As my kids are watching The Lion King and Pumba and Timon attempt to cheer up Simba, “Hakuna Matata” is stuck in my head. (and probably will be well into next week…) It’s good timing really, because I’ve been in a funk today. The kind where even when the priest looks at me at church, I’m sure he’s going to talk in his homily about something cynical directed at moi. Or my husband asks if I want a cup of coffee and I assume he thinks I’m irritable even though I haven’t spoken.
Then, I hear my sponsor talking in my head. “Linda, your EGO needs to step down most days.” Oh.
So, I take my invisible eraser, swipe it across myself, and start my day over even though I’ve been awake for six hours. Hakuna Matata.
I don’t have to worry about putting the laundry away right now. Im pretty sure it’s still going to be peering at me over the tops of the baskets in a few hours. I don’t have to scour the panty, freezer and fridge to create a grocery list; I have more than enough food for the week. The one item I need – ketchup- can really wait. And I don’t have to worry about work; that’s still 17 hours from now. And most importantly, I don’t have to worry about other people’s business. This one gets me in trouble. A lot. I find my mind drifting into other people’s yards and I think about how unkempt they are. Judging others. The downfall of yours truly. It’s funny how I hate other people’s opinions about me (unless they’re glowing, of course), but I certainly can jump on the judgment train faster than a cell phone can slip into a flushing toilet.
The good part is, I am sober today so I can recognize the error of my ways and I can correct them before the landslide of doom occurs.
All I have to do is stay in the moment, chill out and be grateful. The alcoholic in me wants to throw shit into a tail spin so I can create a little drama and chaos in my house; it’s entirely too quiet and everybody is getting along beautifully.
But I don’t because that’s old behavior. I have to keep peace at the forefront of my mind. Some days, like today, this really takes work. But it is still nowhere near the amount of work it took to hide my drinking from basically everyone around me. And, I have lots of little reminders around me when I choose to be aware of them. Luckily, now is a moment when my mind wants to open up and free the ick.
It means no worries for the rest of my days. It’s a problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata.
So, the post below this a true mark of me. What do I mean? Well, I spent a great deal of time pouring out my guts about accepting myself, learning to love me again and telling my ego to back off. I wrote, edited, mulled over, meditated and finally hit “publish.” And it did. But only the title and the image.
Once again, my character defects come to light. When am I going to stop being afraid of not knowing and start to fucking ask questions. One of theses days I am going to stop bumbling along thinking I have the world by its ass because as soon as I do, I hit publish and it becomes very real, very public that indeed, I don’t.
So, (humbly), in a short version, how do I add an image and text?
Some days, I hate being a grownup. I want to stay in bed, curl up with my fleecy blanket, and not think for a while. I wish for someone to coddle me, nurture me, and keep hot tea on my bedside table.
But, the reality is I am a grown up; I do have responsibilities and I do have to get up every day and face whatever the world disperses to me. Earlier in the week, I wanted to say “Fuck today” more so than I have before. So, here comes the truth.
My teenage daughter left my home in late December because I am an alcoholic. I failed her as a parent, and I failed myself as a human. You see, I quit drinking in early November and since I had some 50 days of sobriety I was under the illusion that I was clear headed and making sense when I spewed out my millionth lecture to her. In my mind, I felt entitled to come at her with my truth regardless of how she felt. I was going to set a boundary, damn it.
Well, that was almost two months ago. My daughter will not respond to my texts, answer my calls, or come to see me, her step dad or two half-brothers.
I have a hole in my heart.I thought I had a handle on this sobriety piece. I am so mistaken. The more time passes, the less I know. My whole perception of truth and how it relates to me has been shattered. So, I called her therapist asking what more I need to be doing to foster this relationship. I go to her office and have no idea what to expect, but the feeling in my stomach tells me I am in for a treat, and not that kind that makes you deny your diet and feel boundless joy.
We chat, simple banter and then she drops the question: “Have you read the letter she mailed you?” Letter? What letter? I don’t have a letter, but I have to go to the po to get my mail and hadn’t done so in two days. Well, she’s prepared; she has a copy.
