Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Heh. Some of you might remember way back, when a religious fanatic from Wisconsin used to comment profusely regarding his pointless observations and bible-thumping. Well, like Jack from The Shining, he's back. Comments for anonymous posters have been turned off. If you'd like to comment and remain anonymous, please consider coming out of your shell, dear friend.

In the meantime, have a lovely day to those who respect me for who I am.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

See saw - day 50

My dad's cancer is getting the better of him. Tests came back last week that the tumor on his kidney is growing and the chemo has maybe only helped to slow the growth, but not to stop it. He decided to take 2 months off from chemo, get some energy back, eat more, get on with some projects, etc.

It was pretty hard to swallow the couple of days after we heard. But I'm lucky. Lucky that we know in advance, that I can spend more time with him while it's available. I can't imagine a sudden death where I wouldn't be able to ask him questions I've still got, still learn things from him, and share things with him.

Sobriety's been okay. Every day I think about alcohol, or drinking. I guess it's something I just have to live with - after hearing people with 2 years or more talk about how they still think about it. I've been working on Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable. It's been difficult because I keep thinking I could try again, try to temper and manage my drinking. But then when I think about attempting that, I end up thinking I should plan it for a weekend night so I can get really shitty. Um, clearly, I can't drink like a normal person if my fantasies are alcoholic. Heh. But the program keeps me sane, keeps me going. There are so many people in AA and so many types of people - it's comforting to know that it affects the professionals like it does the homeless. That it affects mothers, fathers, losers, winners, gay, straight, etc. I feel more at home in a room with alcoholics than I do with anyone else. In fact, I couldn't even cry alone, but in the rooms, where I really feel safe, I could let it out. And no one laughed or balked at my break-downs.

Today's a good day. Tempered, quiet, private, mellow.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Holidays, continued

So, we unpacked and settled in at my parents' place up in the woods. My sister left the living room and I was alone with my parents. We chatted and I knew it was time to tell them, but I wasn't ready. I basically asked my HP to tell me when it was the right time. And just as I started, my sister came back and borrowed my mother away. So, I started by telling my dad that I'm an alcoholic and have been going to AA meetings. He didn't quite know what to say, but he gave me stoic positive reinforcement and said he was proud of me. I think I had shocked him so that he didn't know what to say or do. My mom came back into the room for a second and I re-started the announcement since I didn't want her to feel left out or like I was telling a secret behind her back, since she's an alcoholic. (We're told in AA not to judge others as being alcoholic, but my immediate family has believed this for forever - with all kinds of proof and examples.) My dad had heard the first confession and started shuffling papers next to him on the couch. My mom looked like a deer in headlights. My sister sat, reassuring, next to the fireplace. (I had told her on the phone about 2 weeks into sobriety.) They took it quite well and told me they loved me and were proud. But they didn't know what else to say or do. And that was fine, because I was aiming to go to a meeting in a small town about 30 miles away, so I put my dad to work helping me map out the directions and decide which meeting would be closer to their house. He prefers action over sentimentality sometimes.

So, I hopped into my sister's car, as dinner was still cooking up. I told them to go ahead and that I'd eat when I got back, because meetings are more important now than anything -- even family. I passed a dog on the dark road and a few cars, and drove really slowly over the snow-covered back roads. I pulled into the small town and found the church that had been advertised online as having a meeting - I had even sent an email ahead of time confirming that the listed dates and times would still hold over the holidays. There were a ton of cars parked outside and I thought, "Man, there are a lot of alcoholics in this small town. Cool!"

I walked in and the church was quiet. The glass door kind of banged behind me. I looked around the foyer. No sign of a meeting. An old man came gently down the stairs and I asked him if there was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting here. He looked at me strangely and said no, no, he didn't think so and that they were in the middle of the Christmas service. Oh lordy. He apologized and said he was really sorry - for me. Hah! Quite humorous. This desperate city girl in all black in this small town on Christmas Eve. I asked if I could stay for the rest of the service, "What, is there like half an hour left?" (I didn't want to stay for the full-fledged service for crying out loud.) He nodded, "Yeah, about that long. You could take communion if you wanted." Hilarious. The last time I was in a church for an actual service - that wasn't a tourist attraction in a European country - was about 17 years ago. I sat in the back and listened to the pastor finish the story of baby Jesus, surrounded by all the little kids of the town. Watched the folks take communion and the parents bounce around their baby so it wouldn't cry or squeal out too much. We all filed out and I shook the pastor's hand and drove back. I passed a ton of deer eyes glowing out in the fields and drove at a snail's pace so as not to kill anything. When I got home, the family was surprised but laughed over the incident. I called my sponsor to have a mini-meeting (any 2 alcoholics getting together on the basis of discussing AA qualifies as a meeting - and I'm totally striving for the 90 in 90.)

