Boo

My cat spent the night out and she’s still not home. This hasn’t happened in a long time and I’m worried.

Boo is an indoor and an outdoor cat, but she’s been mostly indoors since we moved to this new house 6 months ago.

I was the one that let her out last evening. I purposefully left the side door open and then didn’t wait up for her to come back in before going to bed. I called her once or twice, but that was it. I thought: “She’s been wanting to go out. She’s been waking me up every night vandalizing furniture in frustration. She’s capable and I’m tired.”

So I went to bed. And now it’s 5:15 a.m. and she’s nowhere to be found.

This is my struggle lately. I try to control things and arrange life so my people/animals/things are successful. They, in turn, have an entirely different vision of success, say “no thank you” and walk out the side door into a dark, scary, not-controlled-by-me world. The result can be debilitating for me as I wrestle with the anger/guilt/responsibility for their actions or inactions.

I know I have to LET. IT. GO. Let go of the anger, guilt, responsibility for things not in my control. But I am so afraid. Afraid of what will happen if I’m not working all the angles, all the time. This fear is powerful stuff and my mind is consumed with images of carnage and disaster and failure – all of which could be prevented if I could just control things.

I recognize that this ranting is folly and sound and fury. In my deepest, darkest heart I know that I am not IN CHARGE and that even if I could control MY things, I could never ensure the desired outcome, which is happiness and fulfillment.

I see this with Boo, my cat, because I could, of course, never leave the side door open and declaw her and lock that bitch down. I could control the fuck out of my cat. But she would be miserable and handicapped and diminished. And the things I love about her – her disdain, her attitude, her brashness – would be completely gone.

So really, what would that control get me? I would have my cat, but she would be empty of life.

******

She’s home! It’s now 6:00 and Boo just sauntered in. She seems just fine, thank you. In fact, she seems quite satisfied with herself. She’s lying here on the rug next to my bed, having rolled onto her back, and is looking up at me as if to say, “What’s all the fuss? Relax. You need to LET. IT. GO.”

The C Word

Control.

I want it. I cannot have it.

I want Control over my life, yes, but even more I want Control over my children’s lives. I want them to be happy, but not selfish. I want them to be smart, both in books and street. I want them to be respectful, but wise. I want them to understand that our culture is sick, but I don’t want them to disengage/numb from it. I want them to seek adventure, but always with a helmet and an exit strategy.

I want them to wash their fucking hands and brush their goddamn teeth.

I want them to be Perfect.

And why shouldn’t they be?! I have spent a lot of time thinking about them and finding them the perfect schools and the perfect milk and the perfect limitations for electronics and sassiness.

And still they are defiant and whiny and ungrateful. In fact, they even seem UNHAPPY sometimes. How dare they be unhappy? Don’t they know how hard I am trying here? Why can’t they just get with the fucking program and be happy and self-actualized (whatever that is)? Instead, I look at them and think, “holy hell, they are just like me, but without concern for hygiene.”

I wish I could gracefully give them the Gift of Failure. I wish I could look at them serenely when they are insisting on not following some rule and say, “Ok, son. Go ahead and touch that hot stove because I can see that suffering a first-degree burn is the only way you’re going to believe that the stove is hot and dangerous.”

But we live in a zero tolerance world. Especially for boys. Failure could easily turn into broken bones, an overturned car, a prison sentence. (Yes, my boys are 9 and 11 and I can totally see that these concerns are not, most likely, going to happen today. But the future is right around the corner and we need to prepare, people.)

If they would just LISTEN to me, everything would be perfect. They would be perfect. Because, it turns out, I have the power to raise perfect children. Right? Because I am perfect, yes?

Deep breath. Heavy sigh. My little “24 Hours A Day” book tells me that “worry is terrible mental punishment.” And it is. It really, really is. But how to do this? How to let go of these destructive thoughts of perfection and this desire for control?

Not yet, at least

I’ve been getting caught up in my mind about AA and am starting to get agitated.

AA can be so helpful. But with every story of DUI, divorce, incarceration, etc., I (thankfully) have to add my “not yet” ending. These things had “not yet” happened to me, but I quit drinking anyway.

But it’s getting harder to connect, rather than easier. There are some truly broken people in those rooms. I am so glad that they are there, surrounded by people who get it and get them.

But I don’t really get them. And I don’t think they really get me. And I feel like an impostor.

Some of their stories are so funny the entire room laughs out loud. Some of their stories are so sad that there is barely a breath taken and the silence is all consuming.

But not one of their stories is like my story. Not yet.

When I read the sober blogs, I say “yep, that’s me.” Pretty much every time I am reading one of you, I feel a connection, albeit virtually. But that doesn’t happen in AA they way I want it to and they way I need it to. I can almost talk myself into drinking again, just so I can get really shitty and then fit in at AA.

How fucked up is that?

I’m reading Brenee Brown and she keeps talking about the human need to connect … she keeps saying how we are “hard wired for connection” and has all this data to make her point. I don’t need that much evidence to convince me. I know the power of having someone say “Me Too.” It’s better than any bottle of wine ever was.

