Friday, December 5, 2014

Almost Two Years


"The rain is over; what we're left with is the life that follows the weather."
Ann Patchett

At this time two years ago tomorrow will be the last time I got wasted. I can't remember if I drank on the 5th of December 2012, but I know for sure I did on the 6th. (Did I ever.) I remember lots of wine, and then eating these coconut oil pot cookie things a friend made for me, sitting out on the porch chain smoking even though I'm betting it was cold. It wasn't a terribly unusual amount for me, it wasn't especially worse than the other nights I drank. It was the same as always, a lot.

I remember waking up on December 7, 2012, my children next to my side of the bed, their hair rumpled, their faces expectant and sleepy. I'm sure they were both in their underwear. I had promised French toast and spelling words for breakfast- my oldest had his class spelling bee that morning so we were going to have his favorite breakfast and go over his words one last time. My oldest was eight- to be nine in a week. My youngest was four.

I was so hungover I could not get out of bed.

The enormity of that really strikes me as I write it. I drank so much that I couldn't get up the next day. It makes me feel small and tight like a walnut. Ashamed. Cringe-worthy. I can picture myself as I can always picture me when I was drunk: eyes half closed certain that I'm with it, that I'm fine. Certain that one more drink won't hurt, certain that I can handle that awful hangover I'll have tomorrow because haven't I done it so many times that I'm like some kind of evil hangover expert genius? The picture I have is a physical one and a spirit one: I can feel what I felt like when I drank, when I was a glass or two in, a bottle in, a blackout in. I can easily dredge up the sick anxiety I felt the next morning: my brain can start the guilt tapes over with no problem. "How could you? It's OK, you know you need to quit. It's OK, you can quit...TODAY! Then everything will be fine. I suck." I was a two-faced finger pointer cheerleader. Both worried and relieved because what did I do and I was quitting today anyway so it didn't matter. But until December 7, 2012 I always drank again.

I didn't really even mean to quit that day. I meant to quit every day, but that day stuck for me. It was the day my oldest was due to be born in 2004 and my reasoning was it was a day marked for a new life, it just wasn't his, it was mine. It was my lowest point as a mother: bedridden while my children held out the plate of French toast they'd made with their dad and I couldn't take it so they just whispered "We'll leave it right here mommy" and they put it on the bookshelf next to my side of the bed and tiptoed away. The fat sad tears that slid down my face as I knew the truth about myself deep deep down: I had a problem. A serious problem.

I'd had this problem for years. I always knew I drank differently from other people. I was always glad to find another person who drank like me. I did most of my drinking by myself though- none of that pesky sharing to worry about. I knew, even in my teens, that I shouldn't drink, that my family history basically screamed out NEVER DRINK ALCOHOL!!!! and I chose to ignore it. Between four of my grandparents three were raging alcoholics. Two committed suicide. The deck was very obviously stacked against me. Odds totally in favor of me being another raging alcoholic. But I hurt too much to care.

That hurt carried me through years of drunks, years of mistakes. It piled it all up until by laws of balance and toppling it had to fall. I had to fall. So I fell- my years of free fall finally touched down with a resounding thump and I knew I could get up again. Not that I had to, but that I could.

Sobriety happens in all different ways. It worked for me to blog a lot at first, to have a pen pal. A sober therapy group worked for a while. I never went to AA. I don't really have a lot of sober support except for what I make for myself which is true for everyone I guess. I've learned along the way how to nurture and care for myself and for me that doesn't involve a lot of other people. I look back at the beginning of my sobriety and marvel at the fact that I stopped drinking and smoking by getting up early every day and emailing my pen pal (endless gratitude Belle) and having my own one woman free yoga class in my living room. To this day I am still jealous of people who get to go to rehab: what would that have been like? To free myself from my life for thirty days and get it together without having to do my life and get sober all at once? I probably romanticize it too much. It was harder for me to manage AA meetings than it was to cobble together my own "meetings" by reading other sober bloggers. I plodded through my first days clutching my wineglass full of seltzer and fresh grapefruit juice at dinner time and putting us all in our pajamas and in my bed at 7:00. It was safe up there.

I discovered something amazing: I was really good at being sober. Being good at it didn't mean it wasn't hard, sometimes heartbreakingly so, but I keep practicing and so I keep getting better and better. Being sober makes my life livable. It makes it so I could deal with the things that happen on a daily basis that threaten my sanity. I've learned to recognize when I need a minute or a weekend to hibernate and shake myself back out. It's given me the patience and courage to rebuild my relationship with my husband and my parents. It's taught me who I was, who I really am, and then it taught me to be just fine with that. It gave me my love story of a life time. Mine + Me.

