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’.

So while I’m still basking in the glow that was my golden jubilee (I’m told this is what some trendy gay men call their 50th birthday extravaganzas and I am so down with that) and subsequent trip to Arizona where my LIFE WAS ALTERED forever with that magical otherwordly experience, I just realized that my beloved birthday month is almost at its end, and I had such lofty aspirations to cover one recovery step per each calendar month on my new stinkin’ sobriety blog. *oops*

For as organized as I am, it baffles me that shit like this can still sneak up on me. In my defense, though, I’ve been incredibly busy attempting to meditate and do yoga and eat bark or things that taste like it. . . and, OH YEAH, figuring out my plan for the rest of my life on this earth. It’s been time-consuming, you guys.

I know, I know. . . one day at a time, hippie chick.  I KNOW. But when you when you’re excited about your new life you want everything to begin RIGHT THIS SECOND, you know?

So, I’ll put my spiritual/physical/mental transformation on hold for a sec and we’ll switch gears a little bit here and talk about HOPE.

Did I get your attention?  Hope. It’s a big one, and sometimes, not so easy to find. Especially these days, it would seem.

If you’ve seen the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, then you know about hope. Red tells Andy to forget about hope while in the confines of the prison, that inside, hope is a dangerous thing. Andy disagrees, he feels that hope is the best of things, the only thing he can hold onto inside the horror of the prison walls.

It’s not a stretch to compare alcoholism to prison. By all means, it IS a prison, except that you hold the lock AND the key. I know you want to throw up in your mouth a little bit after reading that, because I do too – but I’m preaching the truth, Ruth. You have to believe in hope. Do you believe recovery is possible?  In the sophisticated words of Russell Brand, if you’re metaphorically fucked, “could you be un-fucked?” Well, then, there’s hope.

“Hope begins in the dark, that stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

Anne Lamott

Step one begins with defeat, despair, and honesty. Or, in my case, liver failure. You don’t get much traction with dishonesty when your organs are shutting down. Step one was a breeze in that regard. Step two though, is where we find ourselves believing in hope, even if we don’t necessarily believe in ourselves, or in our worthiness of recovery. Read that again if you have to. I don’t care who you are, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. . . you ARE worthy of recovery.

We can’t move forward without hope. It is necessary to our human existence. Hope isn’t just wishful thinking, or even optimism. Optimism is an attitude, whereas hope, a belief.  A belief that things will get better and that you have a desire to make it so. Where there is hope, there is a potential for healing. The irony is when folks are brought to their knees by alcoholism, hope is usually unfathomable. They can’t imagine a life with or without alcohol. It’s a living hell, if you want to call that living. 

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, you have to WANT it. Some call this “the gift of desperation”, where you are so beaten down by your drinking that you’ll go to any lengths to stop the misery. When your pain outweighs your fear of change, you’ll know. For some lucky folks, all it takes is one “close call”, or possibly a DUI. Others need to be hit directly in the face with a 2×4, perhaps with some crooked rusty nails jutting out, to really get the gist of things. This latter category is where I fit. Some literally call this making the choice between life or death, and that was certainly the case for me. I chose life, and on the days I didn’t, life chose me. I’m still not completely sure why. I hesitate to call it luck as I was recently taught that luck, as a concept, is inaccurate.  I was informed of this in the desert by an old cowboy that had absolutely no time for my antics.  I’ll have to overthink that shit later and stay on point, here.

If you’re teetering, let me give you this push. If you can’t dig down deep enough to rustle up some minuscule amount of hope, talk to someone in recovery. Go to a meeting. Listen to other alcoholics. They’ll give you some of their hope until you can find some of your own, I promise. No matter how shame or pain (or both) based your identity has been, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

There’s hope.

 

Where is My Mind?

As mentioned below I recently returned from an unbelievable trip with my three best friends.  I haven’t had a “real” vacation in years and certainly not since I’ve been sober, so we were all optimistic but somewhat apprehensive on how things would go. To put it simply, you wouldn’t have pegged me as a “spa and/or resort kinda gal” in my drinking days. No way.  Now, in trips past, I’ve been all about drinking straight vodka in the direct sun by a pool somewhere while blasting the Foo Fighters from my earbuds. That said, I would usually pass out BEFORE happy hour and subsequently miss dinner. I wasn’t one to spend money on facials, massages and manicures or luxuries like that. No, my hard earned money went to very important things like SKYY vodka and bags of cool ranch Doritos.

