Thursday, June 28, 2012

Things I Love Thursday - Part 43

I never understood when people said to me, "AS LONG AS YOU ARE SOBER, YOU HAVE A CHOICE." 

Today I get that.  Completely.  When I was drinking, I never had a choice.  I HAD TO DRINK.  My entire life consisted of how to get booze, how to drink the booze, how to act like I hadn't drunk the booze, then, MORE MORE MORE.  It never ever stopped.  To say that was a vicious cycle is kind.  It was obsessive and more important than anything or anyone. 

When I finally put the plug in the jug, I became a human being.  I gained an immediate power in that I had some miniscule kind of control of my decisions, my choices. I cannot stress enough how I was not even human.  I was this thing that had no feeling except how to drink and how to get the next drink.  Blackout-drink-blackout-drink.  That was my "life", if you can call it that.   The first choice is always, "am I going to drink?"  Once that is decided then the multitude of choices that normal people make every single day get to be decided. 

Once I chose to NOT DRINK that day, I had a tiny bit of say in what else I could do that day.  The possibilities suddenly go from NOTHING but the prison of using to ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.  Even if you are in jail as I was, or in rehab or a psych ward or a halfway house - I was in all of them in early sobriety - the internal prison is way worse. 

You can choose to have a real life from the inside out.  Things usually get worse before they get better upon sobriety.  Consequences can last for years.  And the best part is I choose to deal with them today. Being sued?  Being broke?  Getting divorced? Being jobless for a long time with no insurance, I can deal with that.  As long as I don't choose to drink today, I HAVE A CHOICE.

And that, is a beautiful thing.  As long as I don't choose to be an asshole and do the next right thing, my life keeps getting better and better.  From the inside out.  The external is matching the internal.  But nothing pretty outside matters if the inside is rotten. 

The Thing I Love This Thursday is choice.  For that, I alone am responsible.  And I gladly and gratefully accept the responsibility, for it all means that I started out with the choice not to drink today. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Don't Be a Dick

I had the privilege of doing a short and sweet guest blog over at Insane In The Mom-Brain's blog.  Which is funny as hell - her blog - not this post necessarily.  But check her out please if you haven't already, she is mad funny and I'm pleased as punch to call her my friend.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things I Love Thursday - Part 42


When my dear husband and I were wee kids dating in college, in the summer of 1995, we went mini-golfing many times, as he really enjoys it.

Nothing weird about this.  It's a giant cock and we are pretty serious about things.
 I didn't "golf" for many years while we were broken up. When we found each other again in 2007, it began anew.  The mini-golf tour of a Christopher and a Katy.

We've been golfing in the Dells, on top of a cruise ship in the Bahamas, in Door County, on Cape Cod, in Orlando, and now, as of last night at the Bunny Hutch.  I mean, LOOK at that place.  What more could you want?  Right in our own hood!  Thanks to our friend Christa celebrating her birthday there, we got to experience the retro goodness in all it's glory.  We kept saying, WHY HAVE WE NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE?  Including the last hole,  which is the FREAKING SEARS TOWER.

See where I'm touching right there?  That is where I work.  I am a GIANT KATY!
 Since our time last Summer at Door County when I wailed on my dear husband wearing platform heels, he cannot give me any shit about playing in them.  So I do.  Of course.  And last night I was only a few strokes behind him and I beat our friend C.W.  I KNOW!  Shocking!  

It's something we enjoy doing and get to be all kitschy and retro and nostalgic about it.  Suits many wants and needs all in one.  Some places even let you drink beer while you golf!  Not me, you know, but my dear husband enjoys that. 

This is the infamous score card from last Summer's smack down by Katy.  It's still on our fridge.  Thank's to DH having the MEAT SWEATS, I wooped his butt. 
 It's good, clean, all American fun, and gosh darn it, we like it!

So, shine up your 5 inch platform heels, put on a dress and let's show these boys how it's done.  We are going again with friends on Sunday.  And they have little twin boys, I'm going to teach them a thing or two about how serious this all is.  They are in for a world of hurt. 

Beware the WRONG WAY HOLE.  You know what I'm talking about.  And you're welcome. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I Know Nothing

I am a big ol' dumbass.  And that is just fine with me.  I am sober and write about that a lot.  Because I write about what I know.  What I live.  And the main and most important part of my life is sobriety.  This in no way makes me an expert.  Sobriety is something that each person has to choose.  To want.  To work for. 

It's interesting that I hear from friends and family members just as often as I hear from addicts and alcoholics who want to get sober.  This disease crushes entire families.  And chances are there are strong enablers that are writing me and guilty of keeping an addict using.  These enablers need help just as much as the sick person needs help.  That is why there are family programs.  That is why Al-Anon exists.  But most people will say, no matter how desperate they are to get the addict clean, they will not do anything differently. 

That is a problem.  If the addict has no consequences except for disappointing people, why would they change?  The enablers are just continuing the cycle as much as the addict is.  Everyone has to take responsibility for themselves, and say, "ENOUGH."  We have had enough of this bullshit and we won't watch you kill yourself.

People who love addicts want so desperately for them to change, and yet, they don't do a damn thing to change themselves.  The attitude is one of, "I'm not the problem, the user is the problem."  And to a large extent that is true. 

What I know of my own personal experience is that when I was drinking, I thought I was only hurting myself.  When in reality, I was like a bomb spreading shrapnel all around me.  And I knew no matter what, that my parents would bail me out.  Of everything.  Until they didn't.  UNTIL THEY STOPPED.  My mom was the most courageous one it turns out in that she actually took a stand and went to Al-Anon.  Did she want to? HELL NO.  Did she think that her 27 year old daughter was going to die from drinking unless something drastic happened?  Yes.  YES YES YES.  She read books and she spoke with counselors at rehabs and she prayed more than anyone has ever prayed, but mostly,  she took action in the form of helping herself figure this all out.

She wasn't going to sit idly by and watch this disease take over her entire life as it had for a few years already.  She knew she must DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY.  
Nothing else worked for me.  My mom got the courage to say, "ENOUGH. We cut you off until you make a choice to help yourself".  It led to my last year drunk when I was homeless.  And I applaud her effort every single day I am alive and sober.   She risked EVERYTHING.  She knew there was a chance I could die out there.  But she also knew they were helping to kill me by continuing to let me live the way I was living.  I needed to be DESPERATE.  And she forced that on me. 

What I see happening all the time is people so desperate to help their loved one that they become paralyzed in fear and actually make it worse by doing nothing. 

Just like I tell addicts/alcoholics to go to AA, I say to people watching someone struggle, go to Al-Anon.  Do something.  Take control of your life when you have absolutely zero control over the addicts life.  You didn't choose this.  But you can choose something differently for YOURSELF.  What have you got to lose?  Nobody wants to go to AA.  Nobody wants to go to Al-Anon.  Nobody wants to be in this situation, but you are.  So now what?

There is a need for these groups and camaraderie in order to heal.  Some people find it in church.  Some people think they don't need it at all.  And to them, I say, I wish you all the best.  I hope you find peace and happiness.  Some people don't understand why the need to go "air your dirty laundry" with a group of strangers would ever help.  I don't know why it does, but it does. Church didn't help me, but I know it helps many and I say, whatever is helping you make positive change in your life, please do it.  I just know that trying to deal with misery on your own is a losing battle.  Therapy, meetings, church groups, it all involves putting your dirty laundry out there to be lessened by a group setting.  It helps to work through all the shit.  Again, I don't know why it works, but it does.  And let's face it, we can all use the help.  I know I sure can.   I was miserable when I kept everything in and tried to FIX IT myself.  That's when I was a drunk.  I had no answers and no hope.  I had to get it all out.  My husband doesn't quite understand the whole meeting thing either, but he is so grateful for it because it helps his wife be awesome and happy. 

There are things we can ALL do to make our lives better.  It took me up against a fucking brick wall of misery and desperation to change.  I know many of you are there too.  I only know and share my story, so please don't think I am saying this is "HOW YOU DO ALL OF THIS".  I only know what happened to me.  And I am so very grateful for all of it.  Every single part of it.  For all of you struggling either yourself or with a family member, DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF.  DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY.  Please.  Please try it.  You can always go back to living the way you've been living if it's working so well. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Need a Laughing Couch

That laughter where your mascara runs down your face and you are gasping for breath and the sounds, good god the sounds you are making don't even sound human, THAT is the secret.  The inappropriate shrieking, snorting, belly laughs that you have no idea where they came from.  Those giggles that sound like a 3 year old and yet, are full of wisdom of knowing really dark shit. 

I pretty much need a fainting couch but I would call it a laughter couch.  You get the idea.  I fall on the floor from laughing a lot.  It would be a hell of a lot softer to fall on a beauty like this.....

THAT is the laughter that will keep you going through the shit.  If you don't have that laughter, you best find it and find people who make you laugh like that right quick.  It's the secret. 

It's what makes a room full of miserable undesirables be able to move on and forgive themselves for the terrible shit we've all done.  Over and over and over and we laugh our asses off when we hear horrible stories about how awful we were and then what we did to fix it.  And we laugh.  We laugh when we hear someone come in and tell our story and we shake our head with that knowing laughter that IT GETS BETTER.  It gets so much better. 

It's what makes giving shots of hormones to your wife more bearable when you see her bruises and rashes and see her tears but she's laughing through them because you two have more fun together than should ever be allowed by two consenting adults.  When your husband calls you on the phone and reduces you to snorkgiggling with just a sound he makes?  Congratulations.  You are with someone truly great for you. 

Even when you are in knee deep in the shit, you laugh.  Because you know.  You know the depths of despair and darkness and this today?  Is not it.   This is the good stuff.  Even when it's really bad, when you feel fearful of what is to come and what you don't have, you laugh.  Because you are just so damned grateful for all you DO have. 

Sometimes I post shit, and it is so cheesy, I want to slap myself.  But then I know that it's absolutely what I believe to be true, and I just say screw it.  I mean this.  I am writing and sharing this.

I've been to hell.  I know what it is to be without hope.   I'm scared of being here on earth without laughter and without love.  That is my hell today.  That is the place that takes me to drinking.  Dark and broody and angry and bitter do not suit me today.  They are my old self.  I found the light.  I work to keep that light.  It's not natural for me.  My natural state is dark and cynical.  So I dork out and I embrace my spaz dancer within.  And just like anything else, you practice enough, it becomes habit.  For this, I am responsible. For my happiness, I am responsible.  Nothing and no one else can give me what I can give myself. 

Laughter.  It's not medicine.  It's way better. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

That First Year

After 10 plus years of sobriety, it might be easy for some folks to forget where they came from.  To forget how hard that getting sober was.  To take it for granted or to think, "maybe I'm really not a drunk anymore after being sober for so long."

This is my personal 24 hour coin.  My most valuable coin even after being sober for 10 years.  I drilled the hole and carry on my key chain with me everywhere.  LOUD AND PROUD, BABY!
You all have been with me long enough and have read enough of my blog posts to know I keep my last days of drinking really close to me.  But this is about that first year after I made the decision to get sober for real.

This is only my story, and people have many different ways of how they went about getting sober.  For me, it worked and as much as I hated it at the time, it was exactly what I needed to get me where I am today. 

After I walked out of 26th and California, the toughest jail in Chicago, for the last time, I went to my last rehab center.  I stayed there for 2 months. 

I was stripped raw, literally and metaphorically, of all my defenses.  I hated my counselor because she knew my game.  She make me stop wearing my cute little outfits and doing my make up every day.  It was sweats and clean face for me.  This place had one of those ropes courses where we were "building trust" and working on "teamwork", when I look back on that part of it now, it seems fucking bat shit crazy that newly sober folks were told to get their asses way up in the air and just don't worry about your shakes and coming off of booze or drugs.  Just trust each other.  What.  the.  fuck.  Funny how I put myself in much more dangerous situations for years while drinking, and yet, THAT whole thing seems even more crazy to me.

After my counselor that I hated so much because she knew every one of my sad excuses said, "after treatment you should live in a Women's Halfway House" I said, "NO EFFING WAY."

I was real peach back then.  This woman is a saint for dealing with me.  But as we've spoken through the years, we laugh about it now because she's one of us.  She did the same bullshit with someone else who helped get her sober.

I went to live in that damn halfway house for 6 months. Because as much as I was crabby about it, I was ready to do whatever it took to get sober. In the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, with 8 other women.  Only two of us are alive and sober today.  It was the first time in my life I learned to relate to other women, openly, honestly, in a dirty and real way.  It wasn't pretty for any of us.  And we went to meetings every day.  Sometimes twice a day.  And our big outing was going to Culver's for malts.  That was it.  I learned to crochet and make 846 scarves that are all horrendously ugly.  But it kept my hands busy.  We watched old movies all the time and smoked hundreds of cigarettes, drank buckets of coffee and gorged on barrels of ice cream.  You crave the sugar when you come off booze.  All the while dealing with feelings that we had all been covering up with booze or drugs for so long, we didn't know how to express a feeling, let alone deal with it. 

We got Sponsors.  We went to AA meetings.  I wasn't allowed to talk that first year in meetings.  And as hard as that was, it helped me enormously.  What the hell did I have to say to people who were sober 20 years?  I could talk with them after the meeting, but not during the meeting.  We read the Big Book and started working the steps.  It was the first time I had ever expressed what I was really feeling to anyone.  Ever.  And didn't feel judged for it.  It was the first time in my life I felt like I belonged somewhere.  These other women, so damaged and so hurt and so angry, were my people.  They still are. 

Only today, it's different because the women I connect with are the ones that are trying so desperately to get better.  I say it all the time, I don't care who you are or what you situation is, if you are trying to better yourself, I will help you if I can.  I help others because so many have helped me.  I am responsible whenever anyone, anywhere wants to get sober. IF YOU REALLY ARE WILLING TO WORK FOR IT.  I will not do the work for you and believe me, I CAN quit you.  I am not an enabler.  The longer we make excuses or say, I hate the slogans and that's so cheesy and BARFORAMA to some of the cliches, the longer we are miserable.  I know.  I fought everything.  And I still get how cheesy it is.  But I also know it works.  Some how, some way.  I don't believe in God.  But I believe in this program and the steps and I can tolerate the rest to stay sober.  BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN ARGUING WITH IT AND BEING MISERABLE.  Call that the gift of time, because it absolutely is.  Acceptance.  Sure, people get sober without AA.  For me, this is what works to be happy and sober.  Not just dry. 

So what I say to people who want to be happy, joyous and free?  And if you are saying, "well I can't go to rehab"..... I say GO TO MEETINGS.  Rehab didn't get me sober.  Meetings did.  Work the 12 Steps.  Cut the bullshit and get real.  You have to strip away to NOTHING to build yourself back up.  If you aren't willing to do the hard work, why would anything change?   No more excuses.  It is not easy.  When I chuckle and nod my head when someone is telling me their story that they think is SO UNIQUE, it's funny because it is absolutely not unique.  I am not unique.  I am a drunk.  I see through your bullshit.  But I believe in miracles.  I am a miracle.  And I see them happen every single day in the form of people getting and staying sober.  If you are struggling, do the hard work - especially that first year.  It is your foundation.  I have today to be sober.  That's it.  Nothing more is guaranteed.  We only have today.  And what we use it for matters.  I choose to use it for good.  I hope I make the same choice tomorrow. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Things I Love Thursday - Part 41

I live in a city people come from all over the world to visit. I don't live in the suburbs and SAY I live in the city.  I live in the city, god dammit.  I pay the taxes, I live here.  When you live in the suburbs and SAY you live in the city, you are a poser.  I may live in the suburbs one day (tear), but I won't ever claim to still live in the glorious and expensive as sin city that is Chicago. 

It's an absolutely perfect day here in Chicago.  Almost 80 degrees and sunny, with no humidity.  These are the days that people who live in Chicago their whole lives dream about during the cold winter months (we used to have winters here, I swear!) and the blistering hot 95 degree days of summer where the smell of urine and rotting food flow through the alleyways and the Chicago River has a certain stink that is not quite identifiable. 

But for today, and quite a lot lately actually, it's just lovely here in my fair City.

And it is a fair city to be sure.  I need a city lifestyle like I need air.  I need to be able to take the train and not have to drive.  I hate driving.  I get nervous driving. Other people make me nervous when I'm driving next to them.  I don't know what the hell they are going to do at any given time.  I need to be able to walk as far as I can to get where I need to go.  I need to be able to see where I'm going a block away and find locations so easily because they are based on a grid and I don't have to drive 10 extra miles and back track if I miss something.  I need to be able to walk down one street and find 18 different nationalities and crazy all within arms reach.  I am pretty vanilla, where I grew up was pretty vanilla and so to be surrounded by flavor and culture is something I crave.  It's exciting and there's always something to see and someone to meet and talk to.  There's usually crazy thrown right in there, and I NEED THAT.

I get to work in a building that is known all over the world.  As much as that is annoying sometimes, it is also, pretty damn cool.  I'm honored to work here.

I just call it the Tower.  It will always be the Sears Tower to Chicagoans.  None of this Willis Tower Nonsense.  YES,  I WORK IN THAT BUILDING!  HOW COOL IS THAT?

There is water.  There is industry.  There is nature.  There is a fantastical story around every corner.  We are on top of each other all the time.  We are in each others business.  WE are responsible for each other.  We are in the Midwest so we are safe from weather and natural disasters.  Nothing terrible weather wise happens in the city the way it does on the coasts. 

One of our friends gave us this poster as a gift.  It's in our kitchen now.  He said they reminded him of Chris and I.  I just love the "beautiful churches".

My parents were in town last weekend and we went to the Chicago History Museum.  Which was really freaking cool.  There is so much history here.  Some good, some bad.  Some damn crazy.  We have politicians that make headlines constantly.  We have a great public transportation service.  We also have the lake shore, the skyline and terrible sports teams.  We have epic AA here.  I am so blessed to live somewhere with so many great meetings at all times.  We have music and theatre and great food of every kind, if you are so inclined and courageous. 

I love my city.  Some day I have a feeling I won't be living in Chicago proper anymore and I will look back on all these years living here with bittersweet affection.  But I am not waiting for that day, I am damn lucky to be living here now, TODAY, and don't take it for granted for one second.  To live somewhere I love, and appreciate, and don't find myself saying, "I need to get out of here".....that's pretty damn great.  That's the Thing I Love this Thursday.

And you don't ever want to miss this gem either, buckle up!  It's the Lake Shore Drive song!

Oh and one more thing, please don't call my fair city Chi-town.  It hurts everybody's feelings.  I'm just here to help.  Just call it Chicago. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sour Lemons Aren't That Bad

I felt it when I woke up.  Before the alarm went off, before the kitties were crying at the door, before the little girl above us was running her laps and doing her clogging routine in her parents bedroom, I felt it.  The ominous gloom and doom feeling.  As I lay there going through my checklist of ARE YOU OK?   Is something wrong with you physically?  ARE YOU SOBER? Did you just have a bad dream? Is Chris OK next to you, are you harmed in some way?  The immediate answers are all clear, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG. 

Here's the thing with having a great attitude about life.  Sometimes nothing is wrong and you feel like shit.  Not physically.  Just that general lousy feeling.  And there is no explanation for it.  There doesn't need to be.  It just is.  SO WHAT?  We have all been there, and I for one, know it will pass.  Usually quickly.  I just need to reset the clock internally and START OVER.

It's really simple.  There's nothing that needs to specifically be done. All of my needs and hell, all of my wants are taken care of. 

It's only my weirdo cruddy cunning attitude that needs an adjustment.  It's part of being mentally healthy with no drugs or alcohol involved.  No crutches.  It means I AM RESPONSIBLE.  I've had too many shitty days to not learn from them.  I've learned I do have some control over how I feel. 

And today, at 9:35am on a Tuesday in Chicago, I am STARTING THIS MOTHERLOVING DAY OVER. 

You know me, I will make lemonade outta sour lemons, but I also happen to love the sour lemons as they are all ingredients in the end result of sweet happiness.  Would you care for some?

And just like that, it's passed.