Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Care

The word care has many meanings, and today I am feeling them all.

Noun
1. A burdened state of mind, as that arising from heavy responsibilities: Work, which keeps piling more and more responsibilities on me.

2. Mental suffering: My alcoholic mind strolling hand in hand with my clinical depression.

3. An object or source of worry, attention, or solicitude: My children, one who is struggling with mental illness, the other who is struggling with a changing body and all the mental, physical, and hormonal anguish that brings with it.

4. Caution in avoiding harm or danger: My marriage, which is so fragile that one good blow could shatter it, so instead I walk on eggshells and keep everything bottled up inside.

5.
a. Close attention; painstaking application:
b. Upkeep; maintenance: My sobriety, maintained through meetings and sometimes by the skin of my teeth.

Verb
1. To be concerned or interested: The girls in my Girl Scout troop, my friends, my family.

2. To provide needed assistance or watchful supervision: Again, my troop, who I care for, even though at this point I resent it very much.

3. To object or mind: The crappy people and parents I have to deal with on a daily basis, the ones who I try not to care about their actions, but I can't help but get worked up over them.

4.
a. To have a liking or attachment:
b. To have a wish; be inclined: The things I would care to do: sew, sing, attend services, play with my kids. Right now I'm only managing to do one of those 4.

5. To be concerned to the degree of: For the most part, I don't care what people think of me. I don't care if I'm being a bitch to people. I don't care if people like me or not. Not in a healthy, 'what other people think of me is none of my business' way, but in a 'screw the whole world' kind of way.


Care is a big issue for me right now. I don't care what people think, and I don't care how I treat people, for the most part anyway. I'm TIRED. I don't want to do what I do anymore. I'm angry. I'm overburdened at work and seriously, extremely under paid. I'm overburdened at home, there is just too much to do for one woman to take care of it all. I resent my commitments, and I resent the people I have to deal with in the course of meeting those commitments. I'm numb. A few weeks ago I felt like a bomb about to explode and I was barely keeping all the crazy in. Now I feel dead. Which is worse? I know I need to open myself up and let myself feel again, but I'm scared so I tell myself I don't have the time. In small moments I fear that I am so busy that I'm missing out on my life. I'm going to wake up one day and find that I'm 50 and I'm all alone, with nothing but broken relationships and resentments on all sides to show for my years of running from one thing to the next. I need to take care of myself, I need to let myself care before it's too late.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Congratulations!

Congratulations to Jenine of Snarkyville on winning the Gratitude Bracelet by Ellie! Thank you everyone who participated.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Expectations

Warning: this post is all over the place and more of a run-on ramble than a coherent post. You'll understand why by the end, if you bear with me.

Tonight I wrote a friend in recovery this text: "I am so f'ing sick of catering to other people's expectations!" You see I am really, horribly, sick right now, the kind of sick you only get once or twice a year. It started out as strep throat but because I didn't take any time to recover it's now progressed to my lungs and sinuses. I didn't take any time to recover because I felt I was needed: at work, to run my kid's to their activities, to lead a Girl Scout meeting, and to prepare for my parents arrival for a visit this Friday. I ran myself into the ground doing all of these things I felt I was 'expected' to do, and now I'm paying the price.

Earlier tonight I talked to my dad and told him I am 'sick as all get out' and that I would probably have to take tomorrow off to recover, which means I can't take Friday off to clean for their visit as planned. I warned him not to expect a shiny, organized house and he grumbled. We talked about their visit and it's clear that his expectations far exceed what I am capable of providing. After our talk, I dragged myself off the couch I had collapsed onto just 15 minutes or so before in order to make dinner for the family. I decided that I wasn't up to more than chicken nuggets and french fries and headed down to the basement deep freezer to grab them. When I walked into the basement, there I found my husband, in his robe, asleep on the couch. He had taken the day off and not even told me. Mildly put, I lost it. I yelled at him to get up, told him since he slept all day he could now feed, medicate, supervise and bathe the kids. I handed him the packages of frozen food and went to bed. But instead of sleeping I stewed.

I feel so put upon, by so many people. I am over-extended, over-worked, and overwrought. But the sober voice in my head is reminding me that I bring this all upon myself. I make the choices to do what I do, I can't blame other people my actions. And all these expectations that I feel I can't live up to, who is really putting them on me? In some cases, like with my parents, it's true that they hold me (and everyone) to a very high standard, but in others it's all me, it's all in my head. Would the Girl Scouts have cared if I had handed the meeting off to someone else? No. Would work have cared if I had stayed home a day or two? Not really. I want to stop catering to other people's expectations, but first I have to stop catering to MINE. I have to let myself breathe. It's scary, because this is how I treated myself in my drinking days. I was so hard on myself! I thought I'd gotten over that, but old habits die hard I guess. I need some of that serenity, some of that wisdom, that came in the first months of sobriety when everything was rosy. Mostly I need to forgive myself for not being perfect.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Giveaway!

***Congratulations to Jenine of Snarkyville on winning the Gratitude Bracelet by Ellie! Thank you everyone who participated.***


There are many people who have helped me to stay sober over the last year. Many of these people I have never even met 'in real life', yet I consider them friends none-the-less. One of these fantastic women is Ellie from One Crafty Mother. I can't remember how I found Ellie's blog, but once I did I was hooked. Her stories of addiction and recovery are so shockingly similar to mine. It was through her posts and those of other mommy bloggers like her that I found out that I am not alone. I am not the only suburban, middle class, married, 'perfect' mom with this disease. In reading about her past, I was able to forgive myself for mine. In reading about her present, I am able to find the grace and strength to continue in my sobriety journey. I am so grateful for the gifts she has given me with her words, and now I have a chance to share that gift with you. I am hosting a giveaway of this beautiful bracelet made by Ellie.



