrifying. I’m still new in this journey but I can promise you, if you start it, you’ll be amazed at what’s revealed to you along the way, and that’s not just some ex-drunken existential bar-talk bullshit.

I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t have to have the answers, and you certainly don’t have to go it alone.  We’re here to help each other, at least I think so.  So, while I don’t have all of the answers, I know where to go when I need help.  And maybe that’s Oprah’s greatest gift to me – letting me know that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and that we can heal together, in community.

Now, I know better, and guess what?  I’m doing better.  A LOT better.

I’m going to leave you with another quote.  This one is directly from Oprah, so you can assume it’s pretty much the gospel truth.

I don’t know about you, but I think that this is Oprah’s way of saying, “one day at a time“.

 

March Madness

wtf?!? is she lying face up? or down? are those boobs? omg this is so my life right now

 

As the previous post would indicate, faith is important in recovery.  This post will document that sometimes it’s very difficult to practice these steps in all of our affairs.  HOLY SHIT BALLS.  I know I posted about faith just scant days ago but I also think accountability and honesty are important so I’ll admit that I’m having some difficulty in ACCEPTING what I cannot change right now . . . and struggling with faith in that the universe has GOT THIS, in the interim.  Motherfucker.

As you may recall, I’m currently between jobs.  I was laid off last Fall and have been temping intermittently since. Naturally, it’s a nightmare.  So I’ve been trying to CALM THE F DOWN and apply for jobs I’m way overqualified for and even grovel for the occasional interview on Craigslist, because it’s officially come to that.  Jesus.  I know, I know, what a “great opportunity” for growth and starting over, and how refreshing to “re-invent” my career path at this age, but COME ON PEOPLE right now it’s just a huge pain in the ass for this bitter old drunk trying to revamp her resume AT FIFTY.  Is Snapchat considered a skill these days because I don’t freaking have it.

Anyway, I had an interview yesterday at an industrial company. It’s some sort of administrative position, they all blur together these days, but as soon as I pulled up to the joint and glanced about the parking lot I knew I was in trouble. I spotted a Trump/Pence bumper sticker right off the bat and a sparkly little snippet of hope inside me died. I opened the door to the office and FOXNews was blaring forth from inside*.  Oh, no.  There’s a moment in the wild where this type of phenomenon happens, and I think it’s called “flight or fight” or something, but in reality, I did neither . . . I just kinda floundered at my predicament. The Big Boss himself interviewed me, and for the love of Barbra Streisand, I kinda liked the asshole. He was a burly guy with an easy manner and a dynamite smile. Besides not having any respect for him whatsoever and disagreeing with the core of his humanity, he seemed like a cool enough guy. . . but not one I’d want to work for, but there I was. . . nodding along and wondering how much of my black shiny soul I’d have to sacrifice for health insurance benefits.

The whole experience was humbling and soul sucking but there was a total DROP THE MIC moment in the warehouse when I correctly identified the song “Thunder Kiss ’65” by White Zombie blasting from the boom box (no shit y’all it was an actual old school boom box) and two of the guys by the forklifts clapped and laughed.  Now, if you’ve EVER in your life heard White Zombie’s song “Thunder Kiss ’65”, you KNOW the damn song so it’s not that perceptive or amazing or anything but I guess when you’re a 50-something sharply dressed woman applying for a shitty admin job in a rundown industrial park across from the shooting range, it’s somewhat unexpected when you dump that knowledge on some unsuspecting dock workers.  Judge not, boys.

renaissance man, Rob Zombie of White Zombie

Anyway, I came home and took off my bra and laid face down on the floor in front of the tv.  This seemed like the appropriate conclusion of my afternoon.  When I awoke I was in the midst of a Lifetime movie starring Lisa Whelchel (YES, Blair from the tv show The Facts of Life) and I started to get sucked in and that was the moment right then and there I decided that I was going to have to fight through the despair and general malaise that this day has brought upon me.  But it was fucking Blair (!) so it was super hard to turn it off, and you know in retrospect she has really aged well save for some puffiness around her eyes, and really, who am I to throw stones – but I DID turn it off and decided to promptly go to my little neighborhood yarn shop where I get most of my advice (solicited and otherwise) and sage wisdom because surely to God the company of real honest to goodness people would be better than holing up in isolation with Blair from The Facts of Life.   The next movie up starred WINNIE COOPER from “The Wonder Years”, I shit you not – so in effect, I had to flee my home like a scalded dog lest you find me going fetal in a fuzzy blanket wondering if Tootie has any movies under her belt these days.

