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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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.

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.

Crying Out Now Anniversary Video

I’m one of the women in this video.  Right now I’m hemming and hawing about whether or not to share it on my Facebook wall.  The issue isn’t that I’m afraid of what people will say, but of what people won’t say.  I’m afraid I’ll share it and not get a single goddamn like or comment.  I’m afraid that I’ll put myself out there in a very vulnerable way and not be acknowledged.  That’s some ego shit going on, so I’m going to sit on this for now.

A big “Thank You!” to Ellie at Crying Out Now for putting this together.