Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The upcomings

I'm nervous about seeing family. I'm nervous about being back in old haunts. I'm nervous about how to tell my family I don't drink anymore. I'm nervous about too much down time. I'm nervous about the stories I hear of unconscious, patterned minds that if a drink is left near a hand, it grabs it as if in old habit. I'm nervous about the different meetings I'm going to find in other towns. I'm nervous about whether my extended family will understand if I tell them I'm not drinking because I just finished antibiotics and am trying to get healthy - not ready to tell the full story yet. I'm nervous about finishing the scarf I'm making for my sister.

Etc Etc...

But I'm also happy that I've got 25 days sober now and will celebrate a full month in 5. I'm happy that I have an awesome sponsor. I'm happy that my awesome sponsor has given me homework on the first Step (We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable) - something similar to this. I'm happy that my boss lady gave me a bonus. I'm happy that I get to hug my family. I'm happy I get to see my grandma and extended family. I'm happy to be traveling - in spite of the anticipated cluster fuck of security lines. I'm happy that my sister is SO completely supportive -- even if she doesn't get it all (it's true that, really, only other alcoholics do). I'm happy to give my sister a scarf I've been knitting since day one of sobriety - with its imperfections and all.

Etc Etc...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Never enough sleep

Sunday day, I went to a meeting with my sponsor. It wasn't inspirational or amazing or boring or anything. It just was. But I was crying anyway. Little quiet tears seeping out. I had no idea why. After the meeting, my sponsor and I just sat there as I sobbed. No explanation - no need for one. My mind has pushed a ton of things deep down into my body so I wouldn't think about them, and perhaps this is just the biological release.

Then, I cooked up a mean bean chili soup and watched old episodes of Survivor. ...Ironic? nah, I've been cycling through old TV shows out of boredom: made it through all of weeds, was turned off by the catty morons on The Apprentice, not into the girlie drama of Seattle's General Hospital (Grey's Anatomy), stressed by all the yelling on Hell's Kitchen. So, I settled on Survivor for now: there's still mini drama, but I like it more for the group challenges.

Monday was a new day: work, meeting, sleep. Tuesday, I had 7:30am meeting with my boss lady (which meant I had to get up at 5:15am - who is alive at 5:15??!!), work, meeting, sleep. And it's about this time that my cold kicked it up into sinus infection land. And I've just been beat. Wednesday: work, meeting, sleep. Thursday: work, almost didn't go to a meeting because I feel so shitty but still made it, sleep. Thursday was the more interesting day as I had lunch with a grad school friend who is also working where I work. (She kind of got me the job.)

I told her last weekend that I had some good news, but we weren't able to meet up as she'd banged up her knee post-ACL surgery. So, when she met my new boss lady at a meeting she thought that was my good news. Nope! I was having that meeting in my friend's work building and asked her if we could grab lunch. We didn't have a lot of time so she invited me to the restaurant downstairs to eat at the bar. Hilarious. I mean, you've got to understand that I'm not some fiending drunk who is slobbering for a lick of booze. I didn't even think about the bar fact. "Of course it will be faster at the bar." And it didn't even dawn on me until after I'd told my friend that I was an alcoholic and she apologized for bringing me to a bar. But, I wasn't much of a daytime drinker anyway. Had it been night and she'd invited me to a bar for a chat, I might have thought otherwise. In fact, I found it odd that a young woman saddled up to the bar and ordered a huge beer with her lunch. It's the middle of the day!

So, she asked if that was my good news, and I told her, "You're the first person I'm saying this out loud to face-to-face. Please don't freak out." "You're scaring me, Lola," she laughed. "Well, I'm an alcoholic and I've stopped drinking." She got tears in her eyes and hugged me, told me how proud of me she was, asked what prompted it, how did I know, how she thought of me as her hero (she's younger) and how brave I was for doing this. I don't really think of it as brave. Frankly, I don't want to think too much about it - quitting drinking for good, knowing that I'm "allergic" to booze in the sense that 1 is never enough and a 1000 never too many, that this is a hard journey that I'm undertaking, that it takes bravery. I just don't want to think about that. I want to think about work-meeting-sleep right now. I want to think about the fact that in my list of priorities when visiting family for the holidays is: AA meeting, grandma, sister/parents, extended family, whatever else. Keep it simple. Keep it basic. Dig in and dig deep over time.

She was still very sweet and totally relieved me that she didn't freak out. It was super awesome. I think I stunned her though and when we hugged goodbye I think she was still processing it. I mean, lunch wasn't a very long time.


Friday I went to the doctor. Did you all know that DC has barely any urgent care clinics? It's ridiculous, but thankfully I called for an appointment on Wednesday and got in Friday morning. Got some antibiotics - needed to conquer this sinus infection so I don't bring it back to WI and infect my dad while he's battling cancer on chemo meds. Came home and slept for four hours. Then, I hit a meeting at 7pm. Saw my guy friend who helped me get to AA, listened to some good and honest stories.

Today, I went to a morning meeting, but ended up accidentally in an Al-Anon meeting. I was rushing to get to the meeting on time and didn't realize I was in the "wrong" room until it was somewhat too late to get up and walk out.

Texts to my sponsor:
Me: Oh no I accidentally ended up in the alanon grp mtg! think I might stay and listen esp considering what my sis said last nite.
Me: Think that's ok? That I stay?
Me: Quick or I'll duck out
Sponsor: Yes. You can stay.
Me: Is it bad? Am I a traitor?
Sponsor: I've accidentally walked into that one and have also walked out. Being in either one is ok... Alanon might be helpful with upcoming trip home.
Me: Maybe HP [higher power] wants me here? Accident on purpose?
Sponsor: NO!! LOTS of people overlap. If you speak, don't address yourself as an alcoholic. Just intro as "Lola"
Sponsor: Exactly. There are no accidents.

I actually heard some really good words and stories. It wasn't all alcoholic-bashing at all. In fact, it was about anonymity - leaving the personality at the door. Principles before personalities. I felt a bit justified for being in the room because my mom's an alcoholic, but it didn't matter. What mattered is that everyone is trying to get through life with some issues at hand. It was just what I needed today.

