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

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.

 

Freedom and Self-Love on Valentine’s Day

This article from the New York Times jumped out at me this morning when I logged onto my laptop: For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person. Stephanie Coontz writes, “Many of the problems experienced by divorced and widowed people may result not so much from the end of their marriage as from having relied too much on their spouse and thus failing to maintain social networks and the skills of self-reliance.” Amen to that, sister.

Last night my friend Kate invited me out, saying sometimes a group gets together to go bowling, and also there’s a girls’ night out on Fridays once a month. I’d been invited to the girls’ night already, so I’m excited about that. Mixed feelings about both because there’s a back story to both situations, but overall I feel glad to be single because when I’m in a relationship I feel like I can’t participate in these kinds of outings. Or if I do, it’s not as much fun. Never have I been in a social circle that included the guy I was dating, because I don’t typically date guys in AA, which is where I make all my friends. Kate told me last night she doesn’t want to be in a relationship; she’d much rather have her freedom and have friends. She looked at me and said, “You don’t seem to broken up about Mark.”

Spencer had said the same thing, and I must admit it’s true. My life has been far less stressful without driving 30 minutes to Mark’s house, packing and unpacking my stuff, skipping meetings or missing outings because I’m with him, etc. I told Kate I wish that he and I could’ve kept the sex part lol, and she said something like I needed a much more low maintenance sex partner (lol). I do want a companion, more than just a sex partner, but what I also want is someone I can share a social circle with, but who has their own friends, and doesn’t become possessive of my time, who’s okay with me having my own friends.

So here’s the backstory to the social situation I referred to earlier. One of the girls in the group is someone I sponsored but who decided she wanted another sponsor because she felt like she didn’t see me enough. She’s younger, about 28, and ended up asking someone else to be her sponsor, a bossy woman in her late 50s. Apparently both of them are part of the group that goes out, so it’s mildly awkward. I can’t help but feel rejected by Brooklyn, the girl I’d sponsored, and I’ve just never liked her new sponsor. And Brooklyn started dating this creepy older guy who has about 25 kids, a guy I’ll call Jake, who’d sent me a like via Match a while back which I ignored. Dude is twice Brooklyn’s age, and he has so many kids, including little ones. He’s not attractive in the least; he looks like an unattractive woman. Brooklyn on the other hand is new to AA, pretty, young, and she has whole life ahead of her. It’s just creepy. None of my business, but still. I can’t help but think if I were her sponsor I’d be giving her better guidance, I hope, than that bossy Bianca. For one, I’ve been there before. I’ve dated creepy guys not worth my time because I was so insecure I loved the attention and didn’t think I’d get it anywhere else. That’s experience I could’ve shared with her, and she could do what she wanted with that information, but it would be a seed, I hope. I suppose I still can share this with her if the opportunity comes up. Bianca’s the kind of person who will have an opinion and will probably give it. She seems like someone who tells you what to do, and maybe Brooklyn likes that. But it wouldn’t work for me.

It’s none of my business but that’s what goes through my head. At the root of all this is me feeling rejected because Brooklyn left me for another sponsor (as if she was my girlfriend lol), when I felt like we had a good relationship. I was always available for her, we met frequently, we’d gotten to her 7th step already. The only thing was we didn’t see each other at meetings often because I was usually with Mark instead. She didn’t know that but probably guessed, so I feel judged, like she and everyone else thinks Bianca is somehow a better person than me. As if somehow I’ve failed at sobriety, lol, which is ridiculous because I’m still sober, and I still practice doing the right thing in all my life situations. Anyone who can’t see that chooses not to see it, and it doesn’t matter anyway because I know who I am and what I do. What I forget is that Brooklyn’s decision to fire me and get someone else has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her. Sometimes when people do that it’s because they feel like they’re not working a good program and they want to blame it on their sponsor. That’s why I changed sponsors so many times during my first four years of sobriety. Whatever the case, I must remember not to take it personally. And who knows? Maybe the guy’s not really a creep; I don’t really know him… Btw, I’m coming up on eight years now! What a blessing and a miracle that is.

