Posted in C-Haze

Reset

Didn’t someone once say that life isn’t for the faint of heart?

Life, for the past several months has been a whirlwind of shit. Absolute shit. Followed by moments of joy, relief, love, and more shit.

At the start of the summer – in June – I was diagnosed with Shingles. Lucky me, I got a really “severe” case (is there any other kind?) that knocked me on my ass for more than a month. It was the most painful, debilitating health experience I’ve ever had. No exceptions.

A month later, still recovering from Shingles, I get “that” call from my family in Iowa, telling me that my grandfather is very ill. It’s time to come say goodbye. I dropped everything, jumped in my car, and rushed the six hours to the hospital. I stood by his bed and felt both relieved to have made it in time, and voyeuristic for standing there watching him die. The last night of his life, I told him I love him, and I walked away.

Hours later, he was dead.

A couple of days after, at his funeral, I noticed my (now) 18 year old daughter didn’t seem to be feeling too well. She’s been diagnosed with Lupus and a blood clotting disorder, so we have to be vigilant about her health. She confessed she felt “off”- like she had a year ago, when she’d gotten that first blood clot in her lung.

Mostly to put our minds at ease, I took her to the local hospital. The same place my grandfather had died, not 48 hours earlier. They did a CT scan and found another blood clot in her lung.

Far away from home, in a place we hadn’t really planned to be to begin with, we found ourselves stuck in the hospital, grappling with another health crisis. It would take 5 days before she was medically cleared to take the six hour journey back home. Back to our lives, which we’d so hastily left behind.

Slowly, we crafted a new normal. Work, school, doctor’s visits, family life.

45 days later, just as we were starting to exhale, it happened.

Again.

My daughter, now newly 18 years old, was again hospitalized, where she would remain for two weeks. She suffered a lupus flare, which attacked her central nervous system. Further complicating things, the blood thinner she had been placed on while in Iowa for my grandfather’s funeral caused her brain to bleed. She was moved to ICU.

We got her through it- or rather, she got herself through it- but nothing feels the same anymore. I’m not the same. She’s not the same.

Her prognosis is good. Still recovering, my daughter is being homeschooled for the rest of this semester (her senior year), in hopes of rejoining “traditional” school after Winter Break.

Life goes on, because it has to.

Torn between not leaving my 18 year old alone for one second, for fear she’ll die, and not abandoning my amazing 11 year old daughter or my equally amazing husband… having to go back to work…

Having to piece it all back together again, knowing something inside of me is gone. We’re all fundamentally different now. Grateful, but different.

Now, with a fragile sense of normalcy seeping back into our lives, it’s time to recommit. Set boundaries, work to be healthy, sober and present.

These last few months were not kind to me, and I was not kind to myself in return. Exhausted, overwhelmed and heartbroken, I’ve been going through the motions, pretending to be OK, knowing full well I was anything but.

It’s premature to say I’m looking forward to the future. I’m not. I’m looking forward to getting out from under this fear, this depression, this overwhelming sadness. I’m looking forward to putting these few months behind us.

I’m looking forward to hitting that reset button.

Posted in C-Haze

You never know when they’re paying attention

This is what my youngest daughter just texted me. I’ve shared with my girls how as a biracial child, adopted after a few years in foster care, and raised by a white family, I often felt “lost”.

Different.

I later learned I’ve always had family, and built on what I had back then to make what I have today. I’m never sure how much attention they’re paying. This is the stuff that convinces me they get it.

This is how I hope to build a foundation of compassion and acceptance.

Next lesson shall be punctuation! ❤❤❤

image

Posted in C-Haze

Do as I say…

Sometimes, in the realm of parenting, the whole “do as I say, not as I do” just isn’t good enough. Sometimes we have to both do and say, which can be scary as hell.

My 17 year old recently received a dual diagnosis of Lupus and Antiphospholipid Syndrome. Neither have a cure. Both are auto-immune disorders, caused by an overactive immune system that cannot differentiate between healthy cells and viruses. The immune system essentially turns on itself and starts attacking the good stuff in our bodies as well as the bad. Lupus can attack organs, while Antiphospholipid Syndrome effects the body’s red blood cells, causing excessive clotting.

She got the diagnosises after a scary week in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, after her doctors found a very large blood clot in her lung.

Being the rockstar of a person she is, she immediately went into activist mode when she got the news. She works hard to raise awareness about auto-immune diseases, and she wants to raise funds for research. I’m proud of her, and I’m proud of her ability to consider how these diseases affect others, and not just herself. While her diagnosis throws a wrench in some things, she has access to the top rheumatologists and hemotologists in the world, and has top-notch health insurance to boot. This will impact her, but not as much as it can (and does) impact the millions who have sub-par (or non-existent) health insurance, or have no access to qualified medical professionals.

