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.

 

One Month

I’ve started drinking Gingeraid kombucha on the rocks in a wine glass.  It’s actually a really nice substitute, even though it’s a total sham.  It reminds me of when I was 20-something and dating this gorgeous guy from Denmark. He used to make fun of me for setting my clock 45 minutes ahead in an effort to be perpetually early. “You Americans, you’re so easy to fool.”  I say, whatever works.

Today is the first full day of summer.  A gorgeous Friday morning.  Quiet, bright, and pulsing with energy.  I am sober.  One month today.  In some ways I feel like an infant in this brave new world of recovery.  The last time I did this (8 years ago), I did not explore the full spectrum of recovery like I am now.  It was 2009, there were fewer resources available.  I could have tried meetings but I was vehemently opposed to AA at the time.  Too cult-like.  Today, I feel like my mind is spread open, my judgements and opinions mean less.

I listen to The Bubble Hour daily–on my way to and from work and any other time I get in my car.  I explore the web like it’s my job.  In fact, I do it at my job in between patients.  Yesterday I downloaded 500 questions from The California Fourth Step program and plan to start digging deep this weekend.  That’s some pretty intense shit!  My biggest concern now is where the hell am I going to hide my answers.  Apparently, you write everything down on paper and then come clean with someone.   I honestly don’t think I could.  I don’t know anyone in my life that I could actually TELL my story to.  It is way to sordid.  Too Lifetime.  I can tell strangers, yeah, no prob.  But to someone who knows me?  No freaking way. Maybe that is an issue in and of itself?

So, here I am.  A month in.  I’ve been tempted to drink on several occasions but didn’t.  I made it through a wedding, a gala, asbestos removal, a play in which I didn’t know my lines, several afternoons of lawn care, and the news that my father’s disease is progressing rapidly.  All situations that screamed, “CHARDONNAY”.  Yes, I should be proud of myself but I know better.  I know that I can make it through the worst of times, because I’ve done it before.  I also know that I can make the decision to drink again for the most inane reason.  Just because I want to.  So, my guard must be perpetually up.  I know how easy it is for me to fuck this up.  I know I am fully capable of both: being a drunk and living in sobriety.  My choice today is sobriety.

 

 

My Dad

I’m not sure how far I’ll get with this post.  I’ll start and see what happens.  It’s not going to be fun.

Today is Father’s Day and my dad is dying of mesothelioma.  He was diagnosed with colon cancer 4 years ago and a year after surgery it metastasized to his lung.  He had lung surgery, chemo, the works and was cancer free for a short 4-5 months.  After a ct scan almost 2 years ago, his oncologist (who I am desperately in love with because he is PERFECT) gave us the news that a totally new cancer showed up on the film.  MESOTHELIOMA.  There’s no getting out of that one, for sure.

My dad is now 86.  But he’s a young 86…at least he used to be.  He was a young 84.  Very independent, very hard working, very much an engineer.  Everything he built was perfect: from engines, to furniture, models, machines, toys, and cabinets. Every line was straight, every hair in place, every shoe was shined.  He’s a norwegian…a very typical norwegian.  Healthy, quiet, stoic, and good.  Truly, truly good.  Still goes to church every sunday with my mom, sung in the choir for centuries.  He’s on the building committee and the neighborhood water committee.  He is the consummate voice of reason.  He would do ANYTHING for anyone.  Especially his children.

We had our dark moments, like every father/daughter.  Keep in mind that adoption thing…I did not inherit any of the engineer genes.  But he taught me well.  What I lack in math skills, I make up for in noticing quality details in furniture and houses. He gave me that.  However, as a teenager, I didn’t like my dad.  He was strict, impossible to talk to and really not much fun.  Except on vacations.  Then, he was fun.  He never drank to excess and rarely yelled, but looking back I now see that he was stressed much of the time.

We struggled with things.  He could not for the life of him figure out why I would go out with such a jerk in high school.  He hated my boyfriend.  Which he should have, because the asshole totally abused me physically and mentally.  He also couldn’t understand why I would divorce my first husband because he was smart, owned a house, and had a great job.  The day I told him we were divorcing he asked, “What did you do now?” Then, there was the time I told him I was getting married (number 2) to a guy who was 10 years younger than me.  I was 32. Dad looked  kind of puzzled about that one.  For 10 years.  At year 12, when the entire world found out I was having an affair with a 57 year old man, he got PISSED.  There’s another whole post to be written about THAT.

Yeah, we had some rough times.

The biggest of all, however, was after marriage #2 ended.  I fell in love with a woman.  Yeah, nothing could have prepared me for the year of silence from both of my parents.  But they came around.  She and I ended up getting married and have been together for 14 years.  Both my parents love her.  But it took some doing.  Sometimes I think they were just so tired of my antics and bad relationships they were just done.  Who knows.  But they have accepted her into our family with love and open hearts.  Not an easy thing for the old folks of a certain generation.  I give them more credit for this than almost anything they’ve had to endure with me.

