Posted in C-Haze

Day 1

Today I am ok.

Not great.

Not terrible.

I’ll take it, though. After months of decidedly not ok, this is a definite improvement.

I’m anxious as hell, I’m in the midst of what feels like a never-ending panic attack, and I have the shakes.

On the plus side, I did not drink.

Here’s to the close of Day 1. I made it.


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?


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

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.


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

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.

Posted in C-Haze

I think I’ll keep her

I had a great night at a jazz club this evening, celebrating my husband’s birthday. I encouraged him to “let loose” (read: drink), as it’s his day, and I felt fine to sip my diet coke and enjoy the music. He opted not to, however, which kind of blew my mind.

Who has the option to drink, is fully encouraged to do so, and decides not to?

Non-alcoholics, I guess.

The music was fantastic, and while not 100% at ease, I wasn’t quite as anxious as I tend to be in these settings.

As I was listening to the band, I started watching this beautiful woman dancing to the music, and I found myself jealous. She was gorgeous. Perfect figure, perfect outfit, perfect makeup, perfectly at peace. She looked free and comfortable in her own skin.

For a moment, I thought to myself, “Man, why can’t I look like that?”

Almost immediately, I stopped. A realization hit me, and it’s an important one.

I spent years abusing my body. I drank five bottles of vodka every single week for the better part of a decade. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for almost 15 years, I ate absolute shit for 20, I popped Vicodin like they were M&Ms and otherwise put my body through any number of horrific things too personal to list here.

Yet, I’m not just alive, I’m healthy.

So many people who did everything right are dying every day from terrible illnesses and diseases. Others made a few mistakes here and there over the years, and are paying dearly in the form of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and any other number of chronic ailments.

I spent years doing everything wrong, actively trashing my body and my mind, and yet (no thanks to me), I’ve been given another chance.

I carry extra pounds on my body, and I’m self-conscious and socially awkward- but what I do have, that too many others don’t, is another opportunity to get it right. To be healthy and free and fearless. Had I been born with that gorgeous dancing lady’s genes instead of my own, would that body have been able to manage the level of abuse I heaped on it for so long? I don’t know, but I no longer want to find out.

I’m getting to know myself for the first time in my 38 years of life.

I’m starting to like what I’m discovering- cellulite, imperfections, awkwardness and all. Underneath the less than perfect exterior, there’s a strong ass woman that I’m growing to love and respect.

I think I’ll keep her.

Posted in C-Haze, Personal


Ever since I was a little girl, I have always felt like an outsider, and never fully felt like I fit in anywhere.

None of this was felt more strongly than within my own family.

I am adopted. My biological mother is white, my biological father is black and Native American. My bio-mom was 16 when she had me, with my bio-dad being older. He was a Marine. As I was born in the south, in the ’70s, I have no doubt my arrival was full of drama. Young white teen gets pregnant by older black man in North Carolina in 1976-77… yeah, that’s something you can bet people talked about.

Stories vary- some say I was immediately given up for adoption, others say my biological mother tried to keep me, only to give me up about 9 months after I was born. What’s known for sure is that I ended up in foster care.

My first home was with an older white family. They were professional foster parents, with any number of kids parading in and out of their small home over the years.  I lived with this family from the time I was given up for adoption until I was three. For some reason (I have lots of conspiracy theories about why), they took a special interest in me, and decided to try and adopt me. I don’t remember this time very well, but learned they were denied their adoption application. As a result, social services showed up one day without warning, and took me from them. I was allowed to take the clothes I was wearing at that moment, and nothing else. No pictures, no toys, nothing. I was moved to another foster family, one I remember only slightly better, where I lived for six months.

I have disconnected memories from this time. I don’t remember what my foster father looked like, but I do remember his combat boots. I remember burning myself on a piece of homemade fried chicken that I was warned not to touch, but did anyway. I also remember my foster mother insisting I call her “Mom” from the day I moved in with her, and popping me in the mouth if I forgot. Oh- and I remember taking naps in my foster brother’s bedroom while he was at school. It was decorated in Star Wars theme. The most bizarre memory of all is what he looked like when drinking water. I remember his adams apple bobbing up and down when he swallowed.

At three-and-a-half years of age, I met my Real family. They took me to lunch one day, and I took the opportunity to interview them. If I was to live with them, I needed to know a few things first. They were a nice looking couple. White, 30s, and they had one son. I asked them if they ever beat him. God bless them for overlooking my weirdness, and deciding to adopt me anyway.

So, I went to live with my new family. I wasn’t yet four years old, and this was the fourth family I’d had since I’d been born.

