Christmas Spirits

So last night I went to a Christmas party hosted for and by my knitting friends and the lovely store where we gather. Yes, that’s right, I’m a knitter, and lately, I’ve even learned to crochet, so one could argue that I’m a hooker now as well. The party was delightful and it was so nice to celebrate the season with so many folks that have meant so much to me over the last few years. There was quite a spectrum of women represented (we do have dude knitters, they just weren’t at the party) and I’m often humbled that I’m even included in their company. Professors, stay-at-home-moms, retirees, working gals, world travelers, and more. Every single woman there was an ass-kicking superstar and I’m so lucky to be under their sturdy and strong wings. We often liken the shop to Truvy’s Beauty parlor in Steel Magnolias as it’s where we all gather and celebrate, commiserate, support each other, and occasionally we DO, in fact, knit.

Most of the gals in this menagerie know my story. Well, the cliff notes anyway. I assume they’re learning a bit more if they’re reading this little blog. NOT UNLIKE MY MOTHER.  Anyway, I had a choice (well, did I?) when the shit hit the fan in 2015 to be honest about my addiction and consequent situation, or to lie like I’ve been doing (mostly unsuccessfully) for the last 30 or so years. I don’t know if I chose honesty or if it chose me but the fact of the matter is that the truth was just easier.  Remember Viola Davis in that gut-wrenching scene in The Help where she confronts the ruthless Miss Hilly and says “All you do is scare people and lie to get what you want. Ain’t you tired, Miss Hilly?  Ain’t you tired?!?”  Yes.  Yes I was.

So, with that, I’m extremely fortunate. My friends and even most acquaintances know that I am an alcoholic in recovery. And per my nature, they all know they can laugh with me at my challenges as well as celebrate my victories, and that, my friends, is priceless. They know they can ask questions, as well. I’m “out” of the closet liquor cabinet, one could say. However, I totally understand that many folks aren’t and that the holidays can often be filled with anxiety ridden events revolving around alcohol. I know a lot of people that struggle with alcohol also struggle with turning down a drink at a party, especially those new to recovery. “What will everyone THINK?” And that’s a fair assumption because really, when we were drinking we definitely didn’t turn down a drink and who in their right mind would?!?  Well, don’t get your tinsel in a tangle, there’s good news. I’ve not been out of the cabinet long but one thing I learned quickly is this; no one else cares. That’s right, I said it. NO ONE CARES IF YOU DRINK OR NOT.

Now, this does not include active alcoholics because they just may give you some flack because your ability to say no may turn their high-powered accusatory finger back on themselves.  I hear time and time again where people are flummoxed on what to say when offered a drink. I was no different. Last year at this time I went through a ridiculous week of sleepless nights leading up to my work Christmas party where only a few folks knew my truth and the rest did not, and they were a heavy drinking lot. What will I do if someone sends me a shot? What will I do if the president of the company wants to toast with me? WHAT DO I SAY?!? And guess what you guys? The president himself sat at my table and when the waitress came by for our drink order I ordered a soft drink and. . . nothing happened. Well, something happened. The gal brought me a diet coke and we commenced eating our holiday dinner. TA-freaking-DA.

Now I realize it can be nerve wracking to some and it goes against the social grain to turn down booze at a party but more and more I realize that it is not about ME at ANY gathering. Everyone else is so consumed with themselves that they are really not focusing on what you have or don’t have in your hand to drink. This was foreign to me of coursebecause as someone recently said, alcoholics are egomaniacs with an insecurity complex. Another friend of mine in recovery laments, “I know I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.” 

Well, that goes for most people, I’d say. We’re all just doing the best we can every day and social anxiety and awkward holiday parties are just part of the package this time of the year. Try saying “no thanks”, it’s simple and it works wonders. You can always say you’re driving and most normal people will respect that. In my case I could never say I was the designated driver BECAUSE I NEVER, EVER WAS. I’ve told a stranger that I’ve retired from drinking, when asked if I’d tried a certain sangria.  That worked and even got a chuckle.

I was at a party a few weeks ago where a lady asked me who I was and what I did. It was at the end of the evening and you know how sometimes inappropriate things just fly right out of your mouth? No? WELL BELIEVE ME, THEY DO. I casually replied with “Me? I’m an unemployed alcoholic.”

