What I Didn’t Know

 

I didn’t know grief before this. I had a loose empathy and reverence for it because of my dear friend Mished-up, but I just didn’t get how it overtakes you. And, let’s be real, although my father left this plane in a tragic, violent manner, we’d been almost entirely estranged for several years and on a surface level I had accepted that I had lost him to alcoholism shortly after getting sober myself. I grieve, and then I grieve some more when I realize how others must feel when they lose someone that they woke up next to every day or tucked into bed every night.

He’s been gone two weeks now. The insomnia/flashbacks from viewing him at the mortuary subsided within a couple days. The crushing early-morning wakeup call of heartache and tears left after about a week. The early-morning anxiety and feeling like I need to do something about all this (memorial planning, obituary writing, etc.) is still here. So I usually paddle downstairs before everyone is awake and stare at the computer screen and feel lost. The day-to-day is easier. I don’t feel entirely sad. I sometimes feel numb. It’s easier to fake that everything is okay. It’s easier to not think about it. I can smile and laugh. I danced with the kids at a school event last night. I only want to watch comedy on TV.

What’s not easier is concentration. I’ve had trouble helping the kids with homework. I signed them up for the wrong swim classes. I outsourced the obituary to my mom because I felt like I didn’t know how to put the words together. I can’t really read too much. I’m generally forgetful (i.e. forgot both my mother’s and husband’s birthdays this week.) I’m hoping this gets better and am trusting that it will.

I started this blog to help myself recover from alcoholism and disordered eating. I guess now it’s also to recover from my dad’s suicide as a result of alcoholism. As I type that I already know that they are entangled and in some ways one and the same. Because what I didn’t know is that after my dad’s suicide I would hate myself. I don’t want this to be true or admit it to you. But it’s there. And I’m embarrassed by the amount of time I spend thinking about how gross my body is while my family grieves. I feel selfish. Like a monster. I mean, who cares about fat when he is dead.

But this is me being honest. So that it can get better. Because I’m the child of someone who hated themselves and that has not worked out well for any of us. One of the first overwhelming feelings I had when he left was that God had perfectly forgiven him and I just wished he had known that. I also had the thought that if God loved him so much, then he must love me, too. And you.

Unfortunately that grace subsided and what has come up is a voice that tells me I’m disgusting every time I look in the mirror. Fuck.

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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.

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.

30/30, Self-doubt, Gaslighting

Never say never, but I think this will be my last Whole30 for quite some time.  The first time around I got so much out of it.  I really became aware of how certain foods affect me, and that makes it so much easier to make good food choices.  I think it’s hard to refuse the burger and fries just because they are unhealthy.  Not so hard to refuse when it is going to wreck you digestively for 24 hours.  Y’all know I’ve hemmed and hawed over this 2nd round.  I’m proud that I’ve finished, but I’m glad to be finished.

Suspect I’ve lost some more weight, and I wrote about the bit of anxiety it was causing.  Yesterday in therapy I made an amazing discovery that really this just comes down to not trusting my own body.  As long as I am responding to my hunger and fullness, making the best choices for my body and keeping a conscious eye on my emotional eating, my body is going to find it’s right place.  Maybe it’s less weight, maybe it’s more.  Today I’m open to whatever comes.

Many of us are so used to relying on external cues to tell us we are okay.  Corporations trying to sell us shit have told us what our bodies are supposed to look like.  We become fixated on numbers on the scale, dress sizes, body fat percentages, etc. as an indicator of whether we are good and normal.  I’m suddenly aware that it is impossible to love your own body if you’re looking at someone else’s as the ideal.  A wise friend of mine offers the reminder, “Eyes on your own paper.”

One thing I’ve learned over the past year is that just like my alcoholism is a symptom of a spiritual disease, trying to change my body from the outside in is a symptom of not trusting myself.

I came across this article the other day.  I can’t tell you how much I love it.  From an early age I was told that I was dramatic, sensitive and prone to overreacting.  Looking back, I was just expressing normal emotions and the people around me were so emotionally repressed that they didn’t know how to deal with it.  When I suffered a trauma in my teens, I was told to, “Pull it together,” because my behavior was embarrassing.  I don’t fault my mom for that; she didn’t have the whole story.

When everyone around you is telling you that your emotions aren’t right, eventually you start to believe it.  Eventually you stop trusting yourself.  Eventually you become so out of touch with your feelings, that you’re hard-pressed to label them when asked.  I used to get upset and have no idea why.  Many times I’d find myself in an argument with my husband and just be making a best logical guess at why I was agitated.  I felt totally separate from my feelings.

I want to make some kind of poignant wrap-up, but must to return to the land of diapers and dishes.  You get the gist, right?  If I can’t trust my emotional feelings and myself, how on earth can I expect to trust my physical feelings and my body.  Have you ever been gaslighted?

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!

Et tu, Costco?

Costco used to be my favorite place at Christmas.  I’m sure you see where this is going.

