Hangovers…emotional ones. Just as ugly, hurtful, demeaning.

When I heard the phrase “emotional hangover” for the first time, it was a few weeks ago at an AA meeting. I had no idea what the lady meant, but I nodded in empathy and appeared concerned. This is typical of me. I didn’t know, but I didn’t ask. Part of that is simply because it’s rude to cross talk in our meetings and something the members frown upon. I could have asked after the meeting, but by that time, the yearning for new knowledge in my mind had passed.

So, fast forward to this past weekend. My husband and I were invited by some friends to a county fair to attend a trifecta of country music. Someone had gifted the group an extended limo so the issue of parking, driving, and dealing with directions was moot. We had a sitter and had not been away from the boys’ baseball fields in a while so we decided to go. As with any great date night, it did not come without a hitch or two. We left the house to meet at the limo destination only to be caught up in 60 mph winds and sideways rain. Fabulous. My hair is long and thick and the humidity loves to make it frizz. So much for spending an hour making it look somewhat nice. But this post really isn’t about my hair anyway. We meet up with our friends and are introduced to two couples we do’t know and a girlfriend of one we do know. New people are awkward to me because my worry thoughts kick in to overdrive. Also, the daughter of our friends and her two buddies were there (all super cute 20 somethings). I sat down and was in the middle of booze, beer, jello shots, gummy bears infused with liquor (something new, I guess) and alcohol-laced fruit. Sigh. I was not prepared for this as I thought. About 20 minutes into our drive, one of the young gals asked me why I don’t drink. 
“Well,” I said, “it’s like this. Each of us is allocated 20,000 drinks over the course of a lifetime. Unfortunately or fortunately, however, you choose to look at it, I have consumed all of my allocation.” She laughed, realized I was quasi-serious, and proceeded to take a jello shot. That was the only question I had all night in regard to drinking. 

So we arrived after an hour and hit the beer tent. Lucky me. The bartender let me know free cold water bottles were available for the designated driver.  I figured I qualified and not knowing my thirst quotient, the bartender handed them out to me each time looking at me wondering where in the hell I was putting all of this water. My liver was delighted!

The music was good; I danced a bit; saw other people I knew and visited with them. I also decided that since I was saving a shit ton of calories on alcohol, I could eat the fair food without guilt. A calzone, elephant ear and lemon shake up later, I felt pretty good. The night wore on and so did I. At one point, my husband said, “You know, if you were drinking, you would have accused me of hitting on someone else by now. Thanks for a good night. I’m having fun.”  I wasn’t even ticked because he was completely right. Yeah, I have come a long way. But, by 10:30 I was ready to go. And there, my friends, is why you never, ever, ever go to an event without your own wheels. I knew this, denied myself this, and had to force myself to muddle through when I didn’t want to. Big. Hefty. Sigh. Turn around bright eyes. We started back to the limo around 11:40 after another trip to the beer tent to round everyone up. Yeah. Most everyone was pretty trashed by the time we got to the car. Unfortunately, the young gals were in charge of the music so we got to listen to crappy 80s-90s rap 300 decibels too loud the whole way home. Insert  a half a dozen 40 somethings trying to breakdance in a limo to the said shitty tunes. May I repeat here NEVER, EVER, EVER forgo your out in a situation where you need an out.

When my husband and I finally arrived home at 12:30, I was spent. I fell into bed to my husband saying,  “I appreciate what you did tonight. I know it wasn’t easy, but you were a really good sport.” I felt physically ill and had the shakes, but finally fell asleep.

The next morning, I awoke at 9:20! I haven’t slept that late since my drinking days. And I felt absolutely awful. My head was fuzzy, my bones ached, and I wanted to sleep for days.  I seriously hadn’t felt this horrible since I was drinking and I’ve had the flu and strep since then.

My kids were happy when I came downstairs. I murmured something like good morning and made my way to the Keurig machine. My mood was set. I was crabby and everyone was going to know it. Why wasn’t the dishwasher unloaded? Did ANYONE bother to switch the laundry over? Where are the uniforms for the games today? I didn’t stop there. I wish I had, but the truth is, this rant went on for (gasp) two more hours. I seethed silently, I snapped at my kids, I ignored my husband. After all, he was in a crummy mood, too. 

Finally, my husband said, “We need to stop this. Let’s start the day over. Deep breaths.”

