That’s not God or anything

The past few days have been witching days. Long ones. I have been half holding my breath, trying to stay sober, not trusting myself. Wanting to stay on the positive side of Day One, but powerfully thinking about the reasons/ways I could drink.

I don’t want to start counting again. I don’t want to be hung over again. I don’t want to let myself down again.

But I do want to drink. That is true. But I don’t want to drink. That is true, too.

How long can you white knuckle it? Turns out, a long fucking time. Or at least long enough.

Item #3 on The Plan: Reach out to more sober people. So I decided to text my friend Jen who I met at SheRecovers. I didn’t want my text to sound too needy. I mean, she’s Canadian and I’m American, so we know how this shit should go, right?

I wrote: “Just thinking of you. Maybe we can talk today. If not, no biggie!”

(Read: “HELP ME RIGHT NOW MOTHERFUCKER.”)

She read between my lines. Of course she did. Those Canadians. So smart.

She called and said: “I just woke up and was thinking I should text you and reached for my phone and there was your text.”

Then she said: “Well, that’s not God or anything.”

No. Not at all.

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Everything is going to be ok

On Saturday, I met my mother and sister for lunch and later that night I attend an AA meeting. This particular meeting is a “Big Book” study. The members go around the room and read a few paragraphs from the book and then share their thoughts on what they have read.

This is what I read:

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet ob­scure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so- called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our con­sciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suf­fering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.

The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.

“A hot stove.” Yes. I am familiar.

The lunch with my family had put me on edge. Ever since last year, since the election of Trump and my parents unwavering support for him, there is a (mostly) unspoken tension between my mother and me. She knows how I feel. I know how she feels. There is no solution. No closure. And no real acceptance from either one of us toward the other. Just a silent detente and, on my part, a real sadness. I feel as though I have been wronged by my parents – as if they cheated on me by supporting Trump. It feels very personal and intimate.

The name “Trump” rarely comes up in conversations with my family, and yet it is so often present. I can go days without thinking about their support for him, but then I will read an outrageous headline or see the latest tweet storm and bam!, I am right back into a nasty, judgmental thought spiral.

Our visits can feel like a conversational land mine. On Saturday, a honey bee buzzed by the lunch table and before you know it we are arguing about Monsanto, the plight of small farmers and who really benefits from ethanol. WTF?! This is not a moment I want to be sharing with my 70-year-old mother, you know?

Because we both want very much to be together, we quickly moved on to other, more important topics. But on the drive home I became increasingly agitated. Later that night, when I drove to the AA meeting, I was purposefully NOT driving to the liquor store. When I read that except from the Big Book, I focused on the hot stove and the power of choice.

I can choose not to drink. I can choose to change the conversation. I can choose to change my thoughts – about my parents, about Trump (hard one, that), about the future. Neither me or my mother really knows anyway. We are both just afraid … afraid for the bees, for the farmers, for each other.

At the meeting a man named Steve celebrated his 20th (sober) birthday.

“How did you do it?,” the meeting leader asked him.

“When I first came to AA, I couldn’t imagine 20 days, let alone 20 years,” Steve said, a huge grin on his face.

“There have been a few times in my life when I felt like everything was going to be ok,” he continued. “The first time was when I went to live at an orphanage when I was a young boy. When I woke up that first morning I just knew everything was going to be ok. The second time was when I walked into my first AA meeting and heard people sharing with such honesty. I just knew everything was going to be ok.”

Twenty years later, there he stood in the middle of this meeting. Sober, happy, humble.

“Everything is going to be ok,” he said again. And I chose to believe him.

 

 

Sips of air

In yoga, when you are in these impossible poses and can’t draw a deep breath, the instructor will often encourage us to take “sips of air.”

Sometimes, that’s all you can do. All you can take. Sips of air.

Part of recovery is understanding that we are not separated from each other. For me, someone who loves to isolate in her mind and isolate on her couch, this is a struggle. I like to keep away and keep control. Even if I am only controlling the TV remote and my Netflix, I am away and in control. Pathetic, but true.

Being sober and awake is anxiety producing. Examples:

  • My 12-year-old son cries because his middle school of 1,300 children in ONE FUCKING BUILDING is too loud and chaotic and he wants/needs nice and calm. I don’t have answers for him.
  • I am on the phone with my sister and she is crying about her piece-of-shit ex-husband and what he says to her kids and always being so broke and having to move again. I don’t have answers for her.
  • I read the story of innocents being slaughtered in Brazil by diamond miners and know that our world of greed and consumption created that evil. I don’t have answers for that.

