Sobriety in AA

Recently I came across a well-meaning blog post from someone who wishes to explain AA to readers who feel they may have a problem with alcohol. As a sober member of AA for the past 8 years, I feel compelled to write about my experience, as there was some misinformation on this particular blog, and I almost posted a comment, until I realized I’d need to include my name and email address. My email address has my full name in it, and I wish to remain anonymous in this blog (partly because of my AA membership, but mostly due to the personal nature of what I write), so I didn’t post a comment. Instead I’m posting my own blog with my experience (even though I have less than 200 readers and about 10 views per day on any given day, which kinda bums me out tbh, but that’s for another day… and even if I help only one person, then I’ll have done my job).

Here’s what I can tell you about AA: the best way to find out what it’s like is to go to meetings. I recommend trying more than just one meeting, because from my experience, some of the meetings I went to, especially when I was new, were just weird. I’ve always preferred women’s meetings where I feel most comfortable talking, but you have to decide what’s most comfortable for you.

No one could’ve told me what AA was like any more than anyone can explain to me what it’s like to ride a bicycle. You can explain it to me, but I don’t know until I do it myself.

I also don’t think AA is the end-all be-all. It’s not the solution for everyone, and there are problems with it, as with anything. Nothing is perfect. But it has changed my life for the better, that’s for sure. Whatever you do, it’s my opinion that what works best is finding another solution for life’s problems, along with having friends who are on a similar path of living a positive way of life.

That’s all I really have to say about that. I want to write more, as I’ve been in a funk lately, but I need to get ready for work. This funk I’ve been in is due to my anxiety about my professional future as well as the whole dating thing. Dating takes a lot of work, and online dating makes it almost impossible to really know what a person is like. I’d rather not date someone from AA because I go to meetings for support, and plus there are all kinds of problems with dating in AA that I can write about later. There are positives too, though. So… with that being said, more later.

To be continued. 🙂

Peace, love, hugs, etc.

TCH

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Five days ago I celebrated eight years of sobriety. If I’d known eight years ago that my life—more importantly my outlook—could change so dramatically I wouldn’t have believed you. That being said, I’ve been feeling down lately. A lot of different things have been going on, and even before all this happened I was feeling blah for no discernible reason. Last night after class I wanted to cry, and I wanted to cry again when my friend Kevin came over and joked about how long dinner was taking me to cook. Let me rephrase that: I didn’t want to cry so I held it in. Not healthy but I just didn’t feel like it, not in front of anyone.

Class yesterday left me with an old feeling of deep-rooted insignificance. Invisibility, without a voice, unimportant, unheard, silenced. It probably wasn’t my classmates’ intention—certainly it wasn’t Rochelle’s, because she’s the sweetest, most compassionate student in the class, and I don’t know the other guy in my group very well but he seems nice—yet I felt… swept aside. We had to do a case study together on a guy who sounded just like my dad, so I felt like I knew just what to do with this guy. My group had a different, more extreme approach, so my suggestion was outvoted. I just don’t think you can take a person who’s used to eating Philly cheesesteaks every day and tell him he can no longer eat any bread, sugar, fast food, or processed and refined or packaged foods on Day One. The person they described is a heavy drinker with type 2 diabetes. Yet when I suggested abstinence for the client’s third month, the guy in my group was like, Whoa there. Let the guy have his drink. He’s human. The health problems that this guy had, and the effect of alcohol on someone with diabetes—it’s just dangerous. And the way in which this client drinks coupled with the fact that he has a family history of alcoholism suggests he’s a problem drinker, possibly an alcoholic himself. As medical professionals we have a responsibility to tell someone their drinking is dangerous to their health, and that if they’re having trouble drinking they should consider treatment. It pisses me off when students gloss over someone’s drinking because of how acceptable—and not only acceptable but encouraged—drinking is in this country. To have one or two drinks is one thing, but when a person drinks so much their judgment is impaired and they’re causing damage to their health, taking dangerous actions, driving drunk, destroying relationships… Ugh! I just want to scream! I know. I have been that person.

