Tag Archives: motherhood

Life on Life’s Terms

13 Sep

empty-gas-tank-996x560

Today marks 2300 days of sobriety.  Not sure if there is any particular significance to that number, other than it’s 2300 days without picking up a drink.  2300 days of not succumbing to temptations or cravings.  2300 days of learning that life is so much better sober. 2300 days of not choosing numbness over feelings, even if those feelings are painful. 2300 days of not relying on alcohol to provide me with an escape from reality.  2300 days of no hangovers.  2300 days of being present.  2300 days, one day at a time. 2300 days stronger.  Basically, 2300 days of living life on life’s terms.

Please don’t get me wrong –while I can honestly say that life is so much better sober, it does not mean that life is by any means easy or all rainbows and sunshine.  Bad things happen in life, whether we are sober or inebriated.  I used to do a great job of convincing myself that it was easier to deal with difficult times by escaping reality and anesthetizing myself with alcohol.  If I simply ignored the things I didn’t want to deal with, perhaps they would go away.  Funny, that never seemed to work. They would still be there in the morning, along with a miserable hangover and pounding headache.

Yes, life is tough. But what I wish I could convey to people who are still struggling with addiction and alcoholism, still smothered with hopelessness and despair, is that the difference when you get to the other side boils down to one simple thing:  hope. Miraculously, recovery has given me the incredible peace of mind and comfort that somehow, someway, everything will turn out ok.  As. Long. As. I. Don’t. Pick. Up. A. Drink. Or, put another way, as a friend in recovery often says, “Not even if your ass is on fire.”

I’ve been dealing with significant health issues for over 14 months now.   To say that I’ve been frustrated is a huge understatement.  For a person who is used to going full-speed (and then some) to not have the energy or stamina to make it half-way through the day has been brutal.  Being in a constant state of pain and exhaustion has taken its toll, not only on me but on those closest to me I’m sure.  As days of feeling crappy turned into weeks, and then into months and a year, I won’t lie and tell you that I didn’t think about picking up a drink.  I did.  Several times.  But I remembered: not even if my ass is on fire.  2300 days of sobriety has taught me that no matter what, a drink would only make things worse. Much worse.

I’m finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ve written many pieces about the trying to find the silver lining in all situations, something that a very dear friend has taught me.  While this whole ordeal has been pretty damn miserable, I have been able to take away a few key lessons.  First and foremost, I have learned to put myself first.  I do that with my sobriety because if I don’t have my sobriety I won’t have anything else.   But physical and emotional health go hand-in-hand with that. I’ve learned to listen to my body and that when I’m exhausted, I need to rest. And that it’s OK to rest.  Without feeling guilty.  For many of us, especially moms, it’s been drilled into us by society that we have to go a million miles an hour, take care of everyone and everything, and be constantly on the move, doing something productive at all times.  We often put ourselves last on our lists, if we even make it on there at all. Self-care is not a luxury.  It is imperative.

I’ve also learned to prioritize and reassess what is truly important.  It shouldn’t take being sick to do this, but it is what it is.  When you have limited energy and capacity, you have to be realistic about what you actually can do and what really needs to be done.  And what can take a backseat.  It’s often probably more than you might think.

I also came to understand that it’s okay to wave the white flag and ask for help.   Since my sobriety is very much at the top of that list of priorities and what is truly important, and sometimes getting to meetings wasn’t an option because I wasn’t feeling well enough to attend, I reached out to friends in recovery and they graciously brought a meeting to me. Or, if my tank was running on fumes, I chose a meeting over doing a load of laundry. Filling up my tank with fuel for staying sober was more important than loading up the washing machine dispenser with Tide.   Clean living over clean laundry?  Sorry, I’m getting carried away…

Self-care is crucial for everyone, not just those in recovery.  Taking care of yourself, in every way that is important, will allow you to live life on life’s terms.  On the good days and the bad days.  On the days when it feels like your ass is on fire.  Be kind to yourself.  Put yourself first on your list.  Aim for more days of rainbows and sunshine and you just might get there.

