Tag Archives: sober

Flying Sober

30 Mar

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I heard something really powerful today. A fellow alcoholic shared something that was passed along to him:  “Alcohol gave me wings to fly…then it took away the sky.” Just think about that for a few minutes.   You may not get that at all. Or it might make perfect sense to you. I completely understand it. I often turned to alcohol for liquid courage. To quell social anxiety when I had to walk in to a room full of strangers. To battle depression (it took me years to figure out that trying to fight depression with a depressant wasn’t exactly a smart plan).   To celebrate and chase a higher high. To escape. To try to stop the pain. To avoid feeling things I didn’t want to feel. And when I turned to alcohol for those reasons, I usually did get my wings to fly away from or high above whatever I was avoiding. Or sometimes to fly closer to something I was chasing.

Many people can remember the feeling they got from that very first drink. Most alcoholics will tell you that they instantly knew how much they liked it…a little too much. It may be gradual, but they will continue to try to recreate that buzz, often at great cost.   The kid who is shy and quiet might have put a drink or two in him and felt like he was the life of the party. The woman who was afraid to walk in to a crowded room full of strangers might have downed a glass of wine, let out a deep breath and marched in with a new-found confidence. Wings.

While we are drinking, sometimes we feel invincible. We feel no pain. Hell, I fell down a steep flight of concrete steps and should have been killed, but somehow in my alcoholic stupor, I hobbled away. We feel larger than life. We feel funnier, smarter, stronger, and braver. Wings. Yes, some of those times, maybe we were funny. Maybe we were enjoyable to be around. The life of the party. And then the party ended. But perhaps not for us. As I have said before, I look at my alcoholism as having a broken off-switch. Once I start drinking, there is no telling whether that switch will work or not. While other people may recognize that they have had enough and should probably put on the brakes, I’m only getting warmed up. If I felt good and buzzed, I only wanted to feel better and fly higher. The off-switch usually doesn’t kick in.

I am reminded of a Greek myth (hey, I was a Classical Studies major in college, so indulge me here a bit) – the story of Icarus and Daedalus. Daedalus built wings made of branches of osier connected with wax for his son, Icarus, and him to escape from the labyrinth in which they were imprisoned on the island of Crete by King Minos. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too high, too close to the sun, or the wax would melt and the wings wouldn’t hold up. Icarus was too exhilarated by the thrill of flying that he continued to soar upward. Sure enough, the sun melted the wax, and the boy plummeted into the sea (now known as the Icarian Sea).

Icarus was literally high, but sought to go higher. And paid the price of his life for it. That’s what can happen to alcoholics when they get their wings from alcohol. They may think that they soar. Until it takes away their sky.   What you think is liquid courage may be “instant asshole” potion. I don’t even want to know how obnoxious I truly was when I was lit. MaybeI had the courage to walk into a room full of strangers, but if I continued to drink, chances are I slurred, made little or no sense, embarrassed myself and others, and stumbled out. You seek the light and end up alone in the dark.

Alcohol gave me wings to fly… until I ended up on the cold bathroom floor with my head hanging over the toilet.   Swearing I would never drink again. Until I did.Alcohol gave me wings to fly…until my hands were shaking in need of another drink.Alcohol gave me wings to fly…until I lost sight of who I was and what was important in life, and I almost lost all that I cared about. What’s ironic is that the higher we try to go, the lower we end up sinking. The closer we get to the sun, the more we get burned. We think we are going toward the light, but we end up in total darkness.   Alcohol does, in fact, take away the sky.

The beauty of sobriety is that it is where we find the light. With each day sober, a little brighter ray of light breaks through the cracks. Now, almost six years without a drink, my future is so bright, I gotta wear shades (sorry, I couldn’t resist). And, I believe I can fly. Without alcohol. I can fly safely, without crashing. How? By relying on my HP. By reminding myself how much better life is sober than when I was wondering when the wax was going to melt. You too can F.L.Y.—First Love Yourself.

Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can fly.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

 

 

 

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Finding (and Using) My Voice

28 Jul

Chicken: noun meaning “coward”. When I drank, I did a really good job keeping everything inside and swallowing my feelings with each gulp of alcohol.   The more things that piled up inside, the more difficult it was for me to use my voice. I never wanted to rock the boat and I hated confrontation. I still do. When I got sober, part of what I needed to work on was finding my voice again and using it.

We are all born with a voice or some means of expressing ourselves.   As children, we were fully capable of asking for what we needed and conveying our feelings. Sometimes they came across in the form of crying or screaming or stomping our feet. I want an Oompa Loompa NOW daddy! We didn’t take into account how these outbursts would be received. We didn’t care if they hurt someone else’s feelings. That was a foreign concept to us then.

As we grew, we started to learn that our words and deeds affected those around us. There were repercussions to our tantrums. We began to realize that our words had the power of making other people feel good, or bad. We even learned that sometimes our words carried the ability to come back and haunt us. Once we opened our mouths and spoke the words, we couldn’t rein them back in.   Today with social media this is even more true. I try to tell my kids that once they put something “out there” it’s out there for good.

The good thing about constantly working on my sobriety is that I can see when I start slipping back into old habits. I realized recently that I was letting things build up and not using my voice to communicate my feelings. It’s often easier to sit at the keyboard and type away rather than having to talk to someone face-to-face. That’s not necessarily the best approach. Sometimes you need to be able to see someone’s reaction to what you say — body language, facial expressions, etc.

I often wish that I were more assertive. I respect people who are. People who are able to clearly state and stand up for what they believe and what they need. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come a long way since I got sober. It’s easier to see what’s important with a clear mind.   It’s a little bit ironic, though, to talk about losing my voice while I was drinking. Many times alcohol gave me the liquid courage to say things I probably shouldn’t have. But most of the REALLY important stuff got gulped down or temporarily washed away with the booze.

Lately I realized that I had built stuff up to create a humongous problem in my mind instead of tackling it head-on. Chicken. Afraid of what result my words would have. Would they hurt someone else’s feelings? Would I regret something that I put out there that I couldn’t take back? This is where self-worth comes in. Believing that I am worthy of expressing my feelings, believing that how I feel and what I think are actually important. And they are.

I finally did use my voice. And things went very well. Better than expected. I could have saved myself a great deal of stress and anxiety if I had just opened my mouth sooner. But I’m getting there. Stronger every day that I am sober. Wiser every day that I have a clear mind. Braver when I acknowledge that I am worth it.

“Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined.” — Unknown

 

 

 

Is It Too Late Now to Say Sorry?

1 Feb

Many people are familiar with the concept of alcoholics having to make amends. They may think it’s as simple as going around and apologizing to those people you somehow screwed over or offended (or worse) in your prime drinking days. Not exactly. I thought about how nice it would be if I could just write a blanket apology in my blog for all the idiotic things I had done to various people and hope that they read it. I would venture to guess that my sponsor would veto that option.

Step 8 prepares us for our amends and says that we are to have “made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”. Step 9 tells us to “make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” I’m not “officially” up to Steps 8 and 9 (as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been stuck on Step 4 for quite some time. It’s a really tough one: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”). But I had a chance recently to make an amend that I knew I needed to make, so I seized the opportunity.

I have to admit that I was quite nervous, as I had no idea how it would be received. I’m incredibly fortunate that my first amends went very smoothly. It was to a dear friend from college. I’d prefer not to say what I did to screw things up, but let’s just say it involved my behavior at his fraternity formal. Ugh. We had gone several years without speaking and I just attributed it to us both being busy and losing touch. It turned out that he was very upset with me. When I stopped drinking and saw things more clearly, I was able to look in the mirror and see the giant jackass that looked back at me.

I asked him to go to lunch. I wasn’t sure how I was going to bring it up but HP works in wonderful ways — the opportunity was handed to me on a silver plate. I told him he looked great and he said he had cut way back on drinking and that had helped. It was like he rolled out the red carpet for my ninth step. I told him that I was now sober and that I was sincerely sorry for what I had done. Now was the tough part—waiting for the reaction. His eyes welled up with tears a little, he said how proud of me he was and that it was all “water under the bridge now”. Exhale. Phew.