Christmas day was nice - practical presents, warm fire, baking pies and cookies and brownies, and I didn't pursue a meeting because we all figured there wouldn't be any on the holiday.

The next day was the same, relaxing and energetic as my sister, her 2 dogs, and my mom and I trudged through the snow for a good healthy walk. We scared away the huge turkey vultures that had been hanging out in the adjacent corn field. I drove to the bigger city nearby and made a meeting in the morning - welcomed by strangers and given new phone numbers and cheers to continue on the journey of sobriety.

I cried when I had to say good-bye to my parents. My dad's still on chemo pills and has his spirits up but we don't know the progress - negative or positive. Most people with his type of cancer live 18 months at most if the chemo doesn't take. It'll be a year in April.

I had my 30 day celebration in Minneapolis. Brought my sister with me and we had quite the awesome time. I got my 30 day chip and was asked to comment on how I got here.


Monday, January 3, 2011

And then...

I feel like a dreamy mid-March, or a soft mid-October.

I even write that down over and over in my head and decide that the former is probably better.

And then, I go to a meeting with my sponsor, and she shares - about family frustration, finding the ground to stand on, and how she wants to cry but doesn't want to. And it reminds me that I want to cry, but don't want to, and won't. But it doesn't even remind me of that. Nothing does. Nothing. No.

I am sitting in the meeting. So happy to be hanging out with my sponsor again. Somber? Hearing the women share their stories and say their peace. Not thinking. Not thinking about anything. I can't think. I try to process. Wonder what the woman behind me looks like who is speaking. Wonder what the other woman's boyfriend looks like. Look at the girl who is texting. I don't hear the words in the book that's read. I just sit there and sometimes lift the cup of tea to sip. I feel for my sponsor when she speaks. I keep looking down. I look down for so long that I realize that the line of the backs of the chairs in front of me, all covered by black coats, is super dark - compared to the light above, the ceiling, the lamps, the plants. There is a clear, visible line between the darkness of the coats and the lightness of the top of the room.

I don't think.

And when people try to talk to me, I smile, and I have no idea what I'm saying really. It's just smile and sure, exchange numbers, and stories. It's pretend.

She and I go to dinner and I talk and talk and tell this and that, we laugh, she tells this and that, I go deeper and tell something a bit hard - look for the register on her face of disgust or disapproval. There is none. There doesn't seem to be judgment. I talk more and more. We laugh. We walk to the car. We get in the car. We talk more quietly. We turn the corner toward my apartment and I start sobbing. Crying. I can't even remember why or how or what was said. I just start. And I have no idea why. "It's not logical," I tell her. I'm happy all last week and then all of a sudden - out of nowhere? I am sobbing and hiding my face. I am so stuffed up in my nose that it's a wall. My shoulders heave for a split second and I tell her again that is illogical. Why would I be crying right now? It makes no sense.

A storm over the dreamy day in March.

It doesn't have to make sense. It just is what it is. It is release. With no needed trigger. It just is. Maybe it's keeping it together for so long and finally spilling over. It doesn't matter.


I tell her I think I might end up like the woman in our meeting today who had 87 days and drank. I couldn't see her during the meeting, but I guess she was crying. She asks me why I think that. I don't know. Maybe because I need to do an experiment - just to see if I can drink moderately (although I've already told her I know I can't - the thought of planning a drink moderately leads me to think I should plan for a Friday so I can scrap the moderate part and really tear into it). Maybe because I do miss it - miss the warmth, miss having a reason for ice cubes, miss the pop of the cork, miss the idea of a long swig of cold beer, miss sipping or gulping while making dinner.

You try it. You take something you do daily (smoke pot, work out, kiss your kid goodnight, get on the internet - pick one) and then promise you won't do it for 90 days. Just 3 months. You can do anything for 3 months. And then, watch how it consumes your brain. At least five minutes a day I think about it - not like, "Oh, I wish I could have a drink and I miss it and boo hoo hoo." More like, "I should [insert your choice] right now. It seems like I should. I mean, every evening at this time I [insert your choice]. Why am I not [insert your choice]? Oh right, because I said I wouldn't [insert your choice] for 90 days. Dumb ass challenge."

Every day. Five minutes - at least. It's more like 3-5 intervals of 5 minutes a day. And, really, it might have been this irregular holiday season that's thrown me into a loop of high riding happiness and low riding confusion. I need the routine of meetings. I need to see my sponsor once a week at least. I need consistency and I haven't had that of late. I've had staying up late and watching a million episodes of Survivor. Traveling and trying to find a meeting and not knowing anyone at the meetings (although that rarely is a problem, it does cause slight anxiety). Eating way too much chocolate. Feeling dramatically lonely in my free time. Missing sex greatly.

All of this out-of-whack free time schedule that I used to love so much, because I'd fill it with drinking. Now, it's causing chaos.

Maybe that's why I cried.

I don't know.

But today was the tail end to a week of relative high.

