Tuesday, December 24, 2013

1 Day Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 1

Day 1

1st Good Reason to be Sober

I am deeply thankful for my sober community.

The Sober Community

Y'all might know or probably remember that sober blogs shored up the first six months of my recovery. My one connection to the world, to people who got what I was feeling and talking about was the sober blogging community. It's this magical place where all you have to do is show up, write a little SOS, and then out of the great blue beyond some words of hope or comfort appear.

The sober community has so much to give, and asks only sobriety in return. And then forgives if you don't even have that. My sober community has expanded from lurking on blogs to emailing to having my own blog. It has given me people like Sherry, Lilly, and Annette, Paul, Mrs D, Belle, Carrie, and Jen. It has given me a therapist who believes in me: I know she does because she says so, and she means it. It has given me a recovery group that isn't always easy or fun but that builds me every time I go. It has given me friendships that will last. I haven't been to an AA meeting yet, but Universe Amy and I are going on Saturday and so I will add that to my list.

I am so grateful that anyone reads this at all, and that I get these messages of support and love and encouragement still blows me away a little. Thank you so much for reading, for commenting, for emailing me. Thank you for letting me listen and try to help. Thank you for helping me. That makes me feel a part of a thing bigger than me and my own sobriety, alone- it makes me part of a chain of helping hands, all who have been there, and stay sober, together.

I am so proud to be a part of such a beautiful thing. I am so proud to be sober. There are so many many many reasons to be sober, but my very first one is this: I have said that I am. So I must be so. Because of sober mornings, better coping skills, care-taking, humility & grace, helping hands, feelin' it, sense of self, heart connections, forgiveness, trust & truth, a life.....forever, and the sober community I will continue to be sober.

Merry Christmas.




2 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 2

Day 2

Well, we're almost there, although I could probably write a good reason to be sober every day for the rest of my life.

2nd Good Reason to be Sober

A Life.....Forever

Being sober has saved it. It has made it into something I never ever found in all of my years searching for it in the bottom of another bottle.

Being sober gives you life. It gives you life where before you were just existing. It has given me something to claim, something to hold onto. Being sober is a huge part of my life, but after a while it just becomes part of it, not all of it. I never forget, however, that without being sober I would not have been brave enough, or fortunate enough to be doing all this living.


Monday, December 23, 2013

3 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 3

Day 3

3rd Good Reason to be Sober

I never trusted a word I said when I was drinking.

Trust & Truth

One of the biggest lies I continually told myself when I was drinking was that I was going to quit. Another one I told myself, and always at the end of the day, was that my drinking was not a problem, everything was OK. I lied to myself every day for years.

But no matter what I told myself I knew. I knew that I was not telling my truth. I knew that I might make guarantees at 7 AM but that I would never keep those promises. I knew that I was a liar. Not to be trusted.

Telling the truth is hard. But trust doesn't stand on a liar's foundation. And once you start telling the truth it gets easier and suddenly you have two feet. And you are standing. The truth is like the hike to the top, and the trust is the view.

Now I can trust myself. I have never felt a feeling quite like it before. Because I finally stopped lying to myself about hurting myself I feel safe with myself again.There's something about seeing your eyes in the mirror and knowing you can trust the person looking back at you. There's something about looking inside and knowing that you can search around your soul for some help and not come up with a stick.

Being sober keeps me honest. A truth-teller. A woman of her word. Counted upon. Trustworthy.


4 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 4

Day 4

4th Good Reason to be Sober

I'm behind on my days of Christmas posts. Forgive me.

Forgiveness

There's all these things I did when I was drinking that I really regret. That I can take out and shake a stick at and make myself feel pretty bad about.

I had to forgive myself or go batshit crazy.

It hurts to carry around so much mad-ness in one body. I had to forgive myself so I could keep going. It's a continuous process that I continue to do. I open my arms to my sweet self and stroke my hair, cradle my head in my hands, and say it's ok. I do it with the love I would give a stranger because I know it's so hard for me to be nice to myself, but since I am still sometimes a stranger to me I can let her be forgiven.

I am trying to forgive other people. Most I can, or find my own blame and forgiveness and move on. One person was really awful to me last year and I can't all the way shake it. It escalated my drinking to a critical point, it brought me to the crest of my drinking hill. That situation helped make me decide: fly or crash. So I'm ultimately very grateful, and still hurt. Holding on to old hurts only keeps them around, so I'm trying to forgive, but dang. I might need more time on that one. So I forgive myself for that.

Forgiveness is a part of sobriety that never ends. It gives me the opportunity to be charitable with myself, and also to let go of my need to be right and perfect all the time. It lets people around me know that they can be human and I will be too.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

5 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 5

Day 5

5th Good Reason to be Sober

I have made (and lost) some amazing connections in my first sober year.

Heart Connections

When I first got sober I felt really alone, like no one would understand what I was going through. And that if they did they would think I was a total loser fuck up loser, and also that I was fat.

You know how, when you drink with people, and then you feel like you are just the best of friends because you get drunk together? That you don't really remember what you talked about, but you're pretty hungover so it must have been good, especially since no one is looking at you with that funny look you get when you did something or said too much while you were all bonding being wasted. I love you, man. I don't know what I love about you, but man. I do.

It's awkward to be new friends when you don't drink. You actually have to take the time to get to know people rather than be instant best friends and then stay that way as long as you drink together. There are uncomfortable silences, and times when you bring over cookies with nuts and your new friend is deathly allergic. Or maybe you are brand new friends and someone's father dies and you don't know what to say so you just blunder through and speak from the heart and hope what you say is OK.

And then months pass and you end up with a few people in your life that actually really deep down care about you. Who care enough about you to learn about you, and continue to learn about you. You take the time and you connect. And you care back. And there's effort, and laughter, and tears. Actual friends.

I have made many connections over the course of my sobriety- some that will last forever, and some that only last a few emails. I have given up relationships that I needed to, and some have just naturally fallen off along the way. There is strength in connections, real connections. Heart connections.

6 Days Until Christmas:Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 6

Day 6

6th Good Reason to be Sober


There's something that happened for me over the course of me getting and staying sober- I discovered my sense of self.


Sense of Self

Pretend like you live with a stranger. And every day you come home, and every day there is this stranger, here, in your house. They are unpredictable. Dishonest. Full of shit. You wake up and here, in your bed, is this stranger. A liar.

And then realize that stranger is actually you. Oh, no. Me? Who the hell am I?

Being sober gives me a sense of self I haven't had since I was about eight years old. I know what I like. I know what I can deal with and what I can't. I make decisions. I take care of myself. I have an identity and that identity is not just being me wishing I wasn't me.

I can remember when a new girl moved in next to my best friend when I was in third grade. Her mom was divorced, she had two sisters. She had dark beautiful hair, and was new and different. I could tell that she was confident and sure of herself and I was already getting teased for who I was. She lived right next door to my best friend and I was up the street around the corner. My best friend became her best friend, then we moved in the middle of fourth grade which pretty much solidified the fact that I was awkward and not cool. Which lasted until I started drinking around fourteen, and then I wasn't any cooler, but at least I didn't know it for a while. I wasn't any less myself, but when I drank at least I felt like what I thought everyone else must feel. And I was included. Part of something.

I ache when I think about the what if of if I'd had the courage and purpose to actually be me all those years ago. And then I rejoice when I know that I finally get to be me. Me. Not someone else's version of what me should be, not the version of me that hides behind bottles of wine, but actual real me. Who knows what she needs. Who has boundaries, and hope. Standards! Who knew I even had those!

I am liking me more and more these days. It's nice to look around and see a familiar face and not that drunk stranger who kept hurting me and I kept letting her. One of the best parts of sobriety has been getting to know myself, and then liking myself so much that I actually love myself. That when I look in the mirror and my blue eyes look back I feel like I'm seeing a friend. My best friend- myself.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

7 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 7

Day 7

I never knew how many feelings I had until I started actually having them.

7th Good Reason to be Sober

Feelin' it

When I was drinking I pretty much had three feelings: drunk, hungover, and guilty.

Now, holy moly. There are so many feelings I might have to ask some to just please sit down and wait your turn. They aren't all joy and peace either- some of those bitches grab on with the big teeth and will not let go. Sometimes I feel so gleeful and glorious and whole altogether that I might turn myself inside out with my grin. Sometimes I feel quiet and thinkful, then thankful, then cranky and crazy making. Mostly I just feel pretty dang normal. Divinely normal.

One feeling that never goes away is this: blessed. I don't mean in a grab your book of hymns and march it down to the pews way, or a someone go get Jesus way. (But if you want to go ahead. He's a cool guy. And I do like singing.) I mean it in a deep down wash me in rainbows way. A woot woot woot WOOT! way. In the earnest thank you way that this is now my life. Because I am sober I get to feel it all.

