What classifies “The Truth”?

Truth. This is a word I have struggled with for the greater part of my life. When I was little, I thought whatever an adult told me was true. My siblings would tease me and tell me my blonde hair was turning brown whenever I would lie. I would run to the nearest mirror, pull my part aside and look closely at my roots to see if indeed a transformation was taking place. It wasn’t until years later that i figured out what a bad liar I was…sadly, I developed the art of lying largely due in part to my alcoholism.

Fast forward to present day. I have nearly six months sobriety and I have worked my arse off to be honest at all costs. I have tried to avoid gossip (not completely, but I’m better than I was); I have recognized that by telling the entire truth and not bits and pieces or just the part of a story that makes me look either a. better than I am or b. as a victim allows me to “keep my side of the street clean” as AA states. I feel liberated, less stressed out and far less shame than the past drinking days would leave me with.

This sounds fantastic. Don’t get me wrong; I am not upset about my new lifestyle. Far from it. What upsets me is my damn black and white thinking that this disease has ground into my mind. I have managed to project my lifestyle of honesty onto those around me. I have come to expect others to behave like me and I get mad when then don’t. It’s a righteous way to live and it’s biting me back. Hard.

I do not think omission is telling the truth. My husband, however, disagrees. He has omitted a few details of stories  he’s told or life events he’s had over the past few months and I am furious. What does he mean he went to the gambling boat with his friend? What does he mean he got pulled over. Again. What does he mean he spend $500.00 on a (my perspective) useless toy? His excuse? It’s easier to not tell me everything because of my reactions. He’d rather take his chances of me not finding out than having to deal with me.

WHAT? I am living a lie? My marriage is a sham? How in the hell is this fair? 

My world seemed upside down. Here I was spilling my guts, admitting my wrongs, cleaning house. And my husband did not share my belief that ALL truths must be told.

So, after I fumed and got pissed and played the victim, I thought about my role. Why doesn’t he want to tell me these types of things? Is my reaction THAT bad? Probably. Can I change it? Probably. Do I have a desire to continue to work on myself and not project my path of sobriety onto those around me? Yes. What am I responsible for? My actions, my behaviors, my self. I do not get to control how other people act. I do not get to control what other people say to me. I do not get to dictate. Sigh.

All is not lost, however. I do get to set boundaries. I do have the ability to say how I feel when I am not being told the whole truth. I also get to go to meetings, talk with my sponsor, see my therapist, blog, journal, pray, reflect, and meditate. i have to understand that at some point- not today- this sobriety will be easier. My life is not going to be without bumps. But I get to respond to the bumps and if I am honest, I have not been so easy to live with for several years. My behavior has been nothing short of erratic, unpredictable, and yes, dishonest. 

So, while I am still slightly miffed at the lack of disclosure, I also have to be responsible and realize that six months of sobriety cannot and will not undue the decades I spent drinking. I developed some deep-rooted behavioral patterns and my family was/is affected. I can do the next right thing and not drink. I can love myself and keep on keeping on.

One day at a time.


“If you fail to plan, plan to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

Ole Benny was a little harsh in his words, but he makes a valid point. I bring up the idea of having a plan because of the holiday weekend. Since being sober for a little over five months, I have found the events where I think through what I want them to be like, what my role will be, what my escape plan is, and how I am going to keep my mind free of garbage and negative self talk, my success is generally better. For Easter, my husband and I will be with his family- generally a bunch of “normals” but who enjoy a mimosa or a Bloody Mary just the same. I recall last Easter when the day grew older and my sister-in-law and I drank all day and had a dance party on the driveway while the rest of his family watched us “tie on one.” Not an Easter I want to relive this year. So, I have a plan that works for me, my husband, and our kids. Knowing I have sketched out a blueprint take away the stress and worry I generally feel without one.