Anyway, the other awkward situation is that the group of friends who go out bowling sometimes includes the guy I’d dated briefly (Jay) who went back to his girlfriend (Yvonne), a couple I refer to as Jayvonne, and Kate wanted to know if I’d be okay with them being there. Honestly, I don’t really mind, and would love to go out with the group; it’s only mildly uncomfortable when Jayvonne is there because I feel bad for having slept with him when they were separated. No one, including them, knew they’d get back together, so it’s not like there was infidelity, but if the tables were turned I wouldn’t like having the other woman around. Kate doesn’t think she’d mind, and he doesn’t care and probably likes it because he’s a guy, and he probably feels like a rooster. Anyway, I’ll probably go out with the group soon. That whole situation is just a lesson learned not to sleep with guys in the group. Or anyone else for that matter.

Both of those situations, and my recent break-up with Mark could leave me feeling rejected—and I do, especially with the sponsorship situation. I mean, I hate rejection, no matter what form it takes. But these situations also make me glad to be single. Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I actually feel grateful to be single, to have my freedom, to do whatever I want with my time. I’m glad not to be in Brooklyn’s or Yvonne’s shoes. I’m grateful to be enjoying school this semester. My room and bathroom have never been cleaner and more organized, which I’ve been able to maintain because I’m actually home now, so my space has become a haven. I have a warm home, a fun job with supportive co-workers, friends and a social network in sobriety, and sobriety itself. If you’d told me 10 or 20 years ago this is where I’d be today and I’d be happy, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here I am.

I hope everyone can find this kind of peace and gratitude. You just never know where you’ll find yourself. I know a lot of people who are suffering, and I can relate. I’ve been there. For SO long. Years. But if you believe good things are just around the corner, that good things are here already, you just have to open your eyes to them—life gets better. It really does.

May you find peace, happiness, and self-love.

Here’s a song (a cover of Meghan Trainor’s song “He’s No Good for You” by someone named Eliza) I’d like to dedicate to Brooklyn, and all the girls out there who are dating creepy guys who don’t deserve their time, because they want to fill a void that really only a higher power and self-love can fill… Girl, I’ve been there before, and I hope never to go back.

Love,

TCH

Men and Relationships: My Favorite Addiction

This is the time of my life in which I’m single. I hope. I can’t make any promises, y’all, because you know how I am. The first good-looking, interesting guy who catches my attention I’ll be imagining how we’ll live together. Men are like a drug to me; relationships are an addiction for me. If Mark texted me today to see if I wanted to get together, you better believe I’ll be there. I’ll say it’s better this way, I can live my life and he can live his, we don’t have to get married, we’ll just see each other on occasion…

But if I play the tape the whole way through, as they tell us in recovery to do, it doesn’t end well. It can go one of two ways. Either he comes back to me or he doesn’t. Let’s say I get what I want. Guess what? I won’t want it anymore. Oh I’ll play the game for a while, years even. We may even get married. And then I start feeling trapped. You mean I have to stay with this guy for the rest of my life? Eventually someone appears on the fringes who seems much better, who I have much more in common with, who I wish I was married to instead. Secretly I’ll pine over that guy, or I’ll create some persona of who I think that guy is, and I’ll feel like a fraud, living a double life, knowing in my bones and in my heart I don’t want to be married to this guy anymore, pretending that I do. Wishing I was single. Free.

How about being grateful for what I have today?

Yesterday I woke up so grateful not to have the flu, which has been going around, literally killing people. At work our immune support section looks post-apocalyptic, empty, signs up that the manufacturer is out of stock. I’ve been taking so many supplements I don’t even need to eat food (JUST KIDDING—everyone needs to eat food, y’all, and that whole breathatarian bullshit is a dangerous lie). But I’ve been taking a lot of herbs and vitamins, and washing my hands like a mad woman. I’d gone home the night before not feeling great, paranoid and convinced I’d wake up with the flu.

But then I woke up feeling SO happy, and so grateful to be well. That’s a blessing that not everyone gets. For example, one of my friends has rheumatoid arthritis which has no cure and causes her so much pain she can’t work. And I’m over here worrying about my silly boyfriends? I mean, come on. Now’s the time I can embrace this moment.