This family, my forever family, are amazing people. I hit the jackpot for sure. After I came to live with them, the family expanded even more, welcoming three more kids in addition to the son they already had. Ultimately, I have three brothers and a sister, a mother and a father.

I would never trade my family for anything in this world. They are loving, they are accepting, they are mine. Having the greatest family in the world, however, didn’t stop me from isolating myself. I always knew I was different from the rest of them. I’m the only one who isn’t related by blood to them, and I’m the only one who isn’t white. It’s important to note my family never cared about either of these things. They never treated me any different, and there would have been hell to pay if anyone else did either.

That they didn’t isolate themselves from me didn’t stop me from isolating myself from them. I knew I was different, I felt the difference, and that was enough.

As a result, a years-long pattern was born.

I believe my early life is the key to why I am the way I am today. A lot of it is rooted in being a mixed child living in a white world. Some of it has to do with having had four different families before I turned four years old. Then there are all the questions I have about who I am and where I came from that have no answers. I don’t know which parent I take after, or whose eyes I have. I don’t even know where I was born, other than North Carolina.

Rather than try to come to terms with all of this, I spent years and years burying it. I didn’t feel comfortable in my white world, nor did I feel comfortable living in a black world. I hadn’t been exposed to it. I felt like an outsider in my family, and in the world at large. I didn’t know who I was. So I created a solitary existence, and preferred to spend my time alone. I read books, I wrote in my journal, and I did the best I could to pretend like I didn’t notice I didn’t fit in.

When I got older, I escaped by drinking and smoking weed, since going to my bedroom and closing my door was no longer an option.

For many years, even though it wasn’t conscious, I now understand I walked the walk of a victim. I didn’t do it on purpose, but the isolation I felt- in large part- was more a result of my own actions, and had less to do with anyone else’s rejection. I probably should have gotten some professional help to deal with the changes that came in my early childhood, the lack of roots, and the racial differences between who I am and the world I lived in. I didn’t, though.

I couldn’t understand my surroundings, I couldn’t connect to the people around me, so I just removed myself from the equation.

I had a conversation with my sister recently. What I learned is that she, too, never felt like she fit in with us. While I was isolating from our family, she was too. We both did the exact same thing, though we did it for different reasons.

It’s so ironic that all these years later I realize just how similar she and I are, and the way I came to realize our similarities was through analyzing our differences. Our experiences are nothing similar, but who we are, our feelings, our thoughts and yes, our isolation is exactly the same.

I still feel uncomfortable in this world. I still have no idea what to do around large groups of people, and I still feel like an outsider among both black and white people. I’m racially ambiguous, I supposed.

Born of mixed race, raised by a white family, married to a black man. My circumstances are representative of my DNA.

Posted in Addiction, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Personal, Recovery

The Universe and the letter

I am not a religious person. My “higher power”, if I had to choose one would be The Universe. I don’t believe in God, not in the traditional Christian sense, but I tend to believe in order among chaos, I believe in Karma, and I know that whatever’s out there is bigger than I am.

I also believe that if we pay attention, The Universe is regularly sending us signs that provide most of the answers we seek. We’re free to ignore them, of course, and we often do just that, to our own detriment.

I’ve had a really tough time with my sobriety lately. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which has to do with the fact that I am my own worst enemy, and I apparently enjoy sabotaging myself in the face of success vs. failure. There’s more to it than just that, though.

This disease is crafty, and it wants to win. It has a powerful ally in its corner, and that’s my brain. It’s kind of perfect, actually, because nobody knows me- my insecurities, my fears, my triggers- better than my own brain does. So when the disease wants a drink, it doesn’t fight fair, and can be really hard to beat.

A couple of weeks ago when I got my blood test results from the doctor, as grateful as I was to find my liver function is normal, they provided ammunition for the disease to use against me. Since then, my brain has been barraging me with a series of attacks, telling me that because my drinking hasn’t ruined my health, and because I’ve been successful in quitting alcohol altogether, the whole thing must have been a false alarm. I’m not an alcoholic. I can drink responsibly, just like everyone else. I just needed to take a break for a while, and now that I have, my relationship with alcohol has changed, and the problem no longer exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, my resolve has started to waiver. I started seriously thinking about having a drink. I started wondering if maybe, just maybe, I’m not an alcoholic. Maybe I was just a binge drinker going through a bad time. Never mind that this “bad time” lasted a full decade. Or that I have tried to control my drinking in every possible way thousands of times: I tried switching from liquor to wine, I tried only drinking on the weekends, I tried not drinking at home, and only drinking when I’m out at social gatherings. I tried to moderate, hoping to stop my consumption before I became a slobbering, blacked-out mess.