Then, I came home for a bit and headed out. Tonight was my first sober social event. This woman E had invited me to her place for dinner with friends. I took the metro out, with a good book in tow (Dry - A Memoir; by Augusten Burroughs, the writer of Running with Scissors). Then, despite E's offers, I walked the mile to her apartment building. I needed the cool air to clean my brain for the evening. The dinner was great, the company was so-so (some ego-acting, some bad jokes, but overall some really sympathetic and kind folks), the dessert was amazing (gluten-free German chocolate cheesecake). And, I was so humbled and overwhelmed by E's generosity - she gave everyone gifts. I got a thumb drive with This American Life mp3s, a rubik's cube, a million chocolates, and some vanilla spray scent. I brought her a bag of chocolates that I had basically already eaten from but felt compelled to bring something and I'm just not in the head-space to plan right now. Such a chump.

Then, one of her guy friends gave me a ride home. It's so strange to be around men right now. It's almost as if I'm a Mormon or something, or a 13-year-old at a Baptist school dance. No one really looks at each other. No one touches. The guys as they left the party waved. The girls gave me hugs. At one point, one of the girls who is dating one of the boys, was all huggy on him and he somewhat pushed her off - as if he didn't want to demonstrate affection in front of me. Not that there's not affection between alcoholics - don't get me wrong. I mean, the guy friend who helped me find my first AA meeting is also a pretty kinky, wild guy - after all, we did start our friendship trading sex stories and kink advice.

But there's this tension. And, I think it has more to do with me than them. See, I'm all newly sober and that means I'm super raw and exposed - able to cry faster than a speeding bullet. It also means that I'm not a whole person at all. I'm between some drunk girl who swallowed all her emotions and packed them deep down into the back of a cavernous closet and a girl aiming for sobriety who is finding out who her real self is - the self that feels things, is honest (more real than my fame-claimed "brutal honesty"), and has gone through the pink cloud out to the blue cloud to the black cloud to the white cloud while staying sober. Right now, I'm too new. I'm not to be trusted, but to be hoped for. I'm also highly lacking in sexual intimacy (21 days sobriety PLUS 21 days prior that of not sleeping with anyone which equals 42 fucking days of no fucking! Probably the longest I've gone in almost a year). So, I'm all oozing and radiating and pulsing attraction, while also emitting crazy-girl-supreme. I'm certainly not pouring myself over men, or even touching them, because I just feel too... well, Mormon. I'm all new and confused, and dangerously unstable.

I was walking home from work on Thursday night. Thinking I'd take the bus home and go to a later meeting because I was sick and planning the doctor visit on Friday morning. As I was leaving the building, this guy who works there left with me. We'd chatted a couple times before - once when I met him as the CFO was departing the agency and once walking out to head home. We briefly chatted the second time and I recall commenting (pre-sober girl) that I agree to working hard and playing hard. He had no idea that Thursday me was new me and as I was parting to go to the bus stop he asked if I'd like to grab a drink. I was totally caught off guard. I said that it was a nice invitation but I'm really sick and just heading home to rest blah blah. Well, could we grab one another time? I said sure, that'd be nice. (Dumb dumb dumb, but I'm not about to tell co-workers that I'm an alcoholic, just joined AA and well, I'm not even a month sober.) I'll have to figure out a plan for this one. He called me today and I begged out of a long phone call with heading out the door to dinner (not a lie) and that maybe it would be best to tag up after the holidays since I'm trying to lie low because my dad's not in the best of health and I want to get healthy (not a lie). Postponed for now. I'll chat my sponsor up about how to handle this.

But there's more to it. I'm not ready to share my personal changes with anyone at work, but also I'm totally damaged goods.

As Augusten wrote (post-rehab, first time back in NYC):
While I'm doing tricep kickbacks, my face ready to burst capillaries, a handsome guy doing squats smiles at me. Nods his head. I immediately look away, feeling very much like damaged goods. Because even though I'm in public like a normal person now, I am still removed from society. I imagine how our coffee conversation might go.

Squat Man: So, tell me about yourself.
Me: Well, I just got out of rehab. And went to the first of the AA meetings I will have to attend for the rest of my life.
Squat Man: Hey that's great, man. Good for you. Listen dude, I gotta run. Nice talkin' with ya. Good luck. Ciao.

Like cubic zirconia, I only look real. I'm an imposter. The fact is, I'm not like other people. I'm like other alcoholics. Mr. Squat can probably go out, have a couple drinks and then go home. He might even have to be talked into a third drink on a Friday night. Then on Saturday morning, he might have a slight hangover. I, on the other hand, would have to be talked out of a thirteenth drink on a Monday. And I wouldn't wake up with a hangover. Just a certain thickness that only after rehab, only after waking up without this thickness, did I realize was a hangover. A comfortable hangover, like a pair of faded jeans or a favorite sweater with too many fur balls on it.

I go down to the locker room. In the shower I think about how I'm a drunk that doesn't get to drink. It seems unfair. Like keeping a Chihuahua in a hamster cage.

It's true. This is one the of the great truths to early sobriety - and long-term alcoholism. Sure, my sponsor has a great boyfriend she's been with for a year. Sure, alcoholics get married or partner up for life or for however long. They fall in love, they have kids or dogs or go traveling the world. They find happiness and sadness and joy and pain. But this does not happen in early sobriety. In early sobriety - I feel and have heard - the only people who get me/us are other alcoholics. Our drinking friends don't like us hanging out with a drink or two in us (I have yet to try this as, frankly, I don't have any drinking buddies in DC who equaled my drink-to-drink intake - and honestly, I'm not interested in finding them back in Minneapolis or Madison or Paris or anywhere.) Our "normie" friends (as you normal folks so affectionately called - those people who can have 1 beer a night or go weeks without drinking or have a beer a night or a few drinks and call it enough) don't get us unless they have alcoholic friends also. It's like when my school chum/work colleague didn't get it when I said I drank like it was water. Literally. Toward the end of things I'd have about 10 empty bottles for recycling after 7 days. And I remember pouring one glass of wine after work and sitting here, in front of the internet, getting up, pouring another, sitting down, getting up, pour another, over and over, like I was on rinse repeat. Or, like, when my sister said, "But you're not like mom." Sure, I didn't want to be visibly drunk like my mother. Toward the end of a night, she got mean sometimes. Growly. Touchy about every little comment. Slurry. Sometimes affectionate in a misdirected, accidental, sloppy way. I kept it contained and hidden during the work week. And on weekends, I had to have a few drinks before doing anything: seeing my ex, hanging out with friends (rarely done, a lot of excuse-making there).

The only people who can understand where I'm at when I break down in tears (with no real reason for them, no memory, no instigation), or when I feel shy reading the preamble, or when I hide my face, or when I beam with temporary joy, or when I'm terribly afraid - the only people who get why are other alcoholics. It's not just the same fears and emotions that regular folks have. It's an unpeeling of a giant onion that I've become with all my emotions pushed deep down.

One of the speakers I heard recently focused her talk on anger. How she'd find release for her anger when she drank, which landed her in several overseas jails and in fights. I never ended up in the latter two, and I don't see myself as an angry drinker, but my sister said on the phone, after I told her the first time, "I guess I can see it. I always wondered why you were so angry sometimes." I actually shared this with the group (a big group, too) following the speaker's lead. That I don't remember being an angry drunk (they laughed - of course, I don't), but that I'm looking forward to doing certain Steps to uncover that and also to speaking with those affected and asking for forgiveness. I know I was angry sometimes because I remember some raucous tangles with pdh and James, and the random screaming and singing at the pier in the dead of winter.

And, as the speaker said, her anger was just a result of a deep, deep loneliness. Alcoholics are some of the most isolated isolationists. We're all overly sensitive and supremely insecure. And while I'm going through this strange unraveling of that and the buried hurts, and becoming real again and learning to feel feelings and let them be normal, I really don't think I can be around other people much. Even tonight, sober around other alcoholics was difficult. I wasn't sure how to communicate, when to laugh and when to not take things too seriously, when to offer to help, or when to smile. After dinner, as we sat around with our stocking presents and chatted, I felt compelled to play with the rubik's cube. Focus on this object instead of the overwhelming need to cry for the amazing generosity of E for giving me gifts. Focus on this plastic toy instead of interact with all this conversation I felt disengaged from. I kept looking at the clock the whole time. I wasn't thinking about drinking, nor was I craving a drink. But I was craving the isolation and safety of my apartment. And, while I was outside having a smoke with one of the guys, he counseled me that I should keep doing this - keep socializing, keep getting together with people to get out of the bubble, to be normal again.

It's good advice.

But for now, one moment at a time. Revel in the debutante socializing, sip chamomile tea, and go to bed - so I can go to the meeting tomorrow, see my sponsor, and maybe try hanging out again.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the rollercoaster

To my sponsor last night:

So, the meeting for celebrations was cool. I don't understand why ... or maybe I do why people ask others to speak for them on their anniversary: fellowship. It was all great. I was enjoying it and then [insert name of girl] invited me to the frozen yogurt place and I was all worried about catching the bus home. [insert name of girl] offered a ride but I wanted to get home - not sure why. Part of my brain was like in the Dupont meeting: don't rush out for the bus, just enjoy being with these people and relax. But I also wanted to get home to sleep for tomorrow's meeting in the AM. And then she and I were talking about where we work and things and that I should meet Amy who lives near me and she should be coming to the table soon and then [insert name of girl] asked what I was doing next weekend - that she was having some people over. And my brain froze into fear.

I thought back to one of the speakers tonight talking about his recovery and how he went into a meeting for young people (after being a tough kid alcoholic for so long) and all these guys came up and gave their numbers and one kid asked him if he was free tomorrow. He said, "no, I'm busy" (just to put off the kid from asking him to hang out). How about the next day, "busy." Then the kid said, "how about next Wednesday" (knowing this guy wouldn't plan so far in advance) and he said, "I guess I'm free." And the speaker took that point into how isolationist alcoholics are and I really identified with that so strongly. So, when [insert name of girl] asked me to come over I thought of that, and panicked. She said, it'll be fun, don't worry, we're just going to play games and stuff. And then I told her what I was thinking of and she thought I was kind of joking (and I was - kind of). And then I panicked. I haven't hung out with people - socializing - since Thanksgiving and that was before the me now. And I kind of teared up and she hugged me, and then Alice sat down, and I had to run to catch my bus.

What is wrong with me?!?! I mean, I know - from all the readings. But omg, I had no idea I was such a social phobe! And when she asked, I had to think, what am I doing next weekend? Well, nothing because I don't go out to drink anymore. Hell, I didn't even go out to drink before. I drank and then went to visit [the ex-boyfriend] to make out or hang out, but always after drinking. If I went out with friends after work it was to dinner and to drink - and then more drinking when I got home. Even Thanksgiving dinner with friends was a few glasses of wine and then get out of there to come home to drink. I mean, I had a verifiable panic attack at [insert name of girl] inviting me over. I know she understood, but omg. I don't even know what to think right now. It's so weird. So weird. I feel so tightly wound up, so cloaked. So contained. So trying to keep it together - look good, smile in the meetings, make jokes like I'm okay, have happy days and think it's all good. So held together. I can't even imagine just sitting in a meeting and crying - too many people would see me! I'd be so exposed! I know that's the point of it... as the same speaker said, "It's not about saving face, it's about saving your ass." But I don't know... this whole 5 minutes of panic is so weird.

Socializing - a group of people not in a meeting, but actually doing something together - without booze. So weird how I reacted. So weird.

I must be tired. All this rambling.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

14 Days!

Today is the 14th day sober. Whew!

What a crazy thing I'm doing. Trying not to think about it in the grand scheme of things, because the bigger picture, the longer-term is too overwhelming. Never drink again? But I never had beers at the German restaurant down the block! I never had whiskey on the rocks at Old Ebbitt Grill, never had a last sake, won't have champagne at New Years, won't be able to order the wine online that I'd purchased through groupon (gave it away as a gift), etc... Thinking of the future or the potential future that could have been is too overwhelming - and not necessary. The one-day-at-a-time thing works for me right now.

Thursday was a good day. I spoke at a meeting with the them of "joy of living". Told everyone how happy I felt compared to weeks ago, how I feel new and confused but joyous. Of course, folks pointed out that I was on a thing called the pink cloud

Then comes a day, followed by a series of days or weeks, where the addict or alcoholic experiences acceptance. He or she is excited at the prospect of what recovery from addiction and alcoholism has to offer and feel as if they have grasped what it takes to maintain quality recovery. All the work they have done in their addiction treatment center and self help group has paid off and they experience a reprieve from all the difficulties that have crossed their path. This reprieve, which is actually a feeling, lasts but for a period of time and as with any feeling, comes and goes. As this feeling of excitement and acceptance passes, the risk for relapse is great as the addict or alcoholic begin to doubt the quality of their recovery. They become scared and thoughts of their drug addiction or alcoholism reappear. Addicts and alcoholics will experience this “pink cloud” phenomenon many times in recovery. They become more committed to their relapse prevention program as their ability to cope up with feelings and situations increase and hence less likely the relapse is to occur.

but then...

[[[I didn't finish this post... the pink cloud is enough.]]]]

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Higher Power part deux

So, my sponsor thought my writing was nice, but lacked any real description or connection to me. True that. I guess I was just setting the scene for the more difficult work.

It's a bit more difficult, too. I haven't really thought of a higher power in a long time. Sure, when I can't find my keys, I scramble around muttering, "God, please please please help me find my keys. Please?" But I don't really picture a God or the blonde bearded guy in a toga.

"Some people," she said "believe their higher power is a judging one. Or, a scolding one like a parent." I was picturing the poor souls that have been tortured by Catholic school. I shook my head. No. No.

So, what do I imagine when I think about it? What's the puppet master look like behind the tree? What kind of sentiments do I attach to this energy?

It's difficult to pinpoint, although, if I'm truly honest with myself, I do think of a man in form. Sometimes, I think of my uncle who died of a brain tumor. Or, sometimes my grandfather. But they aren't really higher powers, I guess, since they're just spirits that watch over me.

So, to stick to the traits then. My higher power isn't condemning or shaming. It's more of a comforting lap with eyes of slight heart break. The world isn't pretty and what I do isn't always either. It's not disappointment, but it's heart break. That this higher power can see through my facade and see my pain, and his eyes are sad for that.

He's got a bosom filled with warmth and light for me.
Light. I was walking down the stairwell at work and the sunlight hit me. Light. Warmth.

Forgiving. Encouraging. Challenging, but not disciplinarian. Disciplined but not strict. Powerful - moving the great winds and stirring the oceans.

Holding hands in the circle at the end of a meeting saying the serenity prayer. My higher power is in the strength of unified voices. In humanity.

For the longest time, and still today, I hold a contempt for the stereotype of organized religion. So much of it is "let God take control." And, while I admitted that I try to control too much in my life (and I recall over and over how someone once said that bdsm submissives are often huge control freaks), I am also one to take charge of my life. Too many times I have heard or seen people who sit back and say, "let God handle it", and then don't act on what they need or desire. There is still free will and one of the things I think that the higher power gives us humans is the power to help ourselves.

That said, I do need to turn some of it over. Clearly, I can't control other people, the weather, cancer, the pop charts, conspiracies, wars, sunshine, my drinking. My drinking. I've been thinking a lot about this, too. Why I drank. When I drank. How I drank. When it escalated. How it got to be routine and not enough. There are no definitive points, but there are stages.

I started when I was fifteen. Sure, my parents were folks who allowed us sips here and there so as not to raise deprived, overly-curious kids who binged just to rebel. But I still did that. High school: I remember vomiting a fair amount in bars in Argentina. Back in the US, I was best friends with Mormons for 6 months in Oklahoma and didn't drink at all - that I recall. In Wisconsin, it's all we did for fun - and other exploratory activities. At that point, it gave me courage - to talk to boys, to make out with men, to be adventurous. College: I tried to be vegan and straight-edge but that didn't work. Dropped out of college and drank with the punk rockers in our house - and drank a lot. 40 ounces on the porch, jack and coke in the basement shows. When I moved in with the old man, it was to lube up my mind, release, be underage and drink in bars with him and his 30-year-old friends. Back in college, again it was to party, to get crazy, to spite my parents. Study abroad in Spain and it was heavy drinking. Shots and shots. My dad made a scrapbook of all my postcards and emails. I'm terrified to really look back on those days. Then, I moved in to my own apartment back stateside. And it became bar partying and drinking at home. And it progressed. And progressed.

More recently, I think about being at my parents' house when I got back from Paris. I drank moderately with them: 2 glasses of wine at dinner. But that was fine because I'd brought a delicious bottle of Irish whiskey back from my stop-over in Dublin. It was stashed under my bed and I ran through it at night. And on the weekends, I made sure to go visit friends in other cities. Back at my parents' and it was 2 glasses at dinner, then a glass from my mom's box wine hidden under the sink (yes, she's an alcoholic, a fact that the whole family is aware of - when I told my sister I'm an alcoholic and I've been going to AA she said, "But... you're nothing like mom."), and then another glass for good measure, and more days with friends. When I went to visit them over 4 July weekend, we were playing bananagrams and my mom had bought some cheap margarita mix thing - something I would have turned my nose up to before, but now it seemed fun and yummy. And I kept pouring. And pouring. We were having fun and I wanted to be chill. I wasn't smoking and I wanted to relax. I wanted to not care that my sister and I are competitive. I wanted to lose control over the tenseness around my dad's health.

Control. I can't hang on to it. I don't have it. So, I've got to give it to someone. And I wasn't always such a control freak. Younger me was more spontaneous, flowing freely with whatever happened, accepting the changes in life.

So, my higher power. I need my higher power to take control and have the control to help me when I can't. Stronger than me.

Blessing. Amazing. Goes without saying this super higher power superhero is omniscient, omnipotent, etc... Proud of me when I succeed at recognizing what my path is and act on it. Creator of destiny, but allows me to find my way to it - and hopes I recognize it when I realize it. Gift and wish granter. Caring. Teacher - helping me to learn from my suffering and challenges, that those are great growth periods. Has an understanding greater than I do: of the reasons why, of the how, of the why nows, of the interaction of molecules and electrons, of life and death. Oh, and likes really good music, great food, and has the coolest, most super intelligent friends.

At least, that's it for now.

Day 12... whew...

To my sponsor:

Busy day, but got out in time and made the meeting. Mr. X was there, we re-introduced. He asked how I was doing (as did Mr. Y - from across the room) and how many days. I told him I was doing good, really good, and just waiting for the other shoe to drop. "well at least you'll be sober if it does," he said. :)

Listened to some good folks. We read from Living Sober about letting the ego go. I was thinking more about how I want to be selfish these days and how I am. I'm leaving work earlier than I used to, telling friends thanks but let's check in later, and living it as I can. Me. Me. Me time. I was actually sitting in the meeting and checking the bus times during the break, thinking that I would ditch early to make the bus instead of waiting 1/2 hour like the past 2 nights. But then I thought, what have I got to rush to? I'll just have more time to kill - granted, I can always find good ways to kill it (read, hang on the web, etc), but it would also free up time to consider drinking (not really a thought too much). So, I relaxed and listened and was present, and figured that 1/2 hour wouldn't kill me. When I got the bus stop I saw the 37 that is limited stop up Mass to WI. Wow! Not sure if that was Providence, but awesomeness. Bad traffic gave me more time to read the Drinking: A Love Story book, too.

Walked to Whole F for yogurt, walked past the booze and thought, wow, that's a lot of wine there. Got my yogurt, treated myself to some truffle cheese (so yum - try it if you haven't!! it's in season now!), walked past my old friend the liquor store, bought smokes (not smoking much ATM, but didn't want to stress it if I was craving), and came home. All chill. Chopped my garlic for the leftover pasta, was doing dishes and the pot with the garlic fell off the stove and a mess. But I was like, no worries --- I'm realizing a lot of my drinking was under the premise of letting go, losing control since I carry so much control all the time --- just let the water keep running, whatever, one hand in front of the other, clean it up, chop some more garlic and voila!

So, there's my check-in. Now, I'm scarfing dinner and will hit the sack in an hour. All good. All good.

Hope you had a marvelous day. See you tomorrow!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 11

And, yes, I'm counting.

This one lady in my AA meeting tonight said that she's been sober for 60 days, and everything just seems so much more clear - to her eyes and ears and senses - and she's not sure she likes it.

For the first week - ie, last week (OMG, that seems so long ago already) - I was a mess. I couldn't sleep. I could barely eat. I felt all jittery on the inside and a tsunami of tears was behind my eyes ready to break out any moment. This week, I feel good. I feel damn good. Work is lame right now and slow and I'm having a difficult time adjusting to my new big boss. But I'm not pushing it too hard, because it's perfect that I'm in a downturn at work while I figure out the other half of my life. I've had time at work to ponder, to doze a bit (not really doze, but close my eyes - which is a treat in this fast-paced world), to think about my HP (higher power).

My sponsor got back to me on my previous writing and pointed out that something was missing. I knew it already so I jumped in and interrupted her and finished the thoughts we were both having. I didn't connect this HP to me. How do I really see it? A condemning God? A punishing, Catholic school-y, mean nun God? A big, jolly, belly Buddha? I thought about this a lot the other night. Even sat on a pillow with my legs crossed and fingers in zen position, right in front this awesome part-melancholy and part-wise, framed pencil sketch of a Native American (chief? elder? shaman?). I sat there asking, "Who is my god? Where is my god?" over and over in kind of a chant. It lasted 30 minutes and then I had to go to bed. (Ok, I confess, not bed, I wanted to finish the last episode of Weeds.)

But nothing is coming. No lightning bolt, no angels on harps, no awakening. Another person tonight said, "Believe that you will understand, and then you will understand what you believe." Or something like that. I should have written it down. She attributed it to St. Augustine, but the world wide says that his quote is: "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand." Ah, alcoholics, we make shit up and think it's deep.

Anyway, I'm not seeking, but I'm pondering.

Week 2. Week 2 and I'm pondering and have a cold. The fact that I have meetings to go to helps a ton. I can focus on work, then have a solid deadline to get out of the office. Then, I have a safe place where I can truly be me and say dumb shit or not make sense or stumble over words as I read them. I can listen to the joys of possibilities and hear the tears of the new seekers. I feel good. I haven't craved any booze, but I know the day might and will come. But I have an amazing safety net around me wherever I go: about 12 phone numbers of women and men who know what this is like, get it, don't judge, and have offered to be woken at the crack of dawn or midnight if ever I need someone.

In the meantime, of those I've told, my sister has been amazing. She asked a friend of hers in town where the AA meetings are and sent me a long list. So nice of her. I've had a couple of other friends offer to hang out - go to the zoo or a museum or a walk or coffee. One of my friend's dad died recently. I really wanted to take him up on his offer to hang out. Likewise, another friend who just wanted to come by and give me a hug. These folks are all "normal," non-alcoholics. I want to say yes, but I'm just not ready.

I called my sponsor and discussed this briefly. Is it okay that I'm not ready? Is it weird? She said no, that right now I'm an open and raw nerve, and the security of the group meetings is safety for me right now while I process and change (physically and mentally). It's not that AA's a cult and they ban me from engaging with other folks, it's purely my decision. And right now, I'm feeling a different kind of selfish, self-focus. When I was drinking I was also selfish and self-focused, but a different kind. A hurtful, non-caring kind. But this, now, is recovery. I need to find my core personality, who I was before I started drinking 20-odd years ago. Granted, I can't and don't want to return to a 15-year-old, but I've been washing down and stuffing down and numbing down my own emotions and feelings that now I've got to find them again. Let them breathe and be.

In the meantime, I'm just not ready to hang out or chat with those folks who don't suffer this disease, don't understand the compulsion, the need to keep drinking - one or two glasses won't do, I wanted more, I wanted all of it. And the hurt that I caused other people, without realizing it at all. (That step comes later.) The hurt that I caused myself, without realizing it, too. For, now that's where I'm starting. At the beginning. Opening the closets, airing out the rooms, unlocking all the trunks, peeling the layers off. And, while I'm doing that, I need to do it with other people who have done it and know the monsters, the dust, the nightmares, the buried jewels, the fears, and the ocean of tears that will be unleashed with this new decision.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Higher Power

Sponsor homework: Who/what/how is your Higher Power? Describe.

A lot of AA is based in a "higher power" with the underlying idea being that alcoholics aren't able to control their drinking or stay away from the addiction without trusting in something other than themselves or other people. I'm not ready to do research on the program to dispute its process or history, controversies, or failures. I don't care about that right now. Right now, I care about staying sober, because last week was struggle in a bottle and that didn't make me happy, and because - as I'll weed through at a future time - my past was trapped in that bottle and my addiction really directed a lot of my choices and actions, a lot of which didn't make me happy. But, no, AA is not Christian-based or religion brainwashing. If anything, AA and its creators were lazy. They went with the old standard of "God 'as we understand him'". It's that last part on which the current AA - and I - agree.

But I've already been in touch with the idea of a higher power. I was raised Lutheran and when I turned 18 I told my father that I didn't want to go to church anymore. "What about just coming to sing the hymns?" "Dad, I don't agree with the words." So, he told me that every Sunday I'd have to go to a different religious location, learn, and come home and we'd discuss. (Very diplomatic of him.) I tried the Universalist Unitarians my first free Sunday. Bo-ring. And we really didn't attempt more after that.

But I've always been fascinated with what compels people to gravitate to religion, how religions have been formed, how they've evolved, and what principles they try to convey (and how those are often distorted by human interpretation or manipulation). Granted, I haven't immersed myself so deeply as to take a course or read all of the Bible or the Koran or what have you. But I've skimmed the surface or the foundations of the major ones. I tend to believe that the basic foundations of each one are pretty good guiding principles: don't fuck with other people so they won't fuck with you (aka do unto others as you want back to you), try not to kill, try not to maim, give love, think of the future sons and daughters of the earth, give thanks. That's like pretty much all of them there.

Building on that, I've identified with a lot of Buddhist ideas concerning karma, reincarnation, some of the suffering (craving often does lead to suffering for me in so many ways or another), and the noble truths. (Note, I said "identified" not practiced per se.) Then, there's the Taoist ideas of simplicity and harmony. The great dharma and deities of Hinduism. The amazing rituals of the Yoruba religion. The connectivity with earth and the sky found in Native American traditions, along with the totem guides I carry with me. The iconography in Catholicism with Mary as powerful producer of the Savior - not to mention the kick ass candles you can buy in Latino stores. The ritual of walk-about and spirituality within animals and nature in the Aborigine culture. Paganism and the celebration of the moon. The "Be Here Now" philosophy. And all the great leaders produced from all of these beliefs and faiths. Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, the Great Mother(s), etc...

All of these I have taken and melded into my own beliefs. But where have they gone, these directions to my life? Well, that's for another time. Today, it's the quest to find the connection, the encompassing orb, the guide, the cradled hand, the orientation, the whisper, and the light.

Although, as I ponder it, I think I melded all of those ideas and principles and pathways into me, which led me to think that I was my own god in a sense. I had all these tools and decided that I would wield them - alone. For, as we are born so will we die: alone. And I have believed that for a long time. And it has benefited me greatly. I have become very comfortable with myself, with being alone, with making decisions, with guiding myself. But I also became my own superhero, my own judge of what is right and wrong, when to lie or when to give, when to help another, when to accept others, and how much of all of these. Perhaps, that god-like feeling imploded in on me, in on the god.

But I digress (pun intended), and have strayed and wandered off. Literally and figuratively.

So, now to focus.

When my sponsor asked me to contemplate and meditate on my Higher Power (maybe not her exact words, but I know what she meant), I came home, boiled some water, poured some tea, smoked a cigarette, and found myself where I have found myself daily and nightly over the past 7.5 months. In my kitchen, staring out the window at the beautiful magnolia tree, still green leaved in December.

(photo taken: 6/14/2010)

I have always been taken by (and pulled to) trees. I remember going on Volksmarches with my dad in the forests of Germany. The tall pines in Italy, when my sister and I were tossing a frisbee and experienced an earthquake - looking up at the pines swaying. Hiding in the forest at night, playing truth or dare with some grade school kids, when we were caught and I was grounded because my parents thought I'd been kidnapped after dark. Watching my father saddled in a harness high up in a tree, chainsawing off branches, as I listed to "Little Red Caboose" on my pre-school record player. The thick density of the tropical jungle at Iguazu. The trees crashing in the wind of a night thunderstorm, while I moped on the golf course in Oklahoma. And then, the ultimate commune when I dosed in the hills of Wisconsin. The beauty of snow-covered branches in Minneapolis. The dry trees parted for logging roads in the hills near La Alberca, Spain (when I went off on my own for a weekend to hike and be at peace). The olive groves of Israel. The palm trees of the coast of Spain. The lush green covering Wisconsin. The weeping willows on my grandparents' farm in Minnesota. The ancient trees of Europe. The amazing autumn of DC.

They are my symbol of my higher power. They are my Shel Silverstein's "Giving Tree".

Trees pull the life blood of the world from the ground. They are grounded. They bend to the winds and rebound with the sun. They bleed sap and shelter without question. They hold strong in the storm and dance in the summer. They shed their leaves to provide protection to the smallest creatures.

And whoever or whatever made them could have produced them differently. Their construction could have been more like gigantic pussy willows, breaking at the slightest breath. They could have been born with man-eating jaws or Edward Scissorhands branches (and some are). Mother Earth, or God, or Allah, or Science could have let the trees down with their termination at the end of the Dinosaur Age. But they are life. And they are alive.

My higher power made these oxygen-providers, the intricate system that they are. My higher power created their composition and style, so that the great teachers of all time have been able to hold court and provide instruction to the learners of the ages. My higher power directed the trees to center in the dance of the witches, to grow under canopies of their elders, to lean together and form entwined branches, to age in broad circles, to tell the stories of the decades, to fall ill under a bug's menace, to crumble and break for the warmth of the first man and woman. My higher power wove photosynthesis and fruit. My higher power forced the roots up to crack and tear at sidewalks, which we thought were stronger than our own He-Mans. My higher power has watched the trees disappear and beamed on those crazy enough to take up camp to protect them. My higher power can make or break a tree with the smallest seed and the most firey shock of lightning. And can rain down life blood and can reign in chaos.

It will be to this power - and none other - that I will turn if I find myself without the path through the woods. If I can't see the forest for the trees.


Hey, [sponsor lady] -

I might end up writing you a lot, so don't feel the need to reply to everything. I just like writing...

So, I got the melatonin. I asked the pharmacist if 3mg of it was comparable to the Tylenol PM I'd been taking. She asked if I'd been taking it for a while. I nodded. A few days? More than that. A week? A lot more. Two weeks? Um, a lot more. Her eyebrows raised. Have you tried exercise or ... I've been taking them for a long long time. She came around the counter. Well, let's see if there's a smaller quantity for you to try. I told her I just joined AA and was trying to switch things up a bit and had been taking Tylenol PM for a couple of years (ahem). She's not sure they'll work, but I'm going to try tonight.

Then, I came home, wrote a short note to my friend about the day's meeting and took a nap. My sister called at 2:30pm. She told me about grocery shopping, how she's going to SF next weekend for a pre-birthday party celebration, and then she parked in the garage and I asked about her ex-fiance who still lives with her (she doesn't want to completely evict him until after the holidays - they've been together for 2.5 years and in therapy for most of that - he's definitely an alcoholic and he needs to move out to get his life in order because he still loves her and relies on her too much). Then, I asked if she had a minute and I told her I went to AA, told her about you (anonymity intact), about last weekend, about how much (more or less) I've been drinking. She was surprised. She asked all questions. She didn't understand how I had become an alcoholic and wanted to know what triggered the AA (she was afraid I'd crashed a car or killed someone; and how was I an alcoholic? I'm not like mom... heh). I told her that I tried not to be like our mom, as mom hides box wine in cupboards and gets slurry and sloppy and tense sometimes, and sometimes cold, and sometimes weepy. And in order to not be like mom, I told her, I also hid my drinking, but more like I'd drink a couple with people and then lay it on when alone. And, if she or someone lived with me, they'd see the box wine as my bottles of cheap wine that came in one night, out the next, in with more, etc... And, that, no, I hadn't killed anyone, but that I had a slow, sad slide into sadness and loneliness.

All in all it was good. I recommended she go to Al-Anon if she wanted to talk to people about anything. I told her it wasn't her fault (she tried to be my mom #2 when my mom was out of it most of the time). She cried that she knew it might be one of us as alcoholism is hereditary or whatever. She was sorry it was me. I told her not to be sad, that this is a gift that I have now - to pursue sobriety. We talked for a long time. I told her I was sorry, but that that step would come later. And that I was sorry that now she was surrounded by 3 alcoholics: mom, me, and her fiance. Merry Christmas! I said I wanted to tell her now because she'd be the one picking me up at the airport in a few weeks and that I'd ask to borrow her car to go to meetings and I'd have to explain it then, and I didn't want to tell her in a couple of weeks because it's her birthday, so ... I figured now would be best. That she could call me with any questions. That's it IS one day at a time so I'm aiming to stay sober, but I might fail and some do relapse, but I'm aiming for the 90 in 90. She asked about meetings - like, you don't HAVE to go forever, right? Heh... just my thoughts exactly, but I told her that I find comfort in them and that the guy who spoke on Friday was in his 50s and in his first 2 years of sobriety went to like 500 meetings a year. Count that up!

She knows about alcoholism and AA (somewhat), because she's the one who would research it all over the years when dealing with our mom. I told her none of this is her fault (kind of cutting to the chase on Step 8 a bit) and she knows this. She's super supportive and we're both, actually, super supportive. I told her I don't want her to freak out over this and that I'm here for her if she needs to talk to me. She said likewise, and she's not freaked out, she's super happy and proud of me.

The interesting thing to me is that I'm realizing more and more that all these people that I thought would have CLEARLY known, don't. After a while of talking she started to make some connections (that I have yet to make) between my past behavior and this new realization. Interestingly, she said she wondered sometimes why I was angry with her and now she knows it's nothing she was doing. I was angry with her a lot over my life, but I never chalked it up to being an alcoholic... guess that will come with more in-depth Step 8.


Now, I'm listening to This American Life, knitting, and thinking about going to the 7pm meeting. But I'm also still tired and want to make some headway on this scarf.

At the end, she and I realized how lucky we both are to have supportive families. To have each other.

As I'm lucky to have you, [sponsor lady]. Thanks again for today!

Friday, December 3, 2010


- At 10:30pm (or so, as I was wasted and don't remember the exact time of my last drink), I will have been sober for 7 days.

- I told a room of about 100 people that I'm an alcoholic.


I look back at last Friday's texts. There was some guy I thought would be good for a lay. But it was 7:30pm and I was half into the bottle of wine and knew I wouldn't be able to "get it up" to party unless I had some of the good ol' whiskey. I busted over to the liquor store at 8:30pm because they close at 8:45. Got the gold, already very tipsy. Texted back and forth with this guy, who wanted me to go cab out to a bar across the street from his place in Arlington - he was even going to pay. But I couldn't find the mojo (I was about to get my period and was trying to force it). So, I downed about a quarter of the bottle, told him I'd take a shower and be on my way. Still, couldn't find the inertia to get in a cab and go over there. So, I texted that I'd cut my leg shaving. I suggested he come over. He had had 3 cups of coffee and was about to drive over. Shit, I'd have to have a cut leg. So, I told him I hadn't cut my leg but come on over!

"I'm sorta confused between the bloody leg lying and invite - I'm not starved for women and it doesn't sound right - I'm gonna pass.. Wish you well"

It wasn't that this was some monumentous statement. It wasn't anything but me being crazy ol' me again.

But for some god awful reason, I woke up at 5:30am on Saturday and couldn't go back to sleep. I was lying cross-wise in my bed, looking out the bedroom window. For weeks, for months, for years now, I've been telling myself I have to stop this. I have to stop drinking so much. I have to get back into the gym. I have to stop smoking. I have to stop. Stop. Stop. And for the past weeks it's been stronger inside me.

Sure, I've been hungover at work. Hell, probably 300 days of the year for 6 years I was hungover to some degree at my old job. But now, now I've got some really kick ass job doing some really up-the-ladder stuff and I had already - in the 7.5 months I've been here - called in "sick" twice and suffered 2 days of hiding a supreme hangover. And it wasn't going to go unnoticed for long. So, I'd been telling myself over and over, I have to stop this. In August, I switched up and decided no more whiskey during the week. I had spent an entire day in a training, sweating, feeling sick, needing a gallon of water, and blushing profusely every time I had to or wanted to speak in front of the group. This does not a leader make. Nor does it make a normal person.

But switching over to wine didn't stop the crazy. Instead, it was an entire bottle a night. White, on the warmer days - also didn't stain my lips as much. Red, cheap red when it got cooler. I was getting the shits, the runs, the drippy piles in the toilet. "Eh, must be a bad bottle of wine. I'll buy a slightly more expensive one tonight." I was struggling to wake up, feeling like dry heaving in the morning, I couldn't brush my tongue with my toothbrush without gagging and thinking for sure I was going to toss my coffee -- no, not food, couldn't eat until at least 9am.

