Sun of a Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My blood type used to be whiskey positive

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

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

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

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

MEMORIES LIGHT THE CORNERS OF MY MIND

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

PASSING OUT SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY

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

MORE THAN A FEELING

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

OH MOSES SMELL THE ROSES

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

YOU’RE MY OBSESSION

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

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

WRAP IT UP I’LL TAKE IT

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

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

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

 

Past Imperfect

multiply life by the power of two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old habits die hard, no?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Jumping to conclusions is not actually exercise.

As a temporary worker I flit about to a lot of assignments of varying degrees.  The life of the temp is an inconsistent one and from one day to the next I sometimes have no idea where I’ll land.  Recently I found myself sitting next to an older lady as part of the reception team at a busy downtown office.

She’s mostly no-nonsense but we’ve had a friendly rapport during my tenure. She’s been at her position a very long time and I’m sure she’s suffered through many a ridiculous Temp, present company definitely included.  This close to retirement, I imagine it’s a pain in the ass to have to train and re-train dolts like myself over and over again.

Last week we were making polite conversation about our respective weekends.  When she asked me what I did over the weekend, I hesitated.  I had gone to the Pride Festival with my family, of course, but wasn’t sure if that was a detail to be shared.  Why not, you ask?  Well, that’s what I’ve asked myself repeatedly SINCE this happened, but that’s another conversation.

I decided in .03 seconds that I would, in fact, mention it.   After all, it is WHAT I DID THAT WEEKEND.  I’m not entirely sure why I was changing MY story to make HER comfortable, and I’ll just get right to the rest of the story because as you’ll see, I clearly know nothing about anything.

I told her we had gone to the Pride Festival and parade and took our children.  I told her we also bought some peaches and cream corn at the Farmer’s Market and on Sunday, we did yard work.

She listened politely and didn’t flinch at any of my weekend details.  After sharing her respective weekend activities with me, we resumed our regular morning routine at work.  I silently patted myself on the back for being authentic.  I mean, who was SHE to judge ME, right?!?  If she would like to have a conversation with me about why I support equal rights for ALL humans beings and gender equality and am anti-homophobic and believe love is love and abhor the asshat in the White House, then that is just fine by me. . . BRING IT ON, OLD SOUTHERN WOMAN.

As she got up to get her morning cup of joe, she turned and looked back at me and smiled. “I’m delighted your family attended the Pride Festival.  My grand-daughter is transgender.”

Well, the good news is that for once in my life I did NOT have to pry my foot from my mouth and/or apologize for having no filter or common sense or etiquette.  The bad news is that it turns out I’m just as judgmental and speculative as the next doofus and I have to work on my pre-concieved assumptions just like everyone else.

I’ve never been so happy to have been so wrong.

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.

 

Better pack a traveler, as my Mother would say.

So on top of all life’s other requirements these days we are also approaching an overseas trip that has been planned for almost two years and to tell you the truth, I never really thought it would happen so I didn’t allow myself to worry about it and, well, now…it’s fucking happening.   Don’t get me wrong; I am not bitching about a trip to Europe, because that would be entitled and ridiculous – I’m simply mentioning that this generous and amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity also comes with a LOT of planning and organization.

So while we’re over there being kind and benevolent ambassadors of the United States, and more importantly, the South, I’ve been trying to come up with some things to bring my relatives that are indigenous to my home state, besides moonshine and meth.  Now, it’s important to note that I have not met some of these folks, so there is a bit of a gamble on picking out appropriate and tasteful gifts.

nighty night from your second fave marsupial

A cute and cuddly stuffed possum, is a no-brainer, is it not?  Who wouldn’t want to curl up and spoon with one of these nocturnal garbage eating rascals?!?  I only wish this one could hiss and spit like they do in real life.  Oh well, bummer.  My cousin’s little girl is going to squeal in delight!

 

So, my cousin’s wife (whom I have not yet met) is from Paris so you KNOW she’s skinny and fabulous and probably wears high heels while she’s sipping champagne and eating pistachio macaroons. Since I know already she’s going to be totally fashion forward (she probably really wears a beret you guys!) naturally I thought a piece from the states would compliment her collection of haute couture.  After much thought about what her “go-to” pieces might be, I figured no-gal-about-town would be caught dead in the fashion district of London or Paris without her Confederate Flag hoodie!

I bet we are gonna be BFF right from the start, I can just feel it.  Now, my aunt and uncle do indeed have everything so they were a little bit harder to shop for.  My Mom had suggested a nice hand carved wooden wind chimes with some sandstones perhaps, to hang outside on their veranda, overlooking their vineyard.  Well, I found something EVEN BETTER.

im not so sure about the spelling either but wtf do I know about art?

Now, I know you can pay top dollar for these things in states like Arizona and New Mexico but I have never seen one indigenous to the South, so this very well *may* be a collector’s item.

 

Now my cousin is also turning 50 this year, so I can’t leave him out.  Obviously we did not grow up together but I feel pretty confident that he’s going to LOVE this t-shirt as his birthday gift. See what they did there with the BIG RACKS?!?!  SO FUCKING CLEVER. I mean, I’m no worldly expert or anything, but I feel pretty sure the Europeans love their guns and hunting (and boobs) just like we do, am I right?!?

 

I know America is getting a pretty bad rap these days and I think I may be correct in assuming most of the other countries pity us but I hope that I can go over there and be a beacon of light and hope for the residents of other countries.  We are famous here in the South for our hospitality so I’m just gonna pack that shit right up and take it across the pond, y’all!  You know, like Dolly Parton, the Patron Saint of the Smoky Mountains – I’m just going to sprinkle love and kindness all over everything, you know, like glitter.

omg i am SO ready for Europe

I thought about getting off the plane sporting a MAGA hat but I seriously don’t want to give my international family a collective stroke.

My cousin  DOES know I’ve struggled with a drinking problem the last couple thirty years of my life, so I’m sure he doesn’t know quite what to expect, but I hope to assuage his fears.  The last time he saw me it was 10 days after my liver surgery, and I don’t remember much. I recall trying to make jokes while shivering uncontrollably while also praying that my liver wouldn’t shoot out of my asshole. I mean, come on, after THAT, how bad can I possibly be?!?

Gone Girl

hopeless, idk but this quote is awesomeness regardless

So after an eight-week run I’ve been extracted from the temp job in the projects and not a MOMENT too soon because I’m pretty sure that my cohorts there thought the royal wedding had something to do with Queen Latifah.

I’ve had mixed feelings since then but I reckon it must be the right thing because I haven’t spent much time looking in the rear view mirror, if you know what I mean.  I’ve been placed at a new assignment that is located in a very swanky downtown office. I used to sit at my desk at the other job and wonder when, (not IF) a bullet was going to shatter my office window and part my hair, or alternatively, when someone would come into my office and beat my white privileged ass. Now I sit at my desk and ponder (with almost as much concern) if my foundation properly matches my neck. One could say there’s a vast difference in these two assignments.

The post before this one resonates with uncertainty, shame, guilt and regret. Sometimes it’s hard to see your way out of something when you’re so deeply entrenched within it, you know?   This is where you *attempt to* put one foot in front of the other and take a deep breath and keep. moving. forward. Last weeks relocation filled me with sadness but also with renewed hope.  I have to be willing to concede that maybe that wasn’t where I belonged. My pal Gregg says that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime and I feel the same way these days.  I think that everything falls and fits into place sometimes with a thunderous clank and often it doesn’t look like you thought it would.

The other morning my goddamn garage door wouldn’t go up and I was unable to override the system and manually lift it, so for about ten minutes I just spun around my garage frantic with my freshly ironed hair flying into my crimson-stained lips (it’s all very devil-wears-Prada at this new assignment so who knows I may roll up in a beret one of these days, #notjudging) while I ran up and down the stairs to and from my kitchen while simultaneously trying to call my boss while also trying to decide HOW THE F I AM GETTING TO WORK.

Also,  I “may” have phoned my husband (THREE time zones away – who was attending a business conference) to press the magic button somewhere from within his hotel room so that our garage door would rise unceremoniously and let me go to my assignment already.  Alas, it did not. Not only did I wake him up at 4:30 AM, but he was sweet enough to consult Mr. Google to ascertain that yes, I was indeed screwed as the proverbial spring had sprung on our garage door. So on a day of many firsts, I also took an Uber to get to work.  A SOBER Uber, you guys. It’s a different experience than say, when you’re wasted to your pits and tits on warm vodka (interspersed with shots of Jack) after singing in the rain all night at an outdoor Indigo Girls concert, for a random yet completely falsified example. Again, two VERY different comparisons, much like my temp jobs.

So, I took the damn Uber. I actually arrived BEFORE my twenty-something co-worker, which kind of cracked me up.  LOOK AT THE WOEFULLY RESPONSIBLE 50-YEAR OLD LADY, YOU GUYS!  She took an Uber to GET TO WORK, can you imagine?!?!  The Uber cost more than what I’m being paid hourly but that’s really another matter.  ANYWAY.  My point is that I bet their matte polished toes would curl up in horror at the path it’s taken me to get here and I’m NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT THE UBER you crazy millennials!

Sometimes I think life is just a series of destinations and states of beings and although the adventure is clearly sometimes in the journey, we all inevitably land where we’re supposed to.  Is that naive or childish? Maybe. I landed at work, sure.  How I got there was unconventional, I suppose.  Often things don’t go as planned, but they seem to work out anyway.

So, in summation, I will leave you with my final sage quote from the projects:

She from Africa. For real. She run with lions and shit and now you tellin’ me she afraid of my little dog?  Bitch, please.

I’m not going to miss all aspects of that assignment, but I will miss these little pearls, I’ll be honest.  There was a hum-dinger last week involving the phrase dookie-turd which now seems awfully redundant, but it was a whopper and if I can recall it “correctly” you’ll be the first to read it, I promise.

Here’s to the next adventure.  I hope you’ll join me.

 

Pity…party of one? Your table is now available.

So as the universe and life continue to duke things out in my current existence, I can’t help but try to maintain my sanity and my authenticity by NOT hurling myself into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a Hoarders marathon, but to attempt to handle the stress and anxiety with a calm and realistic approach.  One could argue that I’ve never been either; calm OR realistic.

Shit happens.  This we know.  People go bankrupt, divorces wreck families, people get cancer. There’s no shortage on hard times and I certainly don’t have the worst of the lot, by any means.  However, there are times when things are on more even keel than others.  This is not one of those times in my life.

Of course, for almost three decades my coping mechanism came in liquid form. Over the rocks, in a shot glass, or straight outta the bottle. This was always the answer when life threw me the hard questions. Knee jerk reactions of anger, blame and resentment. Lashing out at everyone and everything, save for MY part in the wreckage. Well, it would seem those days aren’t quite over. Despite my best efforts, I found myself up to my tits in a four-alarm meltdown on Friday evening over a situation that I myself, caused.  Trust me when I say I caused it because I spent the better part of the day desperately trying to find a deserving target in which to direct my anger and more importantly, the BLAME for said wreckage and only came back to my own reflection.

Shit.

So, did I put into place all the healthy and sound coping mechanisms I’ve learned in the 1,016 days I’ve been sober? No. Did I take a deep breath and focus within and press the pause button?  No. Did I immediately panic and spiral into a ferocious and tearful/fearful shame cyclone?  YES I SURE AS HELL DID.

And to show you how hard wired the ‘fight or flight” response is within me, my first reaction was to tell my husband that I was going to retreat for the weekend into a cheap bed-bug ridden hotel where I would remain under the jizz-stained faded bedspread while repeatedly telling myself what a non-deserving loser I was and why I really don’t merit any happiness or comfort in this world and all I do is screw things up. We drunks have a penchant for the dramatic at times.

I circled around and around this dark abyss and freaked out for the better part of three hours and the best most painful thing about this was it was just the SAME THING on repeat. No solution, no way out, just a endless downward spiral of shame with a dash of self-pity sprinkled in for irritating measure. NOT HELPFUL.

When I did finally press pause (with the help of my husband, my stalwart and rock-solid anchor) I was able to see the situation for what it truly was; and naturally, it was not remotely close to life-threatening.  Life on life’s terms. That’s what it was, and I had to look for my part in it and move forward from there. You know, like a GROWN-UP, dammit. We do the best we can with what we’ve got and sometimes your best is better than average, and sometimes, notsomuch.  My point here, if I have one, is that you have to forgive yourself for being a human being sometimes, warts and all. I reacted poorly, yes. I behaved selfishly and childishly and if I’d had the floorspace and flexibility to throw myself onto the ground in a fitful tantrum, I would have.

Years ago, after fucking up a situation at work, an old co-worker once remarked to me, “Hey kid, we’re not packing parachutes here, we’re all gonna walk away from this” in a hilarious comeback to my dramatic and apocalyptic reaction to my mis-step. And you know what?  He was correct. No, it doesn’t take away the feeling at the time when your chest tightens and your heart beat quickens and you feel yourself spinning out of control, but in reality, that’s the truth.  In some situations a freak-out of biblical proportions is indeed a justified reaction, but sometimes you just gotta check yourself before you wreck yo’self.

My situation is still not resolved and you know what?  That’s alright. I have no idea how things will shake out, and that’s okay too. I just have to keep doing the next right thing with the right intentions, and I know it will work out like it’s supposed to.  I know this, but sometimes while you’re on the way to the principal’s office you gotta shoot a few spitballs, am I right?

You know I can’t say anything in 500 words or less, but in summationlet me close with this; life is hard, guys – go easy on yourself.  Oh, and totally go for the Ben and Jerry’s* – it may not solve your issue, but it couldn’t hurt.

*I suggest their awesome flavor, Phish Food. Trust me, it’s waaay better than their music.