She went to her school and requested permission to conduct a fundraiser. In response, they invited her to perform at the school’s annual variety show. Their idea was to have her showcase her fantastic singing voice, and take a few minutes to talk about these diseases, and how important research is to finding a cure.

Sounds awesome, right?

The only catch is that the variety show is in two weeks, which doesn’t give her much time to prepare. Nervous, she came to me and said she may decide to forego the performance.

As Mom, and as her biggest cheerleader, I know she can do this. I know it! 

I was full of advice:

There are many different ways to raise awareness. This variety show is definitely not the only way. I know your commitment to this has nothing to do with your decision about whether or not to perform, and I support you no matter what. That said, you have an opportunity to reach a lot of people during the variety show. When will you have that many people’s undivided attention again? Maybe not any time soon. At least consider doing it. Don’t let your nerves stop you from doing a really awesome thing.

I was proud of my spiel, and I knew she’d make the decision that was best for her. I was glad I had encouraged her to face her fears for the greater good, because that’s what living a fearless life is all about. We’ll always be afraid of something- it’s what we do in the face of that fear that defines us.

My daughter, heretofor and forever more known as “Smarty Pants” had a response. She said she would agree to the performance. She will sing a song – Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, because the theme of looking within ourselves and making a change to bring about a better world is a good one.

This is all on one condition, however:

That I will perform with her. 

Oh, shit.

Most of my readers know that I am a hot mess, full of anxiety and fear and discomfort, and basically everything else that is conducive to being an extremely awkward human being. My awkwardness and anxiety was what I was trying to self-medicate for many years by drinking.

I finally stopped the drinking, but under all of it was that nasty anxiety and fear, just waiting for the opportunity to rear its head again. It never went away. As a result, I shy away from people in almost all circumstances. Especially circumstances that put me in the spotlight in front of a whole crowd of humans.

Oh, Jesus.

I’m sweating just thinking about it.

Not quite as well known as my anxiety is the fact that I play the piano. In fact, I’ve played the piano since I was five years old. I majored in music performance in college, oddly enough. I sing, play the piano, flute, and about 12 other instruments too. I even spent some time performing in Europe about 20 years ago.

However, when the anxiety got too bad, and the demons got to be too much to manage, I stopped.

I walked away from all of it, just like that. I haven’t performed in more than a decade, and even then it was at my own brother’s wedding. I do own a piano, and even a flute. I tinker around on them when I’m bored. Sometimes, when no one’s home, I sing at the top of my lungs to get it out of my system.

But that’s it. I don’t perform anymore. Ever. In fact, I was with my husband for about five years before I would so much as sing along with the radio in the car.

Yeah, it was that bad.

Now I find myself in a situation where the only way to really hammer home a very important life lesson to my child is to…

… Do as I Say – And as I DO.

I can’t keep my credibility if I don’t do this, because I know in my heart that the only reason I’d refuse is because of my own fears. That’s not the way fearless people live. That’s not the way I taught my children to live.

I have to do it, even as I know I won’t sleep a wink in the coming weeks. I am utterly convinced it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the only thing to do. 20 years from now, when I look back on that variety show, I know I’ll regret it if I ended up in the audience and not up on that stage with my child.

So, here I go.

 

 

 

 

Posted in C-Haze

Sorry, I’m not sorry

Funny that I came to this realization on Easter Sunday, of all days. It’s a rebirth-theme, so it’s pretty fitting.

Today, I am releasing myself from the expectations of others. Or rather, I’m releasing myself from my own expectations. Looking back on my life, I realize I’ve spent decades trying to do and say what I think everyone else thinks I should do and say. I’ve defined myself, and determined my worth based on how I feel I measure up to society’s standards of what qualifies as Success.

Spoiler Alert: I never quite measured up.

This has caused me a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, it’s cost me a lot of peace, and has provided another excuse to drown it all inside of a bottle.

I’m done with it.

Officially, completely, unapologetic-ally done.

I have spent my entire life trying to wear a mask of normalcy, trying to appear to the world- especially to those who love me and want to know I’m OK- as if I’m just like everybody else. The problem is, I’m not like everyone else. No one is, really. We’re all a product of our unique experiences, and those experiences have impacted us in different ways. I’m not alone in my uniqueness. The good news is, we’re all unique in this way.

It’s probably the one thing we all share in common: Our differences.

So the idea that I need to be like everyone else is ridiculous. It’s impossible, and that mindset is designed to fail. I failed to be like everyone else, and I took it really, really hard for a lot of years. The thing is, no one actually had those expectations of me. I just thought they did. I took my own definition of what a failure is, and projected that onto myself. Then I blamed everyone else for putting that on me, even though no one actually did.

I did it all on my own.

Effective immediately, I’m done apologizing for who I am.

A little of what I’m no longer apologizing for:

I don’t celebrate Easter because I think it’s a silly holiday and it simply doesn’t resonate with me.