That feels worth it.




8 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 8

Day 8

The value of the help I get and give cannot be measured even with the big ruler. I would never, ever ever have gotten to feel the cradle of a helping hand- whether it be a pen pal, or a friend, or a group, or my own backbone without first asking for help.


8th Good Reason to be Sober

Helping hands

When I was drinking I could never ever ever ask for help. Ever. I just drank and remained helpless. Helpless.

When I quit drinking the one big big biggest thing that made me not jump in the car and buy ninety four bottles of wine to chug while I made dinner was this: I wrote an email to a woman I'd never ever met or heard of and said, "Hey, I'm trying to quit. I'm scared." And then Belle wrote me back and said, "I'd be glad to be your pen pal." And she help save me.

Because I asked.

As I got more sober time I learned something: I could ask myself for help. And then I would show up. Every time. Reliably. I became my own help. I help save myself.

Because I ask.

Then I prayed to the universe for a face-to-face friend and Universe Amy showed up. I call her when I need to say "Gah, life is a plane crash today and my heart is breaking into pieces." and she reminds me that I'm OK. Makes me laugh. Values me. She is help.

Because I ask.

And then I joined a women's recovery group. I cry and laugh it out loud over and over: "Help me. Help me. Help me." All these hearts and hands reach out and save me.

Because I ask.

Some say you gotta sin to get saved. But I think you have to ask to get helped, and when you get helped you get saved more that you ever imagined could be real for your one living life.

You reach out your scared hand and heart and say "Help me. Heal me. Save ME. SAVE ME. HELP ME."

Just ask.














Tuesday, December 17, 2013

9 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 9

Day 9

Now here we are on the day it really is, unless you're reading this tomorrow then it's the day it really isn't. Maybe I had too much coffee. I had a heart-to-heart with Universe Amy about something I consider one of the biggest parts of my sobriety- humility. There's an art to being humble, it's hard to do in this world of look at me look at me look at me. How to balance being proud and shining without coming across as a know-it-all arrogant asshole.

9th Good Reason to be Sober

Humility & Grace

I have been struggling some with trying to feel this new feeling: pride. You know how that goes- welp, before a fall they say. I am so proud of myself for being sober for a year! For writing a blog people enjoy! For being really good at sobriety. I wonder when we got to a place that says be as good as you can but shut up about it. Trying to temper success, but still be able to show your joy. To be able to be all Dalai Lama about it. To radiate awesomeness rather than announce it. To have the strength to take a bow even if you're the only person in the audience. And then throw flowers too.

So much of our successes depend on what other people think of them. Being sober is trying to give me the ability to celebrate myself from within, and then be able to share that rather than megaphone it. It's hard when you're being sober and you need a parade every day to keep going and then you have to ask for it.

Humility and grace go together. I think as a whole we are pretty bad at accepting praise. "You look so pretty!" "Oh, no, I just rushed out of the house." "What a great shirt!" "Oh, no, I got it on sale for like 50% off." We have to explain why we aren't pretty, or why good stuff isn't true, or how it might be, but only because we got it at a discount.

It has been wonderfully overwhelming to get all the kind messages I have throughout the course of writing this blog. I am learning to accept praise offered and accept it with grace. "Thank you." "I appreciate you saying so." and not have to explain my goodness away as some sort of accident or markdown.

To be able to be humble, but without being meek. To be gracious. To be welcoming, and comforting, and to be proud.

Later.....

I had my women's group meeting today. My therapist gave me a one year chip. It took my breath away. In that room, tears running down my face, I felt humbled by the simple beauty of that gift, by her belief in me. I managed to say, with all the grace a sobbing woman can muster, "Thank you so much. I was lost for a really long time. It feels really good to be found." I felt humble and heartswollen and proud and full of messy grace. Overflowing of good reasons to be sober.

10 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to be Sober Day 10

Day 10

I was sick in bed all day yesterday which is why we're having day 10 and 9 on the same day. I wanted to post, and then also wanted to sleep a lot. I feel better today, not 100% but better. I had my day 10 all picked out, but now I'm switching 10 and 9, because 9 seems more like it should be where 10 is and vice versa. Without further ado.....

10th Good Reason to be Sober

Care-taking

I debated for an hour before I called in sick to work yesterday. This was around 4 AM. Finally my voice- you know that one, the smooth Sade voice that soothes you and mothers you when you are all chatterbug: "No no no, I have to go. I can, it will be fine, blah blah bullshit bullshit....." And then Mama Sade steps in and talks some sense: "You are sick honey. It's OK to stay home. It's OK to get well. You need sleep and hot tea. It's OK to take care of you. It's OK to take care of you."

Being sober has given me the enormous gift of knowing when I need some lovingcare. It has made it easy to recognize my crazy making self and be able to reach out for her hand and say, "Whoa there. Slow down. Stop all that thinking and breathe a minute. You are OK." It has made it a priority for me to look out for numero uno- me. Which isn't selfish, or rude, or taking anything away from anyone else. Being my own care-taker has made me trust myself again. Who is looking out for me? Me, that's who.

And because I take care of myself I can deal with life. I get to feel strong enough to weather the storm. I get to have faith in me because I give myself love and tenderness and care.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

11 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to Be Sober Day 11

Day 11

It's kind of cool that AA has 12 steps, and I'm counting down 12 reasons sobriety rocks. I'm also reading a great book called A Woman's Way through the Twelve Steps so I have the number twelve on the brain. If you haven't read this book I recommend it. I'm on the fourth step in my reading. There are some things I do not like about AA, but the twelve steps is not among them. I like the thought of measured self search in a logical way. And that they don't have to be in order.

11th Good Reason to be Sober

Better Coping Skills

So, before, when I was a boozer, the only way I knew how to deal with life was to drink. I drank when I was happy or sad, struggle-y or cruising along, you know- breathing in and out, whatever. Now I have to deal. It is not always fun or easy. In fact, this has been the hardest year I've had emotionally in as long as I can remember. But I feel like I've healed more than I ever have. I have gotten to know my wondrous self. I can tell when I'm cranky because I'm PMS. I can feel my hormones gearing up. I can tell when I need sleep, or when I need some encouragement. I can feel my happies. I can lose myself in moments. I can cry from way deep down- feeling that sorrow like a surge inside me well up and spill out and cleanse my aching soul. And then I can be OK.

It feels like I get to have a life because I deal with life. That because I face what comes instead of drowning it I get to feel it, live it, and move on.

P.S. Today I have been writing this blog for one year! :) My blog has been one of my biggest coping skills. It helps me sort things out when I'm stuck, or share some goodness. Thanks for reading. It feels important that I share my struggles and triumphs to keep myself from hiding. I always feel so grateful that even one other person reads what I write. It helps me, really helps me. xoxoxo

Saturday, December 14, 2013

12 Days Until Christmas: Countdown of Good Reasons to Be Sober

Day 12

So, I thought it would be a good idea to have a sober Christmas countdown. Then I realized I'm not sure if the counting goes 1-12 or 12-1. So I'm going 12-1, but you can rearrange as you see fit. You know, much like sobriety. Here's my example of stuff, and then you push it around and hem it a bit or add to it to make it fit just right for you. The we can all sing them at the end.

12th Good Reason to Be Sober

Sober Mornings

Oh, man. This is still one of my ultra deluxe very very favorite things about being sober: no WTF mornings. I used to hate that feeling of waking up at lord knows what time (3AM? 5AM? Late AM?) and having that pit-in-the-stomach feeling of what the hell did I do last night? And then you check your partner's face, your phone, Facebook..... some days I couldn't figure it out and would just force some extra cheerfulness over the hangover to fool myself into thinking everything was OK. Ugh. I don't miss that AT ALL.

Now I wake up rested most days. I never ever ever have to wonder WTF did I do last night. EVER.

An excellent reason to be sober.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dare to Be




It's really, really odd to be sitting here knowing that on this day last year I drank for the last time. That a year ago tonight I opened bottles of wine and smoked and drank and crushed myself with abandon.

I got wasted.

I don't even recognize that woman anymore.

I don't miss drinking. Not a bit. Not a drop. No just one more or full glass could possibly compare to the year I've had.

It seems like getting sober took the longest three months of my life. That never ending five o'clock that tortured me over and over until I just had to go to bed or go crazy. The days that lasted forever and ever and ever and ever. I picture myself, standing in the kitchen hands open at my sides lost and confused. "What do I do if I'm not having wine now?" And then the deafening silence of not knowing.

