At the end (god, I hope it was the end) of my drinking, I developed a peculiar physical ailment. After I had had a few (daily) I often would lose my ability to literally grip things. At least twice a week, I would spill my beer, wine or bourbon (gasp!) on some unlucky piece of furniture or carpet. It was really weird. I would be fine one minute and my hands would just give up the next. (I know this might be some sort of medical red flag but I am pretending I don’t know that right now). It wasn’t just my grip, though. I would be walking down our stairs (and I am fucking terrified of stairs- that’s another post) and I could feel my body loosening and giving up. I was always about five seconds aways from rag doll on the floor. There were several symptoms that my body was really sinking into maybe late second or early third stage alcoholism- but this “letting go” was the most alarming.
I am very aware of my grip these days. I am hanging on tightly to everything. I am reminded each time I walk down the stairs, how close I was to losing hold of my physical and spiritual self. This scares the shit of me.
But I know I need to thread a balance between holding on (to my sobriety, sanity, self, teacup) and letting go (of the old tapes, my self loathing, shit I can’t change, my own bullshit). In a meeting the other day we discussed humility. I commented that we alcoholic/ addicts get a bad rap. We seem (and in part are) completely wrapped up in ourselves. Alcoholism lends itself to center of the universe syndrome and recovery is all about self-improvement and self-care. My feeling, however, is that recovery is the path to humility (that is why is late in the steps) and humility finding this balance of between holding on and letting go.
No one ever said this shit was going to be easy.
I feel terribly guilty. I have been reading your wonderful blog posts and comments but I have been in the trenches and too exhausted to write anything meaningful here. I am adjusting to being back in my classroom and I am beginning to feel more human at the end of each day. Many wonderful, frightening and life affirming things have happened over the last two weeks. Below is a brief (though probably poorly written) overview:
1. I came out of the alcoholic “closet” in my department at school. When I told my beloved colleagues that I was in “recovery,” one of my favorite people was briefly confused and thought I had suffered a cancer scare. They were all very understanding and I feel really well supported.
2. A good friend, who is also a colleague and mentor, gave me some really straight up feedback on how I was perceived last year at work. I thought I was successfully hiding my increasing descent into hardcore alcoholism but mostly it just appeared I wasn’t as good at my job or as passionate about teaching as I had been. This made me incredibly sad for a little while, but I decided to look at it as an opportunity.
3. I reached and coasted past 60 days. My new AA buddies made a big deal at my Friday meeting. A really good friend made a cake and gave me a beautiful angel statue. I feel more at peace and healthier every single day. Things are so much better at 60 than they were at 30 days. I still have shitty moments and shitty days but overall, I feel better than I have in years.
4. My husband and I have had several really powerful and reflective talks about our collective and individual alcoholism. We are doing a good job (most days) of being powerful allies to one another.
5. I had some friends over for dinner. This seems small, but sober entertaining was a huge milestone for me and makes me feel infinitely more human.
6. I have realized that I am soooo much better at my job and better at balancing my job and family sober. The difference is truly staggering.
That is all I have for now. It is 10PM and I am actually tired (finally!!!). Night, night. 🙂
(Part 1 of this was posted on the BFB FB page, as well. Sorry if it is redundant).
Part One, 6PM: Holy hell!!! Today was ROUGH. I got voicemail from my grandmother at work in which she demanded that I come to the nursing home right away so we could talk about “things.” I left work early to go see her before a hair appointment. I get to the nursing home and it is fucking (sorry) happy hour (fucking, really?) and my grandmother, instead of sitting with other people like a normal damn person, is seated at the makeshift bar by herself (not even drinking!). I had to sit next to an open can of beer and open bottles of wine while I tried to figure out what was going on with my grandmother. And….she couldn’t remember why she called!!! Next, the activity director tried to hard sell me on free booze and cheese. I told G I had to go. I was about to crawl out of my skin.
