Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy New Year!

Tra la! Yesterday was my 43rd birthday. I have been back to back birthday sober for the first time since I was about twelve. How cool.

I have been thinking about the past year- how my birthday last year was really just wonderful, how I was in a really gooood space then, and then just six weeks later I was dumped in a depressed place that I didn't leave for almost six months.

I have lived a year. I lived it- I felt it. A year. It has been amazing and glowing and full of too much of me. There have been so many times when I wanted to stop recovering and just shut the hell up in my head for a while. I don't think recovery ever stops, but I do think there can be peace and quiet with a lot of praying and practice.

This birthday was sort of plain: There was oatmeal and homemade cards for breakfast. I did laundry, made asparagus salad. My parents came for lunch and my dad made me a cake and a pie. We had a tentative peace. My husband took a nap and went to work. My youngest and I sat on the porch and started making a wind chime. Soccer practice. Scrambled eggs and toast for dinner. More cake. I'll write and then go read and fall asleep. I already washed my face and flossed. Woot woot!

There's something about this plainness that is deeply satisfying. I am not drunk and confused. I am not spending a load of money getting wasted. I am just here, by myself, on my birthday chasing nothing. It's so exciting to just be still. To feel what it means to be content. To sigh a sigh of settled.

I have learned some things this year. In no particular order:

1. I like to love and be loved. I am getting better and better at saying kind things- brave enough to speak up and tell people how much they mean to me, or to say thank you. Brave enough to risk getting hurt. Brave enough to be OK with it. Brave enough to not second guess myself all the time, to just say it like I say it not the way I think someone wants to hear it.

2. I am also so much better at asking for help. When I feel like I can't instead of saying "No, oh no why me I can't I can't" I say "Help me please" and then I close my eyes and free fall. Someone always catches me. ALWAYS.

3. Recovery is annoying. Sometimes I want to wash my hands of the whole thing- not that I want to drink again, but just stop all this getting better. Ack! Alas. I know that when I'm feeling the most cocky and un-needful of my recovery is when I need that sucker the most. And so I sort of make myself go back into the water even though I am so prune-y and over it.

4. I am getting used to praying. This year is the year I connect to my spirituality. I know I have always been connected, but it's sort of like God and friends have been waiting on the porch and I'm sneaking a peek from behind the curtains. This is the year I throw the front door open wide and say "Come on in. I wasn't sure if it was you or a murderer burglar. My bad. But now I recognize you. Welcome."

5. I can do hard things and not drink. I can deal with what life hands out. Good and bad. There are so many reasons to drink. There are so many reasons not to. 

6. I am an aholic. I'm an alcoholic, a thinkaholic. I am a my wayaholic, a cookieaholic. I am an obsess about my weightaholic. All of it is the same pleasure feeder in my brain: too much thinking about how much I totally suck and not enough of the pleasure of being just the me I am right now this minute today. I'm practicing. It baffles me how I fight and box myself into corners of sadness and despair. How I am totally fine, but I can wend and wind my way into feeling never ever good enough as fast as you can say stop that. I think that most of the battle against being an aholic is just putting down the weapons and maybe holding hands with yourself instead. I think I'm a yellow belt in this. But someday I'm going to really be kicking some serious ass. And it won't be my own.

7. I believe believe believe with every bit of my big grace full heart in as many chances as it takes. People write to me and say things like "I keep going back" and "You must think I'm so wishy washy" and "Why can't I quit". Me too, me too. I was there for twenty years: wailing and excusing myself over and over again- making those early morning promises and then getting drunk that very same day. For years. I remembered this morning that I made a video of myself a few years ago telling myself not to drink. I remember watching it and drinking anyway. I think it takes a huge amount of courage and divine intervention to make a roadblock strong enough to withstand the temptation of the booze exit. I think everyone has it. I still sometimes scratch my head at why, why that one morning I woke up and had that inner earthquake that changed my lines forever. I do know this: I really deep down believed that day if I kept drinking I was going to die sooner than I wanted to. And that I was going to die alone and miserable and when I did I was really going to hate it. I could see my bloated lonely self in a dingy apartment full of longing and regret and I stood up inside and said "FUCK THAT". Forever without a drink seems like a damn long time. So does spending a lifetime in a living hell. I believe you have to keep on giving yourself chances until you realize how worthy you are of being sober. That you have to get to a point where all the finger pointing and blame becomes being exhausted enough to try actually caring for yourself.

