Sorrow

One day I’ll write about where I’ve been the past 3 years.

But for now it’s about how quickly the unthinkable and horrible can become the every day. Like how I can wake up at 5:30am on a Saturday wishing I could go back and spend more time with my cold, dead father.

On September 15, 20116 my dad took his life. The manner of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but the cause of death was alcoholism. Anyone who knows him says, “I can’t believe John would do that.” Except me. I can’t believe he’s completely gone, but I know that suicide is a real possibility for many alcoholics who find they are, for whatever reason, unable to live sober.

Must have been a few years back that he mentioned his rendezvous with terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair. I have had my own mild encounter with the four horsemen towards the end of my drinking. I remember relating to him. I wanted the conversation to say, “Yes. I get it. We have this in common. Isn’t it great we’re going to share this sobriety thing? Everything can get better now.” But I knew somewhere deep that I couldn’t possibly understand his suffering. It was so much bigger than anything I’ve known. And no human can help with that kind of pain.

Over the last 4 years there has been a growing, reluctant realization that he wasn’t ever going to get better. I wasn’t able to accept him just as he was. I pulled further and further away.

So here it is. This is alcoholism. And it wasn’t his fault. My greatest heartbreak is that he didn’t know he was forgiven, that he didn’t know how to be loved, that he never heard the good news sing inside his heart, that he couldn’t see that anything can be mended, and that I can’t do anything about it.

I love you, Dad. And I am so, so sorry.

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Is This Real Life?

Great post on Mark’s Daily Apple today.

He offers up some steps to help deal with emotional eating.  Good stuff that most people trying to lose weight gloss over, but I believe is vital.

photo (12)I’ve been thinking about this quote obsessively since yesterday.  How amazingly true and counterintuitive.  It is the foundation of Step 1, and I see how that has worked to get and keep me sober.  I accept that I am an alcoholic and I also accept that in order to stay sober, I must work the steps and implement them into my daily life.

I think for a long time I was in denial about the fact that I was going to be permanently overweight because of my choices and lifestyle.  I had this idea that things would somehow magically get better and that I was not that bad.  That the slow crawl I was doing towards obesity was just a temporary thing and one day I was going to wake up, be in shape and eat less ice cream and more kale.  Maybe the first time I really saw myself was in that CrossFit class.

At some point I began thinking, “Yes.  This is where I really am.  All my past thinking and behavior has gotten me here.”  And then some time later I also accepted that it was going to take a lot of work to get out of the hole I was in.  Not just a diet or exercise plan, but a complete overhaul of the way I looked at food, fitness, weight and my body.  That’s a lot of work.  Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual work.  And I don’t know if you are aware, but I have two little kids and not that much time to myself.  However, because I’d already gotten sober (that definitely involved some work), I knew it could be done.  I knew that this kind of work looks WAY scarier from the outside looking in.  It’s sometimes difficult, but always worth it.  You start by accepting where you are, take an honest look at how you got there and just put one foot in front of the other.

And for God’s sake don’t try and do it alone!

How I Made Preschool Heritage Month All About Me!

November was heritage month at my son’s preschool.  They sent home a poster board where we were supposed to put some pictures of traditional dress, food, celebrations from our country of origin.  I’m a western-European mutt with no real knowledge or connection to my heritage.  My husband is a New York Italian, so I figured it would be easiest to just go with Italy.  I Googled some images and pasted them to the board.  I tried to get my almost-4-year-old involved but he really wasn’t interested.  There was a sign-up for parents to pick a day to come in and share something about their heritage, but I kept putting off signing up because I just wasn’t sure what I had to contribute.  I’m not even slightly Italian, especially now that I don’t partake in any of the things that I thought were most interesting about Italy- wine, dairy, gluten & sugar.  Thank God I still have cured meats.

Looking back, I realize I was fretting about this quite a bit.  I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, so I didn’t want to even try.  Were ALL of the other parents doing this?  At one point I observed another mom teaching the kids a Korean children’s song and my ego freaked out.  I procrastinated on it until November ended.  I was relieved, but I admit I felt like I got away with something.

