Sunday, January 26, 2014


When I consider all the things about my alcoholism the one I never think of is the way it affected my husband. How, after years of dealing with me, he might have a part of him that has just given up on me. Then when I think of that I strangle and choke some inside.

It's not only the things I said when I was shit faced, deep in and blacked out; it's the things I said the next day, too. It's how I took out my overflowing anger at myself on the person dearest to me. I was so critical and hard on myself in my own head, it was bound to spill over into my marriage. It was bound to stain us.

It's hard to think of the hundreds of times I've told him "You're doing it wrong" or "You aren't doing it right". I struggle to reconcile the way I feel about him to the way I act about him. It's hard to know that now, even without the booze, I am in the habit of using him as my mental punching bag. This is true when I've had a tough day ("You never blah blah blah") and when I'm feeling extra superior ("You should blah blah blah").

At group on Tuesday I was busy talking about how injured I am by things in our relationship. I was easing my uncertainty by blaming it all on him. My therapist kindly but firmly gave me some perspective. She talked about making amends. She talked about how I'm not the only one who is hurt by my alcoholism. It showed me that as much as I don't want to I have hurt other people with my behavior. Hurt them. Hurt him.

I was crushed by this. My heart crumpled, crippled by the weight of my own persistent ugliness. Sometimes it's too easy to stay in the self centered swirl of alcoholic behavior even when the alcohol part is long gone.

It's one thing to become sober and not drink anymore. It's entirely another to take responsibility for the person you were while you were drinking. Just because the booze goes away doesn't mean the giant life eraser swoops in and undoes all of your already dones.

I came home that day and hugged my husband to me.  I looked up into his face. Into his eyes. I said "I'm sorry for all the things I've done. I'm sorry I hurt you, and that I didn't see you were hurting. I can't change it, but I'll try to make it up to you." I gave him the apology not for me, but for him. It felt different. The intention wasn't to heal myself, but to give healing to him.

He smiled his crooked smile at me and pulled me close. "It's OK," he said.

I offered an apology rather than requesting forgiveness. Even though I think my words couldn't possibly have that much weight they can come on bearing tons. The people I love hold all the things I say, all the things I do, and so I need to be care full with them. I still have a long, long way to go. I am still pretty angry inside for reasons I don't really understand. Sometimes I'll be sitting and realize I'm all clenched up and bitching in my head and wonder, "What are you so cranky about?" I wonder if it's because I know I need to work harder, even though I feel like I'm working so hard already.

It has taken me all week to wrap my head around the fact that my drinking affected him deeply, that it can't just be chalked up to having too much to drink and easily blown off. That I hurt someone I love with my careless words, over and over again. That he carries that hurt. That "I'm sorry" helps, but doesn't fix it. That just because I want him to forgive me maybe he just can't yet.

I haven't totally forgiven myself yet, either.

Understanding the hurt I've caused others only deepens the understanding of the hurt I've caused myself. There are amends to be made all around my life. Letters to write. Apologies to offer. Wanting to be someone and being that person are two different things. I have to do the work, untie the knots, comb out the snarls. Push myself to be the woman I am today when I want to go back to the comfort of being old me.

Making amends takes time. Trust takes time. If there's anything sobriety teaches you it's that things take time. (Aghhhhh! Sometimes so much time!) That's OK too.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sobriety and Marriage

My husband and I used to be drinking buddies. When we first started going out we spent a lot of time getting drunk together. It was fun. Silly. We loved food and beer and cocktails and bottles of wine with Sunday brunch. We boozed it up.

Then I got pregnant.

It wasn't a surprise, more of a drunken idea born of us being thirty two and destined to be together forever.

So we got married.

We never really got to know each other. There were never long Saturdays spent curled up together in bed talking about our deepest secrets. We didn't live life, we drank it. He got to know how, after too many drinks, I liked to put on headphones and sing Coldplay out loud. I got to know that when he got drunk he would start clearing his throat a lot. But we never boiled it down to the nitty gritty knowing that makes two people be on the same side without malice and anger. We never made it past the point of competition. We never surrendered one to the other in trust and love.

And nothing makes that more clear than sobriety. Lemme tell you. Nothing.

How do you go back and fix a ten year relationship? There are so many hurts, some big, some really big. Some the same old nags over forgotten laundry or the way you load a dishwasher. How can you say "I'm sorry" for ten years of things and be forgiven?

