The Letter

I recently got “Drunk Dialed.”  It was later on in the morning around 10:30 and it was one of my old friends. I must say my old best friend.  We often spoke early in the day, one of us needing the other, most of the time we were planning where we were going to “drink lunch.” It has been 2 1/2 years since I have been a participant in that type of call.

History

Like many of us, when I decided to make changes in my life, most of my friends did not. Most of my friends drank like I did, most of my friends are still drinking like I did.  I cannot say they are alcoholic, that is for them to decide.  But when I decided “enough was enough” my daily decisions did not include where I was drinking and therefore did not include my old friends.  There was no blow up, no arguments or sharp words.  We just didn’t see each other very often anymore.

“I Decided I Have to Stop Drinking”

Was the first sentence I said to my friend on June 21, 2013 over the phone.  I then continued, “I decided I am going to go to AA.” I had been to my first 3 meetings the day before.  She said something like, “Just take a break, you will be all right, just slow down a little.”  I continued on to say that I wouldn’t be joining her for lunch and not to take it personally.  I just couldn’t drink anymore.

It was a short call.  But I said “my peace,” there was no yelling, I remember I was sad. Knowing that I was closing the door on my best friend.  She was someone I did a lot of things with, certainly all of them included drinking but we were close and we could always talk to each other.

The weeks went on and I am not exactly sure how long it was – a few months maybe.  She called, we met for lunch in a place we normally didn’t go.  I didn’t drink and she drank some wine.  It was awkward feeling I remember, we didn’t talk about AA but she saw that I wasn’t drinking.  We talked about the people we knew, her kids, my dogs, normal stuff.

Probably in the past 2 1/2 years we have been together 4 or 5 times when before it was 4 or 5 times a week.  I don’t push my program.  I just try and live it.  I have talked to her probably 10 times on the phone, sometimes it sounds like she has been drinking and sometimes not.  Lately, I have felt like my Higher Power is nudging me along to reconnect with her on a more “personal” level.  Her last phone call was so sad I have had a hard time getting it out of my head.  I sometimes wonder if she even remembers that I told her about AA those 2 1/2 years ago.

Today Was The Day

I have spoken about this conundrum in meetings lately and prayed about it.  I finally decided to write her a note.  It is the Holidays after all and today I did it.  I was short and sweet, I put it down on paper:

I cannot believe that it has been 2 ½ years since I stopped drinking.  I would be lying if I said my life hasn’t changed.  It has.  I actually want to live now. The morning I called you that summer and told you I stopped drinking and started going to AA was the day I thought I was going to die.  The problem was, I wasn’t dying fast enough.  I mean I didn’t have a shot gun in my mouth or anything but I sure felt like life wasn’t worth living.  I felt pretty lonely and very scared.

There  were a few more paragraphs, but that one above is the meat and potatoes of the note. I wanted to open the door that I was still going to meetings and perhaps if I told her how I was feeling when I started AA, she may think about it.  She may consider calling me for help.

Stay Tuned

As I have said in this blog before, stay tuned.  As I live life on life’s terms, I will keep you posted.  I do feel better that I have done something with the “little voice” I kept hearing to tell me to reach out to her.  A letter is something that a person can read when the time is right or they can burn it if they choose.  I do feel a lot better about it now that it is in the mail no matter which choice she makes.

 

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Anonymity Is the Spiritual Foundation…

Of all our traditions ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” Not quite sure how to correctly punctuate that, but you know what I mean.

There are a bunch of sayings in AA that have resonated with me.  Some of them at first I didn’t like, some of them meant a particular thing when I first heard them and over time as my thinking changed, the meanings changed – usually they became deeper and more meaningful.  And this particular one really means so much more than when I first entered “The Halls.”

Keeping a Secret

When I was out there drinking, I was always the person people would come to me with their problems, ideas, dreams  and I would listen.  I still do that now and like then, I never tell a secret.  This is something some people have to get used to, some of them tell me things thinking that I will pass on their story, they learn quickly, what I am told, I keep to myself.  Your story is yours.

Gossip

Is not my deal. I value when people trust me to be a good listener, help someone process feelings or ideas without another person judging them.  It is also not my deal to use their information as a weapon or power  to make more friends.  Gossip is generally hurtful.  Hurt feelings are the worst. When I was drinking, I was great at hurting myself, beat myself up, I had no idea.  Now that I really understand what hurt is, I am really not willing to do that to someone else.

“I am a Writer,”  THERE, I said it!

