Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Elephant Suit

Expectations are a such a damn thing.

I've been thinking about how my whole life has been based on expectations: ways I think things should go, which inevitably more percent of the time than not they go not that expected way and then I feel all out of sorts. Hurumph.

My personal sad truth is that I am sort of obsessed with a few things that I expect to be one way, but then I don't really do things to have them turn out that way. And so then I get to feel bad about it. Hooray!

And yes, although that seems totally stupid (totally) it is how I've lived in my head my whole life.

Like this: I am happiest when I do the things I love to do: run, read, write. Take the time to stop and think. Get myself onto my yoga mat just to get my body on the ground and push my imaginary roots into the earth. Eat the food as nourishment not punishment. Spend time by myself every day. Read to my children. Be kind and affectionate with my husband. Wash my face. Brush and floss. Honor my sobriety. Pray some. Get enough sleep. Do some dancing.

Instead I launch myself headlong into a bag of gingersnaps or whip myself into a little frenzy of frustration and resentment where I lecture the kids until we are all heartily sick of me and all my good advice. After the kids are in bed I go into the Facebook/Plants vs. Zombies trance that keeps me up too late and I'm convinced that kicks dents into my soul. I avoid writing because I think I don't have anything to say, or promise myself I'll come back to comment on a blog I've read later: when there's more time, or there might be a better thing I've thought. I don't go for a walk because I'm lazy, and it's cold. I run and hurt myself and declare that I can do nothing so why bother.

And then, the beloved universe gets sick of waiting for me and all my lagging and out come the jumper cables. You know: connections.

For some reason (see: universe) I started re-reading A Woman's Way Through the Twelve Steps. And I got stuck on step one. Then two days later Lilly posted this brilliant post and I spent last night reading that step one chapter again and making notes and drawing and thinking and realized that surrender is the total antithesis for expectation.

Surrender is a lack of expectation.

I got some surrendering to do.

My biggest one is surrendering to me. Like, me me. To stop being innerly embarrassed by who I am. I unconsciously correct myself a thousand times a day to fit in nicely. Lord. This is annoying and awful. It's hard to explain. Even in traffic I try to make life easier for everyone else. I spend my days compromising constantly. What a control freak!

Surrender is a lack of control.

Which means I am totally uncomfortable.


Something else really struck me about Lilly's post: the idea that if you are a true Australian you are almost expected to drink. Like if you don't drink you might want to get off their continent, because unless you're pickled you're branded an impostor and shall be voted off the island. More expectations. Big ones. Nationwide ones.

What bullshit. Stop listening to those fucking people and find some who think being an Australian means you come from Australia. Anyone who thinks you can't be something because you don't drink is fucking ridiculous. Dammit.

Which gets me thinking about surrender again. What if most of some people's ideas don't fit you? What if instead of pushing our square selves into their round holes we take that energy and make our own truths about life? What if that's hard but we just surrender and do it anyway? What if, instead of predicting outcomes we can lean into this moment and be in here and not flung out there in the world of expectations and pseudo rules?

Step one, for anyone who knows or has read the steps, is about admitting powerlessness over our addiction. I had a lot of trouble with that in my very early sobriety: powerless? Um, no.

Um....yes. I am powerless over alcohol. Which is why I choose to never ever use it again.

But I am also power-full. The power comes from the surrender. And the surrender comes from lack of expectation. It comes from having self truths that resonate with me. Giving up the idea that I don't not fit in the world is tough: making decisions from a place of surrender rather than expectation is a hard act to follow. It's not easy to wake up from a lifelong sleep.

But here comes spring. We expected it a month ago, and then today it's freezing out still. So I surrender to the cold today, and dance in my chair. I'll walk instead of run. I'll learn to stop at enough. I get on with the business of living MY life and stop white knuckling the day. I'll be glad to wave my white flag. I expect you will be too.

This video (It's Coldplay "Paradise". Check it out on YouTube if you can't watch it here. It was a perfect way to explain how it feels to be sober.) made me laugh and cry. Lilly, this one's for you. One day we'll meet in person. You'll know me. I'll be the one in the elephant suit too.  xoxo

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Recovery Looks Like

So, something really awesome and terrifying happened. Good Housekeeping re-rolled out my story on their Facebook page. I commented, and then ta-da! It went in to the news feeds of all of my friends. And then my husbands' friends. I'm not totally sure about how all that works but there it went and there it be.

I was kind of "out" before. Now, I am totally "out". Card carrying sober woman: ME.

I am not in the very beginning where this might have been much harder, and I'm far from an old timer where this might not really even figure. I am at this lovely place where I have some solid sober time with me and I can feel the real magic of it. I can feel how strange it feels for people to know my "secret" and then feel how particularly wonderful it is to not have to keep it.