The contest will run until October, 15th, when I will pick a winner using random.org. There are several ways to enter:

1) Leave a comment with your email address below to let me know you'd like to be entered into the contest (use ________AT_________DOT com to fool the spam bots); or email me at drunkendamage AT gmail DOT com if you prefer.

2) Follow me using Google Friend Connect in the upper right hand corner of my blog, then leave a comment to let me know that you did so.

3) Follow Ellie at One Crafty Mother then leave a comment here to let me know that you did so.

4) Follow Ellie on Twitter; @onecraftyellie then leave me a comment to let me know you did so.

5) Like Ellie's Facebook page One Crafty Mother and leave me a comment that you did.

6) Go to the shop Shining Stones and leave a separate comment for every piece you like, with the name of the piece or a link back to it in the shop.

For every comment you leave you get another entry into the contest, just make sure you don't nest comments or they won't get counted. In addition, you can get a discount on any piece in Ellie's shop for the duration of the contest. To take advantage of the 15% discount, go to Ellie's shop here: www.shiningstones.etsy.com and select your item(s). At checkout, click on "other" for method of payment, and put the following promotional code in the message to seller: GIVEAWAY15. You will get a message saying "contact seller to arrange payment", but Ellie will contact you to set up a direct bill (at the discounted rate) via paypal, check or money order.

I'll announce the winner on October 15th. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just One

Life has been high maintenance lately. We've had a long-term guest, done lots of traveling, and been gearing up for back to school and the High Holidays for about a month now. There are layoffs happening at my workplace (I think I'm safe, for now) and my relationship with my husband has been strained, to say the least. I'm frazzled and not taking good care of myself, my health, or my sobriety.

This past weekend the family plus guest were on a mini-vacation to a big city that we've never been to before. It was beautiful and all the children had a wonderful time and so did I, kind-of. But it was stressful. Traveling 5 hours with 5 people in a small car, spending a fortune in the city on sight-seeing, navigating busy streets packed with people and cars and no parking to be found would be enough to stress anybody out! Then there was my husband, he spent the majority of our one full day there being distant and pissy. He wouldn't talk to me and he radiated anger and frustration all day. Clearly he was trying not to say anything to upset me or ruin our trip, but the negativity pouring out of him was enough to make what could have been a magical day mediocre, and that was enough to get my resentment boiling!

At the end of the day the 5 of us made our way back to the neighboring suburb where our hotel was. After a short rest for mom (I literally fell on the bed and passed out for 30 minutes) we walked across the street to a recommended restaurant. As we sat and waited on our food and my husband sipped his beer I decided to order myself a non-alcoholic beer or virgin cocktail. I don't drink them often, but on occasion I enjoy one and this evening I needed to treat myself a little. As I glanced over the drink menu, looking for something without alcohol my eyes fell to the wine card and that devil of a thought popped into my head, "I could have just one glass of wine. After all, I've been sober one year now, what harm could one glass of wine, just this one time do?" I could taste a nice glass of Merlot, sliding down my throat, warming my stomach and brain. It seemed so harmless, one single glass on one night out far from home. I entertained the thought only for a moment or two before ordering a non-alcoholic beer, but it seemed like so much longer. Then I thought through the drink to it's consequences: I'd have to start my sobriety count over again, throwing away one whole year. I'd have to explain myself to my sponsor and my AA family. I'd have to deal with my husband's disapproval. Worst of all, I'd be putting myself right back where I was a little over a year ago, with wine running my life. Because it never is just one.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Loss & Faith

Last night I attended a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service at my synagogue. It was led by a group of teens and they were amazing. I've never see that many teenagers smiling at once! They were lit up with joy in praise. It was truly beautiful. I kept thinking one word: Home. For the first time in my life, with this congration I have found a place of loving kindness, acceptance and joy.

This morning, I learned of the death of a woman in my home group to cancer. A woman I didn't know well, but who always inspired me with her light, love, and hope. Her husband, who is also in the program, attended the meeting despite having just said good-bye to his wife hours before. As he put it, 'At a time like this you want to be with family, and this is my family. She would have wanted me to come.' I thought of my own loved ones. Would I be at a meeting on the day of their loss? I like to think I would. When I first got sober, I had an out: I thought that if I ever lost either of my children that would be my excuse to drink myself to death. Later, I came to understand that to drink again over their death would be to dishonor their memory. They would not want me to give up my life and my sobriety because of them.


At my table this morning the topic was faith. People talked about how their Higher Power saved their lives, how He( or She, or It) kept them safe through their drinking. Personally, I can't believe that God has saved me. To summarize something that Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winning laureate and Holocaust survivor has said; I can't believe that God save me, because to believe that would be to hold my life as more worth of saving than the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. My life is no more worthy than theirs or any others.

They also talked about the line from Acceptance: "Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake", and how having faith that things happen for a reason carries them through. Again, I can't believe that God wants everything that happens to happen. To reconcile this with the loving God that I do believe in I turn to free will. God did not kill those 6 million Jews, Nazi's did. Nazi's - humans - who chose very, very wrong. I think God mourned their choices, the loss of their souls to such depravity and evil just as he mourned the massacre of the Jewish people.

