Last time I hid my sobriety like I had hidden my drinking. Sobriety made me feel different and changed. And I did not want to be changed. I wanted everything to stay the same – especially my relationships. More here.
I mentioned in a post a few months ago that I had attended a She Recovers retreat over the summer.
The connections I made there – within myself and with other women – have become an integral part of my recovery. I hope you will follow my story and the story of other women in recovery on the She Recovers site, as I am now a contributing writer and managing editor of their blog.
(Lemme just take a minute here and say: Life is amazing. Bat shit crazy and amazing.)
I have been keeping this blog – on and off – for four years. FOUR FUCKING YEARS.
Enough is enough.
If you are struggling to stop drinking and are so tired of your own bullshit that you can’t even stand it for one more night, then I hope you will do something you haven’t done before. Go to a meeting and ask for help. Call a friend and ask for help. Go to a retreat and ask for help.
Ask for help.
It was the NOT ASKING that kept me on my couch, with a cocktail in my hand, for FOUR YEARS longer than I had to be.
In the end, yes, you have to do the work by yourself. No one can stop drinking for you. No one can battle the voices in your head for you. It is you and you alone.
But around you … around you can be Others. Just. Like. You.
Surround yourself with good voices to combat the shitty voices. Surround yourself with strong women who are covered in beautiful scars and know the pitfalls of the landscape you’re facing. Surround yourself with kind faces who see you – so you can see yourself.
Peace to you my friend,
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 She Recovers. 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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
i threw away my clean time. i left the door open a crack and the devil slipped in. the devil and some old friends.
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.
all my good ideas earned me this seat.
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.
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.
the one who woke up first has the most sobriety.