The Bitch of Karma

Step four.  I’ve been procrastinating.  Mostly because I have been unable to come up with an active list of resentments.  I know I must resent more than one or two people but honestly, I feel like I’ve worked through a lot of them already.  Except for the “Furniture” incident.  Still, to this day, it is the most cringe-worthy event in my life.  And it all started with resentment.  At the time I dealt with it in the best way I knew how.  I drank.  And man, did I drink.  Eventually, years passed and I managed to encapsulate it in a little bubble on a shelf somewhere in my mind.  But it wouldn’t take much to burst the bubble and that friggin’ nightmare would come flooding back into my here and now.

It’s time to let it go.

I was married to the father of my children at the time (twenty years ago).  I was absolutely FULL of resentment for him.  He wouldn’t get a decent job to support us so I had to go back to work, when all I really wanted and needed was to stay home with our young daughter. Reluctantly, I got a job doing the only think I knew–selling furniture (which is how we met).  After a year or two I got promoted to management. Eventually, he ended up working for the same company.  He was in sales, I was in management. As much as I learned to love my job, I was still full of resentment.  I let that resentment fester for a couple years by marinating it in alcohol.  The alcohol made it tolerable but I grew to despise my husband. He was preventing me from doing the one thing I was born to do–be a good mother.  I thought he was a monster when it was me who was evil incarnate.

I decided to have an affair with my boss.  I initiated it.  He was married as well.  Didn’t matter.  Who gave a shit…WE were the suffering ones.  The ones that deserved happiness.  No one else’s lives mattered except for ours.  He was smart, independent, financially stable, thirteen years older than me and very secure with who he was.  He was everything I wanted and didn’t have.  We’d make sure we worked every shift together, go out for liquid lunches, leave early and write love letters back and forth.  Computers and cell phones were not what they are today so most of our correspondence was at work or on the phone.  The affair filled my heart with much-needed affection and the alcohol anesthasized my pain. I made several mistakes that fall, not the least of which was confiding my affair to my co-worker whom I also managed.  We had become friendly, even though I was her boss.  She supported my deception and quickly offered to become my alibi when I needed one.  That should have been my first clue.

At the time the Lewinski/Clinton thing was all the rage in the news.  What I didn’t realize was that I was in a very similar situation.  My husband had no idea about my deception, nor did my family.  It wasn’t until my co-worker “friend” asked me for a raise and  full-time status that I realized what kind of trouble I was in.  I didn’t have the power to do that and I told her so.  Within 48 hours my life blew up before my eyes.  She had recorded a phone conversation in which I asked her to lie for me and be my alibi for my husband.  She went to upper management with the tape and we were both fired.  I remember being so horrified that all I could do was go to a bar and drink myself into oblivion.  My husband, of course, found out immediately–it was like wildfire ripping through a dry corn field on the sales floor.  Devastated, he told his mother who decided at that moment that she needed to tell my parents over the phone what a piece of shit I was.  My husband left work early that day and attempted to kill himself with a hose and the exhaust from his car.  He did not–thankfully–succeed.

In my drunken stupor I realized I had to face my parents.  Funny, now looking back, that it was them I was most worried about–not my husband or children. I was fucked up.  I drove to their house and found my mother in bed, in the middle of the day.  All the curtains were drawn and she was crying.  I walked into her room to have some form of a conversation and all she said was, “What are the neighbors going to think?” I tried to explain as best I could how unhappy I had been over the past few years, but she kept interrupting with her holier-than-thou accusations and statements. The final blow was, “You’re not my daughter”.  For an adopted child of any age those are not just words.  They are daggers that not only gut you but turn into acid that pours on your soul and annihilates you.  I was shattered.  I was done.

I have only sketchy memories after that particular day.  I remember getting back in my car, meeting my affair-guy at a bar and getting drunker.  I remember stumbling to the bathroom and looking at myself in the mirror–all I could see was a shell of what I used to be with mascara all over my puffy face.  Someone in the hallway asked if I was ok.  I couldn’t respond. I hadn’t eaten in days, alcohol the only thing I had consumed. I have no idea how I got home that night.  Actually, I don’t know IF I got home that night.  It’s all a blur.

That was one of many rock bottoms for me.

For the next year I maintained a blur.  I had lost my job, was humiliated beyond belief, had no self-worth or self-respect and basically drank and hibernated.  Our marriage did not survive.  We had several more issues that just got uglier and uglier.  And I wonder sometimes why my ex-husband hates me so.  The devastation that I caused him is irreparable.  My children suffered not only the loss of a happy home, they suffered having a father who still can’t be in the same room as their mother.  I wish with all my heart I could make up for what I did–to take away his hurt and pain, even if he’s over it now, which I’m sure he is. My actions have caused so much heartache to those I love that I will never be able to justify.  I’m responsible for the devastation.  It was my character defects that were the ultimate problem.  My disconnection.  My Karma.  What a bitch.