“An empty lantern provides no light.  Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”— Unknown

Advertisements

How Big is the Damn Onion – Part II

4 Jul

A while back, I wrote a piece called “How Big is the Damn Onion.” It was about working on ourselves and peeling the layers of the onion to get to the root of our issues. I’m revisiting this concept because I find myself with more layers peeling recently and I don’t really like it. Frankly, it scares me and I worry about my sobriety as some of these major layers peel away and lead to things I thought I had shoved down into my subconscious for good. Not deeply enough I guess.

Today is the Fourth of July. A time when many people are getting out their red Solo cups (another piece I wrote a while ago) and there is a lot of alcohol consumed. I feel like I am totally surrounded by it. Tomorrow is my daughter’s sixteenth birthday. I’m finding it stirring up a lot of things for me. First off, I can’t believe how quickly time has flown since my life changed when I became a mother with her birth. It makes me think of my own sixteenth birthday and I REALLY can’t believe how quickly time has flown since that day over 30 years ago. My mother managed to arrange a surprise party for me and gave everyone where I worked for the summer t-shirts to wear that said “Martha is 16 Today!” I still have mine.

My daughter’s request for her birthday was to celebrate it with two of her friends and me at the lake. A beautiful, serene place where we are enjoying time on the water and some simple things like making s’mores at a fire by the lake, getting ice cream and just relaxing – something I don’t do very often. But as I relax and unwind, I peel more of the layers of the onion away.

I had a bad drinking dream the other night. It was the kind where you wake up in a sweat thinking it was real. It was most likely prompted by a thought that came into my head about celebrating my daughter’s birthday and not being able to toast her with some champagne. Same with her wedding someday. These are the times when being an alcoholic can frankly suck.   But they are also the times when it is crucial to remember the simple saying: “One day at a time.”   When I first got sober, I was completely overwhelmed by the idea that I would never have a drink again. Some sober friends gave me excellent advice and reminded me that all I had to do was not drink for today. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the future. I also remembered a friend telling me that she threw away her sobriety after one sip of celebratory champagne to toast her son’s engagement. Her mistake became my lesson and, thank goodness, one that someone reminded me of the other day.

So I bought some sparkling cider and lemonade to toast with my daughter and her friends tomorrow.   We plan to go on a hike by some local falls. We’ll go back on the water in kayaks and canoes. I’ll take some time to write and read. And I’ll continue to peel back the layers of the onion. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but as I wrote before, it’s necessary to process things and then let them go. I’ve managed to do that with many things but there are always more layers of the onion to peel. As a great friend pointed out, you’ll probably peel away the last layer when you take your final breath in this world.

Happy Birthday America and Happy Birthday to my beautiful daughter. I’m glad I can celebrate both – sober and present.

“I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ” ― Ovid, Metamorphoses

Easter Miracles

27 Mar

On this particular Easter Sunday, I  focused more than ever on the miracle that Easter represents. The miracle of Christ rising from the dead. Not just rising from the dead, but ascending after a horrific and brutal yet incredibly symbolic crucifixion. As it says in the bible, “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” He bore our sins, our diseases, our sicknesses and our pain for us so that we may live free forever.

On this particular Easter Sunday, I remember that verse as I pray for a sweet little boy who was in a terrible car accident a few days ago. His mother, who is strong in her faith, reminded her friends that life can change in an instant. But as she sits in the ICU with her son, her faith grows even stronger. It is understandable that someone would look at this situation and ask why? Why, if Jesus bore our pain and grief, would this happen to an innocent child? I ask the same question why about another dear friend’s daughter who has a tumor on her spine that she battles with chemotherapy and possibly surgery. Why would a just God allow this to happen?

On this particular Easter Sunday, I have many more questions than I do answers. But yet I find my faith growing stronger as well, inspired by my friends who handle these situations with the utmost grace and faith. I don’t know that I would be able to handle such difficult, trying times as well as they do. I pray that I won’t have to. And I feel helpless, sitting on the sidelines, unable to do anything for them. But I can do something. Something important. I can pray. I can pray to the God who sacrificed his only Son for us, the Son who bore all our sickness and grief on the cross, for hope, health and healing. And I can believe, as I do with all my heart, in the power of prayer.

