No Wonder I Drank to Fit In

The Small Victories in Recovery

A couple days ago, I arrived at a Mountain Retreat nestled in farm country in Vermont. 20160516_054146 I won a contest that I entered back in January.  I would not have known anything about the contest or this place if it hadn’t been for a friend that told me about it.

“God Bless the Freaks”

When I am in an AA Meeting, no matter where that Meeting is, I feel like I belong, right down to my core. Several times when I have been on the road and unable to make a meeting for a couple days when I do, there is a slow inhale and exhale – a reconnection, a “Honey, I am home” feeling. That feeling eluded me for 51 years.  That feeling eluded me again last night.

When I am with creatives, very much like my friend, I feel like we understand each other. Much like my friend, (the normal one who told me about the contest), creatives can be a joy to be around.  There is laughter, there is empathy, they are interesting.  And because we all feel at ease, we open up to one another in a way we don’t feel like we could if we were hanging out in a room full of Engineers.

But there is a difference with that feeling with creatives than it is in a Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.  No one is going to die if they don’t go to their Writing Group. The reality of my disease, the honesty and raw nature of what we talk about is completely lost on someone that is a creative writer.  When I share about our disease, they are open to it. Many have had alcoholics in their lives and are grasping to understand.

But what I am understanding is, the intense gratitude I have for finally – FINALLY finding the depth of belonging, the understanding and emotional devotion of AA and my fellow alcoholic.  The necessity of carrying the message to the struggling alcoholic that has not felt the relief and connection I have being with “My Tribe.”

Let’s Pretend

If I was still drinking I would never have been here.  But let’s just say IF I was still alive and I managed to shake, rattle and roll my way through the back roads of paradise with plenty of “supplies” to get here without “the wheels coming off.”

Last night would have been a disaster.  I always thought I was a creative that was my Tribe. I didn’t feel pressure of acceptance in how I dressed, looked and talked in order to fit in. Until I found AA, I thought that was enough.

But Now I Know

The reality of the daily life and death situation that alcoholism deals us, puts us at a level of belonging and understanding a little different than wearing weird shoes or having a tattoo to express ourselves. Certainly that is PART of me too, but the simple fact of living “One Day At A Time” because tomorrow I could be dead based on my choice or whether or not to drink, is quite different.  We don’t have time for flowery language, pretty creative sayings on the wall, there is too much at stake and we know it.

I must have needed to be reminded. I am grateful.

 

 

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Having a Holiday Plan to Stay Sober

When I first got sober, it was hard to imagine a day without a drink.  And at times, it was hard to imagine an hour without a drink.  Thank God and my home group, kept me glued together, let me know of things that were outside my comfort zone and took me to events before I dared to show up by myself.

“We Will Love You Until You Love Yourself”

This saying is one of the very many I heard when I first came in.  It is also one of the very many that has changed in meaning as my recovery has grown and deepened.  At first it meant, someone welcoming me when I showed up to a meeting I had never been to. Or when I shared something painful, a compassionate look or a gentle touch of someone that sent the message to me “You’re Not Alone.”  I needed to have lots of those moments to realize this was the real deal – This Place –R E C O V E R Y was where I belonged. Somewhere along the way, I was able to begin to give back to my home group, my friends and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Because this fellowship filled my heart with love so then I could love.

It is okay if your family of origin makes you crazy.  It’s okay if you need a break to get away.  And it is really okay, if you can find someplace safe, safe and sober to run to, to recharge the batteries, to stay sober. Especially, if you are traveling out of town, or even back to your home town, take a few minutes to look up some meetings.  Find out where they are and what time they are being held.

Make A Plan

Even though my family may have not have been driving me nuts at the very moment, I have a plan to have a meeting in the schedule each day. I find it helps me maintain.  It gives me my space and time to salute and nurture my recovery.  If you are up here in Maine, we have Alca-thons over the holidays that hold meetings 24 hours a day during the tough times of the Holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, we have something going on that is a sober alternative.  I know in my house holidays where the HIGH HOLY DRINKING DAYS of the year and we all knew where we could stock up when some of our favorite stores were closed.