It was not without expert planning how this trip evolved. A few years ago this excursion would have probably just pissed me off and I would have found myself drunk and dehydrated in the Arizona desert trying to make homemade gin out of a Juniper bush.  Luckily, that was not the case this trip. This adventure was celebratory on many levels.  It was the first time in 1.5 years that the four douchebags had been reunited, and that right there is cause for much rejoicing. It was also my 50th birthday, which was monumental to me, obviously, but also to my best friends since they *almost* had to  to bury me in 2015.

I have a lot of observations and truths to process regarding this trip so I expect you’ll read more about it to come, as it was just too magical to properly convey in one post. There were levels to the awesomeness, if you can believe that.  The FIRST and foremost thing I want to mention is that this is the FIRST vacation I’ve ever taken where I returned home feeling rejuvenated and ALIVE and restored. Rested and whole.  Like only a weekend with your best girlfriends can do for you, but add in a FABULOUS resort that focuses on mindfulness, wellness and balance and you have a mind-blowing experience for a recovering drunk, lemme tell ya.  For decades my vacations left me needing a vacation because I would return home limping, bruised, hungover, and penniless.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  And you know, that’s NOT to say I didn’t enjoy myself, of course, but I’ve never experienced a restful vacation.  Sometimes you just have to get day drunk and skip obnoxiously with your (now) dead friend Ben through the Chelsea district in New York City and do some blow in a porta-potty with an African American drag queen.  AS YOU DO.

One of the features of this resort were various classes of all sorts that you could add to your package.  All types of yoga, a fitness boot camp, a 7am stretch class, meditation, photography, water aerobics, cooking, horse-back riding, zip-lining, and much, much more. I was giddy with choices.  And moreover, they were good choices.  There was no class that taught you how to shoot 6 ounces of Fireball and take off your bra without removing your shirt, for example.

In recovery there is much ado about meditation, so I decided to check it out.

OMG.

It’s hard. And weird. And frustrating. AND FABULOUS.

The instructor was a mid-thirties gal who mentioned she had been meditating since she was eleven.  SERIOUSLY!??  I’m fucking old.  My parents gave me lawn darts and some Pringles when I was eleven and told me to get lost.   She was warm, supportive and gentle in her guidance. As we settled in to begin, she asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves and our intention for our practice. Awhile back I would have said that my intention was not to fart and/or doze off and where is the damn bar because surely to god I could sit here and do nothing with a Mimosa in my hand, amirite?

As folks started introducing themselves I listened and thought about my own introduction. As I thought about telling the real truth about my intention, my heartbeat began to speed up. I got sweaty and started pittin’ out  as the voices crept closer to my own seat. You know that expression, “speak your truth even if your voice shakes?”  Well, THAT.  I decided to be authentic and truthful and let my voice shake.  And shake it did.

“My name is Jenny and I’m an alcoholic. I realize this is the wrong meeting for that. (nervous laughter) I am in recovery and it’s been suggested to me to try meditation, so. . . here I am.”

The room was dead silent except for my heart which was about to thunder out of my chest. The instructor smiled at me warmly and said, “we support you.”  I didn’t dare meet the gaze of any of the other participants out of sheer terror and if I’m honest, shame, but as soon as the words came out of my mouth, their power disappeared.     

We proceeded to be guided in meditation for the next 30 minutes.  Sometimes it worked and I found my inner essence in the stillness. The other half of the time my face itched, my stomach growled, and I couldn’t stop thinking about breakfast and what I hoped were chocolate chip muffins and not some carob bullshit. I’ve heard it said that “prayer is when you speak to God, but meditation is when God speaks to you.”  I’m not sure God actually spoke with me but I do know that I achieved enough snippets of peace and serenity to pursue it again, now that I’ve returned home. Even the most experienced meditators fall victim to distractions and diversions. Be kind to yourself, they say.  Gently guide your thoughts back to your breath. Start again.

And repeat.

I don’t know what will come of it, but I’m open to the possibilities, and to me, that’s the important part. As a drunk, I was unrelenting in my beliefs and reluctant to even entertain other viewpoints or perspectives. How ridiculous is this, living in your own intolerant self-absorbed bubble? It’s not who I am. And here’s the thing; I’m not completely sure WHO I am, but I’m slowly finding out and while it’s not always favorable, I know it’s worthwhile. Isn’t that why we’re here?  To share this human experience and become the best version of ourselves that we can be?  To be of service to others and help where we can? To be authentic and humble and honest with ourselves?

