So while I’m still basking in the glow that was my golden jubilee (I’m told this is what some trendy gay men call their 50th birthday extravaganzas and I am so down with that) and subsequent trip to Arizona where my LIFE WAS ALTERED forever with that magical otherwordly experience, I just realized that my beloved birthday month is almost at its end, and I had such lofty aspirations to cover one recovery step per each calendar month on my new stinkin’ sobriety blog. *oops*

For as organized as I am, it baffles me that shit like this can still sneak up on me. In my defense, though, I’ve been incredibly busy attempting to meditate and do yoga and eat bark or things that taste like it. . . and, OH YEAH, figuring out my plan for the rest of my life on this earth. It’s been time-consuming, you guys.

I know, I know. . . one day at a time, hippie chick.  I KNOW. But when you when you’re excited about your new life you want everything to begin RIGHT THIS SECOND, you know?

So, I’ll put my spiritual/physical/mental transformation on hold for a sec and we’ll switch gears a little bit here and talk about HOPE.

Did I get your attention?  Hope. It’s a big one, and sometimes, not so easy to find. Especially these days, it would seem.

If you’ve seen the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, then you know about hope. Red tells Andy to forget about hope while in the confines of the prison, that inside, hope is a dangerous thing. Andy disagrees, he feels that hope is the best of things, the only thing he can hold onto inside the horror of the prison walls.

It’s not a stretch to compare alcoholism to prison. By all means, it IS a prison, except that you hold the lock AND the key. I know you want to throw up in your mouth a little bit after reading that, because I do too – but I’m preaching the truth, Ruth. You have to believe in hope. Do you believe recovery is possible?  In the sophisticated words of Russell Brand, if you’re metaphorically fucked, “could you be un-fucked?” Well, then, there’s hope.

“Hope begins in the dark, that stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

Anne Lamott

Step one begins with defeat, despair, and honesty. Or, in my case, liver failure. You don’t get much traction with dishonesty when your organs are shutting down. Step one was a breeze in that regard. Step two though, is where we find ourselves believing in hope, even if we don’t necessarily believe in ourselves, or in our worthiness of recovery. Read that again if you have to. I don’t care who you are, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. . . you ARE worthy of recovery.

We can’t move forward without hope. It is necessary to our human existence. Hope isn’t just wishful thinking, or even optimism. Optimism is an attitude, whereas hope, a belief.  A belief that things will get better and that you have a desire to make it so. Where there is hope, there is a potential for healing. The irony is when folks are brought to their knees by alcoholism, hope is usually unfathomable. They can’t imagine a life with or without alcohol. It’s a living hell, if you want to call that living. 

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, you have to WANT it. Some call this “the gift of desperation”, where you are so beaten down by your drinking that you’ll go to any lengths to stop the misery. When your pain outweighs your fear of change, you’ll know. For some lucky folks, all it takes is one “close call”, or possibly a DUI. Others need to be hit directly in the face with a 2×4, perhaps with some crooked rusty nails jutting out, to really get the gist of things. This latter category is where I fit. Some literally call this making the choice between life or death, and that was certainly the case for me. I chose life, and on the days I didn’t, life chose me. I’m still not completely sure why. I hesitate to call it luck as I was recently taught that luck, as a concept, is inaccurate.  I was informed of this in the desert by an old cowboy that had absolutely no time for my antics.  I’ll have to overthink that shit later and stay on point, here.

If you’re teetering, let me give you this push. If you can’t dig down deep enough to rustle up some minuscule amount of hope, talk to someone in recovery. Go to a meeting. Listen to other alcoholics. They’ll give you some of their hope until you can find some of your own, I promise. No matter how shame or pain (or both) based your identity has been, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

There’s hope.

 

Alabama Pines

Well, guys, I’ve held out as long as I can without geeking out on Jason Isbell. Prepare for the diatribe that could possibly spew forth from here on out. Jason Isbell is the real damn deal and while he’s earned his reputation as one of the most talented and lauded musicians currently alive, he’s secured his bar stool at the alcohol recovery table as well. Jason has been very public about his struggle with alcohol and very public about his recovery, consequently. We have that in common. I am known to say that I was a very public drunk so it should be no surprise to anyone that I’m very public about my sobriety. My husband was less than thrilled with both, but as the case in most marriages he gets on board when he realizes that resistance is futile it is happening, regardless.