So where am I going with all this? The loss of any life is a terrible thing. It can drag us down, or it can inspire us to lift ourselves up. This morning, I mourned along with a man honoring his wife and her life in the best way he could. Last night I praised God with joy along with a people who survived one of the most atrocious acts of mankind in history. In both places, I found joy, gratitude, and love. Perhaps it is because we have seen the darkest of the dark that recovering alcoholics and Jews are capable of such great light. Perhaps it is because we have faith. Whatever the reason, I am so grateful to have all of these people in my life.

Friday, August 27, 2010

How'd you do it?

August 13th was my one year sobriety birthday. After I received my token at my favorite meeting, surrounded by friends and 'family' and led the table discussion, I was asked the usual question, 'How'd you do it?' My answer was something like this.


I believe I was an alcoholic/addict from the moment I took my first drink/toke. Even though my friends started 'partying' years before I did, I was the one who always pushed for more. Every new drug we tried I was the one wanting to do it again (and again, and again). Within a year of smoking my first joint, I had tried at least 7 other types of drugs. By my senior year I was a meth head. I weighed about 90 lbs, never slept, never ate, and was a major bitch who liked to freak out on my friends. That my parents never noticed any of this still baffles me. Although they must have suspected something, because after high school they shipped me off halfway across the country to college to get me away from my friends. It got me off the meth (thank God) but it introduced me to a new love; alcohol.

College was for drinking and I drank hard. At first it was just a way of having fun, then at a frat party my freshman year, while drunk, I was raped. Probably that experience would cause anyone who wasn't an alcoholic to never drink again, but for me it was an excuse to spend the next two years completely plastered. Not only did I drink and smoke 24/7, but I developed a lot of other habits to hurt myself with. I felt I didn't deserve to be treated well. I felt like a piece of garbage, and I let everyone around me treat me as such.

My last two years of college I did a little better. I met a great guy, I got involved in my campus Women's group. I had a few healthy behaviors to balance out the unhealthy ones, but I still drank. In secret often, to hide it from that great guy, and not as much as before, but it was still my love. When I was sad, angry, depressed, annoyed, tired, happy, celebrating, bored, I drank.

After college I ran away to another country. I was looking for a new life, an adventure, a new me really. Instead I found the lowest point of my life. For 2.5 years solid I drank to excesses I'd never seen before. I put myself into situations time and again where I really should have died. I think now that maybe I did want to die, maybe that's part of why I did the stupid things I did. Still, the things I did during this time of my life shame me to the core. That shame was all I knew for a very long time. It contaminated all my feelings, all my thoughts and all my actions. And it kept me drinking.

At the end of this period I found myself pregnant. I quit smoking, and I reduced my alcohol intake, but I still had a glass of wine a day. Hey, I was in Europe, a glass of wine was no big deal! Even when pregnant. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. Once my baby was born (healthy, thank God) my drinking escalated again. I spent the next 8 years (and second pregnancy) cycling through binge drinking and daily drinking. But no matter how much I drank, the shame was always with me. I felt like such a failure as a mother. I was so miserable in my life. I saw darkness and despair all around me all the time, and the only way I could be pleasant, the only way I could laugh or play with my children, was to have a buzz on. But I knew it was all a facade.

As time went on I became active in my children's lives and schools. I led Girl Scouts, I went to PTA meetings, I did fundraisers and taught Sunday school and had a million play dates. And I hated myself. I did everything wrong, I could never, ever achieve to the level that I thought I needed to. I was never smart enough, thin enough, pretty enough, strong enough, funny enough, kind enough. I was a failure not only as a mom but as a wife, daughter, granddaughter, friend, teacher, employee, volunteer. To forget about all my failures I drank. And yet I hated that I drank. I have no idea how many times I woke up in the night, feeling sick, hating myself for having drank so much the night before, and telling myself 'never again'. At least three times a week, usually more, for 10+ years? That's over 1500 nights, over 1500 promises broken. Far over I'm sure. I knew I was an alcoholic, but I didn't want to admit it. My grandfather was an alcoholic, and he was an abusive child rapist. I didn't want to have anything in common with him. Besides, if I was an alcoholic I'd have to quit drinking forever and I definitely didn't want that!

Then a little over a year ago I succeeded in making a complete idiot of myself in front of my husband, my children, my best friend and her family after drinking 1.5 bottles of wine on a camping trip. The next morning I finally said out loud that I had a problem. I told my husband that as soon as I took even one small sip of alcohol I lost all control. It didn't matter what my intentions were before that sip, they all flew out the window and all I knew was a giant craving for more, more, more! I agreed that morning to try AA when we got home. But when we got home I kept drinking. A few weeks later my husband brought it up again, and with a few glasses of liquid courage I called the hotline. I went to my first meeting the next night, and my life changed.

At the first meeting I sat with a bunch of men and 1 woman. As the men told their stories of jail, DUIs, lost wives and children I thought 'I'm not that bad'. I said so. I talked about how I wanted to drink like a normal person, that's all. Oh yeah, and be perfect. And then the other woman spoke about how she wasn't that bad either. She never got into trouble. Yet she was a whole lot worse, because she was a mom, because her drinking was ruining her children's lives by taking her away from them, nearly permanently. That night she gave me a poem about loving myself, and she gave me a Big Book. That night she saved my life.