Somehow I learned to listen to the quiet. I wanted to be sober more than I wanted to drink. I wanted the pain of being sober more than I wanted the pain of where I was. I wanted to suffer so I could shine. I decided I was brave enough and strong enough and even though I felt worthless I was worth the struggle of making it please stop.

The weight of the voice in my head that let me drink and then beat me up all day just got too heavy for me to carry. I just couldn't anymore. I got sober.

I learned to be sober. Because after you get sober you have to be sober.

I don't know about how typical I am or not. People look at me like I have two heads when I say I quit forever with the ease that someone might say "I like donuts" or "Tomorrow is Saturday." But wait! I want to say- hold UP. You can't see me from about 1986 to December 7th 2012. You weren't in the kitchen when I was dying inside.

I am very very very passionate about my sobriety. I work hard at it. Very hard. I am honest about it. I reach out when I want to hide because I know that I need to. I make plans when I want to stay home. I speak up in my recovery group when my heart is racing and I feel like I should be quiet, that no one is interested. I tell people the truth about me and I don't let them dictate whether I like me anyway. I believe in myself. I am proud of myself. I am smart, and brave, and awesome. I make sure that when that pipe-y little voice pipes up to say "You aren't any of that." I say "Yes I am. YES. I. AM."

Because I dare to be.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

My First Sober Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving was a lovely day at my parents house. My brother and his family came down, all the kids (five boys under eight years old- my two and his three) got along. All the adults got along. Dinner was loud and delicious. We all agreed that the stuffing was the best, ham too was a great idea, and that we should feed the kids first next year so we could all actually eat instead of pop up and down for kid seconds and thirds before we'd had a bite. "Mom? I need more ham." "Me too! I need more ham too!" And so we could hear each other talk.

Around five or so we came home, built a fire and all piled up in blankets and pillows and snacks on the couch. Put on "The Polar Express".

Kind of in the middle of the movie I had a sudden thought. "Is this what we do every year? Wait, why don't we do this every year?"

Then I remembered.

This was my first sober Thanksgiving.

Usually I would have had wine with dinner. Then Jonathan and I would have wine at the house. I would have wanted to put the kids to bed on time so we could get our Thanksgiving drink on. I would have been bundled in my coat outside smoking and freezing.

I would be hungover this morning instead of popping open a can of cinnamon rolls and making bacon. I would be dreading this whole day instead of wishing it had a few more hours. I would have been upstairs asleep instead of making hot chocolate for the kids. Seeing them grin when I hold up the whipped cream so they'll open their mouths and I'll spray some right in. This delights them and me every time. I would have missed it.

The more time I spend sober, the more I realize that the alcohol industry has it all wrong. I don't have less fun because I don't drink- I have more. They have us all fooled into thinking that life is ho-hum OK, but if you add some chardonnay it will be somehow extra extra amazing. They want us to believe booze makes it better.

Liars.

They also want you to think you are missing something if you aren't drinking. That you are boring. Abnormal. I am of the opinion that having to add booze to an event or to a person to make it fun is just plain dumb. Totally dumb. 

Being sober has made me realize: I'm not missing anything. I see and hear and remember it all. I'm not waiting for the magical time to happen when the wine is right and the night is alive and I am suddenly, because of booze, the woman I was always meant to be. I am already her. I have all the things I need right here. I am not boring or uncool with my seltzer and my sobriety. I am fucking awesome. :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

BOOKS! (Something else to do besides drink)

When I first quit drinking it seemed like all I did was read about people who had gotten sober. I loved it. I loved the feeling of knowing that my story could turn out like Mary Karr's, or Caroline Knapp's. I can see why people go to AA- that spirit of camaraderie that comes from sharing a life experience can be a huge boost to your confidence when you start a new thing.

I still haven't made it to AA, but. I read a lot, a LOT, about being sober and being a person in general. I just found another great book that I'm about 1/3 of the way through. It occurred to me that I could put together a list of what I've been reading over the past almost year so that y'all can read them too.

In no particular order here they are:

Drinking: A Love Story Caroline Knapp

I read this so many times before I got sober, maybe once a year for like 13 years.

Unwasted Sacha Z. Scoblic

I read this early in my sobriety.

Lit: A Memoir Mary Karr

Another I've read over and over.

Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore Rachael Brownell

This one helped me with the mom parts of my drinking life. It was such a relief to know I wasn't the only mom out there drinking and loving my family at the same time.

Drink Ann Dowsett Johnston

This is the new one I'm reading. I'm liking it because it is making my brain work about the word alcoholic vs. the word I think I really am that I haven't come up with yet.

Kick the Drink...Easily Jason Vale

Another one I read pretty early in my sobriety.

The TurnAround Mom Carey Sipp

This one helped with the mom parts too. We need a brave dad to write about the TurnAround Dad.

The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle

I haven't finished this one yet. It's full of big big stuff, so I have to digest it in bits. It gave me one of my biggest things I use when I feel overwhelmed or start obsessing about future problems: Reduce it to "What is the problem RIGHT NOW?" Solve that one (usually there isn't one), and not the ones I'm imagining or that have already happened.

The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring Greatly Brene Brown

Holy shit, I could not love her any more than I do.

Introvert Power Laurie Helgoe

I always thought I was a shy extrovert, and that being an introvert was a bad thing. It was so cool to read this and recognize that I am actually an introvert- and that that doesn't mean shy, or bad. It means I understand myself better. Cool.

Sober Is My New Drunk Paul Carr

Another early read.

Stop Being Mean to YourselfFinding Your Way HomeThe Language of Letting GoMore Language of Letting Go Melody Beattie

I've been reading her for years. You know, all the years I knew I had a problem but just kept right on drinking. Maybe it helped me not be worse that I was.

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

Not one about getting sober, but life perspective.

The Happiness ProjectHappier at Home Gretchen Rubin

I don't think you have to be happy all the time, but I like books like this anyway.

Eat and Run Scott Jurek

This reminded me that anything is possible. ANYTHING. And that that anything possible wasn't just for other people, it was for people exactly like me. We all all possible people. Especially when we aren't drinking ourselves into oblivion.

MWF Seeking BFF Rachel Bertsche

Getting sober can mean needing different friends. This helped me sort out what my requirements are for a friend besides "You can drink as much as me."

This is HowDry Augusten Burroughs

I read "This is How" about five times last winter/early spring. "Dry" I haven't read this year, but I recommend it.

Traveling MerciesPlan BGrace(Eventually)Bird by BirdOperating InstructionsSome Assembly RequiredHelp, Thanks, WowStitches Anne Lamott

She is. The. Greatest. In my dream world she is my neighbor and she comes over for cornbread and tea and we talk about stuff and my soul fills up. In my real world she writes these amazing books that speak to my heart and my soul fills up.

Y'all comment and suggest books too. Many of us don't go to meetings, and books were and are my meetings when I need some sober shoring up.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Time to Decide

I know at this time last year I was hungover. And asleep. There was probably an empty glass of water beside my bed. I'd probably been up drinking until who knows when- I was getting really deep into my drinking at this point- blacking out almost every time.

Thinking about it now, I can still pick out things to blame. Excuses for having a bottle of wine by 8 o'clock a few times a week. My job was in an awful place. I needed wine to be able to hang out with the kids and not go batshit crazy. I never saw my husband and the only way we could spend time together was to drink together after he got home from work. I wasn't walking the dogs enough. I didn't know what to make for dinner. Life is hard. Blah blah blah.

I was charging full speed ahead into full on alcoholism.

Each trip to the store I was buying not one but two bottles of wine. And a twelve pack of beer, to be sure I would have enough. This seemed like a lot, but not like too much. I might have to share. I was adding seltzer to my wine to make it last longer because I'd started finishing the bottles too fast. I'd started drinking bottles of Prosecco since sparkling means celebrating and there's nothing wrong with that.

I can still picture myself in the kitchen after two glasses getting dinner ready. The boys in front of the TV. Me sneaking out into the back yard to smoke just one more cigarette and then finish dinner. I picture this shell that was me, but not me. I picture me, but I was vacant, disappearing. More wine, dinner, bath, stories. The relief of the back porch when everyone was in bed. The annoyance when one of them would get up and come find me.

It's really hard to remember this stuff. To think about my little boys in their pajamas standing at the porch door wanting me, but I wasn't emotionally there. How they must not have understoond why I wouldn't pay attention to them, or leave the back porch to tuck them in one more time. Maybe they didn't see it as unusual, but I knew it was wrong. They never knew what mom to expect. I suspect they were starting to know which one to expect: none at all.