8. I am much happier when I am not judging anyone. Not the bitch in traffic, not the person at work who makes me nuts. And especially not myself. Reminding myself that we are all doing the best we can helps me so much. Some days it's enough that all I did was not drink. Pretty much every day is that, and then some days are more magical than others. But I am alive and sober and so those two things make me innerly beautiful which makes me gorgeous all over. And I tell myself these things so I will believe them because they are true. They are true about you, too.

9. The biggest thing I have learned is that being sober has metamorphosed me into the woman I was always supposed to become. It has been ugly and sad and hard. It has been me, cheering myself on even when I wanted to give up and hide forever. It makes it nonexistenly important that I'm not rich, or skinny, or the best one of these or those. Sobriety has made me the best at me. It has given me what I looked for in the bottom of bottles and could never find- myself. I am who I am supposed to be.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Into the Light

I am still, still in this part where I am crying every day. It is such a relief and so sad and kind of opposite of the person I am: I have, through it all, cultivated a positive world view and firmly believe that things will get better. I am consistently full of hope. Because why not?

Our dog is OK. We have finally managed to finagle his eating and meds so that I'm not cleaning up diarrhea a few times a day. He has his silly smile back and is sleeping in our rooms again. He cannot go for walks, or chase the ball, but he's with us and that, for now, is more than enough.

My father called last night and it was less than stellar. We sort of argued and disagreed and I cried a lot and then just let it stop since there is no real resolution. We talk, but cannot hear each other. And I cannot make them into people they just are not. I love them so much but the things I need from them do not exist. It's like trying to make a bicycle into a bagel. The shapes are there, but they just are not the same thing.

Here is what I am learning: other people are other people. I cannot change them: but I can change myself. I can be true to myself. I am allowed to ask for what I need and if someone can't give it I'm allowed to stop asking. Relationships can change, and so with the heaviest heart I can hold I have come to know that my parents love me to the best of their ability, but they cannot be tender with me. They cannot not tease me and poke fun at me when I'm hurting. My mother will always be loud, and judgmental. She won't feel comfortable enough to not look for the imagined worst in everyone else. My dad will always think I'm trying to tell him what to do when I say out loud how I'm feeling. They both are very self focused. So be it.

Still, inside I come to their defense. Don't talk about them that way. That's not true, I keep saying to myself, over and over. But I know what the truth is.

I am hurting so much about it: I have longed all my life for them to love me without conditions or little cruelties. They love me as they were loved themselves. For them love equals vulnerability which equals opportunity to hurt which means I'll get you before you get me first. I have always dreamed of the mother who enfolded me safe in her arms and said "There there. You're OK." I have always wanted a father who stuck up for me rather than himself. Who was there for me and not so selfish with his emotions. But what they were not given they do not try to give. I have clung to the idea that one day, one day, we will be a relaxed happy family laughing at the dinner table.

We won't.

That will never be with my growing up family.

My mother still hasn't called. My father never once said he was sorry for them leaving the soccer game without saying a word and then letting five days pass with nothing. How can this be? I don't want things like that to be true but they just are. "I am your daughter!" I want to yell in their faces. I want that to mean to them what it means to me. It's not a victimless crime- I am an alcoholic for chrissakes. I was an asshole for many years. Hurtful in more ways than I can count. I have apologized and stayed sober. That's the very best I can do. It can't all just be one long continuous apology.

Getting sober has brought me out into the light. And sometimes it's really bright out here. And the truth hurts and I want to slide safely back into my naked mole rat hole and hide from all the truth that can pummel me relentlessly until I open my eyes to see. And so I cry and sorrow and yearn: "What? What!!!! What do you want with me?"

But I don't hide. I get hats, sunscreen, and friends. I don't drink, and I don't hide. I might be sunburned but dammit, I'm going back out there.

This healing business is hard. It is tough, and relentless, and sometimes breaks me down so far I don't even want to get up.

So life ain't great. It's not the wondrous end to my forty-second year I imagined. But then sometimes things just don't go the way you planned.

But. God. I am here, and I am sober. I am the mother to my loves that I have always wanted for myself. I cuddle and cook and read and play just one more hand of crazy eights. I tell them how glad I am that they're around, how happy I am to be their mom. Not just that I love them, but that I want them and need them and like them. I'm a better companion to my husband every single day. We are finally starting to care for each other and not just be parents and the people who provide. I have reached out and cried and said help me help me to my people who are close friends. I have people I know are back up. I have Universe Amy who is such a blessing to me. We family for each other. We all do. I am brave and strong and beautiful and good with the grace of the folk who help me up when I'm all broken down.