On this particular Easter Sunday, as I went to church with my family, I gave thanks for all that we have, especially our health. And I prayed. I prayed for my friends and for their children. I prayed for my friend whose partner is suffering from the grave repercussions of her alcoholism. I sang and remembered why we celebrate Easter. I rejoiced in the miracle that Easter represents. That Christ has risen from the dead. That miracles do happen. I turned to my faith more than ever. And I have the utmost faith that God will take care of all His children.
“The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Finding Peace in the Chaos

5 Mar

It’s been a while since I’ve written a piece. Life is a little chaotic and super busy, but all good. We held our Second Annual Mocktail Mania party a few weeks ago. Some really great and clever entries again this year. The winning drink, for both name and taste, was a take off on a Moscow Mule: the Alexandria Ass. Delicious concoction and awesome name. I’m really happy that people get so into the mocktails and hope they know how much I appreciate the support.

This past weekend, I had what I consider a huge turning point in my sobriety. I had to attend a charity dinner with my boss. Not just a dinner, but a five-course meal with wine pairings. Perfect for an alcoholic. I tried turning my wine glass over, but the wait staff kept bringing new glasses with each pairing, already poured. I decided to offer the gentleman next to me my wines as they came. He asked me if I didn’t like wine and I simply said that I did, just a little too much. After I slid a few glasses his way, he put his arm around me and said I was the best person he’s ever sat next to at a wine dinner. The amazing thing was that being surrounded by all that wine didn’t even bother me. In the earlier days of my sobriety, I would have been totally stressed out, sweating bullets and texting my sponsor for help. It’s a huge relief to know how far I’ve come. I don’t expect that it will always be that easy, or that I won’t have cravings still, but I’ll take this as a giant step forward.

But after the dinner, I managed to lose my phone. Stone cold sober. Long story, but someone who was at the dinner found it and brought it home for me. I retrieved it Monday, but managed to drop it in the toilet on Thursday. I’ve decided that perhaps this is HP’s way of telling me I need to SLOW DOWN. Running like a lunatic trying to do too many things at once. I know I can’t let my sobriety slip down my list of priorities though, and am trying to make sure I fit meetings into my chaotic schedule. I am lucky to have a sponsor who stays on my case about that.

Life is going to be chaotic and busy for quite some time with three kids under the age of 14, work, planning charity events, PTA events, writing a book, etc. In the melee, It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. For me, that’s my sobriety. Without that, there would be a very different kind of chaos. And it wouldn’t be good at all. I can handle busy, but I’ve learned that I can’t handle out-of-control, which is what happens when I drink. That’s why the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is perhaps the most important: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Unmanageable just won’t do.

Following the 12 Steps of AA helps us restore some order to our lives. The steps can bring back manageability. They can instill serenity. The eleventh step, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out,” helps immensely to bring us some peace. Through prayer and meditation, we can restore some semblance of order to our lives which had become utterly chaotic and unmanageable. The key for me is both remembering to pray and meditate and to make the time to do so. I always feel so much better when I do. Yoga helps immensely as well.

Chaos can make it’s way into everyone’s lives at some point, whether one is an alcoholic or not. The key is how we deal with it and manage to restore order. I feel blessed to have the tools I have and the support of people around me to get back to a place where I can breathe and carry on. I’d write more but I’ve got a zillion things to do…

Chaos was the law of nature; order was the dream of man.” – Henry Adams, “The Education of Henry Adams”

If We Don’t……Then Who Will?

3 Dec

For nearly 40 years, I have watched the same holiday special on television—A Charlie Brown Christmas. As a child, I would rush to take my bath or shower and get into my pajamas so I could wrap myself in a blanket on the couch and watch it. As a teenager, I watched it with the small kids I babysat while their parents were out at holiday parties. And now, as a parent, I watch it with my own children, cuddled up with me in my bed in their pajamas.

My son kept saying that he didn’t like the show because everyone was always mean to Charlie Brown. Why is everyone so mean to Charlie Brown? Good question. (I love how sensitive he is). I told him he needed to watch it through to the end. I still well-up with tears when all the kids belt out (with their mouths open wider than soccer balls) “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to Charlie Brown and wish him a Merry Christmas at the end after they fix up his sad little tree.