This is an older song and still one of my all time favorites, but the most startling thing to me while re-watching this video was the mind-blowing physical transformation of Jason before and after he quit drinking. Now, I love the man and would gladly watch him mow his lawn in a pair of overalls anytime, but just for shits and giggles you should glance at another video, say “Traveling Alone” AND JUST LOOK AT HIM. Everyone knows that alcohol impacts us physically but it’s super hard to ignore in a before-and-after video comparison. My transformation was every bit as dramatic and I’ll cover that more in the new year, I promise.

I can’t get to sleep at night. The parking lot’s so loud and bright.
The A.C. hasn’t worked in twenty years.
Probably never made a single person cold,
but I can’t say the same for me. I’ve done it many times.

I hear he’s every bit a kick-ass dude as he is a musician and that’s saying something. I want to thank Jason Isbell for lighting the way for the rest of us following him on this path. Coincidentally, his sobriety date is also my birthday. One day we’re going to celebrate together. Probably after they lift the restraining order.

Same difference

In 2015 I was discharged from the hospital with a very puny and sick liver and a considerably fat folder filled with recovery options and programs. It was overwhelming, terrifying, and embarrassing all at once. I didn’t want help, which made it even more unappealing but I also knew that my BEST thinking and resources had landed me in the hospital in the first place so I figured maybe I should give it a shot. Some call this the gift of desperation and that’s a whole other post all on it’s own.

A friend of mine who has over twenty years sobriety under her belt offered me some rookie advice. “Don’t walk into any recovery program and try to identify only with the others that appear to be like you. Listen to everyone. Look for the similarities, don’t latch on to the differences.”

So naturally, I thought that was bullshit but started reluctantly going to meetings. It was then that her advice made sense. It’s easy to sit across from someone and nitpick every single detail about their experience, especially if it’s not in any way similar to yours. You can smugly think well, that’s NOT me, I would never do something like that when they talk about drinking straight bourbon in the morning. You can sympathize with someone who is going through a divorce because of their drinking problem, but you think, again, poor thing, thank god I have the support of my family.

You can play this deceptive little game for hours and sometimes it may make you feel superior in some fashion, or  maybe like a little less of a drunk, perhaps.  If you look around the room you’re going to find quite an assortment of folks, I assure you. I’ve mentioned before that alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. There’s an annoying but truthful saying you hear around the Sanka* counter and that’s “alcohol doesn’t care if you’re from Penn State or the State Penn” and that’s the damn truth, Ruth.

I don’t remember when I stopped hearing and started listening.

I won’t say the clouds opened up and I heard angels blasting trumpets or anything, but it was just like they say in the movies, the proverbial lightbulb went on and it stayed the fuck on whether I wanted to listen or not. They spoke the truth and the truth is exactly what I needed to find in myself and that my friends, can be a challenge. You know why? Because you don’t want to know. Not really. I sure didn’t. Like Gloria Steinem famously remarked, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Suddenly I found myself nodding my head in almost every meeting . . . a lot.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

Maya Angelou

I can’t recall what my first epiphany was but over the last two years I have them more often than I don’t. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to find my people, even if they were a bunch of drunks. Well, then again, it’s because they’re a bunch of drunks, isn’t it?  I remember listening to a woman divulge that she had such terrible social anxiety that she sometimes practices her laugh. I heard many newcomers confess they wondered if they’d EVER HAVE FUN AGAIN and I was terrified of that as well. I can remember one meeting specifically where someone opened a can of diet coke halfway through and we ALL froze like we’d been tased because EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US heard a beer can opening instead. We laughed like ninnies instantly at our shared reaction.

Of course, there are similarities that aren’t quite as light hearted. I found that I’d earned my seat among the masses that had been to jail and been convicted of a DUI. Most had embarrassed themselves in public and I think 99% of us had experienced blackouts on a regular basis, and that’s not funny at all.

The shame binds us but the humor unites us and that’s what helps you start to heal. It’s simple, but it’s certainly not easy.

I’ll try to help if I can.

* Remember this shit? And I do mean shit. First of all, who drinks caffeine free coffee?!? That’s like a non-alcoholic beer. WHY THE FUCK BOTHER?!?  Then again I never drank coffee or booze for the taste. I remember a crappy jar like this in our pantry cupboards in the 1970’s but I guarantee my Mom wasn’t drinking that nonsense.  Her coffee is black, her mary’s are bloodied and straight whiskey isn’t a problem.