So this morning I am sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the hum of the dishwasher. It's spelling bee time again. My oldest will be ten (ten!) in ten days. We all had scrambled eggs and pears this morning, argued about crazy eights cards and no one wanted to put their shoes on. My life has gone on even though at first I thought I could never ever ever make it without wine. I have made it and put two years of consistent sobriety together on my own. I have something I only dreamed of: an alive life. I am what I never thought I was: capable. Honest. Sober.





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Me as Me

I found myself in a situation that would normally make me feel sad, apologetic, and back pedaling so people wouldn't be mad at me, or think bad of me.

I have a dear friend who is having trouble staying sober. And I called her on it. 

I'm pretty sure that violates all the AA rules and also the ones I learned in my therapy group too. 

But I've only been to two AA meetings, and the first one was 20 years ago. My therapy group turned out wonky and sad. So now, here I am, making up my own rules. Which aren't rules, but more like this one sort of guideline: be firm but understanding with an open heart.

One of the hardest parts of recovery for me is all these rules everyone seems to have for what you can and can't say. "Don't give advice!" and "Use only 'I' statements". I also sort of infer ones like "Always say 'Yay'!" and "It's better to sugarcoat it!". Since I have mostly been on my own with the help of other sober bloggers and books as the backbone of my sobriety I really don't know all the nuances and catch phrases. It makes it hard to navigate when a lot of people do. It makes it even easier to sit down and shut up before I put my foot in it and get in trouble. 

But, you see, this friend is struggling. And has been for a while. And maybe it's only a sponsors job to tell hard truths (I heard that once) but what if I don't go to AA? Does that mean I just have to keep quiet when I see someone I love lying to themselves? Isn't it my job to, as a successfully sober person, help others who are struggling? Am I only allowed to help if I'm being encouraging? Am I not allowed to tell hard truths? Do people who need to hear the hard truth even ask? 

I have this sober pen pal I've been writing to for the past two years. We hit it off immediately. I know if we were in the same city we would be coffee once a week friends. But, this person struggles to stay sober. So I tell her: you might be in trouble soon. It happens faster than you think. I told her the story of how I was just drinking and drinking and then going out and doing drugs and staying out all night while my family wondered where I was. My children only 4 years and 9 months old. My husband at a loss. Why? I ask myself? Why didn't anyone speak up and say "This shit is FUCKED UP." Why did everyone just act like it was fine when it was clearly NOT FINE. 

I told her that it wasn't fair to breeze in and out of writing her sober blog. That it helped to stay engaged. Engaged in sobriety. To hold oneself responsible to the people who read you and care for you. I got a little bossy.

Through all this I have learned more about me. I have to live my life: me as me. I cannot worry about the so called rules of this or do's and don'ts of that. I know how to behave. I know how to not be an asshole. And I know how to apologize if I am one. I cannot be one of those helicopter parent types cheering people on for just doing the tiniest amount required. I cannot say "It's OK" to someone who, after expressing a sincere and heartfelt desire to quit drinking drinks again. I can say "YOU are OK" but not "It's OK."

Sometimes in this place there are hard things that need to be said. Sobriety is not easy. It is hard. It's an every fucking day hard thing. To feel safe in my place in the world I have to be able to speak my truth the way I see it, not to curtain my words to soothe the sensibilities of others. This is true for all aspects of my life- not just sobriety. One really great thing about being almost two years sober is that I am finally learning that me as me is fine. That it's OK if I don't hold with popular opinion. That it's fine for me to say what I feel, to like what I like, to do what I do. That when I read my friends blog about this situation and comments say things like "Sounds like your 'friend' is trying to shame you" I can know that I wasn't do any such thing, and that the person who is struggling knows this too. 

It was hard to say something difficult to someone I love. It took a lot of courage for me to send an email (for godssake) and say these huge things. And it took a lot of courage for my friend to respond. It made me think hard, really hard, about the choices I'm making in my life: where I waffle back and forth. It made me have my own come to jesus with myself about the lies I've been telling myself about things that haven't been working in my life for a long time. Things I can see because I stay sober. Truths I can tell myself and because my friend could hear me I could be brave enough to hear my own.

We are all in it together. We are. We are here to hold each other up. We are here to cheer on, to love, to look to. But we must be able to tell each other the truth. Even when it hurts. 