Until Friday night when at bedtime I asked my son about heritage month and he burst into tears.  Bear in mind, getting him to tell me anything about school is like pulling teeth.  His only topics of conversation are Power Ranger and Spider-man, so when he looks at me with a quivering lip and says, “All the other mommies came to my school and talked about heritage except you and that made me so sad,” I was just leveled.  I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I couldn’t believe that he noticed, that it mattered.  He’s only 3!  I fucked up.  I looked him in the eye and made a sincere apology.  I’ve already emailed the teacher and am going to go in and talk about pasta in the next couple weeks.

I’m grateful for  this experience because it has shown me that I don’t have to be drinking for my alcoholism to get in the way of me showing up for my kids.  Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my desire for the spotlight and what that’s all about.  My need for attention and praise at the public level is what prevented me from doing a heritage month presentation.  If I can’t have the best presentation, then I don’t want to have to do it at all.  I want the teachers and other parents to be humbled by my awesomeness and fawn over me while I feign humility.  In this defect, I hurt my son.  I’m also seeing how I have hurt my husband who tells me all the time that I’m awesome, but I’d rather be affirmed by the number of “likes” my Facebook posts get.  I guess it’s really just grand-scale codependence.

It’s a good fucking thing that the 11th Tradition exists.  I know the solution is the same for every other problem I have.  Sponsor, higher power, meditation, 7th step, help someone.  It’s not gone yet, though, so I’ll anxiously be awaiting your replies.  😉

Aham Brahmasmi

I had a bad dream last night.  It’s recurring.  In this dream I’m pursuing my high school ex, trying to seduce him.  This person was #2 on my resentment list.  He was someone who manipulated, violated and humiliated me.  These dreams always have me waking in tears because in them I know the truth about him, yet I still want him.  I always wake up tearful and feeling so low, ashamed and desperate.

I’m doing The Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge, so I got up early before my meeting to get a meditation in.  In my meditation, I had a lot of trouble shaking this dream and the bad feelings that came along with it.  When it finally did go, what came in it’s place was thoughts of shopping.  I started making lists of all the things I need to buy for myself.  Just as I became aware of this thought, the meditation ended.  I opened my eyes and realized that the thoughts of shopping were me running away from my feelings, trying to find an acceptable way to fill “the hole.”

The Sanskrit mantra for today’s meditation was Aham Brahmasmi — The core of my being is the ultimate reality, the root and ground of the universe, the source of all that exists.  And now I’m not sure at what point this happened, but I think somewhere on my drive to the meeting I became aware that what had happened with my ex was a result of me losing touch with the core of my being.  That what happened in my dream is actually what happened in the relationship.  In small ways at first and then larger, I allowed him to behave in ways that I truly wasn’t comfortable with.  I showed him that it was okay to treat me disrespectfully because I was trying to get something.  I was trying to win.  He was very popular, charismatic, sexual.  All the girls wanted him, and he was a trophy for me.  A way for me to prove not only my worth, but that I was better.  And I was so desperate to be better, that I told that little voice inside me to shut up every time she peeped up to say, “This doesn’t feel right.”

I got a glimpse of this during my 5th step, but today it hit me like a ton of bricks and I saw the truth.  I saw that I got used because I was using.  There were a million warning signs that he was not a good person, but I denied them, denied the core of my being until it all blew up in my face.  Then I retreated.  I ran.  I ate.  I drank.

This is why the only solution is a spiritual solution.  Aham Brahmasmi.  To deny my true self is to deny the source, to deny God.  That is what carves out the hole that can never be filled.  He didn’t do that.  I did it.

Aham Brahmasmi.  This is why the answer is to get quiet.  To listen.  To meditate.  Because the longer I listen, the louder it gets.

I’m All Out of Love

I’ve watched my husband let his program and self-care slide over the last week, and I can see that he is suffering from that. This morning he was wallowing a bit and said something to me about giving up.  My response was, “I’m really sorry to hear that.”  He went on a rant of sorts about me not believing in encouragement, that I’m not a caring, loving person.  I think I previously would have just taken it and stuffed the feeling, but I stood my ground and told him that I don’t accept him turning his bad feelings into a personal attack. I said I loved him and am willing to help him if he tells me exactly what he needs.  He wouldn’t drop it. I eventually ended up yelling at him in front of the kids that he was hurting my feelings. He made a big display about me lashing out in front of the kids, suggested that my behavior would damage them, and then retreated upstairs.

