The List

Before I had really committed to giving up alcohol, I tried numerous ways to fix my mess of a life without actually giving up alcohol.  My husband and I were in couples therapy because “we had problems.”  I clearly remember writing that on our intake form.  And laughing about it.  We didn’t really know how to describe our problems.  I did shit that enraged him (read HURT him) and we didn’t know how to fix it.  We would sit on the therapist’s couch and he would complain about all the things I had done that week that I shouldn’t have.  Eventually when we went into her office, I started sitting in the corner chair by myself because it felt like the naughty chair.  I felt like a five years old.  I’m sure I acted like a five year old too. I also had a therapist that I saw on my own. She was horrible.  You know how we attract what we put out into the world?  Well, I was putting out raging alcoholic crazy bitch and that’s what I was attracting.  A crazy, stalker therapist who was also a raging alcoholic. Believe me when I say that I have had some bad therapy in my life.   That “relationship” got really bad before I decided to seek out a new therapist.  Our couples therapist referred me to a woman in her office.  The two of them (with my permission) worked together to figure out how to best help me.  The first time I met with this new therapist, she told me I had been referred to her because she took “The worst of the worst.”  Well shit.  Thanks lady.  That was a prelude to what was to come with this woman.  The therapist who didn’t hold back and pissed me off week after week.  This woman.  The one who told me to “suck it up, buttercup” when I came in whining and complaining about how much my life sucked.  You can imagine how well that went over with me. She tried to help me in so many ways.  She sent me to (strongly suggested) Dialectal Behavior Therapy to learn emotion regulation skills, mindfulness, and other coping skills.  She cheered for me when I had periods of not drinking.  She tried to help me find activities to do that were “wholesome.”  She gave me a giant list of ‘adult pleasurable activities.’  Because I needed a list.  A list of activities to fill my time that weren’t self destructive.  Who knew such a list existed?  And that people actually need this? Because of my addictive tendencies there were quite a few things on the list she advised against.  Also, my ability to turn wholesome activities completely unwholesome meant there were quite a few no go’s for me on the list.  But, the list was huge and full of things that I could do.  If I wanted to.  The list made me laugh and the thought of someone needing a list of activities to fill their days was ridiculous.  I wanted to spend my time drinking and being miserable. Obviously.

I don’t know how this woman put up with me, but I like to think she saw my awesome that was hiding behind the mask I wore.  In the beginning I took a lot of naps and a lot of baths.  They were on the list. I mean, I still take a lot of baths and naps but in the beginning of this journey I took 3 baths a day.  It was my go to for self soothing.  I did yoga, but it was absolutely NOT pleasurable.  I meditated, but it was also not pleasurable.  I was so uncomfortable being sober that anything other than bathing and sleeping was not at all pleasurable.  Because I was miserable and uncomfortable in my skin.  In AA meetings I would cry and ask how long it would be awful like this.  The answer was always, until it isn’t.  There was no time frame and everyone is different.  One of my favorite sober authors is Augustan Burroughs. I read a lot of his books in my early sobriety. If you haven’t read his books, I highly recommend that you do.  He has a twisted sense of humor that I appreciate. In “This is How” he writes about getting sober….”What has worked for me is to find something I wanted more than I wanted to drink, which was a fuck of a lot.  The way you stop drinking is to want sobriety more.”  Huh.  Sounds so simple.  And I did want to be sober more than I wanted to be drunk. My family was what I wanted more than I wanted to drink.  For the first 500 days that was it.  My family.  I would like to think I fell in love with myself and my life sooner, but that just isn’t true.  I was just learning how to do normal day to day life without alcohol. Nothing fabulous there. Fast forward a few years and my life is FULL of people and things that I am in love with.  I had to get off my ass, be uncomfortable and do the things and meet the people.  They weren’t just magically appearing in front of me.  I did all the things alone.  And wouldn’t you know, doing things is a great way to meet people. I got sober in November 2013. I fell in love with ME in 2015.  It took a lot of work, but I love me today.  I think until I found that love for myself, love for anything else just wasn’t going to happen. And then it happened. I fell in love with yoga.  Finally!  After years of practicing to save my life, I now did it because I loved it. And then I fell in love with teaching yoga. It gave me confidence that I had never known.  I opened the studio in 2017 and have fallen in love with something new every other month since then.  At least it seems that way.  Today my calendar gets so full that I have to schedule naps and say no to things that I love and want to do because I also try to keep a healthy home/work/social life/me time balance.  And it’s hard at times.  I always feel it when I am off balance, which is a bit more often than I would like….but that’s just kind of how life is.  This summer has been insanely busy and at times I feel overwhelmed.  It helps to remind myself that I am busy doing the things I love.  I am busy doing the things I choose.  I am busy doing the pleasurable activities that I LOVE.  I don’t need a list today.   