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Washing Up

I was washing the crock pot at the sink the other day. As usual I was hurried, frustrated that it was taking so long. All of the sudden I realized what I was doing: washing a crock pot. On my day off. With nothing to do all day. Why in the heck was I all bent out of shape? Then I realized that wait....this is my default setting. I am always anxious to get on to the next thing. Always doing a mental work up of a situation or event.

It came as a total shock to me that I am so anxious all the time. I had no idea. But as soon as I recognized it my whole self was like BUSTED!!!! And I had a good laugh at myself and adjusted the water temperature, added a dab more soap to make bubbles and took my time scrubbing up that pot.

I think it comes from living a childhood where my parents fought all the time. They started fighting when I was in mid fourth grade (when we moved to a place my mom quickly grew to hate from a place we all loved)  until we moved away from that hated place the summer before my senior year of high school. I always wanted to be able to fix it, so I was always on edge- on the lookout for the solution that would make everyone happy and please not fight anymore. This is still me today- tensely watching for any sign of disruption or disturbance so I can prevent it from happening. But I didn't know that until the other day when the crock pot showed me the light.

This makes it hard for me to get absorbed in things, or even lose track of time. It makes it hard to enjoy things because what if I start having fun and someone else isn't and then they get upset and wreck it for everyone but if I was just watching I could have stopped it? It doesn't make sense but these things often don't. I can only start to make sense of them when they come out from under the bed and into the light. "Oh, here" say my brains. "Did you know that you do this?" "Oh" says me. "I didn't but damn. That kind of explains a lot."

So much of my "stuff" is from when I was a kid. It's like I have all these loose ends that never got tied up. Slowly but surely I'm catching ends and wrapping things up. One thing I could never do when I was drinking was learn a lesson and then move on.

I don't think much about sobriety anymore. It's just something that I am. But without it these revelations wouldn't happen. Because I'm sober I can now see that one of the reasons I drank was to sedate my anxiety. If I was wasted I couldn't care less about what was going on, I didn't have to worry if anyone was upset, or fighting, or not having fun. I really didn't know if I was even having fun. I like the way these things pop up- unpredictable, any time, any where- and I learn something that is really totally true about me.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Making Decisions Practice

I'm at the beginning of a three day weekend! 

I cannot begin to express how much I need this weekend- since school started I've been like a rubber band- boing-ing and boing-ing from here to there. I proclaimed a hiatus weekend. Meaning no plans fun or otherwise! 

I need this. I know I need this. I need it most of the time because I am mostly an introvert and a homebody which means I need to be mostly at home and mostly not with anybody. BUT. Then I make coffee plans and dinner plans and volunteer for things and school has meetings and work has meetings and those are all in the same month as my husband and my youngest's birthdays and holy shit. It shows. It shows in what I'm eating and reading and doing with my time. 

I do it all the time- say yes when I really mean no. Or no when I really mean yes! I wish I could cut out the part of me, whatever its' name is, that is responsible for all of my poor decision making. That part that squelches the idea that getting up early for a walk is a good idea, the part that says I can quit drinking coffee another day, the part that has me face first in my phone while the kids bounce around me wanting attention. Snip snip snip random part- be gone from me!

I am one of a huge group of people who knows what's best for me and totally ignores it! I do this all the time. I can list the things I need to make me content easily: enough sleep, exercise, connection, creativity, good food. (good food meaning not eating five chocolate chip cookies and two pieces of birthday cake in one day or another helping of the delicious polenta just because it's delicious but I'm already full) It's like when I was drinking and I knew one hundred fifty million percent that I needed to quit and then I drank anyway. It's like when I knew I had to stop having caffeine to fuel my days but I was still chugging coffee. It's making excuses around what I need so other people can be happy while I lie to myself that it's all OK. Why do I do that? 

Oh, right. I'm human. :)

BUT! Here's the good part: I know it! I know that I need to take a little minute and get my self together because otherwise I will eat all the Raspberry Beret snack mix in the whole world and compensate for my exhaustion by drinking six cups of coffee a day. Here's the best part: not only do I know it I'm actually doing something about it.

Practice. It takes such practice! I am reminded time and time again that I don't really know how to do the simplest stuff- like decision making. Being sober means learning how to do all this basic stuff all over again. Knowing the right answers. Yes to one cookie. No to five of them. I feel like I'm in sober first grade. And I'm grateful to have made it through kindergarten. :)



  


Monday, September 15, 2014

Ten Random Things to Write About Because I Had No Other Ideas

1. I am doing fine. Fine. As in, you know- OK. I haven't had any big moments of oh! lately. Just regular stuff like: coffee makes me grumpy, the laundry is never ending, if I stay here in this moment instead of somewhere else (like tomorrow) I feels loads better.

