Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

Sobriety is hard. Working a consistent program with prayer and meditation, meetings, talking with my sponsor, and doing the next right thing (not taking a drink) are all tools I have been using over the past 9 + months. They work, trust me, and I am grateful.
What is tough about sobriety is that life goes on. Or in the case of a dear friend, it didn’t. I received word yesterday that my colleague commit suicide. Stunned, I went to the school and met up with other teachers, administrators, and staff as we shared the shock among us. We didn’t see it coming. Less than two weeks ago, we had our back to school inservice and suicide was one of our “must have” discussions as it is every year. But, somehow, we all missed the signs. He seemed okay. In fact, he seemed to start this school year better than ever. He was happy, silly and involved. So involved, he joined our core value committee and began eating lunch this past week in the lounge-something he hadn’t done in years- eight years to be exact.
Eight years ago he lost his only son to a single car accident. My friend never recovered mentally. He blamed himself for the accident- although several people had try to assure him he was three hours away and could not have prevented that terrible fate. No alcohol. No drugs. Just an unfamiliar country road that came to an unexpected T. He carried the grief in his face, his body, his mind. No amount of love from any of us was going to help him.
So the questions begin. Beyond the “Why would he do this to his wife? What about his remaining daughter?”
The questions like, “How do I honor him respectfully, but in the same breath teach my high schoolers that they HAVE to know we love them and we are here for them?” “How do we avoid glorifying him so a student doesn’t say, ‘Well, his pain was too much, so is mine.’?”
I came home last night and I prayed. Hard. I asked God to help guide me on Monday so that I can have the right words for my students. I’m grieving, too, but this isn’t about me. This is about young adults who need “right” answers in this world. This is about showing my students love and respect to honor their feelings, but to know help is available.
Sobriety is hard because this is still my first year; this lifestyle is still new. While others were meeting for cocktails, I was headed home to call my sponsor. I didn’t feel left out nor was I judgmental. But I know I needed to talk this through with someone who knows more about this program than I do. I am grateful to her for listening to me; we aren’t at the same school, but she is a teacher as well. She had my friend’s son in class years ago- something we never talked about. She shared how she had heard his dad just fell off the radar for a while and that his heart was broken. Eight years seems so long to carry pain and hurt, but when I look at my own life, it took me nearly 30 years to quit using alcohol to quit covering up my pain and hurt.
Being sober allowed me the opportunity to feel my grief, to think clearly and rationally, to not judge my friend. His path was very different from me yet so similar. Another reminder that we all have our own way in this great big world.
My friend didn’t drink or use drugs so his pain manifested itself in his health both physical and mental. His grief became bigger than his belief that he would be okay.
I am reminded today that sobriety is a gift. I cannot “do” life if I am drinking. I have to feel my pain, reach out and recognize that the relief some people chose in order to rid themselves of deep-rooted pain may not be as long and drawn out as the disease of alcoholism; it is more immediate, but it is pain nonetheless. Continued education about mental illness and the havoc is wreaks on individual souls must carry on. This goes beyond a moral issue. My friend is not to be judged because he didn’t “just get over” the death of his son. We are all affected by pain differently. I refuse to say his actions were selfish for the darkness of guilt overtook any joy in his life. The degree to which he felt sadness is not my decision to judge. I can only move forward, try to be more vigilant of others and do my best to continue to educate others on the issues surrounding mental illness.
I have to accept that sometimes, love just ain’t enough.


Holy Sh&*! My pants don’t fit and other exciting Revelations of Sobriety

So I am a teacher and I am back to school this week. This year was so different: I wasn’t anxious, nervous, running like a mad woman with no end in sight. I was calm, slightly coffee-charged and happy. When I came in the building, I received some pretty great comments. “WOW. You look great. What are you doing?” “What’s your secret?” and so on.

Don’t get me wrong. I am an alcoholic. I loved the positive charges. I’m humble, but this old gal likes a few positive strokes now and then. So, I would politely say thanks and go on to mutter something about T25, some shakes for breakfast and coaching my little boys’ baseball teams.

The Truth is people, I am no longer drinking Captain and Coke like a great sand storm is upon us and no fluids will be available for decades.I was easily consuming 3,000+ calories a day in alcohol alone. Because I am not hungover all day, I have the drive to get off the couch and play with my children. I have the ability to work out now and stick to it because it makes me feel good about me. One gal said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but you look 20 years younger.” THAT one is a stretch for sure.

So why can’t I just tell my coworkers that I am an alcoholic? Damn. Sometimes the Truth eludes me. I don’t want the judgement, the looks of pity, or the tsk tsks that will follow. I spent the greater part of 45 years putting myself down with shame that I want a fresh start. Quite frankly, I’ve worked hard. I’ve been going to meetings, listening to my sponsor, monitoring a meeting, seeing a therapist, journaling, praying, praying, did I mention praying? It hasn’t been easy. This summer alone I had another death of a good friend, a daughter had to be picked up by a transport team to take her to a boarding school for the next year and a half (she’s too much like me in the addiction department), I lost some close friendships because I choose not to drink. The list goes on and on. Simply, life went on.

Starting a new school year was exactly what I needed. I eased into this because I wasn’t worried about drinking all summer. I wasn’t thinking about how hungover I’d be going to work. I didn’t have to have the fear that my skin would be oozing of alcohol the day after only a good drunk can produce. The best part, though, is when I put on my big girl panties- and they were too big.

Meaning, I am on Step 9- making amends. My Higher Power graced me this week with His presence so I could make amends to a coworker I had deliberately been putting down for the past three years. I stirred the pot, I acted smug, I took cheap shots. This week, I was provided with an opportunity to look her dead in the eye and say, “I’m sorry. I have not only NOT behaved like a professional, but also I have acted in a way that is less than becoming as a person.” I was able to take full responsibility for my ways and I felt it in my heart. I am sincere and it shows. My coworker then started to take ownership… I had to politely tell her that this was not about her wronging me. See, anything she may have done was in direct response to me being nothing short of a bitch. She owed me nothing in the way of an apology and I told her so. I let her know that I had to wait for the right time so that my heart was in the right place and that I would make this amends without regret or leaving out details I HAD to own. Was it easy? Not really. But it was much easier than my mind played it out to be. So, my underwear don’t fit anymore. I’m physically smaller, yes. But my emotional burdens are shrinking, too. The sense of relief I have in my mind and my heart are amazing. Who knew an apology could be so liberating?

So when my coworkers want to know what I am doing? I am working on getting real. If I am losing physical weight in the process so be it. But the real weight loss is the albatross who formerly had a place around my neck.

I feel empowered today but in a quiet, humble way. It sounds contradictory, but if you have made amends to others, I think you get what I mean.

I don’t have to live in turmoil, shame, guilt. I can live in peace, happiness, serenity and joy.