2015: You’re My Bitch

Such a great headline, right?! And I’ve been busy building the sassy, steady attitude to support it.

I’m arming myself with more tools. I’ve got AA Lite (no sponsor yet, but am understanding the program more and have been attending meetings regularly). I’ve got a therapist, who has been gently pushing me to get on the wagon for over a year and who is ready to hold my shaky, sweaty hand. I have a new sober friend who is really supportive. I’m reading Jason Vale’s “Kick the Drink … Easily!” (Thank you, Mrs. D.)

And, of course, I’ve got my sober blogs and blogger cheering squad. (Yay us!)

Monday night I attended an AA meeting with my new sober friend. Afterward, we went to Starbucks for a coffee and cookie. (Such a nice treat!) My friend’s drinking addiction plays out similarly to my own. We are both well-employed, financially stable, seemingly upright citizens. And we both love to drink ourselves into a wine stupor, despite the massive hangovers, the shame, the self-loathing and all the other well-documented consequences of over serving yourself on a nightly basis.

Throughout our conversation, and certainly at the vey end of it, we both commented on the stupidity of our drinking. We both have a crystal-clear understanding that our drinking is harming us, enslaving us, sickening us, and making us miserable. We both expressed incredulity at the fact that this self-inflicted harm has gone on for years and years.

We are smart women who have identified a problem, know a solution – and yet we don’t make the required change. WHY?

It baffled us both. And we ended the evening shaking our heads and laughing at the absurdity of it.

On Tuesday morning, I started reading Jason Vale’s book. He has an answer for our collective WHY?: “It’s because we believe that we are making a genuine sacrifice and are actually ‘giving up’ something worth having. We feel mentally deprived when we stop. This feeling of deprivation is the real problem because even if you do not drink for years, but believe that you have ‘given up’ a genuine pleasure, then the feeling of deprivation and misery will last the rest of your life.”

Amen, Jason. A-Fucking-Men.

This notion of deprivation is spot on for me. For decades I believed that my ability to relax, to Zen out, and to unplug could only be found at the bottom of a bottle of wine. And that is why, after 4+ months of sobriety earlier this year, I drank up a bottle of Chardonnay. I had had a shitty week, wanted to numb out, and picked up the tool that used to be my #1 ticket out of reality. Only to find myself, in the morning, not at the desired destination of Zen, but hungover and ashamed. Again.

So what am I really depriving myself of? The truthful answer is: $12, a massive hangover and more days filled with self loathing. Because, folks, that bottle is broken and no longer delivers anything but misery.

So here’s to sobriety! Let it ring throughout 2015, also known as: My Bitch!

Step Zero to Step 13, in less than 700 words

Reading Anne Lamott’s Small Victories and came across this gem:

“Addicts and alcoholics will tell you that their recovery began when they woke up in a pitiful and degraded enough shape to take Step Zero, which is: ‘This shit has got to stop.'”

I love this sentiment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it makes me feel like I’ve already made progress and am onto the next step. In AA, of course, the next step is Step One: admitting one is “powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”

AA. Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’m on board with the “Alcoholics” part of AA. Got it, check, understood.

I’m only this week understanding the second part and it’s personal meaning and importance. “Anonymous” for me is not necessarily my own anonymity, but the anonymity of the other people in AA.

The meeting I attended earlier this week, in this tourist town, was truly anonymous. I knew no one. They did not know me. But I loved them – both the stories and the anonymous people sharing the stories. They were helpful and safe and familiar.

In the few meetings I’ve attended at home over the past few months, the familiarity was in both the stories and the faces. I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed – I understood when I went into the meeting room that there was a real possibility of seeing someone I knew. What I was surprised about was my reaction to seeing them.

One is a neighbor who, despite his decades-long sobreity, is a total waste as a father and a provider.

I am uncomfortable sitting in a room with him. That I share a common alcohol retardation with him is one thing, but I am uneasy sharing anything else with him, including personal stories.

Because of the length of his sobriety and his success in AA, he is greeted by the members of the meetings like some AA God. It’s difficult to watch him move about the room like a golden, sober politician, when I know just how shitty he is to his kids and his wife. Even more difficult is reconciling that, despite his decades-long sobriety, he is still so shitty to his kids and his wife.

I thought we went into the program to stop being shitty to our families. Is he the best AA can do?

I have lived across the street from him and his family for years. When I say “shitty” what I mean is this: he is an emotionally absent father and cannot keep a job. His staying sober is the most he can offer them. Years of sobriety, and he just STAYS SOBER.

I don’t want to just STAY SOBER. Just like I don’t want to STAY A DRUNK, I want to move beyond my alcohol retardation into a meaningful life.

I read my words and know that I am over-reaching my own (so-far inadequate) abilities to stay sober and am under-estimating the amount of work required to have the success this neighbor has, let alone move beyond it.

But the belief that I can move beyond it is a key motivator for me. I need to believe that one day, I will see all of this mess in my rearview mirror, not just always out the side view.

All of that is too much, right? Somehow, in one blog post, I have gone from Step Zero to Step 13, whatever that is …

Is the lesson here that I need to put aside my snobbery (always, always) and just deal with the fact that this neighbor is my (throwing up here a little bit) my people? Please say no.

Or, maybe I just need to drive a little further away and find a meeting where I don’t know anyone – and let the familiar stories work their magic, without the familiar faces. At least initally.

That sounds like a better plan.

“Just How Bad Does It Need To Be?”

Yesterday I was so hungover that I got sick.

My hangovers are the devil, but I haven’t been that sick, vomited, in years.

I’m on Christmas vacation with my entire family – kids, parents, siblings – and we are all sharing a rental house at the beach. The walls are thin and most of the bathrooms are in shared spaces. Once the horrifying reality that I really was going to be sick set in – that I wasn’t gong to be able to cheerfully fake it one more time – I went into my room, shut the door, took my dog’s empty food bowl and – laying on the floor in a very “down dog” position, threw up into my poor dog’s bowl.

Sick as a dog. Ha.

As I was laying there trying to wrap my needled, maimed, spinning mind around just how sick I was, I remembered some moments in AA meetings where people with whom I “can’t feel a real connection” shared their low moments.

Maybe I hadn’t pissed myself, or lost my job, or gotten a DUI – but laying on the floor, quietly throwing up into my dog’s food bowl while my family baked cookies and wrapped presents just outside the thin, thin door – seems pretty low to me. And, as someone asked in an AA meeting a few weeks ago, “Just how bad does it need to be?” before you stop?

So I googled AA meetings in this tourist town, told my family I was headed out for some last-minute Xmas shopping, and found the church where the meeting was taking place.

And there they were – addicts and alcoholics, looking like addicts and alcoholics. My people?

I think I hate this snob voice inside my head as much as I hate Wolfie. Or are they the same voice?

I’m no longer interested in comparing my outside to their outside, because inside we share some powerful DNA that levels us in different ways, but collectively raises us up.

Merry Christmas Eve. (Day 2)

A Year of Mostly Sober Living in No Man’s Land

It’s been just over a year, Dec. 15, 2013, since I made a committed effort to not drink alcohol and then began this blog.

I lasted four months. And while the majority of my days since that day in April have been sober, many have not been. As I have reengaged alcohol, my life has not experienced any terrible decline – but there haven’t been any remarkable highs, either.

I’ve been living in a sort of No Man’s Land – when I drink I am disappointed in myself, anxious and (always, doesn’t matter how few/how many) hungover. When I don’t drink, because I don’t have a consistent plan, I remain anxious and uncertain. It’s a terrible place to be, this No Man’s Land, and yet I have not committed myself to leaving.

In the past few months, I have gone to a handful of AA meetings. I come away with nuggets of wisdom (“I’m not much, but I’m all I think about” is a new favorite saying I gleaned from one meeting). But I haven’t felt a real connection with either the participants or their stories. As Unpickled put it once, I don’t know that I am broken enough for AA.

I have not received a DUI. I have not been fired from my job. I have not ruined my marriage and had my children taken from me. I am not waking up having pissed myself.

Instead, I choose to numb myself with alcohol, even when there is not an overt issue. I do this despite knowing that 1, 2 or 4 glasses will mean a hangover the next day. And the hangovers are the devil. And a hangover means that I am not driving safely, or doing my job well, or engaging my husband and my children.

And that, of course, is a connection even I can see. Instead of alcoholism, I have hangoverism. Splitting hairs, I know.

The 4 months of true sobriety gave me the first-hand knowledge that everything in my life – EVERYTHING – is better when I don’t drink. The 8 months of mostly sober, and my visits to the AA rooms, has taught me that I can manage to drink and not completely blow my life up. It’s a pretty low standard though, don’t you think? And there is no enjoyment or joy in it.

I need to regain some sober traction. I need to get 30 solid days under my proverbial belt.

Thanks for letting me share. It’s nice to be back.