I am pretty sure I was slammed by a train, screeching under the wheels down the tracks. Every cell in my body was splitting starting at my feet and moving north the speed of light. Her words hurt me to my core. I had (in her eyes) rejected her; I walked out on her; I never wanted her and I have had the audacity to kick her out of the house. In fact, she doesn’t even want to call me mom anymore. Her words, “You blow up, then feel guilty, apologize, and expect everything to be normal again.”
The shame ekes into my cheeks. I can barely even swallow. A lump of pain is there and if I don’t get it down, I’m pretty sure I will suffocate. After I trudge through the remainder of the meeting, I stumble to my car.
That is a moment that I am going to have to accept and expect to happen again. Being an alcoholic, I have betrayed the trust of my children. My brave daughter let her honest, to-the-core feelings loose and I know this is only one of the many moments I will have in the months to come where facing the demons is a reality. I spent hours reading and rereading her words- not as a punishment but so I could hear and define what I did and understand my role in the fault. I slept on it (not very soundly) and composed a letter that I feel allowed my role, my responsibility, my apology to come through without being a complete punching bag. And as my fabulous sponsor said to me, I am only responsible now for my effort, not the outcome.
I had to come to a pretty stark realization: I lied to myself for years that I was only hurting myself. I went to work full-time, had a good marriage, attended church regularly, have four children and attended all their activities. My drinking couldn’t possibly have an effect on them. They hug me and tell me they love me; they tell me I am their biggest fan and they know I always have their back. Me, hurting my family?
Fuck me. Fuck the lies. Fuck the alcohol. Damn right I hurt my kids, my husband, my mom, my siblings, my in laws, and my friends. I have shame, regret and fear as a result.
However, being sober is the first step. Feeling the emotions and allowing them to rear their ugly heads, accepting them, and being willing to make a change and commit to that change is a completely different entity. Having a moment like this sober helps me to understand why I drank, but it also clarifies why I CAN’T; I’ve wasted too much of my life not feeling and I missed some key lessons along the way.
I know I am not a sum of the negative but rather a sum of ALL things and that includes the hope of a better future. I know I am sitting in the fire right now and there will come a day when I can be on the outskirts only feeling a little of the stinging blazes. But today, it’s fucking hard. All I ever wanted to be in this life was a great mom, and I fell short because I chose alcohol over my kids.
Yet, I am determined to feel the feelings: to live, to learn, to lose, to one day laugh a great belly laugh.
And, I let this all go to the universe and I asked my Higher Power to protect me.
And protect He did. I went to the get the mail to be sure I did indeed have a letter which I did. But on top of the mail, right on top, was a letter of encouragement to me from my best friend from high school. It read: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” My favorite quote of all time, I might add. And inside she writes, “I believe in you; hang in there ; you are strong and I’m thinking of you. I love you.”
I call my friend to tell her how perfect HER timing was and that I appreciate it so very much. And she says, “Hmm. Weird you are just now getting that. I mailed that over two weeks ago.”
Weird? Nope. Not in the least.
Well, I made it through another weekend sober. What’s interesting to me is how alcohol has been such a toxic, ridiculous disruption in my life and I was so unaware of it.
Which pisses me off.
I like to think I am smart, in control and know things. I have been bouncing along really thinking how very blessed I am that everything everyone who is in the program has been telling me I have managed to avoid. I’ve been in some really tough situations the last three months and managed to stay sober. It wasn’t effortless by any means; I had a plan, I reached out. yada yada yada.
So imagine my surprise Saturday night when the following happened to me:
I was sitting on my couch, reading Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story. Out of the blue, I was salivating. I could barely swallow and my heart rate picked up. Then, I swear I was having an outer body experience. I envisioned myself at the liquor aisle and how I would behave.
Part of me (a very big, domineering part) said, “Oh, you would be fine. Look how far you’ve come.”
Another voice said, ” Are you out of your mind? What have you been working so hard for? You know you are an alcoholic. You can’t drink. You can’t even think of going to a liquor store.”
Still another said,” Hey. You got this. No worries. And anyway, one drink wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”
And then another, “So what if you go and get wasted? What would be so bad if you did it once a year?”