It's hard to think of my husband coming home from work and finding me in some sort of drunken state chain smoking on the porch. How much that must have sucked. How I would launch into some big talk about how he wasn't good enough at being a husband, or father, or housekeeper, or person, or whatever. How I unloaded all the stuff I hated about myself onto him. I made it about him instead of me. He never knew what wife to expect. I suspect he was starting to want no wife at all.

But I always knew what to expect. I was either going to be drinking or hungover, or in one of those two to five day spaces of trying to not drink. And I was always going to have that tape playing in my head- the greatest hits version of "You Suck At Life" playing over and over again.

There comes this time in all of our lives when we have to decide.

And I'm not talking about "I need to" or "I want to" or "I'm going to try".

I'm talking about "I AM".

It was not until I told myself "I AM GOING TO BE SOBER" and "I AM NOT DRINKING" that I did it.

There's a difference in the way "I AM" and "I WANT TO" is. "I AM" means it. "I WANT TO" gives you an out. "I WANT TO" means that you mean it in the morning when you feel awful and hungover, but that when later rolls around and you're having a drink it's OK, because you didn't say you were going to quit. You just said you wanted to.

It was not until I told myself "I AM GOING TO BE SOBER" and "I AM NOT DRINKING" that I did it.

The biggest thing I remember from the last day I woke up hungover and said "FROM THIS MOMENT ON I AM NEVER DRINKING AGAIN" is the relief. I was laying there, it was noon. I decided. I put down my weapons and surrendered. I felt that surrender, deep deep down. "I AM GOING TO BE OK." I wasn't sure that could be be true, but I believed it anyway. 

I knew that there were going to be two ways things would turn out. My truth would either be "I AM AN ALCOHOLIC" or "I AM ALIVE". I had to decide.

It's one of those things sitting here writing to y'all and me. If I said what I want to I would say just this: Quit. Quit right now and never look back. It is so much better, I promise, promise promise. I put it in writing. I say you can do it. You can. You can. You will be amazed at yourself, and so proud. Do it! But things just aren't that simple sometimes. And maybe you wouldn't believe me, or maybe you wouldn't believe that it was possible for you. I sometimes feel like it would come off like one of those weight loss infomercials where you watch and go "Oh! Look how good he/she looks! I want to do that!..... I could never do that." 

But you can. It will be true for you, just like it has been true for me. Your people will know who to expect. You will too. You will feel that relief, that surrender. It's always the right time to decide. 












Thursday, November 21, 2013

Good Advice



I've been feeling super cocky in my sobriety lately. (Being in a magazine didn't hurt.) Like I am a sober badass, and will be forever. Nothing will stop me. After a summer/early fall of feeling pretty wavery and sad and just down in the dumps something changed and I took another step up- another leap away from boozy me and towards this awesome new person I am slowly becoming, that I already am.

It still feels very uncomfortable to think of myself in positive terms, but I'm practicing. A lot.

Which makes me realize that at some point in my life I felt really good about me, and then I felt toooo good about me. And then I got knocked down several times and finally stayed down.

I can be quite firm in my beliefs. Almost unbending. I can also be "If I can, you can. So just do it." Not super fair.

I want so much for anyone struggling with alcoholism to find their way to sobriety- consistent, lasting sobriety. And I'm at this point where I have almost a year, and I feel good about it, but I cannot forget where I came from. That bossing people into being sober (which is where I was heading) is not the way to help people to be sober.

Alcoholics aren't really the type you can boss into anything. Alcoholism is really an act of defiance. You can't really manhandle people like that (me) into anything, much less saving their own lives. Lord knows no one could have told me to stop drinking. It just would have made me drink more. And it did! The more I told myself I needed to quit the more I wanted to drink. You can't tell me what to do.

I'm struggling some with guidance and excuses. How to hear someone's struggle and it be expansive, and then how to draw lines in the sand that define boundaries that cannot be crossed. How to hear explanations, but not excuses. How to have forgiveness, and have expectations. How to hear people in their sobriety, not mine.

My universe friend Amy and I had a really good good conversation yesterday and I could tell I was feeling so smart and wise and superhuman. My advice is so good. My thoughts are wonderful and the best. I was basking in my glory.

And then she said some things in her universe Amy way that brought me back to earth.

One of them thundered through my head: "When you start feeling invincible is when it gets really dangerous. Then you could be way more likely to drink."

It reminded me to be humble in my sobriety. It reminded me to listen to those who have years on me, that my wisdom is far from complete. It reminded me that I am me, and you are you. And that to be the strong person I am and want to be I have to be able to use what works for me, but then I also have to use what works for you, too.  It reminded me that I have a lot to give, and a long long way to go.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Getting A Miracle




The Good Housekeeping article! Thanks to everyone for your support and kind words. I've gotten a few emails from people who say things like "divine intervention" and "just in time" and that has been really really cool. Y'all know I deep down believe that when you pray the universe will answer, but you have to listen, and if someone reading about me getting sober helps them get sober.....the totally amazingness of that is big to contemplate.

That article coming out led to this:



  • Hey, Hope all is well. I wanted to give you a heads up about something that has happened/been happening for awhile now. Amy has quit drinking alcohol as is was a problem for her and our family. She will be 1 year sober this Dec 7th. I am very proud of her and her ongoing accomplishment. This has been a strugle that she has taken on full steam. Bravo on many levels my sweet. As a part of her healing process, she started a blog about her struggle. The name of the blog is Soberbia. It is a journal so to speak, of her struggles. As it turns out, many people read and comment on this blog as it speaks true and in line with other peoples problems with alcohol. This blog is out there for everyone to read and we are happy that so many do! Warning, there is colorful language, plain and simple. A few months ago, Amy was contacted by Good Housekeeping asking about her blog. As it turns out they have a column that is all about self-help/betterment, and they wanted to feature her in the magazine. She said OK. We were hoping to get an opportunity to speak about this in person and figured the wedding wasn't right, so here I am not in person letting you know. The article is scheduled to be in the December issue of Good Housekeeping. As it turns out, December is released the first of November. We were unaware that it was going to be on the newsstands this soon, or we would have talked sooner. We wanted you to be aware in case that someone approached you about the article. I am very proud of Amy and hope that you will support her as I and the children have over this last year. Sorry this is coming to you via email, but it is the most effective way for me to articulate our feelings to everyone.
    Please tell Gram and anyone else that you feel necessary.
    Love to all!
    Jonathan
    December 2013 Page 69 in the "Feel Good" section
    Amy you are a rock star, keep up the great work, Jack Hampton and I are so Proud!


This letter took my breath away. So much love coming from my husband to me that I felt about 27 million feet tall. My heart feels so full. Then I called his grandmother (who is 88 and an old school southern lady) and had to tell her I was an alcoholic, and that pretty much everyone might know about it since I was in a magazine.

"Oh Amy! I am so proud of you!" she said, not missing a beat. Not one second of disapproval. NOT ONE. "Good for you!" she said. More love. More taller.

Then the email from Jonathan's mom came:

I am so thankful that you have shared this with us! I only wish I had known earlier. I would have been praying for Amy....for all of you...and would have been one of her biggest cheerleaders this past year. I have plenty of love and support to give. I have started reading the blog.....from the beginning.....but since I do have to get some work done, I have to save the rest until I'm home. I am SO PROUD of you Amy! My heart is about to pop! Love you so much! Mimi/Mom

Now I am hugely tall. Taller than ever. My heart swelled to as big as it could get, and then stretched out to make room for the support coming from my family and people out in the world who don't even know me but believe in me.

Whoa. Thank you universe. I needed that. Ask and ye shall receive. But you have to ask. And also receive.

It seems like that when you put yourself out there you can get what you give. So I put myself way on out there (way way on out there) and the universe made sure I was safe, and loved, and OK. That since I did something brave I could feel the love that was coming from everywhere: but I had to open my heart to get it. When I said to the world "Here I am: but for real though" the world said "Cool. Here's this love. You are OK."

Sometimes when you spend all your time hiding love just can't find you, no matter how hard you wish for it to show up. But then you stop hiding and love shows up. When you say things like "Help" and "Here I am" and you squinch your eyes closed and hope for the best and then open your eyes and the best shows up too. And then you realize that even a little best is so much better than your old idea of best, and this new big big biggest best is amazing and like a miracle.

That you are loved and that a lot of that love comes from within you yourself is a miracle too.

Getting close to my year anniversary and getting emails from people just starting out makes me think about all the things I was just a year ago. Scared. Drunk. Hidden. Worried. Sad. Unable. Suffocating. Drowning. Full of undone wishing. Under my pretty regular life I was a pretty big mess holding it together with linty old tape and fraying dirty string- liable to break at any moment.