Last night I went to a women’s meeting, which I love because rarely does anyone talk about drinking, which I don’t care to talk about so much anymore. Even though I’m an alcoholic, drinking is just not something I think about very often anymore (which is a miracle because for 20 years the obsession dominated my life). In March I’ll have eight years of sobriety, and I thank God for that.

At this women’s meeting I go to we usually talk more about what’s going on in our lives today and how to live a spiritual life, how to find peace and gratitude without using alcohol or drugs to escape. It was so nice to be in a room full of supportive women talking about our lives and how to live better. We all laughed a lot, and I got them laughing too which always makes me happy, and a few women came up to me afterwards to chat. It’s so comforting and welcoming. A few of us even talked about the culture we live in, the families we grew up in, how we’ve grown up with low self-esteem as a result of being taught that getting married (and to marry well) is a sign of success, or that we’re not as smart as men, or just not smart enough or good enough.

When I was in Georgia visiting my dad, he asked me what he often asks when we see each other, which is why my oldest sister and I don’t have good jobs. He couldn’t understand her especially because she has such a high IQ. I’m his dumb, pretty daughter, so I guess it makes more sense for me, and plus I still have a chance to get rescued by a husband. (That last sentence was meant facetiously; I feel like it makes the writing worse if I have to explain that but I would rather have y’all understand me.) I explained to him that Sherry had a good job as a director at an animal sanctuary, and now she’s searching for something new, and we’re happy anyway. Then I tried something new and I asked him, out of curiosity, “Are you disappointed in us?”

That surprised him. He said that he was just baffled, because he’d gotten a job out of college on the air force base working as a chemist, got promoted several times, and retired with a pension. Today is a different day, I explained. If we could have that, or if I could, I’d take it (IF I liked the job, which I probably wouldn’t, lol, but no need to tell him that part). I asked him what was it that makes Tracy, my other sister, better than us? She didn’t work for many years. She got married and raised kids (and she’s an excellent mother and has done a great job, btw, so I’m not knocking stay-at-home moms).

“Well, that’s something,” he replied.

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’d had a good head on my shoulders like Tracy has always had, I’d have found a good man as she did when I was younger, and maybe I’d have had kids (but knowing me, probably not). I’d love to not work, and have free time to do something fun or rewarding such as volunteer work or taking a painting class. And it’s not that I can’t do those things now, but my time is limited right now while I’m in school. And I’m not saying that’s how she spends her time because it isn’t—she’s actively involved in her kids’ lives which takes a lot of work and time, which I couldn’t have done when I was younger, given my alcoholism. To prepare a little human being to become a good, responsible adult is a huge task I don’t think I could undertake. She also got a part time job and has been working to get her CPA. So it’s not like she does nothing; that’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is, when have I ever gotten credit for my independence?

All through college I didn’t ask my parents for money, I took out student loans, I worked part-time. I got married and paid half of the mortgage and bills (my ex-husband did buy my alcohol and food which was ridiculously expensive so I’m not saying I was a saint). The second time I married I paid half the bills, maybe more. I told my dad this, just the part about the husbands and paying half, and he said, “Well they should’ve paid more.”

That’s not the point. The point is I did this all on my own. And am still doing it on my own, working while in grad school. And no one gives a shit.

And honestly, why should they? This is my life, not theirs. And am I going to be on my deathbed one day feeling glad I paid for all of my stuff? Will people be at my funeral talking about how financially independent I was? God, I would hope that wouldn’t be the most important thing anyone could say about me. I just wanted my dad’s approval, is all.

He must’ve thought about it, because lately he’s been sending my sister and me emails talking about how much I helped him with nutrition advice, that I gave good advice that his doctor corroborated. He really is sweet—he’s become much sweeter lately, since he quit drinking a year ago. He’s the person I remember from childhood, who I’d forgotten, to be honest. But he’s a product of his generation, the baby boomers, and his goal in life for my sisters and me is for us to get married so a man can support us. He just wants us to be okay, to be taken care of. But that idea is not helpful for me. My subconscious has been ingrained to believe that I need a man to complete me, and it’s just not true.

