Alcoholism

Six months

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When I was 19, I fell in love with a man named Brian. I was utterly, hopelessly, disgustingly in LOVE in a way only a 19 year-old can be in love. He was remarkably flawed. He was a 26 year-old, follically challenged restaurant manager who lived with his mom and yet, I utterly worshipped him. When he broke up with me on our one year anniversary because he was having sex with another woman, I was beyond devastated. I became a ghost of myself. I lost weight. I became terribly ill. It was all very Victorian. I pined and raged. I sobbed and mourned his loss with every fiber of my soul. But, I also started taking better care of myself. I learned that I was ok on my own. I grew stronger. I began to figure out who I really was and began to find comfort in my own skin for the first time on my life. About 2 months after “the breakup,” he started calling me again. At first I was overjoyed, but at the memory of the pain and suffering I had endured, I became cautious even reticent. About a month later, I met my husband. He saw and fell in love with me, the real me not a version of me I created to please him. He supported and respected me- something completely new. I was able to kick Brian out of my life and fall into a much healthier, stronger love.

I was thinking about my relationship with alcohol and reflecting what I have learned in the last six months. My irrational devotion to alcohol was much like my devotion to Brian and my “break-up” with alcohol paralleled both the pain and struggle I endured and the amazing peace and clarity I gained through that experience. Giving up alcohol was (and still is) messy, endlessly difficult, excruciatingly painful but also rewarding on a level I don’t think I can easily explain. I have discovered myself again. Sobriety has not been a magic bullet. My life is far from perfect. But sobriety has enabled me to find peace and gratitude for my life and for my self, just as it is and just as I am. In sobriety, I find it easier to embrace the now rather than endlessly fret over the future or pine for the past. This is a radical shift.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease. Recovery requires constant vigilance. I need to remind myself of this often. Recovery is (and should be) hard work. For me, recovery has become huge part of my daily routine and thought process. There is not one day that has gone by where I have not thought about and worked on my recovery. I have had to rework aspects of my life to fit into my new alcohol free paradigm. I have not set foot in a liquor store for six months. I avoid bars like the plague. I declined party invitations this year and I asked my family to make my home alcohol free over the holidays. It hasn’t been an easy switch but what in life that is truly worth anything comes easily?

I am lucky. I have a lot of support. I have AMAZING friends. My husband is also sober and is my rock. He relapsed in October and it shook my sobriety to its core. I realized that although we are on this journey together, our recovery is not intertwined or interdependant. Also, while I have determined that AA is not a great fit for me at this time, I find daily meaningful interaction with other alcoholics to be the cornerstone of my recovery program.

I am not saying I have it all locked up. Everyone has their own path. I am not, nor will I ever be, “cured.” I am, however, a much better version of myself sober. I choose this life over alcohol any day.

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Holding on and letting go

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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.

 

A Veritable Shit Show of a Day

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(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. 🙂

Alcoholism: A definition

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From the Mayo Clinic Website: 

Definition

By Mayo Clinic staff

Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can’t consistently predict how much you’ll drink, how long you’ll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking.

It’s possible to have a problem with alcohol, even when it has not progressed to the point of alcoholism. Problem drinking means you drink too much at times, causing repeated problems in your life, although you’re not completely dependent on alcohol.

Binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks in a row, or a female downs at least four drinks in a row — can lead to the same health risks and social problems associated with alcoholism. The more you drink, the greater the risks. Binge drinking, which often occurs with teenagers and young adults, may lead to faster development of alcoholism.

If you have alcoholism or you have a problem with alcohol, you may not be able to cut back or quit without help. Denying that you have a problem is usually part of alcoholism and other types of excessive drinking.

F#*k Fridays

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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!

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Trinkets

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ImageRecently, I had to clean out my grandmother’s home to prepare it for renters (she is in a nursing home). It was absolutely a gut and heart wrenching ordeal. How the hell do you deal with all of physical evidence of someone dear’s life? My answer was: large contractor bags, yard sales, boxes and boxes of ‘treasures’ smuggled into the house under sweet hubby’s nose and copious amounts of alcohol to sooth my emotional distress.

Many of the ‘treasures’ from Grandma’s house ended up in the hands of my little ones. Yesterday my little one was trying to ‘hypnotize’ her brother with what looked like a religious medal. I asked to see the medal and was a bit shocked to find the Serenity Prayer. I didn’t see Jesus or anything. I am still firmly agnostic, but I was captivated by this small medal. As best I could guess, it belonged to my great grandmother. But honestly, I don’t know. Someone in my family either liked the prayer or at some point joined AA. Interestingly, my great-grandmother was an infamous booze hound. She was adept at hiding her addiction. I had no idea she drank from sun-up to sun-down until my grandma and mom pointed it out to me as an adult. I wonder if at some point she tried to quit… The idea fascinates me. She lived until she was 96… She had no idea who any of us were for the last 10 years of her life… A cautionary tale, to be sure. I traded my little one the medal for a snowflake necklace. I like the idea of a found talisman…

Alcoholism is a blight on my family tree. I have an uncle who had disappeared (literally, no one can find him) into a bottle. My dad is a recovered or recovering alcoholic. His mother and father were both raging alcoholics. His mother succumbed to illnesses related to her alcoholism in her late 70’s Further, I was raised, largely, by well meaning grandparents who had ‘highballs’ everyday at 4PM. I had my first taste of booze at around 4 when I would finish the last sips of their drinks, mostly so I could crunch on the small ice cubes. My mom had an accident when I was 22 in which, during an overnight stay at a friends house, she walked into a dark stairwell mistaking it for the bathroom. My dad recently pointed out that this happened hours after margaritas celebrating her birthday. My mom wasn’t much of a drinker (she liked pills) but alcohol drastically altered her life. After the accident, she was a complete quadriplegic. She died 3 years later. 

Another ‘treasure’ I inherited was an antique liquor cabinet. How is that for irony? Gains fully supplied (glasses and accessories- the booze was long gone) liquor cabinet, then quits drinking. The liquor cabinet became a reason to continue drinking for about a month after I knew my time was up. Now I am conflicted. What do I do with it? Do I keep it as a piece of history, repurpose it (I have thought about making it into a tea cabinet) or sell the damn thing? What kind of legacy do I want to pass down to my little ones?