The last business trip I took with my husband was a major drunk fest. The kind of week-long party you need a vacation from afterwards because you don’t sleep, your liver hurts, and you’ve been on a roll for too many days. This year, the trip was different. I didn’t drink. I went from Monday night until Sunday night without a drop of alcohol making that an all-time first for me. How did I do it? Well, “I” didn’t. My Higher Power was in charge. I told Him He had to be take the wheel because I know when I think I’m in control, I know where I end up: Usually, it’s face down in my pillow, mascara staining the sheets, my memory blown and my husband pissed because I have embarrassed him professionally, again. I didn’t want this trip to be like that, but I was scared. So, I went to my therapist and to an AA meeting and I asked for help. Asking for help is still a new concept to me. I hate feeling vulnerable, but I knew if I were to stay sober, I had to reach out. I am not in this sobriety trip to recovery alone despite the number of times I drank alone. So, per the advice of those who have traveled longer and further, I planned ahead, I downloaded Bubble hour pod casts; I scheduled a detox spa day; I had my sponsor’ s number on speed dial; I had my journal and all my AA books; I knew where the nearest English-speaking AA meeting was; I had my husband’s support (with coded words for varying exits.) None of these took away my anxiety completely. But what did happen is nothing short of a miracle. I came down with a nasty sinus head ache/cold/pressure. It was marvelous. I was absolutely pain-free, but I sounded terrible. NO ONE questioned why I wasn’t drinking for the first few days. It was an absolute God-send. The sun on my face, warming me up felt fabulous. My ears were slightly clogged so I didn’t have to hear the “fun” as loud. The feeling was a perfect little bubble God put me into so as the week wore on, my strength increased. Truly, I felt protected. Once, the fuzz lifted, I had enough strength to say, “Nope. I am finally starting to feel human again; I don’t want to mess that up by drinking.” Ha. If they only knew what I meant! I have to digress a moment to the spa. One of my character flaws is being afraid to ask questions. I am afraid I will appear stupid so more often than not, I appear ignorant because I have failed to ask questions. So, I go to the spa and sign up for a marvelous detoxifying 80 minute treatment. I’ve had massages before so I didn’t ask questions. Whelp, I didn’t have a two piece bathing suit on as is recommended so I went in my birthday suit. Not really a big deal EXCEPT this treatment required the removal of the “mud” in a bathtub by the attendant. Thank God, I’ve had four kids so I am not a huge prude or am particularly modest. All the while as she is rinsing me, I think, “Why do you not ask questions? Why do you think you have a handle on this when you know NOTHING about this particular treatment?” I laughed to myself as I am working on being honest and now I know that includes me, too. I find loving myself and being honest with myself makes this sober journey much less stressful. So, a good, quiet, relaxing week without alcohol. I laughed, danced, played shuffleboard, went boating, went to several cocktail parties – all sober. It was fantastic! And what was really mystical about the whole vacation was that I learned above everything else that I can have a good time, without alcohol.
Well, I am on Day Two of my husband’s company work trip. I had severe anxiety in the weeks leading up to this moment about coming because of the emphasis on drinking. An all-inclusive, fun-in-the-sun, no worries kind of a trip. We’ve been on these before. I knew what to expect. Typically, I would kick off the week by drinking heavily at the hotel the night before, wake up in a frenzy to catch the plane, grab a Bloody Mary for breakfast, and proceed to drink on the plane arriving half in the bag by the time we arrived at the resort. The remaining days would be a blur: me drinking, skipping meals, being the life of the party, falling over, acquiring countless bruises from the escapades. Going home and exhausted, I would replay the week in my mind and try to recall all the dumb things I said or did, recount who I offended, and shrug it off to “Well, I was on vacation. I needed to blow off steam being away from the kids.”
Lies. Lies. And more lies. Who was I kidding? Blowing off steam? I could “blow off steam” daily better than an English tea pot.
This vacation, I vowed, would be different. I would be sober.
