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.