I’m still grateful for John Cusack.

My Granny just told my Mom that her dressing looks like cat litter.OH FOR GOD’S SAKES I’M ALREADY BEHIND.  I had such high hopes to be on the ball this week with my Thanksgiving posts and coping strategies but . . . oh hells bells, y’all . . . the holidays are upon us. Again. This is a SUPER FUN time for folks that struggle with alcohol because, well . . . isn’t it obvious?  Family. Stress. Holiday guilt. Political divides. There are a zillion reasons to get twitchy around the holidays, especially if you’re trying to protect your sobriety AND your sanity. I’m by no means an expert, this is only my second year of sobriety. I’m still baby stepping and navigating the land mines myself.

I’ve had some funky Thanksgiving’s.

One of my most memorable ones was back when I was living in Hollywood.  Me and my gay mexican BFF Jerry (this was my dead friend Ben’s roommate and how I met him, incidentally.  YES, BEN AND JERRY.) decided to say fuck it and go to a bar, (surprise!) and avoid all things turkey. As we sat in the dark solace of The Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard, I noticed John Cusack sitting at the end of the bar. He’d been out riding his motorcycle. We chatted and I was even on the receiving end of a delightful Jagermeister shot. He wouldn’t let me return the favor. “I’m not drinking that piss and getting on a bike”, he said. Smart dude.

One year my live-in boyfriend of two years broke up with me promptly after our dinner with family. Was it the brussel sprouts, honey? I proceeded to get Yeltsin drunk and after a hysterical phone call my Mom came over and helped me start packing. THANKSGIVING NIGHT. Moms are awesome like that. She also “accidentally” spilled an entire bottle a wee bit of her red wine on the very light beige carpet that evening. Oops.

One year another friend of mine made me an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner. Incidentally, he has one arm. The only thing I did all day was open some evaporated milk with a old school manual can opener. Remember those? You really need two arms.

Another year a casual friend of mine invited my Mom and I to her house for Thanksgiving and due to some plumbing problems she had all of our dishes and prep work in her bathroom and was using her tub as the “sink”. It wasn’t so much disconcerting as it was vomit inducing. I remember bringing jello shots as my side dish. I can’t even make this up.

Reminiscing about these Thanksgivings makes me realize just how much things have changed. How this path that I’ve chosen or that chose me has led me here. This year more than ever I’m thankful for family and old and new friends. I’m thankful for an asshole cat. I’m grateful for a husband that supported me in the fight for my life AND in this writing endeavor. . . and he still makes me laugh every single day.

And of course, thanks to you guys for reading. I’m just getting warmed up.

The Paradox of Pizza

Best case scenario.

Yesterday I traveled to a rural town in Kentucky to attend a celebration of life ceremony.  Despite the somber purpose for the trip, I was thrilled about spending the night in a hotel solo.  Having a busy life and a husband and kids and whatnot, this is a rare occasion and I intended to take every advantage of the opportunity.  Hog the bed.  Order room service.  Watch something non-sports related on tv.  Read uninterrupted.  You get it.

As I settled into my room I realized that room service wasn’t an option.  This isn’t the Waldorf, y’all.  As luck would have it I found a pizza place that delivers and I placed my order and changed into my comfy sweats for a night of unadulterated solitude.  Heaven.

Not long there was a knock at my door.  When I opened the door there stood a big ole corn fed young buck named Justin.  He was over 6ft tall with curly blonde hair that spilled out from under his ball cap that was emblazoned with a slice of what appeared to be pepperoni pizza.  He presented the box to me with a big smile and exclaimed “here’s your piping hot pizza pie”!   I’d also ordered two 20 oz bottles of water and a Hershey’s creme pie for dessert (don’t you judge me) so I grabbed one of the bags as Justin set the pizza down on my hotel room dresser.  We chatted for a moment about the town and what I felt was their serious lack of streetlights.

