Choices and Choosers

PURPLE

My 9 year old daughter wrote this poem in school in May. I love it. I shared it with someone who is also a recovering alcoholic and a real, honest-to-god published poet and I told him how much I liked the last line. He said, “I agree…maybe the last line is about wine…”. Wow. Wow.

I found out yesterday that one of my closest friends from high school has breast cancer. I had three really close friends in school and she is the second one from that group to have this rotten disease. She has two small children, a great career, happy marriage…. so much to live for. It made me think about my disease and maybe there is a difference amongst diseases. My initial feeling was almost one of guilt. Lots of sadness but maybe a tinge of happiness that my disease seems easier to recover from (from my point of view only). She didn’t choose cancer. This is probably a newly sober thing to say but I often feel that I played an active role in my addiction and disease. I chose to have another glass….and another…..and another. Maybe if I’d made better choices, I would have ended up where I am today. Maybe alcoholism wouldn’t have chosen me. I realize that no one chooses cancer. Just like no one chooses alcoholism. But I was definitely an active participant that lead me down the road to alcholism. So I felt guilty. I felt guilty for the sympathy I give myself and that I often feel I’m owed. My recovery won’t involve chemo, radiation, drugs, true physical pain. My life might have been at risk at times while drinking but I never felt like it would kill me.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post…. maybe I’m feeling that at almost 4 months sobriety, this is easy. That I belong in some group of survivors. Maybe I’m realizing that lots of people have it waaaay worse than I do. I’m happy she chose to tell me and I’m happy that I’m making better choices. Let’s just leave it at that…sadness and happiness mixed together.

Advertisements

It will be alright…

happy

I’ve noticed that I place way too big an emphasis on the ‘what if’. I fretted for weeks about the impending visit of my sister and her kids. I hadn’t seen her in well over a year. We talk often and are very close but there is a strange distance between us. Probably because we are such different people. For one, I’m an alcoholic. She’s never had a drop of alcohol in her entire life. It’s true! She was my designated driver in high school, college, those early single days…. She likes to talk. A lot. I like silence. A lot. I worried about telling her that I’d started going to AA. That I’d gotten sober. My problem with alcohol was pretty discreet and had really only gotten unmanageable in the last couple of years, so I thought she’d be more ‘surprised’ by this decision than anything else. In fact, it’s our parents and their drinking that we worry the most about. They still drink and my decision to stop was because I definitely had a problem but also becasue I could see what the future looked like and it wasn’t pretty.

So I was really nervous about telling her. Also, my family places a lot of emphasis on social stigma and ‘what the neighbors would think’. So telling her that I’m in AA wouldn’t be something they’d be excited to shout out to the world. A week before she arrived we were talking on the phone and I mentioned that I’d stopped drinking. After a brief pause, the conversation about kids and soccer resumed while barely skipping a beat. I assumed that perhaps she hadn’t understood and I decided to wait until we were face to face.

Oh those sleepless nights before she arrived! I must have rehearsed fifty different scenarios telling her about AA and my new found sobriety. On the third day of her visit, when we had some alone time, I planned the H2H (heart to heart). And I told her. I told her that I’d been sober two months. I told her that I went to AA. I told her that my kids knew. I told her that my husband   had suggested (i.e. demanded) the change. I told her I was happy.

And she said nothing. In fact, once I’d uttered my last sentence about it, she resumed the discussion of her latest outlet shopping finds. I was stunned. I’d worried so much about her reaction that I wasn’t prepared for her to be reaction-less. At first I was upset and a bit angry. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s taken me many years to change my ways. It’s selfish of me to accept that anyone will react the way I want or expect them to. I need to giver her time to digest everything. Maye coming to see me was just as hard on her as it was on me.

And so I realized that it’s all going to be okay. It might not be easy. I need to worry less about the ‘what if’. Focus more on the ‘what is’. It will be alright.

The sounds of silence…

 

They say silence is golden. When I was drinking, everything was LOUD. I was a lively entertainer…always smiling, chatting,even the social chair of my sorority! But when I stopped drinking, it felt like you could hear a pin drop. I used to enjoy getting home (with my bottle of wine), starting to prepare dinner and enjoying the solitude of a glass (or bottle) of wine. But it wasn’t quiet. It was chaos.

Sometimes when I’m at an AA meeting, there will be long pauses between the sharing of stories. It used to feel uncomfortable. But now I’m beginning to appreciate the quietness. Learning to be comfortable with yourself, alone, quietly reflecting is really damn hard at times! I have a friend in AA whose sponsor told her, “Sharon, just ‘be quiet’ with yourself, stop making chatter.”