And that, scared me to death. Who would notice? Who would pressure me? How would I possibly have fun? How will I talk to people without a buzz on? What will people think?
Man, I gave my Ego way too much credit. Nobody cares, really. I had conjured up a whole gamut of scenarios that might happen. Basically, that was wasted energy. Most people are either so into themselves, their spouses, or their conversations they don’t have time to give ME a second thought.
That is not to say NO ONE has noticed. The usual suspects have. One guy, for instance, has given me crap nearly every four hours: “I can’t believe you’re not drinking. I like you better when you’re drunk. You aren’t as much fun. So you’re not going to drink the WHOLE week. Why not say fuck it and have yourself a good time?”
Yet another, “Are you pregnant? What’s wrong with you? Are you on some kind of cleanse?” (Ha, why yes I am, thank you!)
He says this as he downs his fifteenth Jack and Coke. He says this because I make him uncomfortable; he doesn’t know me sober.
In fact, I don’t know me sober. I have so much to figure out; many thoughts run through my head as I navigate this new lifestyle. What do I want to do today? What will I eat to feed my body and my soul? How can I serve others? How can I live a life that doesn’t need alcohol? How can I take care of my spirit and protect her so she doesn’t fall privy to the demons around?
But, so far, I like the person I am getting to know. I know I like waking up in a calm way, hearing the birds and they aren’t aggravating to me. I like getting a detox massage knowing all the chemicals are being lifting out of my pores making way for healthy, clean cells. One of the simplest but best parts of being sober is taking a breath and remembering the events of the day and knowing I did not offend anyone because of alcohol. The transformation of my body, mind and spirit can be overwhelming sometimes because I KNOW where I’ve been. For thirty years I fooled myself into what I perceived as living. And I was living. But I was NOT being and therein lies the difference.
This week, I have laughed, meditated, conversed, danced, played shuffleboard, air hockey (I beat my husband, for the record),walked the resort alone and took pictures, journaled, and have taken time to figure out what I want. This feels good.
I have a long way to go; I know that, but I am not willing to sacrifice how I feel today for some poison in a cup. My Higher Power gave me the opportunity to live out (hopefully) the second half of my life in the way that He intended.
Today, I know who I am not: the drunk girl, slurring her words, trying to make people laugh at the expense of others. I don’t have to cringe at the sound of a beer tab popping back against the metal- heck, for all I know, it could be a can of pineapple juice- not likely, but the point is, it just doesn’t matter to me. The thoughts of alcohol aren’t consuming me minute to minute like they used to.
Well then, who am I? Not sure yet. But I am willing to be sober one more day to get closer to figuring her out.
Do you ever have one of those moments when you end up at a stop light and think, “How the hell did I get here already? Did I already pass____________?” And you aren’t drunk, high, texting, or otherwise disengaged in the driving process. I know scientists have a name for this, but it eludes me at the moment.
That happened to me earlier in the week, and it got me thinking. How much of my life has been a blur? How many times have I ended up in a situation, a feeling, a moment without really understanding how I got there?
Well, when I was drinking, that was a common occurrence. I would end up at a bar, in a hotel, my own bed, even a conversation- not recalling how I managed to get there. While those reflections do not represent the proudest moments of my life, they are still a part of my life. Worthwhile? Sure, because there are many lessons there I need not repeat.
But what about the times when I have simply flaked out? Nose in my ipad, zoning out in front of the tv, walking aimlessly around a mall? Most of those times were the morning after drinking so they include a hangover, fatigue, and the whole bucket of emotions that go with drinking.
Even still there are times when I have been simply unplugged. Those are the times that concern me. (Please do not read this as I am in denial and am not recognizing my alcoholic ways. I get that, but I cannot change or continue to reflect on the way I was under the influence; I will save those for the steps when I make my amends.) What I want to know is am I unplugging because the feelings are tough? Or is it a situation that has a simple fix but I am too damn stubborn to look for the solution? Forever checking my motivations; this is a new pattern for me- sometimes too little too late, but eventually the checking happens.
