Friday, April 29, 2022

Grown Up


Turning 10 years old was a very big deal to me. My age had TWO numbers and I was officially on the way to being a grown up- the magical thing I wanted more than anything else in the world. My little girl heart desperately longed for the grown up-ness of life to begin. I thought if I was a grown up I would securely fit in, fit most somewheres, that several if not all someones would understand me. That what made me hard to understand was the child part of me, which at 10 years old was most of me. That I would be credible, lovable, and believable if I was a grown up. 

When I quit drinking I wanted to be a person who was a grown up sober person. I didn't want to be a beginner-a sobriety child- I wanted the convincing distance that age of doing a thing for a long time gives you. It was a sense of security, of being able to be believed. Just like wanting to be a grown up as a child, I imagined long term sobriety/recovery would give me the credibility I longed for. That people wouldn't be smiling with goodwill upon hearing I quit drinking and also hiding behind their back the fan of skepticism cultivated from seeing too many people say one thing and do another. 

The interesting thing about quitting the thing that stunts your growth and keeps you from your dream is that it forces you to grow in a whole other ways besides up. My freedom from alcohol now, living my 10th year, seems like such a small step that was also the biggest thing I've ever done for myself. It was a first step, a footfall. A choice. I thought the biggest thing was the quitting, but really it's all the daily things that happen after that that are the big things. 

When I think about the morning I quit, I still cry. It feels so close, the kids innocently small, me a sick sack pinned to the bed so hungover I couldn't speak or move. The slats on the closet door. The love I found for myself that morning, that I dug down and found my worth, my heart. I didn't know that I did that until now. Then I just thought I was miserable, on my last ditch, and if I didn't quit I would lose my children's love and respect, that as soon as they grew up they would get as far away from me as they could. I had to quit or lose them- that was the choice I made then. I could slowly kill myself but I just could not kill their childhoods. 

The boys were 7 and 4 when I quit. They're 17 and 13 now. They are bigger and beautiful, we have solid close loving relationships and both of them thanked me for being there for them in the birthday cards they each made for me. I have wept a bit every day since with gratitude for who we are together. The scariest thing I imagine is how different their lives would be had I drank for the last 10 years. What their lives would be like today if I was still a blackout drinker. How big my mountain of shame would be. Would I still be alive? Would I be alive but dead to them?

I thought drinking made me a grown up. I thought getting drunk was a sign of sophistication. I learned getting drunk made me forget my pain. I didn't know. I didn't know. 

But my children know. I have been open and age appropriately honest with them and we talk about my drinking and why I did it and what they remember about it and what they think about them drinking or using drugs themselves. I am incredibly proud of how quitting drinking makes me the mom I always wanted to be. Present. Loving. Honest. Patient. Supportive. My children love me. We love each other. 

I am also incredibly proud of how quitting drinking makes me the grown up I have always wanted to be. Present. Loving. Honest. Patient. Supportive. I love myself. 

Now I think being a grown up means you learn that there's a lot more to things than you thought. Yes, I did quit for them. What I've learned is that I also quit for myself. As I've reflected on these past 10 sober birthdays and the years that go along with them I am pleased to realize that along the way I found the love I have for my children for myself. There is both. 

That by being their grown up, I also became my own. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022



This morning I woke up and finished watching Broadchurch. I canceled my Saturday clients because my voice is still gone. 

A dear friend suggested fresh ginger tea. I gather the things together- the little knife I got at the thrift store, the pretty stars and animals saucer, part of an espresso set from when I worked at a restaurant called Upstream when I first moved to Charleston when I was 30 years old, which is now 20 years ago. I got that espresso set because the cup was chipped and cracked and it was going to get thrown out. Where's the cup? I’m not sure, it was around for a long time but things like that get lost in moves or suddenly seem like garbage since they're chipped and I maybe threw it away. I can’t remember. 

It made me think about how hungover I was then, at 30, a lot of the time. A lot of my life. Being hungover, feeling bad- it’s just not part of my life anymore, it's been gone for so long. That I did that to myself, dragged myself through my days like that, had babies like that…oh, oh. How it makes my heart ache. 

When I look at this scene: my own little house, the pretty things I have, behind the lovely cup my mom gave me last Christmas because it’s deep blue and has nature and owls on it and she knew I'd like it, the good loose leaf tea in the beautiful blue jars that belonged to my great grandmother. Was I always this loved? 

It’s strange to realize how much I suffered at my own hand. Is this a stage of recovery/sobriety? What would I call it? Realization? I’m winding my way to 10 years this year. TEN. YEARS. WITHOUT. DRINKING. Me. 

How did I do it? Go to work, live? Feeling so shitty? And how did I decide to do it over and over again, not caring about the me on the other side of getting drunk, drunk, blackout drunk? It makes me proud of my determination in a strange way- that I was so driven to show up even when inside I was suffering so so much- physically from the effects of so much alcohol, mentally from so much else. 