As independent as I pride myself on being, which is my ego talking, I’m not really independent as long as I keep looking for a man to “fix” me. I can take care of myself. Today I have God in my life, and for that I’m truly grateful.

No promises that I won’t go back to Mark if he asks, but I’m not reaching out to him, and today I’m not reactivating my online dating memberships. And that’s a start. I really, really want to try to stay single for a while this time. And I will probably go back to Codependents Anonymous meetings.

Here’s a song I love by my new favorite, Taylor Swift. She’s been around for years but at the time I snubbed pop music and country-pop before that. As a side note, I like what she says in the beginning. She’s funny and human, and it makes me glad not to be famous, not to be criticized for my life choices by a public who doesn’t even know me as a person. I love the line, “Oh my God / Look at that face / You look like / my next mistake.” Oh man can I relate.

Peace and love,

TCH

More Things I’d Say to a Younger Me

Last night I dreamed I was riding my bicycle in a parking garage trying to get through a locked gate to the floor below where I could ride my bike up and down hills. There seemed to be a lot of obstacles getting through this gate. Then I looked behind me and saw another bike rider already in the cycling part of the garage, easily riding through some other gate he’d found, which he seemingly already knew about, and I wondered why I didn’t just try that gate, but I think I knew that, for me, I had to choose this other gate.

The cyclist was a young guy in my 12-step group. He was a troubled teen who got sober a few years ago, and now he’s 20 years old, getting his bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy. A very smart kid who has his shit together at such a young age. Thinking of him now, his story reminds me a bit of my boyfriend’s story:  he too had not done well in high school, but then figured it out in college, and chose a meaningful career path of which he’s enjoyed ever since. Never did he set out to make a lot of money or have a powerful position; instead he did what he loved to do, and those things just happened.

My path was different. I did well in high school, but did not do well in college. I didn’t find myself there. I lost myself, mostly through alcohol and drugs. On the surface my life looked fine, but inside I felt like I was dying, and I was. I became increasingly out of touch with my soul and who I really was, and that’s why I didn’t find the right career for me. That’s why I was unhappy.

At the time I would not have told you that. I would’ve told you that I didn’t know what to do, that drinking had nothing to do with it, and that I was just doing what was in front of me, which is true. Drinking was something I was going to do anyway, because everyone drinks, right? And how could I possibly live my life without drinking? As far as a career went, I did what I thought I had to do, based on what the rest of the world thought I should do, and that was my best at that time. I didn’t believe it was possible to follow my dream of becoming a writer, but that I needed a back-up plan, which quickly became my primary plan, and that was just to take whatever job was out there, unrelated to writing, and to write at night after work. But the only writing I did was some drunken self-pitying scrawls about how miserable I was, and that became my reality. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The following quote is a magnet on my fridge that I often ignore because I see it every day:

your-journey-2

I can’t beat myself up for my journey. What good would it do? I’m still here, now. While it would’ve been great to have figured it all out at the age of 20, it would not have brought me to where I am today. We grow through pain, and some of us have a high threshold for pain until we’re not, until we realize that the self-inflicted kind of pain is not worth it. Life will give us enough pain.

It occurred to me last night as I was reading Wayne Dyer’s I Can See Clearly Now that I don’t have to be the kind of writer that I think would be the most respectable, prestigious kind I once aspired to, who gets published in all the hoity-toity literary publications. Because that’s not me. I don’t like exclusivity so why would I want to be a part of that elitist bullshit?

It’s difficult for me to write about writing and becoming a writer. I feel vulnerable. I don’t even want to put my name on this blog. But isn’t vulnerability what it’s all about? I didn’t like feeling vulnerable. That’s one reason why I drank. I could not be social without alcohol. That means I could not be me. I was afraid that people wouldn’t like me for who I was. The irony is that people like you only for who you are; no one likes an imitator. I suppose you could say I’m still afraid that people won’t like me for who I am, because I still won’t put my name on this blog. Ah well. It’s progress not perfection, my friends. One day at a time.