That doesn’t mean it’s a silly holiday to everyone else, but I don’t have to apologize for the fact that I have no use for it, just as those who do celebrate owe me no explanation for doing so.

I used to do a half-assed attempt at celebrating, because I had decided that’s what people are supposed to do. Not this year, and not ever again. I’ll cook a nice meal because it’s a Sunday my husband happens to be off work, but there will be no chocolate bunnies, Easter egg hunts or Bible stories about the resurrection. I don’t feel like I’m robbing anyone of anything, because when I did do that stuff, it wasn’t authentic. I was doing it for everyone else, even as “everyone else” couldn’t have cared less what I chose to do with this particular day.

I don’t do family dinners. 

This is a big one for me. I was taught that the very success of one’s family hinges on whether or not they eat together. Eating is a very informal affair in my house, and I actually like it that way. Sometimes I cook a meal for the family when I get off work, but people just eat when they’re ready to eat. There’s no dinner bell that rings at the appointed time, and we don’t set the table with place mats and silverware. Usually my dining room is unusable because it’s littered with junk from whatever art project I happen to be working on. We just make ourselves a plate when we feel like it, use paper towels as napkins, and it works for us.

It doesn’t mean we aren’t a close-knit family.

I have a 17 year old daughter who tells me about once a week that while she knows I don’t consider myself her friend, she still sees me as her very best friend. She tells me shit that I can’t imagine I’d have shared with anyone at her age, and I sometimes find myself thinking, “TMI! TMI!” She’s a deep-thinker, with a strong sense of justice. In addition to going to school and maintaining her grades, she has a part-time job. In fact, she’s been employed since the day she was old enough to be on someone’s payroll. She has bills, and a savings account that she manages herself. She likes having me around, and invites me to hang out at the mall, the gym, and tries her best to get me go with her for mani-pedis (another thing I non-apologetically have zero use for).

I have a 10 year old that likes to spend time with me- we do art projects together, build dollhouses, and geek out with our electronic devices. She tells me about the boys she has a crush on, and why she refuses to ask them out herself. She’s open-minded and comedian-funny. She’s different, and she embraces that about herself. She creates spreadsheets in Excel for fun, and recently created an inventory of everything we have in our house, categorized and color-coded, to boot. When I asked what her motivation was, she reminded me that I am always tinkering with some sort of spreadsheet or another. She says she wants to be like me. I tell her to aim higher.

I have a husband that is closer to me than any human being on the planet. We actually like each other. We share hobbies and dreams, we tease each other and even do the mundane, like grocery shopping together, because it’s fun for us. It’s not a first marriage for either of us, and while I used to think I needed to apologize for that, I’m no longer willing to. It’s because I did such a spectacular job at failing in my first marriage that I now know how to be successful in my second. The two of us have been to hell and back- some of the stories from “way back when” would cause people to cringe and wonder how in the world we made it from that place to marriage. But we did, and we’ve never looked back.

I don’t monitor what my kids watch on TV, I don’t censor my language, and I have no hard-fast rules on dating.

My 10 year old and I watch The Walking Dead together. That’s after binge-watching Lost. My 17 year old and I watch true crime. They both watch Family Guy and those idiot Kardashians. Yes, there’s a lot of cussing and adult material in the things they like. I don’t censor any of it. For what? I just make sure I’m there, and have a really good poker face for when they come and ask me embarrassing questions (like the time my oldest, at 10 years old came to me out of the blue and asked, “Mom, what’s a blow job?”).

I do draw the line where electronic devices and the internet are concerned: my kids are afforded zero privacy in their online activities, and again, I refuse to apologize for it. You want privacy? Write in a fucking diary. The internet is public, it can be dangerous, and I have their passwords and account information for all of it. God help either of them if they ever try some shadiness online.

I have no set age for when it’s OK to start dating, preferring instead to decide when I think they’re mature enough to handle it. I set basic ground rules based on what I think is appropriate, and trust that they will follow them. If they don’t, I will not shield them from the consequences, but you’d be amazed how often even little people make the right decisions on their own when given the opportunity to do so. When they screw up, that’s OK too. I’d rather have them making mistakes under my roof, while I can still stick a foot in their asses, than making major mistakes in the real world, when I can no longer look out for them.

I cuss. A lot. Some may say I do it constantly, and that’s probably true. My 10 year old is busy planning a party for her upcoming 11th birthday. She asked me to try not to cuss in front of her friends. I promised to try. The best I can do is not cuss at my kids. I don’t call them names, ever. They hear a lot of 4-letter words in passing, but I try really hard not to direct any of it their direction.

So as you can see, I’m not perfect. I don’t do things the “traditional” way, but I think for a long time, I lost sight of the end-goal. The goal is to have a tight-knit family unit, and to produce children who grow up to be responsible, happy, contributing members of society. That’s what we’ve managed to accomplish, even with my (sometimes bizarre) way of doing things.