But it’s such a touchy subject, especially as someone in AA. It’s not my job to preach to the world about how they should all be abstinent. For one, most people don’t need to quit entirely. For another, most people—especially those who have a problem—don’t want to quit. But would you tell someone who’s a hundred pounds overweight with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar that it’s okay for them to continue eating fast food? Would you tell someone who’s allergic to bees that it’s okay if they stand next to a beehive as long as they only do it once a day?

The thing is, if a person has a problem, they’ll quit when they’re ready. No one can make them quit. To harass that person about it won’t help, and in fact can cause more damage. But what you can do, as a medical practitioner is inform them that their drinking habits are unhealthy, dangerous even, and suggest that they cut back, and if they can’t cut back, then suggest that they consider treatment. Then it’s up to them to decide what to do with it. And if you’re a friend or a family member of someone who drinks too much, let them know you’re worried about them and suggest they try cutting back, and if they can’t but want to, then suggest treatment. If they don’t want to, that’s on them.

Enough on that soapbox! Thanks for letting me share. Lol.

The thing is, I felt ignored yesterday. I suggested what I wanted to do for a diet plan with this client, and my classmates were like, Well this is what we’re gonna do. It touched a nerve, because the one guy in my group was informed about what deficiencies the client had based on his symptoms, rattled off something about the different metabolic pathways, remembered a bunch of science-y stuff from biochemistry, and my fear is that I won’t retain this information nor will I remember it if I do.

love-yourself

The day before I’d gone on a date with a guy working on his PhD in molecular biology working on cancer research. I didn’t understood much of what he said when he discussed his work, and when I’d mentioned a few things about nutrition, he replied with his point of view as if they were facts, as if he’s the one not just studying nutrition, but having already studied it and become the expert. He mentioned he’d been commissioned as an officer, and I had no idea what that meant. Turns out he’s in the Commission Corps, which I didn’t know existed. All of it left me feeling small, stupid. Apart from his work he didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, and afterwards he sent me a text telling me I’m beautiful and sexy, and has since sent me several texts referring in some way to sex. He’s 33 years old and told me he likes older women because they’re better in bed. I told him the same is true of older men.

I’ve decided not to reply any more to him or the guy I had a date with after class yesterday. That guy was nice but something about him came off as inauthentic. He was almost too nice. His mom died about 10 years ago of cancer, and the conversation about our mothers’ deaths didn’t go in a way that felt right to me. In other words, I am following my gut feeling and leaving these two guys alone.

self-worth

Ditto for the guy I had a phone conversation with last week. I also met him through Match, and he was funny, but I just had this gut feeling something wasn’t right. He seemed like someone I’d have drank with back in the day. And that’s a red flag.

A couple of weeks ago my closest guy friend “in AA,” Spencer, decided he couldn’t talk to me anymore because he wants more than a friendship. I use “in AA” in quotes because he doesn’t really practice the program or go to meetings that much, and although I’m bummed, it’s a relief too. For one, it’s difficult to try to be a flotation device for someone who’s drowning, particularly when you aren’t the best swimmer yourself. And another, maybe it’s just not right to be friends with someone who wants more. This was one reason I didn’t have close male friends before Spencer and my other friend Kevin. Kevin also wants more, but says he’s okay with just being friends. I don’t want to cut off the friendship because he’s a good friend but at the same time, am I doing him a disservice? If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t even hang around a guy who I liked for more who didn’t reciprocate the feeling. This is why it’s best for us girls to just stick together.

Kevin hurt my feelings last night, joking about how long it was taking me to cook dinner, as we often do with each other. We always joke in that mean sort of way, like the characters on “It’s Always Sunny,” or my dad and his friends, insulting each other, and while this wouldn’t work with my female friends, or maybe it would now depending on what and how it was done, it’s hilarious to us. Until last night when I thought he was for real. I was already feeling sensitive, wanting to cry, but I didn’t want to cry in front of him because I just didn’t feel like going there. The problem with that is this is how you develop closer friendships. By opening up and letting yourself be vulnerable. I don’t know if that’s a good idea with Kevin given that he’s interested in dating me, so I’ll let myself off the hook.

