You’re my obsession

I get asked quite a bit about what I’m most grateful for in sobriety and that can be a difficult question. Most folks I know are very thankful for their recovery and protect it fiercely and most of us have SO MANY perks in sobriety that we can hardly narrow them down. From small things, like always remembering where your car is parked, to bigger things, like not telling your Trump supporting Aunt to shove a pine-tarred dildo up her ass on Facebook. There is SO MUCH.

I could seriously go on for hours about how well I sleep and how terrific I feel physically and yada yada yada, but for now I’d like to expound upon one such affliction that often plagues the drunk and addicted.

OBSESSION.

We alcoholics are widely known to have a “thinking” problem and not just a drinking problem. I’m no different. The obsession that came with my alcoholism was absolutely stunning and terrifying at the same time. In hindsight I sometimes wonder that if I’d just focused all that effort and energy into something productive and worthwhile I may have stumbled upon a cure for Cancer or invented Alexa.  That’s how much time I spent thinking about booze. However, it was a slow progression.  In the beginning I would bemusedly sit at my desk at 4:30 pm and think longingly of a frosty martini waiting for me that evening when I arrived home. A treat for surviving such a mundane day. Or a challenging day. Or a great day! It didn’t matter, the martini was still waiting, like an old friend or an obedient dog. Always ready to comfort me and help me relax.

It didn’t take long for it to sink in deeper than just a passing notion. You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all been on our way somewhere and suddenly we’ve forgotten if we’ve left on a iron or a hose perhaps, or a lit candle in the living room. It is ALL YOU CAN THINK ABOUT until you remedy the situation and that is truly what alcohol became to me; a grand obsession. Would I have enough? Will the party have vodka? What if it’s beer and wine only? I’ll have to pack a damn flask. Will I have time to get a buzz on before the game starts? Can I drink a full glass of whiskey before the dinner party commences?  I HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING FOR GOD’S SAKE I CANNOT GO IN TO (insert really any situation here) UNLUBRICATED. ARE YOU INSANE?!?

And so it went and let me tell all of you aliens out there that can drink responsibly and in moderation; IT WAS EXHAUSTING. It became not just a preoccupation, but almost a demonic fixation. It was draining mentally and down in the deep recesses of rationale I knew it wasn’t a favorable complex. I wasn’t stupid, I knew it was going to end badly, yet I didn’t care. I didn’t want to die, of course, but I didn’t really want to live, either. I wasn’t blatantly ignorant, just a raging alcoholic. I know the lines are nebulous at times, but there IS a difference. We bend reality to suit our addiction or maybe it’s the other way around. Someone once said, “we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as WE ARE.”

Of course it got worse. I would bargain with myself over day to day chores in order to reward myself with a cocktail. I moved happy hour up to 3pm instead of 5pm when I was unemployed. Booze ran my schedule and trust me, it’s no way to live, if “live” is even an accurate term. When I say booze owned me, I mean it, it OWNED me. Friends would ask me out to social functions and I would come up with lie after ridiculous lie why I couldn’t join them and the somber truth was that I couldn’t fathom being out in the world without my bottle by my side and let’s face it, finding a purse that holds a two liter of potato juice is a fashion challenge. And guys, if I did get caught out in the bright headlights of sobriety I was not happy about it. I would actually get physically restless and nervous about where my next drink was coming from. Very quickly I transitioned from someone who drank to feel differently to someone who drank to feel normal and that is when the darkness began to sink its talons into what used to be me.

From that day forward every day became about when I could start drinking and where I would get my booze and anything that fell in-between had to surrender to that shameful schedule. The social butterfly quickly retreated into a cocoon and we all know where that landed me – into a web of isolation and lies, and ultimately, into liver failure.