I know I want to live my life clearly and intentionally. And “clearly and intentionally” do not happen when I am drinking. A lot of other things do not happen when I drink either. For instance, I do not “break out in handcuffs” or punch coworkers or climb into random limousines.

Not yet.

The truth is “not yet” feels a hell of a lot like “at least.” And there is no connection with “at least.” Instead, it’s all judgement and distance and “I’m so glad that’s not me,” rather than “that is exactly like me.”

I don’t know what any of this means. I love the spirituality of AA. I love the honesty of AA. I love the acknowledgement of brokenness at AA.

But I don’t love AA.

This Cup Had My Name On It

It snowed here overnight. A few inches of snow, which was immediately covered by the famous “wintry mix.” Schools, offices, bases all closed today.

Last year around this time we had a similar storm. I was on Day 46 for that snow day. Today, here in the 2.0 version of NoMoreSally, I’m at Day 57. Last year I was dreading the “informal social gatherings.” This year, I don’t have that problem, as I don’t really do social gatherings of any kind – informal or formal.

I do: home, work, meetings and morning runs with my two girlfriends.

Certainly, there are also a few extracurricular coffees and extended family gatherings. Once a week I gather for decaf coffee with three friends to do a Brené Brown study. But, honestly, that’s about it. My husband and I no longer head out to the local beer bar or wine cafe. We don’t host Friday night socials. I am no longer the crew director for my neighbors and friends. I am certain they are gathering without me, which is FINE (she said in a high-pitched tone), but is also totally okay (normal tone now). I don’t drink and these events are drinking activities.

But I am a little lonely and that loneliness adds to my increasingly-apparent Anxiety. This Anxiety is something the wine “fixed” (at least during the drinking hours). Now, without my wine fix, my Anxiety hangs around all day chatting me up and bringing me down.

I am concerned that my newly defined, every-so-slightly-smaller social circle will not be enough for my husband and my children, whose social calendars are historically filled in by me, usually with the same activities I’ve planned for my neighbors and friends. I worry that these same friends are not going to be my friends for much longer. That our connections were/are tenuous and as I go further into sobriety they will think I am too serious, too different, too SOBER.

I am also worried that my opinion of them will change and I won’t be able to connect with them in a meaningful way.

There are new connections at the AA meetings I attend. People are recognizing me and greeting me with warmth and familiarity. I was meant to go to a meeting last night, but as a Virginian, I don’t drive in snow. (It’s part of our Virginian charm, Sherry.) Later last night, I received a text from a friendly AA pal that said “The cup had your name on it!” with this picture attached.

Image_1424133852209

Sweet, yes? Agreed. It also made me anxious (what doesn’t these days?) and I immediately thought, “Wow, this AA shit is starting to creep into my real life.”

Yes, that same real life that I just said was pretty much nonexistent.

But here is my truth: even though I am scared and lonely and my only constant companion is Anxiety, I still want to stay sober.

I still want to keep moving forward into the spooky cave ahead, hopeful that it opens up into a light-filled, warm, wonderland of sober goodness.

Onward.

The “F” Word

Feelings.

Yes. In this post, I’m going to write about feelings.

Writing about feelings is, to me, the blogging equivalent of looking for your seat on a crowded international flight and realizing it’s next to the single mom with a newborn and a toddler.

A special kind of hell.

As I’ve committed more time to sobriety, “feelings” have begun cropping up. Nothing happens in a vacuum and my drinking/hangover hours have been filled with other activities, not necessarily of my choosing. In the evenings, rather than have a glass of wine, I have a sober conversation with my 9-year-old about his anxieties. In the early morning hours, rather than deal with a hangover, I deal with my “committee,” the voices in my head that love to go on about things, both trivial and great.

A great deal of my feelings have to do with things that happened many years ago. Things that cannot be changed, but things that changed me. These things made alcohol an attractive partner. Together, we would numb my feelings and stuff them into uncategorized emotional cells, to be processed never.

Alas, despite my best efforts, that emotional penitentiary system is no longer working. And so, here I am, feeling things from ten years ago and trying to act all cool about it. Trying to act as if nothing has happened. Trying to act as if the only tool I know how to wield against “feelings,” i.e. my trusty prison cop, my bottle of wine, is still at my disposal.

“Get your shit buttoned up,” I’ve been telling myself for years. “Other people have real problems. You’re being ridiculous.” And I did keep my shit buttoned up. Successfully. Except for the isolated, nightly, over drinking. And even that I successful kept buttoned up. So much so that I now have to convince my husband and my friends that I really do have a drinking problem. Really.

I think it was another sober blogger who shared Brené Brown’s “Empathy vs. Sympathy” video clip. It made an impact on me when I saw it last year. I sent it to my friends and we talked about how we needed to avoid offering the “at least” advice/comfort in moments of distress. We laughed at how easy “at least” comes out of our mouths even when we know better.

