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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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.

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.  😉

Giving Thanks

In October of 2011 I ended up in the ER with debilitating stomach pain.  It had been bothering me for weeks off and on, but one night it became excruciating.  My (at the time) 2 year old and 3 month old were sleeping, so I had to drive myself to the hospital.  They did an MRI and the Dr. let me know it was possible I had an ulcer.  They asked me to follow up with my PCP, so later that week I sat in my Dr.’s office while she told me that in addition to the gastritis/ulcer, I had a hiatal hernia and my liver was enlarged.  She needed to order more tests to find out what was going on with my liver.

I’m typically a nod-and-smile-type patient, but I found myself saying, “I’ve been drinking.”  I was honest about how much.  She recommended I go to AA.  I was a blubbering mess.  I couldn’t believe this was happening; that I was that bad.  I mean, sure, I loved to drink, but I didn’t drink every day.  Ok fine, my preference was to have at least a bottle of wine to myself, and maybe I’ve been wanting more than that lately.  The fact that I was having physical consequences due to drinking freaked me out to a degree that I knew I had to do something.  So like any alcoholic in denial, I imposed a 30 day ban on booze.  Perfect timing for me to be able to drink again during the holidays.

I could not conceive of a holiday without alcohol.  My fondest memories from my childhood are being at my grandma & grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We’d arrive to an oven-heated house, filled with the smells of my grandma’s cooking.  We’d congregate in the living room, my grandpa pouring drinks for the adults.  Everyone seemed so flushed and happy.  Men drinking an expensive scotch, women champagne.  My grandpa would let me come with him to pick out a French wine from his makeshift cellar under the stairs.  He would make up silly songs and dance.  I remember feeling loved.  I don’t have a ton of memories from my childhood.  It wasn’t horrible, but there was a high level of disfunction underneath the surface.  I guess on the holidays everyone was on their best behavior.  More likely they were drunk and just cared less about all the fucked up stuff going on behind the scenes.

I’ve spent every single holiday since trying to recreate those feelings.  I’ve been trying to go back.  God, this realization makes me so sad.  At least behind the sadness comes a deep compassion for myself.  I didn’t know any better.

So I started drinking again on Thanksgiving 2011.  I remember quite vividly the plotting and planning that went into that.  I think I probably spent that whole 30 days deciding what I would drink.  I was basically ecstatic.  What I also remember is a general feeling of chaos.  I always was trying to achieve the most Martha holiday I could muster, and I made myself totally insane in the process.  Forgotten items, mismanaged time, too many dishes, unwashed table cloths, eating late, overcooked dishes, the huge mess… and the drinking.  I drank a lot and remember trying not to slur at dinner.  I continued to drink throughout the holidays.  The wheels didn’t really start coming off until January.

At the beginning of my sobriety I was really concerned about this time of year.  It seemed so depressing to think of a holiday season without all the fun drinks that come along with it.  Now what seems depressing and exhausting is last year.

I Work Out

On Halloween of 2011 I went to my first ever Crossfit class.  I was 3 months post-partum and a week into a 30 day break from drinking due to the fact that I had shredded my stomach lining with wine and Motrin.  A picture of health!  I arrived at the “Beginner Level” class and was dismayed to find about 30 extremely fit “beginners” milling about waiting for class to start. By the time I overheard some bro with his shirt off tell his friend that this was his 8th day working out in a row, my stomach was in my feet. I didn’t belong here.  The coaches sent us on a run, there was a combat crawl and some other impossible movements.  I thought I might be dying.  Then they said it was time to start the workout.  Fuck.

I tried to pep-talk myself through (“Start where you are!”) and swallowed down the rising lump as I realized I was going to be the only person who didn’t finish the WOD (workout of the day).  The coaches started calling out for everyone to announce their finish times.  I realized my failure, my fatness was going to be called out in front of everyone.  I ran before they could see.

My goal for my life was not to be an overweight, suburban mother with a drinking problem who leaves an exercise class crying, but there I was.  I don’t want to be dramatic because it is just Crossfit, but this was a defining moment for me.  I disappointed myself by allowing my fear and shame to send me running, but at the same time a fire was lit.  I was a little bit angry… at myself, at the world in general.  Anger isn’t an emotion I’m comfortable with.  And maybe this is the cosmos aligning for me because if I hadn’t been on a medically necessary dry spell, you can bet your ass I would have drank over this.  I’d stuff it down, shut it away and say a big, “Fuck you!” to Crossfit.  But I couldn’t drink over it, so I stewed about it for a month and somewhere inside me I decided that someday I would come back and kick Crossfit’s ass.

If I hadn’t gotten sober, this would have just been tacked onto the end of my “Shit I’ll Never Do” list.   I conceded my alcoholism about three months later and around 90 days sober the opportunity to have another go with Crossfit manifested in a God-shot sort of way.  I’ll spare you the story cause it’s not that interesting and this post is getting long, but I decided to try again in a different environment.  It was still physically very uncomfortable.  I felt all of my insecurities were on display, but I applied the tools I learned in AA to Crossfit.  I could feel that fire that had been lit 6 months prior, so I surrendered to it.  I made the commitment to just show up, no matter what I was thinking or feeling.  Exactly like I did when I started attending meetings.  Just show up and do the work.  I pushed past the voice that said I’m too fat, too slow, too weak, too tired, too sore and put one foot in front of the other.

I got into action, and I didn’t stop.  I didn’t stop until I didn’t want to stop anymore.  Just like dieting, I was never able to stick with exercise.  Exercising was always the thing I should do because I’m fat and unhealthy, and that is the absolute least inspiring reason to do something.  From that perspective, exercise is a punishment.  I’ve done bootcamps, stroller workouts, spinning, yoga, Zumba.  I’ve tried it all.  I have an idea about why Crossfit works for me, but I think that deserves a post of it’s own.  What is important is that my WOD’s are a reward not a punishment.  Even when it feels like I’m pushing myself to the physical brink, it’s one of the only times in my day where I’m not thinking about my kids, what’s for dinner, what I should do with my life, etc.  All I’m thinking about is how the fuck I’m going to lift this 110 lb barbell over my head.  Then I do it and am in awe of myself.  And all I had to do was keep coming back.

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!

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.