Still, when I was at work, I was a highly functioning employee. It didn't necessarily affect any of my product, but it did create a double-layer of shame and insecurity. I'm working with executives who manage and strategize for the whole agency. Completely out of my element. And the people who put me there, or got me there, thought I could handle it. And I could (can), to some extent. But I was regressing, feeling more obvious about how hungover I was, thinking they all knew how much I was drinking. And I know they knew. How could they not?

How could anyone not?

A major turning point was the photo. The group photo from Thanksgiving. Me and 6 of my friends, smiling above the turkey success and pot luck beauty. No, I wasn't belligerent. No, I wasn't wasted. In fact, I only drank about 2 glasses of wine that night (because like most who hide their drinking, they drink few in front of anyone, and a ton on their own). But, my face. My bloated, cherub, fat face. Where had my eyes gone? Where had the nice, soft wrinkles and crow's feet gone? Where had the definition in my cheekbones gone? Who knows what was going on inside this sack of flesh! A few days my liver had ached - mostly after a weekend of a whole bottle of whiskey. But the shits. The runs. Clearly, a bodily sign to my brain in denial.


So, there I was. 5:30am on Saturday. I went back to sleep after an hour of swearing I had to do something to change. When I got back up, I spent the morning scouring the AA websites. I'd done this a couple of weeks before, and answered more than my fair share of yeses to the "Are you an alcoholic?" quizzes. Yet, for some reason, this time it hit me. I kept reading and I started crying. Crying and crying and crying. Not bawling, but sobbing. Sobbing hard. The hardest and longest cry I've had in years - and the most sober cry. The cry lasted all weekend, and is still hanging out behind my eyes waiting for more opportunities. But between that, I sent an email.

There was this guy. I can't even remember now how we found each other.... alas, the gmail search answers all. We met on a dating site, but never actually got around to meeting in real life. We started exchanging emails about 2 weeks after I moved here. So, for 7.5 months I've been chatting on and off with this guy as we traded bdsm stories (he was starting to explore more and I was trying to find outlets in DC) and sex tales. And, I recalled that during one of our infrequent chats - maybe the 100th in planning to meet up - that he invited me out for drinks. That he didn't drink, but I could.

So, I saw him online, in the midst of all my sobbing (tissue box next to me) and pinged him:
Me: I have a non-sexy question for you.
Him: Shoot
Me: You mentioned to me once that you used to drink but don't anymore. Are you in AA?
Him: Yep, almost 2 years
Me: Is the hardest step actually going to the first meeting?

I had found the meeting page for DC AA and was planning on going to one for beginners that Tuesday. It was Saturday, and I was a wreck.

Him: Perhaps. Are you ready?
Me: It's on Tuesday. I'm ready now. I'm not sure that I'll be ready again on Tuesday.
Him: Where are you going. Who are you going with.
Him: It's a great thing you are doing. It saved my life.
Me: XYZ Place. If I'm interpreting correctly. (They really need a direct link that says "Newbies here")
Me: I'm going with myself.
Me: Thanks and I'm glad.
Him: Chat me

We chatted for a while. He said he would meet me there if I wanted. I said okay. Then, I asked if I should toss all the booze in my apartment. He said: Do it. Now. And tell me when you're done.

Me (as ever the documentarian, I took photos and sent them): 1 flask washed out.
dumped, washed out, recycled: 3 wine bottles, 1 whiskey.
trashed: a George Washington blended whiskey package with shot glass (couldn't think of anyone to gift it to ATM). thanks for the support.
Him: That is Fucking awesome. I am really happy for you. Fuck yeah.

He told me to check in with him that day. And he checked in with me. Then, he said to ping him when I woke up on Sunday. Instead, at 8:30am, he pinged me on my phone that there was a meeting at a place closer to me that day.

I got up and checked. I made it to the noon meeting. I almost threw up all over myself just walking up the 24 stairs to the door. When I got there, I was in shambles. I was terrified. I was shaking. I was still crying. A guy greeted me and welcomed me and told me where the meeting would be and where the bathrooms were. I headed for the bathroom as I started to cry. Sent my friend a text from the stall that I was freaking out, it was weird. He told me to go to the meeting. Someone came into the bathroom, and when I came out, she said, "Are you Lola?... Yeah, I know it's weird, but someone told me a new person was in here..." I started to cry. She asked if I was safe, did I want a hug, I nodded. She gave me her number and took mine down and said she'd been at the earlier meeting but would call me later. (A typical scene for a newcomer: all kinds of people - usually same-sex - give you their numbers -- to call if the newbie thinks they might drink, if they need to talk to someone, if they need support, whatever.)

This woman is now my sponsor. She met me at three other meetings, and I went on my own to three. This last one, I finally got to meet my friend. After 7.5 months of flirting and then not flirting and just chatting, after being available for my break-down, after encouraging me to get to a meeting. We finally hugged and saw each other in real life. It was pretty damn cool.

And weird.

It's all weird.

I've told only a couple of people - mostly those that are far away from me (distance) or not too close (personal). It's only day 7. But I'm aiming for the 90 meetings in 90 days. I figure, a normal person could do it. Hell, normal people don't even drink a whole bottle of wine and top it off with a quarter of whiskey. So, 90 in 90 hopefully won't be too far of a stretch. That said, it's a complete restructure of my life: get up, go to work, go to a meeting, come home, read, sip tea, go to sleep. It's also a total restructure of my body. I'm exhausted. My eyes are tired and light seems brighter than before. My head aches often. My appetite is totally wack. My libido seems to be off on a vacation. My liver ached a lot on Sunday, but now it's quiet. This whole week has been sleep punctuated by sweaty tossing and turning and then chills. I'm not sleeping well, or enough. And on Tuesday, when I was thoroughly wiped, I wanted to bail on the meeting and sleep, but my friend told me to muster the energy. And for some strange reason I did and could. It wasn't the most amazing meeting by far, but it was a place to go and people to listen to, and another step in the process.

So, it's Friday. I'm sober. The headache is coming back. I'm exhausted and it's 10:30pm. No matter, I've got nowhere to be, no one to see, and nothing important except for this recovery. Tomorrow's a bright and early women's meeting. I'll see my sponsor and thank her again. It'll be 7 of 90, but as they say, one day at a time.