Under the Sea

I am a liar.  A big fat one.  Last night I told my spouse a huge lie and I’m sick to my stomach about it.  She asked me about something in the past and I flat out denied it and went on to weave a quick story that wasn’t even remotely true.  I watched myself as if I were watching a Lifetime movie in slow motion.  After three months of work–steps 1-3, reading the BB, going to meetings, hearing the stories, reading spiritual books, spending hours with my sponsor, actually SEEING that this whole process really does shake the character defects out of you, I “bwovved” right past it all at 90 mph.  It didn’t matter.  It would have been worse if she knew the truth–at least that’s what my mind was telling me.

So, I spent the rest of the night in utter hell.  Had nightmares and woke with a headache as bad as if I had had 4 bottles of Lake Country White.  Was it worth it?  Well, NO, of course.  Should I have come clean right away?  Absofrigginlutely.  Then why didn’t I?  The only thing I can come up with is that I am still an alcoholic.  Sober, yes.  But not yet recovered.

Step four is coming at me probably sometime in the next week or so.  And we all know what’s after that.  I honestly don’t know if I can handle it.  I am powerless over my lying.  It still continues to grip and wrangle me sideways.  I hear myself but I can’t stop.  And leads me nowhere but to the deep, dark, dungeon of destruction.  But according to my still-pickled brain it is not nearly as bad as if the person I am lying to were to find out the truth.  How fucked is THAT?

I know (intellectually) that I am new to this game.  I understand that I should give myself a break and accept that I’ve only done the first three steps so how could I possibly be good at this thing yet.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’m still in hell.  Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I honestly believe that if I were  to tell the absolute truth that I would be annihilated.  Somewhere in my past I learned that if I told the truth I would die–or something like that.  It’s the only explanation I can come up with.  WAIT.  That is probably a lie.  A justification.  An excuse.  It’s probably more like I don’t tell the truth because I’m a lazy sack of shit and don’t want to feel the slightest bit of discomfort, ever.

So, on I go.  Carrying this 50lb weight on my shoulders for another day because I don’t know what else to do and I’m terrified of the alternative.  This disease is not just about substance abuse.  The drinking (for me) was just a by-product.  Its really like a giant, slimy, 8 limbed, evil sea monster that attached itself to me a long, long, time ago.  Its tentacles have reached into every aspect of my being.  I am riddled with fear of what will happen to me if those tentacles are removed…will I bleed out?  It’s all I’ve ever known.  I’ve come this far and lived…what will happen if this monster is taken from me?  What if it has been holding me together all along?  I feel like I’ll collapse and disintegrate like an old piece of drift wood once the barnacles are removed.

Perhaps I should call my sponsor.    

Step One

I wrote the following about a month ago. I hadn’t yet formally embarked on any steps but instead began “grazing” through the AA literature. I discovered that I had been “two stepping”–skipping the ones that I don’t like and just “doing” the ones I want. That is SO me. However, I now have a sponsor and she’s amazing.

I’ve managed to get the first two under my belt and am now beginning Step Three–turning my will over to the care of (fill in the blank). I still don’t know what that is but when I wrote the following little ditty It sure felt like something. I think maybe I’ve found the “God”of my understanding: Truth. Dharma. Basic goodness.

Here ya go:

I am turning over my will to the dharma, the basic goodness inherent in everyone. Letting go of my selfish will–my egoic mind, the voice in my head, my belief that I’m superior. The basic goodness that resides within me is not just for me it is the thruline to everything. I’m not special. I will let go into that. I know that to be truth. And that is way bigger than me and has nothing to do with me. I just happen to be riding in the same car with it. And I trust it will be a good driver.

I expect this realization—this glimpse—is just that. A glimpse. And that the practice is letting go into every day, every hour, every moment.

When I took my refuge vows three years ago, I really had no clue. But I think I finally get what taking refuge means. The word “taking” always threw me off. I couldn’t understand where “taking” anything was anything more than another selfish act. But letting go into the truth of everything—the undercurrent of basic goodness—the dharma is what I think they mean. Could this also be synonymous to God?

Holy shit.

My Junk

I haven’t blogged in a while.  My dad is in the final stages of mesothelioma and it’s been a rough week.  He was rushed to the hospital because he couldn’t breathe.  Stayed a week.  Transferred to a rehab facility–which I’m pretty sure he thinks is a nursing home.  He’ll only be there a few weeks and then we will take him home.  I wish he believed that.

Thankfully, I was present for most of the scary moments.  The moments he thought he was done.  We talked about fear–he said he had none.  He said he wished he could somehow report back.  It was heart-wrenching.  I stayed with him overnight that night.  We were both shocked that he was still here in the morning.