The holidays

Happy New Year!

As I posted elsewhere:
Last year was tough, it made us stronger. Last year was good, it made us better. Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year to only make us greater!


I made a noon meeting before I flew out to the Midwest to visit family for Christmas. It was a well-attended meeting and we spoke about anonymity - principles before personalities. I like this tradition of AA because it boils every meeting down to why we're there, not who we are or how we walk through the doors.

My flight was delayed but there was a bookstore in the Milwaukee airport so I bought The Glass Castle - an incredibly easy memoir read by a woman with a very eclectic family. My sister picked me up in Minneapolis and didn't mind my request to sleep in her upstairs bed with her instead of on the couch in the basement. I wasn't sure how I'd handle booze over this holiday and wasn't eager to sleep in the room adjacent to the liquor storage - plus, she and her fiance have called it quits so he has moved into the guest bedroom.

The next day we drove down to Wisconsin, dropped her dogs off at doggie daycare - which was amusing in its own story, checked into the hotel, visited grandma and hauled her off to my aunt's for dinner, downed some soup with my aunt and my boy cousin, picked up the dogs, cruised to the hotel, and then I took the car to a meeting. This was quite the packed afternoon and I was eager to get into a meeting. My sister always runs late, which can cause me a bit of anxiety, but I was trying to let it all roll. I really love spending time with my extended family and was looking forward to sharing some moments with my Alzheimer grandma - time is precious at her age - as well as with my aunts and cousins. Because we left Minneapolis later than anticipated, all of that special time was squeezed into intense brevity. In a way, I was rather upset with my sister for robbing me of more leisurely interaction, especially since it's not as easy for me to fly out there and get this quality time.

I was also grateful that it was a quick visit. My extended family live in a town where I spent the last two years of high school, 9 months during my drop-out of college, and many booze-soaked holidays. I was nervous about being back there sober and didn't really want a lot of free time to cruise the memory haunts. But the newness of sobriety was weighing heavy regardless. I didn't like seeing my grandmother relying on a walker or wheelchair - this long-time farmer lady with the strength of a bull and independence like 4th of July. It was hard for me to understand her slurs and I felt badly seeing a spark of recognition in her eyes when she saw me - our time too short to hug and touch. My aunt had wine with dinner and I claimed recovery from a cold/antibiotics for not drinking. My boy cousin, her son, and one of my most favorite cousins when growing up also weighed on me. When I reach the 9th Step, I'll have a long letter of amends for him. I have altered our relationship and if I were to regret anything in life, it would be that.

I pulled up outside the small building that looked like a bar, distinguished from that only by the AA symbol of a triangle inside a circle. I was aiming for a 6pm meeting listed on the website, finished my cigarette outside, and introduced myself to a hick-ish looking woman who was also smoking, missing some teeth, and rather chatty. The 6pm women's meeting hadn't been held in years, she said, but there would be one at 7pm and there was plenty of coffee inside. She was so friendly - as most AA members are, especially to newcomers like myself - and introduced me to all the folks in the "break room." I had a hot chocolate and told everyone how I was visiting from DC. At 7pm a handful of us moved to the meeting room. A very young woman lamented about facing New Years Eve without drinking. The young woman next to her talked about how this was her last chance before being sent off to rehab for 6 months. She had tried to kill herself by swallowing pills, drank too much, and was addicted to pot and other drugs. An older woman was celebrating almost 3 months after a fall off the wagon. A man shared some frustration with his boss. Another man was excited to be a sober father to his 2-year-old son this year. And me, I broke down in tears - a typical reaction in early sobriety as active alcoholics (those drinking) use booze to suppress most every emotion and now, without that valve to drown them, they come surging upward at the drop of a hat.

I knew I had nothing to cry about in comparison to the teenager who was suicidal, but I couldn't control it. I was scared about sobriety with my family, scared about telling them, unsure how to face this holiday, the afternoon of rushing around had taken a toll on me, and I just didn't want to keep my composure - which I've been doing frequently at meetings in DC. Someone brought me the box of tissues, the dad guy asked if I thought I could not drink over the holiday, the leader of the meeting gave me her phone number. And, at the end of the meeting, the suicidal teenager gave me a handful of chocolate kisses, "I hear chocolate helps a lot during recovery." I hugged her and thanked her and told her I expect to see her here next year. And that's how it works. Strangers care for you, despite their own troubles or their own situations. And we're all friends by the end and at the beginning because we have a strong common bond.

I went back to the hotel, hung out with my sister and her ex-step-kids, and then slept like a log.

In the morning we drove by the co-op to pick up some ingredients for baking at my parents' house and I had a mini break-down. It was chaotic, I was unfamiliar with where things were, and I was overwhelmed. So, instead of planning to bake brownies from scratch, I said fuck it and bought a pre-made box. We drove the 3 hours north to my parents and settled into their house for Christmas Eve.