Ever since I can remember, I have gone through periods where I have written down my thoughts and feelingsin a journal, it was a way for me to sort them out.  As I have gotten older, I have written a vast array of things. White papers, technical articles, web copy and content for many companies, it was their story.  I am a good listener and I can write.  Could it be a gift from my Higher Power?

Writing this blog was the first time I really focused on writing for myself.  I put it down for a while and then it comes back and haunts me until I write again.  I wonder if it is my Higher Power telling me this is what I need to do, it is easy for me and I really enjoy it.  I even have a book in mind. A recovery journey book.

Good Ole Janis

As I mentioned early in this blog, Janis La Joie is not my real name.  I wanted a way to process my feelings without concern of people knowing who I was.  Let’s be clear, all the feelings and situations are honest ones, they happened, I felt them.  The only thing in disguise is MY NAME, TOWN I LIVE IN, stuff that I would prefer non-program people who have their own baggage not know about.  No one should try and recover under a microscope including me.  Recovery is hard enough with all the shame and guilt I have of my own to get through, I don’t need others and  “their $hit”  to complicate my recovery journey.

Making the Leap

NO, I am not hiring a skywriter that “outs” me.  But I have created a FB profile for Janis and all her recovery shares that really don’t work to use in this blog format.  Please come and join me – friend me.  I will not post anything on anyone’s wall that indicates Recovery.  I will post things on my wall that you may feel free to share or you may comment if you like. You may “Direct or Private” message me through FB if you would like.  As I have heard in the program many of us hit such a public bottom (aka train wreck), that anonymity is not an issue.  But I don’t make that decision for other people and neither does Janis.  So come over to Facebook so we can keep better in touch.  The blog will be more active than ever but if you are like me your FB is always open!

Remembering that recovery is “One Day At A Time.”

 

I Just Wanted To Drink

The only solution I knew was “to drink,” I hear it in meetings all the time, I drank when I was happy, sad and whenever anything came up that I couldn’t handle. My “go to” was a cold Rolling Rock or later on it could have been a warm one.  And even more later on, beer didn’t smooth over the edges like it used to, so I turned to vodka. Crafting the perfect buzz became an artform.

Sobriety hasn’t been a walk in the park.  Life has happened.  Old timers say, “Life of Life’s Terms.”  I really never knew what it meant until I realized what life really was.  What life really meant.

I have mentioned in this blog that my father died.  I have mentioned that we had a strained relationship, but in the end, I was still “Daddy’s girl.” He was a dying dry drunk and I was a little over a year in the program. When he was dying, I didn’t drink.  Sometimes it was difficult because it really hurt.  I finally realized that it has been feelings that have made me choose drinking as my coping mechanism.

Happy, Sad, Angry, Glad

Sure I laugh, I cry just like everyone else but it was the nuances of feelings that I never “sat” through, never understood what they were or how they felt, truly.  I always acted like I felt them, but I didn’t really know them. When I stopped drinking !P!O!W!  there they were, waiting to be dealt with and when I first stopped drinking they were more intense than ever.  If it wasn’t for meetings, the fellowship, and my sponsor I more than likely would have drank before I figured this out.  It was meditation and the pain of sitting in a room full of people that caused me to SIT there and feel them.  There was lots of crying afterward. I still meditate but hardly ever cry.

Coming Clean and Feeling

My counselor offered up the idea that I am empathetic and often take on other people’s feelings without even knowing it.  I often absorb things just because someone else is feeling it and I can sense it.  I think many alcoholics and addicts are like this, we take on feelings that other people are experiencing and don’t know what to do with them. Not long ago I sucked them all in, got overwhelmed and drank to ease everyone’s pain because I didn’t know what else to do.

Today

Without the anesthesia of alcohol and with the help of my support system, I can see the feelings from afar.  I can acknowledge which feelings are mine and which ones are not.

I can better help others if I don’t choose to drown myself in their feelings or alcohol ~funny how that works.

The More I Search The More Is Revealed

I cannot believe it has been over a month since my last post.  The good news I haven’t had a drink.  The better news is I had lots of challenges to sobriety but honestly I don’t want to drink really.  Now the caffeine and sugar are the next thing I need to think about, but hey considering where I am today compared to 11 months ago, it is pretty amazing.  I have been sorting some things out lately so stay tuned for a tornado of posts coming along.