The weekend this happened I was taking the Y12SR program (Yoga for 12 step recovery).  I managed to stay and take the entire program so now I am able to hold space for meetings/practices in my community.  Nikki Meyers is a goddess.  She got me through this hellacious weekend of torture.  I battled myself every moment wondering if I should leave or stay.  Ultimately, I stayed.  I needed to learn what she was teaching because deep down I knew I’d be able to use it for my father’s benefit.  And I did.

Since then, I found a sponsor.  A lovely woman with decades of sobriety.  Our first conversation was an hour by phone on my way to the hospital.  It was like we knew each other and I knew I was safe.  I met with her yesterday for the first time.  We sat in her backyard among the trees and flowers and blistering 95 degree sun.  Both of us worship the sun so it was ok.  We talked for three hours.  I told her some of my story, she told me some of hers.  I read my step one homework to her, and she showed me hers from way back when.  I began to see things in my past that I hadn’t seen as alcohol-driven before.  Things from when I was 15.  Things I hadn’t given much thought to.  Connections.  “Ah-ha!” things.

Then I looked at my phone.  My sister had texted and said my dad was at the rehab center and my mom was asking when I would be there.  My heart started to race.  I wasn’t sure.  When I’m done with this?  I don’t know.  My car was in the shop as well being worked on.  Then I see the message from my mechanic, “Call me.”  I asked my sponsor if she’d mind if I called him quickly. She didn’t.

$900.  NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Fuck.

Oh well, I’d figure it out.  The most important thing right then was that I was with my sponsor and I was working on my sobriety so screw everything else for the moment.  Get back to it.  We talked for another 1/2 hour or so and suddenly my stomach started to gurgle.  Was it the heat?  I didn’t feel good.  I asked to use her bathroom and barely made it.  That afternoon everything that was inside of me came out.  Literally and figuratively.

The drive to the rehab center is one I won’t forget.  I was shaky, scattered, weak. Like something was seriously happening to me.   Something horrible.  I felt like a junkie.  Like I was detoxing.  I had all the symptoms.  I wanted to pull over and call an ambulance.  Check in to a rehab center myself.  But I kept driving.  I focused my eyes and drove.

I was detoxing.  I am detoxing.  My life will never be the same.  I am purging. I am stopping the drug.  The drug of ego.  The drug of masks.  The drug of justification.  The drug of lies.  The drug of comfort.  The drug of junk.

Here we go.

 

Not God

I gotta be honest.  I don’t believe in a higher power.  This whole idea that there is a god sitting somewhere, waiting to be asked for forgiveness before he decides to take our hell from us is just about pissing me off.  We silly humans are always looking for a way out of where we are.  Something else.  An escape.  Someone to blame.  Something to do.  Not us, them. Not me…God.

Come on, people!!  Do you really think that some illusional, fictional fairy tale of a person is going to wave his magic wand and save you?  I do not.  And I know that AA says we don’t have to believe in God…it can be ‘of our own understanding’ but they really mean you have to believe in something outside of yourself.  I just don’t see that happening.  We did this to ourselves.  We are alcoholics.  We had a choice and we made it.  We drank.  I drank.  I made horrible decisions.  I have to take responsibility for them.  How is handing everything over to someone else supposed to help that??

For the better part of four years I have studied Buddhism.  I jumped in, hook line and sinker when I found my teacher, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche.  I went to retreat upon retreat, meditated for hours on end–naked in a tent in 100 degree weather, and still I find the pomp and circumstance off-putting.  My fellow Buddhists describe it as a necessary part of emptying the mind.  I still don’t get it.  My buddhist scriptures are just as full of patriarchal bull as the Bible.  I see no difference.  There is even a line that employs “my Lord” to take away transgressions.  In BUDDHISM!  How crazy is that?

So yeah, I’m pissed off today.  Religion is religion is religion.  I don’t believe it will save us.  I don’t believe in a God sitting in the sky and I don’t believe reciting the 100 syllable mantra will help starving people in Africa.

So THERE.  Take THAT.

Right now at the moment I don’t believe in a friggin’ thing.  People want salvation and the minute they “give up” they feel better.  I’m not giving up at the moment.  I just don’t feel it.  And I’m done pretending I do.

 

Less Than Zero

July 23rd, 2017 is a day that will go down in infamy for me.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  My youngest daughter and her then boyfriend had bought me and his mom tickets to see Elvis Costello up in Vermont at some outdoor, uber-cool venue for Mother’s Day.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Elvis Costello–in fact my daughter was named after his 1977 uncharted single, “Alison”.  Hence, the reason she bought tickets for all of us.