One reason I haven't really gone to AA is the anonymity. I know it works, and I don't want to debate that. For me, I need to be able to show people who I am- what I came from. What alcoholism can look like. For me, I wish with all of my heart that there had been someone in or around my life who drank like me, but was in recovery. So by not being anonymous I could be that person now for others.

When AA started back in 1935 the world was a totally different place. But now, we have the ability to share everything with each other. And I want to share what recovery looks like from here: to change the stigma and shame that often comes when people say "I am an alcoholic" and "I am in recovery".

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. If it were a choice, a simple matter of yes or no, don't you think I would have chosen long ago to stop choosing it? Just as cancer cells are driven by nature to divide and conquer so are addicts pushed to satisfy our needy hostage selves with more and more and more until we destroy our lives but still use anyway.

I am just regular me: a woman in her early 40's who used alcohol for years to dull the ebbs and flows of life. A person who drank to fit in, to escape, and to keep myself comfortably ordinary. I didn't have any huge life wrecking event push me to stop except the vision of my hellish mediocre life in ten years if I just kept on going. I feel like there are lots more people like me out there who won't ever get to a meeting, but who will, in secret, look up things like "how do I know I'm an alcoholic" and "how do you quit drinking" and see my story and real life me: proud and unashamed of who I am. That they could see that being in recovery is not something to fear but something that makes life bearable. Liveable. Live-able.

I don't see any reason to keep that a secret.

I get nervous just thinking about it. Thinking about how people can be so mean, and judgmental. Thinking about how, when you put your life out there you invite everyone in, and everyone has opinions. I think about how I want everyone to like me, and my peacekeeping self wants to roll along with the tide and glad hand everyone without making a stand for something I fervently believe in.

Fuck that.

You may not agree with me. You may believe AA is the only way. You may believe that addiction is a choice. You may believe that addicts are all losers, and people in recovery are all boring lame-os. And believe all that- you may.

But I believe in the people who wrote to me and came to me in person to say "I'm proud of you" and "You have done a brave thing." I believe addiction touches almost everyone's lives, and there are a many different levels of it, countless different ways to heal and recover. I believe that unless some of us are brave enough to stand out people will continue to hide and never get help.

So here it is: what recovery looks like:

It looks like a regular person at the park. It looks just like this. It looks like one of me, until there are two people like me. And then three, and then more. And then we are a small crowd, and then a big crowd, and then an uproar of regular people who are in recovery and so much more. Our sobriety explains us, but it does not define us. And it definitely cannot hide us.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Second Chances

This morning I found a note from my oldest son's (he's nine) teacher detailing all the homework assignments he's missed. All of them. He's been lying to me for weeks and scritching by with very little- I guess little enough for her to not contact me until now. Each day I ask, "Any homework tonight?" kind of wondering about this new school ("We can do it in class mom.") and on one hand thinking how cool it is that he can do his work in class and finish it and feeling that uneasy somethin' ain't right feeling but believing him because what on earth else would I do?

He gets harder and harder to reach, harder to understand. Whereas a year ago he wouldn't have been able to keep a thing from me now he can keep secrets. I wish I could take the hard nuggets of hurt he already bears and tell him to put those down- they aren't made of gold but of worry and ache and they get heavy. I wish I could show him that what he thinks is tough will only break his very own heart, and not anyone else's. I wish I could show him what my life as a liar was like. I wish he didn't feel like he deserved what he gets, that he could feel light for once. More than once.

It makes me think about the future.

There is this rock in my gut. This rock of sad and hurt and wonder. Why would he do that? Why wouldn't I know better? Why didn't his teacher say something a month ago? All the why in the world doesn't change it. God, it won't change it. It won't change the fact that now maybe I never completely believe him again. Isn't that dramatic. (He is nine, after all.) And also maybe true.

As we drove home from school I felt it in my heart how my own parents must have felt when I lied to them countless times. How many times did my own mother sob quietly beside me on the way home and I never ever noticed? How many times did I lie until I broke her heart right in pieces over and over again but she still loved me anyway? How many times did my father look at me, knowing I was lying, and just stand there not knowing what to do? Not knowing how to open his own heart and show me his hurt.

Immediately I want to shoulder all the blame: I didn't ask enough, I didn't do enough, listen enough, see enough, be enough, I wasn't tough enough or too tough, I wasn't enough of whatever mother I could be that would make this not happen, ever. My fault. My fault. All my fault.