This morning I woke up, made coffee. I did my little morning routine- while my moka pot heats up the coffee I unload the dishwasher and make my bed. I empty the litter box. I check my email and social media while I drink my first coffee and poop. I sit at my round dining room table, the one where I sat with my beloved grandmother as a little long haired girl, drinking sweet milky coffee. I read my book.  

I didn't used to be able to drink coffee when I drank alcohol. The anxiety and edginess it produced was so overwhelming- when I think of it now I know it just made the voice of something is really wrong here unbearably LOUD. I would get so shaky and nervous and uncomfortable that I just became a person who could not drink coffee instead of a person who could not drink alcohol. 

Now, my morning coffee gives me a sense of accomplishment- I can drink some coffee and be okay in the world. I don't know why it's these little things- these every day little things that make me feel the most like I found my way. These little things like coffee, making my bed every day. Washing my face and brushing my teeth at night. My patience and not taking things personally with my children, who are now both lovely teenagers. I don't just care about myself, I care for myself. 

Being sick this past week has been a bit of a chore and a light bulb in my head. It has taken me a lot of reality checks and presence to remember that being sick people aren't bad people. I made myself sick drinking for so many years and then had to deal with those consequences like nothing was happening. Like I was fine. Years of pretending you feel fine when you actually feel like you're dragged out dying makes it weird to be actually sick, or hurting- like I'm faking this cold, or I went and did this to myself on purpose. Like it's my fault. Like there's blame to be tossed around and I will throw it and catch it and hold it tight because that's what you do when you drink a lot to cope. 

I am really proud of myself. It seems like such a small thing: take sweet tender care of yourself when you're sick. For me, my work continues to be showing up in the world with the truth in my outstretched hands. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

How to be Sick


Does it seem like I'm always at the doctor? Here's another selfie, this one from urgent care on Monday when I had what felt like strep throat. My hair looks lovely but I feel like total shit. 

I felt pretty worn out on Sunday, I took an at home Covid test and it was negative so I kept the walking date I had that morning. By Sunday afternoon I felt exhausted, heavy. Rest I thought. I just need a good night's sleep. 

I woke up Monday morning and it was clear I was sick. I had several things to do on Monday- clients, a meeting for a class I'm taking, and not just clients, one of the appointments a brand new client who was considering working with me. OH NO I thought. How can I make all these things happen? How can I just get through it?

Then, the sweet moment of realization that I did not have to make anything happen. I was sick. It is normal to be sick. It is normal to cancel everything when you are sick. Relief, then dread, thick dread. It felt wrong, and weird to think that way. What would my clients think? What about the brand new person? What a terrible impression to have to reschedule our first meeting. What about my classmates? They'll think I don't care. 

I had the out of body experience I have when I understand that my training is at work and I am living in my habit instead of being in the moment. I become two people: the old me, the one who thinks people judge you for canceling and it destroys your credibility and I am not really that sick, I am just lazy and dumb and careless. Ouch. Then the this me, the 50 year old who has been in recovery for almost 10 years and therapy for 7 years and working so hard to know what's real me gently comes in. She knows not to rush, or be loud. She mothers me, tenderly. This me knows what's real. 

I have to break it down into the most basic of basics in actual conversation with myself because I am still young in my practice of this kind of knowing about things. Wait Amy, 50 year old me says, without force or agenda. You are sick. You can feel it. You know what you're talking about. What would you tell someone else or your clients? Tell yourself that too. Now, what would you say? 

I answer myself, shyly. I would say if you're sick you take care of yourself. That being sick is not a character failing, but something that happens to everyone. That people are understanding. That if they aren't understanding those aren't your people. That to be in my integrity I cancel everything. I go to the doctor to make sure I don't have strep. And then I go to bed until I'm well. Old me and 50 year old me look each other in the eye. Together we open my email, we text clients to reschedule. No one is mad, or disappointed- they know who I am. We make the doctor appointment. Together. 

Often I am so angry at the part of me that kept me drinking and numb for so long. The part that made me work when I was actually sick, that never let me see how bad things were. TWENTY SEVEN YEARS!!! I want to scream at that part, over and over. I want to be so angry at it, to burn it down, to shame it and hurt it and reject it and ask it how on earth could you be so fucking foolish while I'm standing there close in so it can see the anguish of what it's done. 

It knows. She knows. I know. 

I am to the point where I am starting to feel my feelings and recognize my true feeling. I don't know how to say it better than plain like that. When you master numbing out for the majority of your life there are fathoms and trenches to tirelessly swim through before you feel the tiny jolt of aliveness that matches what you're truly actually really feeling. Oh, I will think. I FEEL MAD. Oh. 

It seems like such a simple thing: to be sick. And then to take the normal steps that you take when you are sick, that are new steps to me. What a glorious moment! To recognize myself and to openly care for myself in front of people. It feels monumental.