A year ago today I was probably hungover. Then I woke up that one day and decided I wanted my miracle. That I could have it. That things like "love" and "best" were actually for naked mole rat people like me too. That I could put down the thing that made me unable to see the gifts the universe had been holding out to me all along. That I was worthy. And strong. Capable. That I was a live-r and not a life-r.

And so maybe here you are: hungover. What if at this time next year you've been sober for almost a year now? What if you look around and decide it's time for your miracle too? What if you think it will be too hard, and that you can't can't can't but then you do it anyway?

If you are reading this you can have your miracle too. I give you permission from me and the universe because the universe once gave me permission and told me it was OK to offer it to anyone else who needed it. It's hard and sad and glorious and you won't even believe that it's you anymore until that day when you've been sober for a while and you suddenly realize you're the you-est you you've ever been. Then you will drop to your knees in you heart and give out thanks for strength and for yourself. You will be soul naked and scared but you will be you and you will love yourself so much for it. And you will cry this deep heartfelt cry, and as the tears of joy and blessing roll down your face you will know.

You are a miracle too.




Monday, November 11, 2013




So, a while back someone from Good Housekeeping contacted me about me being in the magazine. Not for Christmas cookies. For being sober. For being sober! My whole being hit the floor.

You mean you want me to be in a magazine because I quit drinking? You read my blog? Um.....what?

This happened this summer, and now here it is:


I only knew the article was out because someone emailed me and said, "Hi, I saw you in Good Housekeeping magazine....." And so I called Jonathan before I left work and said to please go to the store and get a copy or four so I could see it.

Holy crap y'all! I am so excited! I mean, there I am! Mixed in among the foolproof holiday dinners and smart ways to save this season talking about getting sober!

And I am also a big bunch of nerves, since now people might know. You know, like my mother-in-law who we haven't said anything to, or maybe someone at work who doesn't really figure into the equation, or well, you know- other people besides my safe sober community. It makes me want to explain: "But, see, really it was only a little problem, and I'm fine, and you know everyone drinks more than they should sometimes and and and....."

While I was hard thinking this morning I realized that I am afraid. Afraid of what people will think. Not of me now, but of past me. Now I'm fine (even when I'm not), it's then that's so messy. That old me is kind of embarrassing. I can stack up twenty different ways I shamed myself in ten seconds thinking about things I've done when I was drunk. (Ack. Don't do that to yourself.) I could probably fill a room with people who could say something bad about me that happened when I had too much over the course of my drinking life. I could feed a small country on the shame of it all.

It's hard, sometimes, to remember that that isn't who I am anymore.

I am afraid that people won't believe me. That they'll think I'm going back to the booze one day. That I am not totally committed. That I can't be trusted. That just like I hid my drinking I hide my sobriety. That I don't mean what I say. I'm afraid that I don't believe me either. What if I'm a big faker? A liar? What if I'm not good enough to have a nice together life? What if I don't really deserve it?

And then I realize that it's none of my business what other people think of me. The only opinion that I need to listen to comes from inside of me. I do believe me, big time. I do deserve it. We all do.

Here I am, in a magazine, and so the universe is making sure that I keep going. There is published out in the big wide world evidence now so there really is no turning back. If that's not a "you're doing the right thing" from somewhere out there I don't know what would be. I'm so grateful for that.

As I got further into my hard think I realized something. I am proud of who I am. And I'm OK with people thinking their own thinks about me. Cause besides all the bad stuff, there will be good stuff. Some of it really good. And so when I need to tie up my ship I'm going to head over to that.

So much of the twenty years I drank was about the continuous self tear down mission. FUCK THAT. I am no longer ashamed, or afraid to put myself out in the world just as I am, right now, today. Getting sober has made me finally, finally, mostly OK with me. Wow.

So this is me. My name is Amy, I am sober, and I am really proud of who I am.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

11 Months Sober Today




I'm 11 months sober today. It hardly seems possible that almost a whole year has gone by, but it has! I'm going to visit a lifelong friend next weekend. The last time we were together we sat on my back porch and drank and smoked for hours. She asked me if I was still not drinking, and I said  yep, and she said wow. That's a long time. Yep.

I've been counting days again- looking forward to this 11 month benchmark. It makes me feel safe. It makes me feel like I can look in my rearview mirror and I don't even see any booze in the picture. I have a pile of sober days now, a sober history now. I have enough time that it isn't just a phase, or a whim, but a truth about me. I am so, so, so fucking proud of that.

Last night my husband and I went out to dinner together just us for the first time since I've been sober. (I know, in pretty much a year. Holy head smack.) It was wonderful, wonderful. We talked. And ate. Relaxed. And ate. I went to the bathroom before dessert and felt so good to be sober. To be standing in the bathroom not uber buzzed after way to much to drink already. To not be reeking of cigarettes and wine. To not worry if I stumbled. To feel beautiful and clear. To remember it all.

I feel like we shared a meal. That we had a chance to bond. That we need to do that more! Our marriage is kind of like a kid learning to ride a bike. There can be a lot of wobbling, and sometimes a wreck. But we really want to know how to ride a bike, so we keep practicing. As I learn to live in my sobriety I learn how to be a better wife. A kinder one. I see that my husband really loves me because I give him the chance to. When I was drinking my heart was a wooden door. It's hard to open it, but I'm learning to trust him. To lean on him and feel safe. We are becoming a "we" again.

Oh, the progress of sobriety. God, it is such a wonderful hard thing.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Resistance





A few years ago my husband and I went to Carowinds (an amusement park) after a long night of drinking. (Which sucked, by the way. Hangovers and big rides do not mix.) There was one roller coaster that had a cyborg-y theme. They strapped you in, laying down, your head leading the way up the giant hill. "Resistance is fu-tile. You will assimilate." announced a computerized voice. I wasn't so sure I'd assimilate, unless that was also code for be green and barf, but now I can't get that voice out of my head.

Resistance y'all. It really is fu-tile. I have been resisting myself my whole life. Fighting against who I truly am to be some version of me that is made up of years of trying to fit in and other random bits and pieces pulled from everywhere. Everywhere. All the places and people of my life trying to claim a bit of me, and me just willing to pass them out like candy.

What the hell.

So I woke up the other morning and I was having my morning think- where I just snuggle into the covers and think. I pray some, try to meditate. (Although I really cannot make the breath square but up to about 4 times without completely losing track. "3.....4.....when was that dentist appointment again? Gah, I'm fat. I need to go for a run. Why did I eat that cake last night? I think I want a purple rag rug for the living room. Oh, shit. I forgot to keep meditating!" ) But there was room for this big thought: I have been resisting my life. Struggling against it. Standing firm right smack dab in the middle of my own way.

And I might just need to MOVE.

You know how, when you know something, but you don't really know it, but then you do know it, and then you feel sort of dumb? Like, ohhhhhhh, yeah, yes! That's it! I kind of laughed a little out loud at myself in the dark at 5 in the morning. Well, DUH. MOVE.

There are things that are consistent struggles in my life: My weight. Being afraid to be me, to speak and live my truth- even if it isn't the most popular thing to do. Feeling like I am enough, that I have enough- like I'm doing it right. Being vulnerable when I am so afraid to open my heart. Fear of big success, of any success.

Keeping myself at a nice save average when I could really shine.

Immediately my brain resists: You're trying to be something you're not.

But what if that isn't true? What if I'm trying to be something I deep down am and my play-it-safe part keeps getting in my way? What if all this time I've been refusing to see what is really true about me?

I feel like I've been in a slingshot. I'm the rock. All my life has been pulling me back. Pulling and pulling. And I've been helping by doing all this resisting. By living on wishes ("I wish I were thinner. I wish I could be a writer. I wish I could be a yoga teacher." Etc.) BUT DOING NOTHING TO MAKE THEM COME TRUE.

What. The. HELL?????

I got pulled far back enough that I can see the slingshot. I can see the whole thing. And it makes a Y.

It makes a Y. A why.

So here I am, rocky little me. Stretched as far back as I can go, afraid to fly. Looking at what drives me and seeing the Y clearly for the first time. Yes, I am afraid. What if I lose weight and people notice me? What if I wrote and wrote and made something happen and people think I'm trying too hard. What if I got to be a yoga teacher and I was really good at it? What if I was good, really good, at stuff? My rocky little self is afraid of heights, afraid to fly.

But I'm already here, in the air. Sobriety slung the shot without me really realizing I'd been flung. And I've been scrambling, grasping for a handholds. But all this time I haven't needed to hold on, I've needed to let go.

Resistance is futile.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Brain

What is up with my brain?