Here's this thing that sobriety does for me: It makes me know right away that this is just not true. I am all the me I can be- here, today, plugging away doing the very best I fucking can. And sometimes fucked up shit happens and it has nothing to do with me and I can keep on believing in my boy even if he lies me broken to my knees. I can cry and feel my heart ache ache ache but.

I don't drown this day in wine and hangover. I put on some Counting Crows (lordy) and write and cry and feel it. It sucks, but I do it anyway. I picture him five years ago, I picture him five years from now: always beloved, believed. I picture one day feeling the generous love I feel for him for my very own self.

We are all hundreds of second chances, all piled one on top of the other. I am all the over and over agains I've been given my whole life long. And I will never, ever give up. On me, or him.


He accepted his punishment with grace. He was the happiest nine year old without computer/video games for two weeks I've seen yesterday- humming to himself, whistling! while doing make up homework for an hour! after school. He ate lentils for dinner and declared them delicious.

The situation really brought up some strong emotions for me. I feel good and happy today: maybe his burden was bringing down the vibe for everyone.

Last night before bed he sat in my lap. "Mom? You are really the best mom."

"Thanks honey, I think you're really great, too."

"And Mom?..... I have one more thing to tell you."

"Oh? What's that?"

"I got a new tattoo." :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Hardest Places.

Support is one of those things: you don't know you need it, and then all of a sudden you're flailing about wondering WTF just happened. Then you remember. Oh, people. I need them. My support. I need it. My recovery. I have to honor it.

I was feeling so under-able last week. Overwhelmed. Life was just mostly sucky, plain and simple.

As soon as I wrote about it I felt better. It made me think about support- how I shore myself up- my own self and other people and then the things I read and think that help too.

As addicts I think we all just want to hide. Hide from our addictions, hide in our addictions, hide from people, hide from life. Seeing the truth is not high on the list of priorities. Join that with not doing things we're supposed to (you know, the things we know work) and you have a duo of life mucking up muck. So here I am, on the fence- hiding and being wishy washy.

Being on the fence is kind of where that mucky place puts you. Up there, straddling both sides of decision, unable to commit to either action so just waffling back and forth from here to there keeping things confusing and wobbly. I am still unable to commit to a few things that I know will make my life better. I hate it because it reminds me of the years upon years upon years I would promise myself that I would quit drinking only to drink again and again.


It's like I'm a spoiled child and I keep mush mouthing around with myself. "No, no sweetheart. Don't do that. It's not nice." But life is hard, and work is hard, and the kids are hard and blah blah blerg. I need to push that sucker out of the way and say, "NO. NOT ALLOWED. TOO EFFING BAD."

But here's the thing: that's OK. I appreciate it when everyone says "Be nice and kind to yourself" and "Don't be hard on yourself" but there comes a time when I need to kick my own ass. When other people might need to join in. There comes a point when I have to say, "OK. Enough is enough." And I can't say it in a sweet voice. I have to mean it. I have to really get out the big guns and put some fire in it. I have to be hard on myself or the things won't get done.

I'm trying to say that making myself behave is OK too. That sweetness and light have time and place, but it can't always be that way. When I first quit drinking I had to find balance between "NO, AMY. YOU MAY NEVER DRINK AGAIN" and "It's OK for you to feel sad and awful, but no drinks sweet one." I need some back up that isn't my friend but my truth from time to time. I need support in breezes and in hurricanes. Sometimes I need a hug and sometimes I need someone to hold me responsible for the things I say and do.

I mean this in the nicest way, but I get so tired of all the damn polite hand holding. Sometimes it isn't OK. Sometimes keep trying and there, there does more harm than good. Sometimes you have to be allowed to say the hard things that maybe people don't want to hear but need to hear. I'm a fucking alcoholic. I'm a master at saying what people want to hear, but I'm not so comfortable with what needs to be heard.

All these feelings I started to feel after I quit drinking deserve to be felt. ALL of them. Even the bad ones. They don't deserve to be minimized or brushed away just because they aren't happy and bright. These tough emotions warrant real attention. They certainly don't feel better just because it's more comfortable for everyone if we aren't hard on ourselves.

Who else is there to blame? Who else has to take responsibility if not me? I have to own it. I have to make it mine and accept the consequences of my actions. I have to be able to take myself to task for not holding up my end of the bargain when it comes to things that I can't compromise on. I have to be honest with myself. I owe it to myself to be so.

I am super stuck right now. I keep Sisyphus-ing along knowing I'm prolonging this part yet unable to shake and get unstuck. But I'm working at it. I know things will shift, and move, and that I'm OK. At fifteen months sober these are all things I know are true all the time. I feel like I'm ready for the tough love I know needs to come my way. I'm going to tuck in, brace myself, and open my heart to whatever comes next. Sometimes the best things come from the hardest places.