Sometimes, I feel like it’s the lady at the border patrol saying, “What is the reason for your visit?” And I look up and say, “Personal.”
How did I get to be my age and not know some basic things? It’s called growing up in an alcoholic home and not being allowed to feel, to think , to grow. Then, couple that with moving into adulthood masking feelings with alcohol. It’s no wonder I freak out at Starbucks. I am inundated with choices which I am not accustomed to doing. This is an unfamiliar road for me.
But, today, the road is not too bad. I have the ability to look at where I am personally, professionally, spiritually and assess where I’d like to be. The greatest moments are when I feel good just being where I am. I like knowing that some days I can just be.
So, how in the hell did I get here? Well, journaling, AA, my lovely sponsor, my sober friends, blogging, therapy and not drinking. I have had to It’s refreshing to have a clearer idea of where I am today. And while I may not always know how in the hell I got where I did, I do relish the notion that at the very least, today, I have the ability through the grace of God to question without shame, regret or embarrassment.
I look at this step and think long and hard about; in fact, I’ve been reading it and trying to digest it for over two weeks. Who says I think too much?
I like that it says “came” – it’s forgiving right off the bat. I don’t have to KNOW; it isn’t instantaneous. Rather, it evolves slowly and deliberately. That through my work on sobriety and my interactions with others, I can come to understand just what it is that my HP has in store for me.
Currently, I am in an insane sane place. My HP stopped the insanity of my drinking. He stepped up and told me, “If you are truly willing to call it quits, I got this.In the meantime, do the next right thing: DON”T PICK UP A DRINK. You’ll need a clear head for what’s coming.”
So, I turned it over because I finally realized that the ability to say no was NOT my voice. I don’t stick with things, historically. But that is largely due to the fact that I was the one in charge. I’m here to tell you, being a back seat driver has never been better. I get to look out the windows, tune out the GPS, breathe and live. Placing my HP in charge of my sobriety and asking Him to just “do it for me”( I am aware I can’t sit cross-legged in my living room and life is all better), makes my daily life a hell of a lot easier to cope with. But, I have to be sober in order to deal with the blows of life and my HP holds the keys to that.
So today, my insane insanity looks like this:
I am sober, working full time outside of the home with four children -one who isn’t currently speaking to me, two dogs, a husband, a huge extended family, sports and other places to get the kids to, meetings, church, and on and on. Just like most everybody else. And there is tension in these places, and disappointment, anger, frustration, miscommunication, fear, fatigue, tears. But the sane part about all of the above is that I am sober. I still have the same “stuff,” and some of it will go away and be solved in time. But because I am sober, I get to keep the life I have. I will always have deadlines to meet; that’s life. But I don’t have to put them off to the point of stress and almost forgetting. I can manage them. I can lay my kids’ basketball bags out two days before a game rather than running through the house trying to find the shirt as they sit in the car honking the horn.
You see? Because my HP took over my life, I can breathe again. He is like a professional closet and home organizer. He comes in, takes an assessment and says, “Damn woman. Step aside. You’re in your own way here. I got this.”
Being able to come to believe in my HP is what is helping me come to believe in me. And for that, I am grateful.
Generally speaking, when I sit down to blog I have an idea where I’m headed with my thoughts; I have a topic in mind. Today is different. I have been in and out of my head more times than I care to count in the past 48 hours. I feel like I am on the proverbial struggle bus and I am not sure where my next stop is.
I told myself that I started this blog as a way to express my feelings, to stay sober, and to be accountable to just myself. And truly that was my intention. I used to use a pen and paper to do my journalling, but typing has become much easier for me so this seemed a natural progression. Yet, over the course of the past few weeks, this blog is becoming something more to me. I am not entirely sure I know what I expect anymore. I emailed a cyber friend and asked her advice. I loved her comments, am taking her advice and I’m going to “throw this out there” into the universe and see what happens. (Hugs and God bless you, Michelle.)