I went to my hair appointment early. When I walked in, my hairdresser offered me a glass of wine (fuck!). I shuttered and said “no.” I realized it wasn’t the nicest refusal so I told her I was in recovery (I have known her for over a decade and honestly adore her, despite the following). She was completely shocked but mildly supportive (Good…for…you… Really). She made some comment about having the same problem years ago and having to “cut back” (Fuck you!!) Then she made a comment about an ex boyfriend who had a drug problem stating that she thought getting over addiction really just came down to willpower (after all, that was what worked for her). (Double fuck you!) Then she asked me if I had lost a lot of friends (WTF?). I am never leaving the house or speaking with anyone outside of my immediate family ever again. Ok, maybe I will just go to my Friday AA meeting, but after that- I am becoming a sober fucking hermit (sorry for all the f-bombs, it has been that kind of a day).
Part Two, 10PM:
So, I went to my AA meeting. Man, I really like this meeting. It feels very homey. I like the people, I like the vibe, I like the location and despite the fact that it is in a church, it is less God- centered than the others in town. I was a little panicked when I got there and even more panicked when a student of mine walked in to sit with his mom. Shit! But I listened to some stories, ate some birthday cake and calmed the fuck down. I had decided that I was going to share my story before I even got there (a plan I almost scrapped after I saw my student there but ultimately decided to go for it anyhow). I think I am kind of dating this meeting. It was perfect because the topic was ‘forces that keep us sober.’ Today, knowing I had my meeting was a great comfort, so I talked about that. After I shared another guy shared and then mentioned he couldn’t chair a meeting he was scheduled to chair at the end of the month. I am a chronic over helper. (Is there a support group for that?) No one volunteered so little helper me chimed right up and volunteered. The woman who was chairing the meeting looked a bit uncertain and said we could chat after the meeting. I knew I had made a tactical error almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth. After the meeting, a guy came over and somewhat awkwardly told me what I already suspected: I need a year before I can chair. Oh, but he felt it necessary to further explain how I needed to be deemed worthy of delivering the ‘AA message.’ He kept going on and on (I totally got it at, “you need a year” ponytail dude) about all of the things I needed to do or accomplish before I could take on this responsibility. I was beginning to feel really unwelcome in this little meeting. I was also starting to get a little pissed. I gently interrupted him and apologized for volunteering out of turn, grabbed my stuff and scurried out. For about an hour after the meeting, the pissed feeling stuck around. Wolfie also tried squeeze in a comment or two. (Fuck you, Wolfie! I am not in the fucking mood for your bullshit right now!). After some reflection, I have decided that I am not giving up on AA or on the meeting I like (though I really wanted to for a little while there), but I will likely steer way clear of self-righteous, ponytail dude. I am also not going to beat myself up for making an innocent mistake.
You know what else? I had this super shitty afternoon/evening but I got through it. I am going to go to bed soon, I will sleep like a baby (b/c I am freaking exhausted) and I will wake up tomorrow without a hangover, shame or otherwise. NIght, night. 🙂
This week has felt like one long sobriety test (pun intended) but I have decided that Friday, is by far, my least favorite day of the week (this might be because school hasn’t started and I am a teacher). I had a shit day on Wednesday and couldn’t find anyone to watch my kids so I could go to a meeting. Grrr. My solution was pizza and wings (better than bourbon, right?). I made it through. Thursday, conversely, was a wonderful day. I usually go to an AA meeting on Thursday (or at least that is the day I have “committed” to meeting attendance) but I was feeling so good that I decided to skip it. Friday (Today), however, sucked on a near biblical level. All day, thoughts of Friday “happy hour”drinks kept popping into my head. I spent the day with a really good friend, but she is a normie so I didn’t feel totally comfortable giving her a play by play of the inner workings of my alcoholic brain (although we did have a cool conversation about HPs).
The day went smoothly until it didn’t. Within an hour, I found out my dad was in the hospital and my children (6 and 4), who had behaved all day, lost their minds and turned into demon children right before my eyes. The icing on the cake was that my son decided to bring our very large, very untrained, very unworldly dogs out into the front yard on a leash. The dogs, being utter morons and weighing around 200 lbs together, took off down a huge hill that leads directly to a busy street. It was utter chaos featuring a cacophony of of screaming children and their very angry, very freaked out (flip flop wearing- not conducive to chasing dogs down a hill) mom. No wonder the dogs made a run for it. It all miraculously turned out ok (the dogs are ok and I didn’t sell my children) but holy fucking hell did I want a drink after all of that.