Now I am no longer shackled to that weighty and oppressive ball and chain. Alcohol had me in it’s death grip and it took over two decades for me to realize that the grip was becoming a noose and if I kept on that schedule, I’d eventually take my own life. The freedom that comes with sobriety is nothing short of exhilarating. A lot of newcomers to sobriety note with delight on how much extra time they seem to have now and it’s absolutely true. It’s amazing what you can accomplish and appreciate when you’re not blacking out, lying to yourself, or avoiding life on life’s terms, for starters. Again, I’m not saying it is easy, it’s sure as hell not.

But it’s so very, very worthwhile.

 

 

Who are you?

One of the laments I hear amongst the newly sober is that they are concerned about losing part of their “identity” by becoming a  non-drinker. Drinking is just part of who they are, they say. Oh, I get it, I do.

If you’d have asked me a few years ago to sum myself up in a few sentences I’m quite sure “lover of all things martini” may have come up in the second sentence. When drinking has been part of your life as long as it has mine, well then. . . it IS part of your identity, sure.  It’s partly the truth and it’s partly your reputation but don’t discount the huge role it plays in your interactions with others. I was the life of the party, until I became the laugh of the party. . . and not in a good way.

It was definitely a big part of me though, and my persona. That wild gal, that bawdy uproarious chick that appeared to be so self confident, she and I were one for many years and it was terrifying to think of life beyond my liquid courage. Booze cured any social anxiety that I had. I was less nervous and awkward and more at ease. I could mix and mingle with the best of them and even though I’ve never been a shy person, I’ve been made to feel inadequate and been less than comfortable in many social situations. Booze took care of all of that, thank ya very much. Instant comedian, just add vodka!

Who would I be without it? Dull, for sure I thought. An exposed fraud perhaps? A sniveling and trembling graceless idiot? Yes, definitely. I will never be the same, I fearfully speculated.

Taking away the element of alcohol was a crippling thought. It was my defense, my armor. . . my SHIELD. The thought of going “dry” into just about any adult social situation (and some with children, let’s be honest) was enough to throw me into hyperventilation. Until I just did it.

That’s right. I just had to do it. And you know what? It was something I discovered at one such gathering that helped me to see things differently. My husband was speaking to a mutual friend of ours at a dinner party and I walked through the room at just the right moment and overheard him talking about me with his usual candor.

“Yes, she’s doing great and you know what? She’s funnier than ever. She is! In fact, I’d say she’s even more hilarious because she’s just so sharp now.  Man, I swear, she doesn’t miss a beat. Her wit and observations are even more astute, if you can imagine that.”

And just like everything else in my life, I saw myself a bit clearer than before.* Booze hadn’t made me smarter or funnier, or exceptional in any way. I realized then that by getting sober I had in fact unknowingly become a better version of myself. No, I certainly wasn’t the same gal anymore, and I’m truly thankful for that.

I’m certain not everyone likes this gal, but I sure do. And so do the people that matter most to me and of course, in the end, they’re all that matter.

 

*Let me be clear,  I’m no Gilda Radner or anything, it’s just occasionally he thinks I’m amusing and I sleep with him so he mostly has to say nice things.

Well, the cat is out of the Crown Royal bag now.

Admitting you’re an alcoholic to yourself is never fun, but it’s super unfunny when you have to tell someone outside of your inner circle. It’s even more awkward when it’s just discovered organically.

Last summer I was a temp and had just gotten hired full time at a new job and naturally I was thrilled as it had been a long haul in between jobs because of my black shiny swollen liver trying to shoot out of my ass  illness.

I go to various support meetings and one of them is an LGBT meeting that I adore. When I asked if it was okay if I attended such meetings, being straight and all, I was delighted when they replied that as long as I had the desire to stop drinking I was welcome there and homosexuality was totally optional.  Suh-weet.

So in the spirit of such things, the annual Gay Pride festival rolled around and I volunteered to work in a recovery booth for said support group. As I was sitting there taking in all the sights and sweating like a virgin at a prison rodeo, I noticed what would be my NEW boss walking towards me, holding hands with another woman. It IS gay pride, after all. I thought nothing of it.

I sprang from behind the collapsable table and jumped in front of them.

Me: “Hey guys! How’s it going?!”

My New Boss: *stammering* “Ummm…great! You?