I'd like to say I never had another drink after that night, but it's not true. The next night, as I sat and read the Big Book, seeing myself in every page, I drank my last glass of wine. My husband drank with me, telling me how I just needed to learn to drink responsibly, that I didn't have to live without alcohol forever. I knew he was wrong.

The next days, weeks and months were some of the hardest in my life, yet looking back on them they seem to be some of the easiest, because there are no bad memories, no shame or guilt associated with them. I had awful, horrible cravings. I hung on with my fingernails most days. I ate a TON of ice cream, and I read a lot. I went to lots of meetings, and I read lots of fabulous blogs like Ellie's One Crafty Mother and Stephanie's Baby on Bored. I joined the Booze Free Brigade and learned about the thousands, probably millions of other moms who are JUST LIKE ME who are also alcoholics and read some of their stories on Crying Out Now.

On the worst days, I walked through my house literally chanting, 'one foot in front of the other. Just take one step, do the next thing that needs to be done, you'll get through the day eventually.' I said the Serenity Prayer over and over again, and the Lord's Prayer too. I learned new prayers, I learned how to talk to God, and I learned how to turn my problems, fears and frustrations over to him. I learned that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be human, and I don't have to care what other people think of me. And somehow, after 365 days of thinking, praying, and taking one step at a time I found myself receiving my 1 year token from a friend, surrounded by surrogate uncles and brothers, my adoptive grandpa, and two other moms at the start of their journey who I already care more about than I can say.

As my sponsor says, 'I am so thankful to be sober by the Grace of God and the 12 steps of AA'. That's how I did it, and how I continue to stay sober.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Yikes-a-roni!

Wow, it's been about 3 weeks since I last posted, yikes and sorry! I'm sad to say that my work blocked my access to any URL with from blogger, wordpress etc. I guess all those hours of reading other people's blogs and posting to mine caught up with me. I am sure there is a lesson in this... but let's save that for another day.

So I can't post from work anymore, and life outside of work has been ca-razy! My daughter's school has had events every day for the last week. My youngest just celebrated a birthday, which is a lot more work to get ready for than anyone would think, and the Girl Scout year is wrapping up with several events still to plan. So please forgive me that I haven't found time for you, my bloggy friends!

I wrote the below post at work about a week ago, thinking I would post it once I got home. And it's sat in my inbox ever since. Sorry. What was that thing about alcoholics and procrastination again? Anyway, it's still relevant, so better late than never, right?

Sorry I’ve been absent. The thing is, I haven’t really had anything to say. I try to think of blog topics but none of my ideas have any flesh or body to them. This blog is about drinking, and alcoholism, and recovery, and sobriety, but I haven’t been able to think of anything to say on those topics. Then it hit me just now, the reason I can’t think of anything to write about those topics is I haven’t been thinking about those topics at all. I haven’t been praying (much), haven’t been going to meetings, haven’t been reading or talking to my sponsor. Does anyone else here the robot’s voice from ‘Lost in Space’… “Danger, Will Robinson!”?

I know when I neglect my sobriety work I am putting my sobriety in danger. I am setting myself up for a ‘slip’. And it’s true; the lure of the bottle has been stronger lately. I’m not to the point where I think that it would be a good idea to take a drink, but I find myself thinking fondly about that nice glass of Merlot far more often than usual. I tell myself that since I am aware of all this that I’m okay, but am I really?

I have good enough reasons for neglecting my sobriety work. I am busy! (Duh, I am a mom, which is the definition of busy!) My youngest has a birthday coming up and I intend to make her some doll clothes, although drawing the designs is as far as I’ve gotten. I am making a costume for my eldest’s school wax museum (what did they wear post Civil War anyway?). My husband wants me to spend more time with him, something I continue to fail at. The Girl Scout year is wrapping up and I have field trips, meetings and ceremonies to organize. Work, you know the one that pays me, has been demanding more of my time. In a nutshell, I’m swamped. And the first thing to go is my meetings, my serenity, and my acceptance. I turn into this whirling dervish of stress and GET IT DONE!-ness. Frankly, I become something of a bitch.

So what to do? Well for one I think I need to chill the fuck out. Maybe buy my daughter a present instead of making them. Maybe drop some of those events I think I *should* do. Take a moment to breathe, to sit in silence, to say a prayer, to go to a meeting. Remember all the things I have that I am grateful for and accept all the things I’d rather not have, thank-you-very-much.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Remembering: Cinderella

Yesterday at my favorite meeting we were discussing the first step. I haven't sat at a first step table in a long time, and as people shared their drunk-a-logs I realized that I've been forgetting the damage I did while drinking, forgetting the awful ways I felt. I realized that I've been taking my sobriety for granted, and as long as I take it for granted I can't be secure in it. In other words, taking my sobriety for granted is the first step down that slippery slope to relapse, and I remember enough to know that I don't want to go there. So I decided that I need to consciously remember some of the worse incidents, so as not to repeat them. Ellie over at One Crafty Mother does this, and her stories are always a great inspiration to me. Now it's my turn.

"Cinderella dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss a fella..." the girls are chanting this little ditty I've taught them in anticipation of our big movie night. Janet* is five and Janie* is two. My husband is gone for the evening, where I don't remember, and we are planning a girl's night. I'm excited, I'm making popcorn, a rare treat in our home, and I've purchased Cinderella 3 on DVD. We've been waiting for this movie to come out for months, maybe a year, and it's finally available. I of course am celebrating with some wine. There's a half bottle of red in the kitchen, more than enough for an evening alone with my two small children. I have a quick glass while making the popcorn, and then pour another and we settle in for the movie.