On one of the messages my dad left from the hospital, he said he was proud of me for going to AA and encouraged me to keep going. Hubby watched the wee ones and I attended a meeting. It was my favorite meeting so far and I feel much, much better. I survived the afternoon from hell without bourbon, beer or wine! Woo-hoo!
I have been going to meeting for a couple of weeks and I feel like I might like to try out the whole sponsor thing. How does that work? Do you ask someone or wait until they offer? I feel like the little bird in “Are you my mother?” when I consider asking someone… Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank goodness Friday is almost OVER!
I have brushed off suggestions of trying out an AA meeting or working the steps. In fact, I have been firmly against it from the very beginning. I watched an episode of “Bullshit” the first weekend I was sober that centered around “the cult” of AA and wrote it off as an organization designed for and by Christians. This week however, I have been listening to and reading recovery stories online and a great number of them have some sort of foundation in AA. Further, many of the speakers or writers were like me, non-Christian… Hmm…
Fast-forward to the Friday night from hell. I just felt terrible. I reached out and I got support from online friends. I white knuckled my way through it but this morning I wondered if I needed another layer of support…
I have been leery of my town’s AA circle. Part of it is a (sorry if this offends anyone) mistrust of Christians, having been burnt by some so-called folks before. Part of my hesitancy might also be rooted (this is where things might get a little heavy) in my own perception of alcoholics in my community. Alcoholism is a pervasive social problem in my little town. The negative stigma is alive and well here. There are many people who suffer from debilitating alcoholism and I frankly have a hard time envisioning myself as a member of that particular social group (this is me checking my elitist asshole bullshit). Nevertheless, I hunger for a community, for face-to-face connection and support beyond what my dearest friends and family can (or should be asked to) provide.
So I decided, at 11:20 this morning, to attend the noon meeting. Before I left the house, I coached myself, “don’t get your hopes up.” The meeting was held in a single wind trailer surrounded by lush trees and bushes. Inside the trailer I found a large open room with two long tables, peppered with books and coffee cups. I was a little early, but when I walked in, everyone was already seated and either chatting or doing their own thing. I took a seat pulled out my knitting (to avoid talking to anyone, of course) and waited for the meeting to begin. A kind-faced, older man offered me coffee which I graciously accepted. A couple of older gentlemen a couple of seats away were arguing over the meaning of the word ‘cornucopia.’ A younger woman played with her phone. Two tattooed younger men sat quietly at the end. A few other people sat around the table seemingly preoccupied with their own thoughts. I made several snap judgments about their respective backgrounds and how they came to attend meetings in this little trailer. I am an idiot.
The meeting began. It reminded me of mass. I kept knitting. The leader, the same man who gave me coffee, asked if there were any new people or visitors. All eyes landed on me. I spoke the words: My real name. I am an alcoholic. I told them I had 33 days and was unsure about AA because I wasn’t a Christian. I figured I would get that shit out of the way right off the bat. I was half hoping, half expecting they would give me some sign that I was not going to be accepted. If they didn’t accept me, I could move on and strike AA of my list of tools right? As I spoke, I noticed the leader tense up (“Oh, boy. Here we go.” my brain said). As soon as I stopped speaking a man across the table from me said sort of incredulously, “you don’t have to be a Christian to be a member.” From there, each in turn, the members welcomed me and reiterated their own struggles and versions of their higher power. The same man who said I didn’t have to be a Christian said that the meetings were about alcoholics helping one another not what anyone believed or didn’t believe in. The man who tensed up when I spoke, spoke of his own agnosticism and struggles with defining a higher power. He even talked about atheism and physics (wasn’t expecting that). He gave me a 30 day chip (so cool!), bought me a big book and gave me a hug, commenting that he never missed an opportunity to hug a female.
Um… I was… a little shocked, ok more like flabbergasted, by their kindness, acceptance and thoughtfulness about the program. I shared a bit more and I thanked them all for welcoming me. I am still not sure if the steps are my cup of tea, but I found the meeting to be very reassuring. I left feeling quieted and hopeful. I think I might just go back. I feel honored that I might have the opportunity to learn a thing or two from these folks.