Nothing worked. Nothing. Nothing.

Finally, I had to get some help and quit drinking altogether. My liver function may be normal now, but it wasn’t five years ago, and I’m willing to bet it wasn’t normal the day I quit drinking. It’s normal today because I’ve actually stopped drinking and gave it some time to heal- not because I don’t have an alcohol problem. The fact that I drank to the point of elevated liver enzymes to begin with is indicative of a problem. That I continued drinking for years after I realized I was developing a fatty liver, and that I still obsess over alcohol- something “normies” don’t do- are also indicators of a problem.

Knowing all this logically and believing it, living it day in and day out, is not the same thing. The bottom line is that underneath it all, I want a drink. Currently. Present tense. I want a drink.

On Friday night, I was up against a tough deadline at work. After working 12 hours straight, I was tired. About an hour before my workday ended, I started craving a drink.

I wish I could tell you I valiantly fought the urge, but the truth is, I didn’t.

I was moments from walking out the door, getting in my car and driving to the liquor store, when my phone rang. It was my husband, on his way home, just calling to chat. I quickly blurted out, “I think I’d like to have a drink tonight. I’m going to go to the store.”

He replied, simply, “Ok.”

I then asked, “What do you think? Do you think I should?”

No, I don’t. This is just the Salesman trying to work you, trying to get you to break down. Don’t let him. You don’t need to drink tonight.

For once in my life, I listened. I decided I would not drink that night, and I didn’t. It doesn’t escape me, however, that had my husband not called at that exact moment, I would have bought a bottle of vodka, and I would have drank.

The Universe put the answer right in front of me when I needed it most. I paid attention that night, and I wish I could say that was the end of it, that “I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes…” (I love a good, random Ace of Base quote), but that’s not the case.

The next day, I was still thinking about having a drink. We’re making plans for Super Bowl Sunday, and I thought, “I can drink with friends. Nothing crazy, just a normal amount.” I never claimed I wasn’t a hard-headed stubborn fool.

At dinner last night, I broached the subject with my husband. I told him I’d like to try drinking in moderation, and wanted to know his thoughts. He said, “I’m not sure what I think about it. I guess my question is why? What is the reason for drinking after all the work you’ve done to stop?” I had no answer, except, “I’d like to see if my relationship with alcohol has changed, after all the work I’ve done.” He responded that drinking to see if I could really do it in moderation doesn’t sound like a great reason to him.

Since I don’t disagree, and had no answer for that, we sort of dropped the subject and continued on with our evening. I didn’t stop thinking about drinking, though.

Later, just before I went to bed, my husband handed me an envelope that had come with the day’s mail. It was handwritten, and was addressed to me. I could tell from the return address that it was from an old high school friend of mine. This friend and I follow each other’s online updates, but haven’t actually spoken in years. Opening the letter, this is what I found:

Hello, Friend!

I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading about your sobriety, and I honor your efforts to stay that way… and have hope that you have the strength to see it through, and that your family is there to hold you up when you’re weak.

All I could think was, “Holy shit.”

I read and reread the note a hundred times. I then placed it back in its envelope.

In that moment, I knew.

The Universe placed yet another sign right in my path, telling me the answer, and I heard it- felt it, even- as clearly as I’ve felt anything in my life.

I will remain sober.

So here’s to friends and family, the people who prop us up when we can’t or won’t do it for ourselves. Here’s to The Universe, for providing a steady supply of answers, whether or not we choose to hear them.

Above all, I’m grateful for family, and I’m grateful for that support system I can’t always see, that reveals itself at exactly the right moment, when I need it the most.

Posted in C-Haze

A month of yes

I am bored. Horribly, terribly, unbelievably bored.

It’s crazy how many hours I used to spend drinking, recovering from drinking, and then drinking again. Now that I don’t do that anymore, I have all this time on my hands. The things I used to do – numb out in front of the tv or online – are ok for a time, but quickly bores the piss out of me.

I read an article about Shonda Rhimes (creator of “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal”, and “How to Get Away with Murder”), which talked about her book, “Year of Yes”. The book touches on all sorts of important life lessons, but what got me was one of the interviews she did. In it, she discusses how her sister observed that Rhimes never says yes to anything. Realizing her sister was right, Rhimes embarked on a year of saying yes to everything, and wound up with a treasure trove of experiences as a result.

I’m not brave enough to commit to saying yes to every opportunity that comes my way for a whole year, but I’m going to challenge myself to do it for a month.

I’ll keep track of how things go, and we’ll see what happens!