Another mental note I made for myself was the two times I went out with the two aforementioned guys, I was in an awkward position of saying yes because it’s my default reaction to be a people-pleaser. The PhD guy asked at the end of the date if we could go out again and I just said yes. How does one say no in that situation? Then the second guy asked if I wanted to continue the coffee date by going somewhere else to eat, and I said yes even though I didn’t want to. I decided if these kind of situations come up again I’ll say, “I really had a good time but I’d like to talk to you on the phone a couple more times first,” or “I have other plans,” or “I’ll be in rehab for the next year,” etc. Anything. I could tell the guy I’m alcoholic and I’m twice divorced. That I have explosive diarrhea and need to go home immediately. Lessons to be learned, my friends. Note to self: be prepared to say no.

do-i-like-them

To top it all off, as soon as this semester ends I’ll be flying to Georgia to take my 95-year-old whippersnapper of a grandmother to Albuquerque to see my sister and her kids. Y’all, this trip is gonna be like an updated version of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (by Flannery O’Connor) except hopefully no shooters (didn’t the Misfit have a gun?). Hence, I am stressing.

Also, my ex-husband texted to say he’s in DC this week for work and wanted to know if I wanted to hook up with him. Lord help us all. There’s a man out there who I will love and who also loves me for me and doesn’t think of me as a good piece of ass. I just haven’t met him yet.

make-ourselves-strong

St. Patrick’s Day has had me thinking about the last time I drank, in Savannah with my second husband and his parents, when I got so drunk I felt like I’d die the next day. I’m so glad those days are behind me.

Off to work now but first I want to say that I’m grateful for the life I have today. I’m glad to be sober, to be dating, to be attractive to guys, to be able to choose, to have an opportunity to take my grandma to New Mexico.

Peace and love,

TCH

You Don’t Have to Suffer

One of my friends relapsed, and it’s really gotten me to thinking.

The thing is, she’d had 12 years of sobriety at one time, slipped a few years ago, and hasn’t been able to stay sober since then. She’s back in recovery, had never really gone out completely—she’d been drinking on the sly after meetings starting a few weeks ago.

When these things happen, as they often do for those of us in the recovery community, it drives home how serious the disease of alcoholism/addiction really is. It’s easy to forget when life gets good. My life has been wonderful lately, and I feel invincible, like it will never happen to me, but then I meet someone who had decades of sobriety and got drunk again, or, more commonly, started taking prescription painkillers or opiates.

Some people in the community are dead-set against prescriptions of any kind, whereas I’m like, You mean you’re going to cut into my eyeballs? And this anesthesia is NOT going to put me to sleep? Give me the strongest thing you got, and double it. That really happened to me, btw, when I had eye surgery a few years ago. Now, I’m not saying I’ll down a bottle of Nyquil or Robotussin when I get sick—that would be a big no-no, and I don’t believe in those particular OTCs anyway—but I’m not above taking antidepressants, for example, as prescribed, when and if the situation calls for it.

Many of us who are alcoholic suffer from depression, and while I don’t know if it’s the chicken or the egg that came first, the point is that neither one helps the other, and I believe we really do not have to suffer. After my mom died and then Steven left me, I lost my motivation for life, and I just could not take the pain. My threshold for pain has become much lower in sobriety. The shit I’d suffer through when I was drinking is unacceptable to me now. It took me years to even make a decision to become sober, although for years I told myself I would do it, that I had to do it.

My ex-husband from the first marriage, the one in which I caused a lot of damage from my drinking, is visiting DC next month and has asked if I want to meet up. At first I said sure, and thought of how good I’d look, showing him how sober and stable and rational I am now. Now I don’t even care about that anymore. Who cares what he thinks? I’ve made my amends and honestly have no interest in seeing him or even talking to him again. Also, he hinted that he wants to basically hook up with me, and I am SO not interested in that today. With him, I mean. The guy I recently met on Match… well, that’s another story I’ll tell you about in another blog post, but I’ll give you the short version now: HOT.