I swear I have felt like the saddest of sad sacks for the past weekish. And not really right with myself since the beginning of summer. I've been Google-ing "How do I know if I need an anti-depressant?". Searching for small campers in which to make my escape. I knew I was in trouble the other afternoon when I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs with my hands in my hair yelling "Help me!" at my husband because the boys were bitching about turning off their video games. Yesterday I tried to hide in bed, to "sleep in" which is really code for "check the fuck out". My youngest wouldn't leave me alone so it was a resounding non-success.

It probably reminded him of when I was drinking. And couldn't get out of bed. I was really just trying for a little reading/sleeping time. But the intention felt like when I was hungover and just wanted to escape. Sleep into nothingness. Disappear. Could he tell?

So I got up. Ate breakfast. Had tea. Made myself go for a hike at the river with my husband, youngest, and dogs. I made myself keep a meeting at my oldest son's school. I didn't cancel my husband's grandmother's visit. I bitched and moaned, and I really really wanted to, but I didn't disappear.

And now this morning I feel better. Like, really like ME. Silly. Hopeful. I found yet another few white napkins in the dryer this morning (my husband is a waiter. he brings these things home allllllll the time) and I laughed a little about it when yesterday I would have been furious. I would have had that dialogue in my head all about "Why can't he leave those at work! How hard is that? What are we going to do with all these white napkins with wine stains on them? Aaaaagggghhhhhh!" I would have said it in that gritty voice through clenched brain teeth. I would have rubbed and polished that resentment right into breakfast this morning.

But instead, because today is today I smiled a little fondly at the napkins and just folded them right up. Moved on. Started another load of clothes. Let the dogs out. Got on with it.

I've been thinking a lot about what makes me tick. Like, cellular-ly. How what I eat and when I sleep and how much I exercise affects how I am. I am the queen of experimenting and giving things up. Which people make fun of me for, and which I kind of understand since it seems like I'm always saying, "Wellllll, I think I'm trying no gluten again......" or "Yeah, I know I sometimes don't eat dairy, but I'm trying yogurt. I read that it's good for beginning menopause (which I may or may not be having)....." or "No sugar for me! It makes me crazy!" followed a few hours later by nineteen tiny Halloween candy bars that someone should have never bought in the first place.

One big thing I have known for a long long time that I really really do need to give up is.....gulp.....caffeine. I never ever had any while I was drinking because it made me feel even more shitty and also terrifically edgy and jumping out of my skin anxious. Yaaahhhhhhhh! But after I quit drinking I began a slow love affair with coffee. Then more coffee. Then a fling with Yerba Mate. Then I went for the hard stuff.....energy drinks. Then last Thursday I had two of these big energy drinks. Trouble y'all. With a capital T.

All this caffeine and up and down and woooo and booooo makes my dear body crazy. It makes me (in my humble I'm my own scientist way) know that I'm not making my own energy. That things are waaaayyyyy out of whack. Because, just like with booze, just one cup in the morning is not enough. Suddenly I was making coffee with dinner for pete's sake! I was so tired and worn out in the afternoon it was the only way to make it to stories and bedtime. Either that or I was just a fucking zombie and we were eating dinner in front of the TV again. And it was cheese and crackers again.

And I was also miserable. Does this sound like booze, but coffee? Yes. YES! Dammit.

But here's the thing I realized Friday of last week: just stop it. Stop that which makes you sad and miserable. So Monday I quit caffeine. Cold mother fucking turkey. Because that's the way that works for me.

And now today I woke up on my own feeling good for the first time in a while.

And really, it is time. Time to try to feel better. Time to stop using early sobriety for an excuse to treat myself like shit. Time to do what I know makes my body move better, what makes me feel steady on my feet. Planted here, roots in the ground. Time to dig deeper, to know that it's OK for things to get harder. I realized after a long conversation with Universe-Sent Amy that I have made huge progress, but I am not to the bottom of the soul hole yet.

She said, "You've pulled off scabs. Big ones. Now you have to heal them and not just let them scab up again." She also said people tend to relapse right around one year. That it seemed like instead of canceling therapy appointments and kind of dropping off the radar I should amp up my game and try going to an AA meeting? To keep my appointment. And get ready to get down to business because this could be even harder than it's been, but if I reach out and take care of myself I can handle it. I can handle it.

I think I was around the block from giving up. Not drinking again, but just saying yes to the life check out. I am so sick of this shit I wanted to say. And pass me another cake.

But here I am, typing away at five in the morning. Here I am, keeping going. Here I am. Tears in my eyes feeling proud of myself for being so brave. For looking when the world holds up hard things. Having my own back. Feeling capable again. Able to help myself instead of lying to myself. Holding hands with my brain again.





Monday, October 21, 2013

Phew.



Life has been a little roller coaster-y for me lately. I feel exactly like that: here is a solution but I'm busy being busy and won't stop to look. Plus there have really been some big things going on.

Y'all, I met Sherry from Oh for the love of...me! After much planning and arranging and finagling we found a free Saturday for both of us. It was so damn good to give her a hug, to know that there's another person out there who gets my crazy. She gave me some great perspective on some things like saying "I need" rather than "You never".

We talked like we'd known each other for years over five hours at a Starbucks halfway between our houses. We talked freely. We told stories about ourselves, our drinking, our families, the way we are exactly the same about papers all over the damn kitchen counter. :) We had a few moments that made us both get goosebumps. We got to look into each other's eyes and hug each other hard and promise to do it again.

There's just something about talking to someone face to face who knows mostly exactly what you've been through. There's something so comforting about that "Mmmmhmmmm" and head nod. There's the way you hug someone a little tender tighter because you know they've been where you've been and you know it was a hard place to be. It was such a pleasure to spend the day together.

Another big thing is that my women's group ended.

I knew I was learning stuff, but I didn't really realize how it all sort of came together. You know, like being sober. You start and you try and then you kind of go, "Oh. Here I am. Whoa. I have been changing! I am flowing along! Really?"

We wrote about ourselves in six months, but it had to be in the present tense. (So like the stuff was happening) I wrote that I was running again. And meditating. That writing was a bigger part of my life. That my husband and I were partners, intimate and life. That we moved to a smaller house and were saving money, paying things off. She told us to dream big and so I wrote that my website was a success, and that I was working on a book, that Soberbia was going to be a real place, and that I also had stopped yelling at the children. I wrote that I was strong enough to handle what life gives me- good or bad.

I have to say, that writing was cool. Like, all of these things are totally possible! And not only are they possible, but I believe they can happen. Wait, wait....is that the future? And does it look.....OK? Dude.

Another big, big bigger thing at our last meeting was that I realized I had reached a point of peace with my mom. We had a conversation the other day that was sort of crying and disagreeing and sort of spouting out some feelings. My mom is tough to crack, she isn't mean, she's just....protective of herself.

"While you're busy living your life you don't know other people's pain!" she said to me. Oh. I realized that she is the way she is not out of anger at me, but that she was hurt A LOT as a child and that she doesn't know how to be open and tender without feeling totally out of control. And so she acts abrupt and curt to protect herself. So now I can try to take it differently: now I know when she's acting bitchy that she might be just scared underneath.

I'm still considering how I feel about the group ending. What is my next step? Um, AA? Join the ongoing Tuesday group? I'm going to take advantage of my five free counseling sessions I get with my health insurance. (woooo five y'all! I'll be healed in no time!) I have great admiration and respect for the therapist who ran the women's recovery group and maybe I can see her once a month.

Another biggest thing that happened was sitting in on my son's first counseling session. My kids have been fighting like crazy lately. As a family no one is happy much. We don't laugh, or joke. Or relax for fuck's sake. We have been a "me first" family all year. Except there are four of us.

We might ALL need some therapy. Really.

Yesterday my mom said, "I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but they act what they see." It was spoken soft, and with open kind eyes so I knew there was no judgement.

And after Jack's session I was really knocked for a loop. In a "Oh! This merry-go-round is so fun but I think I might throw up" way.

He's so pent up, and frustrated, and angry. He's so hard on himself. So hard.

He's also really well spoken, and funny, and quirky. And so fidgety!

I realized that he is being a lot like, um, ahem. Me.

Hard on myself. So hard. Quick tempered. Needing perfect. Chasing the end and upon reaching placing another rung just too high to reach. Never feeling relaxed or happy because it just isn't happy enough or relaxed enough. Never good enough.

Here I am, there again. In that wonderful cringe-y moment where I am seeing the light and dang, that is real bright and a little painful. But oh. It's so good to be able to see my way again. And I'm OK, and the therapist seems to be a good fit- he talked to Jack like he was a person and not a little kid. It made me realize that there is a lot of anger running through all of us. That these qualities that are so easy to pick out in my little boy (anger, perfectionist, never good enough) are wild and alive in his dad and me. Well, shit.

