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.

In and Out

Yoga teaches us to stay, regardless of our comfort level.  Connect with whatever is happening at this exact moment.  It’s virtually impossible for most of us to live in that state for more than a few, short breaths but the impetus is to keep coming back–learning to urge our mind toward the present instead of getting caught up, hooked, and carried off by some dramatic story.  Easier said than done.

Meditation is the practice of this exact thing.  It’s not some esoteric, mystical, woo-woo state of mind that we sometimes picture.  It is available to us every moment of every day.  We simply choose to bring our minds back to our physical being.  Our hands on our keyboard, our ass on the chair, our feet on the floor, our inhales and exhales.  Whatever we might be doing; sitting on a meditation cushion or waiting in a long line at the grocery store.  Meditation is possible at every moment.

If it’s this available and this simple, why is it that I’ve been totally out of my body for the past few days, not even paying attention to what I’m doing regardless of what it is?  Driving to Boston for an ASL workshop…I don’t even know how I got there (granted, I was listening to a podcast the whole way).  Doing dishes?  Who did them? Because I certainly wasn’t there.  Yoga?  Are you kidding?  GET ME OUT OF THIS FUCKING POSE NOW, IT’S KILLING MY KNEES.  Waking every morning with a massive headache again.  Where is the feel-good in sobriety, I ask!!??? I suck at this!

It really bothered me last night, especially after yoga.  Here I am, a teacher fagawdsake.  And I can’t even practice what I preach.  What a loser.  And then, right before I went down that spirally hallway of death, I stopped.  I caught my breath, tried to focus on the moment, and failed.  Tried again.  Failed again.  Fuck.  I can’t even concentrate on this one goddamn piece of shit moment.  Nope.  Couldn’t do it.  So, I offered it up and let it go.  And by offering it up, I mean nothing.  I just stopped thinking about it.

When I got sober for the second time I knew something was different.  I didn’t know what it was, and I’m still not entirely sure but I feel like it has something to do with truth and honesty.  Today, I’m kinda done with bullshit.  I’m too old for this nonsense of telling myself stories about how great I am and how I’m really not an alcoholic I’m just doing it for health reasons and no, I didn’t need any kind of “program” at all because, hey, I’m way stronger than most people and can just quit on my own if I want to.  This time, without trying, my lies floated to the surface.  I didn’t like it, mind you.  I ignored them every chance I could.  But when I started looking at myself thru the eyes of others–my best friend, co-workers, my children, my wife…I started to see something much different.  Not better or worse, just different. I could see how I would weave these stories in my mind to justify my behaviors.  Good and bad.  Gradually, with the help of the Recovery 2.0 book I’m reading and the recovery podcasts I’m listening to and the meeting I attended and the writing I’m doing, I am starting to open my eyes to something much different than what I saw before.  I’m beginning to catch myself when I start justifying, lying, or exaggerating.  I try to stop immediately.  It ain’t easy.  I fail a lot.  But when I do, I recall the practices of meditation and yoga. And I trust that they are bigger me.  And for a second or two, I let go.  Then get caught up in my drama. And then I come back.  Just like the breath in our lungs.  In and out.  The waves on the sand.  Back and forth.  And sometimes, sometimes, I get it.

And then I don’t.  And then I do.

 

 

 

Truth and Lies

Today, I had to make a decision.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do and for sure, it wasn’t the hardest either.  But it was a life-altering thing.  I’ve been learning ASL for about 3 years, and in that time I’ve taken private lessons, gone to many Deaf events, studied online videos, and made Deaf friends.  Last winter, I actually went back to school for Deaf Studies.  It was a fabulous experience, one that convinced me that I wanted more.  I have even toyed with enrolling in a Gallaudet program next summer.  Gallaudet is the foremost educational institution for ASL, Deaf, and interpreting studies in the country.

In a nutshell, I love to sign.  I have no idea what I would do with any of this education, mind you.  I’m already in the hearing care industry with a good company and am paid decently.  I really have no desire to leave my job, but still, I have been drawn to becoming fluent in ASL for some mysterious reason.

I am registered to begin intermediate ASL in the fall.  We lobbied hard for this class.  Originally, it was a morning only program but we adults wanted it moved to evening so we could work and then come to class at night.  Lo and behold, we did it.  They changed the time for us!  I also enrolled in a four day ASL summer immersion program that begins this weekend.  When I want to learn something, I dive in and make it happen.  I will move heaven and earth–whatever it takes.  And it’s happening.

Fast forward to the past two weeks.  News of my father’s progressing illness has changed everything.  I found myself wanting to move things to the back burner.  Things like ASL.  Taking care of dad was the first thing that flashed in my mind.  But quickly I realized that I would have to REALLY have to put pressure on my boss to let me take time off to go to this class, not to mention the homework I will have.  That, in an of itself, seemed daunting.  Suddenly, ASL didn’t seem so important.

I withdrew from the intermediate ASL class.

I feel a sense of relief, but I also feel a sense of loser-dom.  Once again, I got distracted and something else took its place.  My father is so much more important than any class, for certain.  But in the way back recesses of my mind is this little stupid voice saying, ‘you’ll never excel at anything because you quit before you finish’.  What is that about?  Somehow, I feel like I should be proud that I made a decision to let go of something in order to care for my dad.  But instead I feel shitty? How is that possible?

Because deep down, I made the decision not based on altruism but on ME.  My inability to bob and weave the obstacles.  My laziness.  I’d like people to think I made the decision because I’m one hell of a daughter.  But I’m not.  I’m just tired.

When I got sober I made a decision to do it with honesty this time.  I’m now realizing what that means.  I do feel a sense of freedom for admitting my motives, so that’s productive I suppose.  But I can also see how many lies I’ve told myself over the years.  This isn’t going to be fun–this truthful thing.  My lies are so embedded, so rationalized.  It’s a bit like an imploded building.  I am now in there with a hazmat suit, sifting thru the debris, looking for life.

Not easy, but someone’s gotta do it.

Peace

One month and a couple days sober.  I spent this particular Sunday enjoying everything I did.  Went to an 8am yoga class taught by one of my favorite people, went to my parents and worked on un-greening their pool, listened to a Tommy Rosen podcast with Seane Corn and became an instant fan girl, looked up healthy recipes and went to Trader Joe’s for all the food, made a Dahl, and am now having a heart-felt convo with my youngest daughter. Perfect day.

This is so weird.

I feel peaceful.  Is it real? Is it because I’ve been immersed in recovery books and blogs and podcasts for a solid month and it’s all starting to rub off on me? Or is this all my wicked imagination? I can’t figure it it out, nor do I care to. I feel like something let go–released.  Unconstipated me.  I’m calm.  I’m present.  And I really don’t give a shit if this feeling–which it will–ends.

One of these days I will write about all my crap.  My secrets.  Infidelity.  Sexual molestation.  Abortion.  Yadda, yadda.  Shit that I’m afraid of writing down but is directly connected to my alcoholism.  If it’s true that we are only as sick as the secrets we keep then I figure I better offer it up  at some point.

But not today.