The four of us piled in the car around 9am to begin our adventure of thrift store shopping and exploring Burlington before heading to the show.   Jack’s mom is apparently a big thrifter–as am I–and although we didn’t know each other well we knew we had three things in common:  our taste in post-punk music, our children, and thrifting.  It was going to be a good day.

My daughter and her bf smoke pot.  She’s been honest with me about it and as much as it makes me a bit uncomfortable, she is an adult so I don’t have much pull there.  They’ve been responsible in that they don’t drive high or do other drugs, so I guess I’m ok with it?  I guess I should be thankful that she doesn’t like alcohol.

We got to Burlington and tooled around several shops marveling at the quaint college town in all its splendor.  Stopped for a late lunch at a pub where the beer was flowing like the crystal clear waterfall across the street.  Two beers down for me and the other mom, we decided to head toward the venue.  The concert was on the property of a beautiful conservation area.  The sunset was gorgeous.  I already had a buzz so everything looked just fine.  The line was forever to get in so once we placed our blanket, I was off to the beer tent in an effort to avoid a hangover from lunch.

Choices: IPA or regular draft.  Hmmm…I’ve never had an IPA before and it’s local so, yeah.  Support local beer.  That’s what I did.  In fact, I was very supportive.

I do not know how many beers I had that night but enough to make me lose all inhibitions and return to my 18 year old drunk self.  I was even smoking cigarettes which I had quit 25 years earlier and I didn’t care one bit. This was fun.  I was here with my child and her boyfriend and his mother.  We were rockin’ to Elvis!  And when he finally played ‘Alison’ my heart burst open with joy so I grabbed my daughter for a slow dance.  This was magical.  I was in my element and sharing it with my child!  What could be better?

What could be worse?

The concert ended.  Instead of facing the reality of a 4 hour drive, Jack’s mom and I decided we needed more beer.  “Beer and BUTTS!”, I was screaming out the car window as my daughter’s boyfriend pulled out of the parking lot.  We convinced our two sober children that we needed to stop at a packie for more alcohol and cigarettes.  I remember stumbling into that store, slurring my words to the cashier, and cracking open a cold one once we got in the car.  IN THE CAR.  With my child and her bf in the front seat.  With OPEN containers.  Four hours from home.  What the actual fuck was I thinking?

The next four hours are a bit of a blur, with the exception of having one of those conversations you wake up the next day and go, “SHIT. WHAT HAVE I DONE. WHAT DID I SAY??!!” Slowly, in the cold, harsh reality of morning it flooded back to me. I had revealed some “colorful” transgressions to two people I don’t know well and my 20 year old daughter.  Poured my guts out.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was horrifying.  My daughter was appalled and kept saying, “MOM, really???!!  REALLY?” I let it flow…everything.  Detail after detail.  I actually planned to go into detail here, but I stopped short when I thought about my wife and the lives of others who would be affected if they knew.  Someday I will write about it, I will need to.  For now, trust me when I tell you I was a total ass and it will take years to put it all behind me. My child is still weirded out by it.

I quit drinking for 30 days after that episode last July.  But come September I was back at it.  Drinking my nightly chardonnay and nursing hangovers daily.  It took me another 10 months to realize I was spiraling slowly down the abyss before I decided once and for all to say goodbye to alcohol.  I started with podcasts.  Laura McKowen, The Bubble Hour, Recovery 2.0 to name a few.  I also started going to AA.

I’m beginning to see how much my ego has been in my way of not only true recovery but my true self.  I’m starting from scratch.  Opening the door.  There’s a lot of work ahead of me, yes. But all I have to do is take a peek at the Elvis Costello shirt I bought that fated night and realize it was divine intervention.  The big, bold red letters stare me in the face every time I do laundry: Less Than Zero.  I don’t ever want to be there again.

Dream a Little Dream

Last night I had a dream that I was in the witness protection program.  Everyone involved was trying to get me to realize that my life as I know it, would be over.  In the dream, from an intellectual standpoint, I kept saying, “Yeah, I get it. I’m going to have a new life.”  But at some point in the dream, it hit me.  MY LIFE AS I KNOW IT IS OVER.  The dream woke me up and I did my best to recall the details but as morning hit, it was turning into a blur.  All I could do was remember the premise.  And frankly, that was enough.

My life, as I know it, is over. Everything has changed.  Not to the naked eye, mind you.  But everything has shifted in such a way that I feel entirely different.  Maybe it’s the second AA meeting, or the Recovery 2.0 book, or the meditation practice or yoga.  Perhaps its because of my brother’s visit (he’s 30 years sober and a member of AA) and the deep conversations we had. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things.

I feel braver today.  I feel more open.  Maybe even more aware.  I expect it to change, trust me.  But for today, I’m going to go with it.

Peace out.