This is what I'm trying to figure out these days. Because, after it all, there is one simple truth: I want him. He's my person. We have these moments where we get each other, where we know. When he stops playing the role of right and winning and I stop trying to fix him.

Something dawned on me the other day while we were arguing. We don't take care of each other. We used to take care of each other by drinking together. It made us sit and spend time together. We would sit on the porch for hours swilling wine and smoking cigarettes- playing cards or just talking. Now we never see each other. Drinking bonded us, it gave us a reason to be together. Without it we both seem to be at loose ends. Without it it feels like we've lost our great uniter. I wonder if he misses drinking me. I wonder if he feels like he knows me as this sober me.

My husband could be an alcoholic, except he's not. He's one of those people who just leaves half a beer and walks away. Who can have one of anything and then not have to have seven more. It was usually me that spurred us on, me that had to have just one more glass, me that wanted shots of tequila with our summertime beers.

As I have been learning to know the stranger who is me I have forgotten that the person I live with needs an introduction to her, not to be mistaken for an intruder or a mindreader. We share a history, but we don't really know how our own stories go.

The one thing that has suffered because of my sobriety is my marriage. Now that I have a good chunk of sober time under my belt I think it's time I went out and met a man. And that man is my husband.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I've been in this parenting funk for the past, oh forever. It's where things are all out of kilter, and kiddos are fighting constantly, or whining, or just being annoying in general. I'm not really paying attention since I've got my own flotsam and jetsam cluttering things up. Days and days and holidays have gone by with all of us in this state of house arrest, trapped by the holding pattern we're in. No one has the damn map so we can find our way back to the open road. And no one even thought of stopping for some directions. It has sucked.

I realized during my before-I-get-up-think that I was in this holding pattern all over my life. Stuck life-in-limbo. I get a little paralyzed sometimes. You know, when you know what you want to do, but then you just are unable to move towards it? When you have all these good ideas but you can't manage to stop wasting time long enough to actually make them happen? This is one of these times.

It definitely doesn't help that the children have been sort of out of control. I've been lazy mama and letting things go when they deserve some attention. Effort. Things just haven't felt right. So I called up Universe Amy the other day to vent and say "Help me. I'm a little lost." She said something that made so much sense. It went something like this: "I'm not here for them to like me, and me not doing my role makes things scary for them." Which really made me think about the kind of mother I want to be- the one who is liked, or loved? It jarred me back to reality, back to my responsibility.

Then I realized that I needed that tough love for myself.

My parents were strict. My dad had definite ideas about how things were supposed to be. My mom was the kind of mom I am: all over the place. Loving, yelling, here and there, yes, it's fine, NO IT'S NOT, attentive, dismissive. Wow. Me too. And I have my definite ideas, but then I never felt listened to so my rules are kind of wishy washy and limp. I'm trying to be liked. To never let my kids feel the way I did a lot- alone and unheard. Oh. Shit.

What if what I've been longing for all this time was stability? Knowing what to expect? What if the way I parent my children is the way I parent myself????


After the talk with Universe Amy I'm getting my game back with the kids. I got my big mama self back, the one who knows what the fuck is going on and is in charge. Who is tender, but doesn't take any business. Who has rules and may not be popular but keeps it together. The change in them is instant. As soon as I say "OK kids. Here I am, in charge. I have the damn map." they scootch right back to themselves again. They push back a little harder, but when I stand firm scootch right back. What a relief.

I need to be big mama for myself.

A big big part of my personality is the give-in. It used to go like this: "I want a drink." "No, don't have a drink." "I want one." "No, really. Don't. Bad idea." "But I want it." sigh. "Fine, go ahead." Then I got to feel guilty all the next day for it. I do that now but with food instead. I don't do my soul stuff that makes my life feel good. I let the apathetic careless me make the decisions and then the rest of me gets to feel all guilty and cranky and indignant. Hence the helplessness.

I get life lazy. Like it's just so hard to do life, but life won't shut the fuck up about it. I want to run but talk myself out of it. I want to write but convince myself I don't. I long for yoga but avoid it like the plague. I want to glue stuff together and be crafty but I stare at my phone for fifteen years instead. WTF? Where is big mama? I need her for me, too.