“At least the Navy pays people to move you every 9 months!”

“At least you have a husband, even if he’s always deployed!”

“At least your kid only has ADHD.”

These, clearly, are not helpful verbal offerings. And yet, these poisonous sentiments are what I’ve been offering myself for ten years – those sentiments and a daily bottle of wine.

The past few sober weeks, as I’ve been talking to my kid, and my committee, and myself, I’ve heard myself use “at least” a lot. I can’t stand it anymore. Yes, other people have terrible problems. Yes, I have much to be thankful for.

But I was in a deep hole. I was stuck. It was dark and I was overwhelmed.

You see, I was alone on that international flight, except for my infant and my toddler. I was that woman.

I am that woman.

 

 

 

I’m right, damn it. Now let’s drink.

It’s Day 33 here. But don’t look around for any kind of celebration. I’ve been white knuckling it for a week now, trying to talk myself out of a quick visit to the Chardonnay aisle at Total Wine.

Wolfie’s been very loud. Obnoxiously barking all the usual questions/bullshit at me: do you really think we were that bad? … moderation will work this time … there’s no way we are doing this forever … all the promises of better, more meaningful life aren’t going to materialize for you. 

This week at work I decided that, along with fighting with Wolfie, I would fight with my boss and our consultants. This was a helpful strategy to deflect dealing with my own issues. It was not, unfortunately, helpful in any other way.

Early on in the week my boss asked me to write up my yearly goals in a very detailed, time consuming way. I BELIEVE this is a waste of my time. Then, about mid-week, I asked my consultants for information that I BELIEVE they should be providing us.

I BELIEVE I am RIGHT and they are wrong.

I became increasingly irritated about both of these issues throughout the week. My attitude became: Let’s fight. Then I’m drinking.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, yes?

Thursday night I came across this quote in my book, The Spirituality of Imperfection: “For alcoholics in early sobriety (the need to be right) is the most important, for detachment from the need to be right, surrender of the ‘demand to have the last word’ seems a prerequisite to the kind of listening that allows participation in the healing power of storytelling.”

I was not interested in listening to my boss or my consultants. I wanted the last word (and still do).

This reminds me of a post in December, where I moan about certain people in AA meetings. And then sweet Anne’s comment that maybe I should listen and learn.

I can see all of that and am sure Anne and the authors of The Spirituality of Imperfection are right … but inside I’m throwing a temper tantrum. First i give up wine; then i give up self righteousness. For what?!

Then there was this article and this message: “Playing the victim, lashing out in resentment, and instigating more drama and chaos in your life can only lead you back to one thing: relapse. … None of these patterns of behavior are sustainable. If you are constantly angry at others with resentment, you will eventually self medicate out of anger at yourself. … You have to do something positive in order to overcome this cycle. … The time for blaming other people for your problems is over. Blaming others will not keep you sober. Creating your own life and owning your path is the way to long term sobriety.”

I know, I know … “the miracle is around the corner” …. one day I’ll reread this post and laugh at myself, and be ashamed at all this self-pity. But right now, for today, this sucks.

My own little Mt. Everest

Just saw that SoberJessie is posting again! Love her blog and am excited to see her back.

Today is Day 27.

I knew a month of sobriety would provide me the mental clarity to keep the sober momentum up. My sobriety feeds on itself.

On Wednesday I’ll celebrate 30 days by going to an AA meeting with my new sober friend and picking up a red chip.  I still don’t have an official sponsor, but am working with my therapist and reading a lot about recovery and addiction, including The Spirituality of Imperfection, which I cannot recommend enough.

As I said to SoberJessie, I want to spend the entire year sober …. I’m thinking of this effort as my own little Mt. Everest. And the sober blogs are like little bottles of oxygen I take out as I continue making steady uphill progress. I love checking Mrs. D’s blog list. I have many of the blogs saved on my WordPress reader, but I prefer to go to Mrs. D’s site and launch into the blogs from there.

I was listening to Bob Edwards yesterday and he was interviewing John Francis, an environmentalist who went 17 years without speaking or driving/riding in a motorized vehicle. There is so much to John’s story, but for our sober purposes, what struck me was his account of walking though South America when he had an epiphany that his self-imposed rule of no motorized vehicles was something he no longer wanted and that it had become a self-imposed “prison.”

This, of course, is how drinking has become for me: a self-imposed prison.

But it is also how I feel about NOT drinking. Sobriety is a self-imposed rule. A completely personal decision I have made. But instead of living in a prison where I spend each day disappointed in myself and uncertain of who is running my life (me or Wolfie), I live in a reality of gratitude where each day I receive greater and greater clarity of who is running my life.

Me. I’m running my life. And 2015 is my year of figuring out what that means and where it is I am running.

I certainly cannot figure anything out if I spend each day nursing myself back to health, just trying to feel as good as I did the day before. I spent 10 years trying to feel as good as I did yesterday.

Today, I am making forward, steady uphill progress.