“Seriously”, I said.  “This place is impossible to navigate!  Where are the street lights?  Where are the helmet laws?  You wouldn’t catch my old ass careening down these mountains on a motorcycle without one!  I hope these dumbasses are signing their organ donor cards”.   I realized as the words were coming out of my mouth that I sounded like a cantankerous old bag.  This kid was half my age and as I stood  there in my sweatpants, ponytail and glasses I’m sure I looked like some paranoid insane crone that he’d surely have avoided in the grocery store.

I was surprised when he started laughing and nodding his head.  He said I was “his kind of lady” and while flattered, I kind of died a little inside at “lady” but I digress.  He proceeded to tell me that he was off in an hour and he and a few friends were gonna grab some beers and whiskey and “drag the gut” and asked if I’d like to join them.  After clearing up the meaning of that expression, read: “cruise the local strip”, I politely declined but told him I appreciated the invite.

“Well, if you change your mind, you know where I work – give me a call!”  I gave him a fat tip and told him to be safe.

End of story?  You’d think so, wouldn’t you?   Well, you’re probably not an alcoholic. As soon as the door shut I felt a rush of adrenaline hit me like the cold spray from a garden hose.   The logistics of my situation were indisputable.  I had already called and said goodnight to my husband.  I was 150 miles away from my home.  NO ONE would know if I went and had a few with the local yokels.   In fact, I could have an EPIC binge and no one would be the wiser.   JUST ONE NIGHT FOR GOD’S SAKE.  I’ve been sober TWO years now.  Surely I could go out for a couple, right?  Just let my hair down and have some laughs, that’s all.  I mean, I won’t even TOUCH the whiskey – beer only.  These are the things that raced through my head as I stared at the clock and did the math in my head of how long it would take for me to get dressed again and catch Justin before he left work.  I WANT TO DRAG THE GUT.

I wish I could say I’m kidding.  And I know what you’re thinking on top of the initial horror of my mental incapacity…I’m married.  HAPPILY.  What kind of gal would even CONSIDER getting into a vehicle of unknown 20-something dudes to get drunk and DRIVE around a strange town when she can’t find her way out of a paper bag with one end open?  WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!?!

I could literally lose everything…my sobriety, my husband or even my life.  In no parallel universe is this a good idea.  And yet, there I was…heartbeat galloping in my chest at what I envisioned in my delusion as adventursome possibilities.  I’m rationalized that I’m a free spirit, after all.  I cannot be tamed!

In reality this entire dreamed up scenario lasted less than a minute, maybe two.  I settled in with my pizza and The Conjuring and had a perfectly lovely quiet evening.  I told myself that I “still got it” and then laughed at my reflection in the mirror over the dresser.  An almost 50 year old gal in sweats and a Dolly Parton t-shirt wearing nerdy glasses and a ponytail.  Notsomuch glamorous, no.  But sober and staying that way.

For tonight, anyway.

 

 

 

Write what you know.

Over the years I’ve received a lot of tips when it comes to writing.  Advice, guidelines and multiple do’s and don’ts.  As a burgeoning young writer I would read and write voraciously and desperately wanted to write a novel of my own.  As I got older I kept journals and wrote short stories.  When blogging became a thing, I thought it would be the perfect foray into my writing The Great American Novel.  Now, I just needed subject matter.

I did a lot of research and one simple quote from Stephen King kept coming back to me time and time again.  “Write what you know”,  was his advice to wannabe writers.  Sounds easy, huh?  So I asked myself…what do I know?

Not so easy.

Well, let’s see.  I could write a dissertation on the cultural impact of HBO’s “Sex in the City” on modern women and dissect each episode in its entirety.  There’s that.  Ummm…I could write about running a half marathon.   Well, I didn’t really “run” it, I guess.  It was more of a bouncy walk really.  I could totally write about the perfect ratio of the chocolate syrup/magic shell combo onto a big bowl of Extreme Moosetracks.  I know a little about a lot I’ve always said.   That does not a book filleth.

Two years ago I almost lost my life to alcoholism.  I had life saving surgery on my liver and have been slowly getting my life back in order and transitioning to sober living.  I am grateful for the second chance, which led me to my somewhat obvious epiphany.

Drinking, I know.  Inside out and backwards and forwards.  Like a dirty threadbare blanket that’s stained and smelly but yet you grab for it every night to envelop yourself in its false security.