Stock Up on Meetings

Instead of searching for a “Beer Store” (as my Dad would call it), I make sure I don’t have to search for a meeting because I all ready know where one is and where my real friends are!  I can leave chaos and find serenity.

Happy New Year!

Nothing Like a Good Snowstorm!

Today in Maine we are having a snowstorm.  One of those all day specials.  Started around 6 this morning and still going strong. Our office is closed but as a “Distributed Workforce” we can work remotely as a normal way of doing business.  This was one of the reasons, I was able to isolate and drink privately.  As long as I could type and respond when needed, no one suspected that I had a “problem.”

Snow Days were Snow DAZE

When the weather is frightful the bottle is so delightful!  On these stormy days, most of our business conversations online with each other were about the travel, school closing early or being canceled.  I could hold it together for that and meanwhile “pace myself” alone at my desk and my computer screen. There is something cozy about being nestled in to my home office, garage door closed. Knowing I had stocked up.

Today is a Different Snow Day

Last night a friend of mine in the program sent me a text saying “There is no reason for you to drive tomorrow, let me pick you up for the morning meeting.”  WOW that was a gift.  Our morning meetings as I have mentioned previously in this blog, are at a Homeless Shelter in our city.  We never cancel.  There is so much early recovery happening, we knock ourselves out to make sure the meeting is opened.  So often it is the only meeting people get to – they LIVE there. The homeless shelter never closes.

At 6:55am the lights of my friend’s big 4 x 4 truck come up my driveway and off we go.  And at 7:30 the meeting goes on as scheduled. Someone living at the shelter had made the coffee for us and others helped set up the room.  As the meeting unfolded in the usual “round robin” discussion format, one in the group said, “WOW, wouldn’t this be a great day to sit home and drink!”  It was true.  In another life, that would be what I was doing and about this time of the morning, I would be battling off the shakes with a little vodka latte.

Today, I have worked steadily most of the day with a break for a romp in the snow with my dogs.  The snow is still coming down steady, we should be at about a foot before it is done.  And here I am comfortable in my skin not struggling with hiding ANYTHING.  Freedom.

Thank you Higher Power and my friends in AA that helped me stay sober today.

“Alcoholism Wants You DEAD But It Will Settle for Miserable”

Another meeting gem.  This quote is one of the hundreds that I have heard in meetings and many of them I have written down in a book that I carry in my purse.  Especially in the early days of Recovery, I would hear things and sometimes I didn’t understand them at all.  Or I would be offended or fearful. Later on, I may have heard the exact same thing, a different day, later on in my Recovery and I may have had a completely different understanding or feelings around it.

I understood that “Alcoholism wanted me dead but would settle for miserable.” Because I was miserable, and like Step 1 says, “my life was unmanageable.” Early on, I knew that was true.  But I had no idea to what extent Alcoholism wanted me to be miserable, I only knew I was indeed miserable when I came into the Fellowship. As the days have gone by, I have learned just how miserable and self-loathing I had become.

No Magic Wand

There was no wrinkling of my nose, snapping of my fingers and “TA DA” everything was great again. I still am not all that kind to myself.  I want to be prettier, I want to be thinner, I want to be in better physical shape.  But in time, as long as I stay away from a drink, I have faith I will get there.  Another term used often was “Self-Care.”

While drinking, I only took care of myself enough so people didn’t smell booze on my breath, I carried around eye drops or blamed my bloodshot eyes on allergies (which I do have allergies but not 365 days a year). I did just enough to get by, so people wouldn’t know I was in crisis.  That I was a drunk.