Somehow, the movie night is not going according to my expectations. Janie is bored, she wanders off to play. Or maybe she is nagging me to play with her, again, the memories are hazy. To settle my nerves I have another glass of wine. The bottle is empty now, and I want more. I don't think I have a problem. I am not a drunk. I just want one more glass. But if I open another bottle, my husband will know and despite justifying to myself that one more glass is no big deal there is clearly a part of myself that knows that it IS because I don't want him to know. So I get the idea to open another bottle and drink it down to the same line that the first bottle was at. I'll hide the first, empty bottle and my husband will think that I didn't have anything to drink at all. Brilliant! But something goes wrong. As the level in the bottle gets lower I start to feel sick. I'm stumbling around, slurring my words. I've completely forgotten about my kids, the movie, everything except the level in that bottle. I have to force the last glass down, I'm that drunk. I don't want any more, but I have to get the bottle to half full and it never, ever would occur to me to dump it out. That would be wasteful!

I don't remember the ending of the movie, or if we even watched the end. Somehow I manage to get my kids upstairs and into my bed. I don't know if we put on pajamas, or if we brushed teeth. We probably did, since I do remember trying to read a book to them, and if I was coherent enough to read a book I probably had them brush teeth, right? Except I wasn't coherent, I was slurring my words like mad. The pages were fading in and out, the print just a blur. I was fighting unconsciousness. The room was going black. I think it was only 8pm. I quit reading and told my kids mommy was 'sick.' Then I passed out.

I don't know if my kids went straight to sleep, or if they stayed awake, talking over their drunken, unconscious mother. I don't know if they felt afraid, all alone in that big house with no one to take care of them. I doubt they knew the danger they would have been in if something had happened, a fire, a burglary, a medical emergency.

I don't remember my husband coming home, but I can only imagine how it looked to him. His wife, sprawled on the bed, passed out, reeking of wine. His two innocent children beside her, sleeping (or perhaps not). Did he try to wake me, to talk to me? Did I slur my words? Did I try to justify myself? Or did he just shake his head and go, wondering why I keep doing this?

At some point I did wake, that point where I was sober enough to face the full horror of what I had done, and sick enough to want to die. Red wine was hard on my stomach (which is why I later switched to white) and I spent several hours not able to sleep from the waves of nausea and repeated runs to the bathroom to puke my guts out. What excuse did I give? Food poisoning? The flu? Did anyone ever believe that I was 'sick' that often? Somehow, I made it to morning. Somehow, I always seemed to finally sleep around 6am or so, and woke up feeling better albeit totally hungover. I looked around at the devastation I had caused, and swore to myself 'never again'. But it was just one of the million times I had said that, and there would be another million before I finally quit for good three years later.

Friday, April 23, 2010

An Exercise in Understanding Myself

Forgive me if this blog post isn't a clear story with a beginning and end. My sponsor has asked me to do a sort of self-help exercise, and this seems like as good a place to do it as any! Hopefully, whatever comes out of it will be helpful to more than just me.

A brief outline of the situation: I'm a Girl Scout leader. Cookie sales ended about a month ago. One mother decided not to pay the $840 she owes the troop for the cookies she sold. This, as you can imagine, has been an extremely upsetting situation. She claims that she only sold half the products, and that the money for the other half was stolen. However I have it on good authority that she sold everything and was living off the money. I can only conclude that she never intended to pay the troop. That she saw this golden opportunity to make some cash and took it. Now she is trying to shift the blame to me, by claiming that I am a bad leader, that I am teaching the girls inappropriate materials (because we did a couple of sessions on drug and alcohol awareness) etc. Intellectually I know that she is trying to justify her actions to herself and is most likely looking for an excuse to pull her daughter from our troop, so that she can justify not paying for the cookies. Emotionally, I am mad, frustrated, hurt, offended, and disgusted.

I called my sponsor to ask her how to deal with these emotions because they are getting the best of me. I thought AA would say that I need to find a way to forgive her so that I don't continue to hold this resentment. Well I can't see how to forgive this. I thought AA would tell me to look at my part in the situation, but I honestly can't see where I have done anything wrong in this case. I have remained professional, I have kept my opinions to myself, I have not gossiped, I have continued to treat the child, and as hard as it is for me, the mother, with respect and kindness.

Thankfully, my sponsor didn't tell me either of these things. She asked how I have dealt with the business side of things, the stolen money, and I was able to tell her that I have done everything in my power by turning it over to the authorities. So she said that since I've done all I can there, I can allow myself to let that part go. As for the emotional feelings of being under attack, she said I need to examine my feelings. Why am I hurt by this woman's words? Why, when several parents told me that they appreciated and enjoyed my program, do I focus on her criticism? Is there any validity to what she claims? I believe not. So why let it get under my skin?

I believe it all comes down to the fact that I am a people pleaser. I'm sure a lot of it stems from my childhood, when I was criticized constantly by my parents for never doing anything right. I feared the angry words, the punishments that came with doing anything that my parents didn't like (and this could be something as innocent as reading a book, my dad didn't believe in wasting time reading). I came to associate any kind of conflict or difference of opinion as a situation where I would be yelled at. So I stopped standing up for myself. I hid what I wanted to do and pretended that all was fine, all the time. I actually developed an ulcer from all this stress when I was in high school! High school! Not surprisingly, it went away when I went off to college. But I digress. In this situation, I feel those same old feelings of guilt, depression and stress when confronted with conflict. I want everyone to approve of and like everything I do, and I don't want to deal with any situation where disagreements are bound to occur. But keeping all this stuff in makes me feel like shit.