Here’s a song by LCD Soundsystem that’s been in my head since last night. I love the lines, “You’re afraid of what you need / If you weren’t, I don’t know what we’d talk about / You’re afraid of what you need / Look around you, you’re surrounded. It don’t get any better.” This video is so perfect:  Don’t close the door on yourself. Stop trying to be perfect, and stop trying to be someone else. Just be you.

 

Things I’d Say to a Younger Me

Work is a waste of time. It’s not so much work, because I believe in contributing to the world, but jobs. Jobs are a meaningless vortex of stagnation, a spiral of nothingness, a never-ending Groundhog Day in which, after about a year or so for me, the mundane, repetitive tasks become excruciatingly difficult to continue. It’s largely due to my mother’s death and the fact that I’m grieving, but I’ve noticed this with every major life event I’ve ever had. After each of my two divorces my jobs became unbearable to the point where I left a well-paying job in the marketing industry after my second divorce and I never looked back.

It would be a temporary fix (the real fix is within me–more on that later), but it occurred to me today that maybe I need to change departments at the organic grocery store job where I currently work in the wellness department. Customers ask for medical advice as though I’m a practitioner which I find increasingly stressful. At first I liked it, because I thought I’d become a nutritionist and this would be great practice. But then my mom died and that changed everything. I realized it was just not me. Nutrition is interesting… but it’s just not me.

Years ago I went to see David Sedaris at a reading, and someone (me?) asked him how he came to be a writer, and he replied, “I was just really lousy at everything else.” And I thought to myself, I’m terrible at everything else too! Maybe I too can make it. Maybe there is hope for me. That was nearly 20 years ago.

I spent the next 15 or so years getting drunk every night after work, to unwind after the stress of the day’s work. I’d told myself I’d work whatever job was available, and I’d write at night after work. And while it’s not impossible, it’s pretty hard to chase your dream when you’re blackout drunk. Many addicts aren’t as lucky as I have been. They end up committing suicide, overdosing, or worse, living a long, slow painful empty and meaningless, soulless life without a real connection to God.

In Wayne Dyer’s memoir, I Can See Clearly Now, he writes about how he always chased his dream no matter what. He knew in his heart that he was a writer and a teacher, and he never let anything stand in the way of that. It’s so easy to let life get in the way, especially as you get older; it’s not impossible to follow your dream then, but it’s MUCH more difficult. Even for those who didn’t waste their youth on alcohol and drugs, most people accumulate debt, have children, and take on responsibilities that take time, money, and effort to maintain, leaving little room for dream-chasing.

Here’s my advice to anyone out there who’s in their late teens or early 20’s:  Follow your heart no matter what it takes. Never listen to naysayers, do not let fear get in the way, don’t get so wasted you lose yourself, and follow your passion. Do not worry about student loan debt, do not take whatever job is out there just to have job security, do not have back-up plans unless they completely encompass who YOU are (in which case they should be your Plan A anyway). Do not be who your parents think you should be. Do not be the person that you think society wants you to be. Be true to YOUR heart.

I want to say I have no regrets, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. While I know intellectually that it took all that I went through to get to where I am now, I don’t yet feel in my heart the conviction that comes with having arrived at some better place with gratitude that it was all worth it. I do have tremendous gratitude for the life I live today, but I am not there 100%. Of course I would rather have learned these lessons at the age of 20 and have moved on to do great things, whatever that means. I am still in the process of healing, and that just doesn’t happen overnight. I do believe it’s possible for anyone, any age, including myself (I’m not that old, and no one is too old anyway!), to start living a more meaningful life at any time. You can start right now, regardless of what’s happened in your life, regardless of what a mess you may or may not have made. I am living proof.

Here’s a beautiful song called “Somebody to Love” by Valerie June. I like it because her words “I’ll be somebody” carry a different meaning (for me) in this version than the original (though I love the original/recorded way she sings it, too).