What struck me this year was the speech Linus gives on the stage explaining the true meaning of Christmas:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

I hate to say it, but I fear that it is only a matter of time before this show is pulled from network television because of this monologue and its mention of Christ the Lord and God. I know, the horror. That a children’s show, crammed in between commercials brainwashing them with all kinds of toys they should add to their Christmas lists, would dare incorporate a Christian message. It saddens me to say that I have become so disheartened by the “political correctness” of today’s society, that I now actually expect someone, or some group, to petition to ban such programs from broadcast television. A show that has been televised for every year since it was created in 1965 by a brilliant man named Charles Schulz.

Interestingly enough, it turns out that network executives were, in fact, reluctant to include the scene of Linus explaining the story of the birth of Christ. Apparently Charles Schulz was adamant that the scene remain, and said “if we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” Clearly he won out. The scene stayed.

These days, we worry so much about offending someone that we often compromise our beliefs and values. We are so hung up on being politically correct, we tend to even shy away from talking about, writing about, or creating anything that might be then slightest bit controversial.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a child was sent home (or expelled) from school if he or she showed up with a t-shirt featuring Linus and his Christmas monologue. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Hell no. Not acceptable. Too controversial. God. Peace. Good will. Men. I’m not sure we are still allowed to talk about these things today.

I have always loved Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. I have always had great admiration for Charles Schultz and his creative genius, as well as his humility. He had no qualms about explaining that Charlie Brown’s character was very much like himself—shy and awkward. But learning that he was adamant about keeping this scene in the Christmas special made me even more of a fan. I have a good friend who often says “if not me, then who….” for difficult situations that arise which most people wouldn’t want to deal with. Think, just for a second, about how often that saying taken to heart would be helpful. If I don’t volunteer to help, then who will? If I don’t talk to my kids about bullying, drugs, drinking, etc., then who will? If I don’t stand up for my convictions, then who will? And, in my case, if I don’t tell my story about how I deal with my alcoholism and try to help others, then who will? Would it be easier to keep it quiet and deal with it privately? Yes. Would it have been easier for Schulz to cave to the television executives and remove the scene? Yes.

Charles Schulz would have been 92 last week. When you get lost in the frenzy of the holidays, take a minute and look up the scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas and listen to Linus. It will help you remember what Christmas is really all about. And, I gotta say, watching the kids dance while Schroeder plays the piano, is pretty hilarious.
I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.—Lucy Van Pelt

Touched by an Angel

5 Jun
Last week, I celebrated two years of sobriety.  A huge milestone for me.  There were many times during those 730 days when I thought I wouldn’t make it.  But I did.  I chose to share a poem by Maya Angelou since she had just passed.  It seemed particularly fitting.  

 

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free. 

-Maya Angelou

I thought about attempting to write about what this poem means, but I realize that it means something different to everyone and that I could never do it justice.  It speaks volumes.  I’ll leave it at this:  I have been touched by many angels on this journey and I am beyond grateful to every single one.

The Power of Prayer (and a Pint of Ben and Jerry’s)

13 Feb

Several years ago, I was seated next to a woman at a birthday dinner for a friend. I knew her, but not well.  I had heard she was going through a rough separation with her husband but didn’t know the details.  She had three small children and when I had seen her occasionally around the neighborhood, she looked like she had been through the ringer.  During our conversation, she opened up and told me about her situation.  It was a terrible story which involved her husband having a drug addiction she was unaware of and spending most of their savings, getting deeper and deeper in debt to his habit.  As I listened in disbelief and sympathy, I asked her how in the world she got through it.  She told me that she didn’t get through it alone.  She said that she felt as though someone, or something, picked her up and helped her to be able to carry on with each day to do what she needed to for her children and herself.  She told me that she felt God’s presence and that she was convinced that it was He who provided her with the strength she needed at her worst hour.  Having had several cocktails already, I tried to keep myself from outwardly displaying through facial expressions or body language that I thought she was completely nuts.  Um, yeah, ok…some strange force picked you up and carried you through your day.   And I suppose there were little green men helping you push your shopping cart at the grocery store as well.

