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.

 

The Truth Hurts

I mentioned in the post below that honesty plays a HUGE role in sobriety.  Some folks have problems being honest with themselves but that was never a setback for me. Now, I *may* have a tendency to misrepresent the truth occasionally with others, but with myself I usually shoot pretty straight. As my journal entry some posts ago clearly showed, I knew my drinking wasn’t normal pretty early in my booze career. I call it a career because while I’ve never really had one of those, my boozing is probably the most serious long term commitment I’ve honored in my life, much like a career or relationship. Shoot, if ONLY I put that kind of time and dogged persistence into my jobs over the years, heck I’d be the CEO of some bullshit by now, certainly.

Instead, here I am. An unemployed alcoholic who is turning FIFTY next month. RIGHT ON TRACK with my high-school yearbook predictions there.  Didn’t YOU want to be an unemployed alcoholic by the time you turned 50?  No?!?  I kid.  Of course this is NOT where I expected to be at this stage in my life.

But here’s the thing;  I’m so very grateful.  And I’ll skip the obvious references to my not dying  and get to the recovery part. You guys, this life is SO much easier.  Now, don’t get me wrong, sobriety doesn’t mean you’re suddenly not a dumbass .  Sobriety doesn’t mean that you’ve suddenly figured out the secret to life, the perfect chip to dip ratio, or how to effortlessly make beach waves in your hair with your flat iron.  No. You don’t suddenly mature into a graceful and understanding human being.  This may be a common misconception of the early days of sobriety.  Yes, some things WILL get way better and easier. Some things will get much worse. You know the expression, “nothing changes if nothing changes”?  PREPARE TO EMBRACE THAT SHIT.

But first?  First is honesty. First is surrender. A guy I know tells newcomers into sobriety that he wishes them much pain, and while that sounds super shitty, he’s an old timer who knows that pain gets results. We may know the truth, but we obey our pain. Pain precipitates change. So, you HAVE to be honest. YOU. HAVE. TO.  I don’t care if you’re a cutter, a pill popper, a sex addict, an over-eater or a drunk. You’re in pain. You’re filling a hole in your soul that’s empty, for whatever reason. You feel like a fake.  You’re not enough. You’re a survivor of ________. WHATEVER IT IS you have to start chipping away at that before it chips away at the core of you and believe me, it will, and it will ultimately change who you are.

“Virgins don’t take pregnancy tests”,  is a joke we use in recovery when folks wander in to test the waters. A few times a month someone will show up and remark that they don’t really think they have a drinking problem and that more than likely they’re in the wrong place but they’ll check it out because you know, they’re already here and yada, yada, yada. If you find your ass in a folding chair in some church basement in a recovery meeting for the very first time my guess is that you’re either;  1. legally motivated (DUI, jail, etc) or 2. your life has become unmanageable and you are exactly in the right place.  Believe me, I’m not making light of the fact that people are reluctant to wander into an organized group of complete strangers to share their most personal and shameful secrets that they’ve harbored internally for YEARS but I’m also here to tell you WHY IT WORKS.

Because honesty is power. Honesty is liberating. Honesty is where you have to start. And you know what? Someone else has been there.  Someone else is still there.  Someone will share their story with you in hopes that their pain can help circumvent yours. But first, you have to OWN your powerlessness. You have to admit things that are embarrassing, shameful and prideful.   Whether you’re just experienced your first blackout or your third wife just left you, you have to come to terms with your drinking and relinquish whatever control you THINK you had.

Let me also throw in here that recovery is a program for those who want it, not always those that need it. If you’re drinking is still working for you, then have at it, with my compliments. Good on ya, as they say. Me? My time was up and I’ll always be thankful (and always astonished) that I was given a second chance. So with that, I hope my mistakes can help you steer clear of the same.      I hope my pain can circumvent some of yours. I hope my story will help your story.

I’ll close with something ridiculous because that is how my brain works. There’s a scene in the movie The Usual Suspects where Chazz Palminteri’s character, Detective Agent Kujan says:

First day on the job, you know what I learned? How to spot a murderer. Let’s say you arrest three guys for the same killing. You put them all in jail overnight. The next morning, whoever’s sleeping is your man. You see, if you’re guilty, you know you’re caught, you get some rest, you let your guard down.

This is exactly how I felt when I finally got honest with myself.  Sure, there was shame and reluctance and gut-wrenching terror but you know what else there was?  RELIEF.

Believe me, I’ve never slept so well.

Let go

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

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

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

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

UH OH – SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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