She retorted, “Oh no! You’re unemployed? I just recently got a new job myself.” I shit you not.

Like Nancy Reagan said, just say no. Well, maybe say “no, thank you”, I mean, unless you’re dealing with a pill-popping heroin pusher after school and then you can probably lose the Miss Manners etiquette and run like hell.

And no matter what you celebrate, to all, a good night.

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.

 

 

Alcoholiday

 

What, you’ve never woken up missing a tooth AND a best friend? Where the hell did that baby come from?

I’ve always said that I’m somewhat similar to Herpes, really. You *think* I’ve disappeared and WHAM! there’s a flare up and I’m back. So, I hope you all had a kick-ass Thanksgiving and if you are in fact struggling with sobriety that you made it unscathed through the whole enterprise. These are trying times for the best of us and then you compound the holidays on top of it all and, well. . . it can be a shit show.

We ventured out of town for the long weekend and it was fantastic. Sometimes a getaway can really put things into perspective. I refused to worry and project and/or doom say. I just enjoyed the atmosphere  and the holiday hustle and bustle, ate too much and in general just took some time off to just enjoy the now, as in the previous post.

Now, I’m married so this means that I have to occasionally do things that I don’t necessarily enjoy, but that are important to my husband. No, I’m not talking about dressing up like Danica Patrick in the bedroom (again). . .this time it was college football. Since we were out of state we had to wing our approach to viewing his games and that was finding a sports bar. Now some of you out there are probably wondering aloud why I would purposely strap on a suicide vest and walk INTO A BAR. A dark raucous bar filled with obnoxious and loud folks all screaming for their team while drinking booze and eating fried foods. In other words, HEAVEN.  These, you see, are my people.

Well, they used to be. And here’s the thing. They haven’t changed, I have. They seem to be able to still go out and enjoy a few beers and get home safely without the assistance of the backseat of a patrol car. Assholes.

Regardless, it doesn’t bother me to go into bars on occasion. Rarely have I ever been in one sober so in a very real but kind of comical way, it’s like seeing them for the first time and objectively, they aren’t so bad. Well, some are, but this one was pretty reputable and more than that, clean. I may be a drunk but I’m still obsessively tidy.

As we bellied up to our stools my husband suddenly and completely lost his hearing. Wait, let me rephrase that. . . he lost his ability to hear me or any of the surrounding clamor as long as his game was airing. I’m used to this during football season and promptly ordered a ginger ale and struck up a conversation with our bartender who was young, dumb, and full of. . . himself. He had an amusing way about him and I liked him immediately. As we chatted about our holidays he offered up some snippets of his. He was hungover, he mentioned, from a pretty legendary night of drinking with his buddies the night before. I asked him if he had a good time. He grinned.

“I fared better than both of my buddies,” he said, “one broke his thumb and the other went to jail. It was pretty epic!”

I nodded my head knowingly and laughed. I’ve been there, of course. It’s one thing in your early twenties but quite another in your late 30’s and 40’s. There comes a point in your sobriety where you look back on all the terrible consequences of your actions while drinking and then realize to your horror that you kept up that nonsense for another 5, 10, maybe 20 plus years AFTER that awful incident.  The fact that really bad shit happened and that it wasn’t even a wake-up call is one that’s hard to navigate in sobriety.

The wreckage in your rear view mirror is personal and unique. Sure, sometimes it’s amusing and funny. I’ve jumped off a second story roof onto a trampoline to the delight disbelief of other guests at a summer cookout. I’ve drunkenly saddled a stranger’s Harley on Sunset Boulevard and spent the entire night with a dude that could have been Ted Bundy. I crashed a number with The Spinners at a fancy country club party and proceeded to *play* tambourine with them until a roadie politely escorted me off the stage. What I’m talking about is epic wreckage. People lose spouses and jobs and children and relationships and that’s not even scratching the surface of what that it does to you internally and the emotional havoc that comes with the oppressing guilt and self loathing.

Of course I didn’t say all of that to Tom Cruise behind the bar. He was busy texting his comrades about their recovery and I didn’t feel the need to expound upon mine. I just smiled with a little nostalgia and a whole lot of gratitude.  After all, who has TWO functioning thumbs and woke up in a snazzy hotel?!?

This gal.

Family Tradition

It’s confession time you guys. Part of my journey is making amends for the wrong doings I’ve done. Another part is acknowledging my responsibilities and my part in each and every situation. Owning your shit, for lack of better semantics.