I Wasn’t Born Yesterday

As I’ve mentioned, I work in a grocery store. It’s a locally-owned, organic grocery store, which somehow makes it seem respectable, but it’s a grocery store nonetheless. So I judge myself for working there, being overqualified and overeducated for the job, and far too ego-driven to be at such a piss-ant job. It’s okay for other people to work there—they’re artists, musicians, single mothers, immigrants, or something else respectable or interesting, in addition to working at the grocery store; the grocery store is not their primary focus in life, and I don’t judge them for working there (until they piss me off—more on that later). And at first it was a romantic idea for me to work this job. I pictured myself like Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, which is a movie I don’t remember that well except that a woman moves to a small town in France and opens her own chocolate shop, and at first people don’t like her, but she’s her own person, a badass in her own right, and everyone ends up loving her. She just does her own thing.

I suppose that could sort of describe me, I hope—the badass part, I mean. Take yesterday for example. Most of my co-workers are in their 20s, and our cooler sure smelled exactly like marijuana smoke. My mom used to tell me that as she got older she cared less and less what others thought of her, and I often hoped that I’d have the same experience. And voila! It’s happening now. These 20somethings needed to know that, in the words of my mom, I wasn’t born yesterday, and I’m onto them and their pot-smoking ways.

“Wow, it smells exactly like marijuana in here,” I exclaimed with a stern, squinty eye, making deliberate eye contact with each of them, partly for intimidation purposes, partly for investigation purposes.

Eyebrows raised from all around. “I can’t smell anything,” they exclaimed. No weed in here! Because I sure don’t know how it could possibly smell like marijuana in a grocery store.

Nonchalantly I let them know that when I worked in a restaurant that we used to get high in the cooler (we thought no one could smell it because somehow cold air diffuses the scent of marijuana smoke), and that I sure would not want anyone to go to jail.

“For what? Getting high at work?” Tony asked.

He had a point.

So I mumbled something about having a bag of weed at work and decided to let it go. That bled into a discussion of the legality of marijuana in the DC area, and one of the girls wanted to know if I still got high, and I told her no. The other two had already walked away by then. But she wanted to know if that meant quit for good or did I smoke every now and then? So I told her I’m a recovered alcoholic so I don’t do anything at all anymore. Her mom had dated a recovered alcoholic so she understood that it meant one drink is too many and a thousand is never enough.

But it got me to thinking. Up to this point I haven’t really cared who knows I’m a recovered alcoholic. I don’t think of it as a big deal. I don’t have the image of the homeless man in a trench coat who drinks from a paper bag. Most people I’ve known have been functional alcoholics, and for me it just means that I can’t drink without getting trashed and I no longer want to do that anymore. It means I cannot drink safely, without getting blackout and pass-out wasted, waking up the next day wondering what I said or did to embarrass myself or hurt someone else. It means I can’t drink without getting a nasty hangover that in the end got so bad I wanted to go to the hospital.

I’m pretty sure that my being a recovered alcoholic who’s aware that my co-workers may be getting high doesn’t really make me a badass, or any wiser or smarter than anyone else. It’s possible that no one was getting high and who knows? Maybe a skunk had sprayed the parking lot. (For the longest time I thought the smell of skunk was marijuana. True story.) In the end none of it really matters. Really I was just pissed off at the smell of marijuana smoke in the same way that I get pissed off when I smell alcohol. It’s not because I want to smoke or drink, and it’s not because I’m resentful that others can, but it’s because my life does not revolve around drinking anymore, and I don’t want any reminders of what my life used to be like.

When I think about it, I do want these reminders because they remind me why I don’t want to live that way anymore. If you’d told me my life would be better without it, I’d have never believed you. But it’s true. So it pisses me off when non-alcoholics glamorize it or laugh at it because it’s actually not funny. It’s pathetic, tragic, and disturbing. (On the other hand, when sober alcoholics make fun of it, different story. Then it’s hilarious.)

It’s possible no one was getting high, and they all think I’m crazy. But I really don’t care. One thing I’m learning in my new old age is that trying to explain to a sophomoric, often younger person (who doesn’t want your advice) that you’ve been there before falls on deaf ears. We all have to have our own experiences.

So I won’t be calling the cops to let them know that hey, we got some kids getting high at work over here. Because the truth is I really don’t care. If they’re destined to go to jail for whatever stupid decisions they make in the future, it has nothing to do with me. But if and when someone wants my help, I hope they will come to me.