My sponsor says I need to validate my own actions. I bear no guilt today. I am not drinking. I am present for myself, my children, my husband, my employer and my Girl Scouts. I am a good leader and a good role model. Of course, there will still be people that don't like something I do or say, but that is their problem, not mine. I need to let it be their's. By allowing this woman to get to me I am giving her power over me and she does not deserve that. I can't feel bad about this situation anymore. It's not my fault.

Monday, April 19, 2010

...And it Was Just Right

Most of the time I don’t feel like anything is ‘just right’ in my life. Like Goldilocks, I often find things ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’, ‘too hard’ or ‘too soft.’ It takes a lot for me to accept something as being ‘just right’. I either strive to change things to make them fit my standard of acceptability, or I reject them as being completely unacceptable. On the surface this seems reasonable, after all, had Goldilocks eaten that first bowl of porridge, she would’ve burned her tongue. Had she eaten the second, she would’ve had cold porridge and really, who wants that?

According to the Big Book;

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation---some fact of my life---unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.

In my search for the ‘just right’ I often lose my serenity. I become caught up in the heat or coldness of the ‘wrong’ things. I rage, I rant, I cry, I obsess and I begin to feel that only unhealthy choices can make me feel right again. I read ‘Acceptance’ and while it brings me much comfort I have a very, very hard time with ‘I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment’. Does that mean Goldilocks should have just accepted that she was meant to burn her tongue and eaten that first bowl?

Applying this passage to the story, perhaps the lesson is not that Goldilocks should accept the first thing that came along, whether it fits her or not, rather that she need not become disturbed about the fact that the first bowl was not for her. Perhaps the moral I can take here is that it is alright not to want what presents itself to me first, or second or even third. It’s alright if a person, place, thing or situation doesn’t suit me. I can accept that it isn’t right and move on without becoming so emotionally unhinged. I can happily try the next bowl of porridge, content in the knowledge that while the first bowl wasn’t what I wanted, this next bowl might be. And eventually I will find something that is just right.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Staring at the Blank Page Before You

Here I go, stealing titles from songs again.

I was on my way to pick up my girls from school yesterday when Unwritten came on the radio. I’ve always really like this song, but it’s the first time I actually listened to the lyrics.

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

In my sobriety these words take on meanings so deep that tears began to run down my face. As I pulled up to the school I wiped quickly at my cheeks thinking “shit, just what I need, to be seen crying by all these parents!” Thankfully, I don’t think anybody saw me and I kept it together, but when I got my girls home I looked up the video and lyrics and listened to the song another 3 or 4 times, letting the tears flow.

Staring at the blank page before you - My life in sobriety is one huge blank page. There are no certainties as to what a day will bring. All I know is it’s my responsibility to keep “And then she took that first drink” from being written on the page each day, and hand the pen over to my Higher Power for the rest.

No one else can feel it for you, Only you can let it in – I am the only one who can choose how I should live, the only one who can grant myself sobriety each and every day.

No one else can speak the words on your lips – I have to stand up for me and I have to take care of myself. I have to open up to people. I have to share. I have to speak my words, they are unique and precious and nobody else has them.

Live your life with arms wide open – Maybe this one should have been the title of this post, it’s so important. All I have to do to allow light and love into my life is open myself up to them. I can be happy or sad, free or enslaved, open to possibilities or closed to the world. I just have to choose to be.

Today is where your book begins – Today is all we have, and just for today, I choose life.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Breaking the Habit

Yesterday was one of those days.

The first upset came via email from a person I have to deal with in a non-profit I volunteer for. This person did something really offensive and I’ve been left to deal with it. Despite their attempts to drag me down into the mud with them, I’ve stayed on my moral high ground and refused to engage at that level. I’ve managed to stay professional with them face-to-face, but behind the scenes I’ve been ranting to anyone who would listen about how much I dislike and distrust this person. This tendency to talk about people behind their backs is one I really dislike in myself, and I need to work on it, but it’s not what really disturbed me about the exchange. What I am really mad at myself about is that after we exchanged a few civil emails I actually made a joke. As if I liked this person. As if I had forgiven. As if everything was okay. And it’s not okay.

Later on I was talking to my parents on the phone. My sister is going through a rough time in her marriage and my parents are really worried about her and her kids. Her husband, to put it mildly, is a total douche bag. At one point it was just my mom on the phone and she said something like, “I know Suzie and Bobby will be fine even though their dad is a jerk. You and your sister grew up with one really great parent (meaning herself) and one so-so parent (meaning my dad) and you turned out just fine.” WHOA. Talk about living in a fairy tale mom. My mom was the ultimate absentee parent. Even when she was physically present she was mentally off somewhere else. She never played with us, never talked to us, never showed concern for us when we were little. And she thinks she was really great?! But did I say anything? Nooooo. I just blathered on about “acceptance” and “not being able to change other people”. My feelings of anger, disbelief, and resentment which rose up on hearing those words were stuffed back down inside of me. To be bottled up, ignored, and forgotten if possible. And that’s when I realized that my old, insidious habit of not dealing was still alive and well.