What else matters, then?

Nothing.

I’m rambling, but here’s the bottom line:

There are a lot of things I have not done where my family dynamic is concerned. Yet I’ve realized that there are many, many more things I have done, and have done well.

So, I’m sorry, folks. I’m just not sorry anymore.

Posted in C-Haze

Water, Meat and the End Times

The unfortunate truth is that I am no friend of the environment. I’m too lazy to recycle, I use regular ol’ plastic bags at the grocery store, and when my batteries die, I just throw them in the trash.

I was hanging out with my husband earlier today, laptop in hand, while he was watching one of his documentaries on TV. He has a thing for documentaries. I usually just play around on my computer while he watches his stuff. Occasionally something will spark my interest and I’ll pay attention.

It turns out that he was watching an episode of VICE on HBO called “Meathooked and End of Water”.  The episode was phenomenal, and it scared the shit out of me.

After watching the documentary, I started doing some research.

I’m now sitting here thinking we’re in the end times, and it’s all those bastards who insist on mass-producing meat’s fault!

The basic premise is that the current demand for meat, coupled with climate change and a growing world population isn’t sustainable. The food chain starts with the crops we grow – mainly corn – to feed the animals we ultimately slaughter and use for meat. In places like California and Brazil, we’re seeing unprecedented droughts and water shortages, so the crops (and the rain forests) are drying up. The farmers are losing produce, the people who raise cattle can’t keep them fed, so they’re always looking to use the cheapest, nastiest ingredients just to get by. Some say by 2050, if nothing changes, we’ll be in post-apocalyptic times.

Um… that’s pretty soon. Really soon, actually.

The demand for cheap meat has risen, which increases the need for water. The average American, I learned, requires about 4,200 gallons of water a day to sustain their diet. It seriously takes that much water to irrigate the crops we feed to the animals awaiting slaughter. This is also the water it takes to keep the animals hydrated while they’re still alive, to process the food once it’s ready for market, to wash it and prepare it. In fact, producing one pound of California beef requires almost 2,500 gallons of water.

A vegan, in contrast, requires about 300 gallons of water a day to sustain their diets.

Next, we deal with the problem of waste. It was quite a bit easier to dump animal waste in the days before mass farming was a thing. Back then, the earth and the atmosphere simply absorbed it with little-to-no consequence to the rest of us. Now, with single operations feeding thousands upon thousands of animals a day, the planet is physically incapable of absorbing all that shit. Literally, it’s shit, and there’s a whole lot of it. These livestock farming operations produce more than 130 times more waste than humans do.

Gassy livestock that belch and fart dump a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. In fact, one ton of methane has the same effect on global warming as 23 tons of carbon dioxide. It’s linked to the diet of humans, and the level of methane rises and falls as the global demand for meat rises and falls.

Methane isn’t the only concern, either. Nitrogen is another one, and livestock waste is dumping so much nitrogen in the water supply that entire species of marine life are dying off. There’s an area in the Gulf of Mexico that cannot sustain any aquatic life at all because the nitrogen from animal waste sucks all the oxygen out of the water. It’s an actual dead zone, and it spanned 7,700 square miles back in 1999.

How big do you think it’s grown to today?

In the US, it is estimated that livestock waste has polluted more than 27,000 miles of our rivers.

Basically, we are royally fucking ourselves, people.

All this for the ability to get a burger for a dollar at McDonald’s. A burger that doesn’t even taste that great to begin with.

It isn’t worth it. Not to me, anyway.

So what can a regular ol’ person like myself, and my family do?

I’m so glad you asked!

First, we’re cutting back on the amount of meat we consume. We will never be vegetarians, but there are plenty of benefits to committing to one or two meat-free days a week.  If the four of us eat a vegan menu two days a week, that’s 7,800 gallons of water per person, per week we won’t be consuming. Multiply that times 52 weeks, and we will have reduced our water intake by 405,600 gallons per person in a single year.

That’s significant. Now imagine what can happen if we all took this challenge, just for a year.

The second thing we’ll do is only consume high-quality meat when we do eat it. No more fast-food burgers or chicken nuggets. Wherever possible, our beef will be grass fed and organic. Our chicken (and eggs) will be free-range, with no hormones or antibiotics added to the diet of the animals. Similarly, our fish will be wild-caught or responsibly farmed.

Yes, our grocery bill will be higher, but thankfully, we can afford it. This will be one of the ways we, as a family, will give back.

What will you do?

Source:

World Watch Institute

Posted in C-Haze

Sobriety, the police department and the unpursued case

Something terrible happened 20 years ago. It’s the kind of terrible thing that requires a trip to the ER where they take DNA scrapings from your body, followed by a trip to the police department after that.

At the police station, a lineup of photos was presented for me to sift through to see if I recognized anyone.