Not unlike many people with addictions, I’ve spent a great number of years seeking approval from others. Wrapping my identity up into how others define me has helped and hindered me. Sometimes, others have seen a strength in me I never dreamed was there; other times, people have misunderstood my personality (drunk and sober) and it gets me into trouble. But in the long run, how other people defined me wasn’t authentic (in the sense that I didn’t connect with their impression whether positive or negative) so I felt it didn’t matter.
So having said that, can someone please tell me why in the hell I get excited when my phone “dings” alerting me that someone has liked my post, or better yet, commented on what I had to say? Or, conversely, when I have a low number of people visiting the site, why do I feel a personal affront? It really seems pretty ridiculous in the grand scheme of life and recovery.
Is this my need for approval from others? I thought I was writing for myself. Sometimes, I think I am losing that honesty and I think too hard about how my heart may be interpreted by those reading.
Why can’t I just write a post and not be consumed with how others like it, identify with it, or think it hits home? Is my Ego that big? If it is my Ego, how do I reign myself back in and learn to “go with it”? How do I check my Ego at the door and let it be?
And why in the hell if I am supposed to be working on Step Two (Came to believe a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity) am I not building my relationship with my Higher Power? Why am I not turning this over too? And where is the sanity I am supposed to be directing myself towards?
I’m sure the answer is smacking me in the face, or it isn’t. I don’t like not having an answer, but then again, my life has “become unmanageable” so perhaps saying I don’t know is the surrender.
Untitled. On. Purpose.
If you’ve been in recovery for a while, it will come as no big shock that I finally figured out that the alcohol was merely the vehicle I used to be a bitch -quicker. Without the alcohol and without continually working on seeing my blind spots, I am still a bitch. I’m not sure where I got the notion that when I quit drinking my life would fall into place rather seamlessly.
I liken the steps in sobriety to pregnancy the first time. No one REALLY discloses all the bad stuff and you have to figure much of the ups and downs as you go through the gestational period week by week, day by day. At first, the excitement of new life is ever present. Like a baby, I felt I had a new lease on life. I was being reborn. The innocence could be restored. That wore off. Then, I got morning sickness. I missed my booze; I grieved for its absence; I resented not being able to have what everybody else had (in my mind, it was FUN.) Soon, I moved into the settling in and accepting part.
Well, so I thought. I was particularly snarky this weekend. I honestly stopped and checked my motives more in the past 48 hours than a crook checks the locked doors in a heavily trafficked parking lot. Acceptance. What does it mean? Does it mean I screwed up the past, my youth I can never reclaim? Does it mean I have to recognize that so many times- too many to count- I have been at fault? Why was I anxious, mind racing, blaming anyone in my path?
I have a trip coming up with my husband and his company that I am locked into. It’s freaking me out. Six days in the sun, no kids, all-inclusive resort. We’ve been on a similar trip eight times (each winter) so my expectations are very real. ALCOHOL is central to this vacation. It is not unusual for the drinks to start flowing at 11 a.m. I know, because in the past, I have been the one rounding everyone up to go to the tiki bar. A good friend in recovery asked me what I am freaking out about.
“Are you afraid you will drink?” No. I really am not. But I am also not naive enough to think this is NOT a possibility. People with far more time than I have relapsed. My feelings, though, are for a different motivation. And, I have to honor those feelings to get to why I am anxious, fearful, and snippy.
So, I had to think and to talk about what was the motivation for my fear. It boils down to acceptance. I will not be drinking which will inevitably invoke questions from the group. I do not want to make up an excuse nor do I care to give full disclosure. But what I do have to do is accept that I was the drunk girl everyone talked about. I was the “talk of the breakfast table” as I would stroll in, sunglasses on, acting as if I wasn’t “that bad” the night before. The barrage of questions would ensue: “How are you feeling?” “Oh, you better get the hair of the dog in ya!” “Oh my gosh! I’m surprised YOU are up so early.” And on and on.