Keep Showing Up

I am currently in a hotel in Knoxville with my 10 year old.  He and I are traveling to Kentucky to see my parents.  I thought he would chill and I would write. I was wrong.  He hasn’t chilled yet.   Hotels are way too exciting for children.  Even a Hampton Inn in Knoxville, TN.  Jackson is spinning circles in the chair and asking me thousands of questions.  His most recent question was “are you mad at me?”  I told him “Of course I’m not mad at you” and I asked why he thought that.  His reply was that I seem annoyed.  I had to remind him that it’s after 9 o’clock and Mommy hates everyone after 8:30.  He knows this.  And then, because I am a good human, I assured him I am not annoyed with him and I love him all the world full. I’m just a bit tired and grumpy.   It’s been sweet traveling with Jackson.  He mostly watches videos with his headphones on. But, we also got some good one on one talk time in.  Jackson was in 5th grade this past year.  His last year in elementary school.  In 5th grade the children participate in the DARE program.  He learned all about addiction/drugs/alcohol/peer pressure and such.  He knows I don’t drink but he’s never asked why.  Until today.  My older two children know the story.  They lived the story.  They remember the story.  Jackson was a little guy.  I asked him if he remembered when I was sick and he came to see me in that hospital where he got to play foosball.  He does remember.  He told me he remembers coming to see me a few times in the hospital.  The hospital was a treatment center, and it seems he remembers a bit more  of my stay than I realized.   Once that topic came up he asked what that was all about.  He wanted to know why I was in that hospital.  I have had ALL the conversations about these things with his brother and sister, but Jackson, being the baby, and not really remembering that life, well, it just hasn’t come up.  Until today.   He could care less whether I drink or not.  When I explained to him that alcohol makes me sick, he compared it to an allergy to red dye number 40, or yellow dye 5. He’s not really wrong.  Other than the fact that as well as making me sick, alcohol makes me crazy and depressed.   I guess he’s never cared or even considered why I go to “those meetings.”  Which cracks me up because I have always said it’s Jackson’s world and the rest of us are lucky to be living in it.  It’s just something I do that he’s never questioned.   We talked about those meetings and he decided I go for no reason and I don’t even need to go because obviously I am cured.  Then he threw in the word hippie and eluded to the fact that AA is for hippies.   I love this child.  AA in my community certainly isn’t full of hippies.  Or, maybe they were at one time, but they grew out of it.   Jackson is a joyful child. A young 10 year old. He’s been able to stay little a bit longer than his siblings did. Innocent.  He has no idea that I rolled straight out of jail and went to his kindergarten orientation with him 5 years ago.  Never have I ever felt more shame or guilt than I did that day. I had gotten a DUI the day before and had to sit in jail for 24 hours. Actually, my husband had the option to bail me out, but chose not to.  He was over it and he knew if I was in jail for the night, I was safe for the night.   I got sober three months later.  I remember going to his class and talking to his teacher about my sobriety. I wanted her to know why I had been absent for the past few months.  I wanted her to know how much I appreciated all the love and support she gave Jackson and how grateful I was for her.  When I explained to her that I had been struggling with addiction and had been away in a treatment center she looked at me like I had two heads.  I was sure I couldn’t have been the first person she had ever met with a drug/alcohol problem.  She assured me I was the first.  I was mortified and I wanted to die.  But I didn’t.  I stood there.  I was getting sober.  I was being honest.  I was standing in my truth.  Uncomfortable and awkward, but I stood there.   For whatever reason, I felt like she needed to know.  I felt like that was a conversation I needed to have with her.  It was the first time I had announced with any seriousness that I was getting sober. For the first time ever, I was able to hold my head high in that school.  Simply because I was sober.  I didn’t feel judged by her.  It was just very matter of fact, “I have never met an addict or alcoholic before.”  I think I expected her to share her own personal story of the people in her life who are either addicted or in recovery.  Maybe I expected a bit of praise for my hard work.  Not that I deserved an award for doing what I needed to do, because I certainly did not. That experience was a big moment for me in early recovery.  Being honest about who I am is OK.   Being open and honest made it easier for me to be a good mother.  I no longer felt like I had to pretend to be perfect, because now it was known that I wasn’t.  But I was there.  I was trying.  Not being perfect meant I could be me.  Being an alcoholic mother is hard.  I had a lot of shame about the way I drank.    I had always felt less than when I was with the other Moms at school because it seemed like they had it all together.  They all seemed so perfect.  Then there was me.  Just hoping they didn’t smell alcohol on me.  That was a special kind of Hell. (There are many kinds) Now, after being sober for 5 years and spending time with emotionally healthy people,  I understand that nobody has their shit together.  At least not all the time.  We all do the best we can and everyone has their own problems to deal with.  In whatever form that comes in.  As long as we keep showing up, we are winning at life, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  Today I am showing up for my children by being a living example of what recovery looks like.  They have seen addiction.   It’s not the life I had planned for us, but we made it and became so much stronger and closer through the process.  My children know that they can talk to me about the difficult things.  They know they don’t have to be perfect, because this life is messy and chaotic and beautiful.  We just have to keep showing up.