I didn’t.

The police officers didn’t believe me when I told them what happened, how I’d obtained those bruises. They sort of went through the motions of taking the report, and told me they’d be in touch.

Well, they finally were.

20 years later.

I was sitting in my office, working away, when my phone rang. The caller ID said “Unknown”. Thinking it was one of my clients, I answered.

“This is Officer So-and-So with the blankety-blank Police Department. May I please speak to Mrs. CMac?”

“Speaking” I reply, startled.

“You reported an incident to us back in 1997. We have developed new evidence in this case and would like to discuss that with you.”

Wha…?

Turns out, the statute of limitations is going to run out in a few months on that terrible thing I reported to the police 20 years ago. They decided to run the DNA evidence they had on hand before that happens, and guess what?

They got a hit.

Now they know who did it, and they know I am not a liar. I didn’t make that terrible thing up, even though they were sure I had. This man, the man who now has a name, is a convicted felon. It’s possible his crime against me was his first trip to the rodeo, but it certainly wasn’t his last.

The police department would like to know if I want to pursue the case – even though I now live over 750 miles away, and that terrible thing happened two decades ago.

No thank you. After all this time, there’s no way.

My initial reaction, after hanging up the phone, despite the fact that it was only noon, was to drown myself in a bottle of vodka.

I didn’t, though.

Instead, I went back to work, almost like nothing happened. Later, I took a nap and ordered a pizza.

Now, I sit here, numb but sober. I don’t know what to think. I feel like I should partake in some mood altering substance, not because I want to, but because it’s all I know how to do in circumstances like this.

This terrible thing that happened all those years ago… I had gotten to a place where I no longer obsessed over it. In fact, I didn’t even think about it as often as once a month anymore. No one who knows me today was even aware that this thing had once happened.

Even my own husband didn’t know until the police department called me today and I had to yell for him to “Get in here right now! I need you!” I put the phone on speaker and tried to ignore the look on his face as it started to dawn on him what the police officer was referencing, and that it was a thing his wife had dealt with 20 years ago, but had never shared.

This terrible thing.

Tonight is a night I’ll need to take things minute-by-minute. I am going to work hard to stumble my way through this naturally and authentically. So far, I’ve battled the urge to drink for seven straight hours, and have not given in.

Eventually, I hope to just go to sleep.

Posted in C-Haze

The Relapse, Happy Hour and Grey Goose

I’ll just come straight out and say it:

I relapsed.

I went out of town on a work trip earlier this week, and I knew part of the agenda would be happy hour at the hotel. I felt desperate to drink with my coworkers, and because of that, I knew it would be a terrible idea to attend.

So I didn’t.

I went to my room instead, answered some work emails and took a cat nap while everyone else was downstairs drinking. I was proud of myself for spotting the trigger and avoiding it.

A little too proud, I now realize in hindsight.

I reappeared from my room just in time to catch the shuttle with the rest of my team to dinner. My company had rented out a large room in the back of a swanky restaurant, and there was a full staff of servers waiting to fill our glasses with wine and spirits, and to fill our plates with appetizers while we waited for our dinner.

When I first got there, my boss asked me if I’d like to share a bottle of red wine, and I politely declined. I was on a roll, and I was doing really well.

Or so I thought.

Finding my seat, a server immediately appeared and asked if I’d like some wine or anything else to drink. “Water’s fine” I told her, and she disappeared. Moments later, she came back, gave me my water, and handed my coworker to the left an enormous glass- the size of a water glass- filled with clear liquid. I actually thought it was water at first, and was relieved to see there was at least one other person near me that was opting not to drink.

It was then that my coworker leaned over to me and whispered, “Holy shit. Can you believe the size of this Grey Goose?”

That huge glass of clear liquid was full of vodka, not water.

It’s tough to describe the emotions I felt, all at once, in that moment.

Fear, dread, excitement, and finally…

… Defeat.

The server turned to me and asked, “Are you sure I can’t get you anything to drink?”

I immediately replied, “Actually, I’ll have what she’s having.”

The server left to get my drink, and I sat there, equally petrified with fear and excitement. I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t make any moves to try and stop myself from doing it. I made a halfhearted attempted to tell myself that when my drink arrived, I’d push it to the side instead of consuming it, that it is not too late, that relapse is not inevitable…

… but of course,  when the drink came, that’s not what I did.

I drank that night, and I had more than one. I was not sober by the end of the evening, though I was nowhere near as drunk as I’d been millions of times before. I did not do anything stupid (other than drink, duh). I had fun, I socialized, I made people laugh, I relaxed, and I laughed too.

I eventually made it to my room and went to bed. I woke up with a headache.

I also awoke expecting to hate myself for my terrible judgment the previous night, but the truth is, I didn’t. I wasn’t thrilled, and I had no intention of allowing my one-night slip to continue, but I was not devastated or angry like I expected I’d be.