Benjamin Franklin made a number of good points during his lifetime. One of his pieces has captivated me for years;
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin touches on his quest for perfectionism. I could not help but recall this piece when I was working through my Step Six. How do I alleviate the sloth, greed, lust, anger? It seemed so overwhelming, much like our buddy felt years ago as he set out on his quest. And while he determined that no matter how hard he tried, something would rear its ugly head in its place once he felt the demon conquered. His arrogance irritated me when I first read this some time ago and it still does to an extent today. So, I give the ole guy a break and think about how does this fit in to an alcoholic’s life today? How can I be in recovery and learn from this?

Well, for starters, I already know I am not perfect so that part is pretty easy. But the real work comes when I look at my character defects and see what I am actively doing to cut down on them. I am a gossip. No question. For Lent, I gave up talking about one of my coworkers. She is in an administrative role and has authority over me. I don’t like her. Why? Because I think I should have her job…I don’t WANT her job, but I think I am better suited and would outperform her. So I take opportunities to bad mouth her ideas and question her motives any chance I can get. I have a way with people so manipulating their thoughts to “get them on board” with my sick thinking is relatively easy. I rally the groups and make her life difficult. I didn’t give up gossiping about her in a quiet way either. Nope. I made an announcement that for the next 40 days and 40 nights I could not engage in the talk about the one who shall not be mentioned.
To ask me if I am arrogant, conniving, manipulative, and/or self-serving, I would say absolutely not! But if I read the above and think of it as someone else’s behavior, I would characterize that person as all of those qualities and more. This is how the disease works. I am so much better looking at the world around me than holding up a mirror to myself.

Looking back at the past few weeks, I have had to look at my boss (See? Up above I call her my coworker…the truth is, she is one of my bosses…I have to call it like it is!) and see what role I play in our relationship. If I had to work with me when I am thick into my disease, I would not like me. And not to drag myself across the concrete- I do have endearing qualities- but the times when I am fully aware that I am being a jerk, I would not want to be subjected to me. My self-inflicted gag order was one of the best non behaviors I have done in a long time barring (pun intended) the consumption of alcohol.

Having to see her as my boss, being in meetings with her where I truly listened and didn’t roll my eyes in my head or tune her out or think about my next way to cut her idea down, I found (I hate this part) that she really has some innovative thinking. The mere fact that I can accept her position of authority (it’s only been three years) and recognize that like me she does have worth, she does has value, and she does deserve my respect is nothing short of a miracle. Did I mention I’m hardheaded and stubborn?

No. We will probably never be best friends. But that’s okay. I have come to realize that this is a work environment and work I must. Work on myself, work on my relationships with others, work on how I want to be seen- NOT perceived. Ben Franklin came to the same realization: He would never be perfect, but the awareness he gained is immeasurable.

Chasing after a miracle

Earlier in the day, I gave my daughter a twenty for gas money. It’s not something I typically do, but we’ve been really connecting lately. Plus, she has a job and never asks for money nor does she mope around that she can’t do anything because she doesn’t have the funds. She was getting ready to go to a wedding while my husband and the little guys were outside picking up, hauling and splitting the oak tree that fell in my yard last week.

When she came out ready to go, she stopped to tell us goodbye. Visibly upset, she told me the money flew away and she couldn’t get to it on time. She was really in a frenzy so I told her it was  really no big deal and that although I didn’t have any other cash, I would catch up with her later to help her out. She muttered something about me not needing to bail her out and she had to get going anyway.

So, what did I do? I prayed and hoped and scoured the property. We’re on over six acres and sit in the middle of farm country. Not to mention, the winds were blowing 20-25 mph. Still, I had hope. I picked up a leaf and let it blow trying to see how the wind was blowing. I was sure if I just kept looking, I would find the money stuck to a random tree safe from the wind. This madness went on for about 30-40 minutes.

I stopped dead in my tracks. My God. I am acting like such an alcoholic with a co-dependcy problem. First of all, my behavior was sheer madness. There was no way on this green earth I was going to come across the twenty. Just like an alcoholic who searches everywhere but inside herself, I was looking for an answer that wasn’t going to happen. I was searching and using every last ditch effort to come across this money. I prayed and then I went on to test God and say, “Please. Let me find this money! I want so bad to say I prayed and I found it.” Bartering, begging, pleasing. Just like  I did when I was drinking. “Please God, get me through this night and I’ll never drink again.”