Part of me was ticked. Why did he have to come up with the sane idea? I mean, aren’t I the one in therapy, AA, recovery?  So, I went to my quiet space in the garage and thought about my behavior. I was acting like I did when I was actively drinking. I was an obnoxious, out-of-control raging poop. I was not weighing my words, thinking about the repercussions of my outburst nor was I concerned with how my husband and kids were feeling. I did not like what I had done. I was honestly grateful that my husband had the sense to call a truce and ask us to regroup. Who knows? I might still be caught up in the garbage if he hadn’t. But he did, and I am grateful.

Emotional hangover. I had to accept responsibility for my behavior, make immediate amends to my family and make it better by chilling the heck out. 

Having to look my kids in the eyes and say, “I’m wrong. Mommy is misbehaving and is taking her fatigue out on you. This is not okay and you do not have to accept this treatment” was not only humbling but also embarrassing. I know better.  I did not like feeling out of sorts nor did I like the way my body felt. It was a good reminder of how I feel when I drink, and it’s not pretty. The good news is that my kids were very forgiving and knew I was sincere. We had a great rest of the day.

I am an alcoholic. When I am HALT, I can be assured that my life will be unmanageable even if for an hour or so. I need to be vigilant, rely on others for help, and admit when I need help. This is a recovery process not an end-all be-all fix.


Obsessive Thinking- To think or not to think

So my AA meeting tonight dealt with the topic of obsessive thinking. Me? An obsessive thinker? I told myself I am not that obsessive anymore. After all, I rarely think about alcohol anymore. But, as the members began sharing, I realized just how obsessed my thoughts are.

Early on in my sobriety all I could think about was how I was going to fill my time between 4-9 p.m. so I wouldn’t drink. Taking a different route home from work, praying, staying late to work, going to meetings, hitting up therapy, calling my sponsor, talking to other sober people on the phone, reading, working out, cooking. My mind would race. My eyes would flutter to the clock out of pure habit. Oh, and the thoughts!!!  “This is when I would normally be drinking. This is the time I would have a good buzz going. In an hour, the kids would be going to be so I could really cut loose.” Going to bed at night posed another problem. How could I get my mind to shut down? How would I not obsess about thinking about alcohol, remorse, shame, guilt? The list goes on and on.

Fast forward nearly eight months. Imagine my surprise (and not a good one.. not like a cute puppy with a bow around its neck licking me and wagging its tail) but a revelation really about just how warped my thoughts are. Last night, I co-coached my son’s (9 y.o…this is important later) baseball team because my husband is out of town and I volunteered. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. Dead. Wrong.

I called the other coach to confirm, get directions to their field to pass on to our parents, and to find out the team colors. I need a visual so I know I am in the right place. For me, colors work. Well, I messed up the directions, had to retext the parents who were en route only to find the team was in off-white shirts not gray as the coach told me. In a panic seeing the wrong color shirts, I (calmly haha) called the coach again and confirmed they had gray shirts. “Yep. We sure do.” It was at that moment I hear an echo. It’s the other coach on his phone talking to me. I am a woman in a man’s domain. He thought it was funny to tell me the wrong color. I, however, failed to see the humor.

Well, I won’t give you the play by play, but suffice it to say our undefeated team got waxed. 16-0. Their pitcher could throw a fastball down the center faster than an old lady who has had nine kids running to the bathroom. Our boys freaked out and stood at the plate in shock and awe. A few brave souls managed to swing the bat only to be called out on strikes. We have had some competition throughout the season, but nothing could have prepared us for this team. They were on fire! Also to note and I hate to blame others, but the ump stunk. His strike zone was less than equal for both teams, he missed two interference calls, made two obviously wrong calls NOT in our favor, did not know the slaughter rule, allowed parents from the opposing team to stand directly behind the fence in the pitcher’s view (not allowed),and generally did not seem to appreciate the $20.00 he earned for his 1.5 hours of work (insert sarcasm here). To make matters worse, the man keeping their stats came up to me as I keep our book and accused us of batting out of order. I thought he was kidding so I laughed. He was not kidding. I explained to him that we hadn’t even been through our line up yet and we had three up three down to which he replied, “I KNOW that. Where is your error?” I took a huge sigh and walked him through the book and noted he kept in a name I had previously told him to delete. He walked off in a huff. No apology. Our team parents looked at me and asked if I was mad. But I wasn’t. I found my sense of humor at that moment. Nothing better than being a little ant in an elephant’s world and being able to escape.