I tried to explain it to my husband later, and the best I could come up with was, “I’m just done punishing myself. I’ve punished myself enough over the years to last a lifetime, and all it’s accomplished is making me hate myself. I’m not willing to keep doing that.”

I did a bad thing, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. It means I’m not as solid in my sobriety as I thought I was, and it means I need to be even more diligent than I thought was necessary. I figured I’d done enough, skipping happy hour that night- and while that was a good decision, I let that one good decision make me cocky. That cockiness caused me to let my guard down, and before long, I was sitting at a table in front of the biggest glass of Grey Goose I’d ever seen in my life.

And I drank it. Then I drank another, and another after that.

The biggest trigger for me happens to be when I’m far from home, with people I’m not intimately familiar with. That’s when my anxiety reaches epic proportions, and I become desperate to do anything to make that feeling of discomfort and awkwardness disappear.

I haven’t had another drink since that night.

I’m back on the wagon, grateful for yet another chance to get it right.

I am truly thankful that the work I’ve done up to that night, while it didn’t keep me sober, helped me mitigate the loss that comes with relapse. The old me would have been so hard on myself for breaking down and drinking that I would have given up altogether. After drinking the one night, I wouldn’t have stopped, and I would have drank the next night, the next, and the night after that as well. I would have seen myself a complete failure, and I wouldn’t have put the bottle down until my health deteriorated again, and I was afraid for my life.

Again.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I screwed up, but I’m ok, and I’m back in the saddle. So the months of hard work prior to that one night of idiocy were not a waste. That work is what helped me keep this to one night of bad decisions, and not anything worse than that.

 

 

Posted in C-Haze

Rage, Serenity and the Answer

I was prepared for a lot of different challenges when I decided to get sober. I knew I’d have to deal with physical withdrawals, and I was ready for the urges that often came out of nowhere, literally making my eyes water, they were so strong.  I figured I’d get a little emotional, and that I might replace the sugar that my body was used to getting from alcohol with sweet foods and cheeseburgers for a while. I was OK with all of that, and I felt ready.

I was ready!

The thing I knew nothing of, had no idea I should prepare for, was the mind-numbing rage I’d experience after getting sober.

Lately, I had been constantly stewing in anger. I had no idea where it came from, or how long it had been there. No one was safe from my wrath- I literally wanted to smash things and throw a temper tantrum like a four year old- and God help the poor soul who crosses my path when I’m feeling this way.

At work, my clients enrage me when they have the audacity to send me an email or make a request of me that I wasn’t expecting, throwing an unforgivable wrench in my perfectly planned day.

My kids make me mad when they bombard me with all the crap they need- right now!- like trips to the dentist, various doctors’ appointments, “Mom, I need new clothes”, “Mom, can I have $15 for my field trip next week?”, “M-O-M! M-O-M! M-O-M!”

My husband pisses me off when he turns the surround sound up too loud in his man cave, or screams too loudly at the TV when his sports teams do something that alternately excites him or causes him despair. Sometimes it’s the way he disciplines the kids… I just want to throw my hands over my ears and scream, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU! LALALA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

Literally, it was any-and-every-little thing that set me off, it was happening without warning. I felt completely justified in bathing myself in the emotion of it, though I did wonder on more than one occasion if I should come with a disclaimer.

“Caution! Volatile!”

For a long time, I said nothing. Instead, I’d just close my eyes, count to 10, and mentally cuss out the Universe that made me this way, made me broken, and forced me to have to make the choice between living and blissfully zoning out with a glass (or 10) of Vodka in hand. I silently became angrier and angrier, until I started to question my sanity, and feared I was about to jump right off the deep end.

But, hey! At least I’m sober, right?

Tonight, feeling especially homicidal for no reason in particular other than, “I don’t know why! I’m just mad as hell at everybody!” I called one of my very best friends, someone I’ve known for about 16 years now. She’s a recovering alcoholic as well, but she’s been sober for close to 20 years. Not only did I not know her as a drunk, I cannot even imagine her that way. She works her recovery with grace, faces it with courage, and frankly, makes the shit look easy.

I explained my need for blood- my all consuming rage- the best I could. I told her how angry everyone, yes everyone (!!) is making me lately. I need to call my doctor, I say. Clearly these new meds are doing something to me. Something bad. I just know I’m going to snap and go bananas on people. People I love.

I went on and on about how hard it is to control my temper, how hard it is to deal with life in general, how everything sucks, the world sucks, and I’m sick of acting like it’s all OK.

I’m just so over it! This is stupid! Everything is stupid! Just… STUPID!

She listens without interrupting. Finally, winding down a bit, I think to ask, “You still there?”

Calmly, she replies, “I’m still here.”

Exhausted from my ranting, I take a breath. She takes the opportunity to ask, “Would you like me to tell you what’s really going on, or would you prefer I let you continue to live in denial?”

