The Chipper of Life

“My talent for leadership, I imagined, would place me at the head of vast enterprises which I would manage with the utmost assurance.”

Today at my book study we began Bill’s Story.  What popped out for me was that in addition to alcoholism, Bill and I share a propensity for grandiosity.   I graduated Cum Laude even though my major could have been 2-for-1 Thursdays, and I came out of college much dumber than when I went in.  I was always able to cram at 3am, regurgitate the information on a test at 9am and get an A.  I was born that way.  Within the structure of school this made me feel really gifted, superior and entitled.  I’ve always been told I was so smart, and somewhere along the line I came to believe that a lucrative career and glamorous life would probably fall into my lap just because I was so amazing.

Let’s be honest, I’ve never worked very hard for anything.  I’ve thought that every job I’ve ever had was beneath me and I treated them that way.  I somehow thought I could successfully coast through life.  This approach stopped working once I graduated college.  I struggled to get a job and once I got a job, I just couldn’t figure out how to advance.  I mean, didn’t anyone notice how smart and awesome I am?  The truth is that I had a crappy work ethic, bad attitude and was a little socially awkward.  These three qualities basically spell ruin in the entertainment industry where I’m pretty sure the recipe for success is endless hours, relentless positivity and the ability to pretend like you actually give a shit about other people.

My attitude and drinking deteriorated side by side, and I decided to give up on the job thing.  It just wasn’t working out.  With the blessing of my husband I quit my job and got pregnant a few months later without the blessing of my husband.  Kidding… sort of.  Anyway, motherhood conveniently solved my career problem for the time being, except that I carried my beliefs and attitudes with me.

My most dreaded WOD’s (workout of the day) in CrossFit are chippers.  Chippers contain high reps of many different exercises.  The other day we did one they called “Dirty 30” because it was someone’s 30th birthday.

30 Box Jumps

30 Pull-ups

30 Wall Balls

30 Kettle Bell Swings

30 Knees-to-elbows

30 Ab Mat Sit-ups

30 Walking Lunges

30 Double-unders

30 Burpees

I didn’t like it.  I like a 7 minute WOD.  I like lifting a very heavy weight once or twice.  I was the last in the class to finish this WOD, partially because of my fitness and partially because my mind really gets in the way.  It says, “Look how many more you have to do.  You’ll never make it.  This is too hard.  It hurts.  What’s the point anyway?  CrossFit is stupid.  Fuck these people.”  They are called chippers because you chip away at them, one rep at a time.  You don’t have to worry about 30 burpees, you just have to worry about your next movement.  One foot in front of the other, just keep going.  I fought myself the whole way, but I did eventually finish.  Each little rep added up to one killer WOD.

I’ve really never experienced this before.  I’m always going for the big bang.  I’ve never been interested in making a small, consistent effort at something until this last year.  AA has taught me the value of trudging and that has been solidly reinforced by CrossFit.  And what amazing results I’ve gotten on both fronts.  Not because I’m the best or because I’m perfect, but just because I show up and keep going.

And I have faith that this is beginning to spill into my everyday life.  Trying hard at things I’m not naturally gifted at (like cleaning or playing Power Rangers) is a pain in the ass.  A lot of times I get really overwhelmed just by the amount of stuff that there is to do in a day.  The laundry, dishes, organizing, shopping, cooking, bathing, bedtime, etc.  It’s endless and relentless.  I don’t like it, so I spend a lot of time avoiding it by waiting for my Facebook feed to refresh or playing Candy Crush.

The other day I was getting particularly overwhelmed and petulant.  I was standing in the kitchen and suddenly I had this thought/voice come into my head as clear as day.  Out of nowhere I heard, “What could you do right now to make tomorrow easier?”  And just like that I stopped pouting and did the dishes.

February 9, 2012

One year ago today I popped open a bottle of champagne at around 4:00pm. I was celebrating getting through another fucking day. I pumped a bottle for my baby, and proceeded to drink the whole thing. The plan was to get nice and numb because that made bedtime more bearable. It wasn’t a daily routine (yet), but it was familiar. I had it all planned out.

But then my husband called and said he’d be coming home early from work. This really threw a wrench in things for me. Any normal person who is drinking champagne home alone on a Thursday evening with a 3 year-old and 6-month-old in her care would quickly switch to water and get her wits about her. But that’s not what I did. I opened a bottle of red wine, took a big swig and hid it in the bookcase in the hallway. My husband came home, kissed me, asked if I had been drinking and I lied spectacularly. I drank the majority of that bottle in secret for the rest of the night. The baby woke up at some point and I was faced with a decision; warm a bottle and have my husband ask me why I’m not breastfeeding, or go and feed her. I sat on the edge of my bed, nursing my baby girl, drunk as a skunk. I went back downstairs and “fell asleep” on the couch while we watched TV.

At 3:00am I awoke with my heart racing out of my chest. My head was swimming with guilt and self-loathing. I was used to this feeling. The middle of the night detox. Of course, I didn’t know that was what it was. I did know that it had been getting worse over the past couple years. As the previous night came into not-so-clear focus, I hit my bottom. I didn’t have to get arrested. No one staged an intervention. All that happened was that I saw myself clearly. My two major realizations were that I chose alcohol over my children and that I was capable of successfully lying about my drinking. I became fearful that if I could lie about this, then what else would I lie about? How far could it go? I then had not so much a vision, but the sudden knowledge that by summer I would be drinking daily. And as I looked over at my husband sleeping, the next thought that came in my head was, “He can’t save you. No one is coming to save you from this. It’s up to you.” And I suddenly just knew I was an alcoholic. I shook my husband awake in the middle of the night to tell him I was an alcoholic and needed help. I told him I was going to get help.