Today, as I mentioned, is Father’s Day.  My dad is frail and weak.  I want so badly to comfort him and tell him I love him and make sure he’s peaceful.  But I can’t.  I don’t know why.  I’m struggling with the fact that this man’s life is going to end and I can’t say the “L” word.  I gave him a card today and I wrote, “I love you, Dad”.  His eyes are getting bad so he may not have read it but there it was.  I love you, Dad.  But I still can’t tell him.

In buddhism, we practice presence.  Not turning away from anything but instead, turning in. Meditation is a tool in which to learn to do this.  I’ve spent hours in meditation.  Several week-long retreats, doing nothing but sitting in silence for hours on end.  I’ve learned mantras and studied ancient sanskrit prayers. I have the bells, the cloths, the incense, the buddhas, the malas, the bowls, the sacred texts, the works.  I should know by now that everything dies and that nothing lasts forever.  But I don’t.  Intellectually, I know it.  But I don’t accept it.  I turn away from it.  STILL.

I stopped meditating about a year ago when I really started drinking again.  The two decisions were not correlated they just seemed to overlap for some reason.  I made the decision to drink again because I felt like I was turning too far away from it.  How funny is THAT? A buddhist alcoholic can justify anything. Then I stopped meditating because I felt too addicted to it. Again, the justification thing.  Seriously, what the fuck.

The interesting thing is that 26 days ago I made the decision to get sober again after 1 year of drinking, off of 8 years of sobriety.  I am beginning to feel again and it’s scaring the shit out of me.  I know I’m losing my father.  I have no idea how long he has but based on his looks I have to say not very.  I’m face to face with his death.  And my own.  It is colossally terrifying.  I’m writing this post, not knowing what word will come next.  I’m just hoping that somehow by pouring my fear into these words, that somehow a release valve will help me turn in and feel the fear of telling my father that I love him enough so that I actually can.

A Walking Contradiction

I should have known I’d be an alcoholic.  As a child I was filled with shame, fear, and self-loathing.  I was bullied and made fun of because I was tall, pimply and shy.  Not to mention adopted.  Kids can be so cruel.  I remember a neighborhood shit-head kid telling me that my parents weren’t my “real” parents and that they must have bought me because my “real” mother didn’t want me.  Pretty horrific to hear when you’re 8.  I hid everything from everyone.  The first thing I remember hiding was my gut-wrenching sadness over my grandmother dying.  I was 8, my entire family was at her house the day after she died.  I guess the grown-ups were cleaning things out.  Someone laughed.  I got pissed.  How could anyone laugh at a time like this?  I wanted to scream and yell at them.  The rage I felt cut thru me like a knife.  Instead, I started to cry but would not admit anything.  I just said I had a belly ache and wanted to go home.  It’s odd that I remember that one, little thing so vividly.  It was so huge at the time.  I knew, deep down, that I was acting completely differently from how I was feeling.

That behavior continued throughout most of my life.  I was a very sensitive kid.  But NO ONE could ever know that.  Eventually, it morphed into a double-life kind of thing.  By high school I was pretending to be one thing but doing another.  I was an A student, cheerleader with an eating disorder one minute, the next I was cheating on math tests and smoking cigarettes in the girls bathroom.  I was a total contradiction.

My first marriage was a total sham.  I guess I loved him, he was a really nice guy.  But more than that, he represented a picture in my mind of how I thought married life should be.  I wanted to fit that good girl mold.  I wanted the white house with the picket fence.  Instead, I sabotaged everything.  I developed an infidelity issue.  Within a month of tying the knot I cheated on my husband with a guy who did coke.  I loved cocaine.  I had done a little in high school and LOVED how it made me feel.  Hyper, energetic, thin, fun…all things I struggled with when I wasn’t high.  This guy got tons of it and we’d sneak off to bars and snort lines in the bathroom.  I never actually had sex with him, but we did everything else.  The marriage lasted less than two years.

I must have done a really good job at hiding my drug use and alcoholism because no one ever questioned me.  My parents had no clue, or at least they didn’t say anything.  My friends were doing the same thing as me so no problem there.  I was working, living on my own, managing somewhat.  It was all good. Hangovers were a normal part of every day, I was young–I could take it.  Just drink again that night and all was cured.  I think I was drunk for ten years.  But I had a very high bottom, as they say.  Never got a DUI, never missed work, never ended up in the hospital.

It all came to head when I met this guy who owned a bar and did massive amounts of coke.  We went out one night, drinking and snorting.  It got to be about 2am and he suggested going to a friend’s house for one last hit.  All I remember is this enormous, red, bong thing in front of me, and these two guys saying, “go ahead, but don’t inhale too quickly.”  And there you have it.  I smoked coke.  Or crack.  I have no idea which.  All I know is that I was higher than I’ve ever been in my life.  I got home when the sun was coming up, wondering how I was supposed to teach a Jazzercise class in a few hours.  I swear to god at that moment I saw two roads in front of me.  I decided to change directions right then and there.  I never saw that guy again–avoided his calls and eventually he faded into nowhere.  I never, ever, did another drug.  But I kept drinking.  Nothing wrong with that.  At least I wasn’t a drug addict.  THAT would have been terrible.