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.

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.

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.