Furthermore, my daughter had driven off and was on her way. She wasn’t worried about it. She said she was sorry; she didn’t mean to lose the money and it was an accident. So why in the hell did I think I had to fix this for her? Guilt for not being a better mom when I was drinking? Proof that God can provide when you need Him to?

All so ridiculous. I will forever be amazed at how this disease can take over when I am not paying attention. I mean, it isn’t like this was a million dollars and even if it were, what was I going to do about it? I was creating chaos when there was no need to. 

With a big breath, I practiced acceptance. Accept that the money is gone. Accept that praying to God and begging for a miracle is NOT being spiritual. Trying to step in and “fix” this for my daughter was only causing me stress; she was oblivious and rightfully so. I also and to accept that not finding the money does not define me as a person, make me a bad mom, or clarify me as a loser.

If I want to find a miracle, perhaps I need to look in the mirror. After all, being sober for five months is nothing short of a miracle and it is nothing I accomplished by my will power. Maybe I need to go to an AA meeting and look at all the sober people working hard to have better lives. For their daily decisions to turn their will over to God as they understand him is divinely inspired. Running around my yard and through the corn fields to find money is not miraculous. Not even close. However, through this escapade, I have learned that while I may be sober, my behavior is what I need to keep addressing.

What do propane and sobriety have in common?

No. This is not a joke with some ridiculous punchline about being blown. Although…

In all seriousness, I am grateful to be sober. Last night, I returned home with my little guys after baseball practice. My husband was out of town and my teenager was upstairs in her room. As soon as I opened the door to the house, I was blasted with the smell of propane. 
I am new to a lot of things in life; this scenario being yet another one. I had no idea if I turned the light on, I could ignite the house. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Thankfully, my teenager didn’t have that experience either.

I opened the patio door and let fresh air come billowing into the kitchen, called my husband who told me not to turn the lights on (too late), and to call the emergency number for our propane provider. I did and the guy came out and said he didn’t smell anything. I laughed and said, “Okay, well, I need for you to test because I have an honest nose.” Sure enough he tested by the oven and his machine was beeping faster than a couple of bunnies jumping on hot coals (odd visual and kind of sick, too).

The regulator on my store was broken and the safety seal had popped. he disconnected the propane, told me to get the oven fixed by a professional and to keep my nose honest.

Keep my nose honest. Now THAT is statement to love and to remember. Because if I hadn’t “kept my nose honest” so to speak, last night would have had a very different, very possibly tragic ending. No one else smelled the propane. My boys were minutes away from bedtime, my daughter upstairs doing homework on her bed. If I had been drinking, I would have been in the garage- immune to the propane and had drunk until I passed out a few hours later.

I would not have the blessings I have today. So, in AA we say not yet if we keep drinking. Last night I was given a huge reminder of why I cannot drink. I have to be the sober presence when I am the only adult in the house. That is MY job. I am teary eyed today because I chose not to drink and in doing so, I averted a disaster.

Propane and sobriety would have never been a match to me prior to last night.

“The very best thing you can do for the whole world is to make the most of yourself.” Wallace D. Wattles

“We shall get rid of that terrible sense of isolation we have always had. Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness.Even before our drinking got bad and people had cut us off, nearly all of us suffered the feeling that we don’t quite belong.Either we were shy and dared not draw near others, or we were apt to be noisy good fellows craving attention and companionship but never really getting it-at least to our way of thinking”  The Twelve Steps and Traditions (57).

I am well aware that AA is not for everyone, and I completely respect that. However, as I celebrate my fifth month of sobriety today, I cannot help but be drawn to the Fifth Step in AA.  The above is an excerpt of what can happen when we purge ourselves of our fears, resentments, and disappointments. For many alcoholics in recovery, the thought of opening up to another person and spilling our guts is maddening. Many people avoid the Fourth and Fifth Steps for months for this reason. My struggle was not so much with the disclosure- my God, I am an open book and those who were around me when I drank know more about me than I do! No, my struggle came in the idea that so much that has happened is my fault. I deserved to feel bad. I brought all of the negativity into my life. I was responsible for any misery that came my way. For all intents and purposes, I was alone. No one had ever felt like I did. How could they possibly understand the feelings of isolation I had?