I had no idea what happened. Everything went so fast. I shut my book, grabbed my phone and called my sponsor. Thank God she answered. As I talked her through what happened and she knew I was safe from drinking at that moment, I honestly lived the first step. I AM powerless over alcohol. I didn’t want those thoughts; I didn’t invite those voices in. But they were there and they were loud, powerful and obnoxious (much like I am when I am drinking. Go figure.)
I was, for the first time in my sobriety, afraid to my core. I had no idea how much alcohol had a grip on my soul, my being. It is a terrifying realization that out of the blue, this voice jumped in, unannounced and tried to sweep me off my feet.
But on the upside, as I continue to work through Step Two, I did come to believe on Saturday night that a power greater than I helped my out of my insanity and kept me sober. No way on this earthly sphere was I ever capable of denying that temptation. My Higher Power- with whom I am desperately trying to connect- was right there. The part that told me, “Call your sponsor. Don’t be afraid; she’ll know what to do” was a lesson in humility, powerlessness, and miracles.
And I told my sponsor I didn’t have a pink cloud…just like an alcoholic, I didn’t know I had one and I was living in it.
So 90 days into sobriety and I look at where I’ve been thus far. Some days, I feel like I can conquer the world: I feel joy, energy, happiness and hope. Other days, I feel antsy, agitated, impatient and restless. And, sadly, downright angry. Sometimes, I like to think I am angry at nothing at all. HA. But I know better. Something always triggers something. To say to myself or to others that I don’t know why I’m angry is like saying I threw a stone in a pond and no ripples occurred.
Changing my behavior to meet my goals is totally new. When I was drinking, I “downgraded” my life in so many aspects just so I could keep continue to fuel my addiction. After all, I believed I was never good enough, worthy enough, or deserving enough to live a life of happiness and prosperity. I lied to myself and said that I deserved to drink because I was feeling so wretched inside. Nobody could possibly understand the guilt, shame, sadness and perpetual sense of hopelessness I had in my heavy heart. And, to make matters worse, my “God” set me up for this misery. I mean, if He wanted me to be happy, he could make it happen. So, because I felt stuck, it had to be His fault. Year after painful year, I would quip in late December that “This just wasn’t my year to have it all. Maybe next year!”
But as I elicited laughs from my peers, the truth was there is an inherent part of me that buys into this sick theory. For years, I have allowed alcohol to speak for me, and ultimately, steer my life and my decisions. The most detrimental of all is the way I allowed alcohol to define me externally and internally.
As I continue to move away from using alcohol as my numbing agent and more towards AA, my sponsor, my therapist, mediation, blogging, BFB on Yahoo, journaling and being honest, I have found that it’s not the goals that need to change; it’s me.
Coming to this realization hasn’t been without resistance. How could I undue 44 years of misguided thinking?
“One day at a time.”
It wasn’t easy to start self-care so I had to go about it in a backwards way. I thought about how I would want my own children to be treated. Would I stand by and watch someone degrade my children? Would I tell them their dreams were too big and not to expect much out of life? Did I think they were deserving of forgiveness and unconditional love? By thinking of them and how, as a mother, I wanted them to feel utterly protected, loved, and respected by this universe I was able to SLOWLY make the transition to myself. (And when I say SLOWLY, I mean at a snail’s pace…I’m nowhere near the finish line let alone the halfway mark. Hell, I just suited up and tied my shoes!)
And because I am not at the point where I have totally immersed myself in new thinking, I still often revert to the notion of the impression I leave on my children. I question how do I want my kids to remember me at the end of the day? Do I want them to refer to me as painful, distant, irritated, or do I prefer they smile and think, “Mom was fun and light-hearted, peaceful.” (Please do not read this as I am longing to be the “fun mom” who seeks to be buddies with her children. I have taught hs for 22 years and understand those ramifications all too well.)
So, just for today, I will reach for my newly developed goals and NOT reach for alcohol. I will be grateful for my sobriety and for the opportunity to be clear-headed enough to be introspective so I can make positive changes.