I proceed to make cheesy small talk with her and her friend and tried to appear confident and capable of doing a fine job in my new role at her company. Finally, she got up the nerve to ask me THE QUESTION.

MNB:  *glancing around at the festivities surrounding us*  “I thought you had a husband? And kids?!?”.

Me:  “Yeah, I do! I’m married and I have two stepdaughters”.  I couldn’t figure out why in the world she was asking me about my family. Seriously, you guys…I’m that stupid.

And then, like a 2 x 4 to the skull, it finally hit me. OMG.

Me: *laughing and not quite thinking things through* “OH! I’m not gay, I’m an alcoholic“! I proceeded to point to the recovery booth I had previously been manning.

*crickets*

Now here one could say EVERYTHING was out of the closet and figuratively on the table. I did NOT mean to “out” myself to my new employer, certainly…it just happened. It flew out of my mouth like sometimes often things do.

To her credit she never mentioned our accidental rendezvous the following Monday and never told any of our coworkers to my knowledge. Over time as we worked together and learned more about each other we had some awesome private jokes and winks here and there and only once she mentioned that Saturday morning.  We laughed about the awkwardness of that day and she offered, “I guess we both felt we had something to hide”.

I didn’t agree and told her so.  I told her you couldn’t compare being gay to being an alcoholic. Being gay is part of who you are and she shouldn’t ever be ashamed, in my opinion. Now I look back on that exchange and I feel somewhat differently. She had felt shame for being gay. She had hidden it at times in her life. She also knew that it’s part of who she is, like her DNA or fingerprints.

Just like my alcoholism. It’s part of me, but not all of me. And that will never change, like my DNA or fingerprints. And if I’m being totally honest, my unbridled love of the show “Hoarders”.

Drop and give me Zen.

So I’ve upped my yoga game lately as it just seems like a good proactive thing to do towards my wellbeing.  I mean, we’re living in uncertain times and I’ll take my serenity where and when I can, right?

I’ve been trying different studios in town, checking out teachers of all specialties and have sampled different types of yoga such as vinyasa flow and restorative yoga.  Not hot yoga. I sweat like a whore in church during regular yoga, thankyaverymuch.

Anyway, in my class the other morning there were four men in attendance and I gotta tell ya, it threw me off.  It shouldn’t have, but it did.  I’m all about the guys getting in on the action and of course yoga is for everybody but it shifted the dynamic of the class for me and I’d like to think I’m pretty unflappable.  I’ve had dudes in classes before, but never populating almost half of the group.

OMG YOU GUYS did I accidentally take “BRO-GA” or something?!?   Does this mean I have to start wearing wife-beaters, droopy nylon shorts, and Axe body spray?

I don’t appear to be getting any better.  Today in class we had to get into some pose where you were balanced (ideally) on one foot and crossed your leg over your knee and behind said leg and then you took your arms out and up towards the sky and I swear to you I have had finer and more sharpened balance at a DUI checkpoint.  I looked like I was fighting back a seizure.

And for the finale today I had to bend backwards over some sort of bolster with my knees tucked under my weight and my belly and boobs bowed up towards the heavens in some sort of collarbone/chest stretch that I will call “Braveheart” from here on out because all I wanted to do while in this pose was vomit bellow “FREEEEEEEEDOM!!!” like at the end of the movie when they remove Mel Gibson’s entrails. I reminded myself that back in my drinking days I could’ve passed out like this ON A FENCE without difficulty.

Now they have Acro yoga where you and someone else attempt to perform some Cirque de Soliel shit without a net or an Ambulance nearby.  They also have these yoga inversion swings with ropes and crap.  Like I’m getting in one of those without a safety word and dinner first.  

Man, how I miss the days when it used to be enough just to survive a yoga class without an audible fart.

 

Fun Foto Friday!

Well, now.

I have been told before that I put the “ass” in “class” and I think this photo really exudes class, don’t you?   I mean, we’ve all been forcibly removed from a bar, right?  RIGHT?!?!  OH COME ON PEOPLE.