My husband went out of town for a few nights recently. I thought the time alone would be so relaxing…sleeping in, shopping with the kids, ordering takeout… but it was one of the hardest weekends in my sobriety. My favorite times drinking were solo, but with lots of people around. It’s hard to describe but my alone time could happen in a house full of people. My quiet time was with the bottle. It was comforting to me and it’s gone now. Adios, see ya later. So those patterns that I’d so elegantly crafted are now missing one big piece of the puzzle. And I don’t plan to let it back. Sneaking a(nother) glass of wine while doing the dishes, the laundry, you name it was MY time. But left alone, in silence, I often feel unsure of my footing. Sobriety forces me to be present…. listen, engage, reflect, think…

I enjoy running and even more so now that I’ve become sober and enjoy living such a healthier life. When I run I have my music playlist set to upbeat, loud, motivating music. But recently something strange happened. I forgot my headphones and couldn’t run with music. You’d have thought the sky was falling! It was so much harder running without music. I had to listen… to ME! My breathing, my pace, my grunts, the birds, cars, you name it. What became a complete annoyance at running without music has become a bit of a challenge to me. I’ve begun intentionally running without music. Forcing myself to be present. It’s not easy but the payoff have been pretty gratifying.

I’m learning to listen. To feel content with the silence.

Memoir…

Today I am sober TWO MONTHS! Small steps but big milestones.

My husband showed me an article in the Sunday NYTimes recently. It was written by John Skoyles, a well known poet/author. His article “How My Wine Turned to Water” dealt with sending a copy of his soon to be released autobiography to a friend. Upon reading the draft copy, the friend replied, “Seems like a book about drinking.” He was somewhat surprised at the comment and upon re-reading HIS book, realized that, “Yes, it is about drinking!”.  He decided it was time to get sober. His message got me thinking about my ‘story’.

My autobiography, memoir, however you want to phrase it, would be filled with funny, happy, loving stories, and LOTS of drinking. Sure there was some sadness, some dark times, but for the most part, as I recall it, I look back on those days and feel a general happiness.  It’s only now that I’m realizing that the early chapters of a book about your life set the foundation for those future pages. And as I move forward with sobriety, I’m realizing that the happiness of my youth was great at masking quite a bit of sorrow.

I grew up in Washington, DC. Not Maryland. Not Virginia. Actual DC. ‘Taxation without Representation’. A mayor who was repeatedly jailed and re-elected after buying crack cocaine. A city where, during my youth and formative high school years (’80’s), had a drinking age of 18. And even when the legal age was raised to 21 (like the rest of the country!!), those in the ‘grey area’ ages of 18.5-20.5 were ‘grandfathered’ and allowed to continue drinking legally.

High school wasn’t about hiding drinks. High school was about who ordered the most kegs for their party. High school was about lengthy conversations with your parents about the cocktail list for your high school graduation party. High school was about chatting with your Latin teacher while in line to buy beer at the convenience store. I remember going to a popular Mexican restaurant with my parents (while in high school), friends and even teachers had joined us, and ordering pitchers of margaritas for all!

So I look back at these times fondly and sadly….all at once. I wish I’d been given a filter. I needed an index of my future chapters. An understanding that this could lead me down a path that might not turn out as I’d hoped. A realization that good decision making and healthy living might suffer. Most importantly, that this foundation might crumble as I struggled to build my own house.

I am SO happy that at 45 I realized (well, more like hitting a brick wall) (and more on that in a future post) that this behavior had to change. I want to raise my two young girls in an environment that is fun and happy too. But one that doesn’t require a glass of wine in mommy’s hand. I want to wake up next to my husband every day with a clear head, ready to embrace the moment, the day, the everything.

So today, as I celebrate 2 months of sobriety, I am eagerly looking forward to the next chapters of this life… what the rest of this autobiography holds in store…

4 Days Away…

 

I am 4 days away. I’ve been slowly watching the calendar and the day nears. I will have 60 days sober on June 1. It seems short and fast all at once. I’ve cried, laughed and most of all, started to make really good, hard, healthy choices.

I started this blog because I wanted to write about something I had trouble finding… a place to ask questions, hope for answers, laugh, be frustrated, live…. for those who are new to sobriety.

My story of sobriety begins almost 2 months ago. My story of alcoholism begins long ago. Stay tuned for stories of both.

Today I am quenched. Not thirsty for wine. Nor beer. Nor a gin and tonic. Nor a Manhattan. I am quenched with a clarity I haven’t seen in ages.