So, this year will be different. I will not be drinking so what’s the problem? Well, I have to admit to myself that I am an alcoholic. I have to be ready and willing to understand that the person I was last year will not be paying a visit on this trip. I also have to get the hell out of my head and do a few things.
1. Get the hell out of the past. It’s over.
2. Get the hell out of my sick thoughts. I know it’s time to shut the voices down for they are destructive and useless.
3. Get over what the hell everyone else thinks. I have spent many hours consumed with this. The bottom line is what they think of me is none of my business.
Nobody said being sober was easy. Nobody. But what I have heard is that miracles happen, life is better, and that when I work the steps, my life will improve. Just because I will be away from home doesn’t mean I have to abandon what I have been working towards.
Fearing the future robs me of the possible great moments I may have. Accepting who I am and loving myself despite my disease makes me stronger and better equipped to live life on life’s terms.
So like a woman in her final days of pregnancy, I can look forward to a new life: Challenging? Yes. Rewarding? Yes. A new way of thinking, being, living. Toss in some self-care, nurturing, and love and the sleepless night and crying aren’t so bad after all.
I am not a runner; never have been and probably never will be. Yet, I am running- so much so, a trained marathon runner might be exasperated trying to keep up with my mindset. Today is a goofy day. I went back to work after having 18 days off. I am squirrely, and I feel off. I know much of this is due to having my schedule basically unhampered for nearly three weeks. But my anxiety is starting to get the better of me. Old patterns are rearing their heads, and I need to squelch them soon.
One of my biggest flaws is follow through. I love to start a great project, to be in on the planning. But to actually see something through to the very end? That’s foreign to me. I am not the type who sees a huge project, toils through the task and feels like a proud momma at its closure. Something in me likes the chaos of lots of unfinished projects. I justify it by saying I’m testing the waters or I’m eclectic or even better, I don’t know who I am yet (See yesterday’s post).
Truth be told, all of this is crap.I am scared. What if I finish something I start? Will I be disappointed in the end result. or God forbid, be proud of what I did? Either way, until I “fix” my head, the result will be crippling. If I fail, I reinforce that voice that says, “See? I told you so. You suck. Why do you even bother?” On the flip side, if the end is positive, my demons start barking, “You got lucky. Other people carried more of the weight. It’s not perfect, yanno.”
Now before you envision me with a ski mask over my face, sitting by my front door, keys in hand, petrified to take a step humor me a bit to know that I CAN and HAVE started and completed many things. I teach, therefore, I begin and end units nearly weekly. I have completed 22 successful school years. I have given birth to four children.
But the parts of me that I want to explore become stagnant. I have a book of spiritual poems I would love to see in print. But, I am so good at being a victim that I fall into the “Well, I don’t know how to go about doing that.” So, it sits. And I sit. Unlike the poems on paper, I sit and rip on myself. It’s comfortable, familiar, but oh-so-sickening; when I am in my reflective self, the process makes me disgusted. Why go through therapy, AA, sober chats, blogging, ANYTHING if I am going to continue to time after time continue to spin the record without lifting the needle, dusting it off and starting the song over?
Well, I do so because it IS uncomfortable. I spent years drowning in alcohol to give myself excuses for the lack of ambition: Buzzed, hungover, tired, blah, blah, blah. If I am going to spend the time being introspective, it’s time to do something external, to take a chance. I don’t like chance; I like planned and organized.
HA! Have you ever met an alcoholic who likes calm, planned, predictable? If you reread the first paragraph I talk about being squirrely today because I am back to work, a schedule. Somehow, I need to get what I SAY to match not only what I THINK, but also what I DO.
Today, I don’t have the answers. But I do know that I am calmer getting the thoughts out of my head and onto the screen. They become real to me and I give them authenticity and credence when I do.
So, I will figure out a small project I can do to start. I really want to publish my poems. Today, I will investigate what it takes, set a deadline and work towards that goal. I have to get off the proverbial roller coaster and until I do something different, I am going to get what I’ve always gotten.