I used to avoid dealing with my feelings by drinking. Now I avoid them by using the teachings of AA. Someone hurts my feelings? Accept it, look at my part of it, and let it go. Someone pisses me off? Tell myself I can’t change them so there is no point in confronting them about it. I’m still hiding, still stuffing, still avoiding, just in another way. And that’s not how the program is supposed to work. As my sponsor once said “Just because you accept someone as they are doesn’t mean you have to be their doormat.” I need to learn to speak up when I hear, see, or feel something wrong. I need to be my own best defense. I need to stand up for me. I can still strive for acceptance and serenity, but I shouldn’t substitute them for dealing with life.


This is all hard for me, because I. DON’T. DEAL. That’s why I’m an alcoholic! I hate confrontation, even when I am in the right. I hate loud voices, angry words, criticisms, blame, shame, and all the rest that in my mind are a given in conflict of opinion. I hate conflict, period! I’d much rather shut my mouth and stew in silence than dare risk any of that. But if I am going to truly recover I have to do it. I have to break the habit of silence.


Today is my 8 month sobriety anniversary. To celebrate I give you one of my favorite songs: “Breaking the Habit” by Linkin Park. You’re welcome.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Because Sobriety Isn't Always Rainbows and Unicorns

There's a story which is meant to teach kids about the power of hurtful words and actions. The story uses a paper doll, let's call her Rachel. Throughout the day, Rachel has one bad experience after another: her mother yells at her, calls her lazy. Her teacher criticizes her, her friends tease her and call her names. With each hurtful word or action, the storyteller rips a piece off the paper doll, until she is destroyed. Then Rachel begins to have good experiences. Her friends treat her nicely, and a piece that was ripped off is taped back on. Her teacher praises her art work, her mother apologizes for her temper and harsh words. In the end, Rachel is whole again, but the places she was torn apart are still visible. The storyteller then shares the moral: even when we apologize for hurtful behavior, we can never make things exactly the way they were before. We leave scars.

This story came to my mind this morning after receiving an email from a friend. I just came out to this friend about my alcoholism. She is being wonderfully supportive and I am so thankful for her kindness and care. In this email, she also brought up an incident in which I hurt her. The incident was actually my rock bottom, my impetus into AA. I was on a trip with her, her family and my family. I got really drunk and acted very badly in front of everyone. I was so filled with shame and remorse the next day that I finally admitted out loud, to my husband, that I am powerless over alcohol. A couple of weeks later I went to my first meeting and I've been sober ever since. But that's not the point of this post. The point is that I hurt my friend. I said something, I don't remember what, which caused her pain. Now in my sobriety I can apologize for that hurt and try to make amends, but I can never erase the scars. That makes me very sad, and for the first time in a while I became very angry that I am an alcoholic.

At a meeting this morning the table was talking about gratitude. I realized that instead of focusing on how bad I feel and the hurt I caused, I need to look at this situation from another angle. Yes, I hurt my friend, and no apology can change that. But I can be grateful that through my sobriety I have the chance to apologize. I can be grateful that I do not have to hide from the situation; I can deal with it, head on and work through it. I believe that I can, with work, get my friendship back. Will there be a scar? Probably. Will our friendship be exactly the way it was before I did drunken damage to it? Probably not. But we have a chance we never would have had were I still an active drunk, and for that, I'm grateful.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Different Kind of Drinking Dream

Over those past couple of weeks which were so hard for me I was having a different kind of drinking dream. Normally my drinking dreams are I'm in some kind of social situation and all of a sudden I realize I have a drink in my hand and I am horrified. I feel awful that I have to start my sobriety all over again and admit to my sponsor that I had a drink. During those hard couple of weeks though, my dreams were different. In them I would be actively and consciously drinking. I would realize at some point that I had been drinking 1 or 2 drinks a night for a while, maybe even a few weeks. I knew that my AA peeps and my sponsor would not approve, and I chose not to tell them. I chose to keep it a secret, thinking that my time in AA had taught me enough that I could control my drinking in moderation.

I woke from these dreams terrified they were true. I had to actively think back about what I had done the night before to ensure I hadn't drank. I had to remember the past few weeks before I knew it was just a dream. These dreams bothered me much more than my regular drinking dreams, because of my attitude. I feared they might be a precursor to going out on a binge. As a friend recently said at a meeting, "There is no such thing as a slip. You think the drink before you take it."

As I wrote in my last post about my way of dealing with the situation I'm in, I found myself feeling much better. The act of telling lifted a huge weight off me. I suppose it's similar to the way I feel better after sharing at a meeting. Facing my feelings by speaking them out loud (or typing them out loud as the case may be) frees me of them.

I haven't had one of those dreams all week, but I did have a different kind of drinking dream. I dreamt that my father died. I was at my grandmother's house with my parents and my children, it was Christmas Eve, and he suddenly died. I was screaming and crying and so incredibly sad and my mom just sat there. In this dream, she didn't care that he was dead. As I freaked out I thought to myself, "I don't know what to do with this despair. Maybe I should drink." Then I thought, "No, dad wouldn't have wanted me to throw away my sobriety because of this."