Family is not just the people you are born to- it's the people you can turn to. I am immeasurably grateful for the family I am making for myself. It's getting me through and carrying me on. It makes it so I can mother myself into feeling better.

Thanks y'all.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Terrible Awful Week

So much has been happening that I really don't even want to write about it because it exhausts me just thinking about it.

Our oldest dog, Jelly, has a torn ACL. By oldest I mean six, and by torn ACL I mean couple few thousands of dollars surgery. We thought he was losing weight because we switched his food, and it's spring, and then suddenly he was very skinny and really limping and then couldn't even get up to go outside. It was like it was in slow motion, only in really fast motion and we weren't really looking the whole time.

So the vet says this doesn't really heal in big dogs without surgery. And that he will be in pain. Which means we would have to put him to sleep because something I don't believe in is keeping a beloved member of our family alive if he is just going to suffer each and every day.

But then I Googled it and found success stories and feel so much more hopeful- except for the fact that the pain meds give him this awful diarrhea and every morning we wake up to a house reeking of gnarly dog poop on the one carpet again. (except for this morning because we gated him in the study with no carpet thank god since there was barf and poop everywhere) And the vet says he could be fine on pain meds and heal some and maybe heal all and the other one will probably tear, but OK. We'll deal with that one then. Plus I'll know to keep him out of the room with the rug.

I wanted to guzzle a gallon jug of wine last Wednesday. I wanted to pass out drunk on my back lawn. I wanted to be so hungover the next day that all I would be able to do would think about how awful my hangover was and avoid dealing with maybe having to kill our dog.

It sucked.

Then Saturday I had what I thought was a small misunderstanding with my parents and we haven't spoken since.

It hurts me so much when I try to figure out what makes them the way they are. And then I want to smack myself upside the head: Stop! Never, ever try to figure out someone else. My self is hard enough, and I have all the Cliff's Notes.

This fight is not mine to fix, so I will wait until they are ready to talk. It isn't about being right, it's about having boundaries and ways I have to be treated. It's about respecting me, and my husband, and my children. It's about how I cannot be the one who says Oh, I know you might be sorry and I want things to be OK so I will just call and smooth it over. I don't want to argue, but I also don't want to offer up understanding when I don't have any around anywhere to give.

Then two people died at a race I was supposed to run Sunday. I ran over a wooden block and broke something on one of our cars. And just when we start to have comfortable money all these $300 things start happening and I want to scream.

Life has totally sucked. But here's the thing: and dammit, I hate it, but it's true: when things suck the most it's because they are about to get better. I swear the worse things are the better it actually gets, but right now I am having a hard time remembering that. It's in all this awfulness that I figure things out. It's when I have to feel uncomfortable and sad and sob and want to fix it but can't that I learn more about who I really am. What I really want from my one life.

What I want is to try to heal Jelly as best we can with the resources we have. So I will clean up poop and barf and sit quietly with him in the yard. I will heat up bowls of bland chicken and rice and egg so he will eat and put on some weight. I will watch him closely to see if it gets to be too much and be brave enough to let him go if that's what's best.

What I want is to not feel like an always wrong dirtbag teenager with my parents. So I will be the loving grown up woman that I am. I will believe the part of my self that tells me what I can and cannot talk about with them. I will listen when my self says I'm OK, and that I am to be trusted. That just because someone else believes something doesn't mean that has to be true for me. I will stand up for what I believe in, and be willing to keep living my way because that's the way that works best for me.

I need some peace y'all. Send some. I am praying hard and reaching out to people around me, and I am reaching out to y'all too. I will get through, and I will be sober. But right now I need reinforcements big time, so include me in your prayers/universe musings/help out lists.

I am grateful for that.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Giving Without Giving In

So much of what life is is other people. You know- those pesky expectations, the opinions. The things that upset them. The things they want, need, right now or next week that hairball up your own life.

We went camping this weekend. We had lots of laughs, some tense moments, some relaxing listening to the wind blow. Again and again I was reminded that my life does not need to be led by the leashes of other people. This sounds sort of cold and a little bitchy, but take that sound out of it and think of it as me taking off the collars and walking around free. Like putting myself first in the self full way and not the self fish one.

I started re-reading Eat, Pray, Love again after a lovely conversation with a dear friend last week. On the first night of our trip I came across this:

"All I had to do was ask myself every day, for the first time in my life, 'What would you enjoy doing today, Liz? What would bring you pleasure right now?' With nobody else's agenda to consider and no other obligations to worry about, this question finally became distilled and absolutely self-specific."