I called the game once they were in the bottom of the fourth as they had 16 (The slaughter rule is 15 so I gave ’em an extra one). Mr. I Don’t Know  My Colors asked me what I was doing. I told him applying the league rules. He threw his hands up and told me to lighten up and to let the kids have some fun. I said, “I am and that’s why we’re leaving. At this rate, we can stop for ice cream on the way home.” Again, the kids are nine. This is a park district league. This is not a traveling, intra or interstate team. It’s a league to teach FUNdamentals, learn, game play and generally have a good time. My kids play on a traveling team, too. I know the difference.

So, the point of this post is to discuss obsessive thinking. Well, I did think. I thought about the game all the way home, when I got home and called my husband with the play-by-play (he did not get the abridged version), all into the night (midnight) and again at 5 o’clock this morning when I woke up. I thought about it when I reworked the lineup for tomorrow night’s game. Obviously, 24 hours later, I am still thinking about the game. 

Thank my HP for sending me to my therapist and to my AA meeting tonight for I learned some great things about my thinking today. My obsessive the-world-is-against-me bs way of thinking has been replaced tonight this time. I am now reflecting because there are lessons here.  First, I learned that normal people do not think like I do. Alcoholism is a disease and has little to do with drinking. The why is not important. The next point is that my son asked me why they kept stealing bases and taking walks and kept their ace pitcher in when we were down so much. I had the opportunity to explain to him that not all adults act like them. I was not rude, condescending or obnoxious although I wanted to be. I also was able to let him know that when someone is not kind and is taking advantage of a situation, we can bow out gracefully and not have to take the bullying. We had a great talk over chocolate milkshakes, a gift I was not afforded last summer when I was shoulder high in my addiction.

But I think (see what I did there?) the most valuable lesson is what I learned about myself. I may not have handled myself perfectly, but I sure as heck handled myself MUCH better than I would have last summer in the same situation because I was still actively drinking. I have decided to put that line of objectivity towards anything I do better than I used to. I know I am a work in progress, but I don’t have to beat myself up because I don’t get it “right” the first time.

“In times likes these, it’s good to know there have always been times like these.” Paul Harvey

Today is one of those days where I can get caught up in the “poor me” routine. I had a dear friend pass away Thursday night from his three-year battle with cancer. It’s rainy, wet, and cold today. I could easily slink back under my covers and proclaim a movie day for the boys and me. But, something inside me says no; this is not the way to spend my time here on earth today. Funny, I can still hear the birds chirping away unaffected by the world around them. So rather than dwell on the nagging gloom in my heart, I am going to do something different.