Plus I think the whole idea of it has been triggering memories I don’t care to re-visit. All we did was go out to dinner and drink pitchers of margaritas or bottles of wine, and eventually I’d get wasted and make an ass out of myself. It was hard to look at myself in the mirror, knowing I was living a lie, that I hated everything about my life, and I felt like such a fraud.

A fraud. No feeling is more empty to me than knowing in my heart that I’m not being true to myself, or to anyone else. My friend Cathy who’d relapsed described herself as feeling exactly like that: a fraud. She’d go to meetings, pretend to be sober, then go home and drink. I had no idea. Just like my friend who’d committed suicide a few years ago. She seemed fine. In both cases, I’d noticed a slight pulling back, but I thought that they were just busy.

A friend of a friend recently committed suicide, also someone who’d started drinking again. Suicide seems to be the way most of us die, from what I’ve seen from my almost eight years of life in the recovery community so far. Which means their deaths don’t get reported as being alcohol-related, and we in this country don’t take alcoholism seriously enough. The thing is, I bet most of the crimes that get committed wouldn’t have happened if the offender hadn’t been drunk or high at the time. And also, many of us—probably most of us—have other problems, like my friend who died. She had bipolar disorder, and had taken it upon herself to stop taking her medication, because the message she got from her group was that no mind-altering drugs of any kind should ever be taken, including antidepressants. This is one of my big problems with AA.

I have a few other problems with AA, but I’m not leaving. And I’ll tell you why: AA is the only place where I’ve ever felt like I belonged. It’s the only place where you can go anywhere in the country, and just about anywhere outside of the country, and find a safe haven full of welcoming people who are there for you, and they’re not bullshitting. They really have been there for me. I’ve watched elderly people die sober in this program, and they died happy, surrounded by a loving and supportive community of people who would pick them up and take them to meetings, who’d check on them, visit them in the hospital, etc. As a single woman with no kids, that sure looks better than growing old alone. Plus, I’m an extroverted introvert, and I like having friends.

So the problems I have with AA pale in comparison to what AA has done for me, which is that it saved my life. Truly. I would’ve committed suicide by now otherwise; I’d tried before, years ago, when my drinking was starting to get really bad.

Anyway, back to Cathy. She’s a career changer like me, living with her parents for now while she’s in the process, she’s single, and she’s about 55. Her son struggles with opiate addiction, lives on the other side of the country, with her baby granddaughter. If I had a kid, how do I know they wouldn’t become an addict too? Alcoholism/addiction runs rampant in my family on both sides.

So all these thoughts are swirling around in my head, these are the things that are happening around me right now, and I’m not exactly a model member of AA these days. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking, but if I want to live a life of serenity, it’s important that I maintain a spiritual way of life. School and work keep me busy, and I’ve gotten back on Match—though I will say I don’t spend nearly as much time or put as much hope into it this time. I just want a lover and a friend, and if that happens, great. If not, I’ll just take a lover. I already have friends, thank you. Is that horrible?

These days, in the morning when I wake up I thank my lucky stars, which I call God, for my life, and at night when I go to bed, I thank God (aka a higher power, a power greater than myself) again. This life that I live today, I love it. In many ways I don’t ever want it to end, except that I want my own place. But graduating and going back into the real world to be in an actual career, this time of my own choosing of which I have limited experience and of which I have no idea if it will work or how it will work, and meanwhile my student loans will be due… it’s daunting. Two of my friends are going through it now, and it’s scary. Luckily I still have two years of living life almost like a kid, living off my student loans, limited responsibilities…

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m planning to taper off my antidepressant in favor of Chinese herbs to see how it works, although the tea makes me feel nauseous and costs more than my prescription. And the last time I tapered off I had two days of severe depression. Some say the antidepressant does that because it becomes addictive, and maybe that’s true. I want to do whatever’s healthiest for me–unless it means I have to be depressed, LOL. If I have to take antidepressants for the rest of my life to avoid the emotional hell I used to live in, I absolutely will.