As disturbing as that dream was, I woke feeling glad that I made the right choice in it. No situation, no matter how awful, will ever be made better by a drink.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Checking In

The past couple of weeks have been really hard, and right now there is no end in sight. My husband was in a car accident, and while he’s fine physically the toll of dealing with the totaled car, the insurance, the costs and the disagreements over what to do now was high. Throw in a fight with my dad and a very crazy situation at school which has put me in the uncomfortable roll of debt collector and my nerves are shot. In the past, I would have drown each of these problems with liters of wine. But I can’t, and don’t want to, do that anymore. So how do I deal? With clich├ęs, and pep talks and a whole lot of prayer.

I put myself to sleep at night reciting the Serenity Prayer over and over. I particularly need this version right now:

God,

Grant me the Serenity

To accept the people I cannot change,

The courage to change the one I can,

And the wisdom to know it is me.

I wake up, and the despair hits me before I even roll out of bed. On the way to the bathroom I chant: “One foot in front of the other. Just put one foot in front of the other. Deal with one thing at a time. Don’t think about what comes next, just take care of what is in front of you now.” In the shower I say the Serenity Prayer a few more times (crazy how calming those 4 lines are) and talk to my Higher Power: “God, take my anger. Take my fear, my frustration, my disappointment. Take this situation. I can’t handle it; you can. It’s yours now.”

For the rest of the day I try to focus on the task in front of me. I try to pour all my concentration and thought into putting on my make-up, packing my lunch, driving my car, doing my job. I remind myself over and over that my priorities are: #1 Me. #2 My children. #3 My husband. When I find myself gnawing at my problems like a dog with an old bone I ask myself if I am focusing on my priorities? Is my worrying helping the situation right now? No? Then drop it. Focus on now, this moment. Is anything bad happening right now in this moment that I need to deal with? Nearly always the answer is no. So I tell myself “I can’t change the past, and the future is uncertain, so there is no point worrying about it. Things will happen as they happen, I have no control over them.”

In a way, I am blessed to be an alcoholic. Because my disease led me to AA, and AA is leading me to a way of dealing with life on life’s terms. It’s leading me to peace, serenity, acceptance, gratitude and joy. In these difficult, dark days I can use the tools of the program to survive. It’s still hard as hell, but I’m not drinking. I’m not contemplating suicide. I’m not screaming at my kids. I’m not hating on my husband. I’m not hiding from my problems. Today, despite it all, is a good day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No Room for Justification

A couple of nights ago my husband and daughter had a blow-out over something she did. In the course he completely lost his temper and said something inexcusable to her. I was so angry all I could do was hiss at him not to EVER speak to our children that way again and take my sobbing daughter to her room to cry it out. As I comforted her I told her again and again, "you are not what ANYONE says you are, not even your parents." I remember all too well growing up in a household where cruel words were never far behind a mistake or accident. Those words spoken in haste or judgment cut to the bone, and it's a cut that never really heals.

The next day as I spoke to my husband about what he had said, I emphasized my belief that there is no place for justification in an apology. "I'm sorry I did X, it was because you did Y" is NOT an apology. By justifying actions with "you made me do it" the apology rings false. It implies that the actions or words, however reprehensible were on some level acceptable. It pushes the fault from the one who did the wronging to the one who was wronged. And in some ways that to me seems worse than the actions in the first place.

Which brings me to alcoholics. I have yet to work my ninth step "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others" but I know I have many apologies ahead of me. When I make those amends, my words need to reflect my sincere regret for my actions and my apology to the person wronged. I cannot say, "I'm sorry I did X, it was because I was drunk", because that would negate the apology. I cannot justify my past actions, I can only try to live my life better now.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gratitude

As with spirituality, I find gratitude in the small things. This week my eldest was suffering due to a fight with a friend. As I lay in bed with her talking until nearly 10pm about relationships, friendships, forgiveness and communication I felt the most intense gratitude settle over me. 7 months ago I would not have been able to have this conversation with her. I would have either already been too drunk to communicate well, or I would have been too consumed with the thoughts of the drinks I was missing out on to take the time to talk to her. Even if I was sober, she wouldn't have wanted to talk to me about it. In the last year or so of my drinking, she had become distant, angry and waspish. I blamed it on her age (a ripe 7 years old) or my husband or anything else I could think of besides my drinking. I never thought she was even aware of my drunkenness. How would a 7 year old know what alcoholism is? Yet after I quit, the most amazing thing began to happen. She began to warm up to me. She started to hug me again, to say she loved me. To talk to me, to trust me. I began to learn to let God guide my words with her and we began to have deeper, more meaningful conversations on a regular basis. That we are now at a point where she trusts me with her pain, her issues, and her fears is an amazing thing. I have only my sobriety and my Higher Power to thank for that. I am so grateful.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spirituality is in the little things

At my favorite Saturday morning meeting yesterday the table topic for discussion was spirituality. Of course, once it got to be my turn every insightful, witty and poignant remark I was saving up flew out of my head so all I did was talk a bit about religion (not the same thing) and pass. As I drove away after the meeting what I really wanted to say came back to me, and it was this:

Spirituality is in the little things. Those moments when my heart overflows with joy gazing at my sleeping daughters' faces. Brushing my eldest's cheek to wake her in the morning, seeing her smile when she sees me gazing at her. Having my youngest jump in my lap for a brief hug. Looking up at a clear blue sky in the beginnings of spring. Dancing and singing to a favorite song. Stroking one of my many cats' fur as they purr, contentedly beside me.

I know God exists, even if I can't define him/her/it. I know it every time I see or think of my children. I don't how to connect to God, I don't know how to pray or meditate or worship but I know that God is out there. That's my spirituality.