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.

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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 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 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.

Day 89 – It’s Not a Sprint – It’s a Marathon!

Yesterday I ran in my third 5K of the year – more than I’ve ever done in one season. This one was unique in that it took place on the runway of the Greensboro airport – a place that most people never get to be on unless they are in a plane. Though it wasn’t my best run ever in terms of how I felt, I still managed to set a new personal record for finishing that distance event. And I felt good enough after I finished to take a Tai Chi class at my office which as very rewarding as well.

While both of these were positive achievements, unfortunately, the last few days have been filled with some emotional situations and challenges – both personally and professionally. There are a lot of things I could write about but for now I’ll focus on this: Today I had a drink as a response to stress and in hope of blocking out the overwhelming emotions I was feeling.

At the moment it is not important what the issues are – just that I hit a point where I said “Screw it.” I poured myself a small shot of Drambuie (over ice and shown above) and sipped it while I digested my dinner and an upsetting email. Not good.

Worse, the drink was not satisfying in any way and I did not enjoy it. So I was drinking only to numb myself. As a result, afterward (and even while having the drink) I felt guilty because I went against what I have been practicing for the last 3 months and let myself down. And for what?

Then as the evening wore on, I also felt that drink in my body – not the buzz or euphoria that come with drinking but instead my typical kidney pain – so it was not good on a physical level either.

After I finished my cocktail, Dave and I went to MUSEP – Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park – which is something of a summertime ritual with many of our friends. I was able to relax a little and enjoy a beautiful evening around some folks that I love dearly. Interestingly, a couple of people went out of their way to tell me how proud they were of me for quitting drinking– and even that they’d been reading my blog. I felt like I’d let them down too and was quick to tell them that I wasn’t perfect and that I’d had a drink or two here and there – including today. Funny, I actually felt like I had to justify it by saying I’d had a really tough day, blah blah blah. But it didn’t matter to them – they were all still proud of me for doing something so challenging, brave and introspective. 

And then I thought about one of my insights I had after yesterday’s 5K race. As I was stretching after the race, I was going through a list of “Lessons Learned From Running” in my head. One of these was this: Setting a Goal – and Going After It – Is the Important Thing.

As I said, I set a new personal record yesterday. BUT…it was it not the goal I set so initially I was a little disappointed in how the race turned out. That being said, as I was cooling down I realized that if it were not for my initial goal of finishing in 33 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself hard enough to finish in 33:58.

So even though I was not perfect in the execution of my 5K goal, I still did better in this event than I ever have before by having a goal. So in terms of not drinking, perhaps today felt like I lost some time in the race, but I’m still well ahead of where I would be without my goal of not drinking for a year. Besides the “race” isn’t over yet and I still have plenty of reasons to be proud of my efforts and achievements.

Thanks for being a part of my process and for supporting me through the successes and “failures” I’ve had with it. My true success is the growth I’ve had and the way (I’ve been told) my journey has helped other people to take a look at their own lives and habits differently. If my story helps even just one person to be happier and live a better life, then it’s worth it to me to share it.

Namaste y’all.

Day 71 – Blessings Abound

Day 71 – It’s funny how much difference a week can make in your perspective. Last week I was feeling very down and stressed. This week – and especially the last few days – has been amazing. In fact I don’t even know where to start.

First fact – I just passed my 10 week mark. That is pretty awesome. Although I have not completely abstained from alcohol in that time, I have for all practical purposed quit drinking and feel much better as a result. I am more energetic, focused and clear-headed. This is a plus and a minus as I seem to be having a hard time relaxing and stopping working. But I will find my balance soon I’m sure.

Second fact – I have lost weight/fat and am looking a lot more trim than since I quit smoking in 1993. I am excited about this and hope I can keep the momentum going with some good workouts over the next month while I am home. 

Third fact – When I got back from my conference, my newest book, Reflections of My Heart: A Poetic Journey of Love, Life, Heartbreak and Healing was waiting on me. Though I don’t currently plan to promote it heavily since it is so personal, it was important to me to put this in print and to add to my “family” of books.

But probably most exciting fact is the email I got Monday morning inviting me to speak in South Africa in July. This came somewhat out of the blue but can be tied directly to a couple of specific events in my life.

  1. Last summer I was involved in a somewhat difficult continuing education class in Florida. Though the planning and promises did not line up as they were supposed to, while I was there I met with a friend in Miami who helped me get set up to teach at a couple of conferences in Miami and Dallas – perhaps others later this year. This friend was the editor of a magazine called Les Nouvelles Esthetique and Spa (LNE) and I have had a great time at their events.