Seeing My Old Friends 

In a very early post, I mentioned that my best friend passed out at my house when there were some professional women there.  They talked about her like she embarrassed THEM.  Like she was a problem to THEM.  As she laid upstairs, passed out in my bed fully clothed, with her shoes on. It was just about a year ago.  Someone had brought her there because she insisted they do and someone took her home.  It was a horror show.  And it was enough of a mind blower for me that I decided that I didn’t want to do that myself.  I was sick to my stomach knowing that the possibility was there for me to be in her shoes next.  It took me another month but it was then that I decided to go to an AA Meeting.

Two of the people that I spent most of my drinking time with in the end, know that I started going to AA.  One tried to convince me I didn’t need to go, it would pass.  This would be the friend that passed out in my bed.  Another found out from her and slipped one day, saying, “That is about as funny as an AA Meeting.” He knew I wasn’t drinking but a remark like that made me realize that she had told him.  I let the remark go by, but I knew that both of them knew things had changed.  I had changed.

The Last Month

I have had lunch with both of these folks.  Together we all sat at a table, they drank and I didn’t.  Others joined us and the conversation was harmless.  As I looked at the table of people, my girlfriend looked bloated, tired but acted fine.  One of the people that joined us didn’t even recognize her.  The man had grown a crazy beard – or a beard that made him look crazy, but both of them acted fine but the others that joined us were drunk and agitated.  I was one of these people a year ago, only I had my own brand of alcoholism.

About 3 weeks later, I saw my girlfriend looking at space for her business.  Her hair was matted and she didn’t smell as though she had showered in awhile.  She was wearing the same clothes I had seen many times and the last time I had seen her at lunch.  She was trying to act fine, like everything was okay. The people showing her the space seemed to be aware something just “wasn’t right.” I made polite conversation, continued on my way.

What More Can I Say?

I wait, hope and pray that she will decide she doesn’t need to fight this battle alone.  I know I couldn’t.

What It Was Like Then

I go to a lot of meetings.  Every now and then I am asked to chair.  My home group I often chair, it is a small Grapevine Meeting and there is no qualifying. Recently, I have been mixing it up with different meetings and probably within the last month I have chaired at 2 meetings that ask the Chair to qualify.  I realized that I never had actually written down “My Story,” and I figured that it was time I did.

Our meetings are pretty informal up here but rather than to just ramble on about “My Story” I figured I would write it down so I could actually read it over as an exercise to better understand it myself.  This blog has discussed a lot of the details of my feelings and experiences in recovery, this post is what brought me to recovery.

What It Was Like

The last year of my drinking was intolerable. The last 6 months I had a burning stomach, my terrible sleep patterns over the past 15 years got even worse. At the end, I wasn’t sleeping for more than an hour or two, when I would get up and pour myself some vodka, search for something to mix it with so I wasn’t a complete barbarian often it was water.  The last couple weeks if I ran out of vodka I would search the house for something, anything, that was in a box, considered something that “nobody drank.”

Returnable bottles were hidden, put in my car inside plastic empty grocery bags and thrown into unattended trash cans, often at fast food places or at “Do it Yourself” car washes. I stashed vodka in my car and showed up at meetings and peoples homes with a “Go Cup” of coffee or a diet pepsi in a plastic bottle laced with vodka.  I spent a lot of time making sure I had booze. Thank God I never got caught, never got pulled over, no jail or hospital.

Many of my friends were doing similar things and I believe they are still doing it now.  One of my very good friends got pulled over by the police but didn’t think anyone would find out, was convinced that her name would not appear in the Court News Section of the paper. Obviously, she was wrong.  It was in the newspaper, I got lots of comments from people we knew but she and I never talked about it. She lost her license and somehow managed to keep that hidden while it was pulled.  Seeing this from afar and never talking directly to her about it, still didn’t stop me.

Every day I functioned, worked and interacted with people, managing my shakes, getting to lunch on time so I could “catch up with my friends” and drink of course, sometimes finishing out the day at the bar and getting home safely (HP was protecting me) before dinner to avoid questions. I would pour a glass of wine and another…

I was haunted and possessed by “The Beast” alcohol that had taken over my life.  I learned to avoid everything and everybody that posed a threat to my relationship with booze.  I had to make sure I had it when I needed it and every day I needed it more and more.

The First Day of Summer

About  3 days before I went to my first AA Meeting, I promised once again I was going to stop drinking, it was going to be different this time.  By noontime, I felt so horrible that I met my friends for lunch and by 3:30 I felt “better.”  The day continued as usual.  I slept about an hour at a time that night each time waking up in a sweat.  I paced and tried not to drink but I did.  Finally I decided to get a shower and look for a place to “take the edge off” and by 9 am I was off and running again.  By 1:00pm, I was falling asleep in the parking lot of a well known establishment in my car.  I couldn’t believe that I drove home it was less than a mile away.