In the meantime I’ll call my sponsor today, go to a meeting tonight, pray to my higher power which I call God, reach out to Cathy and another new friend struggling with sobriety. This really is all just one day at a time. Everything. When I start to worry about the rest of my life and what my future holds, this is what I ask myself: What do I have to do today? What can I do in this moment that will be the next right action to take? What would be the wise, healthy thing to do? Right now, for me, it’s to go back to sleep, wake up and go to breakfast with one of my favorite friends Kevin who makes me laugh so hard, then go discount shopping with another favorite friend Kathleen. It’s my day off, and I plan to enjoy it. I want to call my sisters today too. And I should probably go to the gym, but um, yeah, that’s not gonna happen today. You can only do so much in a day, my friends.

If you feel down, call someone for help. Even if it’s the suicide hotline. This life is all that we know. Why not make the best of it? You deserve to be happy. Instead of telling yourself all the reasons why something good can’t happen to you, ask yourself why not. In the meantime…

no-one

The above image was taken from hubpages.com via Pinterest.

 

Dreams

Last night I dreamt I was in the passenger’s side of a car while one of my friends (and co-worker) drove me to my boyfriend’s house. Instead of pulling into his driveway she drove past to another house, which was a surprise to me, but it turned out that the other house was her old house that had foreclosed. She went to take some of her cat food that she needed for her cat, because she had none at home, and the new homeowner came out to tell her to leave. She explained that it was her old house, and straightened up some of her things before we left.

I like to interpret my dreams because I believe the subconscious mind has knowledge of what’s going on in our lives that our conscious mind takes longer to comprehend or acknowledge, and I’ve read that the other people in our dreams represent a part of ourselves. Interpreting my dream is like analyzing a short story. One can interpret the dream by looking for symbols and connections in them just like one would do for a piece of literature in a high school or college literature class. In this dream someone else is in control (driving) and that someone else is a person who I think of as ambitious and academic, who recently got a good job at a university, but who in the past drank too excess which caused her problems in life, and who, in her opinion, has gotten a late start in her career. She’s very smart, and she’s also committed to her sobriety. In the dream, as in life, she lost everything (foreclosed home), but she can’t move on because she goes back to visit her house that really isn’t hers anymore to get some food for her cat because she’s financially destitute and she needs food to take care of her pet. She is the one who’s driving me to my boyfriend’s house, a place of love and safety, which is where I want to go but she insists on taking me back to the past instead. The entire situation took place in the neighborhood where I grew up, which is a frequent backdrop of my dreams, and possibly means I can’t get over childhood issues.

I’m not sure how to move on. I received an email from a recruiter for a job that pays significantly less than my former job but almost twice what I get paid now, and it’s for writing, so I jumped on it. Part of me had become resigned while the other part of me was still fighting. Surrender apparently is the best place to be, in spite of the American ideal that we’re supposed to fight to survive, railroad everything and everyone to win at this game of life. Surrender is when we tell our higher power, which I call God, that I give up, and I don’t know what’s best for me anymore. It doesn’t mean I stop applying to jobs, but I let go of the idea of what I think the outcome is supposed to be. In my mind I should get a job writing or doing something I enjoy and I should make a lot of money doing that, or at least enough money to pay my bills and have a little extra left over. For the past year that has not happened for me, so apparently God has other ideas, presumably because there are other lessons for me to learn right now.

So what is the fucking lesson?

Because to me it seems to be that I don’t get what I want in this life. I don’t get what I want, but I get what I need. Do I just stop wanting more? Do I stop trying for more? Do I just work in the grocery store for the rest of my life? I hope I have more to contribute to society than that but maybe that’s not what God wants for me. I am not special or unique. Lots of grocery store workers have much more to offer the world than stocking grocery store shelves and they don’t get that opportunity. Maybe I just need to focus on more spiritual growth. I’ve volunteered for an event Tuesday, and I plan to do more in that area, so we’ll see how that goes. I still don’t see how that will pay my bills.