I don’t have answers for anything. I am in control of nothing. Nothing except my breath.

So today,  I am not taking a drink, which has not lost its appeal for me. In some moments, a drink seems like a perfectly reasonable answer to life.

Instead, I am taking sips of air. And telling myself to TRUST. Trust that there will be enough air, enough space, and enough of me to listen and witness. I guess that is what you gain with sips of air – the ability to listen and witness.

I am again reminded of the Rumi line: “We’re all just walking each other home.”

But fuck. It would be so much nicer to stay on the couch, you know? Stay on the couch with my cocktail and a never-ending stream of shows and not walk anybody anywhere.

Clearly I am struggling with this. Like I said, I’ve got no answers. Today, I am awake, I am sober, I am breathing.

Stuff and Stuffing

Nordstrom, historically one of my favorite places, is “recreating a store experience that back-solves for what customers want and need” by taking away actual merchandise and replacing it with alcohol.

WTF. The “women, wine and retail” marketing strategy continues to grow. Its success is based on our desire to numb ourselves into an oblivion of stuff and stuffing. I hate this. I hate how this WORKS on us (me, historically).

And can someone explain to me what the hell “back-solves” means?

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http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/13/investing/nordstrom-deal-new-store/index.html?iid=ob_homepage_deskrecommended_pool

 

This tiny, fragile, baby sobriety

September 7, 2017

The idea of needing to protect my sobriety has started to take root in my mind.

I am protecting my sobriety – my tiny, fragile, baby sobriety – with all my defenses. I know we are on shaky, soft ground. Inside my head the whisper fight rages – good wolf, bad wolf. I find myself watching the clock, waiting for 9 p.m. and the liquor store to close.

We are safe for tonight, but white knuckling it can only work for so long.

I know it will get better. I know we will get stronger and wiser and will eventually shut down the whisper fight with carefully dealt blows of time and trust. I know this because i have experienced it and I see it on the people in AA and I read about it in the sober blogs.

But still. This baby sobriety feels so vulnerable. It’s scary and hard.

But it is not as hard as tomorrow would be, if tomorrow was Day One. I have a friend who is in ongoing relapses right now. It is a special kind of hell where every other day is Day One. There is no baby there.

I. Do. Not. Want. That.

Today I went to a meeting that I love – all types show up. The only common denominator is that we are humans addicted to something and we are at war with that something. Everyone is speaking Truth, trying to protect their sobriety babies. Some folks are winning their wars. Some are losing. But everyone is on the battlefield, scarred or bloodied from the fight.

Here are some examples of AA voices I heard today – voices that steadied and sustained us for today:

Share 1:

i threw away my clean time. i left the door open a crack and the devil slipped in. the devil and some old friends.

Share 2:

you folks, sitting over there saying you don’t have too many days of sobriety and you don’t want to share? well, you got a whole lot more days than me.

Share 4:

all my good ideas earned me this seat.

Share 5:

i know my home situation ain’t good. all my family members drink. i mean all of them. at night i just sit there in the corner, like a puppy, wishing i could drink too. so this morning i went to 7/11 and got myself a drink. i had enough money for two, but i knew i was coming here, so i only got one. i didn’t want to be all messed up sitting here.

Share 6:

i am sitting here with a few days under my belt. yesterday i was at a meeting and they had us go around and tell how many days we had. truth is, i stopped counting. who cares how many days i have? i have today. that’s all i care about.

Share 7:

the one who woke up first has the most sobriety. 

 

Impermanence

It’s Labor Day weekend here in the States – the unofficial end of summer.

This summer has been busy. Lots of trips: Utah, Wyoming, Canada, West Virginia and North Carolina – for eclipse and beach.

Every year we stay at the same beach town in North Carolina. It is a very small town. Well, I guess you could call it a town … there is no stoplight or grocery store or nightlife. Just a perfect beach and a lighthouse and small stores accessible by bike.

And every year I want to stay longer and every year I dream of buying a home there. Why not make it permanent? I find peace there. We’ve certainly invested enough in the town’s economy over the past 20 years. We visit in all seasons, so the winters don’t scare me. In some ways, it seems like a no brainer.

Ah – but the seas are rising. Climate change is real. Maybe this barrier island won’t fare well. Is it a good investment?