I know drinking.  I know shame.  I know fear.  I know the isolation that comes with it all.

I know what it’s like not to remember.  I know what it’s like to go from the life of the party to the laugh of the party.  I know what it’s like when the folks at work don’t believe you anymore.  I know the pity in their eyes.  I also know that it wasn’t always awful.   There were countless good times and happy memories.  I know that one day, maybe even tomorrow, I’ll want to feel that way again.  This I know.

I also know it will kill me.

So, I’ll write.

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.

Apertif


Drinking has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  My parents believed in pre and post dinner drinks and of course the occasional night cap.  They threw epic parties.  I can remember my father teaching me how to mix the perfect drink, when I was around 7 or 8 years old.  One tall glass.  Four ice cubes.  Two overflowing *jiggers* of Lord Calvert (handle bottle) and top it off with a symbolic splash of 7-Up.  Stir with index finger and taste.  If your face screws up like an onion and you gag, it’s perfect.

Oddly enough, I never touched the stuff in high school.  Whilst my pals were partying under the bleachers during home football games, I was annoying Miss Goody Two-Shoes working in the concession stand or rooting on the team clear eyed and squarely sober.  I wasn’t afraid of alcohol, of course, but I knew the rules and it never occurred to me to sneak a sip at any juncture.  In fact, I found myself mortified when my high school sweetheart caught me trying to stealthily pour out most of what was a Bartle’s and Jayme’s strawberry wine cooler during a hay ride.  I couldn’t tell him I didn’t drink, I mean, all the cool kids did, right?

Now.  College was another story altogether.  I found myself out of town and off my parent’s leash for the very first time.  The party simply never ended.  I learned how to shotgun a beer and take off my bra (without removing my shirt) within the first week.

Naturally my next move was to California.  The call of the beach and long-haired rock and roll boys of Sunset Boulevard were too much for me to resist.  Insert frying pan to fire metaphor here.  I spent the next ten years roaming from state to state and honing my skills.  Party girl.  Wild child.  Reckless and independent.

And just like that, I was about to go Pro.

 

*it would serve to mention here that my father wore the balance bar off of that jigger not once but twice in its lifetime and my grandfather, a tool and die maker by trade, soldered it back together.  Both times.

Last Call

Alcoholism

July 30, 2015.

That was the last day I had a drink. It’s been over 500 days now (consecutive!) and while it hasn’t always been easy, I’ll say that it’s certainly been worthwhile, and an extremely long time coming. I was a hard drinker for most of my adult life, say twenty-plus years, but last year or so of my drinking,  you could say I went “pro”. No particular reason, really.  My job changed, my dog died, and I think I battled light depression I suppose. All of that is really just life in general and no one thing made me pick up that bottle. No, that was all me.

Happy hour was usually at 7pm. Then seven became five. Before I knew it, 5pm had become 3ish and I was “rewarding” myself for mundane household chores with a stiff martini or three. I wasn’t driving or hurting anyone. I don’t live under a bridge alongside the interstate. C’mon, I’m not pushing a shopping cart down the road laden with recyclables and a molted live Owl in its basket. I own a home and have a solid education, I can’t be a rueful and pathetic old soak…right?

Wrong.

What your brain refuses to acknowledge your body will not ignore. In turn, I got sick. REALLY sick. I was hospitalized. I had a blood transfusion. I had a wire thread shoved into my jugular vein and threaded down into my liver where a shunt was placed to connect my portal vein to my hepatic vein. My body took on an extra 20 lbs in a greenish Gatoradey-looking bile that was drained via a huge needle periodically. My liver had enlarged to three times it’s normal size. I was given a 35% chance of survival if I kept up the boozing. According to my Doctor I would easily be dead within three years. A liver transplant was discussed but only briefly. They don’t dole those things out to drunks, turns out. You do NOT fuck around with those liver people, let me tell you.

So, those are the Cliff Notes.

That, my friends, is REALLY last call.

So, pull up a stool and come join me while I navigate sobriety, and a second chance.

All served with a splash of humor.