I was there by myself on Sunday.  It’s rare that I get to shop by myself. We needed gas, diapers and dog food, but I decided to seize the opportunity for some me time by doing a zombie-like stroll through the entire store.

The liquor and sugar is out of control this time of year.  That must have been why I loved it so much.  Specialty chocolates, truffles, peppermint bark and this crap.  Super-size bottles of bourbon in fancy boxes.  Sometimes with novelty glasses!  An expanded champagne selection and a whole separate section dedicated to the booze that is on sale.  I can practically feel the fireworks going off in my neural synapses.  I’ve been in the store since the holiday stuff arrived, but hadn’t paid much attention until Sunday.

I wasn’t really bothered until a man passed me and in his cart he had 6 bottles of what used to be my favorite wine.  You see, they’ve never carried this wine at Costco.  I was making special trips to buy it at a wine store.  I freaking loved that wine.  Seeing that Costco had also discovered it and picked it up almost took my breath away.  I suddenly felt a big sense of loss.  Like a friend of mine said here, I was queen of good, affordable wine.  I was a connoisseur in my own fantasies, but it was like my talent was being confirmed by Costco.  I was so good at drinking.  I relished researching, shopping and tasting wine.  And always more, more, more.  A true love affair.  A fucking alcoholic.  I’m also a pretty good baker.  These talents make so much sense now.

I guess I haven’t contemplated a drink too seriously since the very earliest days of sobriety.  I mostly get sad and resentful that it’s not an option for me.  I’m not sure if you noticed, but what happened at Costco began before I even got there.  See when I mentioned that I was trying to steal some me-time, that should have been a dead giveaway that the trip wasn’t going to end well.  I went there looking for more than just diapers.  I was looking to feel better.  What I got was a million reminders of the things that I can no longer use to make me feel better.  I resisted actually walking through the liquor sections.  I’m lucky Costco hasn’t carried Moose Munch for a couple years because I had already decided I would buy it if I found it.  You better believe I looked for it.

I’ve read a couple other blogs also talking about dealing with more cravings lately.  I agree that it’s the time of year.  Everything so shiny and special, everything I’m missing out on, everything the holidays used to be, all the good times I had drinking through this time of year, fun and warmth and togetherness, but I think most of all it looked really pretty and sparkling.  And it seems both easy and impossible to get that back.  Hard to accept that it won’t be that way again.  Hard to accept that I’ll never relax into the ritual of planning and executing a perfect holiday dinner wine pairing.  Hard to accept that the relief is really gone.

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.  😉

This Is Not My Beautiful House

Last night my almost 4 year old wanted me to rock him to sleep.  He’s not much of a cuddler these days, so I jumped at the opportunity.  I was sitting there holding him in the dark, trying to stay present and grateful, but my mind was fixating on a headline I saw come up in my Facebook feed days ago.  I didn’t click it at the time, but the beast was thirsty and I found myself there in the dark reading this article on my iPhone.  I first thought that sounded like a fun time, but they describe it as a “nightclub on wheels.”  I remembered that I hate clubs and the douchebags inside them.  Pretty sure this will be a train full of alcoholics and douchebags.  Anyway, my brain instead went off on a fantasy where I abandon my family to get drunk by myself in some seedy off-strip Vegas motel.  It’s especially strange because I’ve never even stayed off the strip.  I’d usually end a night in Vegas by vomiting in a bathroom with a plasma TV.

Just before I went off on this imaginary nightmare of a relapse, I was thinking, “How the fuck did I get here?”  How did I end up in this house with this husband and these two amazing kids?  I suddenly felt like I didn’t choose any of it.  I don’t remember how I got here.  I got kind of pissed off.  I’m an alcoholic and there is a part of me that wants to slowly kill myself in Vegas, but here I am in charge of raising these two little ones instead.  It’s often said that alcoholism is an elevator heading down and you decide what floor to get off on.  In early sobriety, I honestly felt like I wanted to ride that fucker all the way to the basement just to see what’s down there.  I was actually angry with my kids for interfering with the self-indulgent trip to hell I had planned.

I want to understand what makes me want to drink myself to death in Vegas when I have an enviable life.  I think the easy answer is self-loathing, but when I think on it, that doesn’t sit right.  So I’m sitting here thinking about the fact that right before I fantasized about running away and numbing out, I was feeling like I had been delivered a life that I didn’t choose.  I don’t understand how I got to be holding this sweet little soul in a dark room on a Sunday night in the suburbs.  It’s not what I thought my life would look like; not what I planned.  That means I’m not in control.  Oh crap that means I’m REALLY not in control!  The ego rebels.

My plan was to end the post and put up this Talking Heads song, but I looked up the lyrics and they’re even more apropos than I thought.  Today I actively turn my will and my life over to God.  I wasn’t doing that before, my life is what it is regardless of what I had planned.  In self-will, I fight the currents of the ocean making myself exhausted and miserable in the process.  No matter what I do, I’ll eventually find myself on the shore asking, “How did I get here?”  When I surrender to the currents, let the water hold me down if it needs to, I might not have to arrive tired and bewildered.

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.