  2. Fast forward to a month ago when I ran a 5K to raise money for African penguins. At that race my friend Tammy mentioned that her boss had seen penguins when he was in South Africa and suggested that I look for a conference there. Later that day I did some online research, found a conference put on by the South African edition of LNE and applied. Then this week, I found out that they do in fact want to bring me there. WOW!

What this tells me is that a) something good can come from something bad if you only look for the opportunities and b) you have to pay attention to the small signs and coincidences that come up as they are there to guide you. I am thrilled about the potential opportunity and hope I will get to stay in the country for a few weeks to speak at ANOTHER conference later in the month for another organization.

I should also mention that the cover design is almost done for my third book, The Sunflower Princess, AND that I have found an illustrator. I am SO happy with this as I have been looking for ages to finish this book and can’t wait to see it in its final form. I am working on another idea for a follow up book and also see the possibility of other Sunflower Princess books and products thanks to my friend, Lora.

Like I said it has been an amazing week filled with one awesome thing after another. Though I can’t directly attribute most of them to not drinking, there is definitely an influence here and there from it and I am grateful. May the blessings continue!!

Day 61 – Mother’s Day

Day 61 – It’s Mother’s Day. As per usual, I am numb to the holiday and would almost ignore it if it were not for a) potential gift certificate sales at both my businesses and b) my sweet mother-in-law. 

Though it’s hard to explain to all those folks who have super-hero type moms, I have never been able to celebrate this holiday in earnest, at least not since I was about twelve, as it’s hard to celebrate all the things you wish your mom had been but definitely wasn’t.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend who also has a mom who is less than stellar. We lamented the fact that there are no greeting cards designed for moms like ours with sentiments like “It’s Mother’s Day – and you’re (still) my mother – so I felt obligated to get you a card” or “Happy Mother’s Day. Thanks for occasionally doing mother-like things for me when I was a kid” or my current favorite “Happy Mother’s Day. I’m spending the day mothering myself since I didn’t get enough of that from you growing up.” 

As I’m sitting here writing, I hear a familiar clinking of Dave’s wedding ring on glass and sense he is adding some Bailey’s or other liqueur to his coffee. I try not to feel aggravated but I am. It gets even worse when he sits down next to me and I confirm via the aroma that he’s added some of that delicious stuff to his morning beverage. The only saving grace is that I don’t drink coffee so I don’t feel as left out as I otherwise might. 

I decide to placate my frustration by making Bananas Foster French Toast with pecans and a delicious, made-from-scratch bourbon/brown sugar/butter sauce. It hits the spot and Day 61 continues.

Day 54 – Erasing an Addiction

Day 54 – I’ve been teaching in the Seattle area for the last few days and am now headed to Dallas for another conference. On my flight to Dallas, I see an ad in the in-flight magazine for a 10 day recovery program at Schick Shadel Hospital. Their treatment program is supposed to completely eradicate your addictions through “Counter Conditioning” that somehow teaches you to hate the sight, smell, taste and thoughts of using the addictive substance. They also use “medically administered deep sleep therapy” to cleanse low self-esteem, guilt, regrets and other emotional burdens to improve long-term mental health.

Hmm. I candidly admit that although at this point alcohol is not really appealing to me from a taste standpoint right now, I don’t like the idea of being completely grossed out by the way it tastes, smells or even looks. As prevalent as alcohol is in our culture – and among most of my friends – I almost feel like I’d have to wear a bag over my head to keep myself from feeling sick all the time. 


I’m also a bit hesitant to consider the idea of what essentially sounds like some kind of checmically induced coma/brain-washing. Perhaps there are levels of mental fucked-up-ness that require such heavy duty interventions. But for me, I feel that I am pretty OK emotionally and cannot see turning my brain over to some technician or doctor to clean up while I am in a “medically-induced”sleep-trance. 

That being said, I am curious about both and note that the two clinics listed are in Seattle where I just left and Dallas where I am going. 

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After perusing their website and seeing numerous testimonials from past patients that praise the center, I feel a bit better about what they offer at Shick Shadel.  I don’t see myself going there anytime soon as I am doing just fine without any sort of formal program. For me, quitting drinking is still simply a choice. But I’m glad to know that such an effective program exists if I ever need it.

Here’s their info in case you want to check it out. 

http://www.schickshadel.com or 1-800-Craving