After I read it I squinched further into my sleeping bag and closed my eyes in happiness. I was doing just exactly what I wanted. I was in a cozy sleeping bag surrounded by my mostly sleeping people reading a goodbook with my headlamp. I felt my self get fuller, fatter- heart swollen with love and contentment.

Then I realized that I hardly ever please me. That I dedicate hours and days to making life easy for the people in my life, but I don't make my life a pleasure. This makes me feel like a control freak and ridiculous all at once. And also like I have way way missed the boat on this one. Living a life of imagined duty rather than one of willing restraints and freedoms. WTF am I thinking?

And so.....I decided things based on what I wanted. Want to go on a hike? Old answer: Oh, sure, if you want to. New answer: No. I want to lay on a blanket and listen to the wind. Want me to make you a cup of tea? Old answer: No, I'll get it. New answer: Yes, that would be so lovely of you honey. Mom? Can we watch another show? Old answer: No! That's enough. New answer: Yes, I have some more writing to do, so go ahead. 

Does it seem like I make all my decisions based on what other people might think is a good or better idea, but then my self is kind of sad and chin in hand hrumph'ing at the whole thing? I don't have to wait for your answer anymore since I can speak up for myself: Y.E.S. It sure as hell does.

Now, if you have already mastered this then I applaud you. I am having my very own one woman revolution over here about this- you mean I can pick? What I want? And people will still love me? 


I also cannot fail to mention that it is me myself that has gotten me myself in this spot in the first place. No one has huffed, puffed, or blown the house down over much of any of my decisions. I have pretty much always been a woman in control of my destiny. (Even when it was a wreck of a destiny) Strong willed but overly agreeable.

All of this self full-ness comes from the biggest decision I have ever made: the one I made 16 months ago today. I decided that even if I wanted to, or a party wanted me to, or my husband wanted me to, or America or Tuesday or spring and summer wanted me to I wasn't ever going to drink again. Ever. It took a while, but now I think I'm ready to be graciously selfish. I'm ready for other decisions that make my life a pleasure to inhabit. I'm ready to be me first. With love and gratitude and fullness, but me first. Because when my life is comfortable and easeful and sure then I can give that to the people in it. Giving without giving in.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Reality Lane

"Sometimes you find that what is most personal is also what connects you most strongly with others." -Grace Paley

I figured out that raking is something else you can do when you're at loose ends and don't drink. 

There are blisters on both of my hands because I am still a classic over do-er. It continues to amaze me that my -ism comes out it so many other ways in my life, and so therefore I can only assume that -ism is my nature and since I know that I know it. 

Is it my ego, or my insides that makes me push things to edges and then limits and then breakage? I know my addiction is a thing I have, a dis-ease, a characteristic of what makes me up. Knowing that it isn't limited to alcohol is kind of relievingly puzzling and annoying. 

I started walking this week since running again turned out terrible. Walking. I haven't just walked since my oldest was a tiny baby and I was too many pounds of new mama. After you're a runner who can walk again? In my running running days I was certainly that vain asshole running and smirking at the people who were walking. Now all I can do is walk. Smirk smirk. 

And so then I started walking, and then planning the marathon I was going to do next spring. 

Classic over-doer. 

The conundrum is this: in my thinking I just get to the marathon finish line- woooooo woooooo and it's almost like.....magic? I don't really think through all the actual work and thought that would go into it. I want it and so therefore it should just BE. Huh.

But then, oh. There is that actual work, and the running and planning and not getting hurt again-ing. There is the doing.

This was why I couldn't seem to get myself sober. I wanted to be it, but I didn't want to do it. 


This is one of my hugest biggest hurdles- am I just lazy? Deluded? A magician? 

It's good to know these quirks and qualities of oneself so that then you can put on the reflective safety vest and direct yourself around them. Like this: "Hey, I'm walking! I feel good. Great! I should train for a....WOMP WOMP slow here..... move over into the reality lane please....." Or: "Hey! I had one drink, and it was fine! Maybe another would be.....BOOOP BOOOP reality lane please....." 

And then there you are, all reflective and thinking about reality and then things don't go out of hand wonky but keep on moving along smoothly-ish and you aren't limping or hungover.

Perhaps we are all magicians, but in sobriety we become masters of different illusions. When we were/are drinking we are brilliant at the I Feel Great Not Hungover at All/ This many Drinks is Totally Fine/I'm Quitting Tomorrow illusions. In sobriety we have to master the illusions of reality, until they aren't even illusions anymore. And only one of those tricks really works. 

Life is good y'all.