My husband and I are meeting with the therapist together without Jack on Thursday. I am really nervous and glad. Inviting a trained to see stuff stranger into our family dynamic is nerve racking, but if I can help Jack deal with the bigness that life can be it's worth it. So much of sobriety is uncomfortable, and this is one of those things. Doing this feels like I put on a too small sweater and now I can't get it off. Which is why we need some help. Just a little help.
























Friday, October 11, 2013

Sort of Surrender




This is what I looked like while I was praying/pleading with the universe for some patience and also understanding. Except there was more crying and not as much of a pretty glow.

The past two days have been rough. Like, rough.

I swear when I was sobbing and pleading for help on the bedroom floor earlier I was not all the way crazy. I mean, I knew I was down there doing that. I felt like I could cry my very heart out. Like I wanted to cry it out. "Just get out, heart," I would say. "All this caring and hurting and living is so hard. Please, just go away."

I thought about when I drank while I was laying there. I thought about that when the going got rough I got drunk. Now I just get on the floor and cry. I'm sure the children don't understand either way, but at least after my cry I gave them baths and then we cuddled up on the couch and watched TV for a bit before bed.

So I did surrender and listen to Jack's teacher. He is a kind young man who feels a kinship with Jack. He thinks up things for Jack to do when he finishes ahead of everyone else. He and Jack have a journal they write back and forth in. Jack's problem is not behaving at recess. They have a whole enrichment thing for that: a Personal Empowerment Program (PEP) (what the hell? Isn't he, um, eight?) that Jack will complete since he gets overwhelmed by Four-Square. My husband actually said, with no trace of sarcasm, "You're telling me my kid can't behave at recess?"

But the head banging is cause for concern, and also Jack's holier than thou attitude. He alienates himself because he thinks he's smarter and better than everyone else. And he puts so much pressure on himself to be the best, and first. And the best. And first.

The whole thing was surrealish and good but weird. And we all lived.

I did three asking for help things today. Help for Jack- finding a counselor for him to talk to about why he's so hard on himself and dealing with his anger and sense of entitlement and injustice. Help for me- my women's group ends Monday. I won't be joining the other group that meets on Tuesdays, and we can't afford for me to see my current therapist. So another counselor for me. And more help for me- an appointment with a new GP who does acupuncture and nutrition therapy. Someone who can help with my foot, and my hormones. Word. Word.

What really sucked was when the nice woman who was helping me figure out what I wanted in a counselor asked me what I was looking for I had to say, "I'm a recovering alcoholic. That part is more important than the holistic part. That's the most important part." Saying it out loud, to a stranger, over the phone seems like it could be a piece of cake. Except it isn't. Telling her that Jack's counselor needs to know that about me too doesn't make anyone feel like mother of the year.

Then I got off the phone and cried a little and whimpered to my husband, "It's hard to ask for help."

Because, God. It really is.






Thursday, October 10, 2013

Surrender to the Dilemma





I'm taking a lot of deep breaths today.

I got a note from my son's teacher that he's having a hard time at school. When I asked Jack about it he declared that school makes him miserable. That he doesn't have any friends. That he has to bang his head on the pole at recess because otherwise he will scream and yell and lose his temper and get in trouble.

Y'all. This is my boy. My baby. Here is one side: I know how he is. He is a perfectionist. I often say that he's an old man trapped in a child's body. He has a temper. He is over competitive. He doesn't see the other people in the world, he sees himself. And then more of himself. And then also himself. He has all these grown up ways of looking at the world but isn't capable of handling it. And no one at school understands that- teacher or child.

He says the other kids bully him. Tease him. When one kid grabs him by the hood and swings him around Jack is the one that gets in trouble for telling. I want to punch that kid right in the face, little troublemaker. Picking on my boy for spiking his hair, for having to wear glasses. Making Jack feel bad about himself. Making him feel unsafe. Making him hate himself because no one wants to be his friend.

Jack is tall, and slender. He has friendly brown eyes, and a scatter of freckles across his nose and cheeks. He has the prettiest teeth, and kind of shrieks a little when he thinks something is really funny. He's good at saying things like "AGH! I'm really mad!" when he's really mad. He chews his fingernails down to nubs trying to behave and sit still at school. He curls into my lap and almost purrs because he loves me that much. He tells me in a husky voice before bed "I love you mom" with such feeling I can almost swallow the words whole.

He can be hard to get along with. Unbendable. Unwilling to take any blame, any at all.

I feel so in the middle. So caught between the "third grade team" and my little boy. I want to shake him and blame him and curse him. Just be normal for god's sake. Normal! Is that so hard? Why do things always have to be so wonky with him? Why can't he be kid of the year and have forty-seven best friends and I can bask in the glory of my wondrous son? Why can't it be easy?

Screw that.

I had thought that my being was calming down a bit. I mean, I was soul searching. Feeling like things were steady enough to get that soft hide-a-way part of me out and wave it around some. Feeling like fall was here and that we were all settling in for our long winter's nap. Now here I am, in the middle of molting during an uproar without my hard enough shell.

I know it can't be easy. I know I will listen and advocate for my not-so-normal beloved boy. I know that my mama ego can take this imagined blow, and many many more. It's just so hard feeling so judged, or imagining that we're being judged since we haven't even had the conference yet. There I am, me with my conference ahead of the horse again.

These are the things that are hard to deal with without two bottles of wine. These are the things that make me almost vibrate with frustration. These are the things I want to eat all the cookies in the world about. That I want to just throw my hands up and say FUCK. IT. and then run far away about.

But.

These are the things that I know I need to breathe in about. That I need to put on comfy pants and grab my book and maybe watch a movie with the kids piled on the couch while the cold mist rains and rains outside. That I keep practicing dealing about. And practicing. And practicing.

So I'm going to put down my arms. I'm going to stop the fight before it even starts. I'm going to get my cart, and my horse and arrange them in sensible order. Make it OK for me to not be in control, but to let the thing run its' course. Make my thoughts and words belong to me, to open my heart and do what I will feel is right. Let the time come and stay now in the meantime. And mostly not feel scared, or ashamed, or afraid. Breathe in, breathe out, and trust that I can surrender to the dilemma.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Making Room





Here is a miracle y'all: I am ten months sober today. From the day I got sober I could have grown a tiny delicate bunch of cells into a fat little ready for the world baby. That's kind of what it feels like I've done- created the miracle of a new life.

Phew.

Miracle. I love that word. It's so big, and possible. And it implies people got saved, and it was good.

When I was drinking I was full of spirits, but not full of spirit. I had a lot of prayer but it was mostly about helping me get away from booze and also about get me through this day please. Then I said the same prayers when I got sober. A lot.

I've been thinking about being spiritual. And being OK with it. As in, not embarrassed.

I've been thinking that I'm ready to pray about other stuff besides keep me sober. That I'm ready.

I believe in the universe, in nature, and that things happen for a reason. I believe that there are things and forces and energies out there fluxing and flowing making it all go. I believe if you pray and put intentions and dreams out into the universe or to your big superpower person that these forces conspire to make wishes come true if they're meant to be. I believe the universe works with you, not against you- even when you don't get what you think you want. I believe that if you are honest with yourself something backs you up. I know that when I finally soul deep down meant it when I begged to be sober it worked. I mean, something clicked.

My mother will laugh in your face if you tell her you believe in God. She finds religion, spirituality, and faith a big fat waste of time that could be better spent watching "Project Runway". I was always told that if I wanted some of God's love that was fine, but I knew secretly she would think I was stupid for even trying. After the childhood she had I know why. If I had been a little girl in her house, with her parents, I would not believe God or any other savior existed either.

There are so many lines in spirituality. There are my mother's lines, and your lines. There are the lines of those people who just look so beatific that you almost feel embarrassed that you aren't so overtaken. There are the lines that make people sinners and hell bound. There are my lines: how I want to believe in a greater force, and I do, but only in a half-hearted way that never gets anybody anywhere.

We talked about religion and spirituality in my therapy group last week. That they are not the same thing. One of the women who is Catholic spoke about the ceremony of religion and spirituality, how that gets her through hard times like death of loved ones and also what to make for dinner Tuesday night. How there is always someone there for you, whenever you need them. I want some ceremony. I want a backer. I want it for me, for my children. For my spirit.

But church can be hard to swallow. And hard to get to. And believing can seem like something for people who can't take care of themselves. So needy. So weak. And we already have to get dressed to go somewhere on at least five other days.

I drank for over twenty years searching for some salvation. Then I got sober. Now I eat too many cookies when maybe what I really need to do is pray. Maybe what I really need is some kind of spiritual connection. Some ceremony. Some believing. A way to cleanse and fill my spirit with the light and goodness that is all around and in me. Some relief. The balance we all naturally get from the universe because we be.