Starting Small

It has taken a while, but I stopped punishing myself for everything that went right or wrong.  I took up yoga and started meditating.  I started shaving my legs regularly, may sound silly before I didn’t notice if I was shaving my legs or underneath my arms, I pretended that I didn’t care, when in reality what I was doing was spending lots of energy not caring and continued to harm myself by drinking constantly.  Harming myself was something I would learn to become a master at, along with manipulating myself.  If you asked me when I was drinking if I was harming myself, I honestly think I would have chosen not to answer the question or made a joke of it. I was my own worst enemy.

At The End of the Day

Before bed and after my prayers, I usually put lotion on my feet.  Thank my feet for carrying around my body all day. Last winter I didn’t even get cracks in my heels! Felt great!  I also try to write a few things down on a Gratitude List.  3-5 things, nothing huge but it’s a way to take some inventory of my day and be grateful for the little things. I read a few passages. None of these things cost much, most cost nothing, except time and focus on me and that I count for something.  That I matter.  If I don’t stop and notice, I won’t change.  I don’t want to be miserable anymore.  Doing these small things consistently have changed my life.

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.

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.

Seeing Another Alcoholic Before He Knows…He’s An Alcoholic

Never before have I responded well to people telling me what to do, especially when I knew I needed to do it.  And when an old college friend made amends to me a couple of years ago, before I knew I was an alcoholic, his words and actions spoke louder to me because he was making amends for HIS actions never even beginning to suggest any of my own.

That day, was a turning point for me and even though it took me another year to believe it myself, his loving amend was about him and not finger pointing at me.  He wasn’t someone telling me how to live my life.  It took a hopeless day of sitting on the couch with my stomach burning, body shaking and mind blowing to realize, I too, was an alcoholic.


 

Best Lesson

For me, the best lessons are ones that are not pushed at me or shoved down my throat.  I have learned most things in my life by watching to learn and then living to learn.  So as I approach 10 months (which is very GREEN, very new), I remember this humility gift that my old friend gave to me by just being there.  Because it was him on that very first day that I called when I had no idea what I was thinking, feeling or doing.  I sat in my car crying and blubbering over the phone to the very man that planted the seed by his own honesty that ANYONE could be an alcoholic.  Anyone. EVEN me.

Old Friends

Because of Facebook, I have made many more connections with old friends as well as new ones.  I am pretty sure I have mentioned this in this blog before, many renewed relationships that were long before I had any problems with alcohol.  In one case, after being reconnected, I made a simple acknowledgement of appreciation to the person for his support during a rough patch I went through back in high school. There were no amends needed but this program is teaching the importance of Gratitude and I am making it a conscious effort to express it more often.  Once I thanked him, we started talking on the phone and staying more closely in touch on Facebook.  We exchange what we are doing on any given day, how our jobs were going, what was happening around the household, we were being pretty frank.  We always were with each other all those many years ago, we just picked up from where we had left off.

The Lunch Whistle

The more he shared with me, the more I realized my old friend needs “the program.”  On many fronts, when he shares things with me, I hear them as if they were coming out of my mouth.  The Lunch Whistle sounded, “He is an alcoholic still doing research.” I can hear the sadness, the fear and the anger building. This is not the same sound of my high school friend, this is my old friend traveling down a similar road I have, only he doesn’t seem to know it.  Bloody Mary’s and Scotches included.

The Now

I started to share with him what my day is like in more positive ways. I mention meditation, I mention going to the pool, I mention feeling a lot better since I stopped drinking.  I don’t mention AA.  (Don’t yell at me, please.)  I stopped short of mentioning AA because it was almost like “something” told me I shouldn’t.  That my old friend needed a friend so that he was not alone.  It is very obvious to me that he is isolating himself and these emails or texts of affirmations from 800 miles away (me) are causing him to pause and ask questions about where he is in his life, I know this because he has told me.

If You Want What We Have…

I have been praying for guidance about this because I cannot “unring the bell.”  Once I tell my AA story I cannot take it back.  I am turning it over daily and still don’t feel as though the time is right.  We will see and stay tuned.  Thanks for listening as I navigate yet another new experience. Trying to put into practice what worked for me and what may have saved my life.