Last night during a meeting someone shared that he finds himself acting out when someone says something that makes him fearful.  I thought about this today and realized that I freaked out because what my husband accused me of might just be my greatest fear about myself.  The thing that I worry might actually be true.  The thing that probably is true because I’m an alcoholic.

Last night I was called out in an online forum for defriending a fellow alcoholic on Facebook.  I fessed immediately, letting her know that I took her off my feed because I didn’t want to see her jokes about drinking.  I didn’t think twice about that decision, I felt it was best for my sobriety.  But then I read the other members responses to her, and a thought began to creep in.  “Everyone else is trying to support and understand.  You’re the mean girl.”

When I accidentally got pregnant with my son, the terrifying tape that played in my head was, “What if you don’t love this baby?”  I wondered if I was one of those women who might harm her baby or abandon her children.  In the final weeks of my drinking, my husband told me he was becoming afraid to leave me alone with the kids each morning.  I was afraid, too.

The Big Book tells me I’m selfish, and I most certainly believe that.  I have a hard time understanding other people’s struggles and have a low tolerance for their pain.  I’m judgmental.  I’m not affectionate.  Is this the real truth about me?  That’s what I’m afraid of, but I don’t think it is the truth.  These are my character defects, right?  This is the armor I put on a long time ago.

I can feel my brain fighting this.  It feels really tense, weepy, angry, so I’m guessing a surrender is coming.  I don’t understand how I’m going to digest it all, but I’m going to try and ride it out.

Here’s a fucking song.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Confession time!  I’ve spent most of my life afraid of the dark.  Last Friday when my 3.75  year old insisted on going in the haunted house at his school, I’ll admit I was less than thrilled.  Even though I know it’s the drama club in masks, I just really don’t like being surprised, being caught off-guard.  I put on my brave face and we went in.  We only had to turn two corners before he freaked and we had to run out the front.  I was totally relieved.

This got me thinking about my fear of the dark in general.  There have been times in my adult life where I was too afraid to get up and go pee in the night.  I was sure I was going to encounter a ghost walking down the hall to go get the baby.  Maybe an axe murderer was hiding in the closet.  Mostly I suffered from the feeling that my impending doom was surely lurking there in the dark.

I noticed the other night that this feeling has gone away since I stopped drinking.  I sleepily stumble down the hall nearly every night to get the baby without even thinking about the serial killer behind the door.  I wonder if because I was a periodic, I was perpetually suffering from PAWS.  I have heard some alcoholics who have claimed to have experienced that inexplicable feeling of impending doom right after stopping drinking.

It’s great to not be so fearful, but it’s even better to have the reminder of just how sick I was and how much better I am now.  Still not interested in haunted houses, however.

Hope you have a Happy Sober Halloween!

I’m Eating Chocolate Right Now

Pretty sure my keyboard is getting chocolate smudges.  I’m having a sweet attack and am just going to go with it.  I’m worried about my husband’s family in NY.  Sandy is approaching and each time we get on the phone they sound more and more scared.  My father-in-law said it is the worst storm he has ever seen and it hasn’t even touched down yet.

My dog has something wrong with her nose.  I’ve been trying to treat it for weeks and it’s getting worse.  I’m taking her to the vet in an hour and am already pissed off by the bill.  Whatever it is, and it’s always a lot, there isn’t room in the budget.

I got socked with a major drinking craving on Saturday that left me in tears.  We had an extremely rare date night planned, and I got upset that I couldn’t drink.  I played out the fantasy to then end, and even though it ended in me trying to drunkenly add up the babysitter’s money and then overpaying due to literal fuzzy math, I couldn’t shake it.  My 1st step is annoyingly solid sometimes.  Surprisingly what made me feel better was my sponsor telling me that at 16 years sober she gets craving every now and then.  She said that our natural state is to want a drink, and that made me feel like less of a freak.

So what do these three different things have in common?  Weather, illness, alcoholism?  Three things that I’m totally powerless over.  I’ve started reading Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron.  She was talking about control being an illusion.  The big things like natural disasters, sicknesses and oh yes, addictions smash that illusion to pieces.  It throws our powerlessness in our face, and that is quite uncomfortable.  I’ve managed to stop at 4 pieces and feel pretty satisfied.  A little chocolate and reflection goes a long way.