Life hands out directions at just the right time. Here I am bobbling along, then looking a little lost. Life is all, "She might be OK, just a little diversion, wait.....wait, oop, nope. Totally off track. Here, pass that woman the map again." I got my cheat sheet, again. "Look here" it says. "Right here." "See where you were going to do the things that keep you sane and not do those things that make you crazy? Merge! Merge! Get back on track!"

I know when what I'm doing is making me unhappy. And I know the right things to do. As much as my children like rules, and boundaries, as much as knowing where the line is makes them feel safe, I suddenly realized that I need that too. I often feel like there are a lot of me's in here and that no one is really running the show. I need that inner cop, the rule maker, the enforcer. It makes me feel safer to hear my own voice as the voice of reason not permission. "I love you so there are rules." rather than "I love you so do whatever."

Now I have my directions so I gotta keep keeping it together for more than three days. Not lose big mama in traffic. Follow my map. Try my hand at consistency. Be my own enforcing tough tender loving big mama. Put that careless me in the way back, strapped in the car seat where she belongs.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I came up with a glorious word for 2014 after days and days of heaving all these heavy words around in my head like freedom and restraint and peace. 

I wasn't even going to pick a word at all. Then, while I was writing a totally different post that I totally deleted I came across this little word: FUN. 

And my brain went: Oh. Huh. What a nice word. And completely opposite from something I'd normally pick. THAT'S IT! PICK IT.

I was writing a post about how people think sober people aren't fun. And then I started thinking about how I don't really let myself have fun. Like, I'm just all bogged down in the sobriety of sober-ness. Which doesn't seem very fun at all. My dear friend Lilly over at One Too Many is struggling with this right now- how to be sober and fun. 

Why is getting drunk considered the only adult fun? I mean, people look at you like you've grown another head when you say you don't drink. So many people. Why is it "cool" to have too much to drink and then feel like shit the next day? It sounds so stupid and inane to me now: "Hey, I know. Let's get dressed up, go out, spend a lot of money, do embarrassing things, and then feel like shit the next day." Or my regular: "Hey, let's go to the drinks store, spend too much money, ignore our lives, do embarrassing things, and then feel like shit the next day." It doesn't happen every time, but still.

It's like wearing a life jacket, but not the good kind that will save you, more like the bad kind made out of burdens and expectations and weights. One that suffocates and smothers your life until you almost can't even breathe. I mean, no wonder drunk people think they're having all the fun: they forgot the cumbersome jacket. They forgot that thing after two or three glasses of wine. They have "permission"- liquid amnesia. Until the next morning when that strangle-y coat is weightier than ever.

How cool would it be to actually practice having fun, but without the lapses in memory or manners? Have a good damn time but without the morning oh-no's? To be brave enough to not give a whit what people think so much? To do the work of finding people and things you actually enjoy rather than getting drunk again with that same group of people? To take that suffocating jacket off of your life and be the fun person you imagine you are when you're getting your drink on, but without it. Without the protection of the booze: just you.

Why can't we "let loose" sober?

I don't mean drunk let's-sleep-with-that-random-stranger let loose or look-at-me-being-an-ass-but-it's-ok-I-just-had-too-many-jagerbombs loose- I mean the let loose of enjoying the moment, some time of abandon without using booze to numb yourself out of your life, you just are choosing to put down the burdens and Taking off that smothering awful weight of that alcohol straitjacket and finding the lightness of self. Self only. No props, no false courage. That doesn't sound super fun yet, but it gets easier and easier and suddenly you find yourself talking and making sense. That people look at you not to whisper about what an ass you were last night but to admire you. Yes, you

A lot of being sober for me has been giving myself permission to grow up. To act like a grown up. To make the right decisions. So I made that one right decision: stay sober. But I still behave like a spoiled brat when it comes to eating too many cookies or laying in bed and not getting up to write. So what about being a grown up and being an all the way grown up? Could that mean not doing this never-ending dance of permission and execution? Could that

I have a hard time with some stuff- my temper can be quick, I can be a total doormat. And then I can be a totally resentful cranky doormat. One of my biggest changes has been being able to admit when I am wrong, and then saying things like, "Help me please." and "I don't know what to do." Which doesn't sound like much fun, but it actually kind of is.

So that's my word for this year. Fun. A reminder to not take it all so seriously. A way to see things differently: that life is to be enjoyed. That all this learning that never ends is not only hard and sometimes soul wrenching but a source of pure pleasure. That even the normal every day stuff can be entertaining. It's all the way you look at it.