I don’t feel hopeful today. Mostly I feel resigned. Disappointed. Even if I got a “good job,” I don’t think I’d be able to do it well, so it’s fair to say that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’m too emotional on any given day to be able to separate my personal life from my work life. A customer might find me in the bathroom crying (that happened) or a co-worker might find me in the cooler crying, or out in the open, behind the customer service counter cutting up boxes to be recycled while crying. Because my life has gotten so far from where I think it should be that I don’t know what to do anymore, and I have no idea what direction my life is taking. I may actually go through with school and become a nutritionist, or I may borrow a bunch of money and fail at that too. I want so badly for someone to come and save me, but no human power can do that. No person can be relied upon to do that, and that makes me incredibly sad, in spite of the fact that I know it’s impossible even if that person wanted to, even if they tried. I feel so terribly lost.

I’ve posted this song before but it seems so fitting, again, right now.

Finding Joy

Before I got sober I thought that I’d have to lock myself in my house to keep myself from going to the liquor store or the bar, and that I’d never have fun again. Lots of TV-watching, maybe an occasional board game with friends I didn’t have at the time but would get one day, probably through whatever boyfriend I had, and possibly an outing to the local bowling alley. Lame.

But when I got sober I found a young people’s group who actually goes out and does things. Fun things. Camping trips, beach trips, amusement parks, events, dinners, dances. The idea of doing all these things sober—and having fun—blew my mind. A part of me felt like maybe it was fun for all of them, who were mostly in their 20s while I was 35, who were extroverted while I was introverted, who were happy while I was not, who liked popular music while I liked indie, who were this while I was that—well they could have fun but I was incapable because maybe I’m just a boring person.

One of my first sober events was a formal dance, when I had only a week sober. I didn’t go on purpose; a woman I’d met had invited me, telling me it was a dinner, and then at the last minute mentioned I should wear a formal dress. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gone. And it seemed so lame at the time, like a wedding or a prom without alcohol. It was in a hotel and everyone was dressed up, and people danced. When I drank I loved dancing, but the thought of dancing sober terrified me. I didn’t even like leaving the house without drinking. I sure as hell didn’t want to talk to anyone without alcohol and no way could I actually move my body, uninhibited, in front of the world without some social lubricant to release those fears, some liquid courage. Luckily lots of women there were nice to me, and they talked to me, which made me feel comfortable. And I didn’t dance that night, or any other nights after that for a good four years.

Then my husband and I split up, and I decided I’d try getting out more. I tried another dance, and something amazing happened. I had fun. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought because this is what I enjoy doing, and I can either lament the fact that I’m too afraid to do something that gives me joy, or I can just push through the self-consciousness and move with the music. The funny thing is that it turns out just about everyone feels the same as I do. Since that time I’ve had dozens of conversations about how self-conscious everyone else feels, how weird it is in the beginning to dance without drinking, to be at an event without alcohol. Almost everyone feels like they’re not a good-enough dancer, or that they look funny.

Last night I went to a 90s-themed dance, which is really my decade, because I started high school in 1990 and graduated college in 1999 (I was on the five-year plan in which I took a year off to focus full time on partying). Although I’m almost 39 now I still have fun dancing, because dancing knows no age limit. Last night was even more fun than usual, because although I still love to dance, I still get in my head about who’s dancing with whom, why no one dances with me, whether or not I look funny, how half the people there were born in the 90s yet know all the words to “Santeria” by Sublime when I don’t because I was a music snob from early on and Sublime just wasn’t “underground” enough for this Smiths-loving, PJ Harvey-worshipping, brooding artsy persona I’d created for myself (which clearly served me well, isolating myself from everyone so I could feel superior), when really I like Sublime just as much as everyone else. But last night was different because I just allowed myself to dance wherever with whomever and not let the high-school worries of how that group over there looks more fun than this group I’m in, because I have the grass-is-greener syndrome and no matter where I go I have this old idea that something’s better somewhere else.

I’m grateful that I’ve made the decision—or really, the decision has been made for me—to stay in Maryland and allow the roots that have taken hold to ground me here in this place where I’ve found a home and my chosen family, a network of women and some men who have shown me how to live. Because I’ll still be here, wherever I choose to dance. I’ll still be me. No amount of worrying about how much more fun or easier it will be if I dance across the room with a different group of people will make anything better for me—in fact, I feel worse when I spend my time focusing on what I don’t have here and now. Because the joy can be found right here and now, inside of me.