After that night, I think I only saw her one other time.  I heard that she and her husband reconciled, that he got help and was able to beat his addiction, and they managed to keep their family together.  They also spent a great deal of time focusing on their faith and good fortune, which they believed was brought to them by God.  I didn’t think about this woman for years, until recently.  And I can honestly say that now I get it.  I completely understand what she meant when she said that something much greater and more powerful than anything she had ever known lifted her up and carried her until she could stand again on her own two feet.

Growing up, the extent of my religious practices involved reluctantly going to church on major holidays, like Christmas and Easter, and trying to stay awake.  I knew nothing about the Bible, Christianity, or theology. More importantly, I knew nothing about spirituality, or the fact that spirituality and religion are two completely separate things.   After getting married in the Catholic church, and especially after our children were born, I started to attend church much more regularly.  But still, only when things got rough, or when dealing with the loss of a loved one, did I turn my glance upwards, mostly looking for answers.  Then there were the many times, usually while paying homage to the porcelain god after a night of mixing drinks, that I either asked God to help me stop feeling so sick or vowed to Him that I would never drink again.  That never lasted very long.

When I took my last drink almost 21 months ago, the realization that I could never, ever pick up a drink again was beyond overwhelming.  It seemed downright impossible.  Add to that the knowledge that no one could do this for me, or really do anything to help but be there to support me, and that’s more than rubbing salt in the wound.  There was no magic pill that a doctor could prescribe.  There was no therapist who could magically remove the compulsion to drink.  There was no trainer, life coach, personal assistant, clergy, shaman, or magic wand.  There was only me.  And, when I was ready to know, understand and trust it, my Higher Power (HP).

I often think that if I only knew when raising my first child what I now know while raising the third, my life would have been so much calmer.  But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.  While I was immersed in diapers, nursing, bottles, spit-up, and sleepless nights, I couldn’t see that if I only took a deep breath and calmed down, I could have enjoyed that precious time alone with a beautiful new life.  By the time I got to my third child, I wasn’t obsessed about sanitizing a pacifier after it fell to the ground, or as much of a sleep-nazi about nap time and schedules.   He got thrown into his carseat, whatever time of day, to shuttle the other two kids around to their activities.  He had to just go with the flow. In fact, I would often just put the baby down for a while in his little playpen and just let him be…without hovering over him to make sure he was still breathing every few minutes!

Similarly, if I had only known during those first few weeks or sobriety what I know now, it would not have been quite as torturous.  Don’t get me wrong, it still would have been pure hell, but the knowledge I have now certainly would have helped.  Admitting having a life that is unmanageable due to an addiction to alcohol is the first huge step.  Understanding that you cannot fully recover from that addiction without turning to, and relying on, your HP is the next crucial turn.  That’s the magic bullet.  The power of determination helps.  The power of friendship and support helps.  The power of inner strength helps.  But the power of prayer heals.

When I started to understand that if I was willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, the road to recovery would be much smoother.  There will still be many bumps and potholes, but that belief and willingness helps to pave a smoother path.  I used to sit in church and during the quiet prayer time after communion, I would hold my head in my hands and cry silently.  I was miserable.  And usually hungover as it was a Sunday morning.  I positioned myself physically as far away from anyone, including my family, as I possibly could, even in the same pew.  I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone.  I chose to sit and drown in my depression.  I asked God for help.  But it didn’t come.  On my terms anyway…

As I learned more and more during my recovery, and truly trusted in turning things over to my HP, I started to see the magic at work.  I noticed that somehow I would hear something from a friend (angel?) on a day when that was exactly what I needed to hear.  And I actually was listening for a change.  I realized that the people who surrounded me where there for a specific reason.  A kind word of support or pat on the back worked wonders for my will to fight on.  I saw that the fortuitous encounter with a well-respected pastor with whom I shared my story recently was probably no accident.

I have prayed for strength for my recovery and I am still sober, 626 days later.  I have prayed for support and understanding from family and friends and I have that.  I have prayed for healing and learning to forgive myself and I am on the right path.  I have prayed for guidance with some tough situations and have gotten it.  I have prayed for the ability to sit quietly and listen and I’m getting better at that. Sometimes I will need a kick in the head to remember to turn to prayer and my HP when things get really rough, but hopefully I will get that kick too from the people who care about me and whom God has put in my life to help me.  As for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s, that can help immensely as well.

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: