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

Isolation

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, C-Haze, Recovery

I was always the best at drinking

One of the things I always excelled at was drinking. I think that’s why it took me so long to really understand that I’m an alcoholic. The horror stories I’d hear from others- on the rare occasion I could be bothered to attend AA meetings- didn’t sound like anything I’d experienced. That’s part of the reason AA and I never gelled.

I’ve never had a DUI. In fact, I’ve never been in any legal trouble at all. I’m college educated, and I make good money. I work for a Fortune 100 company, I’m financially stable, and I’m in no danger of losing my job. I have been steadily employed without exception since 1996, which happens to be the year I joined the workforce, at 17.  My drinking caused me to miss work exactly one time in my life, and that was the week I finally decided to quit. My children are well-adjusted, well-rounded honor roll students. I’m happily married, and my alcohol abuse has never jeopardized a relationship or caused one to end.

Most people didn’t even know I had an alcohol problem until I started blogging about it. In fact, just this week I got a text from a friend I’ve known for about 11 years now, expressing her surprise to learn that I’m an alcoholic, despite the fact that I used to see her daily at the height of my drinking.

I always took immense pride in what a good drinker I was. I was never the sort of drunk who got crazy at parties. I always held my liquor very well, and with the exception of my husband, people could rarely tell that I was completely out of it. Even he didn’t know a lot of the time. The only outward clue to my excess was when I happened to be out and about with friends. People who had the pleasure of physically seeing me drink can attest to the amount of alcohol I could put down and still remain standing.

I wore it as a badge of honor. People would say, “How are you still conscious? You just killed that entire bottle of vodka!” and I’d beam with pride, like I’d just accomplished something really amazing.

About a year before I got sober, I remember overhearing my oldest daughter on the phone with a friend of hers. This friend has a mother who’s a mean drunk, and she was venting about what it’s like to live with an alcoholic. My daughter was sympathetic.

I’m so sorry you have to live with that. I can’t even imagine what it must be like- I’ve never even seen my mom drunk before.

Ironically, I was a good 3/4ths of the way through a bottle of vodka at that exact moment, and was completely fucked up. I almost choked on my drink- I found it absolutely hilarious that I could hold my liquor so well that I could be (and regularly was) three sheets to the wind, and those who knew me best, didn’t have a clue. At the height of it all, I’d go through 4-5 bottles of vodka in a week’s time.

It was my secret weapon, and I loved it the way I imagine others love their life-partner or their very best friend.

Many people don’t understand just how awkward a being I am. Naturally anti-social, I do not like going out, and I hate large crowds. I’m painfully shy, and I have really bad social anxiety. With the exception of just a few people- and I’m related to almost all of them- there really isn’t anyone I feel completely at ease around. Alcohol was the perfect solution anytime I had to go somewhere or do something that made me leave my comfort zone.

That’s how it started with me. When I drank, I felt the way I imagine “normal” people feel when they’re out in public. I didn’t have panic attacks, and I could relax and even have a little fun. Initially, I didn’t even keep alcohol in the house. There wasn’t any reason to. I was in my element when I was at home, so I was at ease and comfortable. I would only drink when I went out, and that didn’t happen too often.

It wasn’t until after my first marriage collapsed that I started drinking daily, and drinking at home. I wanted to move past my divorce as quickly as possible. My divorce was an ugly one, as my ex-husband physically assaulted me after we’d separated. Since the incident was both violent and involved his breaking into my home at night, I became fearful anytime I was at home. Even though I immediately moved to a new place, for years afterwards, I was scared- especially if anyone came to the door unexpectedly. Since I was also an anxiety-ridden mess anytime I went out anywhere, I soon became a walking, talking nervous breakdown just waiting to happen.

… And not a single soul knew about it.

Alcohol gave me the courage I needed to be able to move forward, and when I wanted to hide, it helped me do that too. Throughout this entire time, I excelled at my job, I raised my kids, I finished school, and I developed relationships with other people. Yet I remember very little of it, because I was drunk the entire time.

Somehow, I managed to do what I had to do to survive, and on the outside, it even looked like I was thriving. The problem was, I wasn’t present. I was blacking out at night, so I couldn’t remember much the next day. Sometimes it was entire conversations that I didn’t remember. Other times it was movies or TV shows that I’d watched, but had no recollection of. It was trippy to log on to my Netflix account and see all kinds of stuff in my “Recently Watched” queue, having no idea what they were, or why they were there.

Finally, my health started to nosedive. I gained an unbelievable amount of weight, and developed all kinds of digestive problems I’d never had before. My skin became dry, brittle and extremely itchy. My entire body ached, and I started getting weird infections with alarming regularity. I was retaining a ton of water, and my liver enzymes were elevated. After being warned by my doctor that I was well on my way to liver disease, I stopped seeing him.

Then my daughter got sick. Really sick. Hospitalized in the Pediatric Intensive Care unit sick.

That’s when I knew I had to make a change. It wasn’t possible to escape my life and still be present in the lives of my daughters or my husband. Even after I finally admitted that I had a terrible drinking problem, I still didn’t stop right away. I couldn’t. Instead, I tried to moderate. I tried to pick 3 days a week I wouldn’t drink. It didn’t work. I tried switching from hard liquor to wine. It didn’t work. I tried only drinking on the weekends. It didn’t work. I joined Weight Watchers, only to use my points-allowance for the entire week in a single drinking session, every night.

I notice for the first time that while the consequences of my drinking were more subtle than what I was hearing at AA, I was still suffering them. I wasn’t losing a job, or my home and my kids, but I had missed out on so much life. I had never felt that void before, but I felt it then.

I had to get help.

I found a treatment program, and worked it aggressively, even as I looked down on the other people in attendance. They were rough-looking men and women with bad grammar and criminal records. Some of them had no teeth. I just knew I was better than they were, as a “successful” (wink-wink) white collar professional.  I managed to stay sober for a couple of weeks, until a work-related trip out of town. I relapsed. That’s when I realized what a complete and total bitch I had been, and that my ego could cost me my life. Maybe those people I was in recovery with were rough around the edges, but they were managing to do something I had never been able to do: Get Sober.

So, with my pride in check, and with my tail between my legs, I tried again.

This time it stuck, and here I am.

SOBER.

I’m still weird and socially awkward, but I’ve decided I’ll take that over where I used to be any day of the week.

Thanks for hangin’ in there with me while I spew.

Until next time…

 

Posted in Addiction, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery

A disease. Full Stop.

Achieving sobriety is one of the most difficult things anyone with an addiction can do. It’s worth it, but it’s not easy. Ponies, rainbows and unicorns do not suddenly fly out our asses when we stop using. The country song- as I like to joke- does not play backwards, and we don’t automatically get the wife, the kids,  the truck and the dog back, just because we’re sober now.

When the time came for me to quit drinking (ha, ha – “when the time came”- more like, “when my ankles were so swollen they looked like softballs ate them, when my liver physically hurt, when I could no longer function at all, and death was surely imminent…”), I knew I needed help, and treatment was imperative. Thankfully, if I have to be an addict, the 21st century is the best time to be one. We have choices now, and recovery is no longer one-size-fits-all.

I didn’t do well in AA, as the dialogue around addiction being a disease just doesn’t work for me. I’m not saying it isn’t a disease, I actually think it is one. It took me a long time to understand why this disease rhetoric set me off, since I don’t disagree with the theory. In the meantime, however, I really just needed to find treatment, and I wanted a program that didn’t follow that particular script, despite the fact that I didn’t understand why. That’s how I fell into Smart Recovery (you can Google it), which is the opposite of AA in many ways, but has the same goal in mind: TOTAL ABSTINENCE.

I’m not an addiction expert, but I’m certainly not ignorant on the subject either. Obviously, I’m no social worker or substance abuse counselor, but I do have an impressive Alcoholism Resume- yes, it contains less college classes and more on-the-job training, but experience is experience.

All of this leads me to how I finally came to understand why I’m so often completely turned off by this “addiction is a disease” conversation.

<Deep Breath>

Until very recently, I had plans to drink again.

I went through the steps of physically quitting, and while I stopped consuming alcohol, it was always with the understanding that I’d pick up again. Maybe not today, but someday. Even as I was actively doing the work in recovery, I did it with the idea that I was merely changing my relationship with alcohol, not ending it. It wasn’t a fearful notion; I wasn’t thinking, “Oh no! I just know I’ll fall off the wagon some day!”. Quite the opposite, it was something I wanted, and I wanted to make sure I did it the “right” way (without criminal charges, jail, dancing on tables and/or swimming naked in some random stranger’s pool, preferably).

I did eventually realize I was nuts to think I could ever have another drink, but what took longer to understand is why I was so invested in the idea of trying. It was an obsession. It’s not simply because addiction is a disease. Even if it is a disease, that’s an over-simplified answer, and that’s what made me crazy. It’s like something you tell a kid when you don’t think they’re old enough to know the truth.

I deserve better than that, so I went on a quest to figure it out for myself.

It took a minute, but now I finally understand why it burns me so bad when addiction is referred to as a disease. It’s because all too often, the conversation ends right there.

She had to stop drinking because she’s an alcoholic. That’s a disease, you know.

Full Stop.

“No!” I want to scream. “There’s so much more to it than that! There’s so much more to me than that!”

Getting to the root of it, I realize that I believed if I could just drink like a normal person, it would mean that I don’t have to suffer a life of being labeled “Diseased” or “Alcoholic”. My fear was that people, once they knew, would stop seeking to know me further, thinking they’d already learned everything worth knowing.

That I’m an addict.

Full Stop.

Here’s the thing: I do have a disease. It’s called alcoholism. It isn’t curable, but it’s manageable, and managing it is an important part of my life. But please, don’t let the conversation stop there. I want to talk about it, and I also want to talk about other things too.

I’m a mother, and a daughter. I’m a wife. I’m a professional, and I like to draw. I used to play the piano, and years ago, I sang opera in Europe.

I want to be seen as an entire person, not just as this disease.

Someone who’s real, and silly, and complicated…

… and can’t drink.

 

 

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!

Posted in C-Haze

Tools, and learning to use them

Sobriety is scary as hell. No, seriously – it really is.

When I was drinking, I could hide. It was a tool that I subconsciously used to keep from realizing my full potential, happiness, or any semblance of success. It made me numb, and for a few hours at a time, completely unconcerned about anything. I didn’t have to think about the person I’d become, the person I had been in the past, or the person I wanted to be. I didn’t have to think at all.

Why would anyone choose to completely check out from life, and all it has to offer? I suspect the reasons vary. For me, it was guilt and shame. I didn’t believe I deserved happiness or success, and so I set off on a mission of self-sabotage, and I took that mission seriously. In fact, it was the most important mission of my existence. It’s what kept me so committed to vodka for so many years.

If I wasn’t in an alcohol-induced stupor, the demons from my past would creep in- all the regrets, the bad decisions, the lies I’d told – and I couldn’t handle it.

Some people cut themselves. Some take pills, snort or inject their drugs of choice. I just happened to drink mine.

Being sober is liberating and confidence-building. It’s like waking up from a years-long coma and realizing all the important ingredients that make for a good life are still there. I just have to put them together in the right quantities and combinations to make something pleasing. It’s like baking a cake!

It’s also a lot easier said than done.

Or is it?

The other side to sobriety is that it’s very demanding. I can’t hide anymore. Everything I do – or don’t do – is the result of conscious effort, since the means to escape to la-la-land no longer exist for me.

I live with my past now. My failures, successes and triumphs. I try to focus on my present, and on the future, but realize there’s not a lot of room for that as long as I allow myself to remain weighed down by yesterday.

If I’m to continue punishing myself for who I used to be, I still can, but being sober means I’d have to do it on purpose. I’d have to knowingly take action against my own best interests (and by extension, against what’s best for those I love the most).

Now that it’s no longer mindless, it’s not so easy to do.

After coming out the other side of a battle like the one I’ve just fought, continuing to punish myself is not the easy way to go anymore. In contrast, putting myself out there in the universe, moving forward, trying to do everything in my power to contribute and to be present is no longer the difficult path to take.

In fact, it’s the only path left.

The trick is in learning how to do it, and how to do it right. I’ve spent so many years running, escaping and punishing myself, that doing the opposite – standing tall, facing the world, loving who I am, and yes, even accepting my past – takes some skills I have yet to fully learn.

What I do have are the tools to make it happen. I just need to figure out how to use them.

 

Posted in C-Haze

Blood, Fear, and Normal

One of my goals, and a huge part of my recovery, is to become 100% accountable to myself, and to stop running from the things I’m afraid of.

Three and a half months ago, my doctor ordered a slew of blood tests for me. This was nothing new. My pattern was to show up for my annual physical like any responsible adult, go through the motions by chatting with the doctor about how I’m fine, nothing unusual’s happening with me, everything’s fine. Each year the doctor would order labs, and every year I’d blow them off and refuse to get them done.

I was too scared.

I lived in a constant state of fear, utterly convinced that something was horribly wrong with me, that I was so unhealthy I must be just this side of death. To some this probably sounds utterly ridiculous – and it was – but honestly, it’s what I believed.

It had been five years since my last set of labs, even though my doctor had ordered the tests every single year since then like clockwork. Five years ago my labs showed elevated liver enzymes, and that was it for me. I wasn’t willing to face the issue and quit drinking, so I just stopped showing up for the labs instead.

Problem solved!

Except that it wasn’t.

Finally, I decided it was time to face this. Whatever it is, I need to know. Sober me is not the same person as drunk me, after all. Responsible people get their annual blood work done, and I am now responsible. Dammit.

So I got the tests done. The lady who took the blood told me to expect results “in the next day or so.”

I tried to wait patiently, I really did. I had trouble sleeping that night, absolutely convinced I’d soon be getting a call from the doctor to tell me how sick I am. That the years of abuse I did to my body caused damage that cannot be fixed. I was especially convinced that a decade of alcohol abuse had made my liver shrivel up and die. I simply could not fathom any other outcome, given what I’d subjected my body to, over such a long period of time. My last round of blood tests weren’t exactly stellar, so I figured I was well into cirrhosis-of-the-liver territory by this point.

I’m sober now, yes, but the time I spent on the bottle still outweighs the time I’ve spent off of it.

I kept thinking about the last time I had a drink. How sick I’d been, coming off a several day binge. My body ached – my kidneys ached – and so did my liver. My ankles were swollen to the size of softballs, and I was so bloated my clothes didn’t seem to fit. My head was pounding, and I was shaking. Surely I had been deathly ill. I still remember it so clearly.

Unable to wait any longer, I called the doctor mere hours after the lab had taken my blood (way sooner than within “the next day or so” as I’d been quoted). I asked them to give me the results of the liver function test, even if the others weren’t back yet. They refused, and said they’d give me a call when all the results were in.

This morning (which was only a day later, even though it felt like several lifetimes) I got the call from the doctor’s office.

All your labs are in, and everything looks good.

Huh?!

Liver enzymes? Normal. White blood count? Normal. Platelets and thyroid? Normal and Normal. Even my cholesterol is fine.

The only thing slightly off is my glucose, and even that was “just on the high side of normal,” to quote the doctor.

After spending several minutes working to convince me that he was not reading me the wrong patient’s results, the doctor advised me to watch my sugar and carb intake, and continue with the cardio five days a week.

That’s it.

I’m healthy. It honestly took several minutes for that to sink in. I did not kill myself with my bad habits after all.

I know I can use this experience in other areas of my life. Instead of hiding from that which scares me, letting things morph into these horrible scenarios that only I can come up with, I need to stand up and face it.

Most of the time, it’s not as bad as we think.

Sometimes, it isn’t bad at all.

Just Normal.

 

 

Posted in Alcoholics, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery, Sobriety

It’s the people who don’t know you, but think that they do

One of the more difficult aspects of getting sober has to do with how the changes we’ve made impact our relationships with others, and how those changes force us to look at ourselves and face some not-so-pretty self-truths.

The obvious would be relationships with close friends and family members.

Those aren’t the people I’m referencing in this post.

I’m talking about the people who live on the outskirts of our worlds. Those who operate in our peripheral. They’re familiar enough with us to know certain things, but are not overly close. These could be coworkers, or people who belong to the same clubs or gyms as we do.