Life on life’s terms. That’s what we have, folks. There’s always going to be a shitty carpool, a troublesome co-worker, a pesky Mother-in-Law, unpaid bills and adult prone acne that will upset us and rock us off balance. Getting that balance back is the challenge.

I’m still here, I’m sober, and this time, I mean it.

Challenge accepted, Universe.

*the video above in an artistic depiction of one of my favorite songs by The Pixies, aptly titled “Where is my Mind?”  Oddly enough this song has popped up in a somewhat reoccurring fashion these last couple of weeks. A sign, perhaps?  I don’t know.  BUT I’M OPEN TO IT DAMMIT.

Next time I’ll be more specific.

I’m going to make Cortez wear a helmet, naturally.

For me, one of the challenges of early sobriety was finding other things that I enjoy doing besides getting black-out drunk.  When you take booze out of the equation, you suddenly find yourself with a LOT of time on your hands – at least I did. Now, there were a bunch of activities and/or hobbies I enjoyed WHILE drinking that didn’t really go together well.  Like reading. I cannot tell you how many times I have read the first paragraph of The Girl on the Train. Every single time I would pass out or immediately forget what I had read, and then would attempt to re-read it, yet again. I don’t think she ever got ON the damn train in the scope of my “reading”.* Now,  I also enjoy knitting, as I’ve mentioned before, but often drinking + knitting = my throwing a tangled skein of yard across the living room in drunken frustration and blaming it on Law and Order SVU and not the liter of vodka that preceded my attempt at being crafty in the first place.

Now, my husband enjoys his sports ball, of course, and he’s an avid reader himself. We both enjoy hiking but rarely find ourselves with the time or energy to hit the trails on the weekends these days, if the weather even cooperates.  We were a boozy couple so that factored in to a lot of our free time activities, before. A few weeks ago, while we were making dinner, I got a wee bit dramatic and  started complaining about the lack of time we spend together. I had become frightened that besides happy hour, maybe we didn’t have much in common after all. Of course this is grand hyperbole on my part, but it is what it is. We drunks like to obsess and spin and repeat things in our heads and make them even more miserable and apocalyptic, if at all possible. I could envision us as an elderly couple at our breakfast table years from now, silently digesting our morning meal with literally nothing left to say to each other. The prospect terrified me.

He listened to my concerns, and immediately reassured me that I’ll outlive him by decades anyway, so really, I shouldn’t fret. While that made me feel a little better, I still felt uncertain. Fast forward to my fiftieth birthday, last week. We were getting ready to go to dinner and my husband brought out some gorgeous flowers and a card. As I opened my card, I could tell he was visibly nervous. Now, let me interject here that my sweet husband swept me away last weekend for a getaway in the mountains that included a hot tub in our room and a Yacht Rock cover band so I had already HAD a wonderful birthday, for sure. I glanced up at him and smiled. I was 100% sure that envelope held another ridiculous surprise, I mean, come on, it IS my 50th birthday.

Well, I was correct. It was indeed a surprise, and indeed it was ridiculous.

What that envelope contained was thus: a sweet card and heartfelt written note from my husband that put a lump in my throat as I read it, a 3-hour cooking class featuring tamales, and (separately) a course in CURLING.  YES, CURLING.  You know, that sport happening RIGHT NOW in the Olympics that no one knows anything about?  That shuffleboard-on-ice shit?

Yes, that shuffleboard on ice shit. Now, these are for us as a couple, not just myself alone, so that makes it even more outlandish. My husband often refers to himself as The Great Indoorsman and you could say his athletic days are mostly behind him. I enjoy recreation but we are typically NOT that couple.  You know that couple. The couple that strolls around your neighborhood holding hands? Not us. That couple that jogs together in matching North Face jackets and heads for a kale smoothie after?  NOT US. The neighbors that get drunk and blast Neil Diamond while shooting off a BB gun in the back yard in their pajamas? THIS IS US.

When the shock and confusion of it all faded away, I saw my presents for what they were; the gifts of a sweet husband only wanting to make his wife happy. A husband who is trying to listen and do the next right thing. A man that is willing to risk looking like a circus bear on ice, just for me.  I also see that they are somewhat self-serving, I mean, the man LOVES his tamales.