There is part of me that knows that I have to open my heart to the love in offering. That there is this "thing" that wants to envelop me. That because I am sober I can be not afraid to be loved, or to love back. Since I'm not drowning in a well of booze and self loathing I can actually feel the warm approval that was there all along. All along.

So maybe it really doesn't have to have a name, or a God. I can, right here, right now, embrace my spirit. I can believe because I want to. I can say it out loud, "I believe". And that doesn't mean I have to get myself to church, or that I'm going to try to convince you. It means I need something to believe in, and now here's room to open the door. :)






Saturday, September 28, 2013

Regular Saturday, Part Two

I've been thinking so hard about happiness. What makes it, why we want it. Why we want other people to be it. How it is pounded into our heads relentlessly: "Must be happy, must be happy, must be happy." Then I read this brilliant book called Introvert Power and I loosened my grip some.

Like, a LOT.

I am a naturally medium jubilant sort of gal. I am generally pretty happy, but also quite introspective and thoughtful. I like to soul search. I like to listen to other people search their own souls. I'm a hand holder. An encourager. A truth teller. I like to cry, to listen to sad songs over and over. I'm not afraid of sad anymore. Some of these are old me, some are new me that is really old me but had been drunk for twenty years and got forgotten.

But what I really have been thinking about is maybe not so much the happiness, but the need to be it. The need of other people for you and me to be it. All the time. Chin up. Don't be so down. Don't be so hard on yourself. Stop being sad. Don't dwell. Turn that frown upside down. Be better. Be better. Be better.

I am better, y'know? I'm not drunk out on my porch two to five nights a week. I'm better.

I also get super sad. Really down deep into the me of it all. I have all this alcoholism and depression and bipolar shit winding it's way through my genes like a relentless crazy plague. But I like to think about it. I like to feel the feeling of being search-y and looking and not afraid to shine the light right there on all that ugly shit.

I saw my therapist one on one two weeks ago. We talked about some very very very hard things that sucked so much to say out loud. So much that it makes me cry writing about it now. But again in that grateful way that makes it almost over. I said it out loud which means I'm not keeping secrets. Not anymore.

Because I said some of it out loud and I didn't die. And she didn't tell me to get out, or laugh. She held me while I cried and stroked my hair and suddenly I was safe. Safer than I'd been since I was fifteen and buried myself where no one could hurt me again.

So maybe I'm not happy every day. Maybe just not. But that doesn't mean that I'm not OK.

I'm more OK than I have ever ever been all grown up. More right with myself than I've been since I was five and got a little forgotten about. Strong enough to say hard things and to trust people with my secrets. Safe enough to be happy when I know it, and OK with just regular Saturdays.


Regular Saturday



This song kills me. In good and heart break-y ways. It's funny how, now that I am sober (getting under my skin sober) that I find the meanings in sad love songs could be about me and my divorce from alcohol. The longing, the aching. The solid sense of hope that rises each and every time when I think of what I've had and had to let go. The tears that come that look like sad but are really such a welling of gratitude and belief that I have got to cry just to feel it be there. Because it feels so damn good to have it there.

Because it makes me feel so real.

Life is good.




Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Broken Promise Revisited






When my youngest turned two we took a bike ride on the trail near our house together. We went to this trail almost every day- I logged miles and miles running and running and pushing both he and his older brother there in the running stroller. On that day he was behind me in the bike seat. I was very hungover.

"I promise you, for your birthday, I will quit drinking. I will quit for you. I will quit on your birthday so I will always remember. I will quit so you can have a mom better than me." I said these words reverently, quietly. I meant them. All of them. But it was a promise I only kept until later that day when we opened bottles of wine to celebrate.

I regretted even speaking those words out loud, for even though he wouldn't know what I meant the universe surely heard and was possibly pissed. But then again the universe knew I was a big fat liar and didn't believe a word I said anyway.

My youngest turns five on Sunday. He will never know the pain and sadness I feel at how I frittered away his babyhood and toddler days carelessly drinking and drinking. I drank when I was breastfeeding. I drank and drank away his first year so carelessly and sporatically that I don't really even remember much of it, other than I was marathon training, picked up smoking again, and stayed out all night getting wasted with people from work when I should have been home with my new baby, his brother, and my husband.

Looking back, I can guess that I had some pretty serious postpartum shit going on. Which I probably could have seen if I hadn't been in such a fog of drunk and hungover and emotional overload. Holy shit. God, I think back on that year and how I hate it. I ran a marathon and was so proud of myself. The accomplishment of that one day should have been what I felt every day about my home, my family. That year I was so so so selfish, and hated it all while I loved it so much I had to turn away. There was so much to lose, and I was trying my best to lose it.

I remembered that bike ride earlier today. Out of the blue it popped up in my head. I didn't keep that promise for a few more years, but the important part is that I finally kept it.

I am so thankful to my husband for staying even when he should have left. I am thankful to my children for loving me in spite of what they don't even realize I've done. I am so thankful to myself for finally coming to my senses and being brave enough to say help, and no. No more. No. more. Please. And then I can. I can. I am doing it.

It's unsettling how I can recall that one snippet of declaration from three years ago. And totally understandable since I said those things to myself all the time, but just never out loud, to anyone. And how that one conversation on that one day stuck with me.

I imagine that my sobriety is built on all of these conversations and wishes. I believe that I am so strongly sober because I yearned for it so desperately for so long. I know that one reason I stay sober is because I made a promise to a little boy three years ago and I need to keep it. I will stay sober because I make a promise to myself every day to keep going.

Luckily my husband stayed. My boys love me fiercely with open arms and hearts. Our loves aren't perfect, but they are ours. I don't have to break the beauty of them to keep them holy. I keep my promises. I make ones I mean. I'll stay sober. I'll love and not be afraid. I'll go through it instead of around it. I promise.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting There



Part of what I find the most glorious about being sober is when I find my way there. You know: there. Where you knew you needed to be all this time, but then there was that wrong turn at Albuquerque ugh! And who folded the map this way? Somehow your inner GPS sends you in the right direction in spite of all the "Are we there yet?" and stops for the bathroom. Oprah calls it "light bulb moment". I call it "there". About compromise? I'm there.

My life has children. And other people. Which means my life is full of compromises. And plan changes. And this way. And that way.

I realized something: stop that. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Stop. That.

When I was drinking my life was full of compromises too. Every day I drank, or was hungover, or tried not to drink and then drank anyway: compromise. Bending. Making concessions to make it work out.

I notice that my compromises usually end up with me clutching the short end of the stick and wondering what just happened. That I tend to make sure other people's or easier needs are met. That in interest of peace I retreat, although sometimes I don't go gracefully, I go.

I think I'm confusing "compromise" with "giving in".

I'm a peace-maker. And a care-taker. I want there to be happy. But I do this for other people. So, I'm taking care of someone else, or meddling mending fences for another person. But I don't do these things for me.

I realized suddenly: wait a minute here! WHY AM I DOING THIS? Why am I yammering on and on for ten minutes about this rule and why that thing? Why do I not stand up for myself? Why can I not have my rules, my way, and stick to it? Why do I waffle and waver? Why am I making my own life so hard?

Why am I making my own life so hard.

I have to laugh a little since that sounds totally dramatic.

But totally true! Gah! Why do we make things so hard on ourselves? Why do we give in even when we know it will totally suck? Why are we so afraid of hard, fast rules? And why will I put myself out for someone else, but I won't make things easier for me? Is it easier when I make things harder because that's what I'm used to?

I can hear the answers to those questions: It doesn't have to be hard. I don't have to give in. I like rules. I will take care of me. Yes! I make things harder because it feels comfortable. And I'll work on that.

Suddenly: I'm THERE.

Ready for this next part. Able to start practicing being a negotiator, not a doormat. Having some guidelines. Guidelines: rules I have and hold that guide me, that flashlight-in-the-night show me the way.

With my children: there are rules. Some are not bendable, or earn-back-able. Some things just are.

With people in my life: there are rules. Some are not flexible. Some just are. I'm still learning to stand up for myself and say what I mean and not try to fix it all. Making other people's problems their problems. Not compromising my sanity for your stuff. Asking myself "Who's job is it to fix it?" or "Is this the right decision for me?" and my new favorite "Can I really handle that?" And then listening to the answer.

With me: there are rules. Some are not stretchable. Some just are. Remember to follow them even when these new ones feel weird and not at all like the old days.

Being sober gives me this sense of pride that I never had before. Pride in the cherished way, not pride in the puffed up way. That pride makes it easier to see when I need to bend, and when bending makes me break.