This is really neither of those things but it’s a little window into my sickness. Since starting this blog I haven’t delved into what really got me into my circumstances or the gory details. Trust me, those are coming. For now though, enjoy this little snippet from 5 years ago. When sobriety wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary.

The year was 2012 and for some insane reason we had Thanksgiving dinner at our home and I still cannot for the life of me remember who the fuck thought that was a good idea. Regardless, I did my best. I enjoy cooking and my in-laws are pleasant enough but suffice to say I’m not really keen on obligatory family get-togethers. This year was no different which is still why I cannot fathom that I volunteered to host the event. Best I can come up with is I probably had a drunkenly ambitious evening and blacked out and called everyone I knew after scrolling through Pinterest and invited them to our home for Thanksgiving dinner. That is some shit I would do. And then not remember, naturally.

So, I had to make good on my promise and boy, did I. We had turkey and all the fixin’s! We cleaned the house! We lit candles! We had kids setting the table! There was a floral centerpiece! It was glorious!

And all the while I was sneaking off into the guest room to take hearty throat-burning shots of whiskey every half hour or so. You know. . . to cope. This is on TOP of my mixed drink that never left my hand AND the wine I served with our dinner. A deadly trifecta my friends.

In an act of divine providence I got lucky. I managed to stay upright during the meal and only slurred my words a teensy little bit. Everyone enjoyed themselves and all in all, the dinner was a success. I’m still not sure how.

After everyone left I felt VICTORIOUS! I did it! I AM a good wife! I’m a fantastic daughter-in-law! I can do no wrong! Let’s celebrate with more whiskey! And I did. Repeatedly. We changed clothes and sank into the couch to relish our blessings and bask in the glow of pulling a family dinner out of our asses.

This is where I may end up divorced over what I’m about to confess.

As is sometimes typical in an alcoholic celebratory frenzy, I felt a wee bit amorous. OH COME ON. Like you’ve never gotten a little kissy-face after eleven a few drinks? My sweet husband had helped all morning with the festivities and well, why the hell not? We were finally alone with a four day weekend ahead of us! Let’s get kinky! Heck, I may even take off my sweatshirt! WOOT.

Well. That’s seriously about the last thing I remember. I hear that we I disrobed while going up to the bedroom leaving a trail of clothes behind on the stairs, while doing my best Mae West. I then proceeded to pass out during mid-pucker and consequently remained unconscious slept for about 4-5 hours. When I awoke, I was really confused.

I came downstairs to find my husband watching football.

He looked at me closely as I stood there teetering in front of him with my bathrobe on, hair askew, and mascara smeared.

“Hey sleepyhead,” he laughed. I stared at him and then at the kitchen where all the dishes had been put away and the counters were sparkling. Um, now I’m perplexed. And still very drunk.

“When is it?” I stammered.  He looked at me, eyebrows raised. “What do you mean, when is it?”  I looked around again and out the window. I was still so wasted that I was unsure as to the time of day, and to WHAT exact day it was. I started wondering if I was in fact late for work. Is it morning? Is it evening? When the hell was Thanksgiving?!?

Frustrated, I looked pleadingly at my husband and fought to find the words to express myself and my bewilderment. “Noooo“, I slurred. “WHEN IS. . . NOW?!?” I pointed down towards the floor repeatedly as if that was the universal sign for “present day and correct time, please”.

Seriously. That’s what I came up with. When is now? I somewhat pride myself on my vocabulary and yet I could’ve consumed a can of alphabet soup and shit a more sophisticated sentence than that.

Yes, folks, that was FIVE years ago today and yet my husband finds cause to mimic my performance that day quite often. Anytime I get confused or misunderstand something, he’ll laugh and bellow WHEN IS NOW?! out of nowhere and laugh uncontrollably. Yeah, it’s hilarious. I have to laugh because if I don’t, then it’s just sad.

I anticipate today’s Thanksgiving will be a little different than five years ago, and I’m so grateful for that. I’m thankful for the absence of blackouts, and for clarity where there was once chaos. Now is the time to take inventory of our blessings and say thanks. Now is the time to look back and forgive, and to look forward and be of service. When is now, you ask?!?

Now is all we have. Happy Thanksgiving.

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.

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.