Off My Game

It’s been almost a week since we got back from our trip to Arizona.  I can’t call it a vacation.  I’m pretty sure on vacations you visit beaches not relatives.  It was a challenging week for me.  We stayed with my mom.  This trip being with her was like being with a walking, talking example of all of my least favorite character defects.  I’m so much like her, and I hate that so much.

I have not named or listed my character defects, but boy they are sure easy to spot when another person is acting them out.  Critical, judgmental, impatient, dismissive, insecure, people-pleasing.  (There are, of course, more.)  Actually the people-pleasing is one of my favorites because I’ll never forget the first time I heard someone in rooms say that it’s really people-manipulating.  Now the term people-pleasing makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

My mom has this great way of never saying what she really wants and then being angry about not getting it.  Or maybe she doesn’t.  Who the hell knows?  The point is that I’m constantly trying to predict what is going to make her happy.  I’m modifying my own behavior and attempting to modify my husband’s and children’s behavior in order  to keep things copacetic with her.  It’s maddening.  I knew I was doing this.  I knew that it wasn’t going to work.  I just didn’t know how to stop.  Too much fear, I guess.

Anyway, I’m grateful to be home and back to my routines.  My meetings, my gym, my food and most of all my giant Tempur-Pedic bed.  I was in a real bad funk for the last 2 days of the trip.  Having lots of drinking fantasies and getting real down that I was having them.  I feel like I should be better than that shit now.  I told myself they would pass and I’d start to feel peace again once I got my groove back.  I was right.

I know eventually I’ll have to get better at venturing outside the bubble.  Dining out, social functions, travel; I’ve really avoided those things in these last 8 months.  Last night I went out to dinner with a group of sober gals and it was wonderful.  Absolutely no remorse about the fact I cannot drink and gratitude for the reprieve.

5th Step

I finished my 5th step today. We’ve been slogging through it for a while now, having to break it up in installments. We did my fear and sex inventory today. I wrote the inventory several months ago, and actually got a little chuckle about how dramatic some of the fears were. No laughing about the sex inventory, however. Poor guys.

I read in my 12 & 12 this morning about the feeling of oneness with God and man that some people get after their 5th. That didn’t happen to me. I felt pretty depressed after leaving my sponsor’s place. I had already arranged that I would be able to take the hour to reflect afterwards as the Big Book suggests, but I had this overwhelming feeling of, “now what?” I couldn’t put my finger on it. Uneasy.

I came home and sat in our hammock. I went over the steps so far and concluded I have, indeed, completed them all to the best of my ability. Then I got to thinking about my higher power. I was raised atheist, but when push came to shove, it was not hard for me to accept that there are many forces at work in the universe that are bigger than me and beyond my comprehension. I have lots of ideas about the God that is “out there.” Consciousness, nature, creativity, divine order, love. Honestly I don’t worry so much about defining it. And I’ve heard people share in the rooms about coming to a point in their sobriety where they had to get a bigger God. That doesn’t feel like a problem to me because my God is big. Like, everything big.

What I struggle with is making God personal to me. I don’t understand how to do that. Today my sponsor talked about how the Big Book says that God is inside us. That got my attention.

In the hammock I recalled a day in my first weeks of sobriety. I was sitting in a park with my temporary sponsor reading her some writing I had done for my first step. The last thing I wrote and the only thing I remember is that I felt I was broken because I was incapable of loving. Not incapable of being loved, but of loving. This really frightened me because here I was a mom of a 3 year old and a 6 month old, and feeling like I didn’t know how to love these kids. They were burdened with a mom who couldn’t love. They were fucked.

This fear has greatly subsided, but it’s still under there. What occurred to me today is that if God is the stuff that connects us all together (love), and if God is inside me, then this belief that I am unable to love is the root of all my problems. It is me not believing in God.

I am capable of loving, I just don’t know how to do it very well. I don’t know how to do it without fear. Some times I look at my kids and my love for them makes me want to fall to pieces. And now I see that the drinking, the overeating, the compulsive Facebooking and whatever else are me trying to run away from the pain of loving. It’s not about me and my pain, though. I want to start living in the space of, “What can I contribute to this?” instead of “How can I avoid feeling hurt here?”

I don’t know how to get there, though. So I’m placing faith in the steps and those that came before me. I’m moving forward and asking for the ways in which I block myself from feeling love to be removed. I’d like them all to be taken, but how about getting cracking on fear first? Ok, God?