2. I went out on a limb and started taking an upholstery class. It meant I had to go sign up and then ask for days off to be able to take the class. It meant I had to ask for time from my family and my work. This took some bravery. I am no bueno at asking for stuff that's just for me. But I'm a little better at it now. Practice.

3. I am running again. This brings great delight and joy to my heart!!!! I am running almost a mile with no pain the next day. Yesterday we saw a friend on the trail doing a 24 mile training run and I can remember when that was me. And now a mile is a triumph. Never underestimate the power of small stuff or short runs.

4. The clock works of our lives are shifting some- different plans in motion. Braver, bigger plans in motion. Because when I got sober my expectations got much higher. I'm not at the sky's the limit yet, but I'm way above the rock I was under.

5. My health is still my biggest worry. (I've been having double vision, headaches, and fatigue) I don't see the neurologist until December which is good because they didn't need to see me straight away and not good because what the fuck is going on???? I think I have a brain tumor at least four times a day. This is one of those things that is good letting go practice since as much as I want to control what's going on with me I just really cannot. And so I just keep remembering to let go, put my hands up and fly on down the big hill. On a scale of one to ten I am three to five scared. I get all sentimental and treasure my lovely sobriety life like a precious gem while I feel like it's totally fucking unfair that I'm going to die with only a few years of sobriety. And then I remember that nothing is wrong yet so I may as well just keep on waking up in the morning. I have a flair for drama. This means until I hear different I AM TOTALLY FINE.

6. I have poison ivy again. I am terribly allergic and love to play in the woods. Which makes it a total surprise that this is the second time I've had it this summer and it's actually really pretty much fall.

7. Another thing I'm really thinking on is being the me I'm actually meant to be: not the world's version, or my parents one, or this one, or that one- my one. I remind myself when I get dressed every day to wear what I feel like- even if maybe 73% of people might think I'm a total dork. I remind myself to not worry about what so and so does with their kids, or what things I'm "supposed" to be doing. I stay not busy because that's the way I like it. So even though most people around me are dashing to and fro and crowing about how busy they are I just make little bits of plans and cancel them if I feel stretched thin. Because that what works for me. The other day I was talking with a new friend and she said "I'm introverted extrovertish" and I was like "Yes! You are my people!"  This could also translate into liking myself for who I am.

8. I am working on getting my sense of humor back. Do you every look around and wonder "Who the hell made this so serious?" I had a little come to jesus with myself this morning on the way to work about lightening up and laughing more. I have gotten into a pattern of getting something in my craw and keeping it there. My naturopath taught me this thing called tapping that helps me ease through my nagging problems. Big and small. But it only helps if I use it. So I did, and lo and behold! It helped!

9. Things are good. Remarkably regular. Comfortingly similar. I like it. I still like waking up in the morning and knowing what I did last night. It hasn't gotten old yet. It still feels like a pretty little present when I wake up unhungover and with it. I am still getting used to not wanting to sleep for all of my free time. This is very cool. Very.

10. Being sober is the greatest. Ever, ever ever.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mountains to Climb

My youngest started kindergarten today. It kind seems like an end to a ten year cycle: baby, little, bigger, another baby, little, big kid, little kid- both in school. Whoa. I just ate lunch alone. And in a way I wanted to be sad about it, and then in a way I felt grown up. Able to chew. Able to be quiet. Take my time. Read at the table. (Shhhh. Don't tell.)

This means I have free time.

To like, blog and stuff. :)

And stuff! I swear, whenever I put stuff out into the universe and say "OK, universe. I'm ready for this. Really ready. Suggest some things." the universe goes, "Well, right on! Here you go!"

Over and over again it amazes me that one of my biggest side effects of being sober is being brave! So when the universe says "Here's this?" I can say things like "Oh, that's possible" and "Wow, I never thought of that before- but I could totally do that". Not what I used to say which was "I don't have time for that" or "I can't". It also means I can change my mind about things if I want to and not have to feel scared or guilty about it. It means I can choose, and then re-choose if I want. For you that might be easy, but for me that takes some serious guts- all of it.

I was looking at a picture of some mountains and it occurred to me: there are always mountains to climb. Always. And that's OK. That I love mountains. I love that they rise and fall and come in ranges so that once you get to the top there's a whole 'nother side to hike down, and then another one to walk up. That they all have a view from the top. And not just one view, but so many views you can't even count them all, and to see a new one you just have to change your perspective or turn things around.