In my case, these are the people who, while not particularly close, know about my love for the bottle – and even have a story or two to share.

I’ve struggled mightily with one such person lately. I met her before I got sober, and we do not live in the same town. We are not overly close, but are quite friendly. The majority of our interaction is electronic, via online chats and text messages, and is quite sporadic. The only opportunities she’s had to observe me in person, unfortunately, were at functions that had unlimited amounts of alcohol available to us. We both drank at these functions, and drank a lot.

I haven’t seen this person since I got sober. In fact, I never even told her I was sober until last night. The reason I finally told her was because she had developed an annoying habit of pointing out my love for vodka during every single interaction we had. I was becoming more and more angry that these conversations kept turning to my drinking, and to keep from exploding on her, I decided to be truthful.

“I stopped drinking. I haven’t had a drink since you and I last met, and honestly, that last encounter is one of the reasons I finally decided to quit.”

She replied, “That is not funny.”

She’s right. It’s not funny.

What she doesn’t know is that I had to stop drinking, or die. I had to put the bottle down, or risk losing everything. I won’t share that with her.

The entire exchange left me extremely pissed off, and it took me a while to figure out why.

I finally realized that I’m not mad at her. Honestly, I’m not mad at anyone. I’m simply ashamed.

Humiliated.

I made a bad first impression. She’s not saying anything about me that isn’t 100% true, and that’s on me, not her.

I’m glad the people I deal with the most no longer see me as the out-of-control drinker I used to be. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to show those who matter the most who I really am.

Those people on the outskirts, however, those who reside on the sidelines, never got the memo. To them, I’m still a drunk, and they will interact with me in accordance with their understanding of who I am.

It serves as an uncomfortable reminder of where I came from, and why I can never go back there again.

 

Posted in Alcoholics, C-Haze, Personal, Recovery, Sobriety

Drunk Me Only Lives in My Dreams

I’ve been thinking about drinking lately. A lot. My brain can sometimes be my worst enemy, but it does keep me humble, at least. Just when I think I’ve got this thing beat, and just when it seems it’s no longer a daily struggle, my brain will start playing tricks on me.

Most recently, I started actually dreaming about drinking. Not the way I drank just before I got sober, mind you, but the way I drank in the beginning. When I could attend happy hour(s) with my friends, let loose, have fun, and nothing more. Those were the days before I kept liquor in the house. Before I started drinking alone, in the dark, 5 out of 7 days in a week. In my dreams I’m young, I’m vibrant, I’m confident. I’m having fun, and I’m not lonely or alone. I’m not blacking out. I’m just socializing like normal people do (though if I’m honest, even then I was drinking more during these social outings than everyone else did), and it’s blissful.

When I wake up from these dreams, I go through this really bizarre series of emotions. Initially, I’m confused. These dreams feel so real, they’re so vivid, that I’m momentarily caught off guard. A sense of panic sets in, and for a moment, I’m mortified, not realizing it was just a dream. That no, I did not fall off the wagon.

I am still sober.

Next, the guilt sets in. The guilt that I’m having dreams about drinking and they’re not nightmares. They’re good dreams. I’m so happy and vivacious and fun. A walking Captain Morgan commercial. I feel this sense of guilt, because I’m not supposed to want to drink, right?

I should be dreaming about sober fun, not drunk fun.

Finally, the pragmatism hits, and I think to myself, “Well, at least drunk me can have some fun in my dreams, if nowhere else.” That’s where drunk me has been relegated to. It’s the only place drunk me can survive. Sober me occupies my waking hours. It’s probably a win that the only place drunk me can live anymore is in my dreams.

The truth is, I miss it. I just do. It’s like this old, intense love affair from my past. It’s no good for me. In fact, it’s so dangerous that my very life would be on the line if I ever started drinking again. We shared some good times, though. The relationship was dysfunctional and wrong, but it was real, and it had moments of pure bliss. That doesn’t mean I can go back there. I can’t.

It does mean it will always occupy a place inside of me, somewhere deep, where only I can feel it.

Now, however, I want to live. I also want to drink, but I know it isn’t possible to do both.

So for now, I’ll just keep dreaming.