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Dear Sparkly Sober Boots,
You make me smile. You replace my not-so-sober boots, which have been unceremoniously deep sixed. I promise you will never be an accessory to my late night drunk driving escapades. I promise you will be never be party to drunken stumbling around the yard or the neighborhood. Drunken, irrational tears will not dampen your exterior, nor will dribbles of wine, beer, bourbon, tequila or vodka. You will never have to tread across a filthy bar floor and I will never need to wipe you clean of drunken vomit. Instead, you will be worn, admired and cherished by this sober girl so in love with life that she felt the need to buy sequined boots to express her joy.
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.
- I am an alcoholic – no doubt about it. My denial was a sovereign nation unto itself. There is no romanticizing: maybe I wasn’t that bad, perhaps I could moderate, one drink won’t kill me- BULLSHIT! I know, in my heart of hearts, in my soul of souls that I. AM. A. FUCKING. ALCOHOLIC. Yep.
- Further, I have been an alcoholic or addict most of my adult life (bummer…).
- Getting sober is fucking hard. Seriously, it is tied with giving birth naturally and then having my baby whisked away to ICU. This shit is not for wusses, yo.
- AA isn’t my bag- I tried it and, for the moment, it is not for me.
- However, I do NEED a sober community. I have found that here and in an AMAZING Facebook group.
- I am a better mama sober but I am NOT perfect. I had hoped secretly that sobriety was the path to striking that serene balance between focused career woman and crafty, caring, awesome, endlessly patient mom. Um, yeah, noooo, its not.
- I am better at my job but again, not perfect (see above). I still put things off and get freaked out and overwhelmed.
- There is something to the 30/60/90 day thing. I felt a shift at each increment. The shift at 90 days was really significant. If you are white knuckling through, hang in there until 90 days. It gets SOOOOO MUCH BETTER. It isn’t easy but it is easier and I am no longer constantly OBSESSED with not drinking.
- I take better care of physical myself sober. My skin looks better than it has in years.
- I take better care of emotional and spiritual self, too. I can express my likes and dislikes much more succinctly and I feel more balanced (most of the time).
- Sobriety is a path and I have just started my journey. Getting to 100 days proved to me that I am capable than more than I ever imagined or hoped. This is a beginning. I am excited about my life for the first time in a longtime.
I am so grateful for all of my cyber pals who have read commented and suffered through the last 106 days with me. I am blessed beyond the telling. THANK YOU! I promise I will try to post more. My job has been kicking my butt lately.
The slight pop and scrape of the cork,
the carmel colored elixir
tumbling over thin cubes of ice
I could jump
in to that glass tonight
never to ever return
never to ever return
This week was difficult but there were more victories than defeats. Work got better. Our new schedule is working. I managed to get in a yoga class. My biggest defeat? I forgot my dad’s birthday. It was Wednesday and I didn’t remember until this morning. I feel like the world’s worst daughter. It doesn’t matter that for years, he was the world’s worst father. Sigh. Around 2:30, after our second lockdown drill, I found myself fighting a terrible battle internally. I wanted to drink. I didn’t want one. I wanted all of them. For hours, there were two minds duking it out in my head. The voice of the sullen, desperate alcoholic begged for one more release. One more. One more. One more. Just one more! She argued we could sneak off to the liquor store instead of a to meeting. She reasoned we could likely get the boy on board. She begged and pleaded. She yelled and screamed. It was a nuclear level threat in my head. It came on without warning.
The sober me, the real me, the me I am just getting to know, my Phoenix-self, who rose from the ashes of my alcoholic bullshit, told that other sad, pathetic me to stuff it over and over. 82 days. I am not giving in after 82 days. My 100 day ring on the mantle in a wrapped box. The bright, loving eyes of my children, always watching. Learning from my choices. Trusting me to take care of all of us. I went to my meeting. I listened. Sometimes, I just need to shut the fuck up and listen. Hard lessons…
But, I made it. Tomorrow, I will call my dad.
When I was a 17 year-old baby, feminist wannabe, I would take black eyeliner and scrawl words like, ‘slut,’ ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ on my arms and (if I was feeling really brave) my legs. I would also pair baby doll dresses with ripped tights and knock-off Docs. It was the 90’s and I was playing a part in a fleeting, feminist cultural mini-moment called The Riot Grrrl Movement. I was probably too young to really understand the steeped in irony and anger mission and message of the movement (I am not really even sure that you could call it movement) but I wasn’t too young to feel the intense pain and power of those words. It was shocking but deliriously freeing to wear those words on my skin in full view (mostly to bookstores and Waffle House). It was a phase. The feminism and ‘fuck the rules’ attitude stayed but eyeliner became something regulated to eyes (thankfully) and although I did finally score some real Doc Martens, they now occupy a corner of a box in my closet.
I have been thinking a lot about that lonely, angry 17 year-old girl lately. Everything was so painful for her. Life was so very sharp and hiding and numbing, so very comforting. I was 17 when I discovered the fluffy, dulling effects of pot and alcohol (but mostly pot). I wish that girl would have had someone to illustrate the second and third act of that story. I wish someone would have told her that life was beautiful without all of that shit… But I don’t have a time machine and I know ‘should have’ is an epic waste of time.
What made me think specifically of my “Riot Grrrl” days was the very strong compulsion I have had lately to scrawl words on my arms and legs, this time in sharpie. Over the past few weeks, I have written, “Do the next right thing” across my wrists and “enough” on my ankle and the back of my hand. Is it my inner riot grrrl coming to the surface or my inner wounded teenager seeking solace and healing? Now instead of acting out, I am trying to take better care. I am trying to remember, not let go.
Today was a bit of a shit show. I am trying really, really hard at my job. I am being consistent and holding students accountable, per mandate from my administrator. I try to pretend that it is easy. I am trying to move forward and stay positive but the tapes in my head, the ones that tell me I am going to fail, that I am stupid for thinking I could do this job and that I am only working for a recommendation at the end of the year (because I am afraid I am going to be laid off or worse, fired) are playing on a relentless loop. Being a hard ass in the classroom means that not every student adores me. It means that not even every other student adores me. Being a drunk last year means that my administrator doesn’t fully trust my judgment and still wonders if I am going to revert to my flakey ways. It all means I am not PLEASING everyone AND I am shocked and disappointed at how sad and freaked out I am by that…
The writing. It all comes back to the writing. As a teenager, I wrote on my arms, in composition notebooks and on pieces of canvas to survive and process the horrors of my childhood and adolescence. As a woman, and especially a woman in recovery, I write to survive the horrors of my addiction to process the pain I have both suffered and caused via this disease. I write so as not to drink. I write to recover. I am writing here tonight so I can walk into the classroom tomorrow, head held high, possibly with sharpied arms, ready to keep trying and maybe even love myself and the world just a little bit more.
Maybe I should try tattoos next.
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. 🙂