I know nothing about Curling. Well, not yet anyway. So stay tuned and give me a few weeks and I promise to report back, hopefully with pictures. Probably from the local emergency room. What I do know is that I have a guy at home that is trying. And so am I.  And that, my friends, is totally worth sobering up for.

 

*When I finally did complete reading The Girl on the Train post sobriety, I found it amusing and somewhat ironic that the Girl, herself, was an alcoholic. Figures.

All you knit is love

I’ve been working on a haphazard knitting project for some time now. They call this type of project a “stash-buster” because it’s the kind of design that very literally ties up loose ends.  You take a bunch of your leftover yarn from different blankets, hats, cowls or mittens and you knit them all together patchwork style for a unique scarf or throw.  My Grandmother Esther would have been so all about this because that woman didn’t waste an ounce of anything, trust me.          Anyway, I liked the idea of a colorful mis-matched snuggly scarf and I’m a mis-matched kind of gal as you may have guessed, so it was a perfect activity for me.

Anyway, I had eleven different types of yarn that varied in color and texture and I knitted them together just as they came to me, without a vision, one at a time.  I didn’t pay any attention to how the colors flowed, but I used everything from variegated earth tones to even a bright neon orange that I never could match to anything.  That’s part of the fun – weaving all these opposing colors and thicknesses together while connecting them to the next skein of errant and wild tendrils of yarn.

I took it to my yarn shop for critique and it was suggested to me to crochet a border around the scarf in order to connect each different panel to another with a consistent frame. A color that unites the scarf and all of it’s circus-like randomness.  So last Saturday night that’s exactly what I did. I had a sweet husband yelling expletives at a college basketball game so it seemed like a good time to border a scarf and create my own inner zen.

I chose a hand-dyed teal-ish colored yarn that was a gift from a friend and crocheted a border all along the scarf one crochet chain at a time. It was peaceful and dutiful work and as I worked along I couldn’t help but be hit in the face by the obvious metaphor that was literally LYING IN MY LAP.

Holy shit balls, I thought to myself. This scarf is actually my life. The new border I’m crocheting is my sobriety.  Before you ask me where I purchased the obviously stellar dank weed THAT SURELY I MUST HAVE BEEN SMOKING to get so reflective and cheesy over a sloppy scarf, stick with me for a sec.

My hands fumbled over the dark purple yarn appropriately named “grape jelly” for a friend’s baby blanket for her firstborn daughter.  I came across the ridiculously thick yarn that I learned to knit with and I swear, now it’s like knitting with rope.  My fingers lingered over the beautiful orangey-apricoty Alpaca yarn that I knitted my very FIRST scarf with, still just as soft as the day I bought it.  All of these different yarns have been stitched together as a tapestry, just like the last forty-nine years weave the scope of my life.

The contrasting and distinctive yarns reflect the different periods in my life; my optimism, and my despair.  And just like my life there are patterns.  Straight and tight stitches like typewriter keys lined in perfect order, knitted so closely together you could barely slide a safety pin through them and then there’s the wildly zigzaggy yarn that has no rhyme or reason or discernible pattern whatsoever and it’s absolutely chaotic. Then there’s a border that doesn’t truly match any of it yet somehow it binds one piece to another, and that, is my sobriety. My sobriety is the thread (or in this case, the actual yarn) that is holding this whole fucking scrappy scruffy scarf together. C’mon, I’m no Sigmund Freud but YOU SMELL WHAT I’M STEPPING IN, DON’T YOU!?! I’ve always enjoyed my metaphors but it truly did strike me as a sincere representation of my life, and more importantly, my life NOW.

We all know what happens when you pull on a loose thread, right? Well, it’s exactly like that with my sobriety. If it begins to unravel you might as well accept right now that you are going to find that scarf face down in its own vomit in a parking lot somewhere or worse yet, you’ll find that scarf holed up watching an SVU marathon drinking Fireball in dirty pajamas when it should probably be at work.

And with that, I’m off to work*, wearing my new snuggly and warm mis-matched scarf.

* I had to face reality and get a temp job whilst I wait for Oprah Winfrey to discover this little blog and offer me a book deal because really, ISN’T IT ABOUT TIME ALCOHOLISM STARTS PAYING ME BACK?!?