I, of course, prefer denial. She, however, has another idea.

She starts to tell me about the serenity prayer. I’d heard of it, and even know it by heart from my prior half-assed attempts at AA. Somehow, after all the times I’d seen the words even said them out loud, I never gave them much thought.

For the first time, I really paid attention to the meaning of that prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

What my friend was telling me is that when I’m angry at the whole world, it’s because the world isn’t behaving the way I want it to. The whole world hasn’t gone mad, but I have, because I am the only thing all these unrelated situations that keep pissing me off have in common. That’s right, it’s me, dammit.

I have to stop trying to control my environment, and just let it go. Unexpected emails from clients are a part of life. Needy children and loud, passionate spouses are par for the course. She helped me understand that I’m not angry at any of things. I’m frustrated with myself, and with my inability to just let things be. I waste so much effort trying to put everyone and everything in their perfect little compartments that I forget to be grateful for what I have.

She suggested read “Acceptance Was the Answer” from The Big Book.

I did what she asked (I consider her my sponsor, even though I don’t do AA, and she’d tell you she most certainly is not my sponsor), and I reflected on the story.

No, I can’t control the people, places or things around me, though I’ve historically gone to ridiculous lengths trying to. I can, however, be courageous enough to recognize that sometimes when the rage is boiling inside, it is not caused by anything or anyone else but me. My furious attempts to control all the moving parts that make up my little existence, with disastrous results.

It’s exhausting, and it’s futile.

I can change my reactions to people, places and things. The rest is just…

… Acceptance.

Knowing I am exactly where I am supposed to be, experiencing exactly what I’m supposed to experience in this moment.

Serenity.

Peace.

 

Posted in C-Haze

The eye-opener that was the “Month of Yes”

Well, my “Month of Yes” is wrapping up. I spent a month (yeah, I chose the month of February, which is the shortest one- don’t judge) saying yes to opportunities that presented themselves to me.

This was important, because in my natural state, I am a hermit. Socially awkward and full of anxiety, I generally hate leaving my house or talking to people I don’t know. I hate crowds, and prefer to chat online, and not in person.

Before I stopped drinking, I was a hermit because I needed a safe place to hide out and pour vodka down my throat. After I stopped drinking I stayed a hermit, because I had no clue how to be around my fellow humans without feeling extremely uncomfortable- especially without the crutch of alcohol to lean on.

Nothing I’ve accomplished this month would be considered earth shattering to anyone but me. I did not save anyone’s life, I did not travel to great places unknown.

Here are some highlights:

Superbowl Sunday:

I went to a Superbowl party that was filled with people I don’t know, that had plenty of alcohol on hand. I did it sober, and  for the most part, I really enjoyed myself. I did get a little nervous when the host tried to get me to eat, because doing so required me to walk to the buffet table in front of everyone. They’d already eaten by the time I got there, so this was a scary proposition.

I did leave the party a few minutes before the game ended, but I’m glad I went. I proved that I can do it.

Running Errands:

I ran errands with my husband, getting some stuff done at the bank that needed to get done- the kind of thing I otherwise would have blown off and suffered the consequences of later.

This probably seems completely inconsequential to those who don’t know me. Those that do know me realize the notion of me being a big girl and handling my personal responsibilities is a thing I historically could not always be counted on to do.

I will go to work every day, even when I’m dead. Running errands, paying bills and grocery shopping? Eh, not so much.  This was a win for me.

Personal Responsibility:

I finally went to the doctor and got the blood work done that I’d been putting off for more than five years. Rather than let my fear of the unknown continue to rule me, I decided to be an adult and stand up, doing what needed to be done.

Dinner and a Movie Date Night:

I went to dinner and a movie with my husband. Historically, he’s spent a lot of time trying to get me out of the house for date night, and usually I have an excuse not to go. This night, I banished those thoughts, went out and had fun.

Jazz Club:

I went to a Jazz Gallery full of people I don’t know, and sat at a reserved table in the front row, sober the entire time. I didn’t get up and run from the room, even when it was obvious that I was the only one in the entire establishment that didn’t know certain songs the band was performing. In my mind, the fact that I don’t know those songs made it very clear to everyone there that I do not have the cultural knowledge that’s required to be a card-carrying Black Woman.

Interestingly, as a sober observer for once, it looked to me like absolutely no one cared about that kind of thing but me, and that the people in attendance at the club were focused solely on having a good time.

I also didn’t run screaming when the entire room got up and danced while I cowered in my chair- again in the front row- afraid that the “white side” of me was a little too obvious in this venue, because I cannot dance. I was afraid the entire time. Afraid that I was going to be called out for being the odd one in the room.

I faced my fears, though. I did not run. I stayed the entire time, and I did not drink.