I have finally also come to the understanding that even though my most wished wish came true (I'm sober) my life can still be hard as shit sometimes, and it can also be unbelievably amazing. That both of these things can be big and small. That I'm good at hiking. That I can handle the hills. Even when they are mountains. That I can let myself enjoy the view from the top.

I was talking with my naturopath today. We are winding up a fourteen week session of visits and although my progress has been slowish there has been progress- a lot of it. I said to her today "The person sitting here today and the person I was at this time two years ago are totally different. And even when things are hard I am still so grateful for the person I am today." I don't waste my time wishing away the woman that I am- I strive to become more her. And by strive I mean live.

When I was drinking you can bet that there was never a day I loved myself more because I had gotten drunk again. But these days? These days. These days I am brave and possible. These days I am a hiker. These days I see mountains and I hope they are in ranges because it is all so interesting and pretty and hard and lovely. These days I'm getting a lot better at doing and doing a lot less wishing.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Self-Ish

It feels like I become more of my self more of the time. Self-Ish.

When I got sober I was definitely no one resembling anyone I was supposed to be or had been. I was this mess contained in my very own skin, that I mostly spent time trying to jump out of. In my head I think a lot  "too much me", "I have had enough of me", "please let me be less me and more be".

I had another one of those brain lightning zip pop wow moments. Because of course, when I am overwhelmed with all this thinking I need a huge helping of brain salad to toss around.

It's about care.

When I was a little girl I felt very uncared for: like, "Hey, huh. There's Amy. And also a wall." When I was in fourth grade we moved. After that my parents fell apart for years together. And I existed. The boys in the neighborhood would beat me up or later finger fuck me in the treehouses we built- but no one really seemed to care except me. The boys didn't care that they pulled my hair until I couldn't breathe, and no one noticed me sneaking off into the woods with the older boy who would do things to me that made me shrink into a shell of a girl too full with shame. My mom was more worried about "One Life to Live" than she was about how my life was falling apart. My dad was at work. Unless he was yelling at me to clean the bathroom.

It sucked. It helps me understand why booze was such a relief. It helps me understand how, when I try to care for myself, it feels arduous and awkward. Because when you are ten and everyone is too busy to notice you slowly dying inside you get used to being alone. Uncherished. I got used to saving the worst for myself, to being the worst to myself. People could hurt me, but I could hurt myself worse. So there, I would think: See? I win. You can't get me. I have already been gotten.

I discovered that I am still waiting for someone to come along and take care of me. That in my head there is a mythical time when some magical someone is going to come along and know how to soothe my fears and ease my pain. Who will say things like Oh, it's alright. You can feel sad and out of place and not eat all that ice cream. Or Everyone gets tired, the world is a heavy thing to carry alone. Rest your self. And Wow, you are really not so perfect. That's just fine. That I have waited long enough. That it's time for the caring to just show the fuck up now, OK?

As you can probably imagine I pride myself on the care I give others. I possibly over care about people like my children, but also that lady in line who wasn't very nice to me. There's like all this caring, but none of it gets to me from me.

It's similar to someone giving you a compliment (I like your dress!) and you explaining it away (Oh, I got it on sale super cheap!). So I feel overwhelmed and emotional (PMS is a bitch) and I know what I need (yoga and a hot tea) but instead I spend so much time talking myself out of caring for myself (but the kids need some attention and oh the laundry) that I end up in the emotional bargain basement once again.

I didn't know that while I was waiting for someone else that I might instead choose to show up myself. That I am someone else. That there is no magical someone who swoops in and takes care of it all- that magical someone is me. If I want these things to happen I have to make it so. I am exhausting myself giving all this care to everyone outside of me and giving none of what I need back. It's sort of like standing in front of a speeding train and expecting someone to appear out of nowhere to push you out of harms way.

Gah. This sobriety stuff takes bravery. It takes such courage and grit to not be life lazy. It is so hard to do for myself what has not been done. It's so hard to get so uncomfortable to get to a better place. It's so hard to not just say fuck it, I'm sober! That's all I can do! Isn't that what I deserve? Isn't being sober the biggest best gift I could have ever gotten? I'm sober! Wanting more is selfish! Greedy greedy greedy. And plus what more do you people want from me???

What more do I want from me? I feel like I have a sweet little secret when I ask myself that question. Because, in secret, from my own self, is this: I want everything from me. I have possibilities. I have chances. I have whatever I dream could be as long as I am brave and faithful to my self. Being sober is wonderful, but it is not what makes up all of me, it's what makes me know that there is so much more to come.