Having to rehash my shit to another human being without the safe confines of a confessional box seemed daunting. It would be utterly necessary to connect with another human being, in a sober state. VULNERABLE. I do not like not feeling in control, but we all know, when I tried to control my own life, I made a shambles of it. Time for this girl to do something different. I would have to take a good hard look at myself- SOBER- admit the garbage, own the garbage, let it settle a bit, and then throw the garbage out. Permanently.

When I was drinking, I could be in a bar full of people- noise, laughter, sports blaring in the background, juke box humming away and feel like I was the only one in the room. I could not connect with others. So I drank more. With each gulp (I never sipped), the toxins would eat away at me and I would fool myself into thinking the reason I couldn’t talk to other people is that I wasn’t interesting. Who would want to be bothered with my stories? I wasn’t worth it. So I would melt into my bar stool and act as if I were totally engrossed in whatever was on the bar tv. Occasionally, some brave soul would enage me in conversation. I would either respond with sarcasm, humor directed at myself as a put down, or conversation about other people- and never in a nice way. The isolation I felt inside was stifling. I kept chasing the notion that if I drank more, I would become interesting, intelligent, a guru of verbal magnitude. It never happened thus continuing the cycle. The only sure bet was a hangover, further remorse, additional notches on my “Wall of Shame” and a deepening sense of disconnectedness and isolation.

When I began my Fifth Step with my sponsor, she told me under no circumstances to hold back. “Get it all out! If I haven’t heard of what you’ve done before, I know someone who has. This step is to cleanse and to restore balance.” I immediately felt a sense of community. What? Other people have done what I have done??? I am NOT alone?? So I trudged through and after four hours, I was exhausted, but I felt clean. I felt connected. To what I still am not sure. But the deep-rooted feeling of being by myself in this big ole world was lifted. I have a purpose. I have a right to be here on earth. I have a voice. My attitude is completely different. I have a coworker who does not know I am in recovery. She on an almost daily basis will step back and look at me and say, “I don’t know what you are doing, but you are completely different. You are so professional, calm and serene.” Why, yes I am. Thank you.

The best gift I can give to this world is to give the best of myself. I used to think giving would destroy me. But that was when I didn’t know who I was. I felt I had nothing TO give. Today, at five months sober, I know better. I do have worth. I do have value.I do have a voice worth hearing. I can accept my mistakes and know that although flawed, I am not alone. Making peace with my Higher Power and me were the best gifts I could give not only to me but also to my family, friends, coworkers, and community. 

Today, I no longer feel alone even when I am alone. I have myself back, and to be honest, I like her.

What does an alcoholic look like???

Like many of you, I watched the segment by Maria Shriver on the Today Show regarding moms who drink too much. First and foremost, I want to commend the network for chipping away at such an important societal secret that festers just below the surface of “polite talk”. Exposing the realities of the disease and talking about the truth are just two ways we can come together to help break down the stereotype of what the “typical” alcoholic looks like.

Because I am still a black and white thinker, the idea of having any alcohol at a play date disturbs me. The notion that moderation can happen is foreign to me; therefore, I HAVE to be all or nothing. I look at people who can have a glass of wine, a beer, or God forbid a liquor-infused cocktail and switch to water mid-stream doesn’t jive with me. Why? Because I am an alcoholic. The mere thought of leaving half an inch of beer in the bottle or two swigs of wine in the glass, for that matter, seem sacrilegious. Furthermore, Matt Lauer’s suggestion that having a drink in the evening to unwind is okay, but drinking at 2:00 in the afternoon is not. I hear red flags in both of those misconceptions. And while I understand his point, many a closet drinker can go until the “acceptable” hours of alcohol consumption and still have the disease. Conversely, many who are “normal” can have a glass of wine at lunch and not be stifled by the clutches of alcoholism. Obviously, we are a nation (world) that needs further education.