These aren’t the only things I managed to accomplish throughout the month. My willpower grew, my confidence grew, and so did my strength. Even bigger, my relationship with myself improved.

I am kinder to myself.

I have a better understanding of why I was the person I used to be, of why I am the person I am, and of who I want to become.

I am closer than I’ve ever been to finally being able to offer myself blanket forgiveness for the mistakes of my past- for the instances of bad judgment, for the bad behavior, for the myriad mistakes I made.

Through all the fog, I can finally see the good, not just the bad:

I’m the mother of two wildly successful, well adjusted, happy girls- two beautiful Black-Women-In-Training. One is getting ready to go to college in a little over a year, who has straight As and a solid grasp on who she is. The other, while younger, is accomplishing great things too, is kind, brilliant, and makes me laugh every single day. I had a hand in molding them, and they fill me with pride.

I have a very close and honest relationship with my parents. I had to work hard at the “honest” part, but it has paid off. I make them proud, even when I have to tell them the truth about human mistakes I make, and I’m starting to realize why.

I have a solid and happy marriage. One that allows me to put to use many of the lessons I learned from relationships- and yes, even a failed marriage- past. I can look at the failed marriage and concentrate on what I learned, not on the failure I felt as it was crumbling.

I have a great job with a great company that’s the leader in my industry. I proudly shoulder much of the financial responsibility for my household, and I am entrusted to do what I do best- show up and get the job done, no matter what. I value the fact that I possess the skills that allow me to work with the best of the best.

I realize now that I bring something unique to the table, and that’s because of my past, not in spite of it. I have a college education, but I also have real-world experience, the kind of experience one can only gain by having done the work and paying the dues for years on end. I climbed up to where I am- I did not land here.

Finally, I have great friends, and a great support system. I am celebrated for making the changes I’ve made, not ostracized as so many others in my situation find themselves. When I lack the strength to do the right thing, they don’t mind using their strength to carry me until I feel strong again.

I didn’t gain all these things during my Month of Yes, but I gained the insight to be able to recognize them. They were in front of me all along.

Posted in C-Haze

The stories and the vigilance

I used to listen to the horror stories of other alcoholics, and because my experiences never rose to the same level of terribleness, I’d use them as an excuse to ease my own conscience.

I haven’t gotten a DUI, and I’ve never been arrested, so I’m not an alcoholic.

I thought I needed to look and behave like those people who were always there at that one AA meeting I used to attend- the only one in my city that still allowed smoking indoors. You know who I’m talking about- the actual alcoholics in the room.

I’d leave with a sense of relief (“Whew. That was close. Those damn AA’ers almost sucked me in this time!”), mentally listing all the ways I am not like them. Never mind the fact that I ended up at AA meetings on a semi-regular basis to begin with. It’s not the kind of place you just pass by on your way home from work and think, “Hmm. I’ll just run inside that place real quick.”

It’s not Walgreens, after all. They don’t advertise.

Obviously, even then I knew what I was, and I was there for a reason.

Thankfully, things have changed.

I no longer listen to the stories others have to tell with the sole purpose of finding each and every difference between them and me. The truth is, when I finally shut up (and most especially muted my own inner noise), I actually learned something.

Now, when I hear stories of drunken debauchery, of legal troubles, financial woes and relationship problems, I no longer use the fact that these things never happened to me as a reason to keep behaving badly. Rather, I listen to them for the value they can provide, because I finally understand why they’re so important to hear.

They are cautionary tales.

I know- after years of pretending otherwise- that the question was never if my life- literally and figuratively- would come to an end as a result of my drinking.

No, it was simply a question of when.

Listening has given me the opportunity to see what my future held, had I not put the bottle down, and what the futures of my children and my husband held as a result.

As addicts, our journeys are not all the same- the roads we’ve taken are often very different. Some are longer than others, some have more twists, turns, ups and downs- but the final destination- the final realization- is the same.

If we keep drinking, we will die.

I don’t hide from these stories anymore. Now, as part of my recovery, I seek them out. I listen to every single one of them, and I listen carefully. I find that I have more in common with other alcoholics than I ever thought- or wanted to think, anyway.

My fellow alcoholics aren’t scary or unsavory to me anymore. They’re friends. Family, even. We have an instant bond, and while we’re a diverse group- black, white, rich, poor, conservative, liberal, gay and straight- we automatically look out for each other.

Suddenly, alcoholism- and all of its stories, tragedies and triumphs- has become one of my favorite topics. Not for argument’s sake, like it once was, but for the sake of healing instead.

Listening and learning keeps me sane, and sanity keeps me sober. Hearing the stories of alcoholics and the stories of those who love them, has become a critical part of my recovery. I need to hear the truth of what would have happened, had I not stopped drinking, and I need to hear the voices of those who have been impacted by the addicts in their lives.

It’s a reminder of who I was, and what I will still become if I don’t remain vigilant every single day.