Thursday morning, I sat on the couch crying but there were no tears.  I felt dead inside and looked dead outside.  My cheeks and eyes were puffy, I brushed my teeth and cut my gums because the shaking was so bad.  I looked up an AA Meeting on my computer and there still was one listed at the homeless shelter across town.  I couldn’t even think anymore, I got in my car and went to my first AA Meeting.

That was 297 days ago.

If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

Well  Wordpress told me the other day I have been working on this blog for over a year now.  I have not been sober over a year.  I started the blog, was “controlling my drinking.”  I was pretty sure I was not an alcoholic.  I knew I drank a lot but I honestly didn’t know what an alcoholic was, I had an idea it was someone that wasn’t me.

SURPRISE!

Then along came June 20, 2013…Rather than to rehash what I have said many times in this blog, I had to do something.  Because of a conversation with an old friend from a year before that, I figured I would try AA.  I went to several meetings in the first few days, mostly hoping that I would hear something that would tell me I wasn’t an alcoholic.  The more meetings I attended, the more I knew I was.  Didn’t make me happy at all.  But there was some HOPE in knowing there was a way out of the black hole I had been in, even though it seemed easier to swallow the vodka than to swallow the truth of being an alcoholic.

It Ain’t Easy

I have to say my life is completely different than it was just 9 months ago.  I realize more things about myself and many of them I don’t like at all.  Some times I feel strong in dealing with them while other times I feel incredibly weak.  My weekly routine includes daily meetings,  prayer & meditation, yoga, exercise and plenty of sleep.  These things I did not have before.  I still work and interact with people, that part hasn’t changed.  I am more aware of wanting to make some more changes in my life than ever or do I just accept things?  That I am not sure about.  People have told me not to make big changes for a year.  When I stopped drinking I may have been referred to as a “High Functioning” alcoholic.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t screwed up and didn’t do things the way an alcoholic would do them.  In my case it meant I had a job, I had not been arrested (yet), I had clients, I had a home to live in.  I owe it all to my Higher Power to get me to listen before I had lost it all.

Are you there “God?”

Today is one of those days.  It is one where I am twisted up in thought.  I have had a cold for 3 weeks, I am sick of winter, sick of people lying to me, sick and tired of being sick and tired.  So God as I understand you, help me ease my monkey mind. I help me make it another day without drinking.

A New Chip

8 Months ago today, I was sitting on my couch feeling terrible. Sweating, shaking, my stomach was burning and I was desperately trying to hold it together so no one would know that I was an alcoholic.  I would not admit I was an alcoholic.  I didn’t want to believe that I was but I was afraid of what I was and had become. One way or another inside my heart and my head I was dying and I knew it.  I just wasn’t sure that these feelings were those of an alcoholic.

Early Summer

We had some beautiful weather here this summer.  Before I quit drinking I couldn’t tell you much about it. I don’t remember Memorial Day very well, except it was becoming increasingly inconvenient to “stash” my bottles.  Especially in our camp that was small and everyone was in close quarters. Not much went on that everybody didn’t see.  Memorial Day was when we opened up the camp and I always did the cleaning and last year was no different. I would call myself high functioning.  Most people had no idea (and still don’t) the degree of the lie I was living.  My focus was on wondering where exactly I was going to keep my stash in order to:

  1. “Infuse” it into whatever beverage  was carrying around that appeared non-alcoholic
  2. Get more and what excuse would I be able to come up with in order to leave and buy more?
  3. How was I to get enough “booze” on board (me) not to shake or to not go over board?

A couple more trips to camp happened after Memorial Day and I managed to be able to “not get caught.”  People noticed that I looked “stressed out” or seemed “preoccupied” but nobody caught me red handed drinking at an odd time or rifling through an odd place looking for my secret potion.  Thank God for that!

Today

Last night we had a snowstorm.  Last week we had a snowstorm and we are supposed to have another tomorrow night.  I am looking outside my window watching the wind whip the snow across the field. I am not sweating, shaking or anything else peculiar.  I am living.  I have a bunch of stress that I am dealing with, I have some big decisions to make about my life in the next few months.  Decisions that would have been made for me and not by me if I had still been drinking.  I am trying to let my Higher Power lead me and not try to jam things into place the way I used to.

I got a new chip today and with all your help and God’s (as I understand him) I will live that life.