I hope the exposure this story brought to the secret world of alcoholism in women becomes as eye-opening as breast cancer awareness and women and heart disease. For alcoholism is a disease just the same. I know there are people who will say, “Don’t align ME with THAT disease. Only dirty people, uneducated, low lives, people who lack ambition have alcoholism.” 

Well, I beg to differ. Just as Stephanie, I am a smart, good-looking, college educated with a masters degree (4.0, I might add), mom of four, happily (now that I am sober) married professional. We spend millions of dollars annually to fight weight loss and to figure out how our body chemistry will react to pesticides, carbohydrates, probiotics- the list goes on and on. But the simple reality is many of us could lose the battle of the bulge if we got honest about our alcohol intake. Please hear me: I am NOT suggesting every woman who is overweight is an alcoholic. Rather, those of us who fight our weight and consume more than the recommended weekly alcohol intake may want to get real with ourselves. Chances are, our issues lie much deeper than the alcohol.

How many billions of dollars a year go to healthcare costs due to alcohol? How many doctors truly know their patients’ amount of alcohol consumption? If we step out of the dark and into the light, how will our mental, physical, and spiritual healing be affected?

Alcoholism in both men and women needs to be treated for what it is: a disease. But in order to get to this point, we need to be brave, to be honest with ourselves and our healthcare providers so that we can live the lives we are intended to live. Free. Healthy. Happy. Serene. Prosperous.

The Today Show captured the tip of the iceberg. I am grateful for that, but we need to keep the proverbial ball rolling. Just as my disease is a journey, a process, so too is the education that needs to take place.

Driving Myself Crazy… quite literally

Today started out much like many other days: Get up, shower, dress, drop kids at day care, drive to work. But as I was merging onto the interstate, I had a decision to make: Slow down a bit, allow the semi tractor-trailer to continue on his way and merge in behind him or floor it (in the rain) and expect my car to burst forth and get onto the road first at 70 mph.

Guess what? I entertained the latter idea until it was almost too late. I fell into the road-raging, I’m-entitled-to-be-on the-road-you- better-let-me-in-so-I-can-merge-out-of-control-jack-ass driver. As I saw his bumper over my shoulder and the road was running out, I braked. Hard.

What in the hell was I thinking? You know me.This is perfect for Fourth Step recovery work. I am resentful when people don’t do what I want so I challenge them, try to get them to think like me, feel sorry for me, and/or pity me. Manipulation is not below me. My driving was an exact replica of alcoholic behavior. Move over; I am right, I have to be first because I have something to prove…not sure what it is but it’s coming from ME so it has to be important. Ah. My EGO talking again.

Just as I was trying my best to shove myself in front of a semi to be first, I have “shoved” my opinions, beliefs, thoughts whatever on others so I feel in control. Once I get there, the last thing I feel is control. I’m empty. Resentful. Angry. Shamed. Why? Because I made life a competition, a race, one that I had to win at all costs. And I did all of that with reckless abandon -just like driving 70 mph in order to beat out a semi. Had I got in front of the semi, what was the prize? Being first? Ticking off a fellow driver? Getting to work perhaps one minute early? What was the point?

Being aware of my actions no matter what I am doing is really eye-opening. I was told early on in my sobriety that quitting drinking is the “easy ” part. It’s the awareness of the behavior that ensues and the modification of that behavior where the real work begins. I didn’t quite understand what that meant at the time, but it sure ringing loudly and clearly now.

So, albeit a bit late, I did the next right thing. I slowed down (took mental note of my sick behavior), I merged (allowed others to have a voice while being quiet and attentive), and I allowed the truck driver the right-of-way (accepted I am wrong and that there IS another opinion or way of doing things that isn’t mine.) I gained a huge dose of reality as I drove to work today. For that, among many other blessings, I am grateful.