I don’t expect them all to go that smoothly but hopefully many will. There are some that I can’t make because the people are either gone or I have no idea where they are. There are some that can’t be made because to do so would in fact “harm them or others”. What can I do? Write a letter. Share it with my sponsor. Turn it over. And I will have to do those things to move forward in my sobriety. As it says in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous: “we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out our past.”

So what should you do if you are on the other side of the amends—the one to whom the apology is made? First of all, please try to realize how hard it probably was for this person to come to you. You may be extremely pissed off with them because they left you stranded somewhere when they were drunk and forgot to meet you. You may be angry because they hit on your boyfriend when they were hammered. It might be much more serious than that–they may have ruined part of your life along with theirs.  You may be furious for any number of reasons.  Here’s the thing: it’s up to you what you do with that apology. You don’t necessarily have to forgive them for them to move on and consider their job done. At least you know that they are trying to improve their lives, get sober and stay sober.

Ideally, you would try to make them comfortable through the difficult task. As I said, you may be very angry with them, but perhaps you are able to see them now and know that they were a different person then. A person who was under the spell of alcohol. A person with a progressive disease. How do you know if they are sincere? If they are truly working the steps, have a sponsor, going to meetings, and making an honest effort to not just stop drinking but to tackle the demons that led them to drink in the first place, give them a chance. If they have thoroughly done a fourth step, they are genuinely working toward making themselves better and healthier.

Is it too late now to say sorry? For me, in some instances, yes. But that doesn’t mean I won’t make amends where I can. And for this alcoholic, I consider a “living amends”, making an effort every single day to be a better person, the most sincere way that I can show that I am truly sorry.

What do I say when it’s all over? When sorry seems to be the hardest word?” Elton John

Black(out) Friday

25 Nov

 

The looney time of year has arrived. The holidays are upon us. For many, they bring up all kinds of memories—good and bad. For some, there is a struggle to search back into the recesses of our minds to see if we can even find the memories or if they are still as dark as the blackouts that may have enveloped them. For me, Thanksgiving reminds me of few times I’d rather forget.

Thanksgiving was always a huge drinking day for me. I would start quite early with champagne or mimosas as family arrived and I cooked. I had a full glass of something for the rest of the day and night. Wine flowed throughout the Thanksgiving meal. Most people stopped drinking and had coffee with dessert, watched football, or took a walk or a nap, but I continued to drink. Didn’t want to lose the buzz. We used to go to close friends’ for dessert where I welcomed the opportunity to have a plethora of new wines to “sample”. But often by this point in the day or evening, I was slurring, stumbling or literally falling down drunk. How embarrassing to look back upon. What’s even worse is to have to just imagine and wonder what I did when I passed that point and maybe even blacked out. I always laugh at meetings when people say they don’t think they were blackout drinkers. How the hell would you know if you were—you certainly wouldn’t remember?!

There were those totally inebriated Thanksgivings. One where I cried before I got up the courage to talk to my brother on the phone when he was in jail. One where I had a total meltdown in front of my friends about my unhappiness in my life and my marriage and said a bunch of things I still regret to my mom. Ones where I passed out in my wine-stained clothes, most likely leaving it to my husband to tell the kids that mommy is just really tired from all the cooking. Again, alcohol is a depressant. Adding that to an already depressed person is a recipe for disaster.

In just three more days, I’ll have 3 1/2 years of sobriety (God willing). One important thing that I have learned in that time is that I have a choice as to how I look back and how I move forward. Looking back, I can wallow in the miserable, drunken episodes, beat myself up and struggle to remember and relive the embarrassment. Or I can look back and use them to remind myself of a place I never want to return. Use them to “keep it green” as they say. And I can dig deep to remember the good times instead. The Thanksgivings where my grandparents were with us and inadvertently had us all cracking up. The Thanksgivings where we were all together. The Thanksgiving where my kids made little turkeys out of their hands and wrote the things that they were thankful for.