I looked it up. It turns out that these barrier islands could survive rising seas and angry hurricanes – but man won’t let them. We have shored up the shore – built jetties and structures on the ocean-facing side of the barrier island to protect homes and businesses, while blocking natural inlets from occurring, which would rebuild the island on the sound side.

We are insisting on control. On status quo. We are in charge, damn it. Fuck that ocean and those inlets and Nature’s plan – we’ve got roads and tourism and plans!

It won’t work, of course. No matter how much sand we bring in to fight the erosion and no matter how deep we dig our heads into that sand. The future is mapped out (quite literally) and the science is real.

Poor scientists. It must suck to always have the answer and have no one care. I wonder how many of them drink too much? Why do they keep doing it – shouting the facts, and facing down the unhappy officials?

I guess it is like parenting or slaying drinking demons – what choice do we have? The fight might be all there is – so we better fight hard.

This morning I went on my summer’s last beach walk on this disappearing spot of perfection. I walked south and watched my dog chase the sanderlings and seagulls. No, I won’t be buying anything permanent here. I will just visit as often as possible, until one or both of us has disappeared into the sea.

As I turned to walk back, I thought of this poem, that Richard Rohr uses so beautifully in his book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. It is one of my favorites.

BREATHING UNDER WATER

I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.

A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.

And then one day,
-and I still don’t know how it happened –
the sea came.
Without warning.

Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew, then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors,
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors,
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.

 

Making it happen

It is harder this time.

I know that everyone white knuckles it sometimes, but it’s been days now. Weeks really. And my better intentions have been getting their asses kicked.

So last week I did what I never, ever thought I would do: I asked someone for help.

I called a friend in recovery. I told her my story: two stretches of sobriety; very little understanding from friends or family; overwhelmed at work; panicked about the state of the world; my love of isolation + couch; etc.

She listened without judgement. Asked a few questions. Clarified one or two things. Then she said: “You need a three-point plan.” And here is the plan she gave me:

  1. Engage your husband. Tell him. Make him see.
  2. Approach work slightly differently.
  3. Reach out to more sober people.

I love a plan. And a three-point plan, well, that is the best kind.

So: 1) Later that day, I sat my husband down. I told him I was hiding liquor bottles (I’ve never gone back to wine, tequila is my jam), sneaking drinks. I told him I needed him to SEE ME. (Just ask me what’s in my fucking glass, you know?!) He’s not used to me needing him. I am a military wife. Historically, I take care of all my/our shit, and he just shows up for the party/event/our life. When I told him I needed him, he seemed surprised (both at my request and at my admission), but not shocked. He is slowly getting on board. (This is a work in progress, for sure.)

2) Work is tricky. I am a consultant. I can’t ask for help – I AM the help. I am deep into a two-year project that is more complicated and nuanced than anything I’ve ever done before. (Lots of IT stuff that does not come intuitively to me.) The approach my friend suggested includes asking for clarifications, rather than explanations. (This is also a work in progress.)

3. Where to find more sober people? The truth is, my fear of people is fairly deep-seated. I am really unsteady around most humans. I fake it, but I hate it and do my best to find a quick exit. As for finding sober people, well, I don’t live in Canada, where all the cool sober people live. I know I need some local, American peeps. (But, I need them to hate Trump. This is a non-neogitable.)

I have been going to AA for a few weeks now, but it’s really only half-hearted, and I know I need to fully commit and engage a sponsor, work the steps, etc. There is a woman at AA who I think could be my sponsor. I really like her. I will contact her this week and ask her to meet for coffee. (Hopefully, she will like me and hate our president.) …. And then, last night, at an AA meeting, I ran into a neighbor. Someone who I have always liked in that neighborly way, and who I HAD NO IDEA drank alcoholically. This morning we went on a long walk together. She is as honest and as troubled as I am. (This did not seem like work at all. This was just nice. And, yes, she is also horrified by DJT.)

So, I am making it happen. As best as I can, trying to do the next right thing.

And there is also this hard truth; the one mistake from previous attempts I see very clearly now: I did not value my sobriety as much as I should have. I did not see it as the precious gift that it is. I did not treat it with the respect and protection that it deserved. No one in my established circle of friends and family seemed to care about it, so I decided their opinion was more important than my own and I drowned my sobriety gift in a bottle of tequila.

That is not happening again. This is fucking hard. Three times up this mountain is enough.