I’ve often said that the two saddest words in the english language were “last call”. The guy up there hauling ass (mine) is Buster.  You may know Buster.  He is world reknowned and for good reason. Buster is as old skool and kick ass of a bartender as I’ve ever seen and don’t even get me started on all I’ve seen.  Buster remembers your drink even if it’s been over a year. I’ve seen Buster fly over the bar like a redneck Jackie Chan to bust up a barroom brawl more times than I can count.  Buster has been a bartender his entire life and as luck would have it, I have been a drinker my whole life so it’s really been a solid symbiotic friendship.

He also coined the idiom, “if you don’t know what it is, poke it with a stick” and I truly think that is a mantra for the ages.   We could sell t-shirts.

Anyway, I’m not being forcibly removed in this picture but that’s about all I remember about it.  My favorite thing about this photo is that it could have been ANY night.  I don’t recall it being a special occasion or anything remarkable at all.  In fact, I don’t recognize any of those folks in the foreground but they appear wise enough, or at the very least they’re sober enough to duck.  Yes, this could have been just a regular Tuesday after work as often I didn’t limit MY happy to one hour.

Bottoms up!  Literally.

 

Peanut or plain?

I bought a new purse today at lunch.  Just a basic hippie-boho-looking-faux-leather-every day bag.

Salesgirl:  I unpacked these purses yesterday, they are so cool.

Me:  I love it!  I especially like this little semi-hidden pocket.  I can smuggle in contraband!

Salesgirl:  Contraband?

Me:  Yeah,  you know…like little bottles of booze and some weed or something.  Maybe a crack rock or two?!

Salesgirl:  *visibly concerned*  Or like maybe candy at the movie theatre?!?

Me:  YES OF COURSE THAT IS TOTALLY WHAT I MEANT TO SAY,  M&M’s AND SHIT.  (suddenly I’m shouting)

Salesgirl:  This is awkward.

Me:  YES IT IS.  (still shouting)

Social Disgraces

So recently I attended a wedding of a dear friend of mine and y’all, it was FAN-CY.  As in, right out of Pinterest pretty, if you know what I mean. So very elegant. I wore an appropriate black dress with a funky statement necklace but still felt like the proverbial turd in the punchbowl.

After the wedding my friends and I were standing in line at the bar to grab some pre-dinner cocktails. Or in my case, a big glass of fizzy shit that will have to make do. Suddenly a gal in front of us turned around and took one look at me and exclaimed “I guess I don’t gotta ask YOU if you’re having a drink!?!”  and she threw her head back and laughed heartily. I tittered nervously trying to figure out what she could mean.  I deduced two options. 1.  Someone told her I’ve hung up my spurs and she’s busting my chops or, 2. She is insinuating that OF COURSE I’LL HAVE A DRINK, IT’S OPEN BAR, DAMMIT.

I quickly glance at my cohorts and see the horror on their faces and quickly ascertain that it is not #1.  You see, evidently this lady has drank with me before.

She proceeds to rattle off the highlights of an alleged camping trip that we’d shared and as she dove into the details I realized she was indeed correct. I was the gal in the story, full stop. I have a few “signature” moves one could say. A fail-safe anecdote, a couple bawdy jokes and a trick involving downing a shot of Jack Daniel’s without the use of my hands. It was me that she remembered all right. I wish I could’ve said the same.

I listened to her with what I hoped came across as good cheer and politely told her that I’m not as “colorful” as I used to be. I found a bathroom later in the evening and as I was washing my hands my eyes met my own gaze in the mirror. I chuckled to myself thinking about the vast mileage between the girl in her recollection and the gal in my reflection.

I laughed again, and rejoined the party. I mean, what do I expect? I quit drinking and the world subsequently gets amnesia? If only. I imagine much of my journey to come will involve me atoning for my previous behavior.  In this case I was fortunate her memories were innocuous and mostly funny and didn’t involve me sleeping with her husband.

That reminds me, I have a baby shower coming up.