Today, my focus will be on my buddy Simon and how he, like, Simba from Lion King, laughed in the face of danger.
I met Simon nearly ten years ago when I started at the current school I teach at. I remember standing around feeling awkward as the buzz of teachers reuniting after a long summer happened all around me. No familiar faces but a steady hum of energy was buzzing about the room. It was then that I met Simon. A bubbly man, Simon crossed over
the busy room laughing. He approached me and said, “First day?” A thousand feelings came to head: I wanted to hide, cry, run away. But his compassion kept me rooted. “Yeah,” I sputtered awkwardly. “I’m a little overwhelmed.” Again he laughed and said, “Good. You’ll fit right in. I’m Simon.” Effortlessly and without hesitation, he hugged me and led me around the room to a group of ladies, introduced me to them and whisked away.
Over the next several years, he never ceased to amaze me. He had a huge heart and had love, respect, and care for all things living. I witnessed students from all walks of life gravitate towards him. He always had time to stop and visit even if that meant he himself was late for class. A perpetual smile on his face, Simon embodied the grace of a saint. He floated through the halls, laughing, grinning as if he had a secret prank he was going to pull on someone (which he probably did!).
I will digress a bit here and mention just one of the many direct involvements Simon had.
We have a retreat for our senior students which is similar to a weekend-long AA convention. Song, prayer, meditation, small group meetings, games and late-night comradery all take place. It’s a time for the teenagers to share their beliefs in God (or not), talk about tough topics in a safe environment, bond together and engage in thought and meditation unlike a typical church experience. People who do not attend the retreat (family, friends, teachers, etc.) write letters of encouragement and love to those attendees as an added bonus. Simon was always a volunteer for such retreats. He was an inspiration to the kids because he lived what he spoke of. He loved his wife and children; he loved his fellows; he deeply loved God. Students would intentionally sign up when he would be a chaperone because they loved his stories, his truth and his firm belief in God. Each student and chaperone would be gifted a small wooden cross on a string as a symbol of attendance in this retreat. The kids and adults alike would wear these badges of honor as having made this retreat. Of course, Simon had made them all by hand. Literally thousands of these tiny crosses hang around the necks of those he has touched spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Simon was never afraid in his life. He knew God would be there for him no matter what. It was an innate belief and came so naturally to him. He lived his life as we all should: Fearless, full, and familiar. He was a blessing day in and day out.
As time went on, Simon started slowing down a bit; he moved from dean of students to campus minister position to classroom teacher to bookstore helper. Simon was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But he refused to be taken away from the students whom he so loved. He fought every day of his life to beat the odds. But, unless you knew he had cancer, you would have thought he was just a guy, going about his day, smiling and continuing to touch the lives of others.
There are only a few things I can recall for which Simon did not have tolerance. One was gossip- unless it was good gossip. Good gossip is the kind that brings joy: pregnancy, new job offers, engagements, weddings, great bands coming to town. Those types of happiness. As for discussing others, he would have no part in it. But he didn’t judge those for doing so. He would quietly excuse himself and seek out people who were engaging in laughter. That was just his style. Another area he did not tolerate was school politics. He could care less if we had to lengthen the school day, rewrite curriculum, have an emergency assembly. He looked at all these as part of life and we could either accept them and do the best we could to work through them, or we could choose to grumble and be forced to do so anyway. He always chose the former. I can picture him shrugging his shoulders, smiling and saying, “Let’s get to work.” Last, he did not tolerate those who judged others. He always fought for the underdog and had unending compassion. As dean of students many remarked his was too lenient and that he wasn’t cut out for the job. And truthfully, he probably wasn’t. Not because he couldn’t handle it but because teens will take advantage if given an opportunity. Still, Simon never saw himself as being taken advantage of. He looked at it as the last stop for some kids to be shown love. He truly believed that another’s gain was his gain, too. He just felt so connected that way.
Before his visitation yesterday, I looked for the letter he wrote to me when I went as an adult candidate for my first retreat. Tucked away in my jewelry box, I found it. He wrote, “There is no way to express the gratitude for all the joy you have brought into my life. God certainly loves us and blesses us with your presence. Enjoy and God bless.”
If he could see that in me when I was actively drinking, he could see the good in anyone.
The best gem of all was on the cover of his handmade card: “Let go and let God.”
I do not know if he was in recovery, but it doesn’t matter. He lived the kind of life anyone in or out of recovery would want: He kept his side of the street clean; he lived without judging others; he was a patient, kind, compassion man. He never took the people in his life for granted.
If I can live for today and live it in a such a way of the life of Simon, I will be the better for it.

Deception can be a real bear

So, I took a break from blogging for a bit. Well, the truth is, I took a break from many things. Thankfully, not my sobriety. I told myself that I was doing just fine because I was not drinking, I felt good, and I was happy.

Sometimes my level of self-deception is pretty amazing. I lie to myself and say that I’m busy doing healthy things so I am fine. My two boys have three different baseball teams they play on, my older girls work out with me, help me with my errands, and have a love of bad Netflix shows (which we share). My husband and I coach two of the three teams so we’re pretty busy…after 5:00 p.m.

So, how am I filling my days? Laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, working on new writing curriculum for the fall, working out, hoeing my garden, playing catch with the kids.

This all sounds fine. Except, I am an alcoholic. Where are my prayers, meditation, meetings, calls to my sponsor, blogging, journaling, Step work?

Well, hell. My sponsor texted me one afternoon and said, “Six months does not mean cured and sponsor-free.” Nuff said. So, I came up with a litany of excuses instead. Well, the boys have baseball so I can’t go to evening meetings; they are out of school now so I can’t go to daytime meetings because I don’t have a sitter. That leaves  Wednesday night because there is no baseball and Saturday (early) and Sunday (late). This is the trap I set for myself. VICTIM. I think I need to keep track of how many times a day I say I can’t. Although doing so may amaze me how I ever get anything done, too.

The good news is my home group decided that I should monitor the Wednesday night meetings. Therefore, I am locked in to at least once a week. No excuses.

But what troubles me the most is the fact that I am resisting again. I am in this well I feel good enough so I don’t need to stretch myself mode which is very dangerous. I know this, yet I slink into it. Am I afraid to feel too good about myself? Maybe. Am I holding back because I might discover somethings about me I don’t like? Maybe. Do I resist the need to seek further help because it may mean I broaden my self-respect? Maybe.  The answers aren’t clear right now but the problem sure is. I am in my way again.

So, today I blogged. I have my meeting for which I need to prep tonight. I am calling a sitter for tomorrow so I can go to a mid-day meeting and my therapist. I will journal later and start working on my amends list. (Hmm… maybe I don’t want to say I’m sorry…)

At any rate, this is why it’s called recovery and not recovered.