Going forward, instead of focusing all my attention on where my next drink is coming from, I can focus on the things for which I am truly grateful. That I’m not in that deep, dark depression but in a much better, happier, healthier place. That I am sober and present for my family. That I can wake up the day after Thanksgiving and not be completely hungover with a pounding headache or even still drunk. And that I am blessed with amazing friends who have been with me through thick and thin.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” —Dr. Seuss

Set Free

11 Aug

“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”—Unknown
There is some confusion over the authorship of the quote above. Many attribute it to Richard Bach, a novelist born in 1936, while other say it is from an unknown source. Regardless, its meaning is broad and deep. It’s particularly applicable to my life right now. Someone lovingly “cut me loose” to stand on my own two feet and gain the strength I need to stay sober. It hurt at the time, and left me quite bewildered, but now that I look back, I can see it clearly and understand why.

No matter what our issues are in life, we all deal with some amount of codependency. Melody Beattie, author of several books on the topic says “There are almost as many definitions of codependency as there are experiences that represent it.” One simple definition is excessive emotional or psychological reliance in a relationship. There’s an expression I hear often in the rooms that says “detach with love”. That’s a healthy, admirable way to deal with codependency, though often much easier said than done.

While I have had a great deal of support throughout my recovery, I leaned quite heavily on one particular person who had a personal history with the other side of alcoholism. She got the texts when I longed for a drink. I turned to her to keep me from jumping off that ledge back into the world of alcohol. She had to listen to me whine and ask why I couldn’t have a drink. And I realize now that that’s an awful lot to put on any one person.

In another miraculous example of how God works, my decision to grow up and stop leaning so heavily on this person seemed to coincide almost exactly with when she decided it was time to cut me loose. She knew that I needed to develop the right tools to stay sober. More importantly, she understood that the only person who could keep me sober was me. And I knew that it was unfair to continue to lean so heavily on her, especially as she had her own trials and tribulations to deal with.

So what happened when she “detached with love”? I got my wings. I learned to stand on my own two feet and use the helpful instruments that I’ve acquired in my sobriety. I turned to my awesome sponsor and attended more meetings. I picked up some recovery literature. I learned to pray and to ask for help, and to turn things over to my HP (Higher Power).

Our friendship is stronger and deeper now and no longer allows alcoholism to dominate it. So to my friend, thank you for caring enough to let me find my own strength and plant my feet firmly underneath me. HP has now given me the strength and tools to help others. And to all the people I lean on heavily, thank you for being there for me throughout this journey.

Taking care of myself is a big job. No wonder I avoided it for so long.”—Anonymous

One Thousand Shades of Sober

22 Feb

Today marks the 1000th day of my sobriety. 1000 freaking days without a single drop of booze. Gotta say I’m pretty amazed by that myself. There were so many days and nights when I thought I would cave. But I didn’t. So what did I decide to do? Celebrate. Yep, I threw myself a big ol’ par-tay. A mocktail party. With all the people who have supported me and been there for me when I needed help. People who took time out of their busy lives to send me a quick text or email or share a few words of encouragement. In this case, though, I wasn’t sure that if I built it they would come. But they did. Through a miserable snow/sleet/freezing rain storm on a frigid night. They came out, despite those conditions, and no booze, to celebrate with me. I was truly overwhelmed.

Like I said, I had my doubts about throwing this party. Would people want to go to a party on a Saturday night with no alcohol? For a few, the answer was no. For many, the answer was hell yes. I’m sure the fact that we have all been cooped up in our houses with our kids due to the weather added to everyone’s enthusiasm for a night out. The invitation asked that guests bring a creative, non-alcoholic drink and that prizes would be awarded for Best Tasting Mocktail and Best Mocktail Name. There were some REALLY creative names and drinks. A few favorites were: “Abstinence on the Beach”, “Sans-gria”, “No Way Jose Mango-rita”, “Berry-Lime Hickey”, and ‘You Bet Your Blueberry Ass!” But the most votes went to “Still Have My Hymen Sangria.” Pretty funny. People seemed to have a fun time tasting and voting for their favorites.

In addition to the mocktail mania, we had a “Candy Bar” with all my favorite sugary treats. A few sugar hangovers today, but I’ll take that any day over the old days of puking and spending the entire day after in bed. It was definitely more fun than I had even imagined and, for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed a party and wasn’t drooling over the wine I couldn’t drink or searching for the door to plan my exit. We built it. They came. And it meant a great deal to me. One friend said as she was leaving “You know, no one came for the food, or for the drinks, or to have a night out. They came for you. To celebrate your amazing achievement.” What does one say to that?

I am happy that my kids were there helping and mingling so that they could see adults having a great time WITHOUT any alcohol. I am happy that I was able to have coherent conversations that I actually remember. I am happy that we all woke up feeling refreshed and not hungover. I am happy that people came and enjoyed themselves on a nasty, wintery night. I hope that everyone who came, and those who couldn’t, know how much I appreciate their kindness and support. God willing, they will be there with me to celebrate 2000 days. When I get the urge to pick up a drink, I can think of that and continue to fight even harder. There’s a whole world out there that can be just as fun, if not more so, sober.

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin Roosevelt
If you build it, they will come.” -Theodore Roosevelt

If I Can Make It There……I’ll Make It Anywhere

24 Nov

This weekend, I sat in a beautiful apartment in NYC and looked out at an incredible view of the Statue of Liberty. The sun was shining and the sky was a slightly lighter shade of blue than the calm water. The serenity was such a sharp contrast to the feelings and energy surrounding my visit to this same city 2 1/2 years ago. New York is the last place I had a drink of alcohol. Well, not just “A” drink but dozens of drinks. And the irony of the crisp, clear, cold, sunny day I took in with great clarity did not escape me. I don’t remember what the weather was like when I woke up here in May of 2012, but I do remember that it wouldn’t have mattered or had any effect on the foggy, grey and dark cloud that enveloped me.

I think it is safe to say that I have grown more and learned more in the past two and a half years than I have in all my other years prior. It’s amazing what sobriety gives you. The gifts are too many to even list, but one of the biggest is time. Instead of your life passing you by in one big blur, you get to actually LIVE every day and be a part of your own life. Yes, there are days that are hard. Everyone has those. But to be able to feel those and actively participate in them is a gift as well.

Before one of my first sober solo-adventures, a trip to meet a friend and go skiing in Colorado, I remember worrying about what I would do on a trip if I didn’t drink. My travels always involved cocktails at whatever restaurants and bars we explored, cocktails while getting dressed to go out, cocktails after skiing, cocktails on the golf course, cocktails while dancing or listening to music, well, you get the idea. Going to a different city, state, country, whatever, always entailed researching what local culture we should experience. As I looked up restaurant reviews for the places I would be visiting, I noticed how many of them boasted about their specialty cocktails or extensive wine lists. And I started to sweat.

It turned out that I didn’t have to waste one droplet of perspiration. There was plenty to do that didn’t involve drinking. And guess what? It IS possible to enjoy great restaurants and bars—coffee bars maybe—and other places without cocktails. And even more enjoyable to wake up in the morning without a massive hangover.  It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t feel like total crap.

On that 2012 trip to NYC, I almost didn’t make it to the Broadway show we had tickets to because I was so miserably hungover  I thought I was going to throw up. I don’t remember any of the food we ate those few days because it was drowned out by all the cocktails and wine. I felt like crap, looked like crap and was probably pretty crappy company when I was hungover and shaking in need of a drink.

On this trip to NYC, I enjoyed every minute of the three Broadway shows we saw. I savored every single morsel of food at great restaurants. I slept like a rock and woke up clear-headed and able to appreciate the beautiful view of the river and Lady Liberty. Conversations with my friend actually made sense (for the most part) and will be remembered. And, hopefully, I wasn’t crappy company.

Sure, there were a few times I looked longingly at the cocktails that people at nearby tables were enjoying. And yes, I’d be lying if I said the bottle of vodka in the freezer and wine in the kitchen of the friend’s apartment we stayed at didn’t slightly temp me. But, as Ol’ Blue Eyes sang, I wanted to be a part of it, AND make a brand new start of it. I think I did just that.

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