Day 194 – and My New 28th Day

Earlier this week, I went to my first AL-Anon meeting in more than a decade – perhaps more than 15 years. However, from time to time in that absence from any organized meetings, I’ve enjoyed reading some of the day-to-day support materials and have continued to get something out of them. With that in mind – and some of the happenings of the last few weeks – I decided that it was time to go again both for myself and in support of a friend that I thought could benefit from being there.

Though the whole premise of the group is ANONYMOUS support, and I cannot share anyone’s story but my own, what I can say is that I felt immediately at home, comforted and welcomed. Everyone there is going through some level of the same issues – or has – and there is a silent understanding that is affirming in so many ways.

In addition to the friend that went with me, I saw a few other familiar faces. I don’t know their exact stories and it wouldn’t matter if I did. But it was great to know that they loved and accepted my on a whole new level. I hope that my friend will quickly feel that same acceptance and love and allow their stories to help heal hers.

One of the reasons I like Al-Anon and felt so much more compelled to go there rather than AA is that I feel like it addresses the history, problems and relationships that have probably led to my own relationship/problems with alcohol. To me, going there is like dealing with the source of the problem while going to AA seems like dealing with the symptom. Of course I may have that all wrong, but I don’t think so. Still, I will plan to go to AA at some point and to see if I need to heal my “addiction” from that side as well.

One of the statements we were given to consider tonight was “We can gain peace of mind by putting aside what we could or should have done by accepting who we are right now.” I recognize that many times in my life I have used alcohol as a way to forget bad choices, or perhaps forget the bad outcomes that came from my bad choices. Without drinking I am forced to look at those decisions and outcomes more directly, and given the chance to see myself clearly through sober eyes.
That can be difficult, let me assure you.

*************

Something else I’ve thought a lot about over the last few days is a prayer I made a few months ago. Not sure if this was before, during or after my initial sobriety adventure, but it was at some point since I started it. The prayer was simple and basically I asked to be able to let go of anything that was holding me back from being successful in the way I want to be. In my mind I was thinking that this could mean leaving some of my personal relationships behind, but now I am starting to think that it was actually my relationship with drinking that was holding me back.

Unfortunately, as I let go more and more of drinking and the life that went with it, I am feeling a lot of other things slipping away, the biggest thing actually being relationships with people I have known and thought of as friends for 20 plus years.

I’ve always been kind of an outlier or outsider with most of my peers, perhaps not my best friends, but with the other larger social groups. I’ve been this way as far back as I can remember really – the poor kid at the private school; the figure skater among the soccer players and cheerleaders; the high school drop-out among the college girls and frat boys; the entrepreneur around all the 9 to 5ers. Really in so many ways I’ve never fit in with the status quo but I could surpass a lot of these differences – at least when I got older – by partying with the people I didn’t quite fit in with in the other ways. That common denominator has cemented a lot of relationships and actually made up a lot of our commonality and memories. Now that I’ve stopped drinking the “cement,” some of those relationships don’t seem to be sticking to my life very well.

It will be interesting to see the outcome at the end of this year – and looking back after a bit more time has passed – to see who is still sticking around.

Oh yeah..it’s been 28 days since I last enjoyed more than a hummingbird-sip-sized drop of any kind of alcohol. The main things I’m missing about it are the abilities to relax and to sleep. Otherwise, I am A-OK! 

This made me laugh out loud and I just couldn’t resist sharing it:-)

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Day 179 – Beyond AA

I found this column from Annie’s Mailbox – “Beyond AA” back in April but never shared it. As someone who does not consider themselves an alcoholic, the idea of finding a sponsor and going to AA does not appeal to me. So it was nice to see a number of other options out there as listed in the article. I look forward to checking them out and perhaps writing about my experiences. (I’ve added them to the Resources & Articles page for your convienience.)

Despite this fact, over the last few weeks, really since early August, I have been reading a couple of daily affirmation books I got years ago from Al-Anon. They’ve been helpful yet again both in dealing with my emotions about my own drinking (or non-drinking) journey as well as that of others I am close to, including my husband.

Six days ago when I told him what the PA said – that he thought I was an alcoholic – my husband of course admitted concern about his own drinking as he is and always has been a much heavier drinker than I. And as he put it, I have always been the more thoughtful and concerned drinker between the two of us, paying attention to how much we both consume on most occasions.

I haven’t called the rehab center – I just haven’t felt the need. But tomorrow I may go to AA just to see if I belong there – or if he does. And yes, I know, I can’t really control anyone’s drinking but my own so I may piggy-back a visit to Al-Anon as well. Even with that, I must take one day at a time.

For now, I’m off to pour myself a delicious glass of choclate milk and head to bed.

Day ???? – Is This my New Reality?

It’s been a rough day. I’ve had to do a lot of thinking after an unplanned trip to Urgent Care with what has turned into a very painful kidney infection. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve brought it on myself again by drinking again a bit over the last two months. Now I’m now trying to answer the question….

Am I actually an alcoholic?

Why do I ask this? Well, at least according to the PA at Urgent Care, I am an alcoholic because I have been ignoring the pain in my kidney and continuing to drink (albeit minimally) in spite of it. It doesn’t matter that I quit for three solid months or that even in drinking recently, I’ve cut way, way back from what I used to drink – which wasn’t really that much especially over the last few years. I guess because even just one drink seems to hurt me that I shouldn’t drink at all. But I have ignored this fact – again and again and again for years and years – only stopping here and there when it would start to bother me again. In fact, my kidney pain is a big part of what prompted this one year “experiment” to begin within. Evidently that is a problem, at least to the PA.

The impact of the blunt statement by the PA hurt me a lot worse than when he tapped the area around my already painful, inflamed kidney to check for an infection. After recommending that I go to a nephrologist to see if there is a deeper kidney issue, he also strongly suggested I seek treatment and counseling at Fellowship Hall, a local rehab center. Wow.

So I’ve spent part of the evening taking a variety of online self tests about alcohol addiction. I am not liking the results. Though they’ve all had a different angle and set of questions, they all say that I have a problem with alcohol and need to seek treatment. (Note, I answered them as my drinking self to give an accurate picture of what I am like when I am drinking.)

However, this outcome still galls me because I haven’t had anything to drink in a week (well 6 days if you count the one ounce of wine I had last Sunday, less if you count the literal sip I had of Dave’s beer one night and tiny taste of his martini another. Hmm that all sounds bad). But a week ago I had two glasses of wine and had gone nine days before that. And let’s not forget the three months of not drinking from March to June. All in all, I’ve actually been feeling mentally fine about myself – drinking or not drinking – until today. But now I am starting to wonder if all this time I have actually been in denial about the truth. 

I’ve felt virtually speechless all day. Have I been going through the stages of grief for the potentially pending death of my drinking life since this all started in March? Or simply unwilling to admit that I do in fact have a problem? Is that part of the grief and if so what stage is next? 

I am torn between wanting to fall apart and acting like absolutely nothing has changed. But it has changed – and that is that someone else…a medical professional…thinks I am an alcoholic. 

Seeing those words on this page are stunning. Someone thinks I am an alcoholic...not one of my friends, not someone who has seen me with a big, delicious buzz but a medical professional who knows nothing about me other than what I told him. And he thinks I am an alcoholic.

I don’t know how to share this with anyone – not my friends, not my husband, not even the people who read this blog – although I will eventually because my whole purpose in life is to help others succeed and/or heal. But at the moment I don’t quite know how to deal with the fact that in spite of all my self-exploration, evaluation and ongoing “self-healing” that I may have overlooked the reality that I am an alcoholic. And the fact is, it probably took a stranger to tell me because no one else in my world can tell me the truth (or their version of it) without thinking about how it will affect them and our relationship – or perhaps most importantly – THEIR relationship with alcohol. No one wants to consider that too closely.

I’m not sure what I know for sure other than in this breath everything will be OK. That and it is time to go to sleep – or at least to try.  Please sending loving, restful thoughts and hope that I can get to sleep without a problem.

*****

In case this post makes you want more info about the stages of grief, click here for a helpful article I found tonight.

Or this about “Dry Drunk Syndrome” 

And this about Grief about Quitting Drinking

You can look under Resources and Articles tab to find links to some of the various assessments I took as well.

Day 165 – What Dreams May Come

It’s been a hell of a week. Since I last wrote some big stuff has happened in my world and in the world at large. One of the biggest…on August 11th, Robin Williams committed suicide after years of struggling with depression and various addictions. Then several days ago, an announcement came out that he had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease..

For some, this new information made Robin’s death by suicide more palatable perhaps – probably because he wasn’t “just” depressed. Others seem to feel like he should have put up a bigger fight against this disease (I mean, look at Michael J. Fox, right?), as if life-long depression and addiction isn’t a big enough fight itself.

Thankfully too, there have been a lot of articles trying to either focus on the great accomplishments of Robin’s life as well as who he was as a person and artist. Also, his death has brought a lot of much needed attention to the fact that many people – even successful, attractive, talented and funny people – suffer with serious and long-term depression.

Despite being a writer, it’s taken me a week to really be able to commit any of my own thoughts about Robin’s death to paper. I was just a little too numb with shock. My thoughts too raw. The images in my head too clear and too personal.

I didn’t know Robin Williams, nor had I even seen him in person. The closest I came to that was about fourteen years ago, when I met his brother, Todd, very briefly. He was the owner of Toad Hollow Winery and hosted a wine dinner I attended. In looking up the name of the vineyard online, I found out Todd passed away about seven years ago and that perhaps (according to an incredibly reputable gossip website) Robin – who was very close to his brother – was still grieving over the loss. Well, duh.

But even though I didn’t have a direct connection to one of America’s biggest and best-loved comedic and dramatic legends, I feel incredibly “close” to Robin now that he’s gone and his struggles are being shared out in the open. Why and how? Because I know oh too well what depression is like and how hard it can be for others to believe that an extroverted, outgoing entertainer/successful career driven person could have any reason to be depressed. I’ve suffered with grief and loss continuously since I was ten years old when I lost my dad to lung cancer (and divorce before that.) By the time I was sixteen, my grandfather and grandmother that raised me had also died. And when I was twenty, I lost my mother to suicide.

Since then, I’ve also struggled with my own depression and occasional thoughts of ending it all, but never to the point of seriously trying to take my life. (I don’t really count that night when I was fourteen and planned to do myself in by taking two aspirin an hour until the end finally came.)

But I do know what it is like to ache so badly that I wished I could die and that I had the courage – or the weakness – to do it. Though it has been many years since I’ve felt that way, I remember what it’s like to look at a gun on the coffee table and entertain the thought of shooting myself. I remember fantasizing about crashing my car into a cement bridge support as I sped down the highway. I’m not proud to say it but it’s true.

Luckily for me, each time these kinds of thoughts came around I had the presence of mind to get help, to talk to a friend, to move away from the gun or simply to call my doctor and tell them about what I thought were bad side effects from medication I was taking.

I’ve also prayed, cried, meditated, drank, worked out, sang, written poetry, called friends, slept, gone shopping, eaten ice cream and done countless other things to try and take the edge off the pain. I’ve built businesses, taken on too many projects, ignored my friends, become a work-a-holic and gotten burned out as a result. Sometimes despite all my efforts, I’ve still felt depressed, defeated, inferior, not good enough and unworthy.

Yet time and time again, I’ve reached deep down inside myself to find a kernel of hope and optimism; looked around me for new and unique ways to re-inspire or reinvent myself; and have kept going. Along the way, I’ve tried to help, support and inspire others who were feeling the same kinds of pain I’ve had. (Why do you think I’m writing this?) It’s funny in a way that many of those same people can’t imagine I’ve ever had problems like theirs or don’t think I could know what they’re going through because all they see is the strong, confident, successful, and sometimes funny person that is trying to brighten their day. 

Losing Robin – someone who was personally unknown to me but yet still an incredibly familiar person and ongoing presence in my life – to suicide, once again stirred up all the old pain of loss and of grappling with the whys and “what ifs” that come when someone takes their own life. It also brought me back face to face with my own struggles and the challenge to yet again “keep going” in spite of them. I know I’m not alone in this and I hope that – if anything – his death will teach all of us to acknowledge the personal challenges, like depression, we all face as serious and real. I hope it will also bring out a stronger effort of compassion and care from and for all so none of us ever feel that alone.

Thank you, Robin, for all you brought to our lives in your work, life and even your death.

Namaste y’all.

Day 152 – A Story Over Too Soon

1:21 AM

I just got a bit of a shock. On a day that I randomly decided to wear a shirt from a gym where I used to work and where I had my massage practice back in the mid-nineties, I saw an obituary for one of the trainers, Joseph Raynor – aka Joe Joe to all of us – who worked there. He was also one of my massage clients, and a friend, at least during the time we worked together. What I remember most about Joe Joe was his deep smile and generally good-natured personality that made me think of a big snuggly teddy bear. He was a big guy – a former football player – and good ole country boy who had a light and sparkle in his eyes and who always looked like he was ready to laugh.

Joe Joe was a few weeks older than me but a lot less mature in a lot of ways. He had a baby-face (and despite his athleticism some baby-fat) and an almost ever-present smile on his face. Whenever we talked I always heard an innocence and sense of wonder or bewilderment about life and what it was all about.

In other ways, Joe Joe knew more about life than I did and perhaps more than I ever want to know. He was a world-class power lifter and competed in events all over the country. He was, at 25, already unhappily married with a child. And he knew what it was like to be arrested, go to jail and have a felony record. Though he was not involved with drugs when I knew him, he had gotten in trouble for helping people in the power-lifting community sell and/or buy steroids and was still on probation.

In the early days of our friendship, Joe Joe was very careful to stay away from potentially bad situations like going out to bars and really didn’t drink. He had a young son and family to take cre of and usually opted to be the responsible one. Later, as the group at the gym got bigger and a little more out of control, I heard a few stories about Joe Joe behaving badly and getting in a few bar fights. But not long after, he seemed to get a better sense of himself back, got some money together and bought the gym. I think we all hoped this would be a turning point for him and his life overall – and I think it was for a while.

But then, somehow, something propelled Joe Joe back into some of his past bad habits. I’m not sure exactly what went on in those days, but I heard stories of problems with the business; then of him getting into hard drugs – both using and selling; and later about him being in back in jail.

Judging from the obituary, I guess part or all of that may be true. It talked about how he’d become a Christian as an adult and had been involved in spreading his faith through prison ministries, AA, NA and another organization that I think is  a rehab center. All in all though, it read like he had turned over a new leaf and was building a life with a woman he intended to marry and her son. 

Though I haven’t seen Joe Joe in years…probably at least 16 or so…reading about his death really knocked the wind out of me. I immediately called another friend who knew him back then and perhaps better than I did. Though neither of us came out and said it I’m sure we were both thinking “What a damn shame.” I don’t know what killed him – it if was a slip back into drugs, driving drunk, or just his body giving out after the numerous and ongoing abuses it had taken. I guess it might have been none of those and instead something totally unrelated or random. But I doubt it. (Update…it was a heart attack at age 44).

Now, as I continue to observe my own habits, vices and behaviors, I feel odd that I was sipping the last of a glass of wine when I saw the news in the paper. No, I wasn’t drunk – not even close. But I have to admit that part of me feels like this yet is another “wake-up” call to pay attention to.

The question, perhaps, is what am I supposed to wake up to hearing or seeing? That I should live life totally sober? That I should recognize life is short and to enjoy all the moments? That I need to be careful about who I partner or associate with? Am I meant to remember that who I am is made up of all the actions I take each day and the lessons I’ve learned along the way? That who I am is not based solely on one or two habits I have – good or bad – but rather the total content of my character. Or that when all is said and done, what matters most is the love andpositive memories you’ve left behind.

I don’t know if I will go to the service for him today or not. It’s been so long and it seems in part like it would be odd for me to be there. Yet, another part says “Go honor the person you knew. Think about the sweet side of him you got to see and preserve that in your mind and that of the people who knew him so he can be healed back to being that man wherever he is now.”

Regardless, my memory of Joe Joe is of that sweet young man pictured above, with his beautiful smile and sunshiney personality. Wherever you are, Joe Joe, truly I hope you rest in peace. xo fb

Day 136 – Side Trips Make the Journey Memorable

Well let me just admit it – I am paying no attention to the idea of “not drinking” at the moment other than to say I know I’ve totally fallen off the wagon. Or said another way, I am still taking a break from taking a break.

And that is OK with me on a mental and emotional level even if I know my body is protesting a little bit. Honestly, there are so many other things taking my energy right now – like resting and getting back to feeling like myself after so much time away from home  – that I don’t feel like I have any extra reserves at the moment to focus on the choice to not drink.

In fact I think the word of the day is CHOICE. It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that life is all about the choices you make, especially the choice we all have at any given time about how we will respond to a situation or problem. If there is any other significant or relevant word then it is PERCEPTION or perhaps ASSUMPTION. In the last few days this has been a recurrent theme and stood out in particular in several scenarios that have brought these points home.

Here’s one…

I have a wonderful client and friend who can be overly analytical about the conversations we have and how I might react to what he says. He also is someone who can get caught up in his perception or assumptions about something and sometimes forgets to choose to get clarification to determine if these are accurate. The combination of making assumptions and choosing not to clarify them often results in a huge and unneccesary amount of inner turmoil for him because he often assumes a fairly negative possibility.

This week he told me that this book/blog project had no purpose since I had been drinking again, that there was now “no story” there. In his mind he could only see the journey or exploration of sobriety as black and white – and that if I chose to explore drinking again in comparison to sobriety or as a part of the bigger quest for finding balance I was failing. His perspective made me sad but also helped me to see how and why he gets so upset about some things in his life. If you see whatever journey you are on as only being “successful” if you go to straight from Point A to Point B without any detours, side-trips, hang-ups or mishaps, then you will be severely disappointed on every vacation you take and in life in general. Or you will have a very boring life!

From my perspective, the unexpected, the falls, and the unplanned stop-overs are often the most memorable experiences on a trip and can offer the biggest opportunities for learning, growth, connection and meaning. I sincerely believe that the people reading my book and blog and thankful that I am sharing THE REAL STORY and not just living a milquetoast version of my life. I’d rather be genuine in telling the truth about the ups and downs of the journey – and being honest about the fact that I love some things about drinking while disliking others – instead of pretending to feel that I’ve totally changed my spots and never plan to drink again.

Thanks for your ongoing support and acceptance of me just as I am – and of my journey. I so appreciate it!

Day 120 – Isn’t Liquid Alcohol Enough?

OMG…While doing a random search online I just found an article about the development (possible) of POWDERED ALCOHOL. I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. Imagine the awesome calorie savings combined with the simplicity of sprinkling powdered alcohol over food like a seasoning – or powdered sugar. And yet I scare myself by thinking how awesome it sounds and wonder if it would make me consume/abuse alcohol in ways I never imagined.

Take a read for yourself by clicking here.