Ask for what you need

Waking up this morning to a grey sky with a crisp white snowy landscape was lovely. Unemployment doesn’t seem quite so terrible and inconvenient on mornings like this.  It was peaceful to sit in fleecy leggings while sipping tea this morning pretending to be some care-free gal who knows nothing about her car insurance bill coming due in two weeks.

Reality is still out there but today is about recharging my batteries and a little bit of self-care. I’m going to update my facebook status with updates including yoga and chai lattes but in the interest of transparency, I’ll admit to an episode or six of Intervention and a bag of cheesy poofs.

Self-care has become one of those annoying buzzwords in the last few years.  Much like “go-to” and “no-brainer”, which I both abhor, yet still use.  We talk about it a lot in recovery because it’s an essential part of self-preservation and doing what’s best for you. I try to practice it in theory, but like everyone else, I still have a life to keep up with and attend to and attention to oneself is often what falls through the cracks.  Often we don’t feel we deserve it and therefore not only is it not a priority, it barely registers on our radars.

Now, self-care means more than the stereotypical bubble-bath, especially to alcoholics. There are just as many facets to self-care as their are types of gin. There’s emotional, spiritual and physical self-care, not to mention mental and social. It can be as straightforward as setting boundaries with others to simply asking for what you need.

Asking for what you need is brilliance in its simplicity. The first time this was suggested to me I almost laughed at the ironic absurdity of the approach.  Why, asking for what I need?!?  No way. Surely it’s more layered and complicated than THAT?!?!

It’s not.

A few weeks ago my family and I had a holiday obligation to honor that none of us were especially excited about, specifically me. I had obsessed and projected and mentally spiraled the outcome of this said event into such a negative spin that I almost hyperventilated.  Yes, this event that HAD NOT EVEN OCCURRED YET.  I had to sit my sweet husband down and ask for help. I shared with him my concerns and fears and even when my hot molten crazy spewed forth from my insane alcoholic obsessive brain, he got it.  I’m not saying it will always work or you will always even be heard, but isn’t it worth the effort to at least try? My husband knows my foundation of sobriety is strong, but he also knows that those waters can get choppy and rough over circumstances like this and it’s not worth fighting a wake of resentment if it can be avoided.

And you know what? It worked out just fine. It wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t miserable, and the people that mattered most were kept in focus. Isn’t it funny how the right thing to do is so often the hardest thing to do?  Why the hell is that?!  Sometimes just setting some boundaries and asking for what you need can get results that work for everyone, most importantly you. Recovery is hard work and I don’t think ANY of us need an EXTRA reason to get drunk these days.

Now this is not to propose that you get cocky and show-offy with your new found luck in communication.  For instance, after this last success I chose to exercise my newfound boundary skills by claiming to have come down with a terrible case of ANAL GLAUCOMA as an excuse to avoid a work function at my husband’s company.  “What the heck is that”? he asked.  “Oh, it’s nothing serious,” I replied. “It’s just that I can’t SEE MY ASS doing that” and then I laughed so hard I farted loudly at the same time.

It’s pretty awesome being married to me.

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.