After knitting for a spell I decided to go to my local meditation group and I’m new to meditation so I have no idea what I’m doing but I feel like I damn sure should be doing it so let’s keep an open mind, shall we?  I figured if ANYONE needed some Zen it was certainly me and even if I don’t “get it” I’m still sitting in silence for an hour and *attempting* to listen and that’s got to be good for the world as a whole.  So, I wanted to post this post as an accountability post in that I do NOT always practice what the fuck I preach. I don’t have the answers.  Yes, now I have tools at my disposal, but I don’t always use them. Sometimes you just want to freak out and be terrified and apocalyptic and wallow but you know what?  THAT SERVES NOTHING, NO ONE, NO POINT.  Except that I want to sometimes. Badly.

So I sat in silence. I tried to keep my mind tuned to the present. I struggled not to think about my impending bankruptcy and consequent homelessness, or compose a grocery list in my head, or worry that I’ll have some weird facial spasm and appear to suddenly be having a stroke while surrounded by all of these nice enlightened folks.  And you know what? In that quiet hour, nothing about my situation changed, but when my boots hit the parking lot, I felt lighter – inside AND out.

Like I’ve said – faith, my friends, is like a DUI checkpoint – just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.  I wrestle with it often, fight with it always, but impossibly, the net catches me anyway.

 

*I first typed “blaring froth” instead of “forth” and I almost left it

** this really has to be the only missive in existence that mentions Lisa Whelchel and Rob Zombie in the same post and for that, YOU ARE WELCOME.

You gotta have faith

So in continuance with my monthly theme, I’m going to leap (omg I am so clever) in here with Step 3, which, depending on  your beliefs, could possibly be a tough one to navigate. Firstly though, let me emphasize that I am not advocating one type of recovery or program over another – right now in my sobriety I’m at a point where I have to believe that however you choose to get sober is your business.  There are so many options and resources these days, that if it works, work it, I say. . . unless you have some sort of fucked up deal where you repeatedly flog yourself every time you think about a drink in which case you need more help than my little narcissistic blog can provide.  But, if you’re a run of the mill drunk like myself, listen up.

Step THREE.  I have been summarizing all the steps of a 12 Step Recovery programs with just one word.  Step 3 in the Alcoholics Anonymous  program reads “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”   This is typically the NUMBER ONE complaint I hear when folks tell me they want to stick their big toe in the AA wading pool.  They don’t believe in God or they don’t really like God, or they are sick and tired of God, or they don’t want God anywhere near their sobriety, and I can understand all of this.  And I’ve found that the “as we understood him” caveat doesn’t help folks that, well, don’t understand Him. The perceived God of my childhood isn’t the same God of my adult life so I get  that people get prickly when the Big Guy in the Sky is mentioned. I think it’s kinda like Obamacare. If they had just called it something else, maybe it would’ve gone over better, you know?  The premise was a good one, it’s just the name didn’t do it any favors. Maybe it’s the preconceived notion of the word “GOD” that gives everyone the heebie jeebies?

I like to summarize Step 3 with one word: Faith. You don’t have to believe in God – in fact, if you do struggle with the God thing  you can absolutely substitute the words “power greater than ourselves.”  Alcoholics only have to acknowledge that they need and are going to willingly accept help.  WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT HELP.  That’s a big one so that’s why I went ALL CAPS on your ass there. You can also use “higher power” and that’s a little more ambiguous and enigmatic. If you experience gratitude, you indeed possess a whispery thread of a higher power, for if you are grateful, you acknowledge that there is something out of your control and larger than you in a universal sense in which to thank for your fortituitous circumstance, or blessing, or what have you.  And no, I have not been smoking weed this morning no matter how you read or interpret that sentence.  I’ve tried to edit it but I’m going to just leave it there and stand by it.

Let me also interject here that I have also come across some folks that do NOT want to accept that they were powerless against their addictions. They want to RECLAIM that power in their recovery  – but I also think that in my case, declaring the powerlessness is WHAT GAVE ME POWER, if that makes things even more confusing for you.  Alcoholism had to bring me to my knees, figuratively, AND somewhat literally, especially if you count the ONE AND ONLY time I’ve ever had an enema – but this is not the time or the place for that shit, literally.  Someone in a meeting recently said that alcoholics are much like boxers. We stay in the ring and get the ever loving shit beaten out of us, repeatedly, yet as the referee starts to count us out, we continue to rise, bloody and beaten and ready to fight yet again because THIS TIME we’ll win, we’re sure.  It’ll be different this time, right!?!  This is The Drunkards equivalent of saying “it’ll be different when they are OUR kids”, as young would-be parents will speculate and ultimately lie to themselves.  I laughed out loud when the guy that shared this ended his simile with “I’ve figured out the trick of this alcoholism thing . . . just STAY DOWN“.

Faith can be the quiet belief way down deep in yourself that understands that this isn’t who you are, and this is NOT who you are supposed to be.  Often we drunks lose faith in ourselves and our worthiness of recovery.  Faith can be the reticent hope that things will get better if you are willing to accept help.  A belief deep in your soul that has been covered up with deceit, lies and shame.  It takes a faith to “unbecome” something, trust me, but you can do it. Sometimes the path through alcoholism can lead you to discover your true self, and other times, it will remind you of who you once were.  Whatever your story is, it matters. As do you.

Have faith. Remember, without the dark we’d never see the stars.

 

I see eleven sides to everything and not just when I’m drunk.

Oh for fuck’s sake, y’all. So much is swirling in my head and being a grown up just bites sometimes. I hate this adulting thing. This week has (already) been one of uncertainty, financial douchery, and temporary employment ennui.

My recovery process has been amazing, don’t get me wrong – I have learned so much in the last 949 days.  Seriously, I think anyone could benefit from working a 12 step program, addict or no. The funny thing is, when I learn something that I feel is life changing and substantial, I always think to myself, “boy, won’t it be awesome when I can use this knowledge in real life? I can hardly wait until a situation presents itself and I can choose to react like __________.” You can insert whatever you like here; “a mature adult” or  “a calm and rational grown-up” or my personal fave, “like I have some fucking home training and common sense and don’t need to go all fetal in the corner somewhere because I don’t know what the hell to do and I’m terrified”. I’m paraphrasing, of course.

Except that IT IS NOT awesome when it happens and you have to ‘use your tools’.  My first reaction is NOT to pause and breathe, I’ll tell you THAT. My initial reaction is to pour about 13 ounces of straight vodka into a glass and to SIT AND HOLD THE FUCK UP FOR A MINUTE before my entire head pops off its stem and lazily rolls away from my body while it, in turn, implodes. I hate change. I hate limbo. I hate grey, I prefer black and white.  But nooo…my whole life right now is an ever-changing mass of complicated limbo while languishing in various unsavory shades of grey. What’s a drunk  gal to do?

Be decisive.  Right or wrong, make a decision. The highway of life is paved with flat squirrels that couldn’t make a decision – Unknown

Well, this is where I have to pull out the resources I’ve been taught. My first reaction is ALWAYS fear, in one form or another. Fear of change, or fear of failure. Fear of manipulation, or loss of control. And here’s the thing about that; I’m not in control of much. I am merely in control of myself, and my choices and responsibilities. There’s amazing freedom in relinquishing control, and believe me, I cannot even believe I’ve just typed those words.

Hear me out:

It’s true. I have learned (and am still actively learning) the process by which you recognize your lack of control and that, my friends, is a gift, if you can choose to look at it that way. Once I realize this, some of the fear abates.  I am NOT in control of whether or not these folks offer me a permanent position. I am NOT in control of the abysmal traffic getting to and from this hellhole. I AM in control of negotiating a salary if said job is offered to me. I do not have to accept said job if I feel it isn’t a good fit for me. Guilt, as a dear and wise friend reminded me yesterday, is a useless emotion. I have managed to fret over a circumstance that may or may not arise, for the last couple of days.  This is very counter-productive to my time and mental stability, yet I find myself obsessing (once again) over and over at EVERY possible scenario and how it will inevitably end in certain disaster, or with me hanging limply from a ceiling fan. I realize that I get my needle stuck on this point (see below post) but it bears repeating.  Recently I’ve heard it said that if you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, you’re probably holding it.  THIS IS SO MY LIFE YOU GUYS.

Ever thought you might land a job you don’t want? What would it take to relinquish your creative soul to the corporate devil? Big salary? Benefits? Desperation? Sometimes we have to do what’s necessary and that’s the part of adulting that seems to stick in my craw. Let me say here that nothing I’m referring in this post is a life or death decision, and I do tend to have a penchant for the dramatic, of course, BUT, having said that – I did mention that part of the purpose of this blog is to help me LIVE SOBER and living sober often requires making decisions and not flipping the F out. Every. Single. Time.

Well, I don’t know what the future holds. What I do know is that I’ve survived 100% of the shit I’ve been through so far, so really, the odds are in my favor I’ll get through this as well. Maybe that’s how I need to look at things – through my liver filter.  Through the liver filter, almost everything looks rosier because almost everything is better than dying from liver failure. . . amirite?!?

How do you process your decisions?  Do you freak out initially and weigh your options? Do you go with your gut reaction?  Do you plunge in wholeheartedly and see where it takes you? Do you follow your heart or listen to your head? Do you just crawl under the covers with some peanut butter cups and wait for an epiphany because I totally think that’s going to be my strategy going forward.

In a onesie.

Y’all can comment down below – all feedback appreciated-you do NOT have to